Friday, August 31, 2012

My own form of interesting

One of my favorite books when I was younger was A Series of Unfortunate Events. This group of 13 novels were written by an American man (Daniel Handler) under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket. As I'm sure many people already know, it follows the story of three orphaned children, The Baudelaires, who bounce from home to home after their parents die in a tragic fire. Every step of the way, they are pursued by the evil and conniving "Count Olaf," who is out to get their inheritance money and perhaps murder or maim them along the way.

The Baudelaires experience more than what they deserve in turmoil, and all before they've reached adulthood. Theoretically - and empirically - this makes for an interesting set of children's books. I know it, and many of my bookworm friends knew it back in elementary school. But unlike our other favorite novels - I'm thinking the Harry Potter series in particular - we never wanted to put ourselves in the protagonists' place, because The Baudelaires didn't have things easy.

They had interesting lives. But they weren't exactly the lives we, as readers, would want to live.

So when did we all turn into YOLO-chanting college students hell-bent on ruling the world without any consideration of consequences? That's an exaggeration, I know. I am an old lady living in a teenager's body after all. But I don't think the question is wholly invalid.

In my young youth, I might've been on the road to self-discovery in a very different fashion. I was a pretty happy, peppy and popular child for the first decade or so of my life. I had as few cares in the world as anyone my age. Because everything was taken care of for me, I had nothing to worry about.

Turning 11 and having a parent become disabled, unable to care for me anymore, put things in perspective. I had to grow up when I was 12 years old. At the same time that everyone else was getting ready for first boyfriends in middle school, I was learning how to wash my own clothes and trying to wrestle with feelings of loss as I questioned whether I should start shaving my legs or not. These were awkward decisions, the kind you ask your mom about. But what do you do when your mom's not there?

You grow up.

That was a period in my life that I might categorize under the "interesting" label. It was a dynamic period in time, when I would figure out everything from who my real friends were to who I was without the guidance of a mother.

It became a particularly interesting time, in fact, because it was when I had the opportunity to reinvent myself. I could've started middle school with the goal of changing my image. I'd already shed the immense weight I'd gained from excessive McDonald's consumption in my late elementary school years. At this point all I needed to do was steal my sister's make-up and some of her clothing and I might just fit in better.

But instead, I chose to just do my homework.

I went to one party in middle school, and at that party the boy I had a crush on danced with another girl during the slow songs. I guess that was the definitive end of "interesting" for me.

Throughout my high school life, which admittedly could have taken many different turns had I not found the friends I did, the activities I did and the goals I did, I never once questioned the philosophy I'd developed. Why go to parties when my happiness hung in the balance? In theory these are great experiences that we all must have, but what if we can be relatively sure they won't be fun? Why should I do something with the knowledge of it not being my cup of tea?

In the four years I was there, I didn't go to one school dance. I didn't go to a party. I didn't date a single boy.

It sounds kind of depressing when I put it like that. But I had other things. Happy things.

For four years I found excitement in reliable ways. I went to dozens of Jonas Brothers concerts with my dad. I became close friends with several girls who are still incredibly important to me today. I started going to Disneyland regularly. I became active with my school newspaper. I learned about myself while other girls were smashed up against the pillars near the lunch tables subjecting all the rest of us to awkward PDA with their boyfriends. It was a virtually drama-free time for me.

Occasionally, after getting to college, I've considered all of my experiences within the context of "what did I do wrong?" Because looking back at four years of no parties, no dates, no craziness, you have to wonder why your experience was so different from the average. Could I have done differently in high school?

The answer is "yes." But the verdict on whether that would've been good for me or not isn't so clear.

These days I still maintain that my greatest happiness in life is that I don't fish for trouble. The few times I do look for adventure, it's in the form of something exciting within reason. Like the times I would choose to drive a different way into my internship this summer so that I could pass the LA skyline or see the Walt Disney Animation Studio up close. It was still daring to try something new like that, and still exciting enough to concoct a story out of, but it wasn't destructive or out of my comfort zone.

I don't think I'll ever understand the appeal of a life governed by a phrase so ambiguous as "you only live once." For some, I guess that carpe diem-esque mantra has something to do with being as crazy as you can before you have to reap the consequences. For me, it means being sane now so I can live to be sane later. I only live once, so I might as well live a long time.

The greatest stories don't have to be the ones with tales of near misses. We don't have to be like the Baudelaires, escaping an evil villain at every turn, to create a life that is worth living. If my experience is any testament to that, then it proves that a casual (perhaps uninteresting, though I'd take issue with that description) life can be filled with just as many lessons, experiences and stories as a life that is all about gathering experiences from craziness.

In time I've learned that living to tell stories is my raison d'ĂȘtre. Yet great lives aren't defined by the outrageous experiences they've encountered, but by the way they handle even the dullest of situations. The stories are in me, not in the missed opportunities. I may only live once, but however I live it will be my own form of interesting.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Knowing a little more

There was a topic that I really wanted to explore yesterday. I didn't get a chance to, but today I think I will.

You know when you go into a theater thinking you're going to be watching one thing, then you end up watching something completely different? The consequences of this experience aren't always the greatest. Sometimes, in fact, they're the absolute worst. Like when I went to see this play at school once thinking it would be some clever period drama, but found out it was just a series of scenes depicting various characters having sexual relations.

Other times, you walk into a theater expecting something entertaining and walk out with new tools for dealing with life. Somehow it answered the questions you've always had. Even if you already knew the answers, it was this movie that convinced you those answers were correct.

My friend Diana and I went on a girl date yesterday. We wanted to see each other to talk about silly things - boys and life and boys and more boys, mainly - so we scheduled a special time for us to hang out. We decided our activity would be a casual dinner and a movie. And when I realized I had this pretty new dress I wanted to wear, I figured we might as well make it a mock date by having both of us dress up. This is what dorky girls do when they're hanging out with friends.

I suggested what I believed would be a (500) Days of Summer-esque romantic comedy for us to enjoy. We got into the theater and had it virtually to ourselves. And we sat back and absorbed.

Literally, absorbed. Because you can watch as many movies as you like, but only the great ones enter into your brain as if by osmosis. They seep through your pores and into your mind (clearly I know the ins and outs of osmosis), only to result in vague exclamations of excitement once the film is over. "That good," was probably a phrase frequently overheard by those sitting near us in Chipotle while we had our post-movie dinner.

I guess I absorbed (500) Days of Summer back when I saw it in theaters in 2009 (was it really that long ago?). But not in the same way that I did Celeste and Jesse Forever when I watched it with Diana in 2012.

In some way I was already predestined to love this movie. I enjoyed Rashida Jones as Karen in The Office and this summer I've become a massive fan of Parks and Recreation, in which she portrays Ann Perkins. I also love Andy Samberg and stalked Eric Christian Olsen with my eyes at the CBS Press Tour a few weeks ago (chill out, we were in the TV Guide tent at the same time and I just happened to find him unsurprisingly attractive. I didn't actually stalk him).

So the cast was already set for greatness. Plus the script was written by Rashida Jones and Will McCormack, based loosely on their own relationship as couple-turned-friends. On paper, this was going to be a great movie. I knew that going in.

On the screen, it was so much more.

I think one of the things that sets me off with movies is their realistic depictions of physicality. It took me so much longer than the average person to get my first kiss that my mind had been littered with ridiculous versions of what kissing really is like. And all thanks to Hollywood. Even without the authenticity of the relationship between Samberg and Jones' characters, the physicality of their relationship was realistic in itself. I wanted to believe what was happening on the screen, because based on my experience it seemed plausible.

