Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Power Of Hair

As you probably noticed yesterday, my hair has a lot of personality.

It has attitude. It does what it wants. I can only make a few suggestions each morning about things I'd like it to do. Begging, pleading, teasing, purchasing expensive hair products -- none of it matters. The final decision is never mine.

Some of you might have a love/hate relationships with your hair, too. Isn't it strange how a good hair day can give you almost superhuman confidence, and a bad haircut justifies buckets of tears?

Story time: When I was a senior in high school, I had hair just beyond my shoulders, and it naturally formed into big bouncy hot-roller curls. So when I went into a salon to get a cut three days before I was supposed to have my senior pictures taken, I expected the stylists to enhance the natural beauty to the point where I'd walk around in a perpetual glow (a la Touched By An Angel -- still on TV back then).

Instead, the stylist chopped my hair into a chin-length blunt cut (GASP! with me -- you curly-haired women know exactly how bad this is!) and left me staring at the mirror with tears trickling down my face. I hadn't seen what she was doing because glasses come off during haircuts, and I'm blind without mine.

I spent the next week crying myself to sleep. My parents spent $300 on senior pictures I didn't want anyone to see.

My point is that I know how bad a bad hair day can be. That's why I'm cutting all of mine off.

Tomorrow is the first day of October, which is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I plan to cut and donate my hair to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program so I can help provide one brave woman with a few good hair days.

My dear friend Marie was only 20 when she was diagnosed with cancer. We talked about the experience once she was in remission, and she said the worst part wasn't the diagnosis, or even the treatment. She said that when she looked in the mirror and her hair was gone, she felt like cancer had stolen her identity. That's when she wept.

So even though I'm a little bit nervous to cut so much hair, I'm going to make an appointment and do it. I'm going to try to show a fragment of bravery, give up part of the physical identity I've created for myself, and help someone else.

I'll try not to cry.

UPDATE: Did I cry? Find out!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Guest Post: Being Pretty

I don't know why everyone thinks I'm so amazing, but let's be honest: they do.

When I enter a room or walk on by, eyes stare and jaws drop. I sway seductively and add a little bounce... yes, I know what I'm doing... and keep going. They're going to watch me as I leave and remember me for days.

Is it my curves that draw men to me? Maybe. It's certainly one reason. But even women can't get enough of my body. Green envy and admiration swirl into a heady concoction that I drink in. I can't help I'm this pretty, and I can't help that everyone wishes they could have me for at least one night.

But it's not always easy being me.

Someone is always trying to make me settle down. I get roped into things that become binding, suffocating, and all I want to do is escape. I've gotten a reputation as being a giant headache, but I don't think that's fair.

Today I just couldn't take it. I felt the breeze skim over me, and wanted to participate in the freedom. I danced and swirled in the fresh air and sunlight, soaking in the light-hearted breath of autumn. I chased circles and twirls of the breeze until my joy was suddenly halted by someone warning me of tangles and messes and Proper Behavior.

So I do what I'm good at.

I enthrall the eyes and incite some desire. I flaunt my curves and make women jealous. And I try to enjoy myself within the confines defined by someone else.

I am too pretty.

This guest post comes courtesy of My Hair.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunshine And Twitter

When I sat down this morning to begin my work, I saw I'd gotten some response to yesterday's Three Pretty Things post. A few people commented on the blog itself, but two others mentioned it on Twitter.

One person who Tweeted about the post admitted that he'd like to begin looking for the pretty things in life, too (but he was looking for a more macho term to describe it). The second person asked what pretty things I'd seen today.

I'll be honest: I'm glad many of you enjoy the Three Pretty Things, but I don't consider those posts my best work. So I was stumped why you connected with it.

Awhile later, I was talking to my friend Laura and asked what she thought I should blog about today. She suggested the sunshine, since the weather's been so dreary and cold lately. Laura didn't know it, but she sparked a lightbulb moment for me.

We all want sunshine in our lives, don't we? We want beauty and happiness and meaning, and a sense that even tiny moments in time can have resounding impact on the world around us. We search for it, try to create it, and delight when others reveal it.

