Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Late night musings to entertain myself

It's 1:02 am. And I just realized that I selected the music of One AM Radio to accompany me while I write. So that's kind of ironic. Or something. Don't you often find that people use the word "ironic" in the wrong context. I think it happens a lot more than we realize. Irony is pretty popular. One AM Radio <---check them out. So, why am I up at 1:05 am? (Three minutes passed while I wrote that simple paragraph up there. That seems kind of pathetic, that I couldn't write more than what I did in three minutes.) But I'm up because I've had a cold for 10 days and although daytime Me feels pretty much back to 100%, nighttime Me can't seem to shake this stupid, tickling cough. Being horizontal in bed combined with trying really hard not to cough so I don't wake Chip (my bed companion) makes it pretty much guaranteed that I'll cough. Right before I drift off these weird, whimpering sounds slip out of my mouth and bring me back to full wake-i-tude and I must cough. So I'm sitting semi-upright stretched out on the couch under a pile of blankets hoping that tiredness will win the battle against the tickle in my throat eventually. I keep trying to think of what to write because I feel like writing but it's late and my brain feels sort of lethargic and not very funny or inquisitive or creative at the moment. It's 1:23 am now. Yeah, I know...what the hell am I doing with all this time? I've hardly written anything! I'm glad you asked. Because I've been wondering the same thing. But in a bigger way really, more than just the last 26 minutes. (yup, 3 more went by) I've had a difficult time transitioning from two part time jobs down to just one. Luckily the job at Walker's should start up again in early spring. But between now and then I have hopes and dreams of doing stuff. Accomplishing things. Making progress. But on what? Time is so precious, I don't want to waste it. And I feel like I'm not Carpe Diem-ing enough. Like there's more Diem to be Carped and I'm letting it pass me by for lack of some kind of adventure-seeking motivation. I think maybe November to April isn't really the best time for me to have not much to do in a "scheduled" sense. There's too much darkness. Too many layers on my body. Too many blankets to snuggle under. Too many tasty things to cook and bake. Too many books that need to be read. Too much new music to discover. That's a lot of weight to overcome. And I haven't even listed gravity, inertia or the cat sleeping on my lap yet! Now I'm listening to Anomie Belle - Bedtime Stories. Also kind of ironic or something.

I've been addicted to seeking out new music lately. We went to see a show in Portland, ME. I didn't expect too much from it really. The line-up was a somewhat obscure independent group called El Ten Eleven that I'd gotten into after watching the dorkumentary Helvetica. Some local-ish group opened for them. I'd never heard of them at all - Arms and Sleepers. Well, let me tell you, I haven't stopped thinking about how great the show was since Nov. 21st. And via weird, wonderful web hop-skips-jumps, I've found a world of music that's all novel and fitting my mood right now. Listening to music is probably one of my favorite things about having ears.

Hmmm... Top Ten Things I Love About Having Ears:

10. I've always tucked my hair behind them. It's very convenient.
9. Obviously the holding up the glasses thing, but perhaps my nose is more important for that.
8. I can hear cool outdoor sounds like wind and birds and neighbor's dogs barking...oh wait...that kind of sucks, that last one.
7. They are good for being whispered into when someone has sweet nothings to say. Although Id rather hear a sweet something. And if it's gonna be a sweet something, I'd rather just eat it.
6. My earlobes are kind of soft and sometimes I like to touch them. But I don't do it too often anymore because it's kind of weird to see me touching my earlobes in a self-soothing kind of way.
5. I'm starting to run out of things but I'm only halfway finished....
4. I can hear the cat purr. And meow- incessantly, plaintively - for food and attention. That's the best. (sarcasm)
3. I can hear all the great conversations I have with my friends. Hearing myself talk is the best!
2. Chip isn't very good at sign language, so hearing works a lot better for keeping our relationship coherent. I'm not very good at it either, but I'm better than Chip!
1. Listening to good, new, interesting, exciting, music. See, I told you it was one of my favorite things about ears.

It's 2:13 am. This was sort of weird. Wish me sleep.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Fear of "The Last Time"

Nature should be no friend of mine, as she forever marks the passing time. And shows the world held upside down, in a drop of rain slowly stretching toward the ground.

