Monday, February 27, 2012

A Short Ode to This Cat I Know

So, I have a cat.  His name is Stellar.

I named him after the song by Incubus because I liked it a lot, and since I was ten years old I had virtually no idea what it was about.  Now I don't even listen to Incubus, and since I've said the word so much over the years, "stellar" has no objective meaning to me anymore.  It's just my cat's name.
Stellar is annoying.  Don't get me wrong, I love my cat, but sometimes I just can't stand the little guy.  He's very talkative (meows a lot), which is sometimes pretty cute because you can talk to him and he'll meow back so it's like you're having a conversation.  Other times you're trying to write or think and it's like there's this fuzzy speaker at your feet screeching out feedback at random intervals.  You keep trying to figure out what's wrong with it, but apparently it's just built that way.  So why is it in the house?  You can't remember.

He can't stand being ignored.  For instance, I do most of my typing in the rocker-recliner in the living room, and he hates that I spend time staring at things other than him.  Yes, I rock and type at the same time.  Rocking back and forth, whether sitting or standing, is something I've done my whole life.  Whenever I don't think about it, my body just starts going on its own.  Any time I'm in this rocker-recliner, though, Stellar has to make sure I know he's around by positioning himself beside it so that I can't see him when I rock back, but when I rock forward he comes into view, mid-yowl.  He will not rest until you notice him.  Even once you do, he probably still won't rest.

Don't try to hold him, though.  Most of the time you can pet him so long as you watch out for random diva moments where he lashes out at you for trying to love him.  After all, why shouldn't your affection be answered with needle-teeth embedded in your arm?  Also, don't be offended when he immediately tries to lick off all trace of you the second you're done.  If that's not enough for you, pick him up and watch him transform from a cat into a thrashing mass of desperation incarnate.  Desperation to be rid of you.
Even so, I really do love my cat.  He's not much for social niceties, but there is one thing Stellar does that no other pet of mine has done: he tries to make me feel better.  I probably sound a little ""crazy cat lady" right now but I swear he's nicer to me when I'm upset.  If I raise my voice or start crying he comes running, meowing up a storm and bashing his face into my legs until I calm down and pet him.  When I got sick a couple months back he actually climbed into my chair and took a nap with me.  He's like some cantankerous old man who refuses to let on that he cares, but if you're in trouble he can't help it.

Also, he's fat, but his head is small, which makes me laugh a lot.

It makes me think of this:

"Fat cat with a little head"... Ok, I'm a dork.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Graduation Story

Once upon a time, this blog was more about random stories than how my life was derailing, and I think I'd like to get back to that.  I was trying to think of a good story to tell, and in the process of transferring pictures from my old computer to this new one (permanent hard drive damage, the poor thing was over five years old, anyway) I found this magic moment:

Allow me to explain.  This was the photo in my college's quarterly magazine of my graduation ceremony back in 2010.  It came out after I had already gone on to grad school, but my parents sent it to me because it captured one of the most disappointing moments of their lives.  Please note the circled area of the photo:

That's my family, but more on that in a bit.  First, have a little back story: my parents and older brother came to see me graduate, and it was some complicated business.  My brother lives in Pennsylvania, and was having car trouble at the time this all took place, so my parents drove up to get him and brought him back to Ohio the day before driving six hours to my school in Illinois.  All that car time made them good and worn out, not to mention a little tired of each other by the time I saw them.  We had dinner, packed most of my stuff, then they hit up the hotel and I didn't see them until after the ceremony.  And when I did see them again, they were pissed.

Apparently, my family got up extra early in order to get the best seats for my graduation.  I'm the first of us to get a degree, so it was kind of a big deal, and they were excited.  Over an hour passes.  Then the ceremony starts, and a bunch of really boring and long-winded people speak for an amazingly long period of time.  More hours pass.  Then it finally comes time for us graduates to stand and line up for our walk.  My college is pretty small, but there are still several hundred people to get through, so they are calling the names quickly and we are all basically booking it across the stage.  My time draws near.  In the first row of the audience seating, my family sits up straighter in order to see.

My mother's camera is at the ready.

Then, the unthinkable happens.