But the physical realism wasn't the tipping point turning this film from (500) Days of Summer cutesiness to its own Celeste and Jesse Forever truthfulness. I think what really drove me to accept and commiserate with this film and its characters was the experience that Celeste went through as the story progressed.

A brief synopsis would tell you that this is a movie about a divorced couple who remain best friends but go through the struggles of seeing other people while trying to move on from each other.

That's pretty accurate, I guess. But it's also not half the story. This movie is about timing and putting yourself on the line. It's about too many expectations and letting go of inhibitions. It's about wanting to find something perfect and learning to settle for what you need.

And the themes really force you to look to yourself for validation. Have I ever felt what they're feeling? was the constant question. Only a film that slices itself right out of a believable reality could do that.

There were no perfect Zooey Deschanel characters in this movie. When characters were miserable and tired, they looked that way. There was no Joseph Gordon Levitt in a bathrobe pretending to have spent days in bed when his face is clean-shaven and he looks made up like the studly Hollywood actor that he is.

Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg in Celeste and Jesse Forever.
Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg are beautiful people, as are their costars. But there was no fear in this film of making the audience aware that our characters were going downhill. They didn't seem to mind if they didn't "look" like actors. Sometimes we were tricked into believing a make-up team wasn't standing behind the cameraman at every step of the filmmaking process.

The real absorption of this movie came because there was no way to feel otherwise. It was like watching a true story play out on the screen, and if you looked away you'd miss something vital. Even if it was just the relative unwashed appearance of Rashida Jones' bangs. The little things were reminders that even if this was fiction, this was real.

And what meant even more was that along with the deterioration of Jones' very stately appearance was the deterioration of her stability. Jones' character, Celeste, is one that relies on herself. She's a breadwinner, an intellectual, a self-reliant strong heroine. But as the story goes on, we watch her figure out her own faults and start to grow more weary, more unsatisfied with who she is as a person.

I've gone through that kind of pain and discovery on a smaller scale. Those moments when you look in the mirror and see not only your physical self looking tired and withered, but the person inside you looking just as distraught.

Watching Celeste and Jesse Forever brought back hard memories of "never in the right place at the right time." It reminded me of when I've felt incomplete and wanted to fix things, only to find out that I have not even half the power that I thought I did. If I'm being honest, the movie scared times it was just too real.

I don't write this necessarily to compare this film against all other romantic comedies. And to be honest, I love (500) Days of Summer just as much as this movie, so using it as a punching bag has probably not been an entirely honest method of analysis.

The reason I write about CJF (I'm abbreviating the title, go figure) is to say that while you may be constantly looking for something perfect, whether in a movie or a relationship, you do well to go into all scenarios without expectations, without anything keeping you from experiencing everything to its fullest.

This is a philosophy that spans anything and everything. It governs the world. Without diving in, you never learn anything. I've done it, and in the process I've found out perhaps more about myself than I ever wanted to know.

But it's better to know a little more than to live in blissful ignorance. Of that, I'm sure. And Celeste and Jesse Forever showed me that. But it also showed me how I already knew that. And walking away, I know a little more than I ever knew before.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I've done wrong and I apologize

There are many times that I've worried about breaching privacy with this blog. I've refrained from using last names, for this reason. I also haven't said where I go to school. I haven't shared any extremely personal information about me or my loved ones, or even those I don't hold dear.

But somehow even trying your darnedest to make a personal text that serves not to hurt nor offend anyone isn't quite enough. And I guess I've learned my lesson now.

In the past couple of weeks I've heard from two people whom I care very deeply about that things that they've read on my blog have hurt them in some way. One was a very good friend from childhood and another was my grandmother.

For over 200 days, I've made this blog my daily writing journal - where I share my thoughts and feelings. Sometimes I'm candid. Sometimes I perhaps say more than I should, or divulge information without explaining myself in quite enough detail. It is easy to glean an insult when there are gaps in the storytelling.

Since I only write several paragraphs a night, I don't expect that anyone could take away complete understanding of my feelings on any subject. Even the best novels have holes in their storytelling. You fill in the blanks according to how you perceive the text. I always thought this was a positive thing. I never thought it would allow the people who are most important to me to believe that I, in some way, don't appreciate or respect them.

Because, if anything, this blog is about telling myself and the people I love how much they mean to me. At the heart of all my writing is my soul, and it is thanks to the people I love that I have one to begin with.

With that said, I realize that sometimes I can be too frank and say too much. Sometimes, as hard as I try to explain the positive aspects of all situations, the stories themselves might seem insulting. But I'm being completely honest when I say that if I ever tell a story that shines poorly on someone, I always try to back it up by explaining what, alternatively, was good.

My belief is that every one of us, even myself, have faults and virtues. We make mistakes and we try to correct them. If we don't recognize the negative, then we never get to appreciate the positive.

Every day of my life has been made better by my grandma. Without her I wouldn't have gone to the wonderful university that I do. I wouldn't have gotten through my mom's passing half as well as I did. I wouldn't have learned a million different things that she's taught me throughout my life. I'd have lost a huge part of myself.

It pains me to think that with a little click of some keys on a keyboard, and some rash thinking and writing, I've hurt her feelings to the point of irreparable damage. Especially because the great majority of those clicks on the keyboard are in blog posts that aim to compliment and explain what great admiration I have for her.

This is true of most everyone I've ever written about on my blogs. If anyone in my life is worth writing about, then I always see more good in them than bad. If I take the time to think about someone twice, that is always because I hold them in some degree of respect.

There's no reason anyone should be offended by what I write here. If I do say something that is hurtful, it was never intentionally done. As a writer, I make observations. As a person, I have reactions. But I'm not vindictive, and I never do anything with the goal of putting someone through sadness. And if I do, I feel absolutely terrible about it.

I have a tremendous guilt complex, and I try to never let bad blood exist between me and anyone. The truth is that, even though I can be silly and frivolous with my words, deep down there are feelings that I want to express that perhaps don't come out as they should.

When the feelings get lost in the shuffle, then the words I do share can be misconstrued. But what I want everyone to know is that I never write to hurt, judge, insult or offend. I only write to share my thoughts, and hopefully to make sense of the world for myself. And if you have received this link through me, that is only because in my heart I really do care about you. If I didn't, you wouldn't read this at all.

I hope that makes sense. And I hope that you forgive me.

Game days are over

There's this little block of white text scrolling across my television screen. It says "Roku" in all capital letters. It's the screen saver, set against a black backdrop, that reminds me of the omnipresence of digital entertainment that is around me at any given time.

A Roku box is a little Wi-Fi enabled thing-a-majig that hooks up to my television and allows me to watch Netflix whenever I so choose from my big screen. It serves to satiate my greatest obsession these days - audio/visual entertainment consumption.

But there were days, only a few years back (or I guess more than a decade back, if we're being truly accurate) that as much as I was about film and television, I was also interested in tactile pursuits. There were these newfangled things called video games on the market, and I was for some time a consumer (however behind the times I was and continue to be).

I have this thing for nostalgia. My collection of DVDs includes animated features and children's movies. Flipping through my book of movies, it might be hard to distinguish the age of the owner unless you know me already.

So it's no wonder that when I think and talk about video games, my only frame of reference is the seriously antiquated Super Nintendo system.

