Friday, December 13, 2013

How I Learned to That I Shouldn't Hate Myself, I Should Date Myself

You know that whole "give me a number and I'll give you facts about my relationship" thing going around FB? Well, here's mine for the most important relationship I'll ever have: ME AND MYSELF. And you better believe I just chose a number for myself. *cheerleader kicks*

1. I've been with myself for almost 30 years. According to Wikipedia, that means I get to give myself pearls or diamonds this May. Score.

2. I learned to love my curly hair in eighth grade, after two years of straightening it every damn day because I was embarrassed by my curls. Thanks, puberty! You know, for the life lessons.

3. The most romantic getaway I ever had with myself was my trip to Michigan this year. Candlelight dinners, walks on the beach, gazing upon rocks and surf. Swoon! I knocked my own socks off.

4. I feel happiest and the most like myself when I'm driving and singing at the top of my lungs. You're welcome for the all the concerts, self.

5. I hated myself a lot in high school and college. Mostly for superficial reasons. I think I was in my mid-20s when I realized that I totally wanted to send myself Valentines and chocolates and flowers. I wish I'd realized my appreciation for me sooner, but hate turning to love is totally the plot of all the best romances (hello Darcy and Elizabeth) so I'm okay with it.

6. Men come and go. Tara is forever.

~

Friday, March 1, 2013

How My Internet Habits Have Changed in the Last 15 Years

I was recently commenting to a friend that I was grateful to have lived through childhood before the glory of the Internet was made available to the masses. Ah, how unburdened my childhood was. No pressure to post on a blog. No Facebook friends to remove due to their bad punctuation. No memes with which to keep up. No bills to pay (unrelated). A simpler time.

But then there were those early years where the Internet was new and exciting and... kind of limited, actually. I recall spending hours at a time busying up the phone line to mess around on the computer, but... what was I doing?

These days, my favorite most visited websites (even though I despise some of them, the same way we keep watching terrible TV shows because we just have to) include:



Check ALL the websites!

♠ Gmail (because duh, anyone who's anyone has Gmail, right guys? Right?)

♠ Yahoo and other horrible news sites (where every news article ends with that hard hitting journalistic phrase "What do YOU think about Hillary Clinton's new hair? Sound off in the comments!" and as if that's not bad enough you scroll down only to observe the very very worst in humanity, from racists and homophobes to that 50-year-old woman who really wants you to find out how she made $67 an hour sitting at home while losing enough belly fat in a month to look 25 using one weird old amazing tip)

♠ Entertainment news sites (which remind you will you never be famous (unless you're either more beautiful and/or talented than 98% of the human race OR are a horrible, horrible person)

♠ Twitter (which only dashes your hopes and dreams in the end because you get all excited to follow your favorite celebs and then you realize that said celebs don't know the difference between your and you're or they constantly retweet their minions' compliments (#humblebragging) or worst of all, they do nothing but retweet another Twitter feed you already follow)

♠ Tumblr (endless GIFs because the only way of expressing one's self anymore are GIFs. Writing in your diary? OVERRATED. Now you can just post a picture of a baby sloth looking sad and everyone totally knows how you feel)

♠ Pinterest (see former blog posts for how Pinterest has forevermore ruined my expectations of how everything I own should look)

♠ Amazon (my bank account is sad. As are all the Borders stores that closed last year)

♠ Facebook (which is basically the worst. Ever. And yet the best of all)

♠ Google Reader (because there's no better timewaster than reading every blog ever written, from that random guy with whom you went to college but probably doesn't remember that you even exist, to every blog that Rolling Stone recommended as the Best Blog Ever because that is totally why a person reads Rolling Stone: for blog tips)

And so on, and so forth.

But when I think back to my high school days, say, my freshman year beginning in 1998, I still used the web, but almost exclusively on these sites:

My site looked a little sumthin' like this.

♠ Hotmail (*snort* Oh, young me)

♠ my Geocities Rent fan page (it was killer, okay. I could have been a web designer)

♠ Playbill.com chat room (I wonder if chat rooms exist anymore! Other than where people go to find someone to hook up. We legitimately just talked about theatre at Playbill. I think.)

