Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Buying is being

Beijing loves IKEA - but not for shopping - LA Times

The difference between America and the rest of the world?


Love this


Monday, August 24, 2009

Three times...

Not to be a jerk, but I can only once recall seeing a movie where I did not anticipate the ending. It was The Prestige, and I won't ruin it here (although, I will admit that, while the IMDB entry for it makes it sound rather dull, I would probably still have enjoyed it even if the ending hadn't got me). I am constantly engaged when watching movies; my mind usually works through things as the movie progresses, eliminating possibilities left and right based off of hints of information in the movie and my knowledge of pop culture in general. And, admittedly, I did think of the ending of The Prestige, as soon as the main problem was presented, in fact. It was one of my working hypotheses early on. But something along the course of the movie made me cross it off my list, not even tentatively, but with a whole-hearted scribble. And that is why it was such a good movie. It tricked me, tricked everyone I'd talked to, made me stand up and say "How?" I loved it. I loved that feeling.

I am very rarely truly surprised. I mean, people have popped out of closets to scare me. I've jumped in fright, even shrieked. I've stumbled, been dismayed and disappointed many times. I've lived unforeseen events both good and bad, I've dealt with situations unusual and unexpected, but genuine surprise, an experience that my mind did not really conceive of as possible, has been very rare in my adult life. (My memories of childhood are so sparse that I really can't say what it was like to be surprised then, but I am sure I was not so unshakable as a kid.)

But I can recall three times when I have been genuinely surprised, when my brain, bewildered in its inability to anticipate this situation, has stuttered to a halt, my mouth gaping fish-like as I attempt to grasp reality before I fall flat on my face.

I am recounting these now because I just remembered one of them. I have told people "3 times" before, but I've never been able to expound upon the whole list, though I knew it was there.

The first time I can remember being surprised was my birthday, or around my birthday. It must have been senior year of high school. I was sleeping, in bed, in my room, at my parent's house. I woke up to find that Lisa was standing in my room. Being scantily clad and under-rested, I responded in the only reasonable way I could: by blubbering "Wuh?" and sitting up quickly. And then by just as quickly pulling the sheet up to my chin to prevent any more damage to Lisa's delicate eyes. Lisa giggled that really great low laugh she has that sounds like a mix of Butthead and Batman, and explained how she was on her way to work and couldn't stay, but happy birthday! She gave me two wonderful, beautiful gifts: a bunch of irises (beautiful, beautiful blue-periwinkle irises, today still one of my favorite flowers), and an autographed hardcover copy of the new Tamora Pierce book, Trickster's Choice. I still have the book, it sits in honor on the small hardcover fiction section of my bookshelf (or, it would if it weren't still in a box with all of my other books...I need to finish unpacking). I pulled the sheet around myself and hugged her, and I had nothing to say but "Thank you" and "ohmigawd." And I learned that day how I underappreciated my friends. Lisa was one of my best friends in high school, but I had learned that most of my relationships during that time were not about me. I learned to be less selfish in high school (well, in friendships anyway, don't even ask me how I treated my family...ugh), and I had therefore never imagined that anyone would know me well enough to pick out flowers for me (although Lisa was a fabulous florist), much less pick out a gift for me that I had never asked for (actually, never even knew existed until Lisa handed it to me), and gotten everything so right. I didn't know that if I had mentioned my favorite book series (when I was younger, 2 of 3 were by Tamora Pierce) Lisa had listened. That when I talked about what I found beautiful Lisa noticed and extrapolated. And I will always love her for that, no matter what else happens between us.

The second time was later that same year, I believe. Or maybe it was the year before. I don't remember. So maybe this one should be the first time but then I would be confused and I already wrote about that time, so whatever. This one is now officially second. I had a terrible habit in grade school of imagining that whatever giant award was being announced was for me. Whenever there were awards given out I would start listening to the description and think "That could be me. That could still be me." Etc. You can imagine how debilitating all this NEED TO WIN NOW thing must have actually been to my self esteem because really, it was never for me, and I was constantly disappointed. I mean I got my share of student-of-the-month-esque awards being a freaking whack-job about school (as my family can attest, as I recently went through a box of papers that were ONLY awards and assignments with praise and positive feedback on them). But it must have been that whole middle child thing I had going on, because it was never enough. I always wanted to win. Explains a lot about me, no? Oh wait, you couldn't tell that from my neurotic need to be good at everything, right? No? You could? Hmph. ANYWAY, in high school I joined DECA, a business and marketing club, and of course I had to win at it. I was the first sophomore they let join, and I did very well, winning awards at Regionals, State and Internationals in a variety of categories, was vice-president of something or other, you know, the whole thing. At State they always gave out some big awards at the closing or opening ceremonies, and the most prestigious for students was the state's Marketing Student of the Year award. I don't remember what the requirements were, but it sure sounds like a big deal, doesn't it? That year, or maybe the year after that, I don't recall but we really aren't going there (see above), I did the same thing I always did about the award, I listened and was like, "That could be me, that could still be me..." until I got to the part where I was like "Oh, that's definitely not me." And then I tuned out. Because the other people didn't really matter. (See the neuroses?) And I remained tuned out when I suddenly heard that the winner this year was the President of the Cooper Hawk fund. And I was all, no, that can't be right because I'm the President of the Cooper Hawk fund. For your information and because this hasn't dragged on long enough, the Cooper Hawk fund was me and a few other volunteers who went around school with these big tin cans, coffee tins with coin slots cut in the lid and decorated enthusiastically, who tried to raise enough money from our already broke students to adopt a Cooper's hawk (our mascot) from the rescue shelter, and have the experts come and free it during Homecoming. I planned the judicious use of those coffee tins, and dammit I did it well. It was one of the scores of activities (including DECA) that I participated in because I was lucky enough to not really have to pay attention to school in order to get good grades (and then grad school arrived to kick my ass). I mean, I did some cool volunteer stuff in high school, some community organizing around education that even now I think was pretty bad-ass, none of which was mentioned, and what did they notice but that lousy work I did with the can and the hawks. Anyway, next thing I know everyone from my school is snickering and kicking me and where has my teacher gone? and oh, wait, am I supposed to go up there and accept this plaque? Holy shit. It really was me, this time, I really won that award, the big one. And everyone knew about it but me.

