Blog abandonment

Oh, my poor, neglected blog. Like every paper journal, slam book, Open Diary, and Livejournal of mine to come before you, I am terrible at maintaining you. Now, I’ll promise to be more attentive and probably fail. I swear my relationships with actual humans are far more stable than with my blog.

A solid chunk of things have happened since my last post. I am one of those perpetually overscheduled people who optimistically talks about some amorphous future time when I won’t be so busy (summer/Christmas break/after this work event I’m planning/when that midterm paper is finished, etc.) so my excuse of “the last few months have been CRAZY” might ring hollow, but I’ll try to fill in the gaps nevertheless. Mostly for my own future edification because I’m pretty sure my handful of readers all know exactly what I’ve been up to.

I finished my first year of grad school. I love what I’m studying. I love my teachers. I don’t love the schedule. I am dreadful at balancing work and school. The coming Fall semester is starting to loom at me and I’m wishing the summer would slow down a little. This will be an interesting test of my maturity level because, unlike high school and college, I don’t have anyone telling me I’m obligated to go back, and unlike my first year, walking in sort of blind and naive and then just riding the momentum of delirium and scholastic nerdery through to the end, now I’m walking into the next semester knowing what’s waiting and having crawled out of the academic swimming pool (which I like but is HARD).  I’m going to do it. Yes I am. Deep breaths. I will just require some pats on the back for overcoming my intense inclination towards laziness.

Some of my dear friends opened a theater this winter. Arcade Comedy Theater has comedy of every kind (improv, stand up, variety, magic, music, etc.) and I’m on the main house improv team. Frankly Scarlett also performs there and I’ve organized a couple of side projects. What I’m saying is, I’m there a lot. It’s become a huge part of my life, artistically and socially. Arcade has sort of become our default clubhouse. If you’re reading this and I haven’t dragooned you into checking it out, yet, please do.

I celebrated my 30th birthday at Arcade with a full house.

I celebrated my 30th birthday at Arcade with a full house.

I went to Africa! Over Spring Break, Abby, Kaitlin, and I flew to South Africa to visit Robin and Collin in Cape Town, where Collin is doing his post-doc. Travelling the world is one of those things that reminds me how unbelievably privileged I am. I can’t overstate how great a time I had. I really should document the trip in its own post, but who has time for all that gushing?SA1

We swam with penguins, and pet an elephant, and stood in the jail that housed Nelson Mandela and did improv on a new continent. The landscape is screensaver-breathtaking but the poverty is shocking. A different kind of breathtaking.
And now for the mushy, schmoopy part, which is that, a world away, seeing sights I’ve never seen, the best part is always being with the people I adore.

Sa1

 At work I got a quasi-promotion and tacked on a few events to plan, some of which were easy and some of which went sort of bonkers on me (like when the plaque didn’t get delivered for the plaque unveiling ceremony). All told, though, my worst days here are still better and less stressful than some former positions. Though I do miss the people. Ok, I’m wrapping this up. Perhaps I’ll get my shit together and blog more. I, uh, tweet a lot. That’s micro-blogging, right?

A Misguided Christmas Lesson

Last year, I was struck by one of my rare bouts of organizational fervor as I was putting away the Christmas and New Year’s decorations (probably in April). Aside from the tree and wreaths, I could probably fit all of the winter decor into the trunk that serves as my coffee table, rather than tucked into the various containers and shelves in the basement where I usually stash it.

trunk

So organized!

This year, as I set about to decorate the tree, I went in search of my ornaments. And then I spent an hour in the basement, nearly in tears, because they weren’t “where I always keep them!” My childhood ornaments!

ornamentI looked everywhere, in every nook and cranny of our box-laden basement, when finally, dejected, I trudged back upstairs. Which is when I looked at my coffee table and let out a little yelp, of relief and of frustration with my scattered brain.

So the lesson I am taking away from this is: never try to reorganize!

This is Halloween, everbody make a scene

As I try desperately to decide between two Halloween costume options (this is the closest to the holiday I’ve ever been without knowing what I was going to be!) I thought I would glean inspiration from the past and post a retrospective of costumes. (This will be especially relevant to Addi’s podcast listeners!)

2011 – The White Witch (The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe)

The Chronicles of Narnia were a hugely formative part of my childhood and The White Witch is one of the coolest villains of all time. Lexi agreed to play along (and really, make my costume make sense) as Aslan (sexy Aslan. Obviously.)