♠ Um... I can't think of anything else.
Seriously. Seriously. What was I spending my time on in 2002? Some of the sites I still look at today existed back then, but I don't recall spending much time on them. What does a person do without Instagram and Facebook and every other Super Cool You're Nobody If You Don't Have It social networking site/app? (Is "apps" the stupidest word ever or is it just me?)

I can only conclude that back then, I must have spent all my time writing college application essays and emailing long, Victorian Era-esque letters to all my beloveds. To them I say: you're welcome.

These days all I have to do is send you a GIF of a baby sloth. The sentiment is the same.

source: http://iwantmygun.tumblr.com/post/44280035415

~

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How I Did Not Become a Musical Prodigy As a Child, But Did Find Ways to Keep From Falling Asleep In Church (Sorry, Saint Boniface)

I can remember, very distinctly, the sound of the priest's voice at St. Boniface Church on Sunday mornings. I don't remember which priest, or whether it's a mixture of two or three of them I knew while growing up. Maybe it was the acoustics of the little church or the microphone he used. It's a soft, echoing murmur. You can hear the sweetness or kindness or charity in his voice. Something distinctly churchy. (If it was distinctly Catholic, I couldn't tell you.)

But it was a sound I associate now with Sunday mornings, the same way I can remember my dad's voice singing, "Lazy bones, sleepin' all the day-- never get your day's work done..." as he flipped the sheet up to expose our toes to the cold on those early spring mornings. Why, in my memory, does it seem that whenever we went to church, it was always a cold spring morning? But that's how I remember it. A teasing song, cold toes, and the priest's soft voice while I looked through the hymnal to keep from falling asleep.

I was amazed when I was older to discover that sermons could actually be interesting. Entertaining, even. I must have been eleven or twelve before I understood why my parents didn't fall asleep without a hymnal to entertain themselves during the sermon.

Hymnals were my savior during those early church years. (Is that blasphemous? Well, I hope Jesus understands.) I took piano lessons on Thursday nights after school, but since my mother had to pay me to get me to practice, and Sundays were the only time I was left with no other entertainment options except the little hymn books in front of me, that was the time I had to really study those little black notes dancing along the music staff.

In someone else's story, this is the part that goes "And because she studied written music so carefully, hour after hour while the priest droned on about bread and sacrifice, Tara went on to become a world-renowned musical prodigy." Pity, I am not someone else. (Perhaps my mother should have paid me more per hour of piano practice. That may have helped.)

Instead, I made the musical notes into stories. Eighth-notes were the ladies. Quarter-notes, the gents. Whole notes were old grandpas. Rests were top hats or bobby pins. I think you see that this story wrote itself.

Words came so easily then. I ran my pointer finger along the music line, watching the notes talk to each other. The more exciting the hymn, the more like a soap opera the line became. The higher the tone, the loftier, and surely snobbier, each note-character became. The lower on the scale they went (usually Ol' Whole Note Gramps), the earthier and more stoutly and disapproving they became. When flats and sharps got involved, things really got wild (like sweeps week, or a soap opera wedding). Romantic hijinks abound.

And then I suppose I got older.

It got harder to see what the notes were saying to each other. I started paying more attention to the sounds those notes made when we, the congregation, sang them. And as the music got louder, their voices got quieter. Not silent-- even now, not totally silent-- but quiet. I have to concentrate a little longer now to see what I saw back then.

I was passing a man in the mall recently. He was talking to a crowd, a microphone in his hand, and his voice was soft. His voice echoed off the high ceilings in a way that made me remember cold spring mornings and sermons and hymnals, things I left behind many years ago. It made me think: I should listen more. I should see more stories in the things around me. I should practice the piano. I should do a lot of things. I should write down the things that stir my memory. Even just on a neglected blog.

~

Monday, October 22, 2012

Someone Else's Art

Sometimes all you want to do is live in someone else’s art. Sometimes you don’t have anything inside of you that seems worth putting on to a piece of paper or a web page that seems worth sharing with the world.

I still put things to the page, but these are pages only I can see. I saw Argo this weekend, and I imagine that if my private writing were about to be discovered, it would look a little like the American embassy burning and shredding all their files in a complete panic before anything was discovered. That’s one problem with that incessant need to write things down. Sometimes you don’t want to share it. But you want to keep it and just hope that it will always be yours and only yours.

