Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Reflections on a Stuck Bundt Cake

Yesterday, we had this big thing at work where awards were given out and speeches were made and sandwiches were eaten. One of the programs was a PowerPoint and talk about stress relief "during these challenging times," referring to the economy, war, and the environment. Personally, I think we would be better off if we limited our pessimism and stopped dwelling on "these challenging times," but that is another topic. Anyway, he kept coming back to the holidays being a stressful time, regardless of the economy, etc. Oh, these stressful holidays. For a second, I was surprised, thinking, "Why do they have to be so stressful?"
I thought:
- The holidays are expensive. But do they have to be? I mean, won't your loved ones love you anyway if you don't get them everything and exactly what they want?
- There's a lot of pressure to get everything done on time. But that's life, really all the time, and if you plan ahead, you can manage it. This is my first year not having exams during the holidays, so this seems like a piece of cake to me! And again, won't your loved ones still love you if maybe you're a little late with...whatever?
- There's pressure, when seeing friends and family you haven't seen in awhile, to put forth some kind of appearance of perfection. Speaking as a female (because that is the only experience I have), there's pressure to look beautiful and also thin--despite the fact that this is eating season--and bring the best-looking, best-tasting dessert to every party. Or some variation of this. But does it have to be this way? Why not focus on the positives--seeing all the people, all the warmth and lights and music and giving to the poor and happiness?

Etc etc. And then I realized that all of my "but won't blah blah blahs" don't apply to everyone; therefore I am lucky.
---
I am going to a pre-Thanksgiving dinner tonight and for some reason volunteered to bring dessert. I am really not a dessert person. Why do I do this? I am a good cook (the hostess of this party has been telling people I am an "amazing cook" so I have a standard to live up to now) but baking is a challenge. Sometimes I bake things that are as good as the things I cook, but for the most part, there are many opportunities for disaster when me and the oven are involved.

I decided to try Joy the Baker's All Purpose Holiday Cake. I have a dearth of apples. I impulse-bought cranberries. My grandmere just gave me a ceramic bundt pan. No thoughts of recipe difficulty crossed my mind. So I embarked on the baking adventure--I used whole wheat pastry flour, maple syrup instead of brown sugar, 1/2 cup less oil, raw cane sugar and a little honey (if anyone cares). The batter tasted like Autumn Spice Toothpaste. Uh oh #1.

I baked a small amount of batter in a ceramic dish, and was relieved to find that my pre-cake tasted awesome. Nothing like toothpaste. Phew.

Except for the bundt pan. I didn't know you were supposed to only let it cool 15 minutes, so that the cake is cool but the pan is not! I let it cool until this morning; the party is tonight and the cake is stuck in the pan. Furthermore, the top is a teeny bit blackened. I am in the midst of Googling ways to un-stuck my cake. I fretted about having to scoop the cake out of the pan with a spoon and bring to the party a Pile of Cake. Which may have been a little burnt.

But then I realized something. I am incredibly lucky. I don't have the holiday stress people talk about--at least not to the same degree--because of the people who surround me in life. Everyone is going to laugh at my pile of cake, and that's where it will end. They will still love me if my cake is ugly. They will still love me even if the cake doesn't taste good.

I guess the conclusion of this is that I am thankful (haha) to have these kinds of people in my life, but also, I think this attitude is contagious. If you just march into the holiday parties, burned cake and all, being nice to everyone and ignoring any snottiness--kind of insisting that the point of these holidays is not being judgmental about presents, dresses, and food, but rather being together and having fun--maybe it will catch on.

UPDATE: It is now Thanksgiving morning, after the party. When I got home from work, I had half an hour to get directions from Google Maps, run an errand, and get the cake out of the pan. I tried several techniques for heating the bottom of the pan, and finally had to go with the last resort--putting the oven on low heat, putting the cake back in for five minutes, and then flipping the pan.
After five minutes, I opened the oven door.
Smoke and burnt-apple-cinnamon-smell poured out of the oven. The top of the cake was now completely black. I ran around the room opening windows before the smoke detector went off. At the sight of the blackened, smoking cake, I felt like crying or laughing--I went with laughing. I felt like I was in a movie--If Bridget Jones Were a Botanist. A single lady going to a couples party with a blackened cake.
And that damn cake still wouldn't come out of the pan! I had to cut it in slices, shake them onto a plate, attempt to arrange them nicely, and inform the party guests to eat around the burned parts, if they so desired.
When I ran my errand, I observed that burned cake smell had permeated my hair and jacket. I was walking around smelling like my cake-tastrophe.
But in the end, I was only half an hour late to the party, everyone had fun, no one starved, the cake was fine, and no one loved me less for bringing a half-burned, ugly cake to pre-Thanksgiving dinner.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bubbles and Vacuums

I have a lot of thoughts I want to organize and write. I'm going to give it a try now--but I might have to rewrite this and try again sometime.
The title comes from something I heard yesterday; I was talking with someone who used to live in Portland, OR (you know, my current dream city)*, and she described it as a "bubble." I think she either said, "sort of like Rutgers," or I just made that connection in my head. I'm not sure. What she said was that it's a great place and there's all this activism and you think you're doing so much, but really it's just activism in a bubble. This was how Rutgers sometimes felt to me, especially since I've left it for another world. I now realize that it was much more progressive and diverse than the rest of NJ.
Living in a place that is a "bubble" might get old for several reasons. One might be feeling that your activism has little point--it might start to feel equivalent to being a loud, complainy high schooler who gets together with his or her friend group and just rants all the time about what's wrong with the world and everyone agrees and no one does much. Or--well, I can't really put this into words, but what I'm leaning towards is that maybe a place that is like heaven would get old, would feel like living in a fairy tale or something, and even if the "real world" has problems, I could just see feeling antsy and wanting to be there. Maybe it's because I'm the kind of person who is obsessed with change...

In the car this morning, I was listening to the news and it was all negative. This is not always the case, but my commute consisted of coverage of the current status of Zimbabwe (famine, cholera epidemic) and of female students and teachers in Afghanistan being attacked by those who believe women should not go to school. When I hear things like this, I think "My God, what am I doing!?" I know I can't change the whole world. I know I can't singlehandedly stop poverty and famine in Zimbabwe (and if I could, I couldn't stop it from happening somewhere else) and I can't stop violence and hatred. But am I doing anything? Am I doing enough?

In this way, I think, activism in a bubble might annoy me--if I realized I was making a place that was already good even better but not helping a place that really needed it.

On the other hand--I think it's important to work in a place that's already good, to make it better. For example, gender inequality, racial inequality, and other inequality in America seems like nothing compared to schoolgirls and female teachers being burned with acid in Kandahar**. Does that mean we should stop fighting for women's rights in America? No! Is it bourgeois to spend so much time thinking about Proposition 8? No! Not in my opinion--I think that somehow, making a place like this even better, somehow improves the chances of equal rights for people in other parts of the world. We can argue about this later.

But what I also thought of this morning was that some places are unreceptive to change, unreceptive to activism. Doing anything in such places is like activism in a vacuum, and maybe this is just as useless as activism in a bubble. It certainly is annoying!

But nothing is really a bubble or a vacuum. If you help one person, but don't think that's good enough, are you really being fair? Do they not matter--are they not good enough--because they are just one of several billion?

I don't know the answers; that's why I'm writing. I might edit this later, but I'm just going to post it as is for now.

Somewhat of a conclusion--if where I am is more of a vacuum than a bubble, I still think it's good to spend some time here, to learn how to live in the "real world." By that I mean, get used to a world where it's okay to assume that most people fit a norm of being male, white, straight, and married, and they are are neither vegetarians nor Jews who keep kosher or part of any other group in the world that doesn't want a ham sandwich.


* Since my trip, whenever I meet someone from one of my "dream cities," I have this bad habit of bombarding them with enthusiasm and questions.
** I totally just used to Google to make sure Kandahar was in Afghanistan.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Blogging about weather

After an unseasonably warm last weekend, this week has been unseasonably cold. You know what I think? It sucks!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Postponed Dreams

If one has a dream, then it's a good idea to ask once in awhile, "What am I doing? Is this part of the dream or postponement of it?" It may seem like postponement but really it's part of it, preparation (too many p's...) for what is more obviously the pursuit (another p!) of that dream. Maybe you're not stagnating, maybe what you're doing now, while not directly related to the dream, is helping you get there. Something that needs to be done before being ready to take the next step. Or some other loose ends of your life needed to be tied up before you can move on. An example would be, stuff in your personal life that needs to be tied up or dealt with or just somehow completed, before you can do something professionally. Something that is the next big step in that big dream.

I realize it says something about me that I wrote about "dreams" in general and immediately narrowed it down to career, as though that is what everyone dreams of. Personal life is secondary. Or rather, in my experience, personal life falls into place. For me, I maintain ties with people from most stages of life and am able to make new ties wherever I go.

I was just going to write the postponed dreams paragraph, but I'll add the rest. A year ago, before it was clear that I would have a job after graduation, my roommate and I would have conversations about what we were going to do. One day, he told me that someone told him, "You're not in a relationship. You can do whatever you want." He realized it was true, and we discussed how this was true for both us. We were free. We discussed what that whatever we want could be. This economy limits those dreams, in a way. And yet, it shouldn't. For me, it makes me even more determined. My road trip--I thought, this is the time to go! When times are bad! Gas prices are high, but if we can afford it, we have to do it! It will be more than just vacation, it will be an experience to see the whole country in the midst of a historic election. Where was I going with this paragraph?
Anyway, I had a dinner party this weekend that was absolutely great. Friends from different circles were there and everyone got along and had fun. It was an evening of sappy, warm fuzzy feelings. A friend I've had since birth--in fact, our friendship was predestined before we were born--recently got engaged and I am in the small bridal party. We were discussing plans and I thought about how many of my friends' lives are changing now and then I thought, this is what I need to be here for. This is, I guess, what not only kept me in New Jersey but pulled me north of I-78, north of that Central/North boundary. I belong here now.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I knit wrong!

