Thursday, December 10, 2009

Weather Beaten: A Cycle of Abuse

One of the things I have come to find endearing about my fellow dwellers of the Pacific Northwest is that we are absolutely never prepared for the weather.

In Las Vegas, it is always really hot.

In Chicago in the winter, it is unfailingly cold and windy.

Most of the southeastern United States is humid in the summertime.

But the weather changes so often, and often so drastically, here in the Portland area, that we never really get used to any type of weather for too long. The summers can be wet, dry, cold, or hot. The winters can be wet, dry, cold, or warmish. I don't know where the saying originated, but a classic elevator social-filler is, "Don't like the weather? Wait five minutes! Ha ha ha!"

So basically, we are always constantly taken by surprise by the weather, which I'm starting to think is really funny.

Maybe sort of the way a goldfish forgets everything it knows every three seconds. Or the way a jack-in-the-box never fails to be terrifying, but you anticipate it anyway?

Or maybe it's just a willful naivete, and that's why I think it's cute.
When it gets below 32 degrees, all we talk about is "how cold it is out there!"

"How are ya today?" "Oh, just tryin' to stay warm!"

This summer, we had a ridiculous heat wave. The problem is, it's never any extremity for very long, so it doesn't pay to buy a window unit air conditioner (or the heated blanket, the window scraper, the good pair of gloves, a decent pair of sunglasses, etc). So one night after lounging at Jayhawk's pool until about 11 PM, when the temperature finally melted below 90 degrees, I came home to my apartment to find that the Little Roomie had reclaimed the fan I'd borrowed from her. She assumed I was out for the night, and had both fans: I had zero.

This revealed me as one of The Unprepared, and it also made sleep impossible: I dragged a comforter onto our cement porch and slept outside on top of it.

It kind of keeps the mundane (the weather) exciting, I guess.

Here's to you, Portland. May you never carry an umbrella, own waterproof boots, learn to lift your windshield wipers away from the glass, or remember to buy tire chains until we're in the throes of a blizzard.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I don't know where my head has been. I haven't been writing much. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed when I find that other people have already said It. And, oftentimes, said It better.

I recommend two books for the rainy season of knotted quilts, hot tea, slate gray evenings, and sitting on heaters. For the season where saying It is often less effective than either experiencing or doing It. Whatever That may be.

Both are by Marilynne Robinson:

"It is one of the best traits of good people that they love where they pity. And this is truer of women than of men. So they get themselves drawn into situations that are harmful to them. I have seen this happen many, many times. I have always had trouble finding a way to caution against it, since it is, in a word, Christlike." (p 187)

"Memory is the sense of loss, and loss pulls us after it. ...There is so little to remember of anyone - an anecdote, a conversation at a table. But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that the memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming, habitual fondness, not having meant to keep us waiting long."

"But if she lost me, I would become extraordinary by my vanishing."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Ghost Story

This week was Fall Formal Recruitment at the University of Oregon- a phrase that strikes fear into the hearts of many women who have endured its work weeks, its sleepless nights, its exhausting days. Plenty loathe it; I always loved it. Part of this probably has to do with my freakishly competitive nature, as my chapter is, without fail, a recruiting powerhouse. There is a definite "rush" to the possibility of sharing your world with someone new who might also really love it and have the potential to contribute positively to it.

Out of context, the whole concept is terribly catty, counterintuitive, and wholly incomprehensible, but part of the bliss of living in an old mansion in your early twenties with fifty other girls at a big state school is that is is in context: that house is your planet. That sorority house itself is your home and the girls within it, your family. Meals are taken together, favorite shows are watched together, sleep space, bathroom space and study space is shared - TOO much is shared- all the important lessons and profundities, more of the daily dramas and hilarities. The days revolve around getting back to that house.
The heavy blue front door is the gateway into your world and it is a privilege to be a part of it.

..Which is why recruitment is so exciting. You get to add to that beautiful little microcosm. Recruitment is the lifeblood of the organization, and thus, truly is important to those involved. As we so often reminded each other in hushed tones, "All it takes is one bad class..." and *poof*- done for. Gone. A poorly assembled pledge class leads to future poor recruitments, which leads to less great women, which leads to less people paying the bills and all of a sudden, you've got an empty giant house and nowhere to crash at alumni homecoming weekend, and no where through which to tour your own daughter in that distant foggy place of adulthood and graduation, and are left with nothing but the ghosts of so many good times.