My desire to write hides deep under cozy covers dreaming away in a sluggish slumber while time has its way with me. Perhaps I must shake my creative-self by the shoulders, set off an alarm, dump a bowl of cold water over my lazy creative head; in other words - force the beast awake. Heh...just in time for winter's hibernation. An uphill battle? Or perfect timing? We shall see.

About two weeks ago while snuggled under the covers with my husband, my sleep-attaining process was derailed when a thought bubbled-up innocuously from my brain: "Huh...eventually one of these times will be the "last" time I ever snuggle in bed with my husband. Except I won't know it's the last time until it's too late." That thought extrapolated easily to "Wow... everything will be the "last time" eventually." One of the times that we linger after dinner - drinking a bottle of wine, talking for hours - will be the last. There will be a last time I hear him play the guitar. There will be a last time we ride in the car together. There will be a last time we make love. There will be a last time we laugh together. And most likely I will not know that I am experiencing a "last time" moment until it's too late.

That's not the end of it though. This thought process can easily be applied to everything else and everyone else in my life. It makes me hyper-aware of everything I do, say, touch, feel, taste, hear and love so that every moment becomes imbued with the gravity and awe of "possible last" status. But it's difficult to remain continuously hyper-aware and eventually I revert to taking things for granted. I've decided that for me, "taking things for granted" allows life to move forward without feeling continuously heartbroken by the unpredictable beauty and brevity of life.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Happiness Pinned to the Mat - now what?

For the past 5 years my need to struggle against various sets of conflicting thoughts and feelings has been like a constant, but burdensome, friend. Wrestling with questions about existence and happiness seemed imperative to my survival and constantly on my mind. And while it has been my mind that searched for answers and often only dug up more questions, it seemed to be my heart, my guts that experienced the weight of their importance. At times it felt like a high-stakes game accompanied by emotional fluctuations easily mistaken for passionate living.

With a solid six months of contentment, dare I say happiness, under my belt I find myself wondering what's become of my passions, my emotional landscape. Sometimes it feels rather dull compared to the "old" me. Is my personal philosophy now so well-coalesced that I no longer need to grope and grasp around looking for answers? Have I actually taken ownership of my happiness and found success where I feared I might only find failure? I feel there could be significant danger of boredom in what I perceive as the stasis of happiness. I admit to feeling some sadness at the loss of the emotional ups-and-downs that have swayed me for a good handful of years.

We all give lip-service to wanting happiness, but I'm not sure I believe that most people would know what to do with themselves if they actually became masters of their own happiness.

And so next week, as I recover from my early 30s and head into my late 30s I ask myself this: If my internal world has settled (for the time being) into a place of happiness, what next; what now to fire my heart, my passion? It's powerful to ask oneself this question, take responsibility for it and say, I don't know... yet...but it's gonna be a blast to figure it out and in the meantime... it sure feels damn good to be happy.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I am, I am Superman

I shared this already today with two people who I thought might appreciate it, but I'm putting it up here because I can't stop watching it. This 1980s home video, made by some pre-teens prior to the advent of YouTube and digital cameras, is set to a great REM cover of "Superman" - a song that was one of my favorites back then. It captures a certain spirit of the ephemeral that I don't want to pin down with words, I just want to watch.

Rainy June.

From Mansfield
I love thunder that shakes the house and makes the cat nervously seek me out for safety's sake.

Outwardly I agree with the gripers in order to seem the pleasant conversationalist. "Damn rain! Just when you think it can't get any wetter! Everything's waterlogged! Is it ever gonna be summer?" Inwardly though, I'm feeling as if I'd like to give them a tour of how amazing the cloud formations have been this spring and early summer. I want to describe to them what I've learned, just by observation of my own garden, about the weird and wonderful lives of snails and slugs - where they lay their eggs, what flowers they like to eat, which ones they stay away from, how you can wage war on them and still find them fascinating. I want to talk to the weather-complainers about how the strawberries have changed over the past weeks due to an excessive amount of water. I want to share with them the humor in watching from the window as my middle-aged neighbors literally run for cover, high-tailin' it like I've never seen them do - the man in a just-home-from-work pair of charcoal gray dress pants and cobalt blue button down - "as the clouds rip open and the rain pours through a gaping wound" (to spontaneously steal from the U2 lyric). Their black lab, who they were dutifully out walking around the yard, merely saunters back to the house with a slow tail-wag, as raindrops the size of nickles pelt straight down from the sky.