I have been twisting my stitches for THREE YEARS AND I DIDN'T EVEN KNOW IT!!!!!
That is why it is good to go to a Stitch and Bitch. I bet all my friends who learned how to knit because of me knit properly or oh God--I've inspired an army of twisty knitters.
I suspect it won't be too frustrating to learn to knit the right way. Apparently it doesn't matter in most patterns; however, it messes up my gauge (this explains SO MUCH) and I have a sneaking suspicion that this twisted stitches thing is the reason that:
1) My Argosy scarf rolls so much
2) My Odessa hat looked SO UGLY that it inspired me to quit knitting for like, six months
3) It rained on my picnic birthday party

My situation is not uncommon. Twentysomething, move to a new town, working a lot and not a lot of time to meet new people, and for all intents and purposes, newly single (and that's all I'm going to say about that.) Eventually, I realized that, were I to blog extensively about my life, it might resemble the very beginning archives of Crazy Aunt Purl. Starting over, blah blah blah. And what did she do? She joined a Stitch and Bitch!

I suspect this was a good idea because not only was it nice to get out and meet people, but it's a way to get help with my knitting. Eventually I'll re-tackle the Odessa hat without wanting to throw it out a window. Oh, it was also a good thing to do because the place is only 20 minutes away, but it's in normal civilization with things like Target and Best Buy and HomeGoods (who would have thought I would miss big box stores?) so I can do some shopping while I'm out that way. Teavana is nearby. ALSO it is exactly equidistant between my new home and my old home (New Life and Old Life) and therefore, a convenient meeting place. I have a lot of friends who live near there, too. We can all get after-work dinner or something.
It's funny because people were saying, oh wow, you had to travel to get here, oh wow. I was mildly confused and then realized, oh I guess so. First of all, I crossed the North-Central Jersey Line and the Morris/Somerset County Line (which is probably five minutes from my house, but still! artificial boundaries!) But where I grew up, you could drive 20 minutes and NOT HAVE LEFT TOWN. 20 minutes is nothing. In fact, it's nice to have a place to drive once in awhile (my commute is 2.7 trafficky miles.) Me, Stella (the car), some music, and something vaguely reminiscent of the open road of my June trip.
My next project involves DPNs; I'll see if DPNs and re-learning how to knit are a bad combination or what.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Amendment to my last post

I should have been more clear--most of the people in my class didn't just write "2" for the ethnic and religious groups. Most people wrote "3" and higher, meaning they wouldn't even want to be close friends with someone of a different race. Aahhhh!
I'm still really disgusted by Proposition 8 and everything else like it. But I am tired of writing about it. So I'm going to write about something light and funny. I've had notes for almost a month now about this ridiculous week I had.
And, the blog title--my big hair has reached new heights of late. I want to get it cut. Blah.
Oh, and here's a crazy news story. The comments are the worst. I need to stop reading blog comments. Good thing my blog doesn't get any!
This is sort of the area of NJ in which I grew up. Sigh...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

When I was a senior in high school, I took a class about social issues that involved a lot of participation and discussion. One day, we did an exercise where we got a list of groups--mostly racial groups, religions, and a few each class chose to add. (I have no idea what--usually it was something goofy, like people who went to our rival high school or people from a town we thought was trashy.) The exercise was anonymous; next to each group we wrote a number. The number was from 1-10 (or something) with 1 being most acceptable and 10 being least. "1" meant you would accept someone of this group as your spouse. "2" meant "best friend." "3" meant neighbor. "4" meant classmate or member of a club you were in. Etc etc.
After we all filled out our lists, the tallies were put up on the board.
For all of the ethnic and religious groups, it was a no-brainer for me. I am pretty sure I put "1" for everything except "Homosexuals." I knew that not everyone in the class would feel the same way as me, but I was really surprised by what actually happened.
One other person--I never found out who--wrote the same numbers as me. But every single other person in that class--a large class, mind you--wrote the number 2 or higher for the religious and ethnic groups that were not their own. With the exception of one of my classmates, not a single damn person in that room--young idealistic people in the year 2001--believed they would marry someone of a different race or culture. In the class discussion following, I was angry. I tried to assert that race was a construct--it doesn't and shouldn't matter. People's responses were horrible. They actually said things like "These people just aren't like us."
I don't need to go on and on about how I felt and why. I'll just say, I was really upset. Enough that it stuck with me seven years later. I felt shocked, that an overwhelming number of my classmates were racists. And they all thought I was the crazy one. I felt very alone!

This morning while driving to work and listening to the radio, I kept thinking about that exercise in my high school class. I felt that who I was when I Was seventeen and in that high school class asserting that people are people, all of them, we're all the same--I felt that the girl I was then was validated, in a way. She needn't have felt lonely. In a way, this victory was for many people in many different ways. Hearing people on the radio saying that they felt that now anything was possible for anyone--people who remembered when women didn't have the right to vote, people who remembered separate drinking fountains, and lived to see this day--I felt this victory was, in a small way, for me, too.
As Proposition 8 (argh) shows us, change doesn't happen overnight and sometimes the world moves backwards. But I still feel, today, that a better world is possible.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Hooray!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm so excited about the outcome of this election!
I can't believe we know so early!
I don't have to change my first name!!!!!!!!!! Yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My Story of American Democracy - the post-vote post

I voted!!!! It was fun!!!!!!
I should preface this by saying that I take voting rather seriously. I'm not militant or anything; I don't even vote in every election, but I think voting--informed voting--is important. My birthday is April 9. I registered to vote on April 12 of the year I turned 18. Instead of registering to vote in New Brunswick, which would have been more convenient for big elections, I stayed registered in Sparta, so that I could vote for open space and farming issues and other things relevant to an area about which I was more informed than New Brunswick.
I've been thinking a lot lately about 2004. Partly because that was the year of the last presidential election, and partly because, going through "moving boxes," I uncovered a bunch of issues of my favorite hipster Rutgers newspaper with a small following, from 2003 and 2004. I was going to chuck them immediately, but I've been reading them for nostalgia, for the still-funny humor sections, and for the music recommendations. (That's the great thing about hipster/indie music--it's still cool four years later.) Nostalgia has taken over so much that I've been reading the no-longer-relevant not-so-current events pieces, and therefore remembering the last election.
ANYWAY.
I planned to get up early, dress nice, and go vote with a PASSION! and then go hiking or something. Instead, I got Day Off Syndrome (similar to Winter Break Syndrome from college life.) Realizing that I did not actually have to get up before sunrise, I turned off the alarm, told the dogs they could go for a walk later, and went back to sleep. Then, when I woke up, I fed the dogs and went back to bed! Proceeded to loaf around reading the paper. It's like, "I am ALWAYS active. I NEVER get to loaf around! Why can't I do that now? Why do I have to be active, even if it's for things I want to get done!? I'm TIRED!"
Then I couldn't find my sample ballot, which I meant to review last night, because although I knew which presidential candidate I was voting for, I wanted to vote for local representatives, too--as an educated voter.
I couldn't find the sample ballot anywhere!
So this morning, I was really grumpy because I got a late start and was about to go check off Obama like every other young person and I could either vote, uninformed, in the local elections, which would be lame; alternately I could just check off "Obama" and ignore every other page of the ballot, like many young people, and that would also be lame.
Also, I was thinking about four years ago. It was my first presidential election. Remember what people kept saying about that election? That we were voting between the lesser of two evils. Lesser of Two Evils. That's all anyone said. I felt I had to vote in the 2004 presidential election, but I was miserable about it. The night before, I spent hours on the Internet researching each candidate, praying I'd find something to make me love John Kerry, but I just kept finding more and more to hate about BOTH candidates. When I went to my hometown to vote and stood in the booth, I felt tearful. What a terrible way to remember one's first presidential election!
BUT! everything was different this morning, when I got to the polling place. I parked at the library because the lot at the polling place, my former middle school, was full. I walked up the hill past SUVs parked in not parking spaces, feeling grumpy at them. Grumpy that my vote barely counts because of stupid electoral college blah blah blah. Obama will probably win NJ whether I vote or not, I thought, and the popular vote won't do a damn thing! I was both grumpy and proud (like it was an act of subversion) to be standing on line to vote in my heavily Republican hometown.
As I stood on line, I looked at my surroundings. It was my old middle school. The stage on which I played Mae Peterson in Bye Bye Birdie looked exactly the same. The little old ladies running everything, checking off names, were dressed up and seemed to be wearing their Election Official nametags with pride.
A woman had brought her toddler with her to vote, and she was talking to him, quietly, while going through the process. I think she let him hit the Vote button and she let him hold the eletric pen thingamajig at one point. He was chattering in half-words, and I realized that he wasn't saying "Mama, mama" but "Bama, Bama."
When I was next in line to vote, an elderly volunteer in a red blazer and lots of jewelry came in. She was furious, ranting about how it was such a shame, all these young people voting for Obama just because! "Did you set her straight, Bev*?" another volunteer asked. "No, we got into an ARGUMENT!" I was annoyed--I wanted to say, "How do YOU know young people aren't informed voters? I'm voting for Obama too, SO THERE!" But I didn't. I was distracted as I saw the ballot, and the volunteer took my number. There the names were--it seemed much more real than before. Barack Obama and Sarah Palin--the first non-white-male-candidates of the major parties. No matter what, this election is going to change things.
I am not in love with everything Barack Obama says. And I don't hate John McCain. But when I checked off my vote and saw the box next to my selection light up, I felt so happy! Because this is only my second presidential election, and my first was so awful. It felt really great to be voting for a candidate I actually like! And it felt great to know that no matter what, the president I really dislike will not be president much longer. In 24 hours, we will know who is going to replace him. And you know what I think? No matter what, it's going to be okay!
We aren't voting for The Lesser of Two Evils. We are choosing between two candidates who believe climate change is real. Two candidates who want to get us out of Iraq, someday. Two candidates who are not George W. Bush.
That is something to celebrate.