It's exciting to realize that we aren't on this treasure hunt alone. Other people want to search out what is good, and -- better yet! -- their finding it only makes it more likely that we can, too. There isn't only one treasure chest or pot of gold, waiting to be seized by the first comer. Against all expectation, sharing means there's more of a prize to go around, not less.

Is this what draws you, in some sense, to Three Pretty Things? I think it might be. I'm giving you a peek at the moments when I paused to appreciate life. Maybe, is this what makes you want to stop and inhale the rich aroma of your coffee before you take a sip? Is this what makes you close your eyes and turn your face into the warmth of the sunlight?

If that's true for you, find a way to share beauty today and tell me about it in the comments. That way we can all be closer to gaining some pretty prize.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Three Pretty Things : 9/27

This week, I made a point of looking for beautiful moments. What became clear is that those moments aren't always things you can photograph.

Sometimes, I couldn't photograph the moment because other drivers wouldn't appreciate me stopping in the middle of the street, leaning out my window to get a perfect shot of the orange burning sun setting the horizon afire. Other times, though, it was because one can't capture in a lens the emotion that gets packed into an instant. And emotion is what paints broad strokes of beauty across the memory.

Here are the Three Pretty Things I was able to snap.

Coffee shop, from the loft.

A little friend.

Patio downtown.

What were some of the good things in your week?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I Made This Out Of Nothing

I don't create things with my hands.

I craft words for a living -- both written and spoken -- and have never been good at making things. One reason is I don't like being patient. Another reason is I don't like following a set path, and the construction of many things requires at least some attention to directions.

But making something feels good. It's wonderful to look at a finished product, to point to it and say, "I made that out of nothing."

I made that out of nothing.

I actually made two loaves out of nothing but flour, water, sugar and yeast.

There was something therapeutic about kneading, folding, and punching a lump of dough after a long week. The CBC's streaming audio provided me with my soundtrack of classical music crescendoes that seemed appropriate to the task at hand.

I'm not be able to change the things this week that made it seem so long. I can't erase the mistakes I made along the way, either. Sometimes, crafting words -- no matter how well put together -- won't fix a situation.

But what I can do is make something new and fresh in my own kitchen, with my own hands. And I can hope that other parts of my life will also be made new.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Two Weeks

I don't really promote this website. I've told people it exists and when a new article gets posted, but that's really it. It's been two weeks (today!) since I let anyone know about, so I got excited when Google Analytics told me who visited during that time.

In case you can't tell by looking at the map, that's fifteen different countries and 123 different cities. Wow!

So thank you for reading my words. Thank you for coming back. And thank you especially if you thought this site was good enough to share.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Friendship Fixed Today

Some days, I wonder how I'm ever going to do all the things I'm supposed to do.

I don't know how to climb those mountains, or jump through those hoops, or swim those oceans. And guess what? YouTube doesn't have a video about how to make your problems go away without actually dealing with them (I know, I typed "how to make your problems go away without dealing with them" into the search function, and got results featuring Looney Tunes and the Jonas Brothers).

Today I really wanted a quick fix. I slept fitfully last night thanks to nightmares and resulting insomnia, and looked forward to my longest work day of the week. Coffee wasn't going to cut it.

What in my life could help me get me through the day?

Steady friendship.

Amy and I have known each other for more than 13 years and maintain a strong friendship. Yesterday we had a conversation online, and I realized as I looked over it again today that it's in the context of those exchanges that we give one another the tools necessary to survive and give life meaning.

I'm sharing part of that conversation with you here so you can see what I mean... and maybe better identify the people in your own life who do the same for you.

P.S. Amy is reeeeeally funny.
2:19 PM Amy: there's a baby here
now i want a baby, too...
2:20 PM me: ask to change it's diaper
you'll be okay not having a baby then
especially if it's a newborn
2:21 PM Amy: haha
it is
me: yeah
they poop green toxic waste
Amy: he's so cute!!!
me: toxic waste comes out his butt, amy
2:22 PM listen to me
that's not cute
Amy: you're right...

