Disasters


I missed the memo about disasters.

So, what a week, right?  Between the earthquakes in Colorado and Virgina and Hurricane Irene, it’s been pretty much non-stop disaster action.  Even for folks like me who weren’t in line of fire, it was pretty exciting stuff.

I’ve lived in California for over ten years now and in that time, I’ve felt an earthquake or two.  Nothing like Northridge, but enough shake a picture off the wall.  Being 17 stories up when a quake strikes is a little weird, that’s for sure.  And though the recent quake in Virginia resulted in mercifully little damage, you won’t hear me mocking the folks who were fairly overcome with anxiety.  Even if the building doesn’t come down around your ears, when a building shakes, it is deeply disorienting and pretty terrifying.  I may live in California the rest of my of life and I don’t think I’ll ever be “used” to earthquakes. 

Before moving to California, I spent my formative years in Navy towns, and living on the coast in both Texas and Virginia, I’ve seen hurricane or two in my day.  Hurricanes are pretty messed up, but theoretically, you have plenty of time to get out of their way.  (That’s what made the loss of life from Katrina so freakin’ shameful; if the preparation and response machine had been firing on all cylinders, no way so many people would have died.) 

My most memorable hurricane experience was Hurricane Allen, which struck the gulf coast of Texas in 1980.  We lived on the Navy Base in Corpus Christi and when the Navy says there’s an evacuation order, it’s pretty much non-negotiable.  We were herded into the base’s movie theatre, and it was all fun and games until the power went out.  And there we stayed.  With no electricity.  For three days.  I remember eating a lot of warm dill pickles and drinking a lot of canned pineapple juice, and to this day, neither is particularly appealing.  Once power was restored to the chow hall, they bussed us refugees over for a hot meal. When I took that first bite of warm buttered toast, it was like manna from heaven.  Usually, a hurricane won’t kill you, but it can strip you of your civilization pretty quickly and completely.  And you really don’t realize how cozy life usually is, until it isn’t. 

The one natural disaster that I haven’t experienced and hope I never do is a tornado.  With an earthquake, you get no warning.  With a hurricane, you get days to prepare.  But with a tornado, you get maybe a couple of minutes. Psychologically, that’s rough.  You see the sky turn yellow and gray, maybe you hear a siren, or emergency announcement on the radio or TV and you have to make some decisions.  Fast.   If you panic or dilly-dally, you could die.  I don’t know how I’d cope with that kind of pressure. 

So now that the worst seems to be over, at least for now, I’m reflecting on the lessons that emerge from all these natural disasters…

1.  A roomful of Ph.Ds in meteorology and geology could talk ’til they were blue in the face and yet there would still be people who would be unpersuaded that the coincidence of earthquakes and a major hurricane in the same week is nothing more than coincidence.  Seriously, if God is behind this, then God is really, really bored these days. 

2.  The gallows humor that springs forth in the wake of natural disasters is pretty awesome, as coping mechanisms go.  Under this kind of stress, I suppose we have to crack up or crack up, know what I mean?

3.  “Better safe than sorry” is as annoying as it is true.  I’m guessing many a New Yorker is feeling pretty put out by the suspension of subway service, but I shudder to think what would have happened if Irene had gotten really bitchy and folks got trapped in the subway.  I’m no engineer, but to me, flash flood + subway tunnels = the most nightmarish scenario, ever. 

And, hey, wasn’t it  just a couple of months ago that there were a ridiculously unfair number of tornadoes that devastated communities in Missouri and Alabama?  I don’t think it would be at all unreasonable if we asked Mother Nature to just chill the F out for a while so we can all catch our breath and buy more batteries. 

Flashlight at the ready and memo received.

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Slowing Down


I missed the memo about slowing down.

Ever feel like the universe is trying to tell you something? The other day my darling boy started expressing some curiosity about why we have night-time and day time and so I did what all good, modern parents do: I went looking for videos on YouTube.  Amongst the gems I discovered, this one turned out to be our favorite:

Seriously, the tempo of this music is such that I could actually feel my heart slow down as my son and I watched and listened. This is the closest I’ve gotten to meditating in a long, long time.

Then, the other day, as I was rushing back to my car during a lunch-time errand, I noticed this bumper sticker:

Shockingly, this bumper sticker was on a VW Bus which also featured the classic, “Mean People Suck, Nice People Swallow.” Nonetheless, I think the thing about the fast lane is spot on.