I love having conversations about antiquated gaming systems. You see, this is a topic that I know very little about. I couldn't tell you the differences between a Wii and a PS3, much less a Nintendo 64 and a Sega Dreamcast. Even using these proper names is kind of like speaking another language for me.

But what I do know about are the few games on the few consoles that I did play. And that makes for quite enough conversation as it is.

Back in elementary school, we had one computer to share at the childcare center. School would end at 2:15 pm and after we had snack time, everyone who was waiting around for the parents to pick them up would disperse to several different corners of the classroom. Some would play board games or color or braid lanyards, others would do their homework, occasionally we would go outside and hang out on the jungle gym or in the grassy field where P.E. was held.

Those were all pretty open opportunities. If one person wanted to play, everyone else could join them.

But that wasn't the case with the computer. The beautiful state of the art computer where we would all battle over who had dibs. It kept us apart, but it connected us together. Why? Because we all played the same games.

Computers are now all about connecting with friends. Social networking is what we come here for. Even blogging could be seen as a form of this.

But back in elementary school, the only use for a computer (besides word processing, which was a dorky personal habit of mine) was for gaming on the internet.

Even if you chose "2 Player," you still played separately.
I've always considered video games a pretty solitary endeavor. Maybe that's because when I grew up I often perfected my technique at Mario Kart and Kirby's Avalanche while I was sitting in my room all by myself. Or maybe it's because certain games aim to create single player dominance (like Super Mario World or any of the Donkey Kong games, which have a single player participating at any one time).

Whatever the reason was, I never felt like I was socially engaging with my peers while actually playing the game. But the act of being a gamer, on the other hand, was something very sociable indeed.

In that childcare scenario, anyone who discovered a "hip" new game on the Disney Channel or websites would report back to the rest of us. We'd watch each other play and grow envious of our friends getting to score high points on Kim Possible: A Sitch in Time or Lilo & Stitch Sandwich Stacker. These became well-known names among us, and conversation pieces.

I can't believe now that in my young youth I'd become so absorbed in this medium of entertainment, only to move onto the next generation of video games and completely fall out of the loop.

It's not as though this is a community I feel compelled to become a part of. I don't think of myself as cheated because I don't sit around playing The Legend of Zelda for hours a day (no disrespect to those who do, of course). But I wonder what happened to make me choose rather to hang around staring at "Roku" flitting across my screen while the little white text stating "Nintendo" hasn't graced my television for ages and ages.

I have no answers yet, but in my heart I know that I will eventually pick up a controller again. Not because I want to become obsessed, as a result entering into a community of gamers. Rather, because I remember the kind of joy and relaxation I felt while concentrating on saving Princess Peach.

Those were the days. And why should those days be over?

Monday, August 27, 2012

As weary-hearted as that hollow moon

"I had a thought for no one's but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we'd grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon."
"Adam's Curse" by William Butler Yeats

A sketch of W.B. Yeats.
There was something in those words that really got to me. I'd been referred to the poem by a friend who, after hearing I was in love with the poet John Keats, decided to suggest I read some Yeats. I've always thought it was just the last four letters of a surname that these two poets shared, but after reading "Adam's Curse" it occurred to me that there's something that more intricately binds the two writers: they understood that labor has no place in passion.

Keats once said "If poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all." And though that quote has little to do with love in the romantic sense, it does still have quite a bit to do with love in the sense of passion.

While Keats proselytized poetry only when it comes naturally and simply, Yeats suggested that romantic entanglements be settled in the same way. That we not force ourselves to feel a certain way because it is what is "right" or "expected," but because it is absolutely imperative. We cannot imagine it any other way, and it does nothing but bring us happiness.

It's the way I feel about my family and my closest friends. That these figures in my life, however much wrong they could do me, would never become nuisances, never be unworthy of holding onto for eternity. They are, to quote Shakespeare, "an ever-fixed mark" upon my soul. I am unable to extricate myself from them.

Yesterday I was thinking about all the kinds of love I feel. This is a weird thing to contemplate, I realize, but it was just a random thought that I couldn't shake. I was trying to fall asleep and it kept building in my mind. Like some sort of TED Talks lecture with thoughts compounding on other thoughts until I felt compelled to write about them.

So there are several different types of love I feel: object love, familial love, friendly love and romantic love. For the sake of expediency, I will only briefly describe object love and focus rather on those loves which are expended on humans.

Object Love

The majority of people don't feel too strongly about whatever inanimate or intangible objects they possess. A little jewelry box or a blanket or the like that was owned by a relative may serve some use as an object of posterity, but besides that there's no reason to feel too much for something that doesn't have the capacity to feel back. The same goes for television programs or movies or art objects. These are things that may mean a lot to us, but they don't have much of an effect on our psyche outside of an interest or obsession.

So that is one type of love, one that I do feel quite often. But that's not what we're dealing with here, because it doesn't have much to do with people. I'm here to talk about people.

Familial Love

Here's where my real argument starts. Because this isn't just about defining the types of love I feel, but explaining why certain kinds of love form and exist, and what foundation they're founded upon.

While, for me, object love is about casually enjoying something, familial love is about enjoying someone. It's the kind of relationship built on the basis of moral and emotional understanding.

First, I must say, though it may seem counter-intuitive to place familial love at a less complicated stage than friendly love, it is put in this place due to one factor that is not present in the love between friends: obligation. I certainly have love for all of my relatives, but the description I'm about to give does not necessarily apply to my relationships with each of them, because naturally I am bound to them by blood and even when they do not meet my criteria, I still love them.

Now here's where we get into the distinctions. Familial love has only two of the four categories of mutual understanding that I feel are present for me in loving relationships. The four in all are moral, emotional, intellectual and physical understanding. The only two that are fulfilled by a basic familial relationship are moral and emotional. Moral because families often shape our morals and guide us toward our spiritual choices. Emotional because a good family member can appreciate and handle their relatives' emotional conditions - however complex they are.

Some of my distant relatives don't cover either of these categories with me. And on the other hand, my closest relatives cover even more than this. But the important thing to take away is that all that is required from a family for real honest love from me is that we respect each other's morals and feelings.

Friendly Love

Friendly love, on the other hand, is about finding someone who connects with me on a moral level (i.e. I don't smoke, drink or do drugs, I don't party and my straight-laced tendencies often govern my life; therefore I like to find friends with similar realities), an emotional level (i.e. friends with whom I can cry and laugh; who understand my emotional tendencies and who accept and appreciate my feelings and complexities) and an intellectual level (i.e. people who are comparable with me in terms of intelligence, wit, interests, etc.).

While there is no expectation for physical understanding, in terms of friends, I only associate with those who fit a higher standard than what is necessary for familial love (since there isn't obligation as there is in familial relationships). I begin to love a friend when I realize that I can trust them with my faith, my heart and my mind. If any of those fall out of line, then it probably won't work out.

And unlike with family, the distinction is much stricter. When you're obligated to love someone, you might give them leeway to treat you badly. To hurt your feelings or have different values than you. But when you're friends with someone, you expect a certain kind of respect.

But not half as much as with someone for whom you feel romantically.

Romantic Love

It took me a while to figure this one out. The thing about romantic love is that it is the most difficult to achieve of any of the loves - as many know and many will find out (and as W.B. Yeats explains in "Adam's Curse").