A lot of people are pissed about how rainy it has been this June. Of course, a lot of people are pissed about the weather no matter what it is. I find that both so human and so humorous.

I'd like to hope that maybe it's just a cover - bitching about the weather. Small talk. A way to empty the weight of silence between strangers. Maybe other people are, like me, secretly hoping for and reveling in the next big crack of thunder. They are doubting that they'll see hail of any size as threatened in the severe weather warning on weather.com but hoping that they will, It would be comforting to imagine that all the weather nay-sayers might be observing nature's response to so much water and so little sun and learning a little in the process, just like me.

It's so un-cool to be amenable to whatever the weather offers. Being publicly content with bad weather is an instant conversation killer.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Scattered thoughts

I have been feeling a deep pull to write something, but the truth is that my thoughts are too scattered and varied to sum-up into a compact blog post. I am continually stymied by attempting to choose a starting point.

My thoughts these days cover the gamut from: what it means to become "friends" with someone (how it develops, how it lasts, how it ebbs and flows, how email and internet affect friendships, how they vanish or resume and what it is that makes someone a friend v. just an acquaintance or colleague), to the wonders of watching insect ecosystems happen right in my yard and then destroying them, to losing any disgust inherent in squashing a slug with my bare fingers in order to protect my veggie and flower plants, to pondering what happens to my intellectual pursuits when I suddenly lose almost all my solitary time but to a job that I actually love; a job that pays me one third what my "real" job pays but where I work 10 times as hard and gain about that much more satisfaction from my efforts.

That was an insanely long sentence and full of grammatical errors. Oh well. Such is my brain...it don't care none 'bout them thar grammar rules 'n such, just thinks thoughts in a messy sorta way. Ain't it purty?

Maybe I can tackle some of these thoughts and feelings individually and have a sudden burst of blog productivity. Perhaps just cracking the shell is enough to let the inside goo run out and spread into a form of some sort. Or maybe these moments will pass and these thoughts will be forever lost to my subconscious mind, dredged up only for strange, incoherent dreams and random melancholy feelings of nostalgia.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Musings provided by unstructured time

Sometimes I look around and ponder the scene I would leave behind if I died right now, or perhaps, disappeared instantly. I imagine the scene through eyes other than mine, the scene one would come upon when discovering my absence. What would be meaningful? What would be revealing? What would remain unexplained? What would make Chip, or anyone else who knows me, smile, shake his head and think...yep, that's Jen for ya?

What artifacts, what evidence do we leave of our minute to minute existence?

I look around now, right now, and see: the folding metal chair - partially covered with an old sheet to make it feel a little softer - sitting in front of the garage, the strange little gardening tote that turns into a stool positioned as a foot rest, The book, Darwin's Dangerous Idea by Dennett along with my index card of notes and comments, inside - the laundry still going, my summer clothes taken out of storage and piled haphazardly upstairs, winter clothes now optimistically out of sight. In the kitchen the computer is open, gmail up and running like it often is, all my bead stuff out on the table and a necklace half put back together, a glass of wine mostly gone. Evidence of an afternoon spent leisurely, no task fully completed, everything in medias res. The way every good story begins.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sending signals to outer space

Today the gorgeous combination of sunshine, balmy breezes and warm temperature calls for unleashing my winter-pale skin upon the world. I bring my rosemary plant outside with me and tell it that, "Why yes, little Rosemary, we are in Southern France again! Isn't it delightful?" This plant is not native to Vermont. It thrives in a Mediterranean environment. Can you blame it? My little Rosemary has hung on valiantly through the dark, cold New England winter. It's not an easy task to see a rosemary plant through to the next summer. Every sunny day I'd move her around the house into the best light, from the time the sun hit our kitchen windows until sunset, all 5 hours of it. I think her plant-y stamina and my weird determination paid off.

Feeling the driveway grit on my bare feet and breezes tickling across my shoulders excites me with tactile sensation and I can't concentrate on reading very much. So, I just pretend mostly. My skin is so white I must be sending signals to outer space. If the Google Earth satellite happened to go over my house today, the light reflecting off of me might have blasted out any other images.

If you look into the garage, though, you will note that the snowblower still looms in the shadows, ready for one final death-gasp of winter.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Strange Story of Doug the Garbage Man - Fiction

Doug the garbage man didn’t mean for it to become a habit, meeting up with her every night. The meetings began at the end of the driveway and ended up as long walks in the dark. He started doing it because he felt stuck, in a rut, purposeless.

