Thursday, April 28, 2011

Lost in translation

The English language is stupid.

No really. It is really really really stupid. It is ridiculously hard to learn to use correctly as opposed to some other languages in the world. There are all these weird rules, and then exceptions to the rules, and then exceptions to the exceptions, and it is just dumb. I have been speaking English my entire life and I am still not sure I have a firm grasp on it. I only just figured out the use of a semi-colon about six months ago (I am fairly certain I am still using it incorrectly, but hey at least I am using it).

Then if grammatical technicalities were not confusing enough, you then actually start to use it and things get all crazy like. This is mostly in part because people use the language, and people are stupid; stupid + stupid = really frigging dumb. 

Now in Englishes defense people can make any language stupid. Its just these weird sayings and phrases that people come up with. For instance "Put some elbow grease into it."
What the hell? I mean I know what it means, because I have been told it means put some more effort into it, but if I hadn't known that I would be so confused. What the hell is elbow grease anyways?

To illustrate this point, a story.

When my mother was young, in Elementary school, somewhere between the age of 6 and 9 (I don't remember her exact age, just that she was in Germany at the time, which would have made her 6 to 9) she attended a rather strict school. It was military after all, and they were in Germany, and it was back in a time when children were expected to act civilized and follow the rules...or else.

Well one of the rules was that you did not put your feet on the walls. I know it sounds silly, but when you think about it, it makes sense. They didn't want people to lean on the walls and then put there foot up behind them (kind of like a flamingo only with your foot on the wall not your other knee).

Well my mother, being a child, and some of her classmates were not keen on following the rules, and one day were caught with their feet dirtying the walls. As I said before this was a school that believed in consequences, so the group of little girls ended up being punished for their transgression. The punishment was to wash the walls, which makes perfect sense.

So here are these little girls with a bucket and rags, washing off the walls. Their teacher made the comment to them "Put some elbow grease into it" and then went off to do other things while the girls performed their punishment.

Now again this is a group of 6 to 9 year old girls. Not one of them had ever heard the phrase before, and not one of them knew what it really meant. What was this elbow grease she spoke of? Was it some sort of chemical that your elbow produced that would make footprints come off walls easier?

So my mother took her teacher literally (as most children do). She took the rag and placed it on the wall with one hand and then placed her elbow on the rag and began to rub. She rubbed and rubbed and rubbed trying to use this strange mythical elbow grease her teacher had spoke of.

Now I want you to stop and picture this.
She was scrubbing a concrete wall.
With her elbow.
As hard as she could.

So eventually the teacher came back to check on their progress, and what she discovers is my mother, in tears, with blood running down her arm from her elbow. The teacher ran over and demanded to know what my mother had done. All she could do was cry that she had done exactly what she was told to do and put elbow grease into it.

You see what I mean?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Take me as I am

Have you ever stopped to wonder how it is you got to where you are now? How is it you came to be the person you are in the life that you live?
Is this where you planned to be?
Are you where you wanted to be?
Are you what you expected to be?

Every little thing we do shapes who we are and the lives that we lead. From the most mundane things to the most crucial details, everything leads up to who we are. You have to wonder though, how did you really get here, and where is here anyways?

When I was in high school, as a senior planning for college and the future, I received some advice from our Administrative Assistant, Fred Chavez. Chavez was a great man. He had been a drill sergeant in the army, he was my theatre teachers (and mentor) best friend, and he always was very kind to me. One day he looked at me and told me that it did not really matter what I did, as long as in the end I was still me.

At the time I found it to be very good advice. I liked who I was and I didn't want to come out of college not being me anymore. I wanted to be me with more knowledge and experience. It seemed like a fairly simple thing to do.

Now I am not sure if that girl I was could look at me and recognize me.
So did I fail? Did college and life alter me and change me? Did I lose me somewhere along the way?

No I don't think I did.
I don't think I knew who I was then. I am not sure I was me yet. I think I was still inside waiting to escape. It was all the strange and crazy adventures I had, all the unique individuals I met, everything that happened that allowed me to finally be me.
Sure they shaped me and changed me, and I am not that girl anymore, but I am not someone else.