This idea haunted us, moreso than the spectre on the sleeping porch (a ghost story for another day), even moreso than Shannon Lacey.

Shannon Lacey.

Utter her name to this day in the chapter house at the University of Oregon and everyone in the room will know to whom you are referring.

Shannon Lacey: eternal sniper of hair ties, Q-Tips, and tampons. A kleptomaniac of such jaded disposition that a grandmother's pearl ring, any type of expensive science textbook, and umbrellas of all persuasions stood nary a chance against her sticky-fingered self.

Shannon Lacey was constantly leaving curling irons on overnight, mischievously picking the best toppings off of personal pizzas left in the common fridge, and breaking the copy machine.

Shannon Lacey started rumors, clogged the toilet, and kept leaving her empty fifths of cheap vodka in the basement.

She was ruthless and undiscerning in her devilry and left a swath of frustration and accusations in her terrible wake. She could not be contained.

One might ask why we chose to put up with this type of behavior- how we, an organization based on noble principles could tolerate the baseness of such a character. "Send her to the committee of Standards!" "Pull her pin!" you'd think.

But we couldn't.
Simply put, Shannon Lacey didn't exist.

To be fair, there was a young woman on campus named Shannon Lacey, and in fact, she ended up working at the campus Starbucks (the news of which was excitedly announced to a lunchtime crowd by a latte-drenched messenger, flush with the adrenaline of her post-ghost-sighting sprint to the house: "YOU GUYS. I SAW HER. SHANNON LACEY WORKS...AT STARBUCKS. I know, right?! Oh sweet- bagel bar for lunch!") but that is neither here nor there.

Shannon Lacey's spirit came to inhabit the sorority house from which she was corporeally denied admittance in the fall of my freshman year.

The story goes that after the first night of Fall Formal Recruitment, during the highly secretive member meeting wherein all potential new members are considered for membership, something odd happened.

As these sorority women were accustomed to being cogs of the efficient recruiting machine (oiled with Coco Mademoiselle and tears, of course) it was well understood that it would simply not be possible for a young woman to sneak into the house during a recruitment event and leave unnoticed, without having spoken to a highly-trained smile machine- a femme bot engineered to have Tiffany & Co. platinum-strength traps for minds and discerning judgements about all potential new members. Such things did not happen.

Thus, it was disconcerting when Lu (my best friend and "Big Sis," from whom this lore was first relayed to me) stood at the end of the session and said, "Wait, what about Shannon Lacey?"

"Who?" our membership chairman asked impatiently. Women were restless at this point, and ready to get to their homework, phone calls with boyfriends, or sleep.

"Shannon Lacey. She was here. She went to my high school - I saw her.

"What does she look like, then?" someone asked. "Yeah, what's she look like?"

"Okay, well...she has dirty blonde hair- it's big, and in tight, little curls. Medium height...she has a pale face- good skin- and dark circles under her eyes, and she was wearing a sort of lavender t-shirt, with a denim jacket and a sort of satchel bag (brown leather) and-"

As ruling queen of The Look (whereupon Lu would take in your entire appearance with a pert scan and then visibly register a judgement) it was not surprising that she could recount exactly what someone had been wearing. What was surprising was that still, no one claimed to have talked with the mystery girl.

"Well, I KNOW I saw her," Lu muttered, trailing off and turning to sit in her chair, peeved.

"We will make sure to put her on the list for tomorrow," said the membership chairman.

This was the first time Shannon Lacey's name was uttered in the walls of the house she would unwittingly come to inhabit. It was off-putting that no one claimed to have met her.
The meeting wrapped up without incident, and it was all but forgotten.

The next night, after another long day of chipper conversations with hundreds of strangers, the girls settled in for another meeting. Again, Shannon Lacey's name did not appear on the dockett.

Lu stood and announced, "Um, Shannon Lacey was here again. I KNOW she was."
The membership chair turned to face her. "You have got to be kidding me," she said, scanning her notes and lists for the name. "Wow, that is weird. We definitely put her through yesterday and her name is no where here."