17 minutes
2:41 PM me: okay, new blog post
2:44 PM Amy: yay!
me: yes
now i feel like i got something done
2:45 PM Amy: aww .. i love that post!
i love your blog
2:46 PM me: aww, thank you
i don't know how great of a post it actually is
given the way i tried to frame the site
2:47 PM Amy: i think it's good
you can't have every post be the same, you have to have different kinds of things from time to time
2:48 PM right now, you're still posting the context of the blog... laying the foundation
in six months, you'll be able to do so much with it
2:49 PM me: this is true
okay, i just changed the picture
2:51 PM Amy: how come?
me: because i didn't like that one
i just snapped a similar one
2:54 PM Amy: it's cute!
2:55 PM me: haha good

3:10 PM me: let's run away
3:11 PM Amy: oh, please, yes
me: now that i wrote about seeing work and problems as necessary conflict, i'd rather avoid them
Amy: let's run away to a tropical place
me: okay!
Amy: with white beaches and fruity drinks
me: perfect
how do we get there?
Amy: airplanes
3:12 PM i think that should do the trick
me: oh whew
there are lots of those!
Amy: exactly
3:13 PM me: okay
we're going to have to figure out when
and how
and where exactly to
but i'm glad we have the basic framework down
you + me + airplane
3:14 PM Amy: + beach + booze
me: oh yes
those are important, too
Amy: = happiness
and... on-call massage therapists?
3:15 PM Amy: hell yes!
3:16 PM me: hurray!why aren't you here for me to bake you cupcakes??
Amy: because i suck
3:21 PM me: no that isn't it
it must be the work of some evil gnome or step-mother
3:22 PM (see how i'm incorporating elements of STORY into my interpretation of life? this is working really well for me!)
3:25 PM Amy: that could be... a curse
a curse to keep us apart
by some jealous party
me: everyone is jealous of us
Amy: i like this fairy tale already, because it doesn't involve a prince
me: so that doesn't really narrow it down much
Amy: that's true
me: haha
no princes for us
we make our own stories happen
Amy: just toads
3:26 PM yes, we do
me: we are the best people in the world.
3:27 PM Amy: without a doubt
me: i can't wait till they make us into a movie
3:28 PM we're going to start clothing trends and be almost as gorgeous as in real life
3:31 PM Amy: i just met the baby... HELP
3:32 PM tick tock
i promise you
Amy: ahhh
that's better

You don't have to talk about Deep Things with Deep People constantly to invest in someone. But investing more and more over time is what produces the best friendships, the best lives, and the best conversations.

Friendship fixed today.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I'm The Heroine Of This Story

I woke up today feeling GREAT. Cheerfulness is not normally one of my morning qualities, so even I was a little surprised to notice my mouth was curving into a smile when the alarm went off.

I thought, This is going to be a fantastic day! I am going to conquer the world!

But I didn't conquer the world. Or at least I haven't yet.

I went to teach my 7:40 class, running late but making it to campus just in time to walk in the room and remember I hadn't made copies for an in-class activity. No matter, I inwardly encouraged, you can improvise!

I then turned on my computer and hooked it up to the podium so I could play a speech for my students to analyze. Although it's worked every time before, the electronic innards of the podium decided it didn't want to connect my computer to the projector. I had to buzz for a tech guy to come make everything work. It's okay, I consoled myself, you're a great teacher and can adapt!

I dismissed my students and waved the last one out, only to see that I'd forgotten to hand back about five pounds' worth of exams. My inner voice was running out of nice things to say to me.

I drove home, changed into sweats, and began working on lesson plans for the Thursday Teaching Marathon. I wrote a lesson plan. Threw back a cup of coffee. Started a second plan. Threw back a second cup of coffee. Realized that I'd mismatched textbook and syllabus for a lesson plan, deleted it, and started over.

My inner voice was grumbling. And despite the coffee, my outer body was really sleepy.

So I took a break, and read a few pages from Don Miller's new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Barnes & Noble says it isn't out yet, but it is and they sold it to me.

Don talks to a friend about what defines a story, and his friend tells him it's "a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it." Don mulls this over, and talks about it with another friend who has a troubled daughter. This friend realizes that he has to apply the principle of story to his own family to help her. And it works.