For so long I believed that it wasn't necessary to fill all four of my criteria of "understanding." Maybe I could scoot a suitor by who was only emotionally and physically compatible with me. If we don't share enough common interests or we're not of the same IQ level or we lack the same moral values, then those are differences that can be overlooked, maybe even overcome.

In past dating experiences, my pairings have usually been dominated by two factors: intellectual and physical. If I've liked a boy and seen that we had the same taste in movies, then I'd be happy to date him. Is that not enough?

I think in time I've learned that it absolutely isn't.

In a romantic relationship, none of these fundamental criteria are expendable. Without moral understanding, you lose the ability to respect each other for your values and choices. Without emotional understanding, you will never be able to care enough for each other to make things work in the long term. Without intellectual understanding, you may grow bored of each other. And without physical understanding, you'll likely never feel a strong enough attraction to move past friendship.

I'm not willing to sacrifice any of these criteria. They are the very bare basics of getting along with someone and feeling romantically interested in them to the point of dating and possibly staying together long term.

I think this is why relationships fall apart so often and so easily. We go into new romances looking for "love," but instead of searching for individuals who fit all four criteria, we're happy to settle for those who are only compatible with two or three. Often, it's physical attraction that gets to be the biggest distraction.

This makes me wonder, quite often in fact, whether there even is anyone in the world who fits all four of my expectations. Or is life really like that College Triangle Diagram where you are given three options - good grades, enough sleep and a social life - and you can only choose two? The issue is that unlike the expendable corner of the triangle (a vibrant social life, in my case), I'm not willing to give anything up when searching for a "partner."

Looking back at the section from the poem above, I think a lot about what it means to be in love. How it's so easy to "seem happy," when problems are festering underneath only to surface later when reality kicks in. Honeymoon periods cause blindness, and when our vision returns we realize we haven't got what we bargained for when we agreed to go on that first date.

While compartmentalizing your love works to remind you how much love you feel, it can also poke at you until you're unable to ignore the one type of love that you may never find.

Unlike with Keats, I haven't read up much on the life of Yeats. I've thought many many times how lucky Keats was to have found whom he believed was the love of his life, but did Yeats ever find the same romantic passion? Maybe it's the pessimism and unwillingness to compromise that keep people like us away from the opportunity of true love.

Or maybe we just refuse to be "as weary-hearted as that hollow moon."

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Before the storm

The first and only time I've ever had a sunburn was when I was nine years old. My dad bought tickets for my mom and I to go to a concert series put on by KIIS FM 102.7 called Wango Tango. The concert featured big names of 2002, including Michelle Branch, Vanessa Carlton and the act I was most interested in seeing (are you ready to cringe?), Aaron Carter.

When we arrived at the Rose Bowl before noon, there was a small fair going on outside the actual concert venue. For hours we wandered around in the blazing sun that summer afternoon, and by the next day I had red shoulders that hurt miserably and would soon start peeling and reminding me why I really dislike spending time in the sun.

Since that day, I've marveled at my inability to get sunburns, but I've also constantly avoided being exposed to extreme changes in the elements. Take me to Florida, and I spend most of the time indoors. Take me to Disneyland, and my favorite attractions are those which involve sitting down indoors and drawing animated characters. I am a low key kind of person who enjoys low key weather.

It was an unusual transition, since in those years before my first sunburn, I really didn't pay much attention to what was going on outside my window. I never wore sunscreen, never shielded my head from the rain, never worried about wind or any kind of extreme temperature change.

I used to love running around in the rain. When the water was pouring, I'd go outside in a hoodie or with an umbrella and pretend I was dancing like Gene Kelly even before I'd heard of the movie Singin' in the Rain.

A few years later, I became someone who preferred to watch from indoors. I would hang out by my window and maybe open it to feel the raindrops splatter lightly on my windowsill, but aside from that I wanted to keep away from the storm.

Now I'm in Florida and there's a hurricane a-coming (Stand fast! Secure the riggings! [Make The Little Mermaid references that no one will comprehend!]). My dad and I had the choice of either staying here and weathering the storm or leaving just in the nick of time.

This morning we decided to leave, and with that decision made I'm starting to consider what it would've been like to actually live through a hurricane.

I've arrived at an airport in Florida at the tail end of a hurricane, but I've never sat around in a house during one of them. In fact, I've never sat through any scary potential natural disasters. Perhaps Snowpocalypse 2011 in Chicago could be considered a scary proposition, but my friends and I waded through a foot of snow on the evening of the worst storm just to get to the dining hall across the street. We were not hindered by the weather by any measure.

Living in California in general has ruined any ability I might have to stand extreme weather conditions. Two years ago when I got to this state in time for the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Orlando Resort, 15 minutes in the heat had me reeling with heat rash and hallucinations. When the thunderstorms began, topping off the 100 percent humidity with 100 degree temperatures, I did not think I could recover.

But looking back on that experience, and even Wango Tango 2002, I realize that the most powerful imagery in my head is not of wiping the sweat off my forehead or putting my hair up in a wet ponytail. It's getting to experience some of the most interesting events of my life.

So what if I hung out in Florida through this hurricane? I wonder. Would the power have gone out? Would I have gone crazy from lack of television, internet, microwave, etc.? Or would I have made the best out of it and counted it among my most interesting memories with my grandparents? I guess the world will never know.

Friday, August 24, 2012

My grandparents' stuff in pictures

For those who do know and for those who don't know (and for those who care and for thoese who could care less), I'm in Florida at the moment. And since I'm in Florida visiting my grandparents, which usually means doing little other than visiting Publix (a grocery store) and the library (you have these where you live too, I think). So I get bored. Really bored, sometimes.

But today I decided to take some lame observational photos around their house. I literally have nothing else to do. Except watch the newest film in the Twilight saga, but every time I sit down to watch it I get interrupted. So yeah, here are my photos from around my grandparents' house -- mainly in the den where I sleep when I'm here.

My grandpa plays, as he put it, the fiddle. This is his fiddle. It only has one string at the moment.

Our whole family loves The Beatles. It's the only "modern" music my grandpa tolerates.

This is Charlie, the pillow pet/adorable monkey.

And this is a photo of my great grandparents, my paternal maternal (dad's mom's parents) grandparents.

Followed by goldfish crackers and popcorn in a bag.

My grandparents have a pretty large collection of VHS tapes with old movies. My dad is now supplementing it with classics on DVD.

And I don't actually know why we have one of these.

Or why there are Christmas decorations out in a Jewish home in August.

I'm also not sure why my grandparents love decorating their living room with Asian baubles.

Also. here's a photo of my friend Erin when we went out to lunch today!
So basically no rhyme or reason to this post at all. I needed an excuse to not have to write anything tonight because I'm sleepy and I want to watch the end of Breaking Dawn: Part I. I have so much class. But you can respect that reasoning, right? Good. And good night!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thanks Poppy

There is a time and a place to watch The Hunger Games (now that it is no longer in theaters).

In a dark or dimly lit room. With no sound except that which is coming from your television, and preferably using an entertainment system with surround sound capabilities. When you are not feeling particularly emotionally vulnerable. And certainly not when you're at your grandparents house.

It's taken me about four or five hours to finish watching this movie that I've been waiting ages to see. Not because I'm uninterested or lazy, I've been anxious to watch it since I put the book down a few months ago, but no one would go with me to the theater.

So why did it take four or five hours, you ask? Well, today I'm at my grandparents' house in Florida. Because my grandparents go to sleep early, I always rent a lot of movies once I get here so that my dad and I can catch up on free film-viewing outside of Netflix Instant. The public library system gives out week-long movie rentals for free! What kind of nonsense is this? The perfect kind.