Indignantly, Lu repeated, "Yes, and I saw her again! Oh come ON! Someone must have spoken with her! Seriously, I came face to face with her!" The recruitment chair confirmed that everyone on their lists had shown up for their expected tours that day, but still, not a single woman claimed to have made Shannon Lacey's acquaintance.

A titter passed through the room. The membership chairman barked for the cessation of the excited chatter that was rising in the room and again, penciled the name in, vocalizing that perhaps the Greek Life Office had made a mistake.

By the third day, there was no way that Shannon Lacey could have set foot in that house without setting off a Mouse Trap-esque chain reaction of high pitched gossip. She had already become a figure in everyone's sleep-deprived imaginations.

But she never came.

That night in the highly secretive membership meeting, her name was rightfully on the list, but this time, not even Lu claimed to have seen her. The name loomed, but there was no presence to back it up. The membership chairman rolled her eyes, and put her serious face on to let the room know that this matter was over and done with, and they would be moving on. If only it was that easy.

By the time my class was recruited and starting our pledge period a few days later, the lore of Shannon Lacey had already become a permanent fixture of the house, along with that big blue front door.
When someone's new jeans went missing: "Shannon Lacey did it!" someone would chirp jovially from the television room.
When someone took someone else's wet clothes out of the washing machine and dumped them on the floor and took the dryer for themselves: "Ha! Maybe Shannon Lacey did it!" we'd say.

Her name came up in skits, was written in as a guest at meal-times, and when someone didn't have a date to a function, they said they'd just take Shannon Lacey. Once, someone copied a bunch of drawings of a smiley face with "Shannong Lacey is watching you..." underneath it, and plastered them around the house.

DVDs went missing from Sex and the City box sets, eyeliner pencils were broken...really spooky stuff. And always, "Shannon Lacey did it!"

The scariest part, we came to realize, is that Shannon Lacey is all of us.

Shannon Lacey is the diffusion of responsibility in a house full of busy women who are still growing, still learning, still making mistakes.

Shannon Lacey is a sickness, haunting every large group who cannot muster the full participation and passion of its members. She is the horrid howling wind that carries gossip, and rumors.
She is probably going to set the smoke alarm off more than once this year.
She is definitely going to drink too much, throw up on her own date, and make out with someone else's at a dance.

I have learned that those things will tear a houseful of women apart faster than a bad recruitment can. So, with the fresh start of a new pledge class, I encourage all young women in sororities this year to give up the ghost: be fully present, be fully yourselves, and be fully responsible for your own actions. Don't let Shannon Lacey haunt your house.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Kickin' Myself at Work

Let it be known that this was MY idea.

I mean, it wasn't obviously ONLY my idea, but years and years ago I thought to myself, "I would really like it if our cars had programmable message boards."

I realized, of course, that maybe they'd have to come with preset templates, so as not to allow the idiocy of bumper-sticker culture to cause "I disagree with your position and thus will use my car to ram you into the median now" kinds of accidents. The messages could be templates like:

  • Please be a more courteous driver
  • Your turn signal is on
  • I am single: my phone number is 555-5555
  • I am lost, be patient with me.
The possibilities are really endless.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


"You're now a
crazy lost sad trampled thing
-A loon of crippled wing-
And I have tried, and I have cried, and I have died to be your sling.

I need a map to move from here

-Be elegant, departed-
But I just sink, so I will drink,

and think

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Workin' IT out with Elle Magazine

To treat myself for finally making it to the gym two days in a row, I picked up some light reading material.

Thing is, it isn't light at all, as it's Elle magazine's fall fashion preview and is a bergillion pages thick, which is actually why I purchased it- I thought it was Vogue.

But as I started paging through it in the erratic and desperate way one does when they are dying for distraction during a workout, I couldn't help but be annoyed at every turn.

Let's start with the cover:
I know they must take hundreds of shots of their cover models. I know the editors then pore over the proofs and painstakingly ponder which photo will make the cover for the month, and even that perfect selection undergoes Photoshopping and editing.
Why, then, did they manage to pick a picture of such a beautiful woman that makes her look like an impudent teenager who is trying not to laugh? Seriously, where is her upper lip?? "Jennifer! Aniston" is ALWAYS getting the short end of the stick, people, and even though it appears she's got an exclamation mark for a middle name (which is totes enviable), it has got to thoroughly suck to have your most successful relationship be a fictitious one with a nerdy paleontologist.