As a post script, I was so energized by this that I did vote for senator and congressman and one of the questions, and THEN decided to make a bathroom stop. The bathroom looked the same as it did when I was 13 and that was weird. What a difference a bathroom stop makes--because I hung around, I ran into my former Biology teacher, the first to teach a unit on plants. I hesitated, and then exclaimed, "Mr. Pedersen!? Is that you!?" at his back, and then "OMG I DON'T KNOW IF YOU REMEMBER ME BUT I TOOK YOUR CLASS TEN YEARS AGO NO WAIT MORE THAN THAT AND OMG I'M A BOTANIST NOW ALL BECAUSE WE DID A WILDFLOWER COLLECTION IN YOUR CLASS!" We chatted for awhile and he said I made his day. What a great morning!


* I can't remember what her name was, but it could have been Bev!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Solo

Since moving to a new town where I know nobody, to an apartment that I share with nobody, I have had occasion to make interesting observations about the world of doing things by yourself and the world of trying to find places to make friends.
I will be writing them as I come up with interesting or amusing things.
One thing that's slowing me down is that I am close enough to see my friends from my old home of New Brunswick pretty frequently. On weekends, I tend to go there, or have people visit me here. This is all fine, but it makes the need for local friends less intense.
Anyway, in addition to making a real effort to explore the Morristown area (doing things like checking out different shops, going to MacCulloch Hall to see the state's second largest sassafrass tree, going to the Great Swamp by myself), I'm trying to be proactive in meeting people instead of just waiting for friends to find me. For the new person in town, the Internet is a great resource. There are so many groups!
Unfortunately, some of them seem to be defunct. Stitch and Bitch groups, hiking groups, plain old social groups. Or for people a lot older than me.
The one observation I've made is that singles meetup groups tend to be a lot more active. I wonder why that is. I've always shied away from online dating and singles events and the like because I'm not looking for a boyfriend. I have no problem being single. I wouldn't be averse to dating, of course, but I'm really not looking for anyone. I'm not going to just take anything I can get because I'm so desperate to go on dates. If I'm going to give up that much time and effort for a boyfriend, he has to be worth it.
BUT these singles groups do some pretty fun things. It might be nice to get out and participate, just to have some other people there, even if no long-lasting friendships form. Chances are, singles events are not crawling with desperate people, the rejects of society, people who you meet and go, "Oh God! NO WONDER YOU'RE SINGLE!" I mean, I'm single, and I do not have a repulsive personality.

Do people go to Singles events just to make friends? Is that allowed? If I go, should I only talk to men? Should I be on the defensive? Is there going to be a really high percentage of people who want either a) one night-stands or b) wives?

In any case, if I have nothing better to do, I've decided I'm going to go to some singles events, because even if I meet no one I want to be friends with, it will get me out of the house but MOST IMPORTANTLY, if it sucks...it will be something to blog about. If it sucks, there will be something from which I can find some humor!

Some ranting

I have some political things I want to write about but maybe later. (And then I went and ended up writing it anyway.)
I'm kind of interested--now that I read some Ayn Rand--in reading more about socialism (the other side.) To briefly sum up what's been going around in my head the past few weeks, I think that NO ONE really wants money to be going to those who don't deserve it. I think at the root, extreme lovers of capitalism like Ayn Rand and socialists probably want the same thing. It's my opinion that laissez-faire capitalism, like she writes about, wouldn't work because our world is NOT objective. Even in our capitalist system, there are people who DO NOT earn money that is equivalent to what they've produced--to what they deserve. Similarly, people earn a lot more than what they deserve. This includes people who have learned how to cheat the system and collect handouts AND really rich people who have managed to get that way without really producing much of worth to people. I'm not giving specific examples because this is a matter of opinion--worth. There will always be "subjective." There will never be a world where everyone agrees on what is worth money and what everyone deserves. The one concrete example I will give is that, if we were in a system where people earned money based on what they deserved, on what they produced, farmers would not be in debt. Farmers would not be poor; they might not be rich (I don't know) but they would not have to worry because they produce something that everyone needs--food. However, that is not our system. So, our capitalism currently is not serving us perfectly. Is the answer more capitalism? Is the answer socialism? Something else? I don't frigging know. I am just a botanist.
But what I want to say is, even if you savagely disagree about the correct way to do things, the correct way to fix the system--to make it so that people are getting what they deserve and no less, so that no one who wants to work is unemployed and no one who works goes without food, shelter, or education--you still want it. People who advocate "redistribution of wealth" probably don't actually want to take money from people who've earned it and given it to lazy bums. It's one thing to say "redistribution of wealth will result in money being taken from those who've earned it going into the pockets of lazy bums"--that may be accurate. But I think it is inaccurate to say "People who advocate redistribution of wealth WANT money to be taken from those who've earned it and be given to those who don't deserve it!!!!"
And if we all want the same thing, we should try to work together! We want the same thing, we just disagree about the means to get there. OK!?!?

OK, I am stepping off my soapbox now.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Me, Me, Me

Look! Here I am!

I am here, too, but I don't think it says my name, just mentions the poster.
It's exciting to see my name on these things. It still sort of feels unreal. It's hard to imagine that the sum of me going to the herbarium after work on Fridays and staying there until it got dark and creepy and I was feeling woozy from all the ancient preserving chemicals, and rushing around looking for data and saying things like, "I am SO behind on ballast plants", hours spent on weekend nights with endless mugs of tea listening to Pandora QuickMix and entering data...it's hard to believe that something good and really scientific came out of that. There was my poster, up there across from something abstruse about sunflower DNA (which probably also involved a lot of hours of, "Oops, I should probably go to the lab now" and "Ah crap, I forgot I have to do something with the sunflowers!")

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

What's been going on

1. I'm reading Atlas Shrugged and that is probably what has stolen my blogging time. Often I'd want to write about it, or some idea it led me to, but I didn't want to put the book down long enough to do that. Now I'm far enough in where it's still enjoyable, but lost some of its charm, and I want to wait till I'm finished to write about it. Once I've gotten the full picture of her philosophy. However, if I found that one of my friends had read it, I'd probably get excited and verbally jump on them like a dog rushing the guests at the front door, wanting to ask them what they thought and talk about how Henry Rearden and Dagny Taggart aren't bad but that doesn't make me a right-wing crazy because I recognize that in real life laissez-faire capitalism, the industrial giants are NOT dedicated to doing their best work. They have been more James Taggart (whiny, looking for ways to maximize their own profit, greed calling itself something else) than Dagny Taggart. And since this is the world we have, how do we work with it to make the best, most fair world for people? I don't know and fortunately I don't have to decide (not much farther than casting a vote on November 4th, anyway.)
What I found most interesting, so far in the book, is the dedication of the book's two heroes--at least for the first half. All of the obstacles put before them, and the public's seeming acceptance of it, did not stop them from wanting to continue their work to make a better world. They didn't say, oh fuck it! These people don't deserve a better world! The world isn't worth saving!



2. I started this post two days ago and only got this far. But here's something I started several weeks ago:
New Brunswick - rsearch, people I saw - that guy whose name I don't know, boots girl outside of Chang, philosophy conversation

New York yesterday - metrocard, geography

Wow! glad I recorded that gem! Maybe I should spend more time on my rsearch!


3. Garden - I am building a garden. In fact, two. You'd think that a however-many-acres public garden where I work would be enough garden, but no. Or the community garden where I don't actually garden (yet) but of which I am "coordinator." Still not enough. Until I can get my Grow Light to stop shutting itself off, I currently have an indoor garden of depressed houseplants, my "woodland" garden outside which is doing well, and I'm starting to take over and force myself into my mom's garden by buying her lots of plants that require too much sun to go in my own garden.
I'll probably write more about my garden later, especially since I'm bound to have comical misadventures. When I found I was moving into a place with a yard, I assessed the land and quickly started buying plants. The problem is that the entire yard is shade. Part shade in some places, but most of it probably constitutes as full shade. This is a challenge. This limits my choices.
The nice thing about working in a botanical garden is that I am constantly exposed to different types of gardens and constantly get to see what will grow in a nontraditional gardening space. So I had some ideas. I bought several types of ferns, was given a crisscross fern as a gift, and a hellebore. Without thinking, I was drawn in by the weirdly beautiful picture on the label of the nearly black flower of "Metallic Blue Lady" hellebore. ARGH! Shade gardens do not need black flowers. They need things to brighten up the space!
Oh well.
I got a bunch of yellow columbine for free and scattered that about.
Then Agway started having sales.
I never expected to develop such a liking for the local Agway. But they have such great perennial sales. It's really fun to know something about a topic (for me, plants) enough to know when you're getting a good deal--enough to look at something on the shelf that looks dead but be able to recognize that it's really worth $15 and not $3, and that it's just rootbound and once it's planted it'll be FINE.
So (non plant people skip this part) I now have, in addition to the above mentioned plants, Tricyrtis 'Lightning Strike,' Chelone glabra, and a bunch of violets I'm systematically transporting from my old shade garden at my parents' house. (This "garden" was some violets I dug up and stuck there when I was twelve.) However, for auxiliary garden, I was bent on buying some plants that were on sale that need sun and my mother conceded, so there's Lobelia cardinalis, Wood's Blue and Wood's Pink aster, Solidago rugosa 'Fireworks,' and a calico aster.
There's just something delightful about buying these dead-looking plants and having everyone at Agway look at me like I'm crazy but I know that I have a treasure. The asters were only $1.75.

