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It hasn’t been really cold out recently. Have you noticed? I’ve enjoyed it, actually, as it provides some wonderful weather for my morning ritual of coffee, a quick fix and squirrel watching. They’re really bizarre, I wish you could see it. They like to chase all the birds out of the trees and while I don’t find it particularly nice, it is only in their nature and they do not know any better for they are just squirrels. And besides, the birds can fly south, if they really wanted to get away from nut-grubbing little rodents.

The past few months have been strange and lost, all kind of blurring into one big mess of days and emotions. I’ve never felt more free, but there’s a loneliness in the freedom of embracing the open-ended nature of the entire world and the rest of your life. It isn’t warm and it never fulfills and I am not sure why, but maybe that’s just the nature of the whole wide world, and I shouldn’t begrudge it that.

California comes next week, and it comes somewhat uninvited. I’ve grown tired of the depth of the valley and its big heavy, thick blanket. I am unexcited by light pollution and obligatory aspects of Being There. I miss my family, dearly, and cannot wait to spend Christmas morning with them, but dread the lack of breathing room and the inability to relax makes me tired just thinking about it. But it’s only in the nature of going home, so what am I fighting it for?

It is silly to predicate something like love on the existence of a soul, especially when you both know that it’s only cells in various arrangements. But it’s nice to think of something indescribable like that, when you see the eyes of someone you love reflect your hopes and the beauty of your future. It’s whimsical and makes the most rational of folks irrational beings for a blip on the timeline. How terrible. But I guess it’s in our nature.

I don’t really care how terrible this post is. Suck it.

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I want to hug him.

Added:

Maxmaxmonster

(This is, without a doubt, a completely complete example of this blog’s very namesake. And the worst kind, too.)

The Plan is as follows: In a little over two years from now, I will have attianed my Master’s Degree. 

The Plan will be executed by: A strong investment of my brain and heart into becoming a Lady Scholar of the highest degree and henceforth being able to ‘sow my brain seeds’ into the malleable minds of young college students and colleagues.

In consulting what my Plan is, the reality of the failure of even those best laid is apparent and everywhere.  If I may direct you to Antoni Gaudí, for a moment, the original architect of the unfinished masterpiece Templo Expiatorio de la Sagrada Familia, located in Barcelona, Spain.

Antoni’s opus. A massive structure that is far more impressive than you’re giving it credit for. While it is difficult to imagine the course of his life went according to plan, after the beginning of the construction of the cathedral leading up to his death in 1926, his blueprints were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War by anarchists. Hope, be lost?  Plans, be damned! Construction on the cathedral continues to this day and as it approaches its 140th birthday in 2026, it shall be finished (I am sure the residents of Barcelona have heard this one before).

But it’s beautiful, no? Aside from the fact that I highly doubt the Spanish Government really wants a gargantuan, unfinished, “witch castle” in their midst, there’s a certain romanticism about a postmortem continuation of plans, even if they stray from their original intention (Hendricks, 2009). It would be easy to allow something such as death and the burning of blueprints to get in the way of completion, but we press on, still, and follow through, ever aware of the likelihood that even this present architect may not live to see the day when steel cranes and wooden scaffolds no longer scrape the sky along side massive spires and ornate decoration.

So, what does that mean to me? Basically that I realize the importance of plans and their value, but also the value in their potentially ephemeral nature. I am noted by some (myself), as being a lover of plans, lists, ideas, future-minded thinking. While obtaining a Master’s involves slightly more planning than say, a weekly investment in my mental health by committing to a strict regimen of yoga and meditation, it is nonetheless susceptible to the same fate as other Plans.

This does not distress me, because Epicurus (who is swiftly becoming my favorite Greek) tells me it should not.

Plans are nice and have the potential to add great joy to your life, they also can create misery, pain, suffering and strife. Well, as can everything, I suppose, but these things matter not. Epicurus lived his life believing in the value of pleasure and doing what brings you pleasure, like creating cathedrals that may never be completed.  And while I am not well-read in Classics, nor Epicurus, nor Architecture, nor Gaudi (thanks, Wikipedia!), I can read well.  And I can copy and paste well, too.