Jen, girl, I will always be a Rachel fan, but it is getting hard to root for you because I feel sorry for you...and then I remember you got to nail Brad Pitt for a few years and then I remember how much I love Ange, and then I am just kind of annoyed with you, because why should I feel bad for you? You keep dating these obvious douchemongers - where are Phoebes and Mon to help you keep your head on straight!

Next, this ad caught my attention:
You can't tell as well, here, but the whole thing is very colorful, and the clothes are all sequined and the models are all doing this choreographed gazing-off-longingly-at-the-lighting-crew's-catered-lunch thing...except, lo...behold.... the terribly confused homeless creature who has crept onto the scene to steal the pills out of everyone's giant handbags. What IS that thing? Why is it looking at me like that? How did that get through editing? Why is it only wearing black, and no sequins? WHY IS IT LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT?

J. Simp, another John Mayer castoff, also looks confused, here. Probably because she's wondering who the hell let her name her new fragrance, "Fancy Love." She's probably wishing for just about any kind of love, these days... like, I dunno, what's the opposite of "Fancy" love... Taco Bell love? "I've stolen your favorite sweatpants to fart around the house in for 3 days straight now" love? To be honest, I'd probably rather wear those than something that sounds as if it were a brand extension of high-end cat food. Stupid name. Bad branding.

Oh, what's this treat from the folks at Ralph Lauren Collection? Did they ravage the West Burnside Goodwill bins to find that fetching velvet tube Tarzan top and toootally un-tacky sequined scarf? Because I'm pretty sure I saw all that shit there last week and deliberately walked past it. Barf.

Next, we have this little gem from our friends at Guess:
GUESS what? No one has worn GUESS since 7th grade. Take your Canadian Tuxedo- Stripper Edition, and go make some real clothes I actually want to wear.

And finally (though there were probably four dozen other things I could have railed against but didn't have time to scan since The Little Roomie and I discovered that Season 4 of How I Met Your Mother is now On Demand - learn about it), I never ever understand ads like this one:
See, what Movado is cleverly doing here, is this little industry secret called a "celebrity endorsement." Weird, I know? Totally new concept. But again, I am at a loss for how this is helping their brand... this to me says, "If your father is a creepy bigamist -- or-- you don't know who your dad is but by golly you are going to sing your way through that journey of the heart, we think this watch would go nicely next to your face." She's been in like, 2 things! Of all people to represent or endorse your product, at least pick someone who is actually famous! This is a waste of expensive advertising space, and shows a total lack of creativity and vision on the part of Movado. Though I suppose time will tell (see what I did there?)

Things I did like: Tiffany & Co's new line of keys. Gap's reinvention of their denim line. And the interview with John Hamm.

In fact, said interview actually made the $4.99 price of the magazine, and this rant, worth it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

In My Place

I haven't been accomplishing a whole hell of a lot lately, so sometimes to make myself feel really productive, I gotta get in the little victories where I can.

Practicing my Arabic is more discouraging than anything (have you ever gone through a stack of flashcards and gotten 95% of them wrong? Terribly disheartening), and I CANNOT seem to get through this book I'm reading, as interesting as it is. So to make myself feel like I got something done for the day, I'll often just go into Deep Cleaning Mode.

Desk & Dresser Project, Phase I is complete- the results are visible in the pictures below. The knobs were on sale at Anthropologie- such a steal, and I have had my eye on them for months!

“He is the happiest, be he king or peasant, who finds peace in his home”- Goethe

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

IDEA: Choose Your Own Adventure TV

Remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books? There was a time when they were all I read, thus I ended up dying a lot, and having really bizarre nightmares.

Last night, this idea hit me like (Choose one):

a) a ton of bricks
b) George Foreman's fist
c) a train

The basic concept: write a very simple pilot for a television show with an array of characters in a simple situation. Then, have a website set up with a message board or a voting mechanism that allows viewers to determine the direction, plot lines, even dialogue of the show every week. (It could be modeled after that White House project where people can post policy ideas, and other people can either vote the idea up or down).

