Such Odd Things to Be Grateful For

I fell asleep with my computer last night.  It was not quite romantic.  I did wake up in the middle of the night, however, with a great idea for a topic.  Supposedly.  I noted it on my phone, but it was so vague; “Grateful for odd things”.  Although, I am grateful for odd things, I think most people are.  It’s the simple things in life that really make a difference.  Although I don’t know what examples I may have had while I slept, I was able to coherently think of some of my own today.

And so, I give you, odd but significant things I am grateful for.

  • My husband isn’t a video game addict.  Hell, he doesn’t drink or gamble in excess or zone out into any sports on TV (that’s more me).  He does watch cartoons, but not if we’re home together, because we have a lot in common and that is not one of them.  Its not cartoons that bothers me, because I’ll watch Bugs Bunny or SpongeBob myself, but these cheesy Anime ones.  He watches them in fast forward too, which leads me to believe that are just as enjoyable as I think they are.  Regardless, I am grateful that he is unlike the many men I know our age who ignore the world around them, as they lose all reality to the outside world with controller in hand.  So, thank you honey.
  • My Aunt recently brought to my attention that I should be happy for my chubby cheeks.  “Look at Sally Field.”, she says, “She’s got fat and cologen in her face because of her cheeks and she’ll never look hallowed out.”  Of course, she continued with things what sounded like back-handed compliments, but I realized she was right.  Not only will my cheeks be beneficial as I age, they give my friends great humor.  My cheeks were (ok, are) big enough that when I smile, they push up my eyes quite a bit.  Although I’m of Irish/German descent, they often claim I’m in fact Asian.  This doesn’t bother me because it is not offensive, but simply odd.  Regardless, I’m grateful to you, chubby cheeks.
  • I’ve always been on the thin or appropriate weight for my height.  I also have a stomach that is very picky.  I hate that.  But, it is the reason that I don’t eat unhealthy or unnatural things.  Thus, I keep my figure.  I think it’s a good idea to turn every annoying negative into a positive.  It also saves us money because we don’t buy take-out very often, so well done finicky stomach!
  • I’m just shy of 5’9, but I have small feet.  Sometimes I am as small as a 7 shoe, but mainly 7 ½.  I feel gangly as it is; have long legs, long arms and a long torso, so this makes me feel that I’m petite in some way.  And I’m grateful for that.  Although, I do believe it aids in my klutziness.  We are convinced that my feet are not big enough to keep me sturdy, which is why I topple.  This is not medically or scientifically based, but it seems good enough of a reason to me.

I am grateful for so many “real” things, and some of these are really just silly.  But I imagine one day, if these all didn’t collide (cue time travel music); I could look like a skeleton droopy face with big feet, obese and married to a World of Warcraft addict.  Ah, but now everything will be perfect.

This is probably my most bizarre post.  Bear with me, it’s been a long week.

Yogi: I Say “Bear” and You Say “Namaste”

When life is chaotic and non-stop, we all need a moment to sit and relax.  My mind is always going, even when I get that opportunity.  I’m in total envy of those people who can sit and meditate or just focus on one’s breath.  My mind just jumps from one thing to another.  And although my Evernote app has taken a fair share of constant “to do” lists out of constant rotation in my brain, I can’t get the wheels to stop spinning.

Groupon had a great deal on a set of ten yoga classes at a studio near my house; such a great deal that it would be like paying for three regular priced classes.  Who doesn’t need an hour to just sit on the floor and zone out?  I always liked the idea of yoga as a hobby, because I’m realistic to know that I’m not the kind of girl who could become a true yogi and live that naturally peaceful lifestyle on a day to day basis.  As appealing as it would be, I’d be kidding myself to think that was likely.  But I did like the idea of keeping my mat in the car and wearing my cute yoga pants to class here and there, and getting a nice and exaggerated session of stretching to calming music.

I aspire to practice a regular activity that calms me rather than burdens me.