In the movie, About A Boy, Hugh Grant's character talks about this idea of story by explaining his starring role:
The thing is, a person's life is like a TV show. I was the star of The Will Show. And The Will Show wasn't an ensemble drama. Guests came and went, but I was the regular. It came down to me and me alone. If Marcus' mum couldn't manage her own show, if her ratings were falling, it was sad, but that was her problem. Ultimately, the whole single mum plot line was a bit complicated for me.
Hugh Grants tends to play selfish (yet somehow lovable) jerks, but here he has a point. You are the main character in your story, I'm the main character in mine, and we are responsible for what we do with them. And if, like Don's friend, we realize things aren't going the way we want, we need to do something to create a better story.

I put down A Million Miles, pulled on some jeans, and went grocery shopping. And while it might not seem like a big step in advancing the story, it started me in the right direction. I'm typing away now, back home, munching on a custard-filled donut and slurping my third cup of coffee. I'm energized. I've reframed my mistakes and problems as conflict necessary to my story.

And I know that as the heroine in my own story, I will conquer them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

This Song Is Too Pretty. Literally.

This might be the highlight of my week.

My good friend Renee decided to write and record this song based on my signature phrase. She knew I've been having a rough couple of days/weeks/months, and found a great way to make me laugh.

Sorry about the quality of this video -- it isn't Renee's fault in the least. She created this on Facebook, and I went a few roundabout ways to post it to YouTube. The result was unmatched lips and words, apparently.

What has someone done for you recently that made you smile?

Monday, September 21, 2009

"Yes, and..."

What happens when you sit on a chair?

Well, it supports you. Or at least if tradition holds with the past several bazillion times in your life in which you've sat on a chair. But what would you do if instead it collapsed, and you found yourself in a pile of splintered wood on the floor?

We make assumptions every day. Reasonable assumptions, good assumptions based on experience, "no, duh" assumptions. We even make some bad ones, but more often than not we can rely on these pre-processed thoughts. Sometimes, though, they fail us.

I made such an assumption nearly a year ago with a job that I took. The reasonable, good, "no, duh" assumption might be explained later, but right now I'll just say that when it didn't pan out I quit. But that failed assumption had repercussions:
  • Because I was in a lease, I had to stay in a small town where there weren't a lot of jobs.
  • Being in said small town, I had to scrape together (at the last minute) a handful of adjunct teaching positions to make ends meet.
  • I am now unable to attend a dear friend's wedding that I'd been looking forward to for about a year.
  • I've had to put several goals on hold while I recover from the problems the situation has caused.
  • My health has deteriorated drastically due to stress, resulting in nearly chronic pain and susceptibility to things like the flu.
My problems are far from the worst, and I recognize the blessings that go along with these frustrations (hey, I have work, for example). But today, the negative has been weighing me down and crushing my spirit. I think the part I can't get past is that anyone would have made the same reasonable, good, "no, duh" assumption I made, yet in my case it was disastrous.

So when I was reading the last chapter of Trust Agents, by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, one part really caught me:

"One of the basic concepts behind improvisational comedy provides an example of how you, as a trust agent, should think. This is the practice of saying, "Yes, and..." [...] The premise of this rule is that to collaborate, you can never crush a scene by saying no to the imagination of another participant. Thus, if two people are in a scene, and one advances the story in some way, it's important to answer any question by first displaying your acceptance and then advancing the story: "Yes, and..."
Reasonable assumptions are great, and being screwed over sucks. Sometimes, even when it isn't your fault and you're just too pretty to do so, you have to start over. So if you haven't figured it out yet, this site is a part of my "Yes, and..." It's one of the ways I'm advancing my story.

How are you advancing yours?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Three Pretty Things : 9/20

Sundays are the days that I try to keep slow. I want to soak in the last restful bits of the weekend, breathe more deeply, and attempt to balance myself in preparation for the work week ahead.

I thought a nice way to do that here would be to share with you some beautiful moments. All the photos are mine (unless credited), and after today will always be taken during the previous week. I'm excited, because this commitment will force me to keep my eyes searching for what's lovely.

So here are Three Pretty Things.

