Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010!

So we're counting down the final hours of 2009. This year was better than 2008, emotionally and financially.  I went back to silk painting, which I had missed tremendously.  Last July I made a website and opened up an Etsy store to sell my painted silk scarves, and in the past month I finally sold a few.  That was exciting.  :) 

I got struck by lightning (well, not me, but my computer, which feels like a limb most days).  I took pictures, whined about getting older, talked to my Mom on the phone every night (but not until after 8pm, because that's when Jeopardy's over), lost 10 pounds, gained 10 pounds, had bad dreams about bathrooms, petted my cat on her furry little forehead just the way she likes, continued to wear my favorite black shirt even though it now has a small hole in it (I don't think it's noticeable), and, every day, told my husband that I love him.

Oh, right, and I also WROTE A NOVEL!  It's not quite finished yet, I can't wait to finish it and then get started on the second draft.  One of my Christmas gifts was a teensy purple 4 gig flash drive that I keep on my keychain, so I can carry my novel around with me.  Honestly, my whole outlook on life changed in November, I feel like I've figured out a lot about who I am and what I'm supposed to be doing.   

I wish everyone a happy and healthy and fulfilling 2010!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas

I had the whole week off for Christmas, which sounds awesome and vacation-y and relaxing, but it wasn't. There were definitely some lovely Christmassy moments, though.

The weekend before leaving for Georgia I bought last minute gifts for my husband, wrapped presents, listened to Christmas music, and baked peanut butter cookies with Hershey's kisses on top. They are easy and delicious -- why haven't I ever made them before? I ate approximately nine thousand.

I took my mom the Leu Gardens calendar, and she loved it. She has happy memories of going there with my Dad, so hopefully that's a special gift for her. I also took her a universal remote control for her TV, since the one that came with her TV has tiny buttons (ridiculously, offensively tiny! not much bigger than the head of a pin, seriously) that are difficult for her arthritic fingers. After reading the 12 page instruction booklet that came with the remote I was a bit concerned about the difficulty of programming it to work with her tv, but it literally took less than a minute and could not have been easier. I am not naturally talented when it comes to messing around with electronic stuff, so having it go so smoothly was a first for me, and a big giant relief.

The second day I was there, Mom lost her balance in her living room and fell. For an 88 year old, falling is a terrifying thing. She wasn't hurt, other than a little bruising and soreness for a couple of days, but it was scary. Her doctor had recommended that she get a quad cane (the kind that have little feet on the bottom, like Frasier's dad has) so I went and got her one and tried to help her learn to use it comfortably. She is not happy about using a cane. I'm not sure she's too happy about being 88 in general, although overall her health is good. We looked through old pictures and ate peanut butter/Hershey's kiss cookies, and watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, and had a nice visit.

Two days before Christmas my husband's grandfather passed away. He had health problems and had been in and out of the hospital for a few months, but it's always so hard, and especially during the holidays. After worrying about it for a while, I decided that my Mom needed me more than my husband did, so I stayed in Georgia as originally planned. Greg told me to stay there, and Mom told me to go home, so they weren't much help. :)

I had pumpkin pancakes for breakfast with Mom on Christmas day, then spent the next 8 hours driving from Gainesville GA to Orlando FL. Wouldn't you think there'd be no traffic on Christmas day? That's what I thought, but I was wrong. Gads. I did make it home in time for dinner, so it wasn't too bad. Greg made me a special Christmas steak dinner, and we exchanged gifts and watched the Grinch and had a nice evening.

Then the next morning we got up early for the 2 hour drive to go to Greg's grandfather's funeral. It was a really nice service, I like the new trend of having a slideshow of family photos. (Is it new? It's new to me, I've never seen it before.) Greg was a pallbearer. His grandmother seemed to be holding up well.

On Sunday, I was tired. I just laid on the couch like a worthless slug and watched stupid TV (Confessions of a Call Girl episodes on On Demand, and a marathon of LA Ink) and cuddled with my cat all day. And then all of a sudden it was Monday morning, and I was back at work.

Boy, I am really looking forward to our three-day New Year's weekend coming up!

Greg and I recently upgraded our cell phone service to include texting photos to each other, so we've been texting pics to each other frequently. Here is one I sent to him from Georgia, that I took of myself reflected in an ornament in Mom's retirement home:





I hope everyone had a happy holiday!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Flowers

I went back to Leu Gardens last week.  It's one of my favorite places, and back when Mom and Dad were here in Florida, we went together several times.  For Christmas, I'm making a calendar for my Mom with photos I've taken at Leu Gardens.  I hope she likes it.  :)

Here are a few pics from my visit last week:















Monday, November 30, 2009

Winner!

I WON.

I am so proud of myself!  Writing 50,000 words in one month is a huge and difficult goal, and I did it!  Not only that, but I have rediscovered my love of writing, and I am positively JOYFUL.

My novel isn't finished at 50,000 words and I can't wait to finish it.  I have stumbled through this, having no idea at all how to write a novel.  I've figured a few things out along the way, I think.  I will be thrilled to finish my first draft, which will be a pretty big mess, and then go to work on the second draft, which will be awesome. 

I hit 50,000 words on Sunday night, and called my husband over to the computer to watch the NaNo site verify my win and give me a winner's certificate.  Then we celebrated with champagne and Chinese take-out.

I WON!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Tomorrow my husband and I will go eat turkey and stuffing at his father's house, with his stepmother and his sisters and their families.  I only have to make a couple of pumpkin pies for us to take, so I'm getting off relatively easy.

NaNoWriMo is going great!  As of today I am exactly on schedule, as far as how many words I need to have written, and I broke 40,000.  The thing is, I won't be at the end of my novel when I get to 50,000 (which hopefully I will do by next Monday).

I am starting to really fall in love with my characters.  I am way behind on listening to podcasts as I normally do on my long daily commute, all I want to to is listen to Lily Allen and Adele and daydream about what's going to happen next in my novel.  Yesterday I was working on a fairly emotional scene, and I got so caught up in it I had trouble eating.

I still feel like the actual writing itself is not very good.  That's during the times where I am not completely convinced it's the best thing anybody has ever written.  It's been a dramatic month, at least, in my head.  :)

I am thankful for NaNoWriMo, and I'm thankful for my husband being so supportive and picking up all the slack with household chores that I haven't had time to do, and reading what I write every day, and telling me I'm awesome.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

NaNoWriMo week 2

Ack!  I'm behind, I'm behind!

This week has been challenging.  I hit some kind of terrible invisible wall of nothingness, up against which my brain would not function.  Words?  What are words?

Arg.  I've been trying not to get too obsessed with my word count, but it's hard.  And did I mention?  I'm behind!

I put up a little word counter thingie over on the right hand side, so you can see exactly how bad or how good I am doing.  It updates each time I update my word count.  If -- WHEN -- I do make it to 50,000 words by midnight on November 30, the little "participant" will turn into "winner".

I have to stop writing this and go write that!

:)

Friday, November 6, 2009

NaNoWriMo

Day One (Sunday) = I have the day off, so it's easier to fit in time to write.  I write furiously and quickly, thrilled to be starting.  I am clever and funny, and my characters are interesting.  Minimum number of words to stay on track: 1,667.  I write 2,766 and feel invincible.