I was given three months to use these 10 classes.  Guess who used half my classes and has a little less than two weeks left to keep going?  This gal.  I truly think I psyche myself out when it comes to yoga.  The fact that I can’t get my mind to relax and focus on the ultimate goal of yoga is so frustrating for me.  Though I am usually proud that I’m more flexible than I thought, I’m also a klutz.  I also don’t follow verbal directions well since I’m a visual learner.  That being said, I always get an outgoing teacher who wants to try some new and complex activity during a beginner class, which causes me to strain my neck to focus on where my body parts should be.  Oh yeah, and meanwhile I can’t forget to focus on my breathing.  Before you know it, I’m slightly stressed, my hands are slippery and I can barely stay in the downward facing dog without panicking that I’ll face plant into my mat.

This is not relaxing.

There is a meditation class option coming up.  I think this could be a possibility.  The less focus on movement and the more focus on easing the mind there is, the better off I will be.  I respect what yoga is and the practice, I think maybe it’s not my thing.  My biggest takeaway from my last class what getting the instrutor to give me the artists on her playlist, because it had been driving me crazy the entire session. Maybe I could just go back to listening to a peaceful album with headphones on to mentally drift, like I could in high school.  I’ll even throw in a stretch once or twice to make it a little healthier.

Image courtesy of yogaworkouthq.com

Tattoos Are Permanent

The title is an obvious statement and one which people often don’t keep in mind when getting a tattoo.  The worst is seeing “trendy” tattoos and waiting for an entire generation to have a less than appealing version of it as we age.  As someone with two tattoos, both small but one in an obvious place, getting more is something that makes me both very cautious and very eager.

One of the biggest parts of being a creative writer is expressing who you are.  It is very easy to perfect our niche and allow details to shine through our written works that tell who we are.  People like labeling things, and even ourselves, though many try to dismiss that notion.  Tattoos are a version of that, like putting a permanent sticker on your car, but knowing it’s the car you drive for life.  Also don’t forget that you’re never getting out of that car.  People will judge you on your “decorations” and often decide where to fit you in terms of opportunities that arise.

Tattoos can be expressive in a “wow” way that exudes a look of glowing awe or a “wow” response that hinders more in a “what were they thinking” way.  Your body décor can be appealing and open doors that a plain person may not access or it’ll shut a door in your face.  There are simply open and closed-minded people, and that’s just the way life is.  I suppose it’s a matter of making sure your body art truly depicts who you are and allows room for the opportunities you seek.

I’m often torn between allowing myself to be expressive and artsy or classic and conservative.  I appreciate the notions of each and I’m not quite sure what I am deep down.  Isn’t it ok to be both when the situation feels right?  Do I have to go all in, or does taking myself out of one stereotypical box make me unique?  When I’m out with friends, I don’t wear a watch.  When I’m at work I do, to avoid the distraction of people staring at the tattoo on my wrist.  I’m not ashamed of it and I still don’t regret getting it, but I’m also aware of the snickers I’ve gotten from corporate higher-ups and I don’t need my potential success sidelined by a decision I made when I was 18.

I also worry about what time does to our bodies.  I have an inkling (get it?) to get another piece done, but I do worry that if I choose the wrong location, that time won’t be so kind.  Maybe the conservative side is hindering the artistic one and I should take more of a chance.  Or maybe like many things in life, such as buying a house or finding your spouse, it’ll come to you and you’ll just know.  Same should probably apply to finding something you want to adorn on your skin forever.  If we can’t wait for that to happen, then at least be prepared for the regret later.

Photo courtesy of sodahead.com

I Hate Country Music; Or So I Thought

I always told myself that country music is horrible. From the time that I was very, very little, I detested it and really rallied my mind against it. I honestly have no idea why. It was something that I made a point in letting people know when we discussed music taste. My response to it almost bordered on aggressive. It’s one of those things that I look back on and though I’ve tried to analyze my reasoning, I can’t come up with anything to defend my logic, except for the fact that I was immature and must’ve been trying to fit a mold.

Over time, I started to hate country music less and trend to a more indifferent feeling about it. My parents didn’t listen to country music, but they certainly never taught me to hate it, or hate anything for that matter. The closest thing that played in my house was Gordon Lightfoot, which is more Folk, but certainly has twang-y elements to it.  I’ve basically loved the fundamental instruments in country music all my life, which are no different from rock music, but it’s just a different style and a slightly different structure.