I'd love for you to participate, too. Share your best moments from the week in the comments section below.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Flaming Iron, Part II

For those of you who have been asking about my little adventure with ironing and flames, here is the update.

The day after the incident, the maintenance guys came by while I was away and laughed themselves silly. Then they removed two burners and replaced them with new ones.

Why did they replace two burners? Because my iron had melted firmly to both, creating the odd object seen in the picture above. The guys had no choice but to take it all out at once.

I wish the pictures I've taken with my iPhone better depicted how fascinating this blob really is. It's been sitting on my countertop for a few days now, because I can't yet part with it.

You can see its innards!

With one of the trays that was also destroyed... but not bonded to with dripping plastic.

That nob used to move... but no longer.

Even friends have come by to take pictures of this mess. I'm not the only crazy (though I guess I'm the crazy who created it... oops). But now you all know... the REST of the story.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Why Do You Do It?

Why do I write?

Two weeks ago, I received an email request. One of my students asked if she could interview me, saying that she aspires to be a writer. She wanted to ask me a few questions for a project for another class.

So when I arrived to class half an hour early last night for our interview, I came expecting to hear typical project-type questions: How much can a writer expect to earn? (They can expect nothing.) How difficult is it to find work? (Finding work isn’t difficult, but getting work…) When were you first published? (How do we define “publishing” anymore?)

Many of the questions were standard and predictable. But then came one I didn’t expect.

“Why do you write the way you do?”

I had already explained that I like to write humorously, that I want people to smile. It took me a moment to formulate an answer.

“I write the way I do… because I think it’s important to laugh at life. Especially when it’s hard. Because if you can laugh, you can survive.”

I think we should all ask ourselves similar questions every so often. Your time and your energy are too valuable to waste in unfocused effort. Your talents are too unique to spend without a goal. You are too pretty to work aimlessly.

Articulating a purpose is important, yet so often we don't. But it only takes a moment to change that.

So tell me: Why do you do what you do?

Not Too Pretty For My Family

I'm not too pretty to remember where I came from.

I'm lucky. My mother doesn't care about my sweaters.

What are you not too pretty (aka, grateful) for today?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Bad Strategy? Having No Strategy

Yesterday was a tiring day.

Sometimes a day feels that way because you wake up still exhausted, but I didn't. I wasn't exactly a ray of sunshine, but I was rested. What set the tone for me was something that happened at 7:35 a.m., right before I began teaching class.

"Uh, Ms. Olson?"

I looked up from my computer and all the cords I was trying to attach to it to make it work. "Yes, Anonymous Student?"

He slid a paper across the podium toward me, and said, "Here's my assignment that was due Friday. I didn't bring it in because I couldn't get out of bed."

My jaw must've dropped open as I stared, because the blank eyes began to shift nervously. "You... couldn't get out of bed? You mean you didn't want to wake up in time for class and you're telling me that's why this assignment is late?"

"Well, I couldn't get out of bed."

"You were sick, then?"

"No, I just couldn't make myself get out of bed."

"So you want me to take your assignment... even though I don't accept late assignments... because you didn't feel like getting up on Friday?"


"This is advice. It's a freebie. If you want to persuade a professor to accept a late assignment, telling her that the reason it's late is because you were too lazy or didn't think it was important enough to get out of bed to turn it in is not a good idea."

My goal was not to teach this student to be deceptive or lie, but to communicate thoughtfully. He's an extreme example, but lots of people talk without any clear goal or strategy. Then they wonder why they don't get what they want.

Other classroom examples include students who try to argue their way to the grade they want (or my favorite: getting a parent to do that), or students who want grace with absences though they've been less than gracious in the classroom all semester. What's sad is that many of these students may never grasp that they're hurting themselves, and will take these behaviors into their future careers and relationships.

Where is the disconnect? It's that they don't have a communication strategy.

So while my students may never read this post... and people who need to read may never identify themselves as needing it... this is my very basic step-by-step for communicating with strategy.

First, one needs to employ a dual perspective. This means that a person can see that someone else has different ideas, ways of understanding information, and values systems by which to evaluate. It's important in communication to see how other people differ from ourselves in their perspectives.