4. Food - I have been cooking a lot. Occasionally I get these wacky ideas about being self-sufficient. I'm going to try to bake bread more than I buy it--if it's cheaper. If anyone cares--if anyone is trying to live healthily and cheaply like me--this great book called More With Less has a lot of good resource/money-saving ideas, and its recipe for Oatmeal Bread is great. It uses no eggs and only a little bit of butter. I don't think it uses a lot of sweetener either. I was making a lot of stuff with vegetables but I don't feel like writing about it. This past week was the Week of the Beet. I will soon be sick of beets.

5. Library - As much as I love the sales at Agway, another new love in my life is the Morris County Library System. I finally signed up for a library card at the street fair. At my town library, there are tons of great books and CDs. Like any library, they have access to interlibrary loan BUT there is a much easier system within the county, where you can request books from other libraries in the county and they get delivered to your library. It's basically like the Rutgers library system, where if you didn't feel like going to Busch you could have something send to Douglass. Or you could go to Busch. Either way, your card was accepted.

6. Music - Partly because of the library (and because I live near a record store) I've had a burst of new music. This is good because for almost a year I was in this rut of Regina Spektor, old blues music, and classic rock. I mean, almost nothing else was played in my car. For a whole year. This summer, I basically listened to the same Beirut CD and occasionally Belle and Sebastian...over and over and over. Thanks to the library and the record store, I have Modest Mouse, Dinosaur Jr., Tegan and Sara, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Yo La Tengo, and a whole list of other stuff to check out.

I have no idea what else I planned to write about when I started this post two days ago.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Taking suggestions for a first name

I am tired of people pointing out who I share a first name with.
Therefore...
if SHE becomes vice president, I am changing my name. Or at least, going by something else.
I am not kidding.
When I was in third grade, I changed my name every week. I even have a response to a fan letter I wrote to an author, that is addressed to "Scarlet Kelsey." Many of my Tennessee relatives have two names that they go by. Not kidding. I have a great-aunt who is both Myrtle and Bonnie.
To make it easy, I will probably just switch to my middle name and from November 5th on, you will all know me as "Lizzie" or "Beth" or something.
I'll be listening to suggestions for a first name, anyway.
But hopefully this will all be moot when Obama is president :)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Like Physics

I'm typing up an excerpt from some things I wrote in my paper journal last Monday, edited somewhat for drama minimizing and for clarity and brevity--I hope.



It's like a Physics equation. Things balance out on both sides of the equation. The weight is equal to the normal force; obviously an object exerts a force on the table, but also the table exerts a force of equal magnitude on the object sitting on top of it.
So, what is meaningful and positive for one person is meaningful and positive for both people involved. One person feels set free, like a curse has been lifted, free to trust and not fear people anymore, but for the other person, too, it is meaningful and positive to be given that trust. That trust is power and it is privilege, the privilege of feeling special, being made special, like a hero.

On second thought, it's possible that this trust and power could feel like a burden--a freedom for Person A is a burden for Person B--and that is in keeping with my whole "Physics equation" idea.

Maybe "responsibility" is just as accurate--but nicer--a word than "burden."

Things don't disappear--they change state--like the law of conservation of matter--and forces must be balanced.



But I always say that feelings don't follow scientific law. Maybe they do, a little bit. Maybe scientific law can help to understand human emotion.

Like poetry.

Science itself, nature and the physical world, don't always follow these rules, either. The square root of negative one appears in nature.

Unless we are using the wrong equations.

There's a place in everything where ends don't meet, rules don't apply, things don't add up or balance.

Like morality.

Recently a conversation arose on the morality of domestication of animals, based on my grandfather's proclamation, "Animals is for human to eat." It was likened to a breeding program for humans to be used for medical experiments. If they're bred for that purpose, then is it wrong to treat them that way? Similarly, is it wrong to raise and kill animals for food if they were only brought to life with that intent, anyway? Are these two situations the same? (At the time, I avoided the question.)

Now I think, YES! They are similar situations! Except for minor details--animals domesticated for meat theoretically aren't being tortured. But I guess the practices of factory farms ARE like torture.

The world is ugly. Maybe that's why I forgive people so easily. Because there is already too much ugliness and anger in the world.




I didn't write this on the eighth, because I would have to go on for pages and use many words to finish my thoughts on this, but I feel that this--domestication of animals for meat--is one of those places where morality, where things don't meet or add up completely. Is it more ethical to have food with a face--things you killed yourself; is that more honest? Is it more ethical to eat no meat? Are lions and wolves and things that are naturally carnivores--are they immoral? Something's getting hurt, but something has to get hurt for anything to survive. (Even plants; they're photosynthetic, but so many are allelopathic...)

And that's all I want to write on the subject for now.

Articles

Water Bears!

Invasive Species--maybe not so bad?

If I weren't still in mid-coffee, I'd have articulate thoughts on the invasive species article, since that's one of my things. Also, I wrote too much yesterday. I'm going to be quiet today.



I haven't read these yet, but the titles are interesting and I'm going to try to read them later:

Dinosaurs!

Gender!



Also, on a side note, has anyone noticed that Internet services are dumbing down for us? I don't like it. I'm not talking about the new Facebook (which I do like...and I'm in the minority) but the new Firefox, and a not-so-recent Gmail update where now it only automatically fills in e-mail addresses if I start to type the person's display name, not their address. This enables me to forget their address. I feel like we have to know less and less HTML, almost like it's harder to get to the HTML editor than it is to just write things normal, and NOW Firefox's address bar functions like a search engine...filling in all kinds of things for me.

It's convenient, yes, but it's making me stupid. I feel like my agency is being taken away!

Love, your crazy friend Sarah.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A ghost (two weeks after move-in)

I got a bunch of new music recently, and almost all of it--almost every album--has a song with the word "ghost" in the title.
So, after writing that post this morning, within an hour after getting to work I was feeling better--like myself. Which doesn't mean that what I wrote was some kind of out-of-nowhere thing; I've been like that a lot. Sad and then back to my old self, either if I'm occupied or ESPECIALLY when I'm with people.
Yesterday, I found that I could walk to the grocery store in about ten minutes. This is very exciting to me. So I got my green bag that says "EarthSavers" on it, my wallet (which is really a beat-up clutch purse), and my iPod, and started down the street, trying to distract myself from melancholy by taking in the interesting houses around me, the people in the street enjoying the warm weather, and the wealth of cute white wood aster growing in masses along the roadside. I passed by a house where a bunch of guys were sitting outside; one of them had a guitar. When the man with the guitar noticed me, he turned and started singing in my direction, LOUDLY, just banging out chords (or perhaps just hitting all the strings--I still had my iPod on so I don't know), "Love of my LIIIIIIIIIIIFFFFFFFFEEEEE" and a bunch of other silly things. I tried to just keep walking, but I was laughing and laughing. It was just too silly to be annoyed or feel self conscious.
(Later that night, though, I was back to feeling blue.)

Anyway, I was thinking and thinking and thinking last night, and thinking that I was in a low place--which is sometimes necessary to being something better, later. I wasn't doing the things Sarah normally does. I make fun of people who are overly activist, who join silly Facebook groups and talk loudly about their ideas--as though they've just discovered The World and social conscience. But I'm no better and am probably worse than them, because I've become really lax in my own commitment to social change. I drive a somewhat fuel efficient car, I walk a lot of places (because I can; many people don't have that option), I buy a lot of organic groceries, I compost some of my trash, I carry my own bags to the grocery store. But I waste a lot of water and hardly give it a second thought. I waste a lot of things. I use a lot of plastic. When I was moving, I threw out a lot of things that weren't garbage. Maybe a lot of people will read this and think--you're not doing so bad. But it's not WHAT I'm doing or not doing; it's the attitude. I've been thinking more about myself lately, as though self-preservation is the highest priority, but why do I need to be preserved? I am better off than a lot of people.
So, in summary, I need to care more. I need to go back to caring more and doing more. That is an essential part of being Sarah.

Additionally, I've potentially made some bad decisions this summer. They can't be undone. And I can't decide if I would want them to be. I think about the consequences - what it would mean if they never happened. But they happened--and that's IT. That's fine, but I need to get off that path and not do similar things.
I had all these realizations when I was on the road, things that meant big change but could be summed up in one sentence. Such as: I need to tell people what I want from them. I need to tell people when things are wrong. I need to talk less because no one is listening to every word; I need to listen more. I need to make my own decisions about my life. But here is a new one:
Some people are not bad people. They are not mean. But they do not care about me. At least not enough. And when someone doesn't care about you, you should not waste your time on them. It's probably unfair to them in some way, but more importantly, it's not fair to you. It's hurtful and damaging, and it's also really unfair to the people who actually do care about you.
I need to stop giving the time of day to people who don't care enough about me.

People say that I forgive easily, that I forgive everyone. I kind of like being this way; but forgiveness isn't the same as what I do. It's not fair to give as much of myself to people who make some small effort, as I do to those who are considerate and nice all the time.

This is a post full of "I", but I write these kind of things hoping they're like when Crazy Aunt Purl writes things like this--things other people will read and relate to some part of and be able to apply to themselves.

Une nouvelle vie commence

That means "A new life begins," and it's what my mom's cousin wrote to me on the day I was moving from my old apartment to my new apartment. It was one of those moments where life feels like a novel or a movie, like a well-made play actually, where something that seems staged actually happens.
Quickly, the nouvelle vie took a turn I didn't expect, or had expected I guess--there's nothing stopping all the hopes I had for this fall, but the nouvelle vie feels much emptier than I'd like. I guess the only thing that has changed since Sunday two weeks ago is my own mindset and outlook.
I have written over and over again how I mourn my old life, my old home, specifically where I was a year ago--before we were cognizant of what a dump the house was, before the things that made it a dump actually infringed upon our happiness, and before some of the other things that made me happy started to disappear.
A year ago, I was happy there. But thirteen months ago, things were still shaky. Some days, something really great would happen, and it was like I was seeing into the happy future I would have there, and I was perfectly happy. Other days, something small would happen, like some plans got canceled, or no one would be at home, and it would expand into not just one evening of loneliness but an entire year or lifetime of loneliness. It was as though my mind was extrapolating that this one evening of loneliness indicated that the whole year would be that way. Because I couldn't see what happy things would fall into place, what people would be in my life, it was like no one was there, and instead of just taking one night in by myself, I would be very sad.

