Sporadic

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I haven't been much for the blog updating recently. I'm not sure why--it's not that I don't have anything to say, it's more that I don't have words to say things in. I feel strangely mute recently.

My birthday has come and gone. Through no fault of anyone's but my own, it was less than I had hoped. I had a very nice dinner party the night before, and my friends were great and the food was good, but my heart just wasn't as in it as I'd have liked. Part of the problem was that Mark and I spent a large part of the weekend arguing (arguments for which I am probably mostly responsible). Part of was just...me.

I did get really fabulous birthday presents, though. The greatest thing was that they were all from local/small businesses, which I think is great. I got some beautiful earrings and a book from Siobhan's family, a spa gift certificate from Mark, and a donation to Blue Dog Rescue from The Princess. Then I got a package from my mom, containing soaps and pottery from my home town. So that was all very nice.

The next big thing is that classes start tomorrow. From here on, I work four days/week (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday) and go to school one day (Wednesday, in case you couldn't do the math there). I don't actually have class Wednesday afternoons--just Wednesday morning from 9-noon and Wednesday evening from 6-9. So that should be an OK schedule--I'm looking forward to having an afternoon off every week. Of course that will just give Mark one more way to foist all errands and chores off on me (this was the subject of most of our weekend arguments, and I guess I'm still sore).

I have never been ambivalent about starting a new school year. Always, from first grade up through my first year at LBJ, I've been excited. I'm really not very excited this time around. Mostly, I just want to get it over with. Partially I guess I'm not excited about anything right now (it may, perhaps, be safe to say that the Wellbutrin isn't working so well this time around--damn), but partially it's that I know I am going to school for something I am not the least bit interested in. That being said, I got the syllabus for my Family Policy course this morning, and it looks to be both extremely intense (several hundred pages of reading a week in a lot of sources, plus a 2-3 page memo every week, plus a hardcore sounding final policy research project and proposal) and fairly interesting. So perhaps all hope is not lost. We'll see.

It has taken me a long time to get here (four years since I graduated, and it seems like longer), but this fall I really, really miss Reed. Acutely. I wish I were there. I mean, I know I don't really wish that--I've been through it once, and it wouldn't be fun a second time around--but I'm very nostalgic for it, both in terms of looking forward to real academic classes that I can guarantee are going to kick my ass and make me think, and in terms of the comraderie and friendship of the folks I was surrounded by. It's ridiculous, really--I know intellectually that I hated living communally (the mess!), that Reed's pretention annoyed me to no end, etc. But I miss it right now.

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Broken Flowers

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broken flowers movie posterI am a fan of the films about profound loneliness and existential angst. I think Lost in Translation crossed the line from good to brilliant, and I don't think that about all that many movies. If you aren't a fan of angst cinema, however, then probably you should just skip this whole review, 'cuz it's going to come off as a bit bullshitty.

That being disclaimed, Broken Flowers is a grade-A fabulous film. It deals with some of the same concepts (regret, longing, loneliness) as a lot of Bill Murray's more recent work (Lost in Translation, Rushmore), and the character he plays is uncomfortably similar to his characters in those films, but it's still worth watching. I think one reason that it is worth watching Murray play essentially the same character is the (some might say overdone) focus on travel in Broken Flowers the film. While Rushmore dealt with a hometown hero, and Lost in Translation dealt with an anonimity and discomfort of a completely foreign culture, Broken Flowers deals with the loneliness of travel, which is a different monster and enough of a change to keep you interested, even if you have seen Rushmore and Lost in Translation several times each.

Another thing that kicks this movie up several notches are the stellar performances by the women in it. First off, how great is it to see any film with several (hawt!) actresses over 40 in it? Sad that I have to be so excited about the novelty of that, but there it is. Secondly, these women are GREAT. My favorite is Tilda Swenson's (remember her for being the only palatable part of Constantine?) character, Penny. What I particularly liked about Penny was that she was the only character who acknowledged the invasiveness and amazing sense of entitlement in showing up at someone's house when you haven't seen her in 20 years, and she acknowledged it by getting good and pissed off. She's only in one short scene, but it's a great scene. (Sidenote: If her lughead husband hadn't gone on to beat Bill Murray up, it would have been a better scene, but it was good to see a cameo by Chris Bauer, who I really miss from The Wire.)