My core has never changed. The things I believed deep down inside are still there, they just show more now. I found confidence and security, I learned to be brave, I found the harsh edges to my soft sides, I spread my wings and ran like hell (because really I am more of a flightless bird).

Am I happy with where I am?
Yes I am. I mean happiness is ridiculously subjective, but in my mind I am happy. I am comfortable but not stagnant which are very important things to be. Things are not easy, nothing is ever easy. Things are not perfect, nothing is ever perfect. My life though is good.

Will this be my life in five years? In ten years?
Maybe. Probably not.

Will I be the same person I am now?
Maybe. Probably not.

Will I still be me?
Yes, I believe I will be.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Don't wanna

For people who know me, I am a bit of a Scrooge.
When the Christmas season rolls around every year I can not help but to cringe. The idea of spending hours upon hours decorating my house with little bits of shiny festive what not (that my cats will spend the next few months trying to vanquish) sort of gives me an eye twitch. I just hate doing it.

I think that my hatred for the tradition of decorating for Christmas goes back to my youth, no my adolescence. I can actually remember enjoying this sort of thing when I was a child, but somewhere as I approached being a teenager it became something that I just really did not want to do. I know, a teenager who did not want to participate in family traditions and functions, try and contain your shock.

Still my angsty moody age aside, I was expected to participate in the 'family fun'. My mother was notorious for demanding that we have a good time. Family vacations and holidays did not come with an optional good time and happiness. No we were all to be happy shiny people loving every family moment, or else.

In my mothers defense, this thought process is apparently genetic, because my Grandmother can also be a holiday Nazi of sorts. Of course Gram has been more known for having violent reactions to holidays than my mother has (the year she punched out my Aunt who was 6 months pregnant with twins, or the Thanksgiving where she cooked a completely frozen 30 pound turkey to perfection and served it in under two hours out of sheer spite and hate).

I digress.
Anyways, all those years of being forced into the holiday spirit more than a little killed it for me.
I was so happy to be away from home and never have to think about twinkle lights or tinsel again.

Then I went and married a perpetual five year old.
The husbeast loves all things bright and shiny and reminiscent of happy times gone by; giant twinkling fir trees, rows of colored lights, strings of popcorn, and tinsel hanging off of every surface that will stand still long enough to be draped in it. All the things that I want nothing to do with.

I told him for years he was welcome to decorate himself, just never ask me to help. I don't mind the house being all dressed up, I just want nothing to do with the dressing. Also I refused to help take it down once the holidays were over. Only you see the husbeast, bless his heart, is a lazy lazy lazy beast. So holidays never happened in our house for years.

Then one year I got soft, and for his present, I decorated the house. I did it in secret while he was out with the boys one day. When he walked in the door, well let us just say a 6 year old on Christmas morning had nothing on my husband. He was thrilled. That was enough for me.

So now every year I do minimal decorating (takes me 20 minutes) and he is ecstatic about it. I suppose it is the least I can do.

That being said there are still some holiday traditions I neither get nor will participate in.
Among them is dying Easter Eggs.

First: We do not celebrate Easter.

That glaring fact aside...

B: We do not eat eggs.

I mean we eat eggs, but we do not eat hard boiled eggs. The husbeast eats deviled eggs and scrambled eggs, and I occasionally will eat a fried egg, but hard boiled eggs? No.
So these colorful eggs would just you know, rot.

Thing the last: We do not hunt eggs.

We have no children that would hunt eggs, we belong to no organization that would run an egg hunt, we don't even have neighbors we hate enough to hide eggs in their yard so that in a week or so the stench makes them ill.
So again we would have a bunch of colorful eggs that will just rot.

And don't even get me started on the process of dying eggs. The smell is horrid. Why would I want my house to smell like egg and vinegar? And it is so incredibly messy. We may be adults, but I guarantee you we could not dye eggs without creating a mess of epic proportions. A mess might I add that I would have to clean up.
So there I would be with a couple dozen colorful eggs waiting to rot on my counter and a giant mess to clean up in my now fragrant vinegar and egg smelling house.

Why? Why would I do this?