I guess this description is really fitting for where I am now. I'm trying not to write about it, I realized--trying to focus on the positive, not proclaim to the Internets and the world as a whole that I am human and weak and feel sad even when there's no real reason to; I also don't want to seem like a brat, ungrateful for the good job and nice apartment I have now. But this is it--the nouvelle vie is uncertain, and sometimes I have trouble imagining what good could come into it. Some part of my head or heart that won't listen to reason believes that because I can't see it--whatever these goods things will be--they don't exist and never will.

And then, when something good is happening, I am my old self and everything's fine.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Trail

I finally went exploring the woods across the street from my house and found out that there is a hiking trail! It's not much hiking--just a trail in the woods--but still! It's nice and peaceful, and even though there's not a single place where you can't turn and see part of a house, it still has that comforting feeling of being in the woods. Surrounded by trees, protected by nature, and somehow separate from everything else. It's a different type of consciousness.
I'll start bringing a camera up there, especially because there are places where there are gaps in the trees and nice views of mountains and some of the more attractive buildings of Morristown. I can't wait to see how it looks as the autumn progresses.
In a way, I'm looking forward to winter, too, when the leaves drop and there's a bit more sunlight.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Blogging should not take precedence over potting soil

Sometimes I wonder if, on some subconscious level, I partly start a bunch of projects and mess up my apartment just so that I can clean it later and feel really accomplished.
For example, right now I have unpacking the vegetables I got yesterday, arranging the flowers I picked yesterday, removing inedible greens from and cleaning the vegetables, sorting out compost, unpacking, and making lunch all started. Blogger has been open for about an hour, but when I sat down to start this post, I realized that there had been potting soil on the carpet for hours, from me knocking over a plant, and I had managed to go to the bank, start all these projects, and check my email before it occurred to me ... wait a minute, before I write in my blog, maybe I should vacuum up that potting soil!
It has been pouring, without letting up, for an hour now. It has been cloudy all day, with rain on and off, and I was kind of hoping that this pouring spell would temporarily let up so I could get in some rush gardening and perhaps go to the store.
It's one of those days where in order to get one thing done, I have to do a bunch of other tasks first. For example, I can't go very far until I buy gas. But in order to buy gas and many of the other things I wanted to accomplish today, I absolutely had to go to the bank. Because I had no cash. Only Canadian change and assorted Euros (also in change.) I spent my last $10 on gas. I am aware of how nice it is that $10 of gas gets me through a week now, as opposed to one trip to work and back. That alone is adjusting in getting used to this new town.
As quickly and as dramatically as my new-home-loneliness set in, it seems to have disappeared. Probably because I went out last night and have a whole social day planned for tomorrow.
In general, I am just bad with transitions. It doesn't matter what I'm transitioning to. It doesn't matter how nice the new situation is and how bad the old one was; I will start missing mundane things. For example, I found myself getting really upset with myself for leaving behind two perfectly good Rubbermaid storage containers. I meant to put them in my car, and I just forgot. And when I was leaving my apartment, I almost left behind a bunch of perfectly useful household items--paper towels, cleaning supplies--thinking, "The new people can use them--They can HAVE them!" in this bizarre urge to somehow sever myself from the old life. As though severance from replaceable inanimate objects symbolized something. When I went back to get a second carload of stuff, my practical side took over--well, almost. It was practical to seize a lot of the paper goods and cleaning supplies for the new place, but there was also an element of, "How could I leave anything behind? How can I leave my old home behind? How can I leave my old life behind!?"
In fact, a former roommate and I were eating pumpkin seeds this week, and we realized that this communal container of pumpkin seeds had been purchased long ago, when classes were still going on, and found ourselves musing on how long ago that had been, how fast it had all gone, and meanwhile this container of pumpkin seeds regarded us without emotion, perhaps considering how much everyone had gone through during its tenure in our kitchen cabinet. And yet it remained the same, just diminishing in quantity a little bit over time.
I'd like to write about the new town, but I'm not sure what to say. My impressions are still scattered. For one thing, I do love that it's a true walking town. And yet, there are still all kinds of impediments to pedestrian life...businesses that have no pathway to the door, so that one has to walk through the parking lot, risking getting flattened by Escalades and other such vehicular monstrosities, the drivers of which aren't looking because they aren't expecting to see someone walking to the bank! Yes, those parking lots comprise a short but treacherous distance!
One of the few places in America, or at least New Jersey, where everyone can walk, yet nearly everyone chooses to drive.
One thing I find interesting and odd about it is that living here has elements of city life, yet also I have to re-adjust myself to things that were habit when I lived in the country. Morristown is very much unlike rural Sussex County, where I grew up, but in some ways it's eerily like going home. I guess it's in the Highlands or something--the natural landscape is very similar to what I grew up with. My neighborhood especially is woodland.
On a side note, I was thrilled when I realized that it's deciduous woodland and therefore, in the wintertime when I will most need sun, I'll have a nice reprieve from the dense shade and it will actually not be horribly dark at my house all the time!
I love woodland, but I miss the sun a bit. Only a bit--I really like stepping outside my door into cool darkness, with the familiar smell of North Jersey forest soil surrounding me.
I hate transitions, and it hit me the other day that my life has been nothing but transition since early May. So four months that were not settled. No wonder I was so neurotic!
Anyway, I'd like to go out and take pictures of the town, too. The architecture is great. It looks like what you see shadows of in other New Jersey towns and cities (Newton and New Brunswick being examples.) One of the rare places where old buildings and old city charm was preserved. It looks more like Europe (though not really like Europe) than say, strip mall-laden state highways. Old churches tower above the shops. When I was out earlier today, I noticed that some old house or something (there's no sign identifying this building) has a very long rectangular reflecting pool leading from its front door nearly to the street. Kind of amazing. I mean, it's unusual and beautiful and I wonder if that's a public building/park or what. And I've driven past it so many times without noticing!
That's why I like walking--you always notice something different, and you notice dozens of things you'd never notice when driving.
I think I'll close this meandering blog post now, give up on the rain letting up, and venture to the grocery store.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

My new home

I think I intended to write a "Last Post from Suydam Street," but never got around to it. Oh well!
So this is the first post from Chestnut Street. I moved in two days ago. Yesterday I went for a big walk around town, but of course everything was closed between 6 and 7 PM on Labor Day.
The contents of my apartment are currently in boxes or scattered all over the place. I don't even know where to begin organizing.
However, enough decorative elements are in place that my apartment already looks cute. It's not too far from looking like a home. Except for the empty part. I'm sure I will like living alone, but it's hard to get used to after living in a crowded house in a crowded, loud neighborhood.
It's loud here, too, but in a different way. The first two nights I had some trouble sleeping, partly because I was woken up by LOUD nature noises. I at first thought, "Wow, it's LOUD here," and then realized that Suydam Street, being the street that emergency vehicles regularly speed down, certainly had its own brand of loud. There were bugs and right now there are birds, there were mysterious scratching noises, and last night I got woken up by VERY LOUD CHIRPING outside my window. Maybe it was a bat.
There have also been people noises. This may have been a holiday weekend thing. Last night I was woken up by very loud knocking and someone telling someone to open the door. It sounded like it was close enough to be coming from my own front door, but that could have been the amplification of the half-awake-dreamlike state, and in that state I thought, "What could they possibly want? Well, I am sleeping! so they can knock till their arms fall off!" and attempted to go back to sleep.
I wonder what kind of funny stories will come out of this place.
I was torn today between visiting one of my friends (I was hoping she could come HERE so I would feel like this place has PEOPLE in it--friend karma or something) and taking care of some house-stuff, as well as going for a walk, bumming around town when things were actually open, and maybe checking out the library. When my friend called to cancel, I was thinking, "Oh, now I can check out the town!" but also felt a comical urge to burst into tears, at the prospect of being left alone, in the middle of Wal-mart...where I was buying sponges so that I can finally wash dishes.
I'm afraid that what with the living out of boxes and all, the place will quickly become squalid. I am determined not to live in squalor!
Finally, the feature of this new home that seems to have the most potential for stories--there is a boarding house across the street about which I have been warned by everyone I've encountered in the neighborhood, including the tenant who preceded me here. In fact, when I heard all that knocking and noise last week, I thought, "Oh, it's probably the shady people across the street," and dismissed it, instead of thinking, "Shady people yelling are something to worry about at 2 AM."
Anyway, I came home from work and shopping and noticed someone was parked not just on the street in front of the house, but in the little indentation that appears to be a parking spot that I have designated as Just For Sarah. I thought that was strange.
Then, sitting on the couch with a view of everything in front of the house, I noticed that, up the hill in the yard of the "shady" boarding house, was a random fire in a pit or something. I finally saw a person, walking up the hill--I guess he noticed a person staring from the house, so he kind of looked at me, then kept going and I thought, "Ooh! maybe I'll figure out why there's a fire there!" But he kept on going as though there were no fire.
Weird!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Moving sucks