This would be such a cool exercise in collaboration, and would be just another step in the fusion of technology with pop culture- people can vote on American Idol, why not vote for characters to die off, or suffer a bizarre disease? Mediocre Hollywood writers (most of them) could easily reap the benefits of the nation's talent and take dialogue ideas (witty comebacks, dramatic monologues, crafted declarations of love) from a message board of people, eager to hear their ideas on tv but not persistent or savvy enough to write their own television show.

Think about the possibilities! (Choose one)

a) It would be an immediate cult-following, as people would be clamboring to see which ideas won out each week. There would be much Tweeting, texting, and Facebooking to lobby for people to vote certain plotlines- the viewer participation and dialogue would be really neat to see! It could be a model for other, more important, forms of citizenship.

b) Such a telling usage of television as social commentary- say, around election season, a grassroots organization wanted some attention to an issue they were trying to advance: if the word was spread fast enough and enough votes mobilized, that issue could be an integral part of a television plot the following week, garnerning national attention and sparking further discussion.

c) It's new! It hasn't been done!

Who do I talk to about this? Does anyone have any friends in the biz? Just know, you heard it here first when you see it on network tv next fall.

Friday, August 7, 2009

That's Ranunculus!

In the running as my third favorite flower (behind peonies and some orchids) is the ranunculus.

1. It is hilarious to say.
2. They are gorgeous!

The weather is a little gloomy for August so I think I'm going to fill the apartment with flowers this weekend.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Died Young, Stayed Pretty

This film is coming to Cinema 21 shortly, and I would like to see it.
Among other things, the title itself is intriguing. It's about the poster industry.

Some pretty things to look at, since this is, after all, just another Thursday, I have to keep reminding myself.

Treehouse fun! I could curl up in a place like this on a day like today. Designed by Pete Nelson.

Mark Philbert, fashion/beauty photographer, using the body for projection. If I projected the meeting minutes on myself for User Interface Specification walkthroughs I bet we'd get a lot more positive feedback.

Makes my poor boring cup of coffee feel inferior that it didn't get to go out and participate in the great revolution of art, and instead ended up in my tummy:
(This is made out of thousands of cups of coffee!)

I changed my mind. I want to go here, instead, on a day like today. Designed by Tatiana Bilbao.

They're slightly non-sequiter but sometimes it's best that way. Just. Keep. Busy.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Advice from Mark Twain

(Photo by The Nen - Flickr)

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” - Mark Twain

Had a great little brainstorm sesh with The Dance Fighter and Jayhawk last night.

It is wonderful to have friends that ask questions, share ideas, and push you to solve problems.
Thanks for always inspiring me. These are for you (all from my long-time inspiration, Exploding Dog):

My friends are going to save the world.

The journey of a 1000 miles starts with a single step.

I made this for you.

We built this city out of nothing.

Sometimes the problem is the solution.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Born (too) Free

I learned last week in piano lessons what defines a fugue:
A fugue opens with one main theme, the subject, which then sounds successively in each voice in imitation; when each voice has entered, the exposition is complete; this is occasionally followed by a connecting passage, or episode, developed from previously heard material; further "entries" of the subject then are heard in related keys.

Basically, a motif is introduced, and then repeated until all the voices have had their say.

My life, as a fugue, has been dealing with the motif of freedom- specifically in terms of lightness versus weight. Less abstractly, in wandering versus deliberate purpose. Concretely: as it applies to careers.

This motif first appeared in an article that came out a couple weeks ago which brought some attention and gave voice to my generation's plague- The Quarter-Life Crisis. (The term was coined around 2001, by Alexandra Robbins and Abby Wilner in their book Quarterlife Crisis, the Unique Challenges of Life in your Twenties (Tarcher, 2001)). But as I was 14 in 2001, and not quite old enough when that John Mayer song came out, it hasn't hit me until this past year (hence, the blog).
It sparked some interesting discussion with some friends, though, and the article's lack of conclusion distressed me. The basic points of the article are:

1. That many of us in our twenties feel lost, despite all following the 'rules' by going to college. We followed a roadmap to Wally World, and once we got here, well, you've all seen that movie.

2. Between Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, texting, BBMing, iChat and Skype, we're feeling isolated and more alone than ever.

3. We, as a generation, have too much choice. The overwhelming infiniteness of opportunity is crippling, and so we stick it out in jobs we hate, in cities we don't like, with significant others we don't love.