And truthfully, I’ve been so absorbed in some other projects and events that I haven’t felt that real spark of creativity in myself lately. My writing friend Crystal reminds me that NaNoWriMo is right around the corner, but I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to participate if I don’t get some other things squared away first.

So while I’m in this place, where I just want to keep all my own thoughts and fancies behind lock and key, I am trying to live through what everyone else is writing and creating. I’ve added so many new blogs to my Reader in the past two months. After a month where I couldn’t even finish a book, I only want to read. I want to live between the pages of David Levithan’s Every Day and float away on Regina Spektor’s How. I want to order pumpkin pancakes and have their taste be the only thing I experience on a Sunday morning.

(I want Allie from Hyperbole and a Half to be able to post her comics again.)

I want recommendations for more.

~

Friday, August 31, 2012

Letter to a Rabbit

Dear Rabbit,

I would like you to inform you that, as a rabbit, you are not permitted to run across my lawn.

As the Resident Dog, I must tell you that while it may have appeared excessive for me to burst into hysterical barks and launch all 19 pounds of myself firmly in your direction the moment I was let out for my morning constitutional, I was in fact just upholding the purpose of my existence.

Yes, this meant that when I yanked firmly on my leash, Girl Who Feeds Me was taken by surprise and this caused her beloved iPhone to be launched many feet through the air, only to land on the cement and crack its screen quite prominently.

But these sacrifices must be made to ensure that you are aware that you, sir, are merely a rabbit, and I am, in fact, a dog.

Sincerely,

Knightley J. Acton, Resident Pug

~

Monday, August 27, 2012

Why I Do Not Recommend Lady & the Tramp as a Cheer-You-Up Movie

I’ve always hated August.

August is by far my least favorite month. It’s hot, it’s humid, it’s the end of things. When I was younger, it was the end of summer freedom. In recent years, it seems to mark the end of friendships or relationships. There isn’t a lot I want to write about this month. Trying to turn sad things into poetic things seems frivolous. Even reading has put a bitter taste in my mouth lately.

So last night, on a whim, I watched Lady and the Tramp. Dogs romping around, thought I! Puppies in Christmas boxes with ribbon, thought I! The delightful pair of Scottie Jock and bloodhound Trusty, thought I! How could this movie not cheer me up?!

Ten minutes into the DVD, GOB Bluth-style, I realized I’ve made a huge mistake.

Guess what? Lady and the Tramp is one big cry-fest.

First, puppy!Lady is lonely and howls. Then she’s rejected by Jim Dear, who is more worried about his wife in “her condition, walking THAT DOG!” (Knife in heart, right?) Then Aunt Sarah comes and muzzles Lady and turns the happy home into a hellish nightmare that rivals the sixth circle of Hell. Don’t even get me started on her evil Siamese cats who conspire to drive Lady to suicide.

Plus, she obviously has a really high
quality expensive hair dryer.
Sidenote: Somewhere around the middle of the movie, I also realized that although Lady is a cocker spaniel, she is more lovely, feminine, kind-hearted, and talented with a mascara wand than I will ever be. I mean, talk about kicking a girl when she’s down.

But I digress. So then Lady finds twue wuv with the Tramp, only to have her head nearly chomped off by an alligator and get thrown in the pound and hounded (get it? Hounded?) by all the jailbait dogs who not only scare the crap out of her, but let her know that Tramp has ladies (get it? Ladies?) all over town. ALL. OVER. TOWN.

And then, for a few horrifying moments, the Wonderful World of Disney leads you to believe that TRUSTY IS DEAD.

Let that sink in for a moment.





All right sure, in the end Jim Dear and Darling return home and manage to balance their love for Lady and the new baby and allow Tramp to come live with them and Lady and the Tramp have puppies and Trusty doesn’t die after all.

But my point is, it was an emotional roller coaster that had me in tears for an hour and sixteen minutes. A classic, wonderful movie? Sure. But when it’s time to watch a “cheer yourself up because August is the absolute worst” movie, I do not recommend Lady and the Tramp.

No, I certainly do not.

~

Friday, August 3, 2012

How Pinterest Ruined My Expectations of Living Spaces and the Laws of Physics

At last I’m living in my new place. It’s technically a new town-- though really, it’s no farther away from work/shopping areas (and what else could I possibly want besides those two things… okay, really just the shopping areas), and since I have two new roommates (one human, one canine), it’s a lot of… newness.