I am certain it is all good and fun for some people. Some egg eating, child laden, holiday-centric people.
Just not me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Well grounded

I never wanted to run away and join the circus.
My fear of clowns withstanding, I never found the appeal in running away from home and living some sort of strange gypsy lifestyle. Even as I got older there was never a desire to go and explore and travel and be free, or whatever it is exactly that attracts people to such a life.

I am not saying that there is anything wrong with traveling about aimlessly or joining the circus (except for the clown part, because there is nothing good about clowns. Nothing. At all. Ever.) These are very valid lifestyles for people who enjoy those sorts of things. I am simply not one of those.

I am really a homebody. I like having roots. I like having the same place to go to night after night, year after year. The idea of some day having my grandchildren running around a house that I have lived in for half my life is incredibly appealing. Having a lifetime worth of memories invested in the space around me is just comforting.

I love that my grandmothers house (which is the house I grew up in) is still her house. I love that when I visit it has memories that are over 20 years old, but are still there. It almost makes me a little ill to think that after she dies the house will be sold and someone will make new memories there. They will sleep in my room, play in my garden, swim in my pool, and write over the memories I made.

I know that they won't really write over them. The memories are mine for as long as I can hold onto them. I do not need the place to still be there. Still it is nice to still have it. To be able to physically point to something and be able to say "See this is where that thing happened."

I suppose that makes me ridiculously nostalgic or something, but I don't really care. Hell I cry at Hallmark commercials and I am not afraid to admit it.
I am a sentimental nostalgic optimist.
There I said it and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

There is nothing wrong with me wanting to have deep roots just as there is nothing wrong with having no roots at all. In some ways I sort of envy people who can just pick up and move on a whim. They can go to new places, meet new people, and start new lives. They can have splendid adventures in strange and exotic places and see the world. They are not tethered by anything physical. They can move with the wind and be free.

The romantic side of me thinks that is all so lovely. It is thrilling and mysterious in a way, and almost enticing.

The practical side of me knows that while the brochure for the wild gypsy lifestyle might be fantastic with its glossy pictures of adventure, the fine print will speak of things I would never be able to deal with. Instability, loneliness, and uncertainty among them.

I suppose practical and pragmatic can be added to the list of things I am. I like knowing where I will be sleeping, that I can afford the things I want and need, that I have a set community around me that I can rely on. I like all those mundane things in my life.

I am certain the argument can be made that running away with say the circus does fulfill a lot of those mundane needs. You always have a community around you (of course your community involves clowns which is ooky), they simply move with you from place to place. You always know where you will sleep, it just isn't always the same night to night. There is a level of stability there, it is just mobile. All the adventure and motion without so much of the instability and uncertainty.

So maybe running away and joining the circus isn't all that terrible and idea.
Except for the clowns.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Beautiful people

Pretty is something you are born with. Beautiful is an equal opportunity adjective.

It is a rather simple concept to grasp when you think about it.

Pretty is a physical condition. People are born pretty (or in some cases people buy pretty whether in the form of lots of cosmetics and products or going straight for surgery). Pretty is something that has a lot of emphasis put on it. Everyone wants to be pretty. Everyone wants to have that external physical attractiveness that others appreciate.

It is a societal sort of necessity almost.
Physically attractive people are viewed as being more successful and happier. They are the ones with multiple homes and cars drinking and dancing the night away with celebrities and taking alpine ski vacations in Switzerland as a weekend whim. Or at least this is what the media sells us every day of our lives.

There was a show on TLC a while ago that was about families with fat children. The families would go in, be told how they were ruining their childrens lives by allowing them to have these unhealthy habits, and then spend a few weeks reprogramming the families to eat healthy and exercise and not spend so much time with video games and television. It was a decent concept. I mean playing outside and eating carrots beats the hell out of 8 hours straight of Mario Cart (or whatever kids today play) and cheetohs (they are orange like carrots that counts right?).

Well the part of this show that always bothered me was they used age progression software to show what the children would be like at age 30. In the beginning the kids were always fat, they always had mullets, multiple piercings and tattoos, bad clothes, and no futures. It basically said if you are fat you are unemployable and have no fashion sense. The second progression always showed them thin and healthy in designer suits with perfect hair.

What the hell?
There is that whole media telling us we have to be physically a certain way in order to be happy and successful.
That is a bunch of crap quite honestly. I know perfectly happy healthy well adjusted individuals who are by no means thin or model like. They would never be pictured on a magazine as a "pretty" person.