So anyway, I decided to rent The Hunger Games (at a Redbox actually, which defeats the purpose of my little digression about free movies). But after doing so, I couldn't bear to wait any longer, having already stared at the poster of this film for so long but never gone into a theater to see it, so I popped it in mid-afternoon during a lull in Floridian grandparent fun.

Most people probably have grandparents who sit in a rocker or bake cookies for them (that's what I imagine most grandparents do, but I have no way of knowing), but that's not my grandparents at all. "Those" grandparents would make it easy to watch a movie. They wouldn't want to talk or come in and have you fix their computer for them. But that's not my grandparents.

As soon as Katniss appeared on screen, my grandpa shuffled in and asked me if she and Prim were sisters. I responded 'yes,' to which he sat down and apparently gathered nothing else of the plot from then on. But that didn't keep him from interjecting with little anecdotes that had nothing to do with the film.

Despite perhaps sounding slightly annoyed at this, the interruptions were kind of wonderful. At one point my grandpa started talking about how he met my grandmother. With no prompting from me, he went off on the subject. And this was before the Peeta and Katniss romance even glimmered on the screen. It was a non sequitur of his personal creation.

According to his story (and it might not be fully accurate, he's 90 and his stories tend to be off on dates and specific details), he and my grandmother met a month after he returned from fighting in World War II. A few months later, they were married - she was only 19 years old at the time - and a year later they had their first child of three.

He talked about it so nonchalantly. As if romances that last over 60 years are just casual run of the mill affairs. Nothing to gawk at. The way he described it was that despite having girlfriends before the war, when he came back and met my grandmother things just seemed to fall into place and they realized they wanted to be married pretty soon after.

I feel like these are the kinds of relationships I'm always surrounded by. My sister started dating her now-husband when they were in middle school. My friends tell me whimsical stories about meet-cutes with their boyfriends at parties, when they absolutely hit it off instantly. And obviously I just told you my grandparents' story.

Then I think about me. And the romanticism of their experiences manage to make me feel even more pessimistic about my outlook in life and in love.

Sometimes I wonder if there is going to be some moment for me of discovering true love. I've never felt it, but I like to think it's somewhat like Peeta seeing Katniss and throwing her a piece of bread years before they competed in The Hunger Games. Like maybe in an instant you make some rash judgment, but in retrospect you realize there was just something about that person. Who knows what it was, but it was something.

My grandpa went on to talk about how even though they have little moments of bickering, there's no question that my grandparents' marriage, and their lifetime together as a result, makes sense. The little problems don't matter so much when you find what you need in a significant other. I guess in my heart I always knew that, but hearing it from him was so much more affirming.

These are the kind of interruptions from my grandparents that I crave. Even though my grandfather had no idea that his little anecdote was making me think more personally about my connection to the movie and about life in general, he accomplished this with one short story. And of course he followed up by saying, "I only hope you find what's right for you."

If I'd watched The Hunger Games at home, I would've still been really interested in the movie. I read the book so long ago, that it was a fresh experience in some ways. But I already remembered all the ins and outs of Peeta and Katniss. It took my grandpa getting in the way of my watching the movie to actually see how their romance relates to me - or how I'd like it to relate to me, anyway.

So thanks for the interruptions, Poppy. If they're this good all the time, then I might just call you up next time before I pop in Pride & Prejudice (or some other of my favorite movies) at home. Your unintentional foresight is a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Always ill-prepared

Tonight I will be embarking on a plane. I hate embarking on planes. I hate the actual act of getting on the plane, I hate waiting for the plane, I hate standing at the check in desk when inevitably the tickets for my plane have disappeared inexplicably, I hate driving to the airport and - as I'm sure you can tell I'm going in reverse-chronological order - I hate prepping for a flight.

When I make the plans for a trip, I try not to think about the kind of turmoil that ensues on the day of my flight. If I did, I probably would never go anywhere. I might not even go back to school in Chicago. It's that terrible.

On the usual vacation, I overpack ridiculously, stuffing items into my suitcase as if I'm going away for five years rather than a week. Yet somehow, with the overpacking, I have a tendency to forget something of incredible importance. It's possibly because I require too much - too many items of clothing, too much make-up, too many products and a ton of hair styling supplies. But it's also possibly because it's my eternal destiny to go everywhere missing one key item.

What that item will be, I never seem to foresee. I guess that's why this keeps happening to me. (No rhyme intended, I'm just cool that way.)

This morning I had this dream. It might have been my unconscious mind reminding me of something to pack or it might just have been a dream (I sometimes ascribe a lot of meaning to dreams, but I'm certainly no Freud). Either way, it made me think about all the times in my life that I've shown up without something of necessity.

Not even counting the many instances of staying over at a friend's house and completely neglecting to bring a toothbrush or toothpaste, I have a tendency to always ignore what is staring me right in the face. (By the way, how could I do the toothbrush forgetting so often? This is one of the most important things you bring on a sleepover. When you're packing to sleep at a friend's house, the order of packing usually goes like this: pajamas, toothbrush, toothpaste and ouija board. Okay, no ouija board. But the rest was true.)

So yeah, going back to ignoring the toothbrush scenario, which I have literally no explanation for... I have this issue with always doing something wrong due to ill-preparedness, even in the seemingly most uncomplicated of situations.

A few years ago in choir class, we were given these hideous floor-length dresses to wear to our concerts. They were really terrible faux satin bell-shaped dresses, with ugly sequined bolero jackets to match. The bolero jackets had shoulder pads. Shoulder pads!

These were our new costumes for the year, and we were required to get them hemmed so that they were just above floor length. No shorter, no longer. No dragging, no ankles. That was the rule.

At this point in my life, I wasn't living with any women. My dad was my sole caretaker and my sister had moved out of the house. Besides my grandma who lived a long car drive away and who was busy, I had no one who could help me hem my dress.

I kept forgetting about it. Then I remembered we had a concert coming up. I flipped out a day before, realizing my dress was still dragging on the floor in need of a hem. Instead of doing the logical thing and calling up my grandma or asking my dad to take me to a seamstress to have it altered, I did a make-shift fix. I safety-pinned the thing all around (with the pins hidden inside the fabric) at just the right height.

My choir teacher looked at me during the concert (as she so often did, inspecting our disgusting dresses and our terribly unflattering buns - pinned back in such a way that not a hair could fly away), and immediately asked me why I hadn't gotten my dress hemmed. I was so embarrassed that I could barely answer.

Within the next week, I got the thing hemmed. But again I only did half the job that was necessary.

Not having time outside of school hours to go with my dad to a seamstress who could take my measurements and fix my dress, I used my safety pins as a guideline and ended up getting back a dress that - you guessed it - showed my ankles.

For the rest of the year, my choir teacher bothered me for my improperly hemmed dress. I felt so mortified walking up on stage that I would often scurry faster or try to walk with my legs bent in some fashion so that it was less noticeable.

When we took our choir group picture, the same evil teacher forced me to stand in the back - even though I was clearly shorter than everyone else - because my ankles showed when I sat in the front.

So when I had a dream this morning of being at some sort of craft workshop and forgetting my sewing kit (luckily now I can hem clothing myself, so the fear is more in the lack of tools), I immediately connected it back to this story of my past that I've long tried to forget.