The first impromptu meeting occurred about five weeks ago at the beginning of October. Doug’s wife started wearing a homemade pink cape in honor of Breast Cancer awareness month about the same time. She hadn’t taken it off since, except to shower. Doug doesn't understand yet that being in a rut is no different from finding a groove; it’s all just a matter of perspective. But in a few months that very thought will occur to him without prompting during an argument with his wife.

When Doug got off of work he pulled the truck into the driveway and parked it next to the Fried Dough trailer – tarp-covered and tires blocked until next year’s fair season. A shadow-casting full moon hung high above the kids’ tree fort in the backyard. Doug grabbed his dinner (a bag of what he called “lunch leftovers”) and hopped down from the truck. Really, the bag held garbage he’d gleaned from the dumpster behind the Whole Foods Market. Today’s pull resulted in day-old organic rolls, “Dolphin-safe” tuna salad past its freshness date and a slightly bruised organic mango. His wife always asks him “What’d ya have for dinner?” and Doug always answers, “Lunch leftovers”. She doesn’t know he picks the garbage for his dinners. Doug doesn’t know she wears nothing but the cape until just before the kids get home from school.

Doug took his “lunch leftovers” out to the kids’ fort and climbed up the child-sized ladder, gripping the brown bag in his teeth, his hands and size 12 work boots taking up too much space on the wooden rungs. With a grimace and a fleeting thought of, what if I get stuck here, Doug pushed his way through the child-sized doorway. Born. He stripped off his reflective, high-visibility rain coat and spread it on the damp floor. Stretched out diagonally on his back, his six foot body just barely fit from corner to corner. He folded his hands behind his head as a pillow, sighed and looked up through the tree branches feeling pleased that his kids’ wanted an open-topped fort. Doug watched the moon slowly track across the sky and eventually out of his narrow field of view before sitting up to prepare some dinner.

He tried to cross his rickety knees, Indian style, like the librarian used to make them do in elementary school. Back then, Becky, the girl with the booger-green freckles and nothing but pink clothes, made fun of Doug – called him the Tin Man and said he wasn’t flexible. In third grade Doug didn’t know what flexible meant but he knew enough to be embarrassed anyway. Becky stood on her hands any chance she got so that her pink ruffled undies showed off to the books on the shelves and all the starring boys. Then she’d drop over backwards so that her feet met the floor again and her whole body made a bridge. One by one, the gawking boys would blush and crawl under her, all except for Doug. He couldn’t be that close to Becky and not want to kiss her again, not want to taste her pink bubblegum lips. The first and last time he’d gotten close enough to make contact, back in 2nd grade, sharp little teeth behind Becky’s bubblegum lips drew blood.

Doug gave up trying to cross his legs. He leaned back against the wall of the fort and prepared his “leftover lunch” garbage feast. Elementary school and Becky’s pink everything slipped back into a hidden nook of memory as he chewed slowly, savoring the free and easy meal, thinking about nothing much. Just then, the lights came on in the house. He heard the kids’ feet slapping noisily across the floor and his wife yelling at them to “get upstairs and in the tub before your father gets home!” He could see her through the window. She was still wearing that damn Breast Cancer cape even though Breast Cancer Awareness month had ended two weeks ago. Doug heard people talking about her in town today. He didn’t disagree with their speculation about his wife’s sanity.

A dark form appeared in the cone of cool, blue streetlamp light at the end of the driveway. A car passed, its headlights reflecting off a low pair of masked eyes. Vortices of mist tumbled in the car’s wake. Doug stuffed what was left of his sandwich in a pocket and reached for the bruised mango. He left his neon raincoat crumpled on the floor and exited the fort via the yellow curly slide.

She met Doug near the mailbox, just like always. “I’ve got a surprise for us tonight. I’ve never had one of these before. It’s a mango. Will you share it with me?” Doug held the mango down toward Raccoon’s nose. She put a paw on Doug’s out-stretched hand, chattered and sniffed the air. Their shadows were blunt and short-lived as they stepped out of the streetlights’ reach and ambled down the road together.