The other female performances are nearly as good as Swenson's. Sharon Stone is lovely (and surprisingly funny) as single-mom-and-closet-organizer Laura, and Jessica Lange is fabulous, as always, as animal communicator Carmen. The other real gem, though, is frustrated Stepford wife/real estate agent Dora, played by Frances Conroy. Her performance was almost enough to make me wish I'd watched Six Feet Under (but not quite).

The smaller female roles are filled by younger women, and they are not as perfectly cast, but are still mostly good. While I wasn't particularly impressed with Chloe Sevigny's turn as Carmen's assistant, or with Julie Delphy's portrayal of Sherry, the girlfriend who leaves Don at the beginning of the film, I quite liked Alexis Dziena as Laura's oversexed teenage daughter, Lolita (yeah), and will watch for her in other things.

Another thing that sets this film apart is the fact that it is really funny. In retrospect, I can't tell you what, specifically, about it is funny, but the theater I saw it in cracked up several times, and I cracked right up with them. I think it's one of those films that is funny without smashing you over the head with it, which is appreciated, especially in the summer.

Giving a plot synopsis would bore me, and probably you as well, but if you want to read one, Roger Ebert's (jerk) is here.

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Another take on Dora

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I have been thinking a bit more about it, and although everything I said in my previous post was indeed true, I think there is more to it. Though it's clear I'm not made of tough enough stuff to withstand the world Dora lived in, I'm not sure she wouldn't wilt in my world as well.

I'm usually the first person to start rolling my eyes whenever anyway waxes nostalgic about the "good old days," but there is something to having a simpler way of life. Sure, Dora worked her ass off, and lived in a weirdly gender stratified world, and had little for outside amusement, but she was also never alone. She probably never felt that she was letting down everyone she'd ever met by not having both a beautiful family and a glamorous career (or at least one or the other). Dora knew what was expected of her. While there is no way for me to know that she didn't suffer from crises of self-awareness and searches for a faith that never comes, there is no indication in the first year of her journal that she has.

While it is true that we are, in many ways, a nation of spoiled whiners compared to previous generations, and while it is true that, again compared to previous generations, we have it almost laughably easy (or at least the middle class and up do), it is also true that we live bizarrely complicated, fragmented existances. We are both blessed with choices and damned by them. And that is a little bit of what has me in such a state recently. I'm questioning everything: my "career," my relationship, my own self-image. While I still remain sure she was twice the woman I can ever hope to be, I'm also a bit jealous of Dora for not having those questions, or at least not having the time or inclination to dwell on them.

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Arms of Eden

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Ah. There's so much, and I feel so marginally capable of communicating it.

I am listening to this over and over again. I don't know why.

this is my home, this is my only home
this is the only sacred ground that i have ever known
and should i stray in th dark night alone
rock me goddess in the gentle arms of eden
*

Dora

I'm reading a diary written in 1929. It's the journal of Hazel's (my stepfather's mom) mother, Dora. She kept journals from 1929 all the way into the early 70's, and my mom is transcribing them and sending them out one year at a time. Mostly, she talks about the (endless) farm work, the local people, who visits, etc. Occaisonally she come out with something amazing, like her March 31 observation: "Turned the new rooster out today and he seems master of the situation." At the time of her first entry, Hazel, her eldest, is 19. Her other four children are each two years apart all the way down to the baby, Hugh, who is 11. She's a woman with her hands full. And she's so competent and seems so...satisfied. It blows my mind.

And then I think about her journal as compared to my ramblings here, and I am so embarrassed. How, in just a few generations, did we get from tough, self-sufficient, satisfied Dora to whiny, narcisstic, spoiled, overmedicated me? And what kind of good, hard-working, Scottish-Dutch peasant stock am I showing, constantly depressed and crabby and unhealthy? Always in bed, always taking a pill, always making problems from nothing? I'm an embarrassment. Seriously.

I am a college-educated, well-employed white female in 21st century America. People don't get much luckier than me. It is definitely time to re-evaluate.

*"Gentle Arms Of Eden", 2000 Dave Carter / Dave Carter Music (BMI)

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Restless

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Considering my age and the time I've spent in school, my resume is very reasonable. It shows someone who has held professional jobs of progressing responsibility, with increased salary in every new position (except for jaunts into non-profit, but that's to be expected). What it also shows, however, is someone who has never had the same job for more than one year's time. For the most part, these short stints can be explained with circumstances--jobs in college that were only for the summer, leaving due to moving or return to school, leaving a part-time gig in order to take a full-time one, that kind of thing. There is only one case of actually quitting job #1 to take job #2, and that is easily explained as a financial decision, as job #2 paid half again as much as #1 (that whole non profit thing again). But I'm afraid that even if I didn't have these reasons, my resume would still show a bunch of one-year stints, because the truth is that I can't stand to do the same thing for very long. Things that I found only mildly tedious in the first three months grate on me to no end by month eleven or so.

