New CDs

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I went on a binge and bought three new CDs today. I am in heaven. I got:
Courtney Love, America's Sweetheart
Annie Lennox, Bare
and
Just Because I'm a Woman: The Songs of Dolly Parton, featuring the likes of Mindy Smith, Melissa Etheridge and Alison Krauss.

AND I ordered all three of Mary Prankster's CDs the other day, so those should be here soon.

YAY for new music!!

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A beautiful day in my neighborhood

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Actually, it's not really all that beautiful--it's cloudy and I think it might rain. Still, I made a few observations about where I live while I was walking Chancey this morning, so I thought I'd share:

10 Things I Noticed on my Morning Walk
1. My neighborhood is full of very strange cats. These are large, fluffy cats who like to curl up into balls and sleep in the very center of a damp lawn. I have never seen cats behave this way before, both in terms of getting wet and in terms of being out in the open. And there are at least four of them along our route, all on different lawns.
2. There is one house that has two large vans and three full-size trucks parked in front of it/in the driveway at all times. How many people can possibly live there?
3. Same house as above still has their Christmas decorations up. Not just lights, either--it's a complete display, with Santa Claus.
4. There have got to be more birds here than anywhere else in the world. I'm not just talking about the plethora of grackles, either. There are also a jillion crows, a lot of very fat pidgeons, and a bunch of other birds I can't identify.
5. The mountain laurel is almost done blooming and falling off. Which is too bad, it's very pretty, and it smells like artificial purple (think grape Kool-Aid).
6. Some people on the corner have a giant prickly pear cactus. It stinks and attracts bugs. I had a very romantic view of cacti before I moved here. Now not so much.
7. We met the woman who walks the two French bulldogs in two different spots on our route today. I think she basically goes the same way we do, just in the opposite direction. Her little dog looks like this, her larger one is brindle and looks more like this. She's not terribly friendly.
8. Squirrels are mean little creatures. I like that about them.
9. There is a four-way stop on the major street we walk down, and I see someone run one of those stop signs nearly every morning.
10. The school in our neighborhood must start awfully early, because we walked by just before 8am (or maybe just after...) and all the kids were already inside.

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La Peste?

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I think it's time to seriously consider the possibility that God is smiting me.

I have hives. I have had hives, off and on, since late Monday night. My hives look more or less like this. Right now, they are centered mostly on the backs of my knees, the small of my back, and my inner thighs. They itch like nothing I have ever experienced before (I don't get poison oak and I can't remember chicken pox, so that is perhaps not saying too much). I am afraid they are spreading to my hands again, as they did Monday night. If they do, I will surely kill myself.

Since I haven't eaten anything weird or rubbed anything weird on my skin, I'm not experiencing anaphalactic shock symptoms, and I'm not particularly stressed, the only reasoning I can think of behind this plague is smitten by God.

Whatever I did, I'M SO SORRY!!!

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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So first I have to cop to my biases. I really like Jim Carrey. I liked him a thousand years ago in the oh-so-silly Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (though Courtney Cox tried desperately to ruin it), I loved him later in The Truman Show, and I really loved him as Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon. I have wisely avoided some of his probably less-impressive features (The Majestic?), and so I've been able to keep a pretty good ideal of him in mind.

Well, he fucking blew my mind in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Seriously. He's GREAT. He's understated, he's believable, he's likeable, and he's so...regular. Five minutes into the film I felt like his character, Joel, was someone I knew from college or something. It was wonderful. I suspected he had depth not only as a funny-ass comedian but as a real actor, and I was so so right.

Which brings me to the co-lead,Kate Winslet: My feelings about her have been mixed. She was in Titanic. That's hard to forgive. However, I liked her in Quills (and yes, I very much liked Quills--I've seen it three times--do I have to turn in my credentials now?), and I thought she made a great Ophelia in Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet. She was also good in Iris, but she was frankly outclassed by Judi Dench (which is not saying much--I can think of few people who would not be outclasses by Judi Dench).