That has been the theme of everything this summer.
I'm sitting in a nearly empty room listening to music that reminds me of a year ago. This music is arriving in this empty room with boxes and hope, it is driving on 206 under a canopy of fall leaves, it is homemade mayonnaise and aperitif with olives and cornichons, it is red wine from Trader Joe's, it is a million late night conversations around the little table in the little kitchen, it is bug collecting, it is walking to the Writing Center on cold mornings and stopping to look at the green steeple of the red church through the branches of a yellow-leafed gingko. It is working all day, every Tuesday, drinking gallons of tea, in the warm, friendly office of the Writing Center, yapping with my new friends.
I wish (in a way) I had been more detached this past year - that I hadn't thrown myself head and heart first into everything...it would make this separation less painful. I made a ton of new friends, only to leave them, I formed routines only to break them.
I hope I make friends in Morristown, instead of having to wait until weekends to see my New Brunswick friends.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Birds and insects are singing all around me. Occasionally, church bells join in, coming in with the soft breeze; it's like their sounds are rolling over me just as is the cool air. A strip of sunlit grass glows, with cheerful, wild clover blossoms sticking up. Bumblebees float around the roses-of-Sharon that someone planted, who knows how many years ago, holding their own among tall weeds and neglected tomato plants against the back fence.
I think this is one of my favorite things about this summer--at least about the everyday routine stuff. Though in a way, I guess I do like this--my sitting in the backyard drinking coffee routine--as much as I liked seeing the USA and traveling to Vancouver. As much as I liked the excitement, I like peace, too.
It's nice to be able to sit and reflect, to take a small break from the anxieties of now and the wondering and worrying about these next weeks will bring. I only have fourteen more mornings to do this, to sit in this yard at this house. From where I sit, I can't see the garbage in the neighbors' yard. I can't see the inside of my falling-apart apartment. I can't see the tub that won't drain or the leaky refrigerator, the buckling kitchen floor and the broken kitchen tiles. I can't see dirty streets devoid of natural life (except for grass and invasive plants). I see white houses with colorful shutters and roofs, birds and insects, and our behind-the-house neighbor's vegetable and flower garden. I see my little refuge from the potentially scary future.
I know it probably won't be scary. Between turning in my last paper and leaving for the road trip, I would get these occasional, brief surges of panic--not because I was afraid that something terrible would happen to us, but just that it was so unknown. My routine that I've had for as long as I can remember would be gone. It would be like learning how to live and be me again, like becoming a new self. And I realized yesterday that I have changed a lot since the middle of May when I finished college. The way I approach things and think about things has in some way drastically changed. But it doesn't feel unnatural, like I jumped all over the place. It feels in some way like a natural progression, like even though I'm so different, I'm more me.
Mainly, I'm afraid of less things. I can't believe how much I used to worry. I still do, of course. But I feel like AFRAID is the word that fits how I felt. I was so afraid that I bet it kept good things out of my life, because I was too afraid to go out and meet them when they were coming to me, or go out and get them when they were just out of reach.
It makes me wonder if other people around me, who you wouldn't think are this way, are actually terrified of things in their lives that could be really good for them - just terrified for some reason - and it's crippling them, keeping them from being as happy as they could be.
Someone in this neighborhood is cooking breakfast. It smells like eggs and bacon and toast. I wish I could have some!
I just finished reading The Walk West by Peter and Barbara Jenkins. It made me want to see new things, the things I managed to miss on my 10,000 mile road trip; it made me want to mail a copy of the book to Mary right away and insist that she read it; it made me want to do something adventurous and physically taxing (more like testing - a test for myself, a test and an exercise) like going on a big walk; it made me want to see more of the world and read and read. It also made me want to keep going to work, keep entering my expenses into an Excel spreadsheet, and keep living this stationary, practical life for a bit, so I can save money and days off to go travel!
Especially when this stationary life isn't so bad. I had a really nice time at work yesterday. One of the things I did was help at a big outdoor event where, at our table, we were helping people (mainly people with no yards and possibly not a lot of money) learn about houseplants, giving them free plants, and teaching them how to re-pot and take care of them. I had this flash of memory, realizing that THIS was what I wanted to do when I was in college, working towards my botany degree. It's not the only thing, but something like this--making people happy, helping them out in some little way--my way being plants, because that's what I know about--that is one of the things I wanted to do when I was sitting in Botany School thinking, What do I ultimately want to do with this degree?
So now I need a new book to read. The last three books I have read were A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins, A Walk in the Woods by ... I forget ..., and The Walk West. All three books were about walking! Maybe I should read a more stationary book now; a book that doesn't encourage the desire to throw my belongings into a suitcase and hit the road....or head for the AT. Patrick and I traded A Walk in the Woods for Primary Colors, plus I still have his copy of The Magic Mountain. I "borrowed" a bunch of my dad's Richard Brautigan books, and I have a book about ferns to read, too.
I have nothing more to write about. I have today and tomorrow off, so I think I'm going to continue packing, cleaning, knocking things off the to-do list, but also make time for fun things like reading, relaxing, and baking zucchini bread or clafoutis. Or pickling cherries. I have some NY sour cherries and I can't decide if I should pickle them or make clafoutis. I think I'm going to finally - for the first time since the road trip - clean my car.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I just heard something that made me very happy...
The ice cream truck that drives around our neighborhood for hours and hours on summer nights was just playing "Deck the Halls." It's been a long time since I've heard it playing seasonally inappropriate songs! It's been "The Entertainer" and "Do Your Ears Hang Low?" all summer!
I'm taking a break from cleaning and packing right now, drinking this new beer I had to buy because it is called...
BALLAST POINT.
Of all the places I'd see the word BALLAST, I think the last one I could think of would be the liquor store. I was tempted to buy bottles for Sasha and Lena, the other two members of the Ballast Plants of New Jersey team.
Once I find my camera cable, I will post a picture of this beer.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The Socially Conservative 2000's

My mother always rips articles out of Newsweek and the local paper and will give them to me, in a pile with my mail that got sent to their house. Like many people, I'm frequently too busy (or perceive myself as too busy) to sit down and read through them when I get them. Yet I rarely throw them away unread. They just, at the end of each year when I move, get piled together in the box labeled "Misc Papers" with class notes I want to keep, academic articles I want to keep, bank statements, pay stubs, bank receipts, and letters.
While packing to move from this apartment, I finally had the idea to put them in a bag, and that way, when I'm drinking my coffee outside in the mornings, keeping them all together, and actually making an effort to go through them. This is nice because they're about an assortment of topics, interesting...it's just nice to sit down and read something factual but not overly dense, sometimes. Sometimes I'm so starved for text that I find myself reading the uninteresting surrounding articles, even if they're sensationalist trash about Heath Ledger or Amy Winehouse.
I have an entire issue (not just ripped out articles) of Newsweek saved, because the whole thing looked interesting. It is from July 2007. That tells you how far behind I am in my reading.
This was a rather long preamble to my topic...
Anyway, the article I read yesterday was about Jane Austen, her current popularity among a wide array of audiences, and what all that means. It was really great! There's a lot I could say about it, but I'll limit myself for now, especially since, not having the article in front of me, I might be less than accurate. I'll edit this post later with the article nearby, so I can at least write down the name and writer.
The writer discussed the popularity of Jane Austen, contrasting her with equally popular Dickens and Shakespeare, but arguing that they have lapsed into "venerability," whereas Austen has remained accessible--like someone you could sit down and have coffee with. Like an eighteenth century version of our (most intelligent) chick lit heroines. But, she argues at the end of the piece, this doesn't make her low-brow. I guess what she's saying is the great thing about Austen is that she is accessible at nearly every level--though perhaps ignored by literary snobs of the highest order.
Anyway, one of the parts of the article that jumped out at me and stuck with me all day was reference to "the socially conservative 2000's." I am going to get the wording screwed up probably, but she was writing about how - I believe it was the marriage plot in Austen's novels - resonates with the "would-be feminists" of the "socially conservative 2000's" who have instead become "Bridezillas."
Something clicked. Socially conservative!? I've never before heard our decade referred to in this manner...but it makes sense. I frequently find myself thinking about an issue of progress or equality and wondering why things seem stagnant - even regressing. I wonder why I have to argue in a class at a women's college that there's nothing biologically weird or wrong with a man who decides to take care of his children instead of working full time. Why so many people seem obsessed with banning gay marriage. Or weirded out by interracial couples. Why I have to assert, so often it seems, that although I lack a Y chromosome, I am actually cut out to be a scientist/live alone/have opinions/drive a car/walk down the street without a male relative (obviously I am exaggerating.)
I learned in my medieval lit class--where I was shocked by how racy some of the texts were, or by some of the feminist stuff I read--that contrary to what we believe, society hasn't been climbing a liberal, progressive escalator for all time. It frequently goes in waves. So are we in a downhill slope right now? Are we going to have less rights? Am I just going to have to get used to truck drivers honking at me (and not in a friendly way) because I have the audacity to be a woman with my shoulders showing driving alone on a highway? Let alone when we were driving across the country -- well, there were TWO of us then, and what were we doing so far from home? With no men to look out for us and keep us out of trouble! How did we do it without killing ourselves in some haplessly female way--such as forgetting where we parked our car, or getting so distracted by a "Clearance" sign at a shoe store that we forgot to look both ways and ran into traffic, or perhaps of dehydration due to crying SO MUCH, you know, women are such saps, we couldn't stop, and we were in the desert and it's like, dry there.
I only latch onto feminism because I am female and have the most personal experience with it. But this conservatism relates to all things - censorship, gender equality, racial equality, class, gay rights...etc.
What do you think, my three readers? Are we progressing at all, or are we truly in the socially conservative 2000's? Will we have to be more watchful to maintain our rights?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ups and Downs in Vancouver