In a good way. I think.

Example of expectations-ruining bedroom
via Pinterest which I must now have
or never be happy again

One of the best parts of the newness is crafting your space. Now, I may be on Pinterest (don’t follow me. I only pin pictures of 1) dogs, 2) cookie recipes I don’t plan to ever actually make, and 3) boots I can’t afford) but I just can’t seem to make my bedroom look catalog-worthy like everyone else on that site apparently can.

I think Pinterest has actually ruined my expectations of living spaces. My bedroom can’t just be a place where I sleep and read romance novels and wonder how I can go back in time and marry Ricky Ricardo. It has to be a fairyland that is simultaneously minimalistic and packed with character. There must be shelves upon shelves of hardback books and an antique pitcher and water basin in the corner. There must be an overall theme that somehow fits both my medieval and New York obsessions and piles of old stuffed animals I could never ever possibly get rid of not no way not no how.

In other words, nothing is good enough.

For the last few days, I’ve spent several hours Googling the following:

  • “creative storage ideas for junk that should be thrown in the trash but from which you cannot bear to be parted”
  • “fancy closet organizational methods preferably with medieval twist”
  • “how to make space exist where previously there was no space”

That final request yielded some results that, while interesting, required more knowledge of physics than I was prepared to attain. And of course, Pinterest was unhelpful except to yet again raise my expectations of reality and leave me yearning for an indoor-organic-tire-swing-fort-library-slash-reading-nook from all handmade materials.


How is a girl supposed to finish writing a novel without these things?
Don't answer that.

And so, I am at an impasse. I’ve decided that in order to have the bedroom space of my dreams, I must find a way to combine my computer desk, piano, vanity, mirror, three vases of fake flowers, and eight boxes of DVDs. I’m sure the solution is out there—if I could just find the right combination of search keywords.

Suggestions welcome.

~

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Little nudges

My pal Crystal reminded me today that another round of Camp Nanowrimo starts tomorrow. And why wouldn’t I want to write a 50,000 word novel in the middle of everything*, right?

*Just a reminder that nothing else is allowed to happen this week.

But really, I haven’t been doing enough writing lately. I know that my life is just “really busy, okay?!” lately, but it’s not nearly as busy as plenty of writers I know, and they seem to manage just fine. I keep saying “once I get my desk set up,” or “once that work project is finished,” or “my RSI is just really bad right now,” but at some point my excuses need to stop and I need to just get back to work.

Maybe I won’t finish 50,000 words of writing this month, but I can still work on that outline I started a few weeks ago, and finish editing that essay that’s gathering dust.

Baby steps!

~

Friday, July 27, 2012

Calm the Wild Masses! Oh Wait, That’s Just Me.

Remember about four months ago when I was complaining about how I was waiting, waiting, waiting, and nothing was happening?

Well, now everything (mostly everything, anyway) is happening and I can barely keep up.

First of all, on Sunday, I move to that hallowed haven of lore, the townhouse. I’m sure at first, while I’m hauling thirty boxes of books I just had to keep—because you never know when you’re going to need a 500 page hardback textbook about literary theory and criticism of the twentieth century, am I right, MFAites?—the new townhouse will seem less like a dream and more like a nightmare. But it has to get done, and it will get done, and when it’s done, well. A haven it shall be, I’m quite sure.

Secondly, that haven will be occupied not only with two highly attractive adult humans, but one five-year-old pug. That’s right, I’ve got a new man in my life, and he comes with a squashed nose and breathing issues. Knightley and I have only known each other a few days, but I have a feeling that he and I are going to get along just fine. The Humane Society tells me he’s particularly inclined to drink black coffee and discuss literary theory and criticism of the twentieth century late into the night, so it seems likely that we’ll go together like ramalamalama ke dinga de dinga dong, if you know what I mean.

Thirdly, oh right, everything else. You know how life throws about ten curve balls at you (pardon the cliché) right at the moment you’ve declared that absolutely nothing else can happen right now because you’re just too damn stressed? Yes. That. That is the thing.

But I also get a feeling that this chapter of my life is about to end and the next chapter is about to begin, and since I dearly love finding out what happens next, I’m okay with this.