But in this film, Kate Winslet shines. She's wonderful. She's so alive, so radiant, and so fucked-up. She felt like someone I knew, too, only she was someone who I wasn't sure if I absolutely loved or couldn't stand. Her "impulsiveness", her multi-colored hair, her trying so hard...it was great.

So you take these two really wonderful characters, played by actors who really know their stuff, and you put them in this completely unlikely and bizarre plot about memory erasure. Sounds like the making of something horrible, right? But it works SO well. The film is dark in places--really dark, asking questions not only about love and relationships and all that jazz, but about the relationship we have with our own minds and how much agency we really have in making the same mistakes over and over again--and in places it's hysterical. And for something that makes you think so hard about your own life, your own relationships, your own memories, you come out of it feeling amazingly good about life. And I put that on the actors and the direction--the plot isn't necessarily hopeful.

Another really stunning thing about this film was the visual effects. The low-tech spotlighting and the slow erasure of details in memory scenes was not only really cool to watch, but also really gave you a sense of being in a memory. The camera work was a little bit dizzying, though--I wouldn't suggest going on an upset stomach.

Downsides? Supporting performances, definitely. Kirsten Dunst is just bad. Her character is annoying and seems out of place, and her acting goes from mediocre to really bad. I wasn't terribly impressed with Elijah Wood, either, but honestly that could just be because I am so goddamn sick of seeing him everywhere. Tom Wilkinson, however, is great as the doctor in charge of the memory erasing procedures. He's just mad scientist enough, without going over the top. I really enjoyed his part in the film.

One other thing I have to complain about is the small role played by Jane Adams. I can't stand Jane Adams. And to be completely honest with you, it's because she bothered me so much in The Anniversary Party and I just can't get over it. That and she's way way too thin and I always get distracted from scenes she's in by marvelling at how thin she is.

All in all, it's a five-star movie and I'd highly recommend it. I know I'll be thinking about it for awhile.

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If my life had a soundtrack...

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This is super cool. I stole it from Sister Ananke.

1) Opening credits: "Hungry Like a Wolf" (Courtney Love's cover of the Duran Duran song)
2) Dreaming about someone scene: "Lovin' Her Was Easier (Than Anything I'll Ever Do Again)" by Kris Kristofferson
3) Waking up scene: "Just Like a Woman" by Bob Dylan
4) Happy friends scene: "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morrisette
5) Driving scene: "Me and Bobby McGee" by Janis Joplin
6) Action/fight scene: "Welcome to the Jungle" by Guns N' Roses
7) Chase scene: "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails
8) Happy love scene: "Rockabye" by Shawn Mullins
9) Mellow scene: "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlife" by A3
10) Choreographed Dance Scene: "Lucky Star" by Madonna
11) Sex scene: "Protection" by Massive Attack
12) Angry/bitter scene: "Sour Times" by Portishead
13) Breakup scene: "School Night" by Ani DiFranco
14) Evil/Revenge scene: "Asking For It" by Hole
15) Contemplation scene: "Anna Begins" by The Counting Crows
16) Sad/breakdown scene: "It's Not Going to Stop" by Aimee Mann
17) Death scene: "Missing" by EVerything But The Girl
18) Funeral scene: "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" by Simon and Garfunkel
19) Nostalgia scene: "Hour Follows Hour" by Ani DiFranco
20) Closing credits: "Sinking" by A3

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Thundering Paws!

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I have been meaning to write about this all week and am just now getting around to it. But it's worth the wait. Trust me.

On Monday, I accompanied S. to Thundering Paws. The reason for our visit was both happy and sad: Sad because S. has been forced to give up her long time companion, fat cat Oscar, but happy because she'd found a santuary to give him to. Though he is 13 (I think?) years old and in excellent health (and weighs at least 20 lbs I swear), Oscar has a bit of a spraying and peeing all over problem. More than a bit, actually. He does it all the time, all over. S. and T. have valiantly been putting up with this for years now, but since Baby Rutabaga is on the way and will likely be crawling around and eating things off the floor, Oscar had to find a new home. So, after much trial and tribulation, S. found Thundering Paws. A perfect fit!