For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia, peace and freedom from fear, and “aponia”, the absence of pain, and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends.

At the outset, this was to be an entry about my renewed career as a student and my passion and love for all things Academic (I even researched the etymology) and it didn’t even really end up there either. How’s that for an example.

 Plans, as small or as big as they seem will fall apart. You will die with uncompleted projects, some worthy of being continued by others, mostly not. This is not cause for distress or for fear or any other negative emotion that will take away from one moment of your ataraxia.  Do what you will with whatever you will, but seek pleasure! To me, the tragedy in Gaudi’s plans are not that they were uncompleted upon his death, but that his sole-investment in their progress near the end of his life put him into seclusion, away from camaraderie and basic and simple pleasures we are able to pull from life.

When I am older, I want to have the following clarity, which is taken from a letter written by Epicurus to Idomeneus, as Epicurus lie in his death bed without child or wife, suffering from kidney stones:

“I have written this letter to you on a happy day to me, which is also the last day of my life. For I have been attacked by a painful inability to urinate, and also dysentery, so violent that nothing can be added to the violence of my sufferings. But the cheerfulness of my mind, which comes from the recollection of all my philosophical contemplation, counterbalances all these afflictions.

To live, to live with pleasure and to live well.

Let’s plan on it.

I haven’t written about music in a while.

In the age of the chelseaPod, I have realized that on most days, I have more music than I know what to do with. Two, three, four-thousand songs on one little device? I always find it amusing that iTunes is snarky enough to tell me just how much of my life I would spend if I listened to my entire catalogue, soup to nuts, in a single sitting. “You would miss 5 days, 4 hours, 23 minutes of your life if you started now and did not stop.” Well, that’s okay. While music is  important and truth on all fronts, not everything in my catalogue grabs me to the point that I would be unable to let it ride and listen to the thing straight through for those 5 and a quarter days.  In fact, I challenge most people to sit down with their iPod on shuffle and let it go for 10 songs and not find yourself feeling the need to hit skip. Fine, 15, for good measure.

The point of this ramble being that we don’t stumble across that album that you can listen to constantly and forevermore often enough. We find lots of things that we like, but to name albums that you can listen to top to bottom, over and over can become somewhat of a challenge, especially in a time when getting music is made so simple by having a boyfriend who is prolific and incredibly efficient at using music downloading software.  Suddenly, you look at the calendar and, surprise, you do not have 5 days, 4 hours and 23 minutes to sit down and pass judgment on everything and discriminate your tastes.

But, sometimes there’s an album… sometimes… there’s an album (I’m channeling Sam Elliot here, work with me) that shakes you to your core and grabs you by the ears and says “Listen! And feel! And move! And drive faster! It’s time!”

This summer, I discovered That Album and it is Wilco’s 2007 Sky Blue Sky.

My immediate association with Wilco is working at Tower Records in 2004 when A Ghost is Born was released and on a superficial level being drawn to the album for its artwork.  When my friend and co-worker began playing it on the floor constantly, I was drawn, like moth to flame, and found myself all a flutter by feeling feelings that music is supposed to make you feel, all the time. “At Least That’s What You Said” is almost too perfect of an opening track for an album. Tweedy’s voice cracks the door with a sweetness and vulnerability that’s lets you in, slow and steady, but then sneaks in that electric guitar riff and drum beat that tears it open a little bit more to the point where you’re hooked and committed for twelve tracks.  I learned quickly that I cannot read, converse, nor be productive on any front while listening to this album. It commands your attention and you’re an utter fool to ignore the call.

But anyone who has heard the album knows that and knows that’s the style of this band that packs some serious punch in all of their endeavors.

Back in the beginning of August, I was sitting at my desk and jonesing for something to listen to and walked out to the CDs, and maybe it was divine intervention, but Sky Blue Sky was sitting there, waiting to be plucked off the shelf by some unsuspecting Children’s Programmer. ‘Twas me!