Friday, March 20, 2009

What Hope Looks Like From Here

It's the first day of Spring and although I enjoyed this winter quite a bit, I'm not sorry to see it go. Longer days, hints of green poking up through brown leftover ick and "come hither" bird songs make it seem like just one more day and it'll really happen. Spring will be sprung: lilacs will bloom heavy and fragrant, their branches will bend down toward the ground when rains come and soak the delicate petals. Daffodils will nod cheerfully on hillsides that just yesterday seemed covered forever in snow, ice, sand and salt. My eyes will be astonished that they forgot, once again, what green really looks like. This is what hope looks like in New England at the end of March:

This glacier is mostly fallout from the upstairs roof. It's a deep, solid, impenetrable fortress of winter. I'm going to mark down the date it's finally all melted. Anyone wanna put in a bet?

Looks like it's time to open the backyard compost dump pile for business! Hooray!

Now there's some serious hope.

Pussy Willows

Lilacs. It'll still be another, oh....month and a half until these buds do their beautiful thing.

But first, we must be patient through the fifth and most unwelcome season:

Unfortunately, the town "fixed" this road since I was on it yesterday so my picture doesn't do full justice to how bad it was. Yesterday it was like something college girls would use for a mud wrestling match in a bad Revenge of the Nerds kind of movie. The mud and ruts were so deep and sloppy that it was nearly impassable. I guess a milk truck got stuck a little further down the road earlier this week.

I know that most of you who bother to look at my blog live in New England or at least the Northeast. You're probably nodding your heads and agreeing with me that this is, indeed, what hope looks like on the first day of Spring in New England. I'm not sure someone from away would see it the same.

Feeling hopeful is grand.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Another Bad Ass Home Despair Project. I Mean Repair Project

Since I don't have babies and new parenting skills to brag and blog about, I offer instead another glimpse into my home repair exploits. Mom & Dad, I hope this warms your hearts and makes you proud:

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Illusions By Which We Live

How much of our lives depend upon illusions? And who is perpetuating those illusions: You alone, someone else to keep you happy, an entire group to which you belong?

How much of our lives are meaningful because of certain fictions? Fictions of: self- importance, friendship, sympathy, compassion?

How can you know if any particular thing about who you are is true, real, not an illusion, not a fiction you've created? I'm not sure you can. And if you can't know that beyond a doubt for yourself, how can you hope to know anything true about anyone else?

All I can be pretty certain of is that we were all born and that we'll all die, we all have bodies that involve biological function. Those things don't seem like illusions, at least, not without adding lots of mystical, magical thinking. Everything else you might want to put into the category of "true" and "real" seems ripe for scrutiny.

The illusions keep us getting up each day and continuing on. It's in creating fictions of who we are and what we're about, that we find meaning. Some days I find this perpetual task invigorating and full of beauty. Today I find it isolating and exhausting. I'm sure Sisyphus had his off days too.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Poking at Dead Things

Dahlia never met a dead thing she didn’t want to poke, or nudge with the toe of her sneaker, or flip over with a stick. If someone were watching she’d do it sheepishly, act like it disgusted her, act like it was the first time she’d ever been this close to a dead thing. But it never was. There had been lots of other times: the slim, brown deer legs sticking out of the snow bank, the harbor seal washed up on the beach with half its bony jaw exposed where the flesh had been ripped away, the mice her cat caught and dropped on the bed still warm and limp, the squirrel that had fallen onto the asphalt from the telephone wire overhead. The crows tugged at that morsel, fighting for the tastiest parts until she passed by on her walk, scaring them away temporarily. Several passing cars scared Dahlia away too. On her return a half hour later, only a fluffy red tail and yellowed rodent teeth in a gape-mouthed head remained for her examination.

She’d once felt the rush of adrenaline as she followed a bloody trough through fresh December snow. It led her down the hill, off the packed trail to where a hunter had recently left for the coyotes that which he didn’t want. The crimson entrails were not yet frozen, organs and vessels still nuanced in color and texture. She looked around for a stick, started to break a small branch off of a nearby tree but stopped short. This wasn’t dead enough yet. The clean, organic smell of blood still wafted from the neatly arranged innards. The fragile curves and bulges of what should be protected inside flesh and bone still glistened with life barely gone.