Still, having grown up outside of Philadelphia, I never understood the crowds that flocked to country music concerts in the summer, with cowboy hats and a Budweiser in hand. I’m all about being a patriotic American, and I realize that country music probably depicts the American persona more than any other, but where did these people pick up the taste for it?  Where did they come from?

It wasn’t until I realized my Uncle had a love for country music that I started to think about it in a different way. He was a city kid, grew up loving heavy metal bands in the 80’s and had the style and hair to rival bands like Van Halen in his day. He played in a metal band, loaded up with tattoos and although he never lost his love for a bad rock ballad, he loves country music now too?  As he is a person I respect, good for him, I thought.  Then I met my husband, who is from Iowa; who knew all the country songs when we went to a piano bar early in our relationship. Then I discovered the country station presets in his pick-up truck. He wasn’t wearing cowboy boots or anything, but I must’ve been slow to not see that coming.  I feel kind of sorry now, that he didn’t come out spurs blazing to show his country roots. I always wondered if neglecting his country roots publicly was his way of finding himself in another part of the country or if he was that concerned I’d dislike him for it.  That would be something I’d truly feel sorry for.

As I grow up, I’ve found there’s nothing more important than being open minded. Hell, I can accept most anything else in the world and look on the bright side of most any situation, why can’t I accept country music? Then it happened, crossover music. Though I’m sure it always existed in some form, country has crossed over into mainstream music in a very popular way over the last few years and onto mainstream stations.  There are even bands that I really like that use country elements. I think I might like it. Though don’t tell anyone yet, because I’m not sure I’m ready for that kind of commitment just yet. I haven’t bought a country album, but I may have programmed a country station on the second set of presets in my car. We’ll know for sure if it makes the top 10, but its tough competition.

I knew I was lost when I got hooked on the Mumford & Sons album last year and there was a heavy bluegrass and banjo vibe on it.  I’d really love to play banjo, once I get guitar down a little better, but I’ve convinced myself that maybe I’d focus on old Irish music to ease my way into this American genre. I know, none of it makes sense, but at least there’s no longer a deep misunderstanding about something that never truly deserved it.

I’m starting to see a trend that my Sunday posts are not so inspired. It makes me wonder if posting every day is working against me. I like to feel inspired to write, or have a goal, so instead of waiting for that to happen, I’ve forced myself into a spot of obligatory random writing. Some days, there just isn’t a lot to say.

I don’t know if any of you writers out there feel this way, but I find I must have my workspace in a very particular manner to feel right when I start writing. I really haven’t had an ideal workspace in…wow, ever? Maybe once or twice I had a random station set up that felt do-able or felt at home in a cozy café, but this is all about to change.

We have two guest bedrooms in our home and no guests. Not often enough to have two rooms set up, anyway, and one in particular was never used in almost four years. Today, the amazing husband, (insert Superman theme here) spent the day helping* me swap furniture to other rooms, the attic and the basement, in order to make one of the guest rooms exclusively my office. It’s not a shared space, which will find my desk serving as a table for fresh towels or a suitcase.  It will really be my room.

*His “helping” by the way is a loose translation of: He did almost all the work. I try not to just be a supervisor, but I’m also a weakling.

The room isn’t right just yet. I need blinds in there so I can work at night without feeling creeped out. I’m thinking I’m glad I never had a guest sleep in there, with the lack of blinds and sheer curtain issue. We’ll paint and move all those books onto some shelves, but my desk is in there and that is a start. And by “we”, I’m fully investing in getting this done, paint speckles in my hair and all.

I find that setting my environment to the right kind of writing mood helps, and maybe I will be more inspired in there, than with the laptop in bed while I rush to meet my personal deadline. The daily deadline, by the way, I keep missing because there is no real punishment resulting from a late post.  The worst that can happen is that I say “Damn it” and keep writing. After all, this is not a real job, though I wish it could be.  Maybe I should set real goals so I go to bed earlier and post timely.

Shannon: No cookies if you post after midnight…got it?

Oh, and also, stop thinking up good ideas, composing them in your head while you drive or do dishes and then not write them down.  You get proud of yourself and think you’ll remember but you never do.  You’re killing me.

And with that, I say, “Good night”.