The video and the bumper sticker kinda seemed like a 1-2 punch reminding me of the merits of slowing down.  I have spent so much of my life rushing around like a crazy person.  I walk fast.  I talk fast.  I am impatient with microwave ovens.  I used to think this was a sign of my industry and efficiency, but I’m giving this a second thought.

I hurry, hurry, hurry….theoretically moving forward, but towards what? I suppose what I’m contemplating is something like this:

Is there a book called "All I Needed To Know About Life I Learned From Bumper Stickers"? If not, there should be.

I have goals, ambitions, plans, and sometimes it feels like my life consists almost entirely of my schemes and machinations designed towards achieving those plans, but that brings me to yet another bumper sticker:

Before you cross the street, take my hand….Go listen to John Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy”….I’ll wait….

Incidentally, here’s me at my 26th birthday party, blowing out the candles on a cake on which I had asked that the above-referenced quote about life and plans be inscribed…

 

So here I am, twelve years later, still trying to figure out the difference between planning my life and my actual life.   At this rate, it appears I’ll be mulling this memo over for some time to come, but in the meantime,  I’ll just try to slow down.  Memo received.

Smartphones and Dumb People


I missed the memo about smartphones and dumb people.

We've come a long way, baby?

Well, I did it. After resisting for a couple of years, I finally got a smartphone.  I’m slightly techno-phobic so new gadgetry tends to scare me more than entice me. But more and more, I was starting to suspect that I was missing out on this whole world of convenience and connectedness that people with smartphones seemed to be enjoying.  So I got my smartphone, and it was embarrassingly easy to use.  Seriously, my 3-year-old had it figured out in minutes.

I totally get how nifty it is to have internet access in your pocket and all the apps are just ingenious and everything, but I’m not sure I like the side effects of smartphones.  Maybe it was the novelty of it, but the first night I had my new phone, I was answering work e-mails at the dinner table . The idea that I had such easy access to my e-mail made me think for a minute that I actually had to read and respond to them immediately.  But then I remembered that I am neither a workaholic nor an asshole, so I’ve since banished the phone during meals and other sacred family times.

The blessing and curse of smartphones is that they allow for a lot accessibility and spontaneity.  I remember an era that when you called someone, it was always on a phone that was firmly affixed to a wall in their house and if they weren’t home or they were talking to someone else, dem was da berries.  Now, you can call, text, Skype, e-mail, IM, or find them on Twitter or Facebook, or whatever the social media site de jour might be.  Modern people are imminently accessible and consequently we don’t get a moment’s peace, I think.   I find I love movie theatres and airplanes more and more these days because they’re the only places that I feel free from the cell phone tether.

And spontaenity….I suppose it’s a good thing that smartphones allow us to make plans on the fly.  We can coordinate with friends, last-minute, look up restaurants, buy tickets, get directions, etc., etc. But I kinda like planning and certainty, so “playing it by ear” is not my forte.  I like making plans and having all the details and logistics sorted out well in advance, but then again I do need to lighten up.

The thing I think is really funny and just a little tragic about smartphones, or mobile phones more generally, is that even though they’re supposed to ensure that we stay connected, they do seem to alienate people from each other, at least in some instances. Did you hear about this study in which it was determined that lots of people use their phones to actively avoid other people?  I know I’ve done it.  Even though I like talking to strangers, sometimes, if I’m feeling awkward or shy, I’ll just get out my phone and do something useless so I don’t have to engage with the people around me.

On the whole, I have to admit that the advent of smartphone technology is pretty amazing and I am glad I have one now. But I just don’t want to my smartphone to make me dumb….


I’m not sure who this guy is, but I found this video on the interwebs, and to him, I say, PREACH!  and memo received.

Memes, Membership & Modern Friendship


I missed the memo about memes, membership and modern friendship.

This is the first post I’m writing which is inspired by a prompt from another blogger.  So Helen Redding at Crumbs and Pegs, thank you for the kick in the ass to put together a few thoughts.  Helen passed the torch of a simple exercise, which is to make a list of “10  Things You Don’t Know About Me.” 

I was tickled to be asked to participate because getting these little invitations feels good.  When I’m tagged in a Facebook note, or when I clue in on some viral video early rather than late, I feel like one of the cool kids, like I’m in the club and in on the joke.  It’s a small thing that feels like a big deal. 