Dahlia felt nervous and vulnerable, like the hunter might suddenly return to scare her away from what belonged to the scavengers now. She'd taken off her gloves and laid them carefully on the snow next to her knees. She reached up inside her winter layers and placed her warm, damp left hand against her belly, felt it rise and fall with her breath. Adrenaline-jacked blood pumped up through the carotid artery in her neck; it thumped in her ears. The cold December air quickly chilled her right hand as she cupped it against the perfectly contained mass of guts on the snow in front of her. The lingering warmth she’d hoped to feel there existed only in her imagination.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Totally Frivilous Post About Nothing Important

Warning: This post is a complete waste of time and only if you are truly bored out of your skull should you read any further. Consider yourself warned.

A consistent theme of some sort surfaces when one studies my "celebrity" crushes from early childhood to pre-teen years.

1. Casper the Friendly Ghost

2. Kermit the Frog ("singing" here with Debbie Harry...ah the early '80s...painful)

While looking for a video to showcase good 'ol Kermit I found a clip of him singing Radiohead's Creep but I didn't put it here because Kermit dropping the F-bomb is just wrong. But funny.

3. Elliott the dragon from Pete's Dragon

4. Gilligan but not the Professor

5. Luke Skywalker not Han Solo (I didn't realize Han Solo was supposed to be the sexy one)

6. Radar but not Hawkeye or Pierce (Radar had a teddy bear and was so painfully shy, *sigh*)

7. Robin but not Batman (I'm talking the old TV show, the one where they wore colored tights)

What a bunch of sissies. All of them. It's embarrassing.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

JeNPR wishes Darwin a Happy 200th!

Q: How do you tell the sex of a chromosome?

A: Pull down its genes.

Today you get an introductory primer in Evolutionary Theory. This is my attempt at educational blogging (i.e. links to where smarter people have explained really cool stuff way better than I can). So, if you're looking for stupid-humorous Jen anecdotes, you'll be disappointed.

Two hundred years after Charles Darwin's birth we all could do to understand evolutionary theory a little better. At first glance, it is a beautifully simple process but the results, implications and continued research of evolutionary theory quickly become mind boggling and wonderfully thrilling. If you begin to scratch the surface of your knowledge about evolutionary biology,(even as a complete amateur there are a number of books that allow you to do this), you may soon realize that you barely understand anything about it and there's always some new concept to research in order to further your depth of knowledge. Here's a link to some basic misconceptions about evolution.

And what's not to like about evolution? For one thing it's about us - Homo sapiens and how we have gotten the way we are with no need to invoke a supernatural creator or 'intelligent design'. Even better is that it's about the entire biological/botanical world around us and how our mutual genetic "destinies" have co-evolved throughout time to produce what exists today. Even more importantly still is that because Evolutionary Theory is a science and not a dogma, it is open to inquiry, skeptic scrutiny and refinement as the knowledge base grows and changes.

The sciences can seem intimidating to an amateur like me. The more I learn, the more I realize I don't know. I read a quote recently that said that's what it means to be educated. But with a little investment of time, access to the internet, some library or book store action, and a few friends willing to hash over questions with you, the scientific world slowly begins to make sense and unfolds with mind-expanding possibilities.

Last week I finished a difficult book discussing the existence of Free Will in a deterministic world. I was in way over my head intellectually, but did gain some insights into the topic and it piqued my interest for investigating some neurobiology, which should be fun. But the most important thing I came away with was this encouraging sentence offered by the author after a particularly arduous section:

"A semi-understood, dimly imagined version will do just fine, as always, as we pick our way gradually from obliviousness to comprehension."
Daniel Dennett - Freedom Evolves p. 265

For me, the never-ending wonder and discovery science offers to a curious intellect far surpasses the inflexible, dogmatic nature of superstitious belief any day.

Ignorance knows no bounds...check this out, I hope it's a joke...but I'm pretty sure it's not:

Well there, that settles it. Peanut butter proves that evolution is a fairy tale. Glad that debate is over. I wonder what jelly has to say about the after-life?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Winter. A Fickle Mistress.

I don't care for the slogan "Work hard, play hard." Only an adult could come up with something so serious. Most adults don't spend nearly enough time playing. I don't mean perfecting some hobby, like golf or watercolor painting or yoga. I mean romping, falling down, laughing, engaging in silliness that feels pointless but absolutely life-affirming.

Life is Good, right? That's what the t-shirts claim, anyway.

Unfortunately, winter is a fickle mistress. As an adult you may be forced to deal with the parts of winter that try to defeat the creative spirit you just captured while out playing like some foolish little kid.