You know what? That is fine by me.

You see you do not have to be pretty to be beautiful.
Beauty is something that is not physical. Sure you can be pretty and beautiful, but you do not have to be. I mean really pretty is a very subjective word, and everyone has a different definition of pretty, but pretty still is only skin deep.

Beauty is so much more. It is a softness, a kindness, an energy almost. It is something that radiates from a persons eyes and smile, it is a warmth given off in their very being. Beauty is not something you can buy, it is not something that can be captured in a photograph to be plastered on a magazine, it is not something tangible. It just is beauty.

I have some of the most awesomely beautiful people in my life. I could never list them all or probably even pinpoint what it is about them that makes them so beautiful, but I know they are. It is almost overwhelming to be surrounded by such things.

Not everyone can be pretty. 
Anyone can be beautiful.
I will take beautiful over pretty any day of the week.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bless her heart...

It is often times said that good Southern women are easy to identify; they love to dig in the dirt, they sip tea, they have an affinity for wearing large hats, and are always polite and proper. I am not particularly certain how true the first few are (especially considering that urban sprawl can kill gardening and hats are not something everyone can wear fashionably) but this last bit is true and a lovely fallacy all at the same time. 

You see while southern women can be sweet and graceful, they also can be the snarkiest, cattiest, and vicious creatures known to man. When one is raised to ire (which happens more often than not) they can leave behind a trail of words that would make a sailor blush. The only thing is, they do it in the most civilized and polite manor as to leave you wondering if you should thank them for the insults they have laid at your feet.

All it takes is one little phrase: Bless her heart.
Once these words are uttered you know two things.
The first is simply that whatever they say next is not going to be flattering in the least.
The second is that it is alright that they said whatever it is that was on their mind.

Somehow those magic words make everything alright.

If a southern woman were to simply say "My god she looks like a mange ridden cow"...well now that is just rude and uncalled for.
However if she just prefaces it with "Bless her heart" It is suddenly perfectly acceptable.

There is something about preemptive pity that allows our less socially acceptable comments to slide by as though they were perfectly acceptable. I suppose it is a bit of a cheat really, but it is one that is used often and fondly.

There are also degrees of the golden phrase. Bless her heart and Bless her soul are most common, but people get creative. Bless her little pea picking soul is my favorite. I have no idea why 'pea picking' is used, or why it makes it any different, but it does. If you say something that descriptive it allows for a harsher follow up statement. I suppose in the end it is a balance of words.

I suppose when it comes down to it, you really just never want to really get to the point where a southern woman is talking about you in such a fashion that they need to use the preface at all. It really is safer for you to stay as far from that phrase as possible.

And heaven forefend that you ever make a southern woman flat out insult you without those magic words. If that happens you should just close your eyes and pray that her words are the worst thing she will throw at you.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dream a little dream

My dreams are epic.

No really they are things of sprawling grandiose glory that would make a James Cameron movie look like a low budget B movie. Not to slight Mr Cameron's work (though I have yet to see Avatar and probably never will due to motion sickness issues), but my dreams are just amazing.

For years I have said that if you could somehow hook my dreaming brain up so that it would broadcast my dreams, I would be a millionaire. Of course that is not the safest idea for me. Sometimes my dreams are very mundane and others incredibly embarrassing. I have more than my fair share of naked in public at the first day of school with no homework dreams.

What do you want? They can not all be blockbusters.

Most of my dreams though are things of beauty.
I have been known to have a dream for months and months at a time. Each night when I lay down the dream starts again where I left off. It is like my own television series in my head with a new episode every night (not to mention commercial free).
Sometimes I have the exact same dream every night. The same events rehash themselves for me everytime I close my eyes. This is more annoying than epic and awesome, though it can be incredibly upsetting and disturbing. One of my least favorite recurring dreams was watching myself be disemboweled as a form of execution. Not really the makings of restful sleep there.

I dream in color, I dream in black and white, I dream in languages I do not necessarily speak. I have had dreams in French with English subtitles, French with French subtitles, and English with French subtitles.