It used to be that I thought I just had boring jobs, and that could still be the case, but I think it's not. I've watched my pattern carefully this last time, and I know I liked this job to begin with, or at least it didn't make me want to scratch my eyes out like it does now. I think there is a direct corrolation between feeling like there is not much left to learn and feeling like it's time to move on. From an employer's standpoint, that has to really blow, as the employees that don't have much left to learn are the ones that they'd like to see stay around, and I have highly irritated and inconvenienced at least one boss already by bailing at the one year mark, just about the time when he figured I had it all down.

So am I about to do it again? Maybe. It looks like there may be a job offer on the horizon, and I can't say I'm not excited at the prospect. But is that irresponsible, leaving a perfectly good job after a year because it is boring you to submission? Is it a good idea to consider a new, probably higher stress job just when I am getting into some outside-of-work things (my sewing classes and going back to school in a few weeks being at the top of that list)? Would this new job allow me to continue part-time school? Is it a deal-breaker if it wouldn't? Are the whispers I have heard of the possibility of working from home going to turn into something substantial? Would it really be more money? Do I fancy going back to being a regular employee, rather than a contractor? Or would it be best to stay where I am, safe, well taken care of, and bored out of my mind, if only to break the one-year cycle on the resume?

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Monday meme

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Today's Monday Meme is about appearance. Probably not a great subject for me right now, but I am devoid of content, so I'll do it anyway. It's from here.

1. What physical feature do you get complemented on the most? What do you think of that feature?
I have always gotten compliments about my skin. So far, I've been really blessed with very clear, smooth skin with consistent color. It's nice. My mom said her's was like that until she was in her 30s, though, so it could be temporary.

2. What do you like best about your appearance?
I like that my body is generally pretty competent and athletic looking, at least when clothed/when you don't look too closely. Also, I have a great back.

3. What do you like the least about your appearance?
Currently, quite a few things. Hair needs correctional color, is too dry, has dandruff. Sick of wearing glasses. Overweight, with hips as wide as a damn doorway. Funny, pointy face that never looks anything but scary in photographs. You name it.

4. What is the most extreme thing you have done to try to change your looks? Surgery? Hair dye? Dieting?
Lots of hair dye--just about every color under the sun. Going from long hair to very very short hair (I've actually done this two or three times).

5. If you could look anyway you wanted, how would you look?
This is a really intersting question, and it's one I don't really have a pat answer for. The physical body I see going with my internal self is NOTHING like what I really look like. I imagine myself as small, short and slight, which I have never been. But I don't know that I would really choose to look that way. I think it's more likely that I'd want to look like me, but on my very best day. Me only better. Sounds like a cosmetics slogan, doesn't it?

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Leo!

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He's absolutely fabulous. He's sweet and gentle (even has an amazing soft mouth). He is warming up to us very quickly. For the first two days, he was almost completely immobile (as in, we had to put a leash on him to get him up off the dog bed for any reason), but now he wanders around and follows us from room to room. He has shown no signs of aggression or fear. We're bonding. Mark and I are both in love with him already.

So far, things have gone better than I ever would have even dared to hope. There are no behavioral issues to speak of (he doens't know any commands, so I suppose that is something, but given his personality it barely matters). He is house trained. He's a dream.

His age and health are a little bit of a concern, but not too much. Dr. Julian (our vet) is estimating him to be about 6, which is senior for a dog his size, but he's in good shape. He has a bit of arthritis in one hip, but a few days of anti-inflammatories have made a world of difference, so it may well be something we can control with natural means (as well as exercise and taking some weight off him) and then just use the anti-inflammatories for flare-ups. That's the hope, anyway.

One decision we are facing now is whether or not get a preventative gastropexy for him. The surgery would make it all but impossible for what happened to Chance to happen to him. However, it could be a major procedure (they try to it orthoscopically first, but sometimes have to go in if that doesn't work) and any kind of anesthesia for a dog that size can be dangerous, especially given the advanced age. It's also spendy (about $1,400). So we are thinking about it and will talk to Dr. Julian more about it on Saturday when we take Mr. Leo in for his vaccinations.

I thought having Leo would make me miss Chance less, but it doesn't. It is better, though. Having him feels right.

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