Getting ready for a flight feels like trying to get my dress hemmed in high school choir. It's daunting, but easily forgettable. And it will inevitably have me feeling like I've done something wrong, even if throughout the process I tried to do my best under the circumstances.

At this point in the packing process, I feel like I've done everything I've needed to do. I've packed away my glasses and my contact lens case (two things I'm always forgetting), I've picked two pairs of shoes and brought a jacket. Oh, that reminds me, I forgot my umbrella. Thank goodness for blogs.

So now you see what I'm talking about.

I wonder if a lot of other people feel this same sort of agony - of never quite living up to expectations due to being unsuspectingly ill-prepared for everything. If so, then we must be a pretty miserable species. For me, these moments are some of the lowest of my life.

Fears of the Anglophile

Just a second ago, I forced my dad out of my room. We were watching Conan together, but I realized it's already nearly 8:30 in the evening and my friends asked me to hang out with them tonight, so if I still want to have the chance at seeing them this evening I have to get going on this thing.

As he was walking out of my room, I said "I have no idea what to write about" to my dad and of course he made some random joke of a remark saying, "Write about how you're an American." He was being facetious of course. That's just his comedic style. But he touched on something that is worth talking about - the fact that I've been born in America, but for some reason possess this undying love for other cultures.

This fall I'm going to be finally living abroad for more than a couple of weeks. I've made my plane reservations, found out my living accommodation, started planning what classes I'll be taking and voila - it's to London I go.

This transition has made me think a lot about what I want out of life, and how I feel about being an American.

Because, you see, for a long time I've felt alienated by this country. While in certain circumstances I'm surrounded by like-minded people, very often I find that the American culture is promoted by a spirit that I just don't possess. It's this kind of childish, self-absorbed and self-contained notion of nationhood that I just can't wrap my head around.

So when I think about the general humbleness of the English people, it makes me despair at being brought up in a country that is so prideful and occasionally short-sighted.

Soon I'll be heading out on a plane, not only flying across an ocean, but over an entire country of history, both general and personal. I'm leaving behind what I know best and trying to find my way in a land that I know in some ways, but is also very foreign to me in other ways.

I've heard stories of people trying to make it in foreign countries and finding out that perhaps they're just not so prepared. It's a learning experience. Even Emma Watson was on some talk show once (I forget which one) and talked about her first year at Brown University living in a dorm. Even asking for an eraser or a bandage from a fellow dorm resident would mean trying to translate from British English to American English. You'd think since there isn't a language barrier there wouldn't be any issue, but surprisingly there is.

I have a lot of faith in myself and my Anglophilia that my desire to live in England permanently after college won't be tested by the next three months of my life. But in my heart I also fear that I might be reminded why America is a comfortable, however difficult place to live for me.

The thing about this enormous country is that no matter where you go, it sort of feels like home. The retail stores are relatively similar, the dialects and the slang don't change much from place to place, the products and all the general amenities are expected. There's not much to stun or surprise when moving from place to place within America.

But even going abroad to a country that is incredibly like your own can be frightening and strange. And staying there for a long time can be a bit daunting.

As my travels to London approach, I've been thinking a lot about how I plan to transition once I get to the country. How can I find the equivalent of a Target Superstore in the city? What do I do if I need to see a doctor? Should I buy clothes in the city or pack my whole closet?

There's so much to think of.

At some point I'm just going to have to let go. I think that's what scares me the most. That the uptight me is going to have to enter a new country by myself and learn to survive in an environment that is not only foreign to me figuratively, but quite literally.

Maybe I'm making too big a deal out of this. England is, after all, a relatively similar country to America. But even where surface similarities exist, temperaments may differ. I only hope mine meshes well with the Brits. And I guess more than anything, I'm excited to see how being an American makes me either a welcome citizen or a social pariah when I get there.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

TV lover gone wacko

For a long time there wasn't anything for me to look forward to on television. I know for many this is a trivial matter. Like what ice cream flavors you have in your fridge (another issue I've faced as of late), it plays little significance in your day to day life, but once in a while it just makes you want to go "UGH, why is there no variety?" (See? This metaphor works.) For me, though, it can be a truly life-altering consideration.

Things can go one of two ways.

1. I have a lot of television to watch.

In this situation, I lose all sense of time and place. I watch endless hours of the same shows, catching up on old seasons and awaiting new episodes. I'll sit around in my room staring at a television screen until my needs are satisfied. It becomes an addiction of sorts. I would look into getting psychological help, but -because I enjoy the addiction so much and at the moment do not see myself doing any disservice to myself in the way of health - I can't seem to force myself out.

2. I have absolutely nothing on television to watch.

When this is the case, I take time out of my day for perhaps more useful engagements than television-obsessing. Rather than reduce my rate of blinking and forget meal after meal, I become a normal functioning human being. All the brain molecule matter material thingamajigs get balanced once again, and I make plans to learn things or hang out with people or do whatever is actually worth my time.

But which of these situations is summer about? Activities like the beach and the mall and sporty whatevers fall under category two, but that's no draw for me. Most days I'm a happy resident of TV Land.

It wasn't until recently that I fully understood the depth of this strange obsession. Now, with at least half a dozen shows for me to anxiously await the returns of this fall, I can finally say my addiction is a real, tangible thing.

And because otherwise there isn't much of anything interesting going on in my life, I'm going to tell you about some of my addictions on this lovely blog.

The BBC Stuff

Sherlock without a scarf. Should've found a different photo.
Whenever I visit the United Kingdom, I'm always reminded of what a luxury it is to have the BBC at my disposal. This is network television without the added annoyance of commercials. It has many quality programs and is a central hub of cultural knowledge within the country.

This is something we don't have in the US. Our attempt, PBS, has lost much of its appeal to modern audiences (save for their broadcast of British programming nowadays), and without increased interest it may flounder in future decades.

But what I touched on in the last sentence are the cross-over shows which have come from England and started to spark an Anglophilia that I believed was unique to me for quite a few years. The BBC's Sherlock has made its way to PBS, as has ITV's Downton Abbey, creating a cult following in the states that almost disturbs me as much as it pleases me. This is the kind of stuff that I live for on TV, and to have it readily available to me via network television is like putting a hypoglycemic child in a candy store (this is in the spirit of my weird working metaphors).  Not to mention Doctor Who, which has become such a hit in the US that BBC America has started airing it on the same night as it premieres in the UK - a step up from the sometimes several month-long wait for Downton and Sherlock.

Single-Camera Comedies

Another of the great categories of television are the single-camera comedies that I eagerly await each season. For a while this consisted of Glee, The Office and 30 Rock, three shows that I watched every week, never missing an episode. They had a good track record early on, but sometimes the tired grow weary and such was the case for Glee and The Office, at least in my humble opinion (and as a TV blogger for both of the shows).

While I still avidly watch 30 Rock (and somewhat interestedly watch Glee and The Office, despite occasional disappointment), I'm always looking for new shows to fill this niche interest of mine. And I think in the new season I've finally found my replacements (ahem, new favorites).

Parks and Recreation
After a few weeks of watching the first three seasons of Parks and Recreation, a show with the spirit of The Office, but perhaps an even more lovable cast (could you believe it?), I've become quite the fangirl. While the vegetarian in me won't accept any idolized worship of Ron Swanson, my appreciation for Leslie Knope (and her relationship with Ben Wyatt) has no bounds.