But what I wanted to write about was what a complete trip this place was. For starters, it is W-A-Y out in the middle of nowhere, with a bumpy dirt road to ford and the whole works. Secondly, it's a house.

Yes, a house. A manufactured home that has been built on to some, if I am remembering correctly. But a house nonetheless, and a fairly average sized one.

And there are 67 cats, 2 dogs, and 4 rabbits there, along with one very compassionate human woman who is dedicating her life to taking care of all of these creatures.

When we first pulled into the driveway, we knew this must be the place not because of the sign, but because there were at least 12 economy sized gallon buckets of kitty litter stacked up out front. That was a pretty good tip-off that we were in the right neck of the woods.

Walking into what would I guess be the living room of the house was like entering another world. There were some regular living room pieces there--a couch, a small TV--but mostly there were cats. I'd say about 20 cats. All shapes and sizes. All friendly, playing with each other and rubbing up against us for loving, lounging in corners and on boxes, walking lazily about like they owned the place (which they obviously do). It was amazing. In an adjacent room (what would I think be the dining room), there was a large mesh cage with four giant rabbits in it.

Communal litterboxes (made out of Rubbermaid containers with holes cleverly cut in the lids, so the kitties can get in and out and have privacy, but there isn't unsightly litter all over the place) and food and water bowls were scattered about, but in general the place was very clean. Or at least as clean as you could possibly expect a living space with about 30 cats (there were another 10 or so back in other rooms) in it to be. It smelled, but it smelled, as S. pointed out, like a vet's office, more than anything else.

Where are the rest of the kitties, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. They're outside.

See, the "build-on" to this place is a giant screened porched. And on that screened porch are probably 40 cats. Some are ferile. Some are cuddly. Some are declawed, some still have claws. And they all live there together, like an outdoor kitty commune. It is so damn cool. And again, relatively clean. They still use litter boxes out there, and have communal food bowls and stuff. And they flirt/spat with the dogs, who are outside dogs and come up to the screen and bother them. It's like a normal situation, times 70 or so!

There were two really amazing things about Thundering Paws. The first is that the woman who runs it knows all the cats names and personalities. Even though there were at least six black cats who looked exactly alike to me, she knew them all and talked to them all. The second is how well the cats get along. They seemed so harmonious, all living there together. It just seemed really natural.

Anyway, I wanted to give a shout out to Thundering Paws and the amazing woman who runs it (I wish I could remember her name, but it's probably better not to use it here anyway). I think Oscar will be very happy there.

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Going to concerts alone?

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My friend Adam has a song that includes the lyric, "Bitterness becomes me, it makes me all aglow/I'm self actualized enough to go to concerts alone." I've thought that was fucking brilliant since I first heard it, since I myself am NOT self-actualized enough to go to concerts alone. Movies, either. I very much like to shop alone, but going to an actual event alone is generally beyond my self esteem.

Which brings me to my current conundrum: there is a concert tomorrow night I'd really really really like to see. It's Kris Kristofferson. I've seen him once before, and it was amazing. He doesn't tour all that often, and I think he's a local here, so I'm really psyched about the idea of the show.

But...

I can't think of anyone to go with me. I can't think of anyone who would like him, and I hate to drag anyone along if they are going to miserable.

So I need to go alone, and see above about that.

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I always...

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(Idea from She-Dork)

I always
*brush my teeth in the morning
*overthink things
*play with my hair
*worry about being late
*check my email and blogs and message boards every day
*remember to take my BC pill
*have dirty glasses

I never
*want to get up in the morning
*feel like talking on the phone
*remember to put my contacts in
*know how to say what I mean to say the first time I try
*talk to my dad
*feel like I'm finished with anything

I sometimes
*get migraines
*get sucked into Mark's stupid TV shows
*bite my nails
*yell when I don't mean to
*get carried away

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Much too much

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I realized today, suddenly, that I am trying to do much too much at once and I am in danger of failing at all my goals due to spreading myself too thin. Here are things I am working on:
1. Diet, exercise, weight loss
2. Stopping nail biting
3. Stopping recreational shopping
4. Finding spirituality

And that is on top of a pretty stressful work and school schedule, and this whole thing about the internship. So I've really been feeling like a failure, as if I'm doing everything half-assed and not suceeding at anything.