Day Two (Monday) = Back to work, I have to fit in writing afterwards, during time I'd normally spend cleaning the kitchen and watching tv.  I am not in the mood to write, but I do it anyway, because I HAVE TO, that's the whole point.  I don't like what I've written.  Goal number of words today: 3,334 total.  I've written 3,837.  I'm proud of myself for doing something.

Day Three (Tuesday) = What the hell am I doing?  Everything I've written so far is terrible!  I realize that, even though I've spent my whole life reading books and even have a degree in Journalism, I have NO IDEA how to write a novel.  Goal:  5,001 words total.  I somehow make it to 5,274, determined to keep going.

Day Four (Wednesday) = I look desperately at books by Wally Lamb, Jennifer Crusie, Sue Grafton and Andrew Vachss.  I realize I have been plowing through using only action and dialogue, and have described nothing.  Everything I have written so far really IS wrong.  I go back and add descriptions to what I've already written.  Goal: 6,668.   I'm now up to 6935 words total, just by adding basic description that I had stupidly forgotten about before.  I'm a moron.

Day Five (Thursday) = Okay, maybe I am at least going in the right direction, even if I still feel mighty floundery.  I write a couple of small scenes where nothing much happens, and yell at my inner critic who keeps trying to convince me that it's not okay to write scenes that are not big and dramatic.  I write about my main character having a conversation with a co-worker on a break, and about her trying on new clothes, and I try to make the scenes really show who she is, and tell my stupid brain critic to shut up.  My husband says it's really good, and the best stuff I've written so far.  I feel like I am learning.  Goal: 8,335.  I've written 8,641 words.

Overall, so far NaNoWriMo is AWESOME.  :D

Monday, November 2, 2009

Someday is NOW

I've been thinking about what is really important for me to get done during the remainder of my ever shortening lifetime.  Okay, sure, that sounds pretty dark and pessimistic, but it's true.  So I'm paring down my list of "someday"s to the ones that really matter to me. 

One of the main things I had always planned to do was write a novel.  I love to write.  I wrote my first short story in the third grade, and it was actually quite long for a third-grader, it was around 10 pages written out, had several different chapters and lots of illustrations drawn in the margins.  All through elementary school and high school I wrote short stories and essays and I loved it, and I got lots of praise from my teachers.  By contrast, I never ever ever EVER got anything remotely resembling praise from any of my math teachers.  Or my gym teachers.  Or my science teachers, or geography, or history...

In college I majored in English, until one semester when I got fed up with being forced to take classes about reading Chaucer, or Beowulf, or Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  I love reading and I read all the time, but I could only take so much of that.  I'd already taken all the English department's writing classes, so I switched to a Journalism major when I realized that it would let me spend more time actually studying writing.

But after I graduated and didn't have any deadlines pushing me, I pretty much stopped writing.  I've enjoyed the little bits of writing I've done here and there (such as this blog) but I have always wanted to write a novel.  Thinking about writing an entire novel is pretty intimidating, at least to me, and I kept putting it off.  So, I have decided to do...

NANOWRIMO!

Yay.  If you've never heard of it, you can go here for more info:  nanowrimo.org.  Basically it's NAtional NOvel WRIting Month, and part of its purpose is to kick dumbasses like me into gear and make us actually write something. 

From their site:  National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.  Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.  Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

I am SO excited.  To finish 50,000 words in 30 days works out to be 1,667 words per day.  On my first day I wrote 2,766.  I'm ahead, woo hoo!  To be fair, that first day was a Sunday, so I had the day off.  Plus there was an extra hour because of the time change.  But honestly, I have always been so intimidated at the very thought of writing a whole novel, just getting started was thrilling.  I have already worked out characters and an outline, so I have a specific direction to go.

I just hope I can keep it up, working full time (not to even mention my two hour a day commute, ugh) is going to mean I have a relatively narrow window of time each day to write, and I am going to have to do it every day or I'll get hopelessly behind.

Here I go, wish me luck!!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fascinating (?) Facts About ellen

* I know my entire 10-digit library card number by heart
Thank goodness for libraries!  I wouldn't read nearly the amount of books that I do if I had to actually PAY for them all.  I love browsing through the big library downtown and picking up all types of different books: foreign cookbooks, photography and art books, travel guides, novels and biographies, funny books by famous comedians, books about history and psychology and technology.  Not even to mention the DVDs and CDs and audio books...


* I have recurring nightmares about public restrooms
I don't have them too often, usually when I am stressed or anxious about something.  I always have to pee so bad I literally can't stand it, and the public restroom is always disturbing in some way.  Sometimes I am looking desperately around a huge dark restroom and there are lots of stalls, but none of them have actual toilets in them.  Sometimes it's a giant crowded restroom with toilets sitting out in the open.  One time I dreamed I was in an empty abandoned house, in an upstairs room like a bedroom but with a toilet right in the center of the room, and a rusty clawfoot tub in the corner with a dismembered body in it.  One time I dreamed that I was in a plain generic office building, and the restroom was a big room of Victorian antiques, filled with fancy end tables with doilies and little figurines on them, and somehow those were the toilets and I was expected to pee on one. 
Don't bother trying to psychoanalyze my freaky subconscious, I clearly have privacy issues.  The funny thing is, I almost never have bad dreams, but when I do it is ALWAYS about a public restroom.



* I know all the words to the 70's song Ariel by Dean Friedman, and often sing it in the shower
I can't sing, of course. 
"She was a Jewish girl. I fell in love with her.
She wrote her number on the back of my hand.
I called her up, I was all out of breath, I said,
"Come hear me play in my rock and roll band."
I took a shower and I put on my best blue jeans.
I picked her up in my new VW van.
She wore a peasant blouse with nothing underneath.
I said, "Hi". She said, "Yeah, I guess I am."
It's a cute song, about a guy who meets a girl named Ariel, she comes to see him play in his rock and roll band, they go out to Dairy Queen, then they go back to his house and have spaghetti and talk into the night.  Did I mention that I can't sing?


* I do not wear deodorant or antiperspirant, ever
When I was a teen I tried, but they all gave me rashes (I have bad allergy-skin). So I gave up, and... nothing.  I kept waiting for the terrible stinkiness to start, but it never did.  I have literally asked every boyfriend I have ever had to smell my armpits, and they have all assured me that I smell fine.  Even during my unshaven hippie feminist phase.  I am not stinky.  Maybe it's all a big marketing ploy, and nobody needs to wear deodorant!   Damn those giant deodorant corporations.  Down with the man, fight the power!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sydney's Cold Nose

Sometimes when she curls up to sleep she cradles her head in her paws.  Maybe her nose is too cold?  I'm not sure why she does it, but it's pretty cute.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The MID Of My Life

From Wikipedia:  Midlife crisis is a term coined in 1965 by Elliott Jaques and used to describe a period of dramatic self-doubt that is felt by some individuals in the "middle years" of life, as a result of sensing the passing of youth and the imminence of old age.
Jungian theory holds that midlife is key to individuation, a process of self-actualization and self-awareness that contains many potential paradoxes. Although Carl Jung did not describe midlife crisis per se, the midlife integration of thinking, sensation, feeling, and intuition that he describes could, it seems, lead to confusion about one's life to date and one's goals.

I think I might be having a midlife crisis.

It started a couple of years ago when I was visiting Mom. She always tries to give me stuff, old books and greeting cards that she'd saved and miscellaneous things that she doesn't want us kids to have to wade through when she passes away. Mostly she gives me photos, which I love. But it suddenly occurred to me: Mom is giving them to me because she's 88 years old and these photos are important; she wants someone to have them and appreciate them. But what happens when I die? I don't have any kids. My brother and my sister are both more than 20 years older than me and are not likely to be around after I'm gone. They each have one child, my niece and my nephew, who are (more or less) my age and have families of their own.