How it’s made: Both my dress and mask were purchased on Etsy. The dress was a custom request from a seller who generally caters to the Goth set in blacks and reds, but she happily bought new fabric for my request. The mask was, in some ways, the inspiration for the costume. I’d had the idea for years, but was never sure how I would want to execute the idea. When I stumbled upon this shop, I knew the mask would serve as the anchor to the costume. Hair feathers and snowflake earrings (not particularly visible, but they’re there) are from Claire’s. Lexi is wearing a Spirit Hood and the base dress comes from a Cowardly Lion costume available at all major costume retailers.

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The Groupon Diaries: Stars on Ice

Groupon Price: $33 (per ticket)
Original Value: $78
Participants: Me, Chris, Abby, Thalia (Abby’s Mom)

“He looks like what the baby in Labyrinth would have grown up to look like if Jareth had kept him” Chris and I trash talked costumes one Saturday afternoon, watching U.S. Figure Skating Championships and we speculated that it would be really fun to see a live show. I’m tempted to say that I love figure skating, but I don’t follow it regularly enough to be a real fan. I know the big names and some of the jargon, but I cannot tell the difference between an axel and a salchow in motion. I just know that I generally like things that involve serious badassery, artistic showmanship, and sequins.

Just that week, Groupon came along, advertising tickets to Stars on Ice. Serendipity! I texted Chris, and chatted Abby, who had already seen the deal and was considering getting tickets as a surprise for her mom, the inimitable Thalia. (Inimitable? We impersonate her all of the time! Though…it never stands up to the original.)

On Saturday, Chris and I arrived at Consol Energy Center early, thinking we’d get Burgatory for dinner. Burgatory was closed. Boo. It was difficult to rally after losing the dream of the Caramel Pretzel Milkshake, but we shook it off and hit the normal concession stand. I ordered a Buffalo Chicken Hoagie without the Buffalo (spice wuss), which, of course, came with the Buffalo, so Chris, gem that he is, ate the sandwich and gave up his pizza.

We met up with Abby and Thalia, who still had no idea what her gift was and thought she was seeing a hockey game. After the big reveal, she was delighted, and we settled into out seats.

There was some half-assed attempt at a cohesive theme (Love and Life. Seriously. The next show should be called Things.) which was fully unnecessary because…. badassery, showmanship, sequins! That’s your theme, right there.

Kurt Browning had impressive height to his jumps considering he’s about a million years old in skater years. Sasha Cohen appears to have no bones in her legs.  The ice dancers were pretty boring, because ice dancing seems pretty boring next to pairs skating, where a small mistake can literally translate into bone crushing death. Also, brother/sister dancing couples creep me out. The pairs skaters didn’t disappoint with the death-defying stunts, throwing out some tricks I’d bet aren’t competition legal. Sarah Hughes, the 2002 Olympic Gold Medalist, stepped onto the ice once, cruised lazily around the ice, and went backstage to collect her paycheck and have a nap on her laurels. Ryan Bradley (or Bradley Ryan) was young and charming and did backflips.


All he wanted to do was dance. And flip.

I think I would buy this Groupon again. If I had to pay full price? I’d still go, but sit in the cheap seats.

Uh oh. A serious post. If you came for the fashion commentary, well, sorry.

Yesterday there was a shooting at the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Pittsburgh’s largest mental health facility. I was (am) pretty significantly rattled, more than I’ve ever been watching other tragedies unfold, regardless of how sad I found them.

Is it physical proximity? Maybe. I work one neighborhood over, and more than that, I was waiting for the bus about 300 feet from Western Psych when the shooting was starting, completely oblivious to anything unusual except an increased number of sirens, even for a neighborhood like Oakland, so packed with hospitals.

When I returned to my office, I popped my head into my boss’ office to say I’d come back from my meeting, which had ended early, and generally chattered on about meeting related nonsense. He seemed off-kilter. I left, and immediately returned, realizing he hadn’t asked after the questions he’d specifically wanted answered. Nodding, he half absorbed the information I was sharing. I figured it was the last few hours before his three day vacation started so he was a little checked out. When I sat down to my desk, I started to see bits of news and ran over to share with my boss, who was already in the middle of a conversation regarding the shooting. Eventually, he emailed that I could stop working and follow the news, and then came over to watch the live news feed with me.

Looking at the coverage, piecing together the timeline, I pointed at a spot on Fifth Avenue, now taped off and surrounded by reporters and cops, and said, “Huh. I think I was probably right…there when it started.”

“I know,” he said. “I didn’t want to break the news as soon as you got in because I didn’t want to freak you out.”