That was the first Voice of the motif (which was just turning up the volume on a Voice that had already been chattering away in my consciousness for months).

Then, for my book club, we decided to read Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being. One of the main themes, and questions, the novel puts forth is the very non-fictional question: are you more free if you are lighter than air, or tied to the earth with an anchor?

The heaviest of burdens is simultaneously an image of life's most intense fullfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of a burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into new heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?

Next, this came up over sangria and carpaccio and arancini with my dear and brilliant friend, E=MC. He is studying Theology at Duke Theological Seminary, and thus, is a fascinating person and contributor to conversation. He has read Kundera's book, as well as pretty much every other book on the planet. He posited, that there is Biblical evidence to suggest that "there is freedom in obedience". (So many verses talk about using freedom to serve- using freedom to obey commands and love one another - rather than using freedom to run wild).

Then finally, I went to church on Sunday with my family (the church in which I grew up) and the sermon was on Psalm 100, the key verse of which reads: "Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture." This verse is not meant to demean humans or put us on par with sheep, but to offer comfort in the sovereignty of God- to offer peace in knowing our place, and where we belong.

The benediction (my very favorite part of church services) sent me out into the world to think about this.

I think with this reflection, the fugue is complete.

I may not have any specific direction to take from these musings, but I think I have become comfortable with the idea that I do have a place, and that I do want a career to help me find my place, not necessarily define it. I want a life's work into which I can throw myself, not a series of jobs I do or a meaningless string of people I interact with for no reason. What a person does for a living, how they spend their time, has always been important (it's oftentimes what our last names are derived from: Potter, Miller, Baker, Smith, Fisher, etc.) and I think it is up to each of us to make a decision about what is important to us: to just pick a career/life path and GO with it, rather than twiddle our thumbs and hope something happens.

I will choose to find my joy in weight.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Surprise Party

Sometimes, when things are going well, there's not a lot to be said about it that can't be summed up by the clinking of two glasses, in a toast to the day.

It's funny how you can be in a good place, but not realize it because you're facing the wrong direction (typically the past, or from whence you came), and as soon as you spin around, you see everything that's there waiting for you. It's like the world throwing a surprise party for you.

Here are some things that await you once you're ready for them:

Monday, May 11, 2009

For Mama

You read a lot about mothers in literature and lore. About serene, wise women who dispense worn maxims and are beloved for their famous pie crusts. Or stifled women, who entertain and charm and hold secrets. Or wild, wonderful women who just happened to make terrible mothers- all smoke and scent and leaving.

It might be the times, it might be without the lens of purposeful prose, but when I think of my mother, I believe I am too close to her still to make any sweeping or poetic judgements.

Honestly, the character I relate my mother to most is probably Jill Taylor: the mom from Home Improvement.

Here's a woman who talks loud on the phone, is perpetually annoyed with some project or other of her (exasperating yet ultimately capable and infinitely loving) husband, tries to keep up with her kids' antics, while also always remembering to do what she loves (be it her job, or the time Jill goes back to school).

From a pretty early age, I think I learned to recognize my mother as a woman in the context of the world around us, and not just as Mom. She has generally always worked at least part-time, has always been active in the church community, makes sure to carve out time for friends on a regular basis, and fits into her (huge) extended family in a niche that always allowed me to see her as someone's cousin, a niece, a sister. So often I think our perceptions of our mothers are dominated by our inability to see them as anything other than our mothers.

I hear often that I bear similarities to her (the shape of my hands, my laugh, some other miscellaneous mannerisms) and I see them, too (the way I conduct small-talk, the way I prepare meals). I wonder, when we are not as close- when I move to a different city or the day she eventually passes on (God willing, decades and decades from now), what I will really remember about her. The things I will realize it was she who taught me, and no one else.

I think one of her most wonderful gifts is her ability to use the adversity in her life to benefit others. I have seen her draw on painful and difficult experiences and in turn, offer comfort and hope to people who would otherwise feel desperate and alone. Likewise, she does similarly with bounty in her life, and is wonderful about letting it go to people who need it more.