Life is Crap, some other shirts suggest.

How 'bout we settle for Life Just Is? If I wasn't such a nontrepreneur, I'd start my own Existential t-shirt business. Does Existentialism sell these days?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Random Occurrences that I Find Irksome

  • It irks me when a health care provider (can't say just plain old Doctor anymore because you could be seeing a Nurse Practitioner or a Physician's Assistant; it's all so confusing these days) is checking my lung sounds with the standard, "Okay, take a nice deep breath in" routine and the cold, creepy stethoscope is moving around to different areas on my back and I'm being instructed to "take another deep breath and another and again, and one more...good". I have never once been given enough time to let all the air out and then naturally inhale. It all feels so rushed and hyper-ventilate-y. Don't they know how long it takes a healthy person to inhale and exhale deeply? Have they never been to a yoga class? The next time you're at the doctor's office, I dare you to ask, "could you just give me a second to breathe normally here, please?!?" Maybe I'm just putting too much effort in to my breaths - showing off my respiratory vigor for the health care provider. Could be. Sounds like something I'd do.
  • I don't understand why anyone would put the toilet paper roll on the holder with the paper coming off the back so that you have to search for the flimsy little end and fight with the wall to get a grip on it. Why would anyone do this? Does it not make it easier if the paper falls over the top of the roll? The end then hangs down in the open air where it's obvious and easy to grab. Don't people pay attention to this detail when they put on a new roll? Put the damn toilet paper on the RIGHT WAY, people! This is a serious pet peeve of mine to which I've never before admitted. There, I feel better now, how 'bout you.
  • There are tons of things that irk me at the grocery store. Anyone who's read all my blog entries is aware of my hate/hate relationship with the local Shaw's. Have I mentioned how much it annoys me when people enter the automatic doors, stand smack between the theft detectors making it impossible to safely pass them - right or left - and then stop dead in their tracks as if they've never before entered a grocery store and are baffled as to their next move. KEEP WALKING!! I know the store enters into the frightening produce section and you're looking for Hamburger Helper...but don't worry, the veggies and fruits won't hurt you if you just keep walking forward! There should be a device that would goose anyone who stopped on the way through the doors. Or maybe it would be better if some creepy old man with a nice alcohol stench to him was hired to do it. That would keep people moving and provide a job for someone in this lousy economy. Instead of a Greeter (like at Wall-Mart) you could have the Gooser.

Okay, so this blog post was mostly for my entertainment. Other than the 25" of snow in the front yard, 10-12" of it just from the last 12 hours, it was a pretty dull day.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Homegrown Dictionary

A bunch of years ago around the winter holidays, NPR ran a story about portmanteau words. It's where you take two or more words, combine some of their sounds and also their meanings. The only example I remember from the show was "anticiparcelpation"- the feeling of excitement while waiting for a package to arrive in the mail. Since then I have had occasion to create my own portmanteau words, not always on purpose. Sometimes it's just that in a nanosecond of speech production, two words cross through my brain almost simultaneously. The signal that gets sent to my speech mechanisms gets goofed up and a blend of the two words comes out. Examples of accidental portmanteau-ing:

Clapter- n. Audience noise caused by hands clapping and people laughing at the end of a very funny performance when the mood is high and people are joyous. (eg. My date couldn't hear my marriage proposal over the thundering clapter at the end of Nunsense and that's why I'm still single 20 years later.)

Thermomostat- n. Just a combination of the words thermometer and thermostat. I don't see any reason why the thing in your house that controls the heat isn't both at the same time...hence a thermomostat. (eg. Could someone check the thermomostat? I'm freezing.)

Exstrenuating- adj. Circumstances that are both extenuating and involve strenous effort. (eg. You may be excused from turning in your homework due to exstrenuating circumstances such as childbirth or a flat tire on the way to class.)

The rest of the list contains words that did not occur spontaneously. These are words that ought to be in our dictionaries. Feel free to memorize and use them as often as possible.

Nontrepreneur - n. This is the first word I ever invented (as an adult). "Entrepreneurial spirit" is highly valued in this country and gets a lot of lip service. But some of us just don't have that kind of spirit. We're more nontrepreneurial. I think that's an okay way to be, so I gave it a word.