The thing is, a lot of the old photos are from Virginia, where my parents both grew up, and where I grew up. But the rest of my family grew up in Georgia, and that's where they all are now. So there are a lot of photos of neighbors, friends and even relatives that basically no one in my family really knows, other than my mom and me. After me, there is literally no one who will know who these people are, or care about the pictures.

These photos are so important. People's weddings and birthdays and graduations, Christmases and family dinners and county fairs. I have a photo of my cousin Bonnie, who died of breast cancer decades ago, eating my Dad's special Silver Queen corn on the cob at my parent's dining room table. And a photo of my aunt Mamie Sue, who passed away a few years ago, propping her swollen feet up at a Christmas party back in the late 70's. A snapshot of my mom holding our neighbor's newborn son (who is in the military now), she has a weird smile on her face because she's trying to look nice for the picture in spite of the baby's diaper leaking on her.

I started questioning my decision not to have children. After all, at 43 I am younger than my mother was when she got pregant with me. I haven't had any hints of peri-menopause and could, theoretically, get pregnant. But I really don't want to have a child, and it occurred to me that having a kid for purposes of passing on family photos would be a fairly bad reason.

Up until I started thinking about all this, I was enjoying making scrapbooks. I had made a couple and was working on a new one. But then I started questioning why? I make the scrapbook, look at it, show it to my husband and maybe my mom and a friend or two, then it goes on a shelf. Then I die and who cares about my scrapbook? It wouldn't mean anything to anybody else, in spite of all the loving care and time I put into it.

Then I just started feeling old in general. It suddenly hit me that all of those things that I had vaguely imagined I would do someday, like spending a month driving across the country, or running in a marathon, or going to New Zealand, or learning to speak French, or writing a novel, or seeing the Louvre, or losing enough weight to look good in a bikini, or skydiving, or hiking the Grand Canyon, would probably never happen. When I was in my 20's there was this big giant future ahead of me, and I imagined it filled with all manner of possiblities. But now I'm 43, and how many more years do I have? My mother is almost 90 and has always wanted to go to Hawaii, but she never got to, and now it's too late -- she is physically unable to travel that far. I hate it so much, it breaks my heart. I wish I could go back in time and buy plane tickets for her and my father to go on vacation to Hawaii, even if I had to sell a kidney to do it. But now it's too late.

So maybe I have another decade or two, if I'm lucky. But there is no way all of those things I imagined doing will ever be possible in my remaining "good years". Letting go of the idea of limitless possibilities and time for accomplishments feels like death to me.

I suppose what I need to do is prioritize. Forty-three is still young enough to have some time left to do some stuff. Imagining being at the end of my life, what would I most regret not doing?

Who knows, maybe at the end of my crisis I will be a self-actualized person. A self-actualized old person.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Killer Anniversary

Last Thursday my husband and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary by going to see The Killers in concert at the UCF Arena.  He is a huge Killers fan, I like them a lot but am not quite as familiar with their songs as he is.

We had never been to the UCF Arena before, even though we live pretty close.  We paid $10 to park in a garage and walked about a block to the Arena entrance.  The Arena was nice, we decided we need to go to concerts there more often from now on.

People-watching was awesome.  We saw drunk college guys double-fisting beers, skinny college chicks who couldn't have weighed 90 pounds, lots of tattoos and lots of cool Killers t-shirts.  (Also a lot of "Victims" shirts, which is The Killers' fan club.)  We also saw a lot of cougars, who were utterly true to their stereotype, wearing tight jeans with high heeled strappy sandals and following around the college boys.

Our seats were amazingly close to the stage.  I bought tickets in the center of the fourth row of the first balcony, which I was afraid would be too far back, but I knew we didn't want to be on the General Admission floor.  It turned out that the first balcony is only about 5 feet off the ground, it's basically just seats at the back of the GA floor, which wasn't very big.  We had a great view of the stage.

There's really something magical about the atmosphere at a concert, and this particular concert was spectacular.  The whole audience was on its feet dancing and singing along for the entire 90 minutes.  The look on my husband's face as he sang his favorite songs and danced (danced?  he never dances!) was absolutely joyful, and made me so happy.  It was a wonderful and perfect way to celebrate our anniversary.

Too bad that we are obviously quite old and congealed, because we were both sore the next day from dancing.  How pitiful!  We clearly need to do this way more often.

Now if only Lil Wayne, or John Mayer, or the Foo Fighters, or Pink would come to the UCF Arena...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Dentophobia


I make jokes about being dentophobic because I think the word sounds funny. However, it is not, in my opinion, a true phobia.

Phobia is defined as a persistent, irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation that leads to a compelling desire to avoid it.  My dislike of dentists is not irrational, but is based on more than 3 decades of unpleasantness, pain and blood.

The first time I ever went to the dentist I was 11.  The dentist was a loud, overweight bald guy, who made inappropriate "jokes" about how tight my shirt was and whether or not I had a boyfriend.  He creeped me out in a way that I had never experienced before.  I was also kind of scared, having heard all the stereotypical hating-on-dentists jokes, and he made fun of me for being afraid to have a cavity filled.  I ended up crying the whole time he was filling my tooth.

Then a year or two later that same dentist decided I needed braces, but first he pulled 6 (six) teeth. Then I had braces for two years.  Luckily the orthodontist he sent us to was very nice, so the braces ordeal was about as pleasant as it could be.

I continued going to that same creepy dentist for the next year or so, until we all started noticing that my teeth didn't meet at all except at the very back of the right side of my mouth.  (I wrote about it here.)  There was literally an inch of space between my front teeth when my mouth was completely closed.  This was not because my teeth were growing in crookedly, my actual JAWS were.  So, another referral from creepy dentist, and we started seeing a surgeon to get ready for the surgery.

But first, another year of braces to get everything in place.  Do you know how much fun it is for a teenage girl to have braces TWICE?  No fun at all, that's how much.

So my parents and I met with this surgeon guy, where he repeatedly assured us that the surgery really wasn't as bad as it sounded.  It was similar to having wisdom teeth out.  Sure, I'd have to be in the hospital for a week, but that was just to learn how to eat with my mouth wired shut.

I remember being in the hospital the night before, meeting the anesthesiologist and thinking this feels like a very big deal.  Then in the morning they came to take me to surgery, and gave me an IV that knocked me out.  The next thing I knew I was in Cardiac Intensive Care, with electrodes on my chest hooked up to beeping machines.  Through a fog of anesthesia I was dimly aware of my parents there, very upset (my Mom was crying) and a nurse saying something about trouble controlling bleeding during surgery.  The next day I was a little more conscious, and Mom brought me the newly released Purple Rain album.  I remember the nurse giving me a sponge bath, and trying clean my long thick hair, which was caked with dried blood.

Oh, and learning to eat with my mouth wired shut?  The tips of teeth were enclosed in a plastic tray, my braces were wired together top to bottom, the only space to take any liquid in my mouth was the space between each front tooth.  Basically, I learned that all I could do was suck lukewarm liquid through my teeth.  Fun.  I actually developed a bit bigger space between two front top teeth, which they told me was normal and would go away when I got unwired (it did).