And the “10 Things You Don’t Know About Me” prompt called to mind the fun Facebook meme that was really popular back in 2009. Did you write your list of “25 Random Things”? I did, and I’m going to poach from it (sorry, is that cheating?)  because between writing that list and telling you that I got bad Botox and I didn’t learn to drive until college, I’ve pretty much already spilled all my secrets.   Well, not really, but a lady needs to maintain at least a little mystery…

And just one more tangent before I get to my list…getting Helen’s tweet got me thinking of the nature of modern friendship.  Helen lives a continent and an ocean away from me, but because of social media, we’re very accessible to each other and we could, in theory, become very good friends.  And never meet.  Ever since I switched over from dial-up, I’ve wandered into various forums and chatrooms and eventually found my way into some really meaningful friendships with people I might not recognize on the street and whose voices I have never heard.  Trippy, huh?  Sadly, I think there’s a tendency to de-value these connections as somehow “unreal” or less important than one’s “friends in real life”. 

I think there’s a fair amount of justifiable cynicism surrounding online friendships, because people can portray themselves inauthentically online and that can lead to all sorts of dishonesty and confusion.  Typically what I find myself doing is trying to make the virtual me resemble the best version of the real me, which is no different from what I’d be doing if I were meeting new people at a cocktail party. I think that’s aspirational, not dishonest, but let’s discuss…

Anyway, I’ve prattled on, as I often do.  So, after much ado and unsolicited exposition, here are Ten Things You May Already Know Don’t Know About Me:

1.    I have been mistaken for both an albino and a foreign exchange student; I am/was neither.  I suppose being a fair-skinned girl with a fondness for Fisherman’s sweaters makes people in Virginia Beach think that you’re Icelandic. 

2.   My eyes are probably blue, but I like thinking that they’re green.   (A beautiful French boy once serenaded me with Elton John’s “Your Song“…”you see, I’ve forgotten if they’re green or they’re blue…” I nearly died from the romance.)

3.  I get a little depressed when I’m not super busy; I consider this a pretty serious personality problem.   And by busy, I mean frenetically starting new things and often not finishing them.  Seriously, it’s kinda effed up.

4.   I have a rare blood type.  (And I therefore give blood regularly; if you can, so should you!)

5.  I like hiding behind my glasses.  As my vision deteriorates with age and eye abuse, I really haven’t given any thought to wearing contacts.  To the extent that stereotypes about bespeckled people persist, I aim to fully live up to them by being the biggest nerd I can possibly be. 

6.  I am a fantastic dancer but a wretched singer.  In a Hip Hop dance class I once took, a fellow student, who happened to be about 13 years old, complimented me by telling me that I “really worked it” and that I was “the best of the moms”.  At the time, I had no children, but coming from a tween, this was high praise.  And seriously, I’ve got some moves.  But my singing…even my son, who loves me, says, “Stop Singing!”

7.  Becoming a lawyer has made me bitchier than I was before; I have mixed feelings about this.

8.  Even though I’ve never been there, I daydream about moving to New Zealand.   (See item No. 1 above; I think I might blend in nicely as a Kiwi.)

9.  My mom and I look a lot alike, but I’ve been asked by more than one person if I was adopted.  Never has a question been more hurtful and validating at the same time. 

10. The kid behind the counter at Long John Silver once told me that I had a great aura. Not sure what he meant by that.

So that’s it.  Except for the passing it along part…

1000 Reasons I’m A Crap Mom

The Chloe Chronicles

It’s Fitting

Le Musings of Moi

Tag, you’re it. Memo received.

San Diego (a.k.a., My Happy Place)


I missed the memo about San Diego, also known as, my Happy Place.

It really is this pretty. San Diego is what mid-westerners dream of when they dream of California.

This past weekend I made the quick trek down the 5 freeway to spend a day at the BlogHer Conference.  Before a few weeks ago, I didn’t know that BlogHer even existed, but as I have begun dipping my toes into the weird, wacky, and sometimes wonderful universe that is the Blogosphere, I’m learning more and more about a fascinating community of people who blog for fun, for a cause, for business, or for all of the above.  It was a fantastic learning experience and I met some really lovely people.  Good times.