Just as my name is called, a large man in purple shuffles by in front of them, blocking their view.  By the time he passes, I'm already done.  They missed it.  Hours upon hours of driving, followed by hours upon hours of droning speeches, all for what?  They had absolutely nothing to show for themselves.  In short, a travesty.

Everything that happened afterwards, the last bit of packing, the "celebratory" dinner, the six hour drive back home, was cast in the gloomy shadow of this nameless, purple-wearing ruiner of my parents dreams.  They even had a picture of him, since my mother already had her finger on the shutter button when he walked by.  All they talked about for days afterwards was this guy and how much he sucked.  I felt bad for them, but I was getting tired of it.  After all, I still graduated, didn't I?  Just because you didn't see it doesn't mean it isn't real.  They believe in god, so it shouldn't have been so hard for them.

By the time I moved to southern Ohio for grad school, everything had pretty much blown over.  I was there a couple weeks, still getting settled in, when I got an e-mail from my mother.  "You won't believe this," it read, "they caught it on film!"  Which brings us back to the picture I showed earlier, with my family circled.  Let's take a closer look at them, shall we?

You see that?  That's my family right in the middle of having their view obstructed by an asshat in a purple shirt.  Poor guys.  Just when they were starting to recover, my school had to add insult to injury by immortalizing the moment in print for every current and former student of the institution to see.  I couldn't believe it.  I immediately called my mother, just so she could hear how hard I was laughing.  She did not laugh along.

And so went the first major accomplishment in my life.  At least everyone except my parents got to see it, right?


On a somewhat unrelated note, I've been thinking more about this Blogging from A to Z Challenge coming up in April.  At first I was just going to go with random topics, because the thought of having some kind of theme made me cringe.  However, I started trying to pick topics for each letter, and I realized the things I was coming up with were too broad to be addressed in daily entries.  If you haven't noticed, my entries tend to be on the longer side, and I highly doubt I'm going to put together any of my challenge entries together ahead of time, so obviously I am going to have to make them shorter.
So I came up with idea of using songs.  Each day I'll find a song starting with the appropriate letter and tell a little story about its significance or something it reminds me of.  Nice and simple.  I'm also going to try and write a normal entry once a week from now on.  Keeping ideas flowing and getting them out is good for my sanity.  One blog entry and one poem, every week from now until... whenever.  For my health.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ten Things

Ok so my birthday was Friday, and I decided to make a list of things I like right now in honor of it.  Originally the list was going to be twenty-three things, since that's how old I just became, but the more I thought about it the more I wasn't sure I'd be able to come up with that many things I liked.  So I cut it to ten, for the tenth.  Here we go:

10. The Parlor Mob

I always turn on one of the Music Choice channels when I'm reading, writing, or doing pretty much anything except watching something else on television.  This song came up, and the singer's voice really got my attention.  Upon looking up more of their stuff I've found that these guys are pretty great at being unhappy, and if there's anyone who appreciates the finer points of discontent, it's me.

9. Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse
What you have here is comic about a worm demon who occupies the right eye-sockets of dead bodies in order to fight supernatural crime alongside a stripper and a robot.  Yeah.  I was drawn to this series primarily because of the art, which is amazing.  Ben Templesmith is the artist behind the "30 Days of Night" comics, and if you're curious about what that art actually looks like, you can check out his blog right here.  He writes "Wormwood" as well as illustrates, and the result is one of the best combinations of horror and comedy I've seen in a while.  The horror/comedy combo is kind of "in" these days (Shaun of the Dead and on up from there), but most movies or books in this genre tend to be more like comedies with a few horror elements, or just using some typical horror scenario for the story's backdrop.  Not here.  Here there's some really gory, freaky shit going down.  But it's still funny.  There are demons, leprechauns, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (my favorite!), and a surprising amount of tentacles showing up when you least expect them.  I love it.

8. This Fake Ad for Downton Abbey

If you don't know anything about the real show, this probably isn't very funny.  I for one am obsessed with Downton Abbey.  It's the most ridiculously dramatic thing I've ever seen, and SNL pretty much got it down pat.  We've been quoting "you just pissed off the chicken lady" at my house for the past several days.