Mothers' Day at first appears to be a silly holiday, but I suppose any day that makes you reflect on the woman who brought you into the world can't be all bad. Above all, I am thankful that my mother somehow manages to be so normal, but also extraordinary. To raise her children in a stable and healthy environment, while fulfilling her promise to remain married to my father, is a feat in itself. I never grew up for want of anything, and managed not to be spoiled. Despite my observations that she is so much more than a mother, being a Mom might be her best talent.

I am so thankful for that.

What about you? What have you learned from your mothers? What do you admire most about them?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Straight Up: Paula Abdul

There are few things that irk me as much as celebrity for celebrity's sake- people who become obnoxiously ubiquitous and overexposed for no apparent reason, other than to fuel their own unhealthy self-obsessions. It seriously grinds my gears.

The most recent object of my wrath (previous offenders include: Paris Hilton, everyone who is a part of the Laguna Beach/Hills franchise, children of legitimate celebrities) is 90's hit-maker, American Idol's drunkest judge, and best person to watch on local news interviews, Paula Abdul.

Let me preface this by saying I've been stewing about this for days, but only today realized that her pain pill addiction started as a valid dependency due to a car crash, or a plane crash, and not just a career nosedive. She's been through a lot, I get it, fine. Good for her. However...

The most recent thing that's been bugging me is that, yes, on the way to work in the mornings, I like to listen to the radio. The problem with this is that 99% of morning radio is absolutely worthless junk. This forces me to skip around from station to station to avoid commercials (it doesn't work) and I think for the last 4 days running, Paula Abdul has been a guest on the "John Jay & Rich" morning show (it's awful. Don't listen to it). She sounds perpetually drunk, and it is such an obvious and desperate PR stunt for her new album, that I can't help but be annoyed.

Paula, I like American Idol, ok? I do. How can I not love the institution that gave the world Kelly Clarkson? I love Simon's little smirk, especially when you say something stupid, and I love when he draws little mustaches on your face.

But I do not love that you are desperately clinging to your song & dance career, as it was over years ago, with that beloved song which I first heard on my next-door-neighbor and best friend's giant cassette player: "Straight Up".

Girl, you are done. And now, a video montage of all things that you ARE still good for:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Mothers' Day Present for Me

Ok, I'm not a mother, obviously. But that doesn't mean I can't enjoy the gift I'm giving my own mother for this most ridiculous of holidays.

I bought us two (excellent) seats for the grand finale of the Jefferson Dancers' Spring 2009 Recital.

According to Wikipedia:
The Jefferson Dancers are the performing leg of the magnet arts dance program at Jefferson High School in Portland, Oregon, United States. The company was founded by Mary Vinton Folberg in the early 1980s.

Since its inception, the Jefferson Dance Program has trained many young dancers who have gone on to further their training in some of the leading performing arts colleges in the country including New York University—Tisch School of the Arts, North Carolina School of the Arts, SUNY Purchase, University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Bennington College, University of Utah and Juilliard. Former Jefferson Dancers are performing all over the world, with professional dance companies.

Basically, they are high schoolers and they are phenomenal dancers.

I am taking mama to the 7:30 PM showing this coming Saturday- tickets available through Ticketmaster (or sometimes, you can just get lucky and buy leftovers at the Will Call box office the day of the show)!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

CoacHella Long Drive

The following is a story-pitch I sent to Rolling Stone about a month ago:

In a time of societal unrest, social progress, and an unpopular war, the counterculture of the United States once found its headquarters in a muddy field in upstate New York. Now, in a similar situation forty years later, those of us looking for something more (a meaningful connection in a time of Facebook, Tweeting, and texting; something of value that does not fluctuate with the whims of bears or bulls) still head to isolated fields to seek solidarity. These retreats provide bankable experiences, from which people can withdraw inspiration later in the year when they are about to default on the hottest of commodities: hope. Even the down-and-out can put stock in The American Music Festival.

Rolling Stone has built its reputation on always having a stiff little finger on the nation’s zeitgeist. While it pays its standard journalistic respects to the politics of the recent economic downturn, the publication could benefit from exploring the fallout on the average music fan. The general feeling from my peers these days is that it might make as much sense to devote oneself to something equally as intangible and volatile as the stock market. Travel and music are chief among these pursuits, and their lovechild is the music festival. People are passionate about music festivals, and Rolling Stone can honor this with deeper coverage.