Mommentary - n. A long, drawn out commentary given by your Mom. (eg. I got home 30 minutes late from my date to see Nunsence and was treated to an hour long Mommentary about responsibility and trust when all I wanted to do was go to bed.)

Dramastic - adj. state of agitation that is both drastic and dramatic. Kind of related to melodramatic but a bit more harsh, angular, and spazzy and less pathetic and woe-is-me-ish. I haven't come up with a good usage for this word yet. Feel free to try it out and share your sentences. Originally created as - dramastically.

Befortitude - n. Strength and stamina you must work up in yourself before tackling a tough project. (eg. I dug up some serious befortitude to get out of my sleeping bag when I was camping at -20F.) <--- this is fiction for me, although people do it. I'd never camp at -20F. That's insanity.

- adj. (slang) Being ambitious and bitchin' at the same time. (eg. That line you took down Tuckerman's Ravine was ambitchous, dude!)

Dreamality - n. the real, believeable and urgent world of your dreams. (e.g. In the morning you try to explain last night's dreamality to someone-- you were riding a hippo through the airport to catch the plane that was really a train with dolphin flippers and if you didn't make it you'd miss math class again which you didn't even remember where the room for that class was--and suddenly your dream seems completely illogical and yet it was so real, made so much sense and seemed urgently important last night. That's dreamality, baby.)

Most of the time I'm the wordsmith in our house. I like games like Boggle and Balderdash (my favorite because it involves both words and BS-ing people). But I've saved for last, the word that Chip created. This is how he presented it to me:

C: So the clothes that a nun wears are called a habit, right?
J: uh-huh.
C: And you told me yesterday that the thing around the face and head is called a wimple, right?
J: Yep.
C: So, what do they call the stuff they wear underneath all that?
J: Um...I don't really know.
C: Nunderwear!

Yup...Chip created a portmanteau groaner.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Armchair Philosopher

Welcome to the new and improved Cozy Toes. Okay well, really it's exactly the same except for a little cosmetic re-arranging. But it does provide a pleasant illusion of change, doesn't it? Hey, if we're not going to sign up for the gym, start lifting weights and doing lots of cardio work to make ourselves look and feel better, then at least I can improve the look of my blog and for a few days we'll all feel refreshed without even breaking a sweat. You can thank me in the comments section.

Hopefully the new administration isn't banking on this kind of illusory tactic.

Winter is a good time for pondering. I have tons of free time at work so I'm basically being paid to read for my enjoyment with an occasional patient getting in the way of that task. My reading in the past month has led me down abstract paths involving the evolution of Free Will within the framework of a Deterministic world and whether this can really exist. I've also been spending some of my time visiting a really great blog called Visual Skeptic. It's exposed me to some fascinating modern philosophers and pseudo-philosophers all hashing it out over the topics of religion, atheism and the nature of belief. It's all very cerebral stuff and most of the time I feel I'm barely hanging on intellectually. I'm loving every minute of it!

After plowing along in Daniel Dennett's Freedom Evolves, I started to feel overwhelmed. Philosophical explorations can begin to feel like crazy spirals of semantics and logic games where even what is meant by the word "meaning" gets called into question. It's maddening. And thrilling. I start to suspect that the search for knowledge, truth and meaning doesn't really need to be so complicated, so convoluted. Why do we make it so?

Perhaps we all get too caught up in spinning webs of our own words as we attempt to forge an understanding of human consciousness. Language is a strange and powerful tool but what if it's not enough? Colin McGinn, in his autobiography The Making of A Philosopher, proposed an idea that I'd never considered but is now percolating away in my brain. I won't do his idea justice because I'm not very good at paraphrasing, but basically he proposes that our language has not kept up with the demands of our intellectual needs. That perhaps our words and language-based concepts have fallen behind the needs of philosophers and cognitive psychologists as they attempt to understand the meaning of consciousness and to explain where the "mind" is within the brain. A fascinating theory. He also seems to be saying that humans may never come to an understanding of these mysteries, that perhaps we are not capable of doing so. Although I am not a formidable philosopher such as Colin McGinn and perhaps don't have a large enough base of knowledge upon which to stand, I choose to disagree with Mr. McGinn on this point. I'll leave that for a future post.

And for anyone who has been following this blog since it's inception--you'll be glad to know that the annual Cleaning of the Toaster Oven occurred last week (a little ahead of schedule actually).