Just have to get through this week. That whole transition part.

Onward!

~

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How Abraham Lincoln Stopped Haunting the White House and Started Haunting Me

Warning: reading this post could leave you with night terrors and an unshakeable fear of Abraham Lincoln. You may never be able to give-a-penny, take-a-penny without shivering again.

My mother recently told me about that picture that shows Theodore Roosevelt looking out the window at Abraham Lincoln’s funeral procession. Believe me, the idea of this existing is creepier than the actual picture (at left), but regardless, the idea really spooked both of us. It’s that same feeling you get when you zoom in on Google Maps from outer space to a street view of the Sudan. Just an eerie, shivery feeling, right?

While I did image searches for the actual photograph, we got to talking about an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show. (Warning: here be spoilers for an episode of a TV show that aired in 1965. If you haven’t watched it by now, I cannot be held responsible.) The episode is called “The Great Petrie Fortune,” and in it, Rob and Laura inherit a roll-top desk from the late Hezekiah Petrie (played, naturally, by DVD himself) which apparently contains an item worth a great deal of money. (By the way, you can now instant-stream this episode on Netflix.) Hezekiah sings the song “Me and My Shadow” (which I will never be able to listen to again) as a clue. Hijinks ensue as the Petries try to figure out which item is the key to the family fortune. Eventually, the frame comes off an old photograph—and there, hiding behind the frame, is Abraham Lincoln.

Standing there. Behind the frame. For aaaaaall thooooose yeeeears. Abraham Lincoln.

Picture me shuddering.

My mom apparently saw this episode as a child while home watching TV and, appropriately, freaked out. I know I’ve seen this episode (I didn’t sacrifice my social life in middle and high school to watch Nick at Nite for nothing), but I’d forgotten about ol’ Abe’s creep-tastic appearance. So when Mom refreshed my memory on this, a small part of me wanted to scream out loud. “I’m going to be thinking about this when I’m trying to fall asleep tonight,” I promised, and by god, was I right.

All day I couldn’t stop thinking about Abraham Lincoln, still black-and-white, standing in a corner with his old-timey suit and top hat and sunken eyes, staring. Staring at me.

Because what better way could the ghost of Abraham Lincoln spend his time than by haunting my bedroom, right?

When I shut off my light to go to sleep, I close my eyes and saw him. I rolled over and hugged a pillow and saw him. I woke up to use the bathroom at 3 A.M. and by god, I knew he was there. I forced myself to stare straight ahead and avoid looking into the shadowy corners of the room, because I knew he’d be there. Oh, he’d be there. He might be comprised of a stack of books, or a bathrobe hanging from the closet door, but at 3 A.M. that would be enough to convince my brain he was there.

The next day I reprimanded my mother. “I barely slept last night! Abraham Lincoln! He wouldn’t leave my mind!” We all laughed, and I assumed that would be the end of it.

The next night, there he was again. All night. I’m something of an insomniac, generally tossing and turning for several hours in a half-sleep daze, and this night was no exception. I spent hours attempting to untangle myself from my sheets with my eyes squeezed shut, the image of Abe hovering a few feet away ever-present.

The next morning, I chuckled to myself as I took my morning walk in the sunshine of Iowa City. Of course, I thought, that would be the end of it. It was utterly ridiculous to be so afraid of Abraham Lincoln. Wasn’t it? The man was President of the United States. He was a hero. And, you know, possibly a vampire hunter. What could there possibly be to fear? Which reminded me of another Roosevelt, of course. We’ve only to fear fear itself.

Fear itself. It’s been ages since I felt truly afraid of something immediately present. Sure, I have the same fears we all have—tragedy, the future, plans for the Arrested Development Netflix series being cancelled. But fearing something in my own bedroom? Right in front of me? Spiders, or intruders, or a monster under the bed? It’s been awhile. Was I due?

Several nights have now passed, and the crippling, immediate fear that I will wake up to see Abe Lincoln standing in the corner, between my Deathly Hallows poster and scarf collection, has yet to fade. And if I really think about it, that fear has kept me from thinking about my usual worries (career, relationships, money, etc.). Maybe having a President take some time off from haunting the White House to haunt an Iowa City apartment is actually a good thing.

But for the time being, I think I’ll steer clear of The Dick Van Dyke Show.

~