Being relatively new to the world of blogging and virtually unconnected within the blogging community, I was a little nervous about attending the BlogHer conference all by myself.  But the fact that the conference was being held in San Diego pretty much sealed the deal.  Because you see, San Diego is my Happy Place. 

Since living in Los Angeles, I’ve visited San Diego a bunch of times and every time it seems like  I make happy memories there.  There was the time my husband and I took the Surfliner down to San Diego and enjoyed a ridiculously and hilariously unexpected display of public nudity as we happened to be riding the train on that special day every year when hundreds of people line the fence and bare their bums as the train passes by. 

Seriously, we laughed until we cried and then we laughed some more.

And since my son has come along, I’m grateful to have a family-friendly vacation destination relatively close by.  We’ve taken him to Legoland (which is technically north of San Diego) and to the World Famous San Diego Zoo and on both trips we had ridiculous amounts of family fun.  If they would build a  Dinosaur Train World in San Diego, they’d have a perfect pre-school trifecta and we’d probably go down there and never come back. 

My son beholds a dinosaur made of legos...this rocked his world.

I feel really lucky to have a gorgeous place like San Diego just a car ride away.  And when I’m itching to escape my every day life, all I need is half a tank of gas.  For those of you who don’t live near San Diego, I’m a little sorry for you, but guess what?  I bet you there’s a Happy Place near where you live, too.  All you need to do is to pick a place you like and do a little magical thinking.   You just have to tell yourself that your Happy Place is special and happy things will always happen there.  It really is amazing what a self-fulfilling prophecy that can be.  Happy blogging, fellow BlogHers.  Maybe NYC will become our new Happy Place next year? 

Memo received.

Mirrors, Mistakes, & Bangs


I missed the memo of about mirrors, mistakes, and bangs.

 

Back when I was in college, a boyfriend gave me a copy of Minding the Body, which is an excellent anthology of essays by women writers in which they recount some experience of what it has been like for them to inhabit their own bodies.  All the stories are captivating, but I was particularly spellbound by “Mirrors” which was Lucy Grealy’s story of avoiding her reflection for an entire year. 

Ms. Grealy had been stricken with cancer in her jaw as a child, and to save her life, doctors had to dismantle the lower part of her face.  With a lot of painful surgery, doctors put her face back together, but the process was long and there were a lot of  “transitional asthethetics” along the path of facial reconstruction.  There were tissue expanders and monstrous amounts of swelling after surgery, so as she described it, she would tend to look a lot worse before she started looking better.  Rather than confront her face as it was changing, Ms. Grealy assiduously avoided looking at herself in any reflective surface.  For a year.  Wow.  Psychologically, this must have been trippy, but it was amazing to note how liberating the experience ultimately was.  When you’re free from pre-occupation with self-image, where might you direct all that extra energy? 

Compared to Ms. Grealy’s ordeal, my predicament is ridiculous and petty, to be sure, but I have been thinking about her recently as I confront the “transitional aesthetic” which is my badly Botoxed forehead.  I totally get not wanting to look.  When you look at something that seems like it needs fixing, then the need and desire to fix it becomes pretty consuming.  When you don’t look, that drive to fix and change things retreats just a bit.  Though I have seen a little improvement in my crazy Botox eyebrows, I nonetheless don’t really linger in the mirror these days.

Of course the big difference between me and Lucy Grealy is that she got dealt the cancer card and had no choice but to play it, whereas I voluntarily gambled with Botox and lost.  I made a silly, vanity driven mistake.  While I feel a little foolish about getting the Botox in the first place, I’m feeling a little proud of myself that I’m not rushing back to the dermatologist to “fix” it.  I made my Botox bed, so now I shall lie on its wrinkle-free sheets. 

What sealed my decision to forego additional Botox to “fix” my forehead was the realization that if Botox was the problem and also the solution, there’d be no telling where this might end up.  It’s like that time I tried trimming my son’s hair and kept cutting and cutting  just to even it up.  Instead of getting better and better, it just got worse and worse…. 

"Holy shit, Mom? What the deuce did you do to my hair?!"
And speaking of haircuts, for the first time since about 10th grade, I now have bangs and they are doing a decent job of providing a bit of camouflage for my silly affliction. 
Having fringe in my face is taking some getting used to...

They say the difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is two weeks.  So perhaps the difference between good Botox and bad Botox is about three months.  Waiting patiently and memo received.