In the upcoming season, I'm also pretty excited about two new FOX shows, the first being Ben & Kate and the second, and even more exciting of the two for myself, being The Mindy Project. This show comes from writer/actress Mindy Kaling (of The Office fame, where she plays Kelly Kapoor), and has Mindy playing a semi-self-destructive, yet romantic and endearing OB/GYN in New York City. It's quite the departure from the role we know her through, yet it seems to be the next up-and-coming awesome single-camera comedy.

Clever Banter Hour-Longs

But the shows that have really defined my interest in television have been the "clever banter hour-longs," as I call them.

For many years I have been indebted to Gilmore Girls as a series television program that taught me all I needed to know in life, sans hyperbole. I still credit this show with introducing me to journalism as a prestigious career path, rather than one of seediness and dishonesty (as so many painted it for me once I arrived in high school).

Now there's a new show by the person who created Gilmore Girls called Bunheads. It had a bit of a rough start with much plot development and not quite enough character analysis, but in time I've found quite a bit of admiration for the show.

What's great about clever banter hour-longs is that they require you to take a moment out of your day to really immerse yourself in the story. I feel this same way about the show Pushing Daisies which gained a pretty hefty cult following a few years ago, but never managed to gain the footing to stay on past its second season (which was unfortunately cut short).

These are the shows that manage to rip out little one-liners that keep you thinking for the next week about the authenticity of their philosophies. You don't get that from a 30-minute multi-camera sitcom very often, for some reason.

It's because of these shows that I've discovered a great amount of personal respect for television, despite it being a medium that is considered lesser among the many artistic stylings there are in this world.

For those who don't watch television, or who haven't quite figured out what the big deal is - all it takes is tuning into the right shows. And while it takes time - and in my case, it took at least a decade, if not more - the end result is finding something so intellectually stirring and wonderful.

This is why I watch have a reason to go back and maybe even to live my life in category one (despite the hermit-like tendencies). I don't know why, but it feels right to me.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Like an elderly Floridian

What is the worst way to end the day?

Well, there are a number of ways I can think of. Stubbing your toe on your nightstand or getting soap in your eyes when you're washing your make-up off. Hitting your head on the baseboard of your bed, or falling asleep with your contacts in.

Yeah, those would all suck.

But the absolute worst way to end the day is not by one of these events - all of which have happened to me more than once, by the way - but by the exact opposite... That is, by not ending the day at all.

I used to think staying up all night was some big glamorous gig. My friend Ashley and I would have sleepovers at my house and figure out ways to stay awake longer than we had the time before. It was like a constant battle against our previous selves. If we stayed up until 2 last sleepover, then we absolutely must stay up until at least 2:30 this time. That's the rule.

One evening we decided to go all out. Instead of going to sleep before 4 am (which is still late, but an acceptable "wee morning" hour to finally retire to sleep at a sleepover), we proposed that we might stay up all night. Surely this is a feat worth attempting. And it's doubtful it will be too tiring. We're spritely young children. If anyone can handle zero hours of sleep, it's us.

We concocted interesting ways of staying awake.

This was before we understood the many databases and appendices available to us via the internet. Before the magnitude of Google was within our mental grasp. And I guess that was fine, because we were pretty dang creative.

We froze grapes in the freezer, then laid down on the living room floor with them on top of our closed eyelids. Presumably the shock of the cold might stir us for hours. This did not work.

We filled cups with cold water and took turns lying on the living room floor (yet again) while whomever held the cup poured water on the face of the person on the floor. This was barbaric and awful, but it worked slightly better.

We played games and we talked and we pinched ourselves and we ate massive amounts of junk food. None of these were patented ways to stay awake longer than you're supposed to at 11 years old, but we certainly thought they were foolproof.

You'd think that what with our primitive attempts to put off sleep, we'd easily fall into the trap of lethargy. Our eyes would "close for just a second" and then open at 9 am, as we awoke refreshed from a nearly full night's sleep.

But, oh, that wasn't the case. And I have no idea how on this one evening we managed to stay up all night. It certainly wasn't the frozen grapes.

All I know is that on that next day, I needed someone to throw frozen grapes at my head to keep me from falling asleep every few minutes. When I wasn't falling asleep, I was yelling up a storm - so cranky and unhappy at having pulled an all-nighter that even the pride of staying up was no consolation.

So why did I only get three hours of sleep last night? A comparable level of sleep deprivation to my childhood all-nighter, considering I'd spent around 10 hours at Disneyland the day before and would be spending another few hours at Disneyland the next day?

This time it was unavoidable, but that didn't make me any less cranky.

By midday today, I was sitting in my room trying to unwind after a morning at Disneyland. I felt my eyes closing and my body descend into sleep like it wished it had much earlier last night. But I wouldn't let it. I kept waking up and falling back asleep. The process would continue as my mind raced, reminding me that I still had errands to run before I could actually get under the covers for the night.

Finally, I'm not so far away from going to bed for real. It's a strange feeling, now that I've spent half my day figuratively pinching myself. But it's given me a new appreciation for those hours we spend curling up after a long day, our feet aching from walking and our backs molding into the shapes of our mattresses. It's such a comfort.

There's nothing mature about staying up late anymore. If anything, I've already become grandparent-like in my willingness to go to bed early. At school this becomes an issue when my friends would rather spend all evening in our suite talking rather than going to bed by midnight like I do on a regular basis.

It takes some terrifically awful experiences to remind you why we sleep in the first place. It's not just this necessity thrown in at the end of the day. It's a comfort that keeps you feeling happy and refreshed each day. There's a reason so many people (like myself) get cranky late at night.

And it's why I'm already getting ready for bed. At 8:22. Like an elderly Floridian. And I'm content.

Disneyland fever in pictures

This afternoon and evening I was at Disneyland. Tomorrow morning I will be at Disneyland. There is something wrong with this picture. One should not wake up at 5 am to gain early entry into a theme park when one was at said theme park a day before, staying to watch the fireworks and Fantasmic! until 12 am.

But one follows a code of behavior that doesn't apply to me, unfortunately.

Not the first photo of my day, but one of the first okay-looking ones of the entrance to Hollywood in California Adventure.

Then my favorite photo that manages to get all of us in the frame: me with my camera in Kristin's right sunglass lens, Kristin's brother Steven in her left sunglass lens and of course Kristin.

Following up with my second favorite photo...of food porn. Mmm.

I tried to capture an image of the water squirting out of Kristin's straw that she'd poked a hole in. I failed.

I did not fail, on the other hand, at taking odd shots around the Dole Whip stand.

Like this one of Kristin's bag.

Note to self: Photos taken without an Instagram filter are infinitely more impressive.

So are ferris wheels with changing lights.

And Kristin's Tangled inspired shoes are pretty stellar too.

If only we could tell whether Peter Pan is played by a man or a woman.

At least I can still see Maleficent over the child on her father's shoulders during Fantasmic!

And finally we leave, all a bit too tired to function.

That was my day. Running all over the parks. Having a little bit of camera nerdiness and happy-go-lucky fun. Capping it off by crying to myself about having to wake up and do it all over again super early in the morning. But I'm happy. And now I'm going to bed.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Old lady woman-child

Spending time with my grandma has been, as I mentioned yesterday, a terrific distraction. Whether I'm pissed off or sad for any reason, she's there to break the fall and sometimes force me to think about things I happily avoid considering on a day to day basis.

Along with her lessons in cooking and her frequent shopping excursions during which we discuss how clothing is made and/or why it is important to stock up on nice jewelry, she very often enjoys telling me what an old person I am.