Then a year or so after that I got all four wisdom teeth cut out, which was not pleasant but obviously better than the surgery.  In the meantime I also had a couple more cavities filled, once with no novocaine (the dentist didn't think I'd need it, and I ended up crying all through the procedure while he kept saying we were almost done).  Did I mention that one time, when they did use novocaine, the needle hit a blood vessel in my mouth?  My mouth filled up with blood, my blood pressure dropped, yadda yadda yadda.  That happens to everyone, right?

So, to recap:  before the age of 20 I have had 6 teeth pulled, 3 or 4 cavities filled, braces for two years, braces again for another year, horrible face-bone-cracking-and-wiring-back-together surgery, mouth wired shut for a month, 4 impacted wisdom teeth removed, and much miscelleaneous pain and blood, and creepiness.

I go off into the world as an adult, out of my parent's control, and I think: to hell with this dentist crap.  That is enough of THAT.  And even though I really did understand the importance of taking care of your teeth, somehow 5 years went by without any trips to the dentist.  I moved to a new state and never found a dentist, and time passed without my realizing it, the way it is wont to do.

So in my mid-20's I found a dentist recommended by a friend, and though I was anxious, I made the appointment.  I told them when I made the appointment that I was afraid of dentists and haven't been in a very long time, and the lady on the phone was nice but abrupt.  When I got there, the dentist lady made no attempt to hide her disgust with the kind of person who would go five years without a cleaning. When the x-rays showed no cavities, she was quick to point out how lucky someone like me is to avoid teeth rotting right out of my head, and I would swear that the hygeinist made cleaning my teeth more painful than necessary.

I went home and cried, and felt like I was probably at fault.  I went back to that dentist another time or two, and there always seemed to be an undercurrent of meanness.  They kept telling me that my teeth still looked awful, that it would take years to undo the damage I had done by going so long without cleanings.  When I moved to a different part of town, I decided I wouldn't go back, I'd find a better place.

Of course, you know what happened.  I dreaded it so much I kept putting it off, and then all of a sudden several more years had gone by.  If my teeth had been in such bad shape then, how much worse had they gotten since?   I would lie awake at night worrying.

Two years ago I finally turned the corner where worrying about what would happen if I DIDN'T go became more terrifying than worrying about what would happen if I DID go.  Unable to get any recommendations from friends, I finally just picked a dentist nearby, in an office that looked nice. 

Gee, guess what happened?  The x-rays showed no cavities, but the dentist said I had severe periodontal disease that had eaten away a significant amount of the bone, which meant that my teeth were in danger of falling out.  The only thing that could prevent that was an extremely expensive laser procedure, which my insurance wouldn't cover.  They cleaned my teeth using a process called scaling, with no novocaine, which was literally one of the most painful things I have ever experienced.  And also bloody.  I was in his office for two hours of stomach clenching, tearful horror.

I was still in pain and crying when my husband got home from work.  Why had I even let them do that to me, he asked?  Why didn't I just leave?  After all, I didn't even know for sure what the dentist had told me was correct.

It honestly never occurred to me to leave.  This is what going to the dentist is for me, I sobbed to my husband.  It ALWAYS hurts, it's ALWAYS horrible, it's ALWAYS like this.

I asked around at work, and found several people recommending a dentist right near our office.  Panic and anxiety combined to make me immoble once again, and it took much longer than it should have to make the appointment.  Plus, it was harder to coordinate this time, since my husband would have to come with me for hand-holding/tissue detail.

I went last week, just for x-rays and a check-up, no cleaning or procedures of any kind.  X-rays showed one small cavity, and periodontic disease that had resulted in some bone loss.  They were so nice to me, and very patient, and explained that if I came in for scaling and took good care to get my teeth cleaned regularly I'd be okay.  Yesterday I went in for the first of two scaling procedures and the hygienist was so nice.  She obviously went out of her way to be encouraging, and kind.  My husband pulled a chair close to me and held my hand during the whole thing.  I had to get six shots of novocaine, which wasn't fun, and the procedure took more than an hour, but it really wasn't bad.  The hygienist called me "sweetie", and kept telling me I was doing great, and my teeth were looking beautiful.

Even with all that encouragement and wonderfulness, I still had uncontrollable stomach clenchiness and had to keep reminding myself to breathe.  And, truth be told, I got a little bit teary.  But I feel much less anxious about going back for the second half, and I feel like I have finally found a dental office of people who not only good at what they do, but also are NICE.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rocky Horror Picture Show, part 2

We all had such a great time on Saturday!  We had Italian food and sangria, then hung out singing Bon Jovi and Michael Jackson songs in the bar at Margaritaville, and despite the rain we all had a lot of fun.

I would like to congratulate myself for resisting the peer pressure to do a Jager bomb in the theatre before the movie.  (Yes, the massive movie theatre at Citywalk has a full bar.)  There's no pressure worse than do-a-shot-with-the-group pressure.  But I persevered and emerged victorious!  And sober.  :)

We sat in the front row, which for this show is the place to be.  The Rich Weirdos seriously do the most amazing shadow show I have ever seen.  They are professional, and extremely talented, and take it very seriously.

Here's a photo of shadow Frankie (I don't know their names) with shadow Columbia, during Sweet Transvestite.  You can see the movie behind them, and shadow Brad and Janet and Riffraff off to the sides.



Also during Sweet Transvestite, here's shadow Columbia, Magenta, Frankie and Riffraff.




Even though he doesn't have one in the movie, shadow Frankie's mohawk was very cool.

We have decided to make RHPS outings a semi-annual event, at least.


I want to go
oh oh oh
To the late night 
double feature 
picture show

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Rocky Horror Picture Show

The first time I saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show I was a mere adolescent girlie of 17. A small group of us went to nearby Blacksburg, Virginia, home of Virginia Tech. And it was Halloween night.

We had no idea what RHPS was, really. I had read about it in a music magazine and thought it might be fun, and we just lucked out that it happened to be Halloween. The theatre was full of college kids, and pretty much everyone except for us was dressed up.

Sitting in the crowded theatre was exciting, and seeing the shadow cast in their weird costumes setting up props and things in front of the screen seemed mysterious and intriguing. From the first few minutes of the big red lips filling the screen, I already loved it.
Michael Rennie was ill the day the Earth stood still
But he told us where we stand
And Flash Gordon was there in silver underwear
Claude Raines was the invisible man

The movie was immediately campy and ridiculous, and watching the shadow cast act things out, in costume, right below the screen was very cool. The audience all seemed to know the drill, throwing rice at the wedding and yelling at the narrator about his lack of neck.

The whole audience stood up to dance the Time Warp, so we did, too. Lucily it was not a complicated procedure, and there was even a handy onscreen diagram. Of course, just listening to the lyrics will give you a good idea of what to do.
It's just a jump to the left
And then a step to the right
Put your hand on your hips

Then bring your knees in tight
But it's the pelvic thrust

That really drives you insane
Let's do the Time Warp again!

But the most memorable moment for me was right after we sat down again, post-Time Warp. The party guests are lying strewn about on the floor, Brad and Janet are backing towards the door, and slowly an elevator is descending; all you can see are feet in silver sparkly high heels. STEP, STEP, STEP, the audience chanted in anticipation, keeping rhythm with the feet,building tension. Then the elevator door swings open, Janet faints, and the camera swings to Frankie. And the full force of my teenage hormones rushed over me in a wave of absolutely unprecedented lust.