So it's time for a new plan. Refocus. I am going to keep working on my spirituality. I am not going to worry about my shopping for the time being, other than to try to keep it generally in check. I'm going to focus on excercise and worry less about caloric intake. I'm going to try to be patient and see where the chips are going to fall in terms of the internship.

Does that make sense, or am I copping out? I feel like I've totally lost perspective...

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Exciting News!

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I found out today that my abstract on HPV and cervical cancer in lesbian women has been accepted to the Working Together to Create Healthy Lives 2004 lesbian health conference in Chicago. I'm so excited! Huge thanks to Frog, who made this opportunity known to me in the first place.

So, between now and May, I've got to get my shit together. Actually, I have to do it before that, because I have a trial run presenting the same paper at a UT conference in late March. Basically, I'm talking about HPV as an example of a health risk that lesbians are very often misinformed about (by their doctors, no less) and how this is one example of the necessity for lesbian-sensitive health care policy in this country. Anybody want to read and critique? Next week is Spring Break, so I plan to do most of the work then.

Also, I have to figure out logistics. This conference coincides very nicely with a trip I was already planning to make to that neck of the woods (to visit both online and RL friends), so that's cool, I just have to figure out how to shuttle myself back and forth between the three relevant cities in question.

Ah! I'm so excited!

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The plateau

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I think I've hit the diet-and-excercise plateau. I've been working on it for three months, and I'm just completely sick and fucking tired of watching what I eat, of keeping track of what I eat and how many calories and what I weigh and what excercise I'm doing. I'm sick to death of exercise. I just want to eat what I want and do what I want. I'm discouraged.

And it's been working--I'm more than halfway to my goal. But I haven't changed weight at all in about two weeks, so that might be part of it. Part of it, though, is my tendancy to want to call it good enough and quit now. And if I did that, I know, I'd be back where I started in just a few months.

I need...inspiration. Why should I keep going? Why am I doing this again?

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That smell

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Once upon a time, a million years ago, I lived here.

As you can see, it's a wee bit institutional. It is also in a very rainy climate. Due to the combo of institutional-building-with-a-rubber-floor and constant wet feet, the stairwells had a very specific wet-rubber smell that I've never associated with any other place.

I just went downstairs in the office building where I work to get a snack from the vending machine. It's pouring outside. We have rubber stairs like MacNaughton did. I smelled that smell.

And I'm right back there, worried about my first Humanities paper, drinking to the point of getting sick, making late-night trips to Denny's or calls for pizza and sleeping only during daylight hours.

Yeah, I miss it.

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Looking for God

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I am an agnostic. Agnostic, according to dictionary.com, is a noun meaning:
1. a. One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God.
b. One who is skeptical about the existence of God but does not profess true atheism.
2. One who is doubtful or noncommittal about something.

I'd say I fit strongly into 1a and 2, and 1b really depends on the day. I used to describe myself as an "I-don't-care-agnostic," or someone who not only doesn't know whether or not there is a God, but doesn't particularly care, either.

But that is so, so far from true.

There are few things in this world I want as badly as I want to believe in God. And I don't just want to believe in some god, I want to believe in one with a religion already set up. I want the ritual, the community. Most of all, though, I want to experience faith. And I really try. I am, and have been for several years now, looking for God.

What I mean by looking for God is this--every time I see or hear of something I find truly amazing, I wonder if that was supposed to be my sign that yes, there really is a higher power, and I was just too stupid to recognize it? But then I second-guess myself, thinking that if I really had an epiphany, there'd be no question about whether or not that was the sign. It's like love, right? If you have to ask yourself whether you are in love or not, then you're not? Something like that.