Sometimes traveling, especially a foreign country or just someplace foreign, period, is full of extremes--you go from REALLYREALLYEXCITEDANDHAPPY to just crushed at the smallest mishap. I think it's part of the being far away, being out of the comfort zone thing.
I had a series of mishaps before even leaving for the airport. I got home (well, to my parents' house) from work around 9 PM and started laundry and packing. I should note that what I wanted to pack was laid out, just not in a suitcase yet. Around midnight, it seemed like a good idea to wax my eyebrows.
I think you're supposed to heat up the wax for 10 or 20 seconds. But the label is smudged, so when I saw "_0 seconds"I, for some reason, thought it meant "90."
I then spilled the super hot wax on my left hand. Fortunately I was near a sink and just blasted it with cold water. So the burn is nothing to write home about, but I had wax stuck to my hands for hours.
I then was so spacey that I waxed off much more of each eyebrow than intended! Oh well - they'll grow back.
I ALSO managed to drop liquid wax onto my eyelashes - on BOTH eyes. This is really hard to get out, so I boarded the plane this morning with weird brown gobs on my eyelashes that probably looked like I just had sleepy eye crud and was too gross to wipe it off.
When I saw my advisor at the gate, for some reason it seemed prudent to tell her that I hadn't combed my hair that morning (?!?!).
Towards the end of the flight, I got a random nosebleed. The sink in the bathroom wasn't working so I couldn't wash my face with water!!!!! I imagined I looked terrible - with a bloody face and uncombed hair and gobs of guck (I just realized I have no idea how to spell this) stuck to my eyelashes. I was really looked beautiful for Canada!
I got to my hostel and was told I couldn't check in for awhile. I had to hang out on the rainy beach with my luggage and a tube of our posters, hoping they wouldn't get rained on. When I finally checked in, I got on the internet and was sending mopey emails to my friends, when I started having nice conversations with people in the room. Then the sun came out!
I wandered around the beach, then decided it was time to go to UBC to hang the posters. Well, long story short, I got lost trying to find the bus stop. It's on N Marine Drive, but the problem (for a foreigner) is that there are like, three road sections that say "N Marine Drive" and I didn't know which one to walk up...I spent a long time walking in the wrong direction. The maps at the hostel aren't that great.
Then I missed the bus. Then I stood at the bus stop on the wrong side of the street. Then I missed the second bus while waiting to cross. Then a lot of time elapsed before I got on the third bus and I didn't realize you have to pay the fare in coins! I didn't have any because - I just got off a plane and the ATMs don't give you coins!
When the bus driver realized this, he did something that shocked me. He asked if anyone on the bus had change for a five! TWICE! No one stepped up, but a few people smiled at me as if to say "It's ok. You didn't know." I can't imagine a bus driver doing that in NJ. They would just throw you out! I informed him that it was my first day in Canada and I did not know about all this. Then he told me sternly to sit down (therefore not paying!?) and remember coins next time. I was more embarrassed than the situation called for (that whole out of one's comfort zone thing) but overwhelmed by how nice he was.
I was relieved when I FINALLY found the place to hang the posters and saw I was totally not late - it went until 6 PM! And then I took my poster out of the cardboard tube.
It is SO CREASED. I wanted to cry right there in the exhibit hall, but I did not. Later, Lena told me it was FINE but at the time, it seemed like the worst thing in the world. And the other posters were laminated and had lots of color photos and mine just has line drawings (and I know that I did that on purpose, that I thought line drawings would be more uniform, more informative, blah blah blah...but they're not as PRETTY as color photos) and omg I'll never be a real scientist and I didn't pay the bus fare in correct change and my poster is creased - aaahhhhhh.
Later, I stopped to get pizza. When I asked the guy for a slice of plain, he said, "I'm giving you two for the price of one because the crusts are burned." Again, shock. PEOPLE ARE SO NICE HERE.
Then I went to the plenary lecture about mycoremediation. I think it was good. It started out good. But then they turned out all the lights in the room. Why do speakers do this? Literally ALL of the lights. No windows. Just a powerpoint. Most people had flown in today from points east with later time zones, or they'd flown to Seattle and taken mass transit (tiring.) When I awoke to my arm falling off the armrest, I was so embarrassed! Until I realized everyone next to me was in deep slumber. Not just students, even the grownups. It was kind of hilarious! When I got out of the lecture, I heard all these people whispering "I fell asleep. It was just so dark!"
And the speaker was really good! He totally wasn't boring. It was just so dark...
The nap rejuvenated me for the mixer, in which I met lots of botanists, including one who has the same fern purse from Target that I have. I wish I could talk up ballast plants more, but when people ask me about it sometimes I freeze up. Before presenting tomorrow, I'm going to go over my notes. And so I'm going to bed now.
Oh, the bus driver on the way back was also really friendly - aside from another bus driver asking me where I needed to go and telling me which stop to go to, this second one was just really friendly, asked where I needed to go instead of being like, figure out the stop yourself, foreigner! Then he made conversation the entire ride home, which at first I felt weird about, but realized it was just my New York Area conditioning and that this was just someone being FRIENDLY, not creepy, and wasn't it nice to be FRIENDLY? Yes it is. That's why I like places that are neither NY nor NJ...people are friendly to strangers.
He said I didn't have a strong Jersey accent - HA HA.
Tomorrow I'm planning to get up early and review my notes, possibly walk to UBC if the weather's nice because the area is so nice to look at, and after the student luncheon and my presenting, I am hoping to sightsee around UBC - the Anthropology Museum and the UBC Botanical Gardens - hopefully I will have time for both. Unless presenting makes me want to de stress by taking a nap on Jericho Beach - that's ok too.
I'm hoping on Tuesday to sightsee outside of the UBC area. Based on very limited tourist info reading, I'd like to see Stanley Park though I don't know how that will go without a car, and I might check out the shopping areas, and the Punjabi Market sounds interesting; apparently they sell fabric.
Walking back from the bus stop, I saw the lights of the city in the distance, and the mountains (barely, in the dark) and the ocean and tops of boats and I thought, I'm so glad I came here.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Reflecting

What a lame blog post title!
My posts are really draft-y and all over the place right now; my head is in too many places to really focus on any one thing.
However, all the pressure I've been under (the wording my boss used; it was nice to have someone acknowledge it even before I did) is starting to let up, and I think the rest of the summer should be pretty calm.
Yesterday turned out to be unexpectedly great in many ways.
First, I had to drive across town to another facility to get some software training for work. To do this, I passed the neighborhood I'll be moving into next month. I made some wrong turns and did a little exploring by accident, and saw that I'm moving into a REALLY nice town. When I first drove towards the center of town, all these attractive old churches and buildings loomed overhead. Driving on side streets trying to get back to route 510 (there's this dumb circle and it's really difficult to tell which lane you should be in though I'm sure I'll figure it out with practice) I saw all kinds of great things, like a record store and antique shops. Not to mention my house will be across the street from one of the boundaries of a national park. The house is pretty much in the woods; the yard is full of trees and very very shady. I hope the landlord-and-lady let me turn part of their yard into a shade garden. (I'm a little obsessed with shade gardens right now.) I know a couple of people who live or work in the area or will be close enough to visit me, and I think I'll be able to come down here on weekends or something to see all of my friends that I'm leaving behind. Plus, I'm sure I'll make new friends. The fact that I'm going to be living alone has me a bit apprehensive that I'll be lonely--but I'll get used to it and probably end up seeing everyone so much more often than I think is possible now. That's how it always works out anyway.
Yesterday afternoon, when I got home from work (it was like 7PM but felt like afternoon, it was so bright out) I felt a little choked up. The house hasn't felt like a home since I got back from my road trip, simply because everything is being packed up and everyone is in and out of the place so much--we are rarely all there together at the same time anymore. But it still resembles home enough, the place where we had pizza dinners and parties, enough to make me sad and miss those things.
Since I'm going in sequential order, this is a good place to interject that I also had about an hour of panic where I believed I had lost my passport. Because I am me. The passport was in a perfectly rational place, exactly where I left it - the cabinet of my nightstand next to my bed. But when I REALLY need something (a passport, a credit card) I just ASSUME that, since I'm me, it's not in a rational place and it's LOST, and instead of the first place I look being a cabinet or my desk, the first place I look is the floor. Well, I found my passport. In about twenty minutes, I had everything I wanted to pack set aside. After work, I'm going to my parents' house where the clothes I'm bringing and all that stuff is, doing last minute laundry, and packing the bags.
Fortunately, Elena was around yesterday evening. She came over, we hung out, and then we went to Rita's for Italian/lemon/water ices. I'm trying to not spend money, but sometimes you need to go out! so I'm adding a line to my budget for "going out for coffee/beer/dinner/ice cream." Anyway, I didn't realize their Italian ices are so good!!!!
When we came back, my downstairs neighbor (who was doing something mysterious in the shed when we left; without thinking I told him he looked like a criminal...ugh why am I such a tool?) had set up some new outdoor furniture with candles and citronella torches. We thought we'd go say hi to him and have our ices back there...but there was no one there. So we plopped down, even though we suspected this was the setup for a date, and used his table and candlelight. I couldn't stop laughing when he and his gf and some other people came out...but then they just pulled up more chairs and offered us some food and invited us to hang out with them. After Elena left, I planned to go to bed as soon as was polite, but I ended up staying out there until after midnight. I had such a nice time! This was the New Brunswick summer I had expected and hoped for--not coming home to an empty house and rushing around to get my clothes and lunch and everything ready for the next day, while thinking, "How the hell am I going to pack up and move all this stuff out of here!?"-- but coming home from work, hanging out with people, relaxing in the backyard.
I'm looking forward to the things I'm going to do when I get back next weekend so much that I've forgotten how much fun the trip will be. (Plus, the fact that I'm going to a cool city keeps getting obscured by anxiety over the science aspect of the trip. Which is dumb; nothing bad will happen.)
The last thing I did was do some cleaning in the bathroom and straighten my room a little bit. I hung up the USA road map, with various routes highlighted on it from the second night of our road trip, on the wall. Before I leave today, I'm going to put some moving-out things in my car and vacuum my bedroom, so that when I come back from Vancouver, it will look like home again and not like a sad, junky place full of boxes.
I was so happy here, all year. But I realize that it wasn't the place so much that made me happy; I need to separate these things in the not logical, emotional part of my mind. This house, this street, this crappy city--they are not the people that made me happy or the events. They are just things. There'd be no guarantee that I could hold onto those people and things if I stayed here; nor am I necessarily going to lose them when I leave.
Still, I'm glad I have a month left.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Happy

My poster is finally done; I found an apartment to move into on September 1. I have a good job and four days in Vancouver ahead of me.
Yet being in this apartment, where everything is in boxes or in piles waiting to go in boxes, is triggering all the sad. It was only a year ago that I moved in here with so much hope. Some hope was fulfilled, some was surpassed (and it is these I feel the most sad about, like I'll miss them the most), and some things that were planned on never happened and probably won't in the last month. Walking through here, I can't stop getting hit with memories. The happy and sad are both making me feel the same way. I know I'll like my new place, but I wish I could hold onto this time a little bit longer. I have a month left and I feel like I'll spend the whole month packing, not being at home. All the places that were part of my routine will soon be not mine anymore. Even things like driving to the bank makes me sad.
Everything feels like listening to a sad song that you really like, a song that's really good so you want to keep listening to it, even though it's sad!
I am glad I'm not the only person who's like this, who's "bad about transitions." But I bet most people would read the above and think, "That's not normal."