Here's the deal. I have always had kind of a "thing" (you know, a THING) for guys with British accents. Who doesn't, right? And, okay, also for guys in makeup. Okay, maybe that is a bit more unusual, but there it is. (And it may partially explain my crush at the time on Adam and the Ants.) And, just for the sake of full disclosure, I do also think it's hot when guys (gay or straight) are a bit femmy.

So when I see Frankie (Tim Curry) in the elevator, a hot guy wearing makeup, lingerie, and speaking with a British accent... OH MY GOD.

Since it was only my very first time at RHPS, I had no idea how lucky I was that there were not one, but TWO shadow Frankies, one for each aisle of the theatre, and they were both guys. Out of the few dozen times I've seen RHPS since then, I'd guess maybe 70% of Frankies have been women. Which is not very exciting for me, although I admire their commitment.

But two hot young college guy Frankies, PLUS the giant onscreen Frankie, was almost more than I could stand. Oh, MY.

Since that night I have seen RHPS maybe a couple dozen more times, once at the 8th St theatre in Manhattan where it all started, a few more times in Blacksburg, a few times in Atlanta, a few times here in Orlando. I've seen it in theatres that were pretty much deserted and had no shadow cast at all, I've seen shadow casts that tried hard but really fell pretty short of the mark, and I've seen groups that clearly spent a lot of time and effort rehearsing and making props.

I think the shadow cast at the giant movie theatre in Citywalk at Universal here in Orlando is one of the best I've ever seen, rivaling even the amazing 8th St theatre. They call themselves the Rich Weirdos, and they are really INTO it.

Tonight will be my third time seeing them. Yay! I'm excited. And the part I am most looking forward to is that same STEP, STEP, STEP anticipation followed by the shot of Frankie in the elevator. Followed by Frankie prancing around in his stockings and garters, singing Sweet Transvestite.
Don't get strung out
By the way I look
Don't judge a book by its cover
I'm not much of a man
By the light of day
But by night I'm one hell of a lover


Link to YouTube video

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Happy First Day of Fall

People think I'm kidding when I say that I moved to central Florida from southwestern Virginia because I was cold, but it really is kind of true. During the Virginia winters I would layer ridiculously. I'd get those thin-but-warm longsleeved undershirts that have lace around the edges and pretend they are "lingerie" but in reality they are just slightly prettier long underwear. Then over that I'd wear a longsleeved shirt or a turtleneck, then over that I'd wear a thick sweater, and possibly over that I'd wear a cardigan. This was just to be inside my classrooms, or the mall, or someone's house, mind you. To go outside I'd put a coat or two on top of all that. Often when coming inside I'd be so cold I'd keep my coat on, even though I knew that would just hurt me extra when I had to go out again. I remember plenty of snowy gray weeks when the temperature wouldn't get above 20, even in the daytime, and it seemed like the bitter cold would seep into my bones and I would never be warm again.

Luckily my parents built our house to have separate heat controls in each room. Well, lucky for ME, anyway. Mom would come in my room and cringe, and fan her face. "Oh no! It must be eighty degrees in here!" She'd turn it down, and I'd turn it back up after she left. Unfortunately, the dial didn't GO above 80.

I never liked being outside in the cold, my nose turning red and running, and my fingers stiffening up, getting icy windburn on my cheeks if I had to walk very far. Getting so cold that my stomach muscles would clench up, and my whole body would shiver uncontrollably.

After graduating college and working temp jobs, not finding a "real" job, I decided to move away. Why not? It seemed like the only time in my life I'd ever have the chance to do that, being young and single and pretty much unemployed. It seemed like an adventure! It was 1989 and I was 23. I considered San Francisco, New York City and a few other cities that I had been to and loved. After growing up in a very rural area, where cows outnumbered people and the idea of a sidewalk seemed exotic, I wanted to live in a city. Then I read an article in Newsweek about great job opportunities in the growing and impressive city of Orlando, and I saw a lovely little picture of the pretty Lake Eola fountain under a sunny blue sky, and I was sold. I had never been to Florida and didn't know anyone there, but that was the adventurous part!

Driving south in my Tercel I watched the landscape get less and less mountainous, then pretty soon after passing Valdosta I started to see the monotonous Georgia roadside pine trees turn into Florida palm trees and big lakes. I had never been south of Atlanta before, but I really felt at home in the sunny flat state.

I never intended to stay here, I planned to go home to the mountains of Virginia after a few years. I think I underestimated how much it really did matter to me to live in a climate with a lot of sunshine and no cold, snowy weather. A lot of people here (most of them transplants from northern climates) say that there are no real seasons in Florida; but they are here, they are just more subtle. Today is the first day of fall, and even though it is still plenty warm, overall the temperatures are getting slightly cooler. And the sun is setting earlier, which makes me feel the change in seasons as much as falling leaves ever did.

During the winter it regularly gets into the 40's at night, sometimes the 30's. That is plenty cold enough to turn on the heat and enjoy the cozy feeling of bundling up under comforters. But in the daytime the temperature rarely dips below the 50's, which is just cold enough to throw on an extra sweater (or five) before heading out. I never have to scrape ice off my windshield, or carefully dry my thick hair before going outside so a stray wet strand won't freeze solid, or step across brown muddy piles of snow scraped up on the side of the road (that never seem to melt, long after the pretty white snow is long gone).

I have to admit, having now spent half my life in Florida I feel pretty much native, but I still think the Floridians who put on gloves, hats, scarves and heavy winter coats to go outside when it's 60 degrees are HILARIOUS. It seems like they see people wearing "winter clothes" on tv, and they see "winter clothes" in the stores (Why? Why do stores in FL sell heavy coats and thick gloves?) so they automatically put on their "winter clothes" when "winter" arrives. I remember bitter wind cutting through my clothes and building up a layer of ice or snow on my jeans and coat, leaving a pile of melting ice and snow inside the door, and my toes getting so frigid that it hurt to warm up. These funny Floridians do not understand what clothes like that are FOR.

When it's a beautiful bright Florida day in January or February, the temperature in the high 60's, I walk outside and feel the sun on my face and I just love it. And actually, when it's a scorchingly, sweatingly hot day in July or August, and I walk outside at midnight and it is still sticky and humid and in the mid-80s, I love that too.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Anniversary Gifts

I have a new toy! My husband got me an iPod Touch for our 6th wedding anniversary. It's the coolest thing ever, and it's my new best friend. I'm still looking through apps and figuring out how to use it, but it's seriously an amazing piece of technology.

He gave it to me early, two weeks before our anniversary, either because he was rewarding me for finally going to the dentist after 2 years and attempting to conquer my severe dentophobia, or because he was overexcited (who isn't after a trip to the Apple store?) and couldn't wait.

But this left me with a dilemma: We had previously decided not to get each other gifts, we had planned just to go out for a nice dinner. But an iPod Touch is an amazing and expensive present, so clearly I had to get him something. Plus, this is the most expensive anniversary present he's ever given me, so I am torn between wanting to spend at least that much on him, and wanting to not spend anything at all because he spent so much on me.

I had the next day off, so I sat down at the computer and tried to think. (Why yes, I do think better and more effectively when I am looking at pictures of kittens on CuteOverload.com, so there.) My friend Jacki said that giving an experience of some kind is always a fun gift, and so I thought of concerts. I pulled up Ticketmaster, and who was right there on the main page? The Killers! One of Greg's favorite bands. I look up whether or not they'll be in Orlando, and they are. On our actual anniversary date! WIN.