And so I haven't found God. I've had people try to show God to me, though not in anything but the worst possible ways and never from anyone I actually respect. And I've tried not to look before, too, but now that I am looking, I want to know where the hell God is hiding?

This has the potential to disintegrate into serious rambles, so perhaps I should cut it short. This is a subject I've really been wrestling with lately, so I'll probably come back to it at some point.

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World's Best Gingersnaps

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I just made the best gingersnaps I've ever had. I already ate 1/2 dozen of them and they aren't even finished baking yet. So I have to post the recipe. It's "Grandma's Gingersnap Cookies," posted at All Recipes by Marie Ayers. I just made a few changes:

Ingredients:
2 cups sifted flour
1 tbsp ground ginger (I used about 1 1/2 tbsps)
2 tsps baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon (I used about 2 1/2 tsps)
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup shortening
1 egg
1/4 cup dark molasses (I used mild, because it's what I have, and I used a bit more than 1/4 cup)
1/3 cup cinnamon sugar (I mixed this one-to-one, but I really love cinnamon)

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Mix and sift the first five ingredients. Sift a second time and place the mixture back in the sifter. I think this double-sifting is important, because these have a really great tender crumb.
3. Beat the shortening until creamy. Add the 1 cup sugar gradually and continue beating. Beat in egg and molasses.
4. Sift the flour mixture in about 1/3 at a time, stirring after each. I switched to a wooden spoon here, because I am sad and do not have a real mixer.
5. Roll the dough into tiny balls, roll the balls in cinnamon sugar, put on a parchment covered cookie sheet. I think the tinyness is important here. I did mine small enough to get 5 dozen from this recipe. For some reason they are better smaller.
6. Cook. The recipe says it takes 10 minutes, I think it takes about 7. Tops are rounded and slightly cracked when when they're done. Cool on a wire rack.

These are spicy, so enjoy with good cold milk.

Yummy!

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More on the saga of Agnes

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Mom sent another email. Apparently Agnes told her nurses on Friday that she didn't want to eat, she just wants to die, but has since lost lucidity enough that she doesn't remember saying that or feeling that way and she isn't arguing with being fed now. It sounds pretty bad. Mom doesn't seem to think she's got too long.

I sent a card and picture last week. I'm not sure what else to do now.

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Self indulgence

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As I mentioned last week, I am abstaining from any sort of recreational shopping during Lent.

I'm also trying to lose weight, through both healthier diet and daily excercise. This effort is about three months old now. So far it's successful, I've lost 12 lbs and I feel a lot better.

I'm also trying to stop biting my nails. This effort is about a month old. So far it is also successful, my nails are grown out and they look great.

All three of these things take a lot of self-discipline. Self-discipline is not and has never been my strong point. When it really comes down to it, I'm basically an extremely self-indulgent person. I don't just mean as self-indulgent as would be natural for a white, middle-class American (although you'd think that would be self induglent enough!). No, I'd say I'm particularly self-indulgent. I'd say I'm self-indulgent to a very large fault. I have always been really bad at denying myself anything, and every time I do something even minorly good, I feel as if I deserve a reward.

This is where I'm running into a problem right now. I am sort of at a loss as to my reward system. I can't reward myself for not shopping with food, I can't reward myself for not biting my nails with buying something, etc. I keep telling myself that virtue is its own reward, but my self-indulgent brain just isn't getting it.

And this, of course, makes me feel really shitty about myself, which takes most of the joy out of the fact that I am actually successful, so far, in all three of my goals. And feeling shitty just makes me want to scrap the whole plan, write that I'm not Catholic anyway and if God is going to smite me, it's already gonna happen, and head to Target to buy some cheap shiny plastic shit.

Which would, I'm certain, make me feel even worse, probably setting off a cookie-eating and nail-biting binge. And then I'd be right back where my self-indulgent little ass started.

So...what to do? I'm trying to develop a plan, a reward system that has nothing to do with eating or shopping. So far I'm coming up empty handed. It seems that, like a good American, joy for me is all wrapped up in consumption.

Yuck.

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