The last time I was totally floored was much more recently. I have a good friend, named Avi, who might even be reading this blog right now (Hi Avi!). I met Avi when we were on Finance Committee together, oh, almost 3 years ago now? I love finance committee for a number of reasons, but one of those reasons was that Kathy served on that committee in her capacity as our finance staff person. I have spoken of Kathy briefly on this blog before. Anyway, when Avi joined this committee, I remember that first meeting. He drove Kathy and I nuts because he had to be right about everything. And there was something about the way that he had to be right...He reminded me so much of most of the other Philosophy (and Physics) majors I met in Madison, with this determination that if he had wrapped his mind around something and came out with a conclusion than it must be truth and everyone else a fool if they disagreed. Those type of people drive me nuts (how equally close-minded of me, you would be accurate to point out...). Anyway, over time I came to realize that Avi really wasn't that bad. He joined a group of friends of mine that hung out every Monday evening, and over time he grew less obnoxious. I, in fact, grew fond of him. This group of friends, mostly powerful men, had an annoying habit of turning our games into a sort of sausage-fest, with me and the other lady sort of hanging along the sidelines. But it's difficult to talk with some guys about their own masculine privilege and how they bring that, in this case literally, to the table. (Oops, I'm writing on the wrong blog for this bit, but its so relevant you are just going to need to deal. Tough it out.) One night they made a few really demeaning comments about a woman in the game, and I really lost it. I called them out for being sexist, that their behavior was oppressive and making me not want to hang with them anymore. Of course, they just got defensive, but I held my ground a little longer than usual before storming off to the lav. When I returned things continued as though my outburst hadn't happened. After that situation I was pissed off and uncertain about what I would do with my future Monday nights. And at that time Avi came to me as we were cleaning up and asked me to talk to him more about what I had been upset about. I was busy and a little flustered, so I explained things in my own terminology, we had a brief discussion about it, and he explained that his girlfriend was challenging him about a lot of these things and he wanted to learn more. I wrote the situation off, but I did notice that Avi was becoming increasingly more awesome to hang out with. Later, Avi told me he was taking a women's studies class and would like to talk with me about it if I wanted. We had a few good discussions throughout the semester about a variety of things that I never thought he would be really able to talk about. Kathy and I grew fond of talking about how pleasantly surprised we were by Avi. Overall, Avi is one of the most impressive people I know, because he is able to take his conceptions about a particular situation, and genuinely challenge himself. He is truly interested in bettering himself, even if that means he has to accept that he is wrong or needs to change. Not like it is my place to say if he is wrong or needs to change, but he was totally ok with this as no other person I've known has been. It has been a pleasure watching him grow and learn and change and I feel like I can say that without any condescension because I think he would say the same about me and we would both be saying it with respect. He's analytical, but thoroughly so, not like many people who are so caught up in how open-minded and analytical they are that they cannot possibly be wrong. ANYWAY, the point of this is that Avi surprised me a little when he told me that he and his girlfriend were getting married. But, having learned from Avi to give more people the benefit of the doubt, I did just that about his marriage plans, and have slowly come to realize that they are the right decision for him. Avi really surprised me when he asked me to be in his wedding party. I was totally astonished. I have truly enjoyed my relationship with Avi so far, but this is once again one of those situations when I just did not realize the extent that another person was actively participating in our relationship. I thought I saw the full of it during my interactions with him, but there was so much more. I was completely floored when he used the word "mentor" to describe me. My mouth blathered out a "Yes, of course" before my brain kicked in. Thank god I have good instincts. I have never been more honored than to be a part of this significant page of this man's life.


Wednesday, August 5, 2009


It's so dangerous to hope. I will probably delete this before I post it, because if I hope for something, if I expect something, it almost never works out. And it's not really that it doesn't work out that hurts (and it does), but I think the worst is that I am disappointed. Better to have no expectations and roll with things as they come, happy and sad, than to perpetually be disappointed.

But, like listening to T Swift's Love Story, it feels so good and so terrible, simultaneously. And so...I hope for strength and knowing who I am and love god do I hope for love, I hope against all odds that my friendships are as beautiful as they are now, that they continue to blossom. I hope and hope that there will come a time when my people will remain with me and I won't leave and neither will they. That even though things will change there will be some constancy in my life, some people, where I can look back and say I have known this person for so long, and we still hang out once a week. God I want that. I think that is what I want more than anything right now. That I don't need to keep saying goodbye.

But that's life, right? Even if I stayed in Madison or moved to back to the Cities, things would change. People live, and grow old, and die. And maybe I have a misplaced sense of belonging or of constancy because we moved so often, because I have never managed to stay settled (even now, that I actively identify with a home). But if I didn't have that, I would still lose people, and it might even be harder to lose them, given that now I have a lot of practice.

There is a quote that I really like for this situation: "People are in your life for a season, a reason, or a lifetime." (I don't know who said it.) I don't think putting people in boxes is as comforting as my identification with the spirit of it. I know that there are just times when you have to let people go.