7. Extended Family
According to ABC News, January and February have the highest death rates out of the year.  I personally have a lot of experience with deaths in February.  Earlier this week, my cousin's grandfather passed away after a long illness, and his funeral was Saturday afternoon.  It was a military funeral, and afterwards we sang "Happy Birthday" and had cake.
Now, in the technical sense, I am not related to this man.  He was connected to my family through marriage, but a divorce ended that before I was even born.  I didn't realize that until I was a teenager.  The thing is, my family never kicks people out.  Whether it's a divorce or the foster system or your own stupid mistakes, you can still come back and hang out with us, no questions asked.  That's why I knew the man we honored today, and that's the thing I like about extended family.

6. This Picture
This is my brother and I, quite some time ago, at the Universal Studios theme park's King Kong ride.  I was looking for something in the cubboard over the refrigerator and found this instead.  His birthday is this Monday, and I'm sure he'll be thrilled if he ever sees this gem made its way onto the Internet.

5. Dooce
A professional blogger who talks about being a mom, a former Mormon, and haver of emotional problems.  I like her because she a fellow Heather-in-arms who writes beautifully, and consistently introduces me to new music and interesting stuff on the Internet.  Also, she's been blogging since 2001, so there's a fascinating amount of information about this one person available at your fingertips.  You can sit there and act like you're above voyeurism, but everyone knows that's what the Internet is all about.  So click away.  There's a whole life on here.

4. Good Guy Lucifer
So pretty much everything on Quickmeme gets done to death, but there are some real diamonds in the rough within the Good Guy Lucifer category.  As a former studier of religions, and an even more former follower of religions, I have a soft spot for this kind of humor.  Here are a couple of the better offerings:

I particularly like the one about Job, but that's a story for another time.

3. Potbelly Sandwich Shop
We don't have these where I live, but there are plenty of them around the Chicago area, where I was last weekend.  I've heard they sell sandwiches, but all I ever get there is soup.  I love soup.  Soup is one of the better things humanity has come up with over its existence.  There was a Potbelly's right by my college when I was an undergrad, and every couple Sundays I was there for some broccoli cheddar soup and an Oreo milkshake.  I've been told this is an odd combination, but the people saying that are usually getting sandwiches instead, so I don't trust their judgement.
This place also has oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, which I love because most oatmeal cookies have raisins, and I really don't like raisins.  My paternal grandmother used to throw raisins in her apple pies a lot, and I always wondered why someone would willingly ruin such an awesome food with such a nasty shrivelled fruit.  So when I had my chance, I bought a little bag of raisin-free oatmeal cookies to take home.  I've been told that I could easily make these cookies myself, but then they wouldn't feel so special, or rare, and I probably wouldn't like them as much anymore.

2.  Bad Lip Reading
How to explain this... what this site does is take music videos and sound bites and dub over them with words that are completely different, but look the same when you say them.  Does that make any sense?  An example might help.

I love when the Fergie's voice over randomly says "piano".  BLR has also started doing soundbite voice overs for the Republican candidates, and I can't believe how well done they are.  It really looks like Gingrich is talking about crumping.

1. An Idiot Abroad
It shouldn't be this funny to see someone so miserable.  But it is, and that's why Ricky Gervais pays for his friend Karl Pilkington to travel around the world and experience extreme discomfort for a television audience.  Last year this poor guy was sent to the New Seven Wonders of the World (the ones are gone, I guess, so they had to pick out new ones).  It sounds really cool, and under normal circumstances the travel would probably be fun, but they go out their way to make Karl's experience unhappy.  When he goes to see Petra, he is set up with a group living out in the desert who feed him lamb's eyes and testicles for dinner.  They also tend to set him up in shady hotels and give him "guides" that make him miserable.  At the Great Pyramids (the only "old" wonder he sees), he meets up with this new-agey couple that thinks the pyramids connect to some kind of extraterrestrial life?
Anyway, now there's a season two, and they're making Karl do things that most people want to do before they die.  He chooses which thing he's going to do, but then Ricky goes behind his back and pretty much makes the trip unbearable.  The last episode I saw, where Karl wanted to go whale watching, they forced him to go dog-sledding and glacier-watching (don't know what else to call it, they were looking at glaciers), and then they set him up on a fishing boat for several days where he's forced to work.  By the time he actually gets to see some whales, he's so tired and seasick that he doesn't even give a shit and barely looks at them.  Here he is dog-sledding:

Yeah, he calls the dogs "twats" at one point.  It's not all about revelling is someone else's pain, though, I genuinely think Karl is a funny guy and I like hearing him talk about what he's going through.