After an hour of trying to figure out how to buy tickets without using the debit card (so he won't see it on our bank website) and a few misspent moments searching Craigslist to see if anyone is selling their tickets, it finally occurs to me that I can just go to the actual box office, buy the tickets with cash, and avoid Ticketmaster charges. Unfortunately, the concert is at the new arena at the University of Central Florida; a place that I have only been a few times, and every single time I have gotten lost in its incomprehensible and seemingly random streets. Oh, boy.

I called to get directions, with very little hope that that would actually be helpful. I've never been to the arena, but I know it is part of a whole new area of the UCF campus. Trying to psych myself up with thoughts of how I am an ADULT and should be able to handle something as minor as driving to a box office to purchase tickets, I head off with the Black Eyed Peas on the car stereo and the AC on full blast. I can DO it, I can DO it.

Well, I did it, but holy crapmuffins. It was a morass of one-way streets that without warning would suddenly end up in faculty parking lots, huge parking structures that all seemed to be for student use only, and a frightening combination of cars driving really really fast and pedestrians walking really really slow (while texting). After circling the "block" (block = jumbled area of streets) in defeat several times, trying hopelessly to read the signs on the streets and the buildings while still paying a little bit of attention to actually driving, I lucked into a spot on the street. Yay! Parallel parking was easy breezy.

I got two tickets in the fourth row of the first balcony, which seems pretty good (I hope, I've never been to this venue). At $35 per ticket, I am spending way less than he spent, but still getting an awesome gift.

Getting back home was way easier, although admittedly I am pretty familiar with where my house is.

I spent the drive home imagining how best to surprise him. I could insist on eating dinner at the Chinese restaurant that's right across the street from UCF, we haven't been there in forever. Then I could slip the tickets into his napkin when he wasn't looking. What's this? Why, it's concert tickets! For my favorite band! And it's tonight!!

Or I could make it a kidnapping-style surprise, not even telling him where we were going. Maybe we could make it all the way to the arena, and he'd know when he saw "Killers concert tonight" up in lights. Or would there be signs, directing parking, that said "Killers", that would give it away? Well, maybe I could blindfold him.

Honestly, I am not sure he would go for that.

As much as I like surprises, I also love looking forward to things, so I ended up giving him the tickets when he came home from work. Okay, I was overexcited and couldn't wait! He seemed pretty thrilled with his present, and now he has a couple of weeks to listen to the Killers for hours every day in anticipation.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Watching TV

I was pooting around on the tv, looking for something interesting, and I saw that the entire season of Nurse Jackie was on Showtime On Demand, so I watched the first few minutes of the first show. I thought it looked well-made, but fairly depressing and sad. I turned it off.

But then I kept thinking about it.

So I went back and watched a few more minutes, and turned it off AGAIN, because I really hate tragic medical shows, they just make me cry and fear hospitals. Plus, it did not appear to have any vampires it in at all. Isn't there some sort of regulation that every new show has to have vampires?

But I still kept thinking about it.

I finally gave in and watched the whole episode, and I thought it was brilliant.

Me: I saw the first episode of Nurse Jackie, and it was pretty awesome, I know you would love it.
My husband: Nah.


Two days later
Me: No, seriously. It reminded me of the first episode of the Sopranos, it's like a movie.
My husband: I don't like Edie Falco.
Me: Yes, you do.
My husband: Why would I want to watch a show about a nurse?
Me: Why would you want to watch a show about a high school glee club, or people in an office? If a show is well-written and has interesting characters that you care about, it doesn't matter what it's "about". (Yes, I made air quotes with my fingers.)
My husband: Nah!

The next day, there's nothing on TV, and I say: Nurse Jackie is on On Demand... just sayin'.
My husband: The whole season?
Me: The whole season.
My husband: I'm not interested.
Me: Yes, you are.
My husband: I'll give it ten minutes, and I am going to bail if I don't immediately love it.
Me: Deal!

Five minutes later he said he loved it. I win!

Three hours later we had watched the first 5 episodes in a row. We kept pausing the DVR so we could talk about the show, and whatever strange/immoral/shocking/illegal thing Jackie had just done. Jackie is that kind of character that is sympathetic yet exceedingly flawed, and most fun to watch. I wouldn't want to be her, and I don't know if I could even be friends with her. I do, for sure, want to see what she does next. Apparently this show has received a butt-ton of praise from critics, and had excellent ratings. Within the next couple of days we had watched the entire season, and I'm so glad it's been renewed for a second season. I can't wait to see what happens.

Of course, it's not quite as good as True Blood. :)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Drinking and Peeing

Alcohol lies to me. It tells me that I'm not nearly as drunk as I really am. It seduces me into thinking that the fifth bottle of Mich Ultra, the third dirty martini, the fourth Jeager bomb are a great idea when in fact I am solidly on track for a night of embarrassment and vomiting, and a morning of headachy hangover regret. Alchohol is the devil.

There are some things that, at my advanced age, I have managed to figure out. One thing I know about myself is that I think, nay, I know, that public restrooms are scary and gross, always. Even the ones that look clean still have incipient germies that are just waiting to leap onto my privates and have a party. I know this, with every single molecule of my being, and will not be talked out of it by "scientific studies" that "prove" otherwise.

So my fail-safe drunk-o-meter is: peeing. I can tell how drunk I am by just thinking about going to the bathroom. If the idea of putting my delicate bare bottom directly onto a toilet seat seems reasonable, I need to stop drinking immediately.

If I'm sober or close to it, I follow my usual routine of cringing into a stall, pulling off the top few sheets of toilet paper and tossing them into the toilet (they are contaminated with invisible toilet-flushing germy spray), pull off a "clean" wad of toilet paper, and hover above the toilet seat while making sure none of my clothing is touching any part of the toilet base. Upon exiting the stall, I wash my hands, then open the bathroom door with a paper towel. If the restroom was spectacularly gross, like in a rest stop or a convenience store, I then follow up with some hand sanitizer.

If I am buzzy but not drunk, I will loop happily into the restroom, hover above the seat while hanging onto the stall door, wash my hands and not worry too much about touching the door handle on the way out. If I am drunk, I'll plop my butt right down onto the seat. I'll flush the toilet -- hopefully I'll remember to flush the toilet -- with my hand instead of my foot. I'll most likely primp a bit in front of the mirror and then bounce out the door, completely forgetting to wash my hands.

One terrible, awful, very bad night saw me staggering into the bathroom, peeing on myself slightly when I couldn't fumble open my pants fast enough, tipping sideways off the toilet seat (because of the spinning restroom, you know), staggering directly back out into the bar without stopping at the sink or even glancing in the mirror (whether or not I flushed remains a mystery).

So now, after I have one drink, I'll do a systems status check: would I sit on a toilet seat? If the answer is no, I might have one more drink. If the answer is yes, alarm klaxons go off in my head that send me looking for a bottle of water and something solid to eat, like an entire loaf of bread, maybe.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Me + Harry Potter = Love

** Warning -- Harry Potter movie and book spoilers within! **

So many books just suck, right from the beginning, and I bail immediately. Life is too short and there are too many good books to waste time slogging through badly written junk. Some start off promisingly, but then let me down with lazy plot devices, unrealistic dialogue, not fully-realized characters behaving in ways that are psychologically inconsistent. But the HP books, in my humble opinion, are all completely wonderful, perfectly crafted from beginning to end. I loved the characters, I loved the wizarding world, and I love JK Rowling.