I want to explore, in an 1800 word article, the reasons why we shell out hundreds of dollars for tickets, service charges, facility fees, and camping passes, even when our bank accounts are terrifyingly empty-bellied. I want to figure out why people drive hours across state lines in cars with strangers; why they buy plane tickets; why people actually ask their bosses for time off in this world of layoffs and cost-cutting…all to see a couple bands play. In 2008, there were dozens of major North American music festivals. Thousands of people attended each of them, and intend to in 2009 as well. These festivals save the concert industry every summer.

More importantly, they save people every summer who hear the music; who suffer heat stroke; who fall in love; who navigate their way back to a tent solely via pirate or state flag; who eat nothing but elephant ears and curly fries for four straight days; who take days off from work and save their precious paychecks for weekend passes. In addition to the In-Depth Coverage on Coachella and Bonnaroo that RS provides, there are stories to be told that don't involve the bands themselves, but rather the people who pay to see them.

I am 22, and fresh out of college. I work a soul-sucking desk job and even though I can’t really afford it, I’ll be attending Coachella this year in Indio. Honestly, I can't afford not to. I would sincerely love the opportunity to explore what about the festival draws fresh faces and veterans to the event from a human-interest perspective. I want to understand this demographic of people who pay for an experience wherein the only souvenirs are a sunburn and a hangover… and then come back for more a year later. My piece will draw on my weekend at Coachella specifically, as well as my past experiences at Austin City Limits and Sasquatch. It will focus on the attendees, and not the bands.

The American Music Festival doesn't need a bail-out, but rather, bails us out from our boring jobs, and the disappointment that we won't ever be rockstars after all. One weekend at a time, we get to invest in something honest again.

Thing is, I never heard from the editors, and you know what? It's just as well, because I don't have anything particularly insightful to say about my experience.

It was an honor and a pleasure to see Sir Paul McCartney perform, I will say that much.

Other live music highlights for me:
- Ghostland Observatory (my favorite set of the weekend, after Sir Paul of course)
- Antony & the Johnsons
- Okkervil River
- Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Karen O deserves the hype)

- The Bloody Beetroots
- MSTRKRFT's set with a live surprise John Legend guest spot was unreal
- The Kills (the first few songs anyway- it all started to sound the same, as hot as Alison Mosshart is)
- Throbbing Gristle (I only caught 2 songs. That was plenty)

And other than that, it was just a weekend of camping, hot sun, good friends, and a lot of driving. It was good to see You.

Lykke Li's lackluster set:

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rising on the wings of a Seaplane

I am proud to announce that Seaplane, a boutique that embodies "fashion with a vision of clothing as art" will be carrying MY jewelry line, Cellar Door 24!

The shop is located on NW 23rd in Portland, and has a great array of lovely items for sale, including TOMS shoes, one of a kind dresses and knits, fun hats, denim, and other jewelry. They are also proponents of supporting local designers, as well as sustainable and socially conscious design. I am really excited to work with them.

Please swing by and support them if you're in the area, and look for my beloved goodies in a few weeks' time.

Even though the Spring is destroying my sinuses and rendering me a useless sneezing mess, it certainly is a time for new beginnings!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Whole New World

Just as the introduction of alcohol into my life brought about the realization that all previously enjoyed activities are made into new activities when combined with booze, a similar epiphany occurred today regarding the sun.

It was the first, sunny, warm day of the year here in Portland, Oregon.
We don't know when the next bout will be, so we take what we can get.

The trendy shopping district around my neighborhood was bustling yesterday, which I explored thoroughly with my mother, and slightly less so today. I know this, because I went again with the Little Roomie and Daisy (her name is not Daisy, but her excitable-and-thus-frequently-surprise-peeing dog is named Daisy. She is also darling, and I love her. The dog is cute, too). I didn't buy anything, thank you very much.

We spent the rest of our day doing this:

May I recommend croquet to all as a way to pass the time?

Washington Park is also a beautiful place to play, with a great set of see-saws, and swings.

I sat on a swing today for the first time in...years?... and re-learned how to pump.
Little Roomie and I marveled at this: how a simple and distinct pair of movements can propel you into motion.
"Physics, bitches," Daisy reminded us.

So I sat, and from stillness, worked my self into a graceful swinging arc.