Second, identify goals. What are you attempting to accomplish through the conversation? A student might want a late assignment accepted, or at work you might be lobbying for more flexibility so you can work from home. So that's your goal, but what might the goals be of the person you must persuade? Is there a way to acknowledge those goals, and show that your goals could coincide?

Third, approach the communication situation in a way that's comfortable for the other person. My student could've tried coming to me after class, when I make time to talk and answer questions. If he'd done so, he would've had time to explain extenuating circumstances (if there were any). Because he asked me before class when there wasn't a lot of time, I made a decision quickly -- and that rarely favors the asker.

Fourth, go ahead and communicate! But asking for something right off the bat often triggers a defensive response that equals "no," so make it clear before you begin asking that you understand the concerns and goals of the other person. It will help him or her to be more open-minded about the request.

Do you have anything to add to these steps? I think it's a good start, but I know I have smart readers. Tell me what you think in the comments!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

No More Ironing

I am far too pretty to be ironing shirts, anyway.

That is what I've tearfully concluded while sitting in my hazy apartment that still smells of burnt plastic.

As anyone who's been reading for a few days knows, I've been sick. And while I'm no longer contagious, I'm definitely still tired after fighting off that stupid flu. So when I looked at my range to heat up a burner, I was certain I chose the one that my pot of water was sitting on.

Looks like I chose wrong.

I got a whiff of burning plastic as my only clue. I looked over just in time to see huge flames burst from my iron. How could that be? My water wasn't even boiling!

I ran to my bathroom for a towel to beat out the fire, and threw open the front door on my way back to the kitchen. Smoke billowed straight for the fire alarm (are smoke particles magnetized?!) and set it off, so I had a soundtrack for my battle against the blaze. My internal voice-over sounded more like: should I be putting out the flames? Should I be calling 911? How am I going to tell this tale to maximum effect?

After I finally got the fire put out, the smoke detector continued to ring out its embarrassing story to my neighbors, and I called down to the office to ask them to come turn it off.

Then I called my mom because it is her job to make me feel better when I do stupid things. She told me about how she once took an ice pick to a refrigerator to help it defrost but killed it instead. That did the trick. The image of my mother attacking a fridge with a miner's pick is really what I envisioned, and I think that will be the image I use from now on when I need to not feel sad.

But the upside to this whole situation is that I will not have to iron anything for awhile. In fact, I might actually take this as a sign from the heavens that I really have no business handling irons at all.

Yep, that's how I'm going to spin this one.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Can Anything Good Come From The Flu?

My fever has broken, which up until today was a sign that I was almost ready to re-enter society. Unfortunately for me, I decided to be a responsible citizen and double-check the issue of viral spread, and learned that I might still be contagious... just not as contagious.


No one's sure, apparently.

One thing that is sure? I am sure that I will be leaving the house tomorrow, because I am absolutely SICK of these walls and this carpet and the view from my window and my neighbors giving me funny looks for hanging out on my balcony in plaid pajama pants all day. Cabin fever, anyone?

So while I'm still in my self-imposed (and selfless and heroic) quarantine, I decided to compile a list of all the things I have learned from this experience, which was my way of trying to find a silver lining. Here it goes in no particular order:
  1. I learned there are a lot of varieties of chicken soup that I never would've otherwised tried. Teriyaki chicken soup, I'm looking at you!
  2. Naked Juice comes in fun-sized containers that aren't nearly as fun as you'd think by looking at them.
  3. If you tell people via your Facebook status that you accidentally dumped Naked Juice all over your face, they will intentionally misunderstand you.
  4. It's dangerous to live in Ikea Heights.
  5. I realized that Stewie from Family Guy has a head shaped just like Arnold from Hey Arnold!, yet no one ever comments on that. Is someone covering up some incestuous cartooning?
  6. I CAN actually go without coffee for more than 24 hours without my head exploding. It was a close call, however.
I haven't learned anything especially valuable, it seems. But I want to hear from you! Tell me in the comments, what have YOU gleaned from some stupid situation over the weekend?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I'm Not Too Pretty (Or Sick) For These People

This was my day.

In an effort to contain my contagion, I stayed home for the third day in a row. I've been doing my utmost to make sure this particular flu virus dies with me.