So there's my advertisements for the ten things I like.  I'm so glad I didn't go with my original idea of twenty-three, since this list ended up taking three days for me to make.  If it was any longer I'd be passed out somewhere bleeding out my ears by now.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Shifts in the Gears

This past weekend I went on a trip to the Chicagoland area, where I went to college, to see some friends.  It was a good weekend.  I spent my time eating good food and talking with good people, and I'm not really sure you can ask for much more than that.  There was also a great deal of driving.  The Akron/Cleveland area is about seven hours from the Chicago area, not including that tricky time zone which makes the ride either six or eight hours depending on which way you're driving.  Good thing I love driving.

I've written before about how easily I get lost, so maybe me driving doesn't seem like a great idea.  However, the advent of the GPS has done wonders for my ability to get around, and I do my best to keep mine updated and in perfect working order.  My Garmin is almost like a passenger in the car when I'm on a long trip, she gets pleaded with and yelled at, all the while responding in her all-too-pleasant voice that, in some of my less composed moments, causes me to suspect her of sarcasm.

"Are you mocking me, Garmin?"
"Damn you!"

But Garmin always gets me through.  I only made one wrong turn this entire trip, and she fixed it within two turns, so I have nothing but gratitude towards her, and my parents for giving her to me last year when I left home.  They were probably worried I'd never find my way back again without her.  What I really love about Garmin, though, is that she takes care of figuring out where I am so I can just focus on driving.

I'm not sure what it is I like about driving so much.  It could be the speed (speed limits or speed suggestions, who's to say?), the sense of freedom that comes with getting out on the highway (I pass signs that say "Exit such-and-such to Wisconsin" or whatever and think "Well I could just go that way if I wanted.  I could go anywhere.").  There is also the fact that driving takes just enough focus to keep my mind off all those things that churn the panic-filled cauldrons in my head, but not enough to engage my mind completely.  I think pleasant thoughts while driving.  Also, I sometimes get good ideas in the car, or come up with the answer to something that's been bothering me.  There were things I was upset about before I took this trip, but the drive gave me the peace and time I needed to think through them.

There is something special, as well, about ending a long trip.  As soon as Garmin says a street I recognize, something hits in the space between my heart and my stomach and I fill up with the word "home".  I get excited and start cutting Garmin off in the middle of her sentences.

"Turn left on..."
"I know!"

And when I pull into my driveway, I feel content.  I feel like I have changed somehow, that the drive has cleared my mind, and that when I wake up in the morning things will be different.  They aren't, of course.  Everything is exactly how I left it a few days ago, but I feel better about it now.  Fifteen hours in a one woman think tank can do wonders.  The people I hung out with in between didn't hurt, either.

So that's where things are right now.  I've come up with some ideas on how to get this life of mine in gear, but I'll wait to see what pans out and what doesn't before going into details.  One thing I will be attempting is to blog more often.  This right here is only my thirty-first entry, and I've been using this blog for over a year.  I'd like for this outlet to be used more often, to be more positive, and not just a place to purge all my negativity.

NOTE: I will definitely still be purging negativity on here, just hopefully not as often.  I have other emotions.  It is time to use them.

This is, in part, why I'm signing up for the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge.  Basically, you write one entry a day the entire month of April, excluding the Sundays (except April first is a Sunday, so you include that one), with each entry's theme corresponding to a letter of the alphabet, beginning with "A".  I'm usually not one to sign up for things like this, but I like the idea of having something to drive my writing here, to force me into writing more often.  It also takes the pressure off coming up with topics, since you're limited by the letter of the day.  Writing entries here tends to fuel my writing poetry, and my writing in general has fallen to the wayside over the past couple months, so hopefully this will give me something of a jump start.

It may seem like April is far away, but it isn't.  I know this because my birthday is next Friday and I never saw it coming.  People are asking what my plans are, and I feel incredible pressure to appear social and interesting.  That calm post-drive feeling is already beginning to fade.