I Belong to Nowhere

I visited an old friend last weekend and she was asking what my husband and I were up to, and if we had any future plans.  I told her that depending on what happens with my career, we wouldn’t be opposed to moving to Europe or some authentically historic American town, but we’ll see what happens.  She said how she could never do that, just pick up and leave, but it’s something that we have grown accustom to and maybe it’s slightly hereditary.

I’m an avid ancestry enthusiast.  Every key member to my family tree, at least going back a few generations, had the same defining quality; the ability to be fearless and never look back.  This to me is a quality because I admire their courage and ambition, to pick up from their place of birth and independently find a new home in a new state, country, continent, etc.  And they did it alone.  They all did.

This is a blessing and a curse because combined; these adventurous ancestors gave me life.  Had they not, I don’t want to say “ran away”, but rather “looked for better opportunities”, I wouldn’t exist.  It’s a curse because, as a researcher, it’s very difficult to track them.  I run into possible distant connections and it appears my ancestor was always the black sheep who left and never wrote home.  There never seems to be hostility or a tragic story that I’m aware of based on family stories, they were just ok being independent.

That being said, I began frequently re-establishing myself early and being the “new kid” by changing schools throughout my youth.  Not by my choice, but my parents, due to transportation, tuition, educational factors and eventually a move just before high school.  I settled in well for the most part at each place and sought my own adventure to California after graduation.  I never truly felt like I fit in anywhere. Though I did find myself back in New Jersey a few years ago, close to family and old friends, I really don’t feel that I have a home.  The town I grew up in until I was 13 would probably be the closest thing to a “home” feeling but most of the people who lived there are gone or have passed away.  If you remember, I was friendly with the elderly people.  Sure I had friends that were my age, but they’ve since grown and moved too.

Today we live in a town close by, which feels like a neighborhood that people grew up in, finished school, started to grow their own family and then moved back in.  There is a sense of community, but not for me.  I am friendly with people here, but my roots weren’t here.  I think it is why I find the idea of moving anywhere that feels comfortable, so appealing, because I don’t need to stay anywhere out of obligation.  No one else in my family has.

My husband and I are the same way.  Having grown up in Iowa, and then joined the military, it caused his zip code to change more than a few times.  We come from heritages that we didn’t technically belong to.  My family has strong Irish and German tradition, but I don’t necessarily belong there.  My family for generations lived in Philadelphia and I was even born there, but then became the first to be raised in the suburbs of New Jersey.  Although it’s only minutes away, I didn’t grow up in a row home with a corner candy store or play baseball on the asphalt, so I can’t claim that as home either.  I grew up in a house where people had their own space and minded their business.  They were people looking to remove themselves from city culture; maybe culture altogether.  I don’t want to come off as ungrateful, I’ve had a fortune life with loving parents, but the circumstances have just left me feeling a little lost as an adult.

We aren’t tied to anywhere and maybe we’re not quite sure where home is yet.  I suppose we’ll have to find it together and make it that way ourselves.  We can be the “new kids” together.

My Best Friend Lost His Head

Shan and Tommy - Happy in Spring

When I’m searching for blog ideas, I look through pictures.  I found this one and it brought back happiness and devastation.  That is a bit dramatic, but when you’re little, things appear much more tragic.

No, it’s not because I look like a little boy in this picture, but it’s because my favorite doll, Tommy, had a rough life.  I was an only child until I was 8 and the only grandchild, niece etc. for almost the same amount of time.  Although I had many dolls and toys, Tommy was my favorite.  He was probably the cheapest doll I had too, which my parents probably loved, right?  It’s like buying the expensive toy and the kid loves the box.  He had yarn hair, cloth limbs and a cheap plastic head.  He had big cheeks like I did (do) and just had an overall happy face.

Although I love Tommy and we had many lazy afternoon naps together, tea parties and adventures, I have to say he lost his head.  No, literally, he lost his head.  The first tragic occasion came in the summer of my third birthday.  I vaguely remember, but I’ve also heard the story enough times that it feels familiar.  I went shopping with my Mom, because that’s what three year olds do.  Upon our return to our powder blue Honda Civic, Mom popped me into my car seat and then we saw it on the backseat.  Oh no, not Tommy.  Tommy’s cheap plastic head had gotten so warm in the summer heat, that the seal connecting him to his body let loose.