Of course, the movies must disappoint, given the industry's inclination to make movies that are less than 10 hours long. (sigh)


Worst Movie Omissions/Inaccuracies:

1) Mad-Eye Moody not saying "CONSTANT VIGILANCE", even once.

2) Who Moony, Padfood, Wormtail and Prongs are, and why they created the Marauder's map. That just broke my heart! Don't even get me started on how the patronuses often just looked like shields instead of animals.

3) The detail about the Weasley family in general. I feel like Percy's betrayal has not been shown adequately, poor Bill has been completely ignored (as well as his engagement to Phlegm), and Charlie has only been mentioned briefly (in relation to the dragons at the Tri-Wizard Tournament).

4) The house wizards in Hogwarts never having been shown in any movie, especially poor little Winky (sob!) and Hermione's SPEW initiative. I feel like house elves and their rights and powers are an important theme in the books and are a factor in the end, and at this point they'll have to take it out completely or show it in a way that lacks the depth and meaning of the books.



Best Movie Moments/General Movie Coolness:

1) The neato swirly smoky effect when wizards zip around, particularly with the Death Eaters. There is nothing like that in the books, and honestly, what is it? They are not apparating/disapparating, they are not flying, so... But still, it looks awesome, and I won't question it too much.

2) The appearance of all the characters. Pretty much every single character looks exactly like I pictured them in the books, especially Voldemort's weird snake face. Eeeek. My one nitpick is how Hagrid's size seems to be inconsistent, even within each movie.

3) The moviemakers really did justice to Fred and George's amazing departure from Hogwarts. Fred and George are rock stars, their leaving was legendary, and it looked GREAT in the movie!


Most Embarrassing Personal Harry Potter trivia:

I made my own Harry Potter t-shirt to wear to the last two book release parties. And if I do say so myself, it's SUPER. I took the lovely Mary Grandpre drawing from the first page of the first chapter of the first book, with the title under it: The Boy Who Lived. I added a tiny bit of color in Photoshop and used CafePress to have it made, and it's so cool. Stop laughing at me!






How to read a 900 page book overnight in one sitting:

1) Sit at a desk or table. 900 page hardback books are heavy after the first 8 or 10 hours.

2) Have plenty of caffeine handy. I prefer Diet Mt. Dew or Coke Zero. Actual energy drinks are bad, as most will cause you to crash at some point, and you need to be awake for the duration (up to 12 hours or more, depending on how fast you read).

3) Snacks are important, but any snacks that are going to leave ook on your fingers and get on the pages (like Cheetos) are bad. This is not the time for the fried chicken leftovers. Maybe some nice saltines... but make sure not to drop any crumbs in the book.

4) Your spouse/family/friends will try to talk you out of it. They'll say it's silly, that you are actually hurting yourself by depriving yourself of sleep, that you probably will be too tired to fully understand what you're reading. Do not listen to these "helpful" people. Persevere!

5) Know that you will need the next day, and possibly two, to catch up on sleep and recover. Give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back, and bask in your superiority! Think of all those other silly people out there; why, the book was released almost 15 hours ago and they haven't even read it yet. Tsk.


“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” - Albus Dumbledore


Oh, the terrible dark future of a life with no more new Harry Potter books to read, EVER. :(

Monday, July 27, 2009

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

* Visited my Mom in north Georgia. We both wore silk scarves that I painted (I gave her two), went to IHOP and had breakfast for dinner, shopped at Penny's for control-top panties, visited Mom's sick friend, had lunch at Red Lobster with my niece, and discussed with my great-nieces the finer points of whether or not vampires should be sparkly.

* Put some of my silk scarves up for sale on Etsy: Top Notch Chick on Etsy

* Made a fan page for myself on Facebook: Top Notch Chick on Facebook

* Cleaned and organized my silk painting studio/photography studio/sun room

* Painted some silk scarves :)

* Went to Leu Gardens to take pictures in the morning sun

* Re-read Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

* Cried a bit re-reading Deathly Hallows :(

* Re-watched Harry Potter movies 1 through 5

* Saw (and loved!!) the new Harry Potter movie (#6), and subsequently spent approx. 47 hours explaining to my husband how different things were in the book

* Went to a Luau at Jetty Park in Cocoa Beach, shared beer and shrimp and pork and jello shots and sweaty hugs with friends, and saw several giant cruise ships go by

* Gave myself a hot oil hair treatment

* Watched old episodes of Roseanne on TVLand

* Enjoyed not going to work! :D

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Father's Day

Well, Father's Day pretty much sucks.

In remembrance of my Dad, here is a poem that my mother finds comforting. She saw it in the paper -- it may have been in a Dear Abby column, I'm not sure -- and she cut it out and carries it with her.

It's the Queen Mother's Funeral Poem, by David Harkins.
You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left

Your heart can be empty because you can't see her
Or you can be full of the love that you shared

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.



Dad (and my brother) at Dad's 92nd birthday celebration.

Dad had a lot of trouble hearing, and he couldn't see much at all because of macular degeneration, but no one could tell. He walked around at his birthday party and spoke to everyone there, he laughed a lot and was just as social as ever.

I guess I shouldn't say that Father's Day sucks for me now, I guess I should take time to remember my Dad, and be grateful that I had such a great guy for a father. And also be grateful that he was around until his 92nd year, and even though he had eyesight and hearing issues, he was otherwise very healthy. And he was an intelligent, kind, loving person, right up until he left us.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Silk Painting

In 1996 I was turning 30 and looking for a new creative outlet. For the previous few years I had been focusing on digital fine art, using old photographs/scanned images and a very early version of Photoshop.

A local discount art supply store sold Deka silk paints and silk by the yard, and one day when they had a good sale I decided to go for it. I had no idea how to paint on silk, but the store provided a little Deka flyer with a few instructions. The silk needed to be stretched and suspended, so I bought a plain wooden frame at a thrift store and some pushpins. The silk paints could be painted onto the fabric with brushes (which I already had) and set by ironing, so that sounded easy enough.

I was immediately entranced with the movement of the paint across the silk. When I touched the very tip of the brush to the tightly suspended silk, the brightly-colored paint just bloomed across the surface. I tried different techniques, and found that if I painted onto wet fabric, it blended differently. If I painted a second layer over already painted silk, it blended it yet another new way.

A lot of the time I was frustrated, because at first I never seemed to have the slightest idea what was going to happen, but it was fascinating. And it seemed like no matter what happened, it ended up looking beautiful. I learned to stop having any pre-concieved goals about how anything would turn out, but just let the silk do what it wanted to do, and then go with it.

And it was in that moment that silk painting and I fell in love.  The organic quality of creating art  with the silk and paint seemed to be the exact opposite of the technical aspect of taking digital images, layering and manipulating them to create art.  I feel like art is always a collaboration between the artist and the material, and it's important for the artist to be able to listen. 

Alas, eventually our love affair became difficult.  I didn't have very much money, and had trouble affording supplies.  And I quickly found out that the silk paints would not quite hold the brilliant color once they'd been set with the iron and washed.  Unfortunately, without being washed, the painted silk would feel a bit stiff.  Apparently there were silk dyes that would retain their brilliant color after being washed, but they had to be set with steam.   In the sad pre-internet (for me, at least) dark ages, I had no idea how to get those kinds of things or how any of it worked.  The discount art supply store didn't carry any of that stuff.