“Oh.”

Long before I put two and two together and realized that I’d been anywhere near the event, something about this shooting had wriggled its roots into me and I was already extra unsettled. I can’t 100% articulate why, but I think it has to do with the symbolism of happening at a mental health facility.

Whether a product of popular opinion or fact, the profile of this kind of shooter is one of a profoundly tortured individual. We like easy villains in our narratives, and rarely do these shooters fit neatly into that role. Their actions are indefensible, unforgivable, but they are worthy of compassion nevertheless.

The state of mental health care is horrifying. We, the larger societal “we”, are unequipped to handle the overwhelming, aching need of the community. Full of hard working, dedicated, passionate people, the hospitals and clinics do what they can, but the system is broken. I am not so naive to believe that all horrors in the world can be avoided, but I do believe it must be possible to prevent this, to reach the person in crisis before that pain turns outward.

How do I say that this all makes me sad without sounding trite?  So, so fucking sad. Watching the coverage at my desk, my chest was tight and I guess my boss could see my eyes were red.

It was sweet how concerned he was. I think my boss thought I was retroactively scared, but I was never in any danger. What shook me so particularly, in addition to the inherent heartache to begin with, was blithely standing by when a real tragedy was happening in spitting distance. It made me feel oblivious and self-involved. (So I thought I would write a long blog post detailing my feelings on an event that had real and lasting consequences on other people’s lives. If I’m self-aware about navel gazing, does it make it better?)

I went home and let myself sit in a snit for a little while, schlumping on the couch, still in my coat, listening to a gloomily curated playlist and having the good, big sob that had been trickling out all day. Eventually, I met friends for a few much needed beers. However shitty my day felt, ultimately, I had more reason to feel lucky than morose.

Heathens

I was raised Catholic. Very Catholic. Now I’d call myself “Agnostic.” I think that can often be shorthand for “I don’t really think about it much.” That is not what I mean. I think about religion and spirituality often. And I just don’t know. I don’t really want to get into the intricacies of my relationship with faith, but suffice to say that I allow for the possibility of a deity, though I suspect there isn’t one, and I definitely don’t…believe. While I thought my parents knew this, they apparently didn’t (or chose to ignore it) but it came up a few months ago and I stated my position pretty clearly.

My response to my mom’s email 2 days ago telling me she’s been crying and losing sleep for months over my lack of faith, worrying that she won’t see me in heaven:

“No, I don’t mind you sharing what’s on your mind. I’m sorry I can’t put it more at ease. I think the world can be an amazing and wonderful place, but no, I do not necessarily see a divine hand in that. I respect your right to your beliefs, but they aren’t mine, and haven’t been for quite some time. I’m sorry to have sprung that on your at Christmas. I thought you knew. Could that change in the future? Maybe. I don’t want to give you the idea that this is a phase that will surely pass, but I’m not so arrogant to think that my beliefs couldn’t change over time. I don’t think it’s likely, but I suppose it’s possible.

I lead a moral life. I try to stand up for things I think are right. I have an excellent foundation of right and wrong (in not small part due to my upbringing) and while I don’t always do the right thing (who does?!) I try to do the right thing more often than I do the wrong. I don’t do it because I’m afraid of hell, but because I want to live in a world of goodness, and I think that comes from people. I hope you take comfort in that, and that you believe in a god who, if it turns out he or she exists, will care more about the life I’ve lead than about the beliefs of my fallible human brain.”

Past the point of no return

I was seeing a very nice guy for about a month, up until Monday when I politely declined to continue. I had a sneaking suspicion early on that it wasn’t clicking, but I really wanted it to, which as we all discover at one point or another, just isn’t enough. Ah, the stupid vagaries of the heart.

We had plans to spend Valentine’s Day together (the degree to which that wigged me out was another red flag I ignored) and so I started poking around on Etsy for a cute token gift. And that, dear readers, is when I knew there was no salvaging it.

As I’ve noted before, I fucking love giving gifts. Shopping for other people thrills me, and truth be told, the first few gifts are usually the most exciting because it’s a new game, a new person to puzzle out. So when I’d coolly scrolled though pages of custom shaving soaps, vintage books, cufflinks, Tardis greeting cards, and cigar cutters without a twinge of excitement, that was the sign I couldn’t turn away from, a message from my smarter inner self saying, “this is a waste of your time and his.”

What are your signs that it’s time to call it quits? Big red flags or little (yet unmistakable!) notes from your subconscious?