Tommy was decapitated by the summer sun.

Dad tried everything from glue to zip ties.  All winter, Tommy was safe, but the minute the weather became warm, there was no telling what might become of poor Tommy.

For now, Tommy is in a box with my other special friends.  He has probably lost his head in the attic more than once since he’s been up there, but I’m hoping he’s found some stability in his life.  When I saw Toy Story 3, I thought about donating my toys that are in my Dad’s attic but then I realized I’m too selfish and sentimental; at least with dolls like Tommy. The last thing I’d want is for him to blow his top for another young child.

Now that I think about it, Tommy isn’t the only one of my “friends” in my very early years to hit a rough patch.  Maybe I’ll share the tragic assault on Megan with you soon too.  Poor, poor Megan.  At least the pug lovers would laugh at it.

Rock Star Incident of 1998

Perspectives really change with age.  I’m not quite 30, so I’m nervous about how many things I have yet to look back on and shake my head about, but needless to say, it’s funny how time changes things.

I heard the song “Shimmer” by Fuel on the local rock station tonight, WMMR.  I drove along and snickered a bit when I thought about my first “rock star” experience.  I was fifteen and Fuel was in regular rotation on the airwaves at my favorite Modern Rock station, Y100.  RIP.  They were holding a Sonic Session, which was a somewhat regular promotional event in which the station got a popular band to play a mini concert at a local recording studio as they breezed through town for a concert.  One of my best friends at the time won tickets and asked me to go.  If saying “OMG” was popular at that time, I would have said it about 150 times the day leading to and following this event.

I remember it like it was yesterday.  My Mom had been the type to idolize musicians in her youth and met the Bay City Rollers at a similar event when she was that age, so she understood the true excitement to it all.  My Dad on the other hand, was none too pleased about his little girl going into the city on a school night to drool over some guys in a band.  Looking back, it’s fair to say he was right to feel that way.  They both were, really.  Mom won and I went.

There weren’t that many people allowed into the small recording space, but it was pretty exciting as we sat on the floor and watch a band, which was signed to an actual recording label, jamming out in front of us.  The lead singer Brett was barefoot and blonde, and giving the full rock star vibe to the small-time performance.  The show ended and we were allowed to ask for autographs.  Guess who was first in line.

At that very moment, I remember thinking that I didn’t have enough things for the band to sign.  I should have brought posters or bought a second CD in case something happens to this one.  A bundle of excited nerves, I handed over my CD and introduced myself to Brett.  I probably just said my name and nothing else, afraid to throw too many words out there at the same time, in case they got jumbled.  He said it was nice to meet me and then in a quick panic and sheer brilliance, I thought at the time, “Can you sign my shirt too?!”  Of course he did, what a nice guy, to take the time to sign a barely developed girl’s chest.  Then he saw I had a camera and offered to take a picture. O-M-G.  We posed for a picture and then it happened.  He pinched my ass.

Now, if a guy today, even a popular musician did that, although I’d be flattered, I’d have the presence of mind to say, “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”  I didn’t.  I glowed.  Since we were just fifteen, my friend’s Mom waited outside for us and I bounced around outside, in the car, at home and for a month following exclaiming “He grabbed my ass, it was awesome!”  I can only imagine what my Dad was thinking.  I clearly looked underage too, all big cheeks and innocence.  And by big cheeks, I mean the ones on my face.

I don’t have children, but I’d be torn about whether or not I’d let them go to something like that.  Experiences like that as a whole, minus the groping, don’t happen often.  It spurred a nearly ten year concert spree that I am currently still paying off, which included hundreds of concerts and memories that always make me smile and that I’d never give back.

(Don’t worry Dad; this experience never turned your little girl into a groupie.)

Seinfeld is Still Relevant

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Seinfeld is still current, despite the fact that it officially ended almost 14 years ago, don’t you think?  I think there is probably at least one occasion a day that something happens, which is immediately followed by, “That’s like on that Seinfeld episode when….”