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Neo-Balkan Genre, Best Enjoyed with a Cardigan

A couple of months ago, I pestered someone into burning me a copy of a Regina Spektor CD, and he instead gave me an MP3 CD of Regina Spektor, Blonde Redhead, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, and Beirut.
I never listen to the Regina Spektor part.
At first, I latched on to the Blonde Redhead section. When I was in high school, there were only two guys who listened to Blonde Redhead, as well as some other bands no one else had heard of. They were ahead of their time, fifteen-year-old hipsters in a sea of eighteen-year-old emo kids and punks. I remember one summer listening to a bunch of indie music, but only by myself and when school began and I was with my friends again, I never listened to Cat Power or Neutral Milk Hotel again.

But what I really want to write about is the other music on the CD. It took me a little longer to warm up to it. I was kind of like, "What the hell is this!? Where is the singing? Oh there it is! Is that English? I kind of like this...am I allowed to like this? Should I listen to this with the windows closed? Should I listen to this in the house only with the door closed when Patrick and Alice aren't home?"
I looked up the bands on Wikipedia, because I was confused as to why this Slavic music was in English, and found out that it's by Americans influenced by Slavic music, especially gypsy music. I then remembered that one late night in February, I was driving home listening to NPR. They were doing a special on Iva Bittova, a Czech violinist and singer of Roma descent. "Wow! I really like this music!" I thought, and have been, ever since, considering buying one of her CDs.
OK, so I like Slavic music and gypsy music. Well, fine. I'm twenty-four; I'm not in high school OR college; there is no one to judge my musical taste. (Plus, once I stopped listening to it in secret, a lot of my friends have been asking me, "What this?! Can I have a copy!?")

The other day, a friend and I were driving somewhere and I said, "Oh, we're going to listen to my GYPSY MUSIC."
"Cool!" she said. (I think. I'm just making up dialogue where I don't remember.)
So we were talking about the music, and I was telling the story of how the band is actually American, and how I'd been listening to it in secret.
"I know what you mean," she said. "I've been listening to..." her voice lowered, and she kind of turned her face away as though something horrifically shameful was about to exit her mouth. She mumbled, "Bluegrass."
I wanted to laugh. "So?" I said. "What's wrong with bluegrass?"

I forgot. My family is from Sparta, Tennessee, the birthplace of bluegrass. My friend is from Northeast Jersey and her family is Italian. Also, most people our age do not listen to gypsy music or bluegrass. At least not in New Jersey. But who cares!?
And so this was the theme of much of our conversation for the day. Whether or not we are "cool" because of various things we do, including listen to weird music. I was insisting that we are cool, just a different kind of cool.

I mean, gypsy music and bluegrass are cool in the same way knitting is cool.

Later, I was cold and putting on my Work Sweater over the otherwise inappropriately low cut halter dress I was wearing.
"I like this sweater!" my friend exclaimed. "I'm starting to really like--" and the same head bowing, mumbling "--cardigans..." More discussion of how we are like old ladies ensued.
"No!"I insisted. "We are in our mid-twenties! We can like whatever we want! We don't have to worry what other people think! We can listen to world music and wear cardigans!"

However, it later occurred to me the one GENUINELY OLD LADY conversation we had, and it passed us by without us even realizing it...
I was complaining about my leaky refrigerator that ruins food.
"I bought figs the other day, and the next day they were moldy!"
"What a sin!"*
$2.49 down the drain!" I said dramatically.
"You get figs for two forty-nine!?"
"Yes! And they're organic!"
"I've been paying $3.99!"
"They're at the Apple Farm Market on Easton Ave!"

Discussing the prices of produce. It is a short road from here to hating fireworks and yelling at kids to get off my lawn.
Except I won't have a lawn; I'll have an overgrown mess of daylilies, snakeroot, echinacea, various species of Asclepias, and bee balm to which I refer as "perennial garden."

*I don't think she really said, "What a sin!" But either one of us could have! The loss of figs IS a sin!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Why did I buy swiss chard?

Sometimes I think and act as though all of my life's problems, all of my own personal flaws, can be summed up by the fact that sometimes I overbuy groceries and don't get to use them up before they go bad. I imagine that this shows I am thoughtless, irrational, greedy, wasteful, and most of all, I make bad unwise decisions...as my produce choices exhibit.
First of all, probably everyone buys groceries that go bad before they can be used. And I finally realized that my situation is a tad special; our fridge is messed up and sometimes gets this weird leaky problem and leaks water all over the place, ruining leafy greens and turning cheese to mold, and sometimes that water freezes and things that should never be frozen, like eggs, become unpalatable and therefore, trash.
I spent a good part of one of the rainy days this weekend reading recipes and filing away in my head the ones I wanted to try soon. Of course I do not remember them that clearly. I don't know if ANY of them included swiss chard, but the point is, I got to the farmers market on Saturday and decided of all things there, I needed to buy swiss chard. And now I don't know what I wanted to do with it. I need to use it soon, to save it from a fridge-watery death, but it's too hot to cook! I'll probably make an omelet or fritatta .... now I forgot how to spell fritata...frittatttaaa????
Anyway, I'm out of school yet still have a miles-long to do list...which is OK. There's stress but somehow it seems more manageable, less like this giant weight about to drop from the dark clouds hanging over my head. Today, at lunch, I tried to see what things on my to do list could be accomplished on my lunch break, and realized even my to do list was unmanageable, incomprehensible. So I wrote on it #37 - First thing to do - re-write and re-organize to do list.
Perhaps it is a bad sign, either about your life or about your crazy personality, when your to do list includes an item ABOUT THE TO DO LIST ITSELF.

Still, it's summer! The invasive yet lovely honeysuckle is perfuming the air, even on the highways, and you can actually find swiss chard at farmers markets--you can actually find farmers markets!--and even though it's so humid my hair won't dry and the album covers and record sleeves are all damp, even the printer paper is damp...it's sunny and beautiful and things are growing. !!!!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

I have a million things to blog about

But not a lot of time. I have some draft posts saved in my actual blogger account, in fragments of emails to myself, written out in a paper journal, and ... of course, sensibly scrawled on post-it notes.
I've been meaning to write since mid-May about some plants in the office that my job is to dust, and how I have developed a fondness for these plants. I was feeling kinda crappy in mid-May, so I have been pondering, since then, if the fondness for these plants came from Mid May Crazies or is genuine.
It's summer, so it's the season for me to chronicle my Bad Gardening. Except I was hired as something with "horticulture" and "specialist" in the title, so maybe I should stop publicizing my Bad Gardening. In truth, I am probably not a bad gardener. For one thing, I can identify arthropod pests and diagnose problems and recommend treatment...I AM kind of certified in it...but my houseplants and vegetable gardens have always been miserable failures. I argue, however, that this is not my fault. I have always been cursed with terrible gardening conditions. When I moved into my current apartment, which has a deer-free, sunny yard, I got some things that were not weeds to grow. Though perhaps I only remembered to water them because I thought there were cute guys in the neighborhood and used anything as a possible excuse to parade around outside in a miniskirt...anyway...
So I made it back from the road safely. We saw twenty-six states in a four-week period, twenty-five of them in twenty-five days. I've now seen thirty-seven of the states, plus one Canadian province. And I'm going to Vancouver (the Canadian one) at the end of the month. My goal is to see the eleven continental states I've missed by 2010. Alaska and Hawaii, though high on my list, can wait. The states I have yet to see are:
North Dakota
Louisiana
Alabama
Kentucky
Kansas
Colorado
Illinois
Indiana
Iowa
Missouri
Nebraska

And I'd like to go back to some of the states I've already seen, of course. Especially those I only drove through in the middle of the night (Washington, Idaho) or only saw very little of (Texas, California, Mississippi).

I'm still getting adjusted from coming back from the trip, as I have a lot to worry think about. I have a research poster to get ready for Vancouver. I have to get myself ready for Vancouver--book a hostel or something, get some Canadian money, pack, etc. I have to get myself ready to move out of my current apartment and that means, something I've been dreading--finding a new apartment. Ugggghhhhh. I worry that I'll find nothing appropriate or affordable, or the only affordable places I'll find will be in Wastelands of North Jersey Where Only Old People and Families Live. Or I'll have to move in with my grandmere. Or my parents. Or the tent village of homeless people that is supposedly near where I work. Just kidding. At least I'd save money on gas!

I can't think of anything else to write at the moment; plus I have a lot to do today. Expect updates periodically, especially about things like bad gardening and dust-collecting plants that I love.