I came back to my desk, fired up the old Windows Media Player and let it go to town.  The next few minutes were a blur of real life and the sharpest focus on what was coming through my headphones. “Either Way,” the opening track, holds onto that same sweetness which opens AGIB, but it’s brighter, more hopeful and seemingly complete, with the slick and easy guitar addition of Nels Cline (personal hero and favorite), only until it blends into the second track. “You Are My Face,” is a sweet and simple song that hides little deep pockets of sounds and sass, lyrically and otherwise, promoting a trend that carries on for the entire record.

There’s something almost otherworldly about the way I felt *really* hearing this album for the first time on a sunny Friday in early-August. Driving with windows down and the amp up to 11, and allowing tracks like “Shake it Off” and “Walken” completely light up my insides and made it impossible for me to want to do anything other than hear these songs on this album, right now.  The energy was paralyzing. Even when Tweedy’s lyrics turn more melancholy and soulful, like in “Hate it Here,” there’s something hopeful, not necessarily from the lyrics themselves (which are just as sad as they are sweetly awkward), but from the reminder of honest, straightforwardness that can come through in song, if you let it.

My absolute favorite track is “Walken,” which boasts lyrics of a routine hazy confusion, that is even echoed in the basic tonk of the opening chords and notes, but when the chorus breaks in, so does certainty and a howling call-and-response guitar part accompanied with clarity and truth, “The more I think about it, the more I know it’s true. The more I think about it, I’m sure it’s you. Honey, I think you’re just right. You’re just right.”

To me, this song ties together a big theme throughout the album; the exhaustion of running around your own brain, the often erratic and numbing thoughts that we can experience when trapped inside ourselves, and then, when accompanied by the right blends of lap steel guitar, that Big Wilco sound and the skill of writing near-perfect pop songs, the startling clarity and brightness can push out the heaviest of clouds. Sky Blue Sky might not be the best album you’ve ever heard, but when you realize what music is meant to be, above all things, Truth…

You’re just right, Wilco. You’re just right.

(Oh, and, did you know that you can listen to every Wilco album (except the S/T) on their website? Fo’ free? Well, you do now.)

What logical explanation could there be for me to finally see a need to dust off the old blogging hat and once again grace the interwebs with my words! Nothing.

Not nothing in the sense that there is an emptiness or boredom or realization that I have a blog and nothing with which to fill it, but nothing is something to celebrate, I think. Too much something, these days and not enough nothing.

Okay. I’ll take a step back. Recently, Stephen has adopted the most admirable and wonderful talent of pushing himself to read at least the entire front section of the New York Times (Do I need more reasons to adore this kid?). Something that few attempt and even less complete at the age of 21. One of his favorite sections is the OpEds and I cannot blame him. Wit and honesty and sometimes humor is something that can get lost in 24 pages of daily news roundups and it’s a refreshing and easy to read informative section. Don’t get me wrong, I love Salon.com, which is all Opinion, all the time, but seldom do I venture over to the Times for a healthy dose of New York spunk. And with the “death” of print journalism, I figure I should support it while I can.

Today I stumbled across an editorial section called Happy Days: The Joy of Less. Read it, once you get the moment.

Iyer is an American Journalist currently living the life of the moment in Kyoto. He isn’t addicted to his iPhone, or nervous about a car payment or mortgage, quite simply because these things do not exist to him. He is not a millionaire yearning to be a billionaire or a 20-something nervous about what their retirement fund is going to be made out of. He is living for today, not the future. And like many, he’s lost a lot of his savings in the past year or so, but he’s okay, he’s living and he’s enjoying. I cannot say that for myself and I haven’t even lost that much.

I found myself envious of his lifestyle and then found myself fantasizing of the idea of not having to pay bills because I didn’t have any and what my life would be like were that the case. To be able to completely drop out and join the ranks of the elite; Those wealthy in mind, body and soul, not material things.