The problem is that it gets super boring to sit on a couch all day. And even at my sickest, I'm too pretty to stay at home (seriously, the no-makeup and swollen eyelids look is a pretty close duplicate of some of the faces plastered on the New York Fashion Week runway models).

What I'm not too pretty for, however, is the kindness that's been poured all over the place by the people who love me. These are just a sampling of the check-ins I've gotten over the last few days.

I've gotten other messages of friendship, too... messages from people who were only mildly scared of my germs and much more concerned about my well-being.

Thanks, guys.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

This Is My Brain On Flu

Mass text message sent out by me, 6:23 p.m.:
"Here's how I know the flu is affecting my thinking: normally, I would not wonder at length about how hard it would be to make a topographical map of my butt, and if anyone has ever tried to make such a map before. I hate sick."
Response from Friend A:
"You are adorable. And I bet no one has done this."
"Then maybe I will be the first!"
Friend A:
"You are obviously too pretty to be sick."

I have the best friends in the world.

Friday, September 11, 2009

If I Had To Say Goodbye

When I originally wrote this earlier today, I wasn't sure I'd post it here. It seems too emotionally vulnerable and too targeted in its message to be something that you would want to read. My mom changed my mind.

She called and told me that the entire message -- not just the portion directed to her -- had her in tears, because it reminded her we don't know if this hour is the last, and that we need to tell people they're important to us.

I don't know if you'll feel the same. But I hope you do, and I hope you tell someone today how very precious he or she is in your life.

In a blog post I found via @SuzeMuse, Christopher S. Penn challenges people to decide what they'd say if they only had one hour left on earth. It's a relevant exercise, given that today is September 11, and that the people trapped in the South Trade Tower had approximately that long between impact and collapse. While the technology of eight years ago wasn't as fast or fancy as what we have available now, I'm typing this up in email... something many of those people could've done in their last moments.

So I'm taking this to heart. What would I say if I had to say goodbye?

Mom, I love you. I'm so thankful that whatever arguments or disagreements we've had over the years, you were the one I could call when I needed someone to say "I love you" and mean it. And it may not have meant much to you, but I appreciated that you always told me that before you even stopped to ask what was wrong. Your love came before anything else, and I knew it. I also want you to know that some of the things I like best about myself are things I know I got from you... my curly hair, my willingness to laugh at myself and nearly every situation, my sarcasm, and my ability to just talk to people. I'm so glad you were my mom.

Dad, I love you. I wish we'd spent more time together, had more in common, had been able to speak in a language more similar. I wanted to enjoy things with you and to know you wanted to know about the things that interested me. We've both made faltering attempts to reach one another, and I'm glad that we've at least tried. And I've come to understand what you're telling me when you ask about my car, my classes, or my computer... it's the way you ask, "Are you okay? Are you going to be all right?" Those are the ways you tell me you love me. Thank you for helping me to learn to be a critical thinker, to develop a passion for learning and educating others, and for always telling me that I was smart enough to do whatever I set my mind on doing. Thank you for teaching me that I was equal in talent and skill and mental capacity to any man, and that no one had the right to treat me as inferior. I'm so glad you were my dad.

Katie, I love you. You and I alternated between friendship and mortal enemy status while we were growing up, but I've always known you had my back. You might've hated my guts, but you always defended me against anyone else's words. We were sometimes-reluctant allies, but it's good to have an ally. It was good to grow up with you, telling our secrets in the dark when we were supposed to be asleep. It was good to have you when we celebrated holidays away from home, or mourned sad anniversaries that no one else understood. We are so different, but there's no replacing the blood and memories we share. Our hearts have been shaped by the same things, and I could never have a sister better suited for my life. Thank you for the ways you've loved me and friended me and cared for me. I'm so glad you were my sister.