  • Kramer has that idea to open a “Make Your Own Pizza” shop
  • George fought all day for a parking spot on principle
  • George had to erase that embarrassing message off that answering machine
  • that guy in Elaine’s office was hard of hearing, or was he?  Or the germophobe was afraid of her because she was promiscuous
  • that girl had a “Tractor Story”
  • the brain played chess with the…you know, a certain male bodypart

Ok, so maybe these aren’t the most obvious choices to you, but I challenge you to make some comparisons as you go about your daily routine.

I was reminded of the episode where Elaine is supposed to call her friend to console her and she chooses moments when she’s on the move or distracted, on a “mobile” phone and not really giving her time the attention she deserves.  She spends the whole episode trying to get ahold of her while Jerry tells her how rude it is to make calls like that on the go.  Whoops.  Either times are different now or everyone I know is a jerk.

Even on the comedy Sirius stations, I’ll hear Jerry now and then and his stand-up still holds true.  His puns are so obvious and simple, but always coming from a valid observation.  Only now, I can picture a little bumble bee telling jokes instead of Jerry himself.  The high pitched squealing excitement that sounds slightly panicked at all times.

Do you think he relays his day in the same way when he goes home and talks to his wife?

“You’ll never believe this, the guy, down the hallway, he thinks he can walk past me and just nod without saying hello?  Well I’ll show him, next time we get on the elevator, I’m going to push all the buttons and make he talk to me.  Helllllloooo, la la la.”

Maybe he has a little laugh track app on his phone to follow up his little daily puns or observations when he walks around his home.  He seems like he might be cheesy like that.  I also imagine him to be pretty OCD, keeping his cereal boxes in alphabetical order.

Seinfeld was one of those things that any age could relate to, because the humor was pretty universal but put in odd character situations and usually embarrassing ones.  The routine always went full circle, so it was impossible to get lost and who doesn’t like goofy keyboard music?  My 97 year old Great-Grandmom and I used to watch it together and laugh.  “Oh, that George” she’d say.  I suppose we are avid fans.  My husband went far enough to make a festivus pole for laughs last year.  Grandmom insists it’s a stripper pole.

Thank goodness for syndication.

Nothing has really come close to it since.

Little Old Soul or Burden to Elderly Society?

I thought I was a pretty normal kid.  I was the first of my generation on my Mom’s side.  I was the only kid for the first six years across the board.  I also grew up without many kids around in my neighborhood and by the time they were there, I was still the only girl.  I’d like to think I’m an old soul, well, because I feel like I am.  Part of me also wonders if it’s because my favorite people and maybe my best friends during those years, were my Mom and my Grandmoms.  I had three of the later, “two regulars and a great” I’d always say.

I never lacked a childhood.  I played games, had toys and knew the basics, Sesame Street and Smurfs.  It might be kind of odd that a lot of my favorite toys can be found at antique stores, but they were obviously both amusing and made well, so who am I to question that.  Mister Rogers was one of my icons, still is, and I get teased for wearing a Mr. Rogers sweater on occasion to this day.  They are so versatile.  But honestly, I’m not weird.  It’s not like I go to a public park bench and start singing while I change my shoes or anything.

It has recently come to my attention however, that some of my regular childhood memories are not so regular for children of the 80’s.  Well, maybe child-like people IN their 80’s, but I was born in the early 1980’s.  Apparently there’s a difference?  Here is a sampling.

  • Lunch dates at Wanamaker’s with patent leather purses and hats
  • Bingo with the Widow/Widowers at the Senior Center
  • Lawrence Welk sing-a-longs with Gram (The real show, not the SNL parodies – which are excellent by the way)
  • Carol Burnett repeats on PBS
  • Anne of Green Gables and/or Romance Novels (Yes, I realize this was quite varied)
  • Senior citizen bus trips to anywhere and everywhere
  • Sewing and crocheting lessons during 2nd grade summer

Ok, so either I was ancient, or I was often taken to places I wasn’t supposed to be.  Making this list makes me wonder if I was ever a burden to elderly population, but I made such good friends with every old lady I met that I was always invited back.  There was one lady named Dolly, I thought she was the greatest because well, her name was Dolly.

Anyway, there is something proper about a little girl with her tea cup and saucer, legs crossed while she listens to her elders talk.  I don’t remember ever feeling like a kid.  Maybe it’s because no one spoke to me like I was one, but in fact they treated me like a little lady.