I have lived entire lives in dreams. Years have spanned by where I lived through mundane moments as well as the grand moments; births and deaths, weddings and divorces, great wars, holidays by the sea, and even alien abductions.

I am fairly certain there is nothing my brain can not manage to come up with in my sleep.

On the odd occasion I will write some of these dreams out. Stephen King does it and look where it has gotten him. I might not be able to directly show you my dreams but I certainly can try to capture some of them in print (this also allows me to edit out those embarrassing naked dreams).

Recently I completed writing out one of my television series like dreams. The dreams lasted over seven months and it took me nearly a year to write it all out, but I managed it. It is the most epic dream I have ever had, and the most epic thing I have ever written. 170,000 words. That could be a book.

I let some people read it, and they seemed pleased by it which makes me happy. I can not help but to think though that they really don't know how amazing it was for me. I am not sure that my words really can give justice to the images in my head.

It was still epic.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Personal responsi-what?

The concept of personal responsibility seems to have somehow been grossly distorted if not completely lost. No one wants to take responsibility for anything anymore whether it be the empty toilet paper roll that was not replaced or global warming. People will go to crazy lengths just not to own up to the bad things they have done, sometimes going so far as to simply deny the problem actually exists.

This is a problem that starts very young.
In my family there is an event known as the infamous "Not me" cake incident.
I was about 15, my brother is a year older than me, and our sister is about 5 years younger so she was probably about 10 at the time. My mother had gone to the store and when she returned home she found that her clean kitchen counters were covered in cake crumbs. Someone in her absence had eaten the last piece of cake and left a mess.
Intending on telling us to clean up after ourselves, she summoned all three of us down to the kitchen and inquired as to who had eaten the last piece of cake. Now of course we were all immediately aware that the perpetrator was going to be in some form of trouble, so of course none of us were dumb enough to fess up. My mother hates nothing more than a liar, so after all three of us said "Not me." as our response, she got a little angry.

Twenty minutes later as we were sitting in our rooms, all three now grounded until the deceptive party stepped forward, my brother came in demanding to know if I was the one who did it. Now I was really the obvious choice because I was known in the family as the food sneaker, but for once it really was not me. I had been on the computer the entire time. My brother is not much of a sweets person, or really an eater for that matter, and so he really was obviously not the one who had done it. That just left our sister.
We confronted her, but of course she swore it was not her. We did not buy it. So we went to mom and told her that it was our sister. Of course if mom hates a liar, the thing that comes next in line of things she hates is a snitch. At this point though we did not care. We were teenagers, we had places to be and things to do, we had no time to be grounded. So we snitched as fast as we could, but mom was not going to bend. She insisted our sister had to confess of her own power (which meant my brother and I could not pin her to the floor and hit her until she admitted it).

We ended up only being grounded a few days before the incident mostly blew over. Of course for years my mother has brought up the cake incident for any reason she could think of. It turned into one of those funny embarrassing stories about her children.
In the end it took 15 years of mom harping on my sister before she finally admitted that she was indeed the cake crumb culprit. To which my mother simply replied "Use a plate and clean up after yourself."

I know cake crumbs and a few days of teenage freedom lost is a fairly light example of failed personal responsibility, but it does demonstrate the deceptiveness and unaccountability we take on from a very early age. She was 10 for crying out loud. They were cake crumbs. Yet still she endured 15 years of chiding and lies over it.

Of course there is another connective point here that almost bothers me more than people not owning up to what they have done, and that is improper placement of blame. When you place blame on a large group and it was only the fault of a few that is simply not fair. Even if  it is the majority in the wrong and only a few in the right, a blanket of blame is just not right.

If you want to yell at a group for poor performance do not place the people into that session who are actually doing their job well, or even above expectations. Pull them out of it, or at least take them aside and acknowledge that they are not actually part of the problem. If you are going to reprimand people for poor behavior make sure you thank those who actually were well behaved for their effort. The likelihood that you were the only bright shining example is really probably slim to none.

Just as much as you should own up to your wrongdoings you should be adult enough to acknowledge what others have done well. The world does not center around you in any form or fashion.

Say you are wrong.
Say you are sorry.
Say thank you.
Say you appreciate people.

Take some initiative. 
Take responsibility