When I was in Argentina I remember being surprised at how happy everyone was. So much that we use to define our happiness (techno gadgets, nice cars, luxurious vacations) were absent from their lives, but they were happier than almost any American I had come across. They weren’t worried about the things we worry about because they didn’t have them in the first place.

Now, I’m not about to chuck my television out the window and drown my cell phone in the Ohio River, but maybe I should. Instead, for now, I am going to pay attention to what today is telling me and drown out the incessant nagging of tomorrow and the day after. Life is far to short to boggle our brains with things that may not last through the end of the week. So, I’ll sit on my porch, read a book, listen to a rainstorm and love the life of today and the people I am lucky enough to share it with and slowly, over time, become one of the elite.

Not now, sadly. Not in the too near future, unfortunately. But, yes, the end of May this year will see my first vacation in a while (Christmastime is never a vacation and almost always more work and stress than it should be.) So, where am I going, you may wonder? Tahiti? France? India? Brazil? No, no, nowhere like that. Actually, Stephen and I are going to California. He’s never *really* been to L.A. and I’d love to go back and have time there that isn’t interrupted with candy canes and tree decorating and obligatory good tidings (kidding). I have a lot of hopes for this little vacation and hope to make the very best of it and hope to have plenty of time to relax and remember some of my favorite L.A. haunts and fall back in love with the place with my best boy at my side.

The 405... We love it!

The 405... We love it!

I’m so excited that I’ve even started to think of a little itinerary of all the wonderful things we can do while we’re there. So maybe not TOO much time for relaxing, but LOTS of time for fun!

News update:
Saturday night Stephen, Iain, Silena and I were graciously invited to a wonderful dinner at Fran LaVilla’s house in the country (DeMossville, Kentucky to be exact!). While Fran is one of my dearest friends, we don’t see each other nearly enough and I’d never had the pleasure to venture out to her little corner of the world. I am so glad I did. Her family is charming and wonderful and her mom is an outstanding cook! We sat around and shared stories and laughs, mostly and I personally tried to take in as much beauty as I could. Their view is phenomenal and the house is adorable and incredibly well designed. Oh, that kitchen, that kitchen, that KITCHEN! I think I’d definitely like to have a living arrangement in the country someday. And in such a unique and beautiful house. But in talking to Stephen about it “living in the country” transforms into “moving to the south of France or Northern Italy or Greece.” Which I don’t mind, he encourages my fantastical side.

What else, what else…

Oh, last night I made Stephen and I an absolutely fantastic dinner. And I am only bragging because it took four freakin hours! And because my mouth is watering over the thought of having leftovers for dinner!
It was a fresh kalamata olive/lemon/anchovy tapenade and homemade bread, a greek salad with homemade dressing, Turkish Rice (cinnamon, butter, onions, long grain rice tossed with pine nuts and raisins), and a Moroccan Lemon and Olive Chicken. Oh man, oh man, oh man! It was pretty delicious.

Annnd, big surprise, I’ve started yet another working out resolution. Seeing as we will be in California in less than two months AND I will have to wear a swimsuit at some point during that trip, I am going to work out at least four days a week, every week, until we leave. But don’t count on me consuming hardly ANY diet friendly foods while in California. In N Out, anyon

This morning as I drove into work, fully aware of the first day of spring (I am wearing my new spring headband! Woot woot!) I was struck by the restrospective view of winter. As I previously mentioned, this winter presented many blessings, and what looking back feels like infinitely more soul-shattering blows. I do not wish to carry the sadness from winter into this new season that is to be bursting from the seams with nothing but life and goodness. So let’s leave it all here at the blog, shall we?

This winter, probably most notably, my last surviving Grandparent passed away. My mom’s mom left us February 5th after a difficult battle with cancer. I can’t erase the memories I have of her during the last few months of her life. I couldn’t wash away the feeling of her always-soft hand rubbing mine while she lay her hospice bed in a room filled with loving and beautiful people. Or the feeling of that same hand, hardened like plastic, as she laid in her casket, finally allowed to be at peace. These memories hurt, but they are far outnumbered by the happiest ones, the most innocent ones and the oldest ones. I miss her every day, and always will, but I take comfort in knowing that I am a much better woman because of the pieces of her that are alive and well within me.