"It's like I'm the 19 year old and you're 82," she tells me. Sometimes more than once a day.

Others might take this as an insult of sorts. As if being old indicates boredom and laziness. That might even be what she intends to convey when she tells me this over and over while we're spending time together.

But that's absolutely the opposite of how I take it.

Rather than the intended purpose of the phrase - which might be to say that I'm slightly less spritely at times than would be expected of someone in their late teens (she invited me to go back to bed after waking me up at 8:30 AM for breakfast the other day, and when I slept in until 1:30 PM she was astounded by my ability to nap whenever - though in my opinion this is a trait of both seniors and teenagers) - I took this to mean I was an old soul. That's the meaning I want out of it anyway, because it's what I most clearly identify with.

I don't think my grandma quite understands how I differ from the generic almost 20-year-old, maybe that's why she complains.

If I was, in fact, the 19 year old to her 82 year old, we would never spend time together. She would not have the opportunity to teach me things like knitting and cooking and I, in turn, wouldn't be interested in showing her how to use a computer or restock her printer ink. These are just not things that ordinary child-grandparent relationships contain, mostly because individuals of my equivalent age could care less about their convalescing relatives.

Occasionally it frustrates me, to think that she'll dish out these jokes at my expense. But then I remember how lucky I am to be the person I am - to be slightly different with the only downside of being referred to by my own grandmother as an 82 year old at heart.

Even right now I'm contemplating my own senility. On an evening like this, I argue in my mind about whether it is more comfortable to lie on my stomach or on my back while I type out my blog entries. These are the kinds of internal discussions that do not require much consideration, but if you're an old lady like I am then your aches and pains come into play enough that it makes quite a difference.

When I've picked a seating/lying down arrangement, then I think about what it is I'm going to do after I've finished writing. Maybe watch a movie. What should I watch? Pride and Prejudice. Admittedly, this is a common teenage girl choice. But by the fact that I love Jane Austen and can't seem to get over my connection to her very antiquated history and discussions of romance, I consider her a reflection of my old lady ways.

In addition, considering where I am in general is pretty telling as to what my life has become. In less than 20 years, I've already grounded myself to my room rather than planning exotic nights out on the town with friends. Granted, I have the kind of friends with whom the most exotic nights out include going to the local movie theater or maybe going to the beach and having a bonfire (like last week) if we're feeling particularly crazy. But even so, I'm sure if I wanted to I could find friends who want to go clubbing or are interested in underage drinking and pot-smoke-doing (that's the correct phrasing, right? I don't smoke in any capacity, so I'm not hip on the lingo that you youngins are using these days).

Essentially, I'm an old lady.

Besides the aching back (yes, I have an aching back) and the occasional desire to watch re-runs of television shows from the 1960's (TV Land is one of my favorite television stations), maybe I have some youth in me.. just maybe. Like watching cartoons and going to Disneyland.

Okay, so I'm an old lady and a creepy woman-child.

If that means my grandma gets to make fun of me, calling me 82 years old, then so be it.

Lord knows I'm happy the way I am. Maybe even to a fault. And that's the point of living, right? I can pretty much guarantee that when I reach the age of 82 things won't have changed much...and I guess that means I'm a pretty happy and content person. That's all I want, thank you very much.

What she doesn't see

You'd think that on an evening of your life when you'd rather just curl up into a ball and cry over the state of absolutely everything, you'd purposely contain yourself to your bedroom. That's what the lock is for - to keep things out when you need your privacy.

Lord knows that yesterday I needed privacy. It was one of those days when nothing makes sense and I had trouble even understand my own thoughts much less what was going on in the minds of others. It was an illogical day, a difficult day, the kind of day that makes you take extra long showers because that is the only way to truly achieve peace sometimes.

But I chose to stay over at my grandma's house. For most, staying with a grandparent is like getting free pampering. Because older people tend to subscribe to similar patterns - of early meals, early sleep and minimal adventures during the day (lest they involve going to the supermarket or the library) - going to the grandparents' isn't much of a strain on the mind or the body.

You don't know my grandma.

Going to her house is like setting yourself up for a day as a contestant on Project Runway (in this situation, she's the judge and I'm the budding young designer) or Cooking with the Stars (my grandma is the awesome cook and I'm the sad, talentless star). There's always a project. Or there's always somewhere to go.

Whatever you do is not subject to your own whims, and sometimes it might consist of a decathlon of random events. Only one thing is certain, there will be no sitting down.

I don't want this. Not on a day when I feel the uncomfortable need to sit around and watch Parks and Recreation all day. Now that I'm done with interning for the summer, do I not deserve to go back to doing absolutely nothing like the sore, poor college student that I am?

Yeah sure, sometimes I'd rather be that kid who sits around at their grandparents house because the family has nothing better to do. In fact, that's what I'll be doing in Florida when I go there pretty soon to visit my grandparents.

I've seen both sides of the coin... which is why I've taken it upon myself right now to tell myself why it's good to A. appreciate having an awesomely spritely grandparent; and B. not sit around when you're feeling blue.

Part A: Seeing the good in my hilariously excitable grandmother

There was a time when I would walk around the mall with my grandma and she would instigate races. We'd approach a fork on the second level of the building, and without warning she'd start sprinting down one path, saying "I'll get to Macy's first!" before I even had a chance to react. 

A few minutes later I'd be at Macy's, perhaps beating her by a couple of seconds. She'd praise me profusely like I had won a gold medal in the Olympics or something. These were the kinds of games she played. 

She was that way with everything. Once I was singing and she was amazed at how long I could hold a note (she must have been out of her mind because I have a horrible lung capacity). She then challenged me to a contest, as we respectively sustained our singing voices and somehow I managed to beat her in that too.

It wasn't winning or losing that was the achievement here, though. It was the bond that was forming.

And I think, even with the strains that are placed on our closeness by a mutual stubbornness, this is what characterizes my relationship with my grandma. She's always trying to challenge me to be bigger and better than other people, even her. And it's facilitated our relationship for years.

Nowadays she gives me cooking, knitting and sewing lessons. She asks me to drive on the freeway for her and then yells out what she thinks I'm doing wrong (because apparently I do the same to her and this is her way of getting back at me).

Through all our experiences together, she's constantly teaching me. And on a day like yesterday (and today) that was a necessary distraction from the stagnancy of griping on the past that I was subjecting myself to. Which brings me to...

Part B: Getting up and moving

I didn't realize yesterday that I was doing exactly what I needed to do to feel better.

When things aren't going so well, the best thing is to just get up and move and walk away from it. It may not be that simple, but it certainly can be. My best distraction is and forever will be my grandmother, because she doesn't give me a second to think about what's going wrong in my life.

She doesn't realize what she does for me because she preoccupies herself with her own goals for how to improve me as a person. But she subconsciously forces me into situations where I can't keep considering issues that don't matter. It's like a rehabilitation system except the only cost to me is some note-taking and labor in the kitchen.

It was ages ago when I was having issues feeling adequate at school. I was overwhelmed and overworked. All I wanted to do was sit back and surf the Netflix Instant catalogue.

That's no distraction from the difficulty of every day life. If anything, that's a constant reminder. Sitting alone and doing practically nothing reminds you that you're alone doing nothing.

From now on when I know I'll have free time and I know I'm not in the best of all places, I know who to call. It's comforting to realize I have that in someone, even if she doesn't necessarily see it.