Jerry, I love you. Before you were born, I didn't know if I'd like having a new sibling. Every doubt vanished the moment I saw you. You were red and wrinkly and had huge Elvis sideburns, but I melted and I loved you. You were the missing puzzle piece of our family, and your appearance made everything complete. I loved watching you and talking to you and holding you, and when I say I preferred (and still prefer) spending time with you over many of my friends, it's true. You're smart, funny, sensitive, and kind. You are growing into a good man, and my heart bursts at its seams when I think of how proud I am of you. One of my biggest regrets is that I haven't been able to live closer to you so I could see you grow. I hope you understand and forgive me. I promise I wanted to. Thank you for the way you've loved me and for being authentically you. I'm so glad you were my brother.

Amy, you have been my friend at my worst and at my best. You've been in more of my life than you were ever out of it, and that makes me happy. You're the one who gets phone calls that consist of unintelligible sobbing... and you always take them. And then you tell me to call back when I need to. A girl doesn't get too many people like that in her life. I'm glad we've grown into adults together, helping one another figure things out. I'm glad we've gone shopping, gone on ferry rides, gone on road trips, and gone crazy and back to sanity together. I hope when you think of me you remember my joyous and my silly moments, and the sad ones slowly melt away. I'm so glad you were my best friend.

Laura, how you have survived our friendship I will NEVER know. I have a lot going on inside of me, and you saw every version of it come out at some point or another. Living with me was an adventure, I'm sure, but I'm so glad that you decided it was worthwhile. I love that you are the person who will hug me when I just need a hug, and who will stuff me full of food when you think my sadness can be fixed that way. You love me fully because you know me fully, and I'm so glad you were my best friend.

Trevor, I don't know how in the world our friendship managed to grow into what it is now but I'm glad it did. You are someone who for no apparent reason decided to be a part of my life and then to unfailingly care about me. I know sometimes I haven't made that easy, but please know that I have truly enjoyed and appreciated our conversations and the times that you went out of your way just to watch TV with me. You knew I needed relaxation and friendship more than a solution, and that's what you gave me. Thank you. I am so glad you were my dear friend.

Ashley, without you I wouldn't have survived grad school. You know that's true, because who else would've made me watch the Teen Witch rap on repeat? Or the Next! midget endlessly? Those were vital to my graduate experience, and you provided them. You also let me complain, you listened to my fears, you gave me advice and told me when I was being a baby, and you always made space for me in your life. You are wonderful. I've missed having you nearby, but I'm so glad you and I became friends.

I'm running out of time... my hour is almost up. So to my friends and family who haven't been mentioned by name, please know I see you in my mind's eye. My heart recognizes the places you've camped out, the areas that would still be spartan if you hadn't danced into my life and made it beautiful. You have helped me through hardship, celebrated my joy, and given my life more meaning than it would've otherwise contained. My moments on this earth have been better because of you. So thank you for investing some of your limited time into me, and for believing it to be well-spent. You are loved, and I'm glad I knew you.

Oh, and P.S. to whoever would have my phone: feel free to call whoever made me miserable while I was alive, and tell them I died. Lay the guilt on thick. Then hang up and know I'm smiling.

That's what I would say if I had to say goodbye.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Why Am I Too Pretty For This?

Everyone has that moment.

The moment when time stops, and you look around at the situation you're in, and wonder, "How did I get here?"

You were careful. You made good decisions. You were kind and trustworthy to other people, and responsible about your obligations. You worked hard, thinking things would work out because that's what everyone told you.

Instead, you landed in a hot pile of MESS. Crazy people and even crazier roadblocks jumped in your way, leaving you to wonder what you did wrong or what red flag you missed. You have plenty of time to think about this, by the way, because you get to slog through the muck that usually surrounds a Solution.

I think these mucky moments are important, because they are where the best stories happen. They're the times in which one must make a choice.

And I don't know about you, but they're also the moments when I get angry, feel a sudden surge of energy and stubbornness course through my veins, and hear myself rage, "I am too PRETTY for this crap!"

I don't sit still and wait for my imaginary butler or Prince Charming to come fix it (though I might wish one or both of them would). I get up, I make things work, and I try to find a way to make sure that particular stupidness never happens again.

Odds are good you are too pretty for a lot of crap, too, but deal with it just like me.

So, this site isn't about vanity. It's about the stories of surviving often-humorous hardships of Life that our mothers and fathers and teachers inadvertently taught us only happened to other people.

Welcome to