Before her passing and after, I feel like I struggled, for the first time, with Seasonal Affective Disorder. I hated the short days with little or no sunlight and felt myself being genuinely saddened or made more moody by the weather outside. I didn’t have energy to enjoy the beauties of winter and the joy of the season as I usually do. Instead I felt rushed, pressured and pulled in directions I didn’t want to go in and felt forced to comply with less than perfect situations. It just hurt, all of the time, and I didn’t really know where to begin in addressing that, other than just waiting it out and seeing where spring came along.

I also expereinced a number of situations that forced me to seriously confront issues I may or may not have in regards to anxiety and a need for control. It’s been kind of frightening at times to see myself at the edge of a place that I really do not at all enjoy being, and five minutes later realizing how absurd I acted. You may laugh, but I feel like there’s a different part of me that can come out under stress that I don’t like to admit to being there. It’s truly unfortunate and I feel like it makes me weaker. I need to learn to battle this part of myself better and tackle it. But in addition to have an ugly streak that I can’t stand, I am impulsive and usually don’t realize it until the words are coming out of my mouth and I’m already riled up about it. My biggest fear about this weakness is that it will manifest against people that I love the most and turn them away. That’s the last thing I want to do and would be absolutely crushing if it did happen.

As I type this, I go in and out of a conscious thought to push “Publish.” I know that I should because I know it needs to be out there, but I know it’s not that well written and I know it might be uncomfortable for some.

I truly am babbling today.

Winter wasn’t all bad, most importantly, on a career level, I was accepted into Graduate School at Northern Kentucky University where I will be earning my Master of Arts degree in Communication Studies. I’m really excited to get back into school, but not totally sure if I am prepared mentally for the stress. Only one way to find out…

I am going to return with a positive version of this post in a few days. I was going to do it now, but I think I wore myself out. Let’s let the sunshine in.

Sorry for letting it all out on you, but thanks for stickin’ with it, Kids.

Hey. It’s the first day of Spring. Let’s do something about it.

I can sense it in how cold my feet and nose are becoming on an almost regular basis. And how sleepy I get so early. And how my appetite has grown to hibernation preparedness mode. Yessir, it’s nearly winter. I crave chocolate with an intensity that makes me feel weak at the sight of any and all Hershey products and I am itching to get up into Cincinnati to see Fountain Square and go ice skating in the shadow of Macy’s, US Bank, PNC and 5/3 (Tomorrow, hopefully!).  I want to decorate my apartment from head to toe in green and red and I can’t wait to have our first real snow.

One thing I’ve learned early on in my great Cincinnati Adventure was that when they say it’s going to snow, it ain’t and when they say it ain’t gonna snow, grab your boots.  The past week has been a sterling example of just that.  While we’ve had the occasional flurry here and there, we haven’t had the Snow yet, and I don’t think we will for a little while, but this morning was kind of beautiful in that way that you know the snow is just about ready to make it’s debut in Cincinnati.

In Covington, as many of you may have heard me bitch and moan about before, we have street cleaning days and since I’ve had a few run ins with The Law, I’ve been much more careful about moving my car. So, this morning at 7 am, I got out of bed, threw on the warmest pajamas I could find and my big coat and trekked out into the wild to find a parking spot. It wasn’t easy to find, and I could have been way more frustrated by the experience, considering the temperature was in the 20s and cars were relentlessly zipping down Greenup Street, but it was okay, and I was okay as I took comfort in the flurries and flakes that fell from the sky and parked themselves on my coat and slippers. It was serene and quiet and a sign from the world that everything is getting ready to settle in for a long winter’s nap.

I came across this website filled with hilarious and true Cincinnati-themed t-shirts.

I was going to copy a few pictures of my favorites, but there are just too many. So here’s four:


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And you can, too!