So, after a few years during which I experimented with wall hangings and tiny silk paintings on greeting cards and putting silk paintings in frames, my interest in painting on silk waned.  I wanted to be able to feel silky material, AND have bright colors.  I moved on to other interests, and the super deluxe adjustable silk painting frame I'd splurged on after a bigger-than-expected income tax refund got shoved to the back of a closet.

But then!  At one point last year, during the Year of Bad Things Happening All The Time, I remembered how much I liked it.  I went to the all-knowing internet and found out how silk dyes worked, how to steam-set them, and where to buy supplies.  And I found other silk painters (like this one) who were doing amazing work.  I was inspired!

In January I dragged out my old frame and brushes and took inventory.  I ordered some supplies:  new paints and pre-hemmed scarves (oh, the gloriousness of a pre-hemmed scarf!) and set up a little studio in our sun porch.  I did a LOT of research about how to steam-set these new dyes, and was rarin' to go.

This time, I knew more or less what to expect, and when I started painting my first scarf, it was just pure joy.  Below are some pictures from that happy afternoon.

Here are my materials (new and old) gathered together:

My brand-new silk dyes, ready to paint:

The silk is held tight with little hooks:

And it's my very first attempt using my new materials!  Not perfect, but joyful and wonderful.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Podcasts


I have a long commute to work every day, it's approximately an hour each way, which means I spend about two hours a day (five days a week) sitting in my car. So my little iPod Nano is my best friend! I've had it for several years now, and it is still working perfectly and going strong. I LOVE it.
I load up my little friend with 4 gigs of music and podcasts. I listen to Adam Carolla's podcast pretty frequently (depending on who his guest is), I have some friends here in Orlando who do podcasts, and I subscribe (in iTunes) to several NPR podcasts.

One podcast I love especially is Stuff You Should Know. It's part of the How Stuff Works website, and it is just absolutely fascinating. I really learn a lot from Chuck and Josh, two writers who do extensive research and then explain a specific topic.
The episodes usually last around 15 to 20 minutes, and can be about anything: cannibalism, animals having a sixth sense, flashmobs, urban explorers. One of my favorites was a recent episode on high fructose corn syrup. Those commercials that say it's fine in moderation are LYING.

But a podcast that I found recently has just absolutely enthralled me. I subscribe to it in iTunes and it is truly a tragedy that they only put out a new podcast once a week, and it's only around 10-15 minutes long. I could listen to this podcast for literally all of my 10 hours per week of commuting time. I want more!
It's called The Moth. It's people getting up on stage and just telling a true story of something interesting that happened to them. Some of the stories are funny, some are sad, some are just... interesting. Some of the people are good at speaking in front of a group, and some are obviously nervous. Sometimes you can tell the person is trying not to cry.

The stories they tell involve unbelievable coincidences, tragic circumstances, life-changing realizations, and all are truly awesome. I love the concept of people sharing these intense, touching, emotional moments of their lives. At the end of their stories, I feel like I know them, like I have made a new friend.

This website explains more about The Moth, which is a storytelling organization. You can listen to several of the stories here (the first one listed is Ed Gavagan - Drowing on Sullivan Street, which is an amazing story).

It's inspired me to think of stories in my own life that I could share. Has my life been very interesting, up to this point?

I guess it's had its moments. :)

Sydney

My favorite model. She even woke up for a minute there!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Surgery and Purple Rain

When I was 17, the summer after my junior year in high school and before my freshman year at community college (I skipped senior year of high school, went to community college for 2 years then transferred to a university) I had surgery on my mouth. As scared as I was about having surgery and being in the hospital, I was more than ready for an end to the daily struggle that my mouth was causing.

My upper jaw had begun growing a bit crooked, and while you really couldn't tell any difference by just looking at me, my teeth didn't meet at all on one side of my mouth, or in the front. The top and bottom teeth in the very back of the right side of my mouth met, but there was about a 3/4 inch space between my top and bottom teeth in the front, and more than an inch in the very back of the left side of my mouth. So I couldn't really eat normally, and every now and then I sounded weird when trying to pronounce certain words. Biting into anything like a hotdog or an apple was pretty close to impossible, and eating most food was difficult.

The actual surgery to basically break my jaw and wire it back together was way more intense and scary than the doctor had led us to believe, but I made it through fine. I had instructed my parents very carefully that an extremely important thing was happening the day of my surgery -- Prince was releasing his next album after my beloved 1999 -- and I HAD TO HAVE IT. They probably pointed out that I couldn't listen to an album in the hospital, but it didn't matter, I wanted to SEE it. So there I was after surgery, in intensive care with beeping machines and my mouth wired completely shut with a mouthful of medieval looking metal, clutching my Purple Rain album.



The poster that came folded up inside the Purple Rain album. See how tall Prince is? :)

Once I was released from the hospital I endured six weeks of having my mouth wired shut. I had regular braces, plus they had big thick wires going vertically from my top teeth to my bottom teeth, and my top teeth were sitting in a little molded plastic tray. In the true spirit of torture, they also gave me a tiny pair of sharp scissors on a cord to wear around my neck, to have handy to cut the wires loose so I wouldn't choke to death if I ever got sick and threw up. Isn't that a pleasant thought! Good times.

For six weeks I drank Coke with no ice (too cold on my teeth) and strained clam chowder. I didn't lose any weight at all, and seeing food was the most torturous thing ever; I would hide when my Mom and Dad would eat dinner and leave the room when restaurant commercials came on.

Funnily enough, I didn't mind much about not being able to speak. I could write a note if I really wanted to communicate something. And other than my once-a-week checkups, I didn't really go out too much. One of the reasons I had the surgery in the summer was so I could just stay home the whole time and not really see anyone. Once a week, though, I had to drive to Salem, VA, which was about an hour away, and get x-rayed to make sure the bones were healing correctly. Every week, after my appointment, I would drive to nearby Roanoke, VA, to see the movie Purple Rain.

I would walk up to the booth and hold up my piece of paper that said PURPLE RAIN, and they'd sell me a ticket. I'd go to the concession counter inside and hold up my little paper that said "COKE - NO ICE, PLEASE". I wonder what the people who worked there thought about the really short chick with dark brown hair long enough to sit on, punky jackets full of D-rings and Adam and the Antz buttons, black lace wristbands and a mouthful of chainlink fence, and who clearly could not speak.

So I ended up seeing Purple Rain about 7 or 8 times that summer. It was a nice little routine. Plus, I really don't think I could ever get tired of watching Prince perform. Or, for that matter, watching Prince lean up against a wall... he is so SEXY.

This would always be on a weekday afternoon, so often the theatre was practially empty. Once I was in the audience with a big group of middle-aged black ladies. I think they may have been an official group on some sort of Church of Prince outing, they were all extremely enthusiastic about every little detail in the movie. Shriekingly enthusiastic.
"Oh my God, those boots!"
"Look at that -- he eats Doritos!!"
"Woo, that boy can DANCE!"
"And in those heels!!"
They were great. They glanced back at the silent girl sitting behind them a few times, but they didn't speak to me -- and I obviously didn't speak to them.

Eventually I got my jaw unwired and I could eat normally again. It was literally more than a decade before I could stand to look at clam chowder, but apparently my love of Coke knows no bounds.