Thursday, May 26, 2005

In Case You Missed It

Balance, like beauty and so many other things, is in the eye of the beholder. There is no way that any of us can step outside ourselves and view the world through any but our own filters.

What does upset me is that anyone thinks that balance means an equal number of minutes for two sides of any issue. Those reports constitute either shouting at the deaf or preaching to the converted.

Instead of balance, why not research? Why not de-bunking, as was done after the presidential "debates" last fall? Dig into the claims made by everyone, regardless of which side they are on. Don't just give the cheerleaders for either side an opportunity to spout the party line.

So saith my pop. Ten seconds have been deducted from his obligatory 15 minutes of fame. Well, they did edit him a bit, but it was pretty darn cool to hear my old man on the radio. His reaction? "Gee, I sound like your Uncle Joe." Uncle Joe being his youngest brother, who until his radio station recently changed its programming to all-Spanish, had a morning talk show in a medium-tiny town northeast of here.

So, how has fame changed my father? Not much. We still had our regular Thursday morning breakfast at Shoney's.

What was my mother's reaction to her former spouse's new-found celebrity? "Well, at least his accent didn't sound that heavy." Which I take to mean, "at least he didn't sound like a drooling yokel." So anyway, Mom gave it two thumbs up.

As far as the content, I must say that I agree with him. What we experience in our lives and the way in which we experience it is greatly determined by our general outlook. If you're depressed, it colors everything else going on in your life. This easily translates into the way we view political or social issues.

Our personality consists of basic attitudes that cause us to interpret everyday experiences and ideas in very specific ways. I'm a generally cynical person, who wants to be proven wrong. Therefore, I think NPR does lean significantly to the left, but I'm happy when it doesn't, although I must admit I'm pretty liberal. I like happy surprises. I like saying to myself, "See?! They don't have their own political agenda! It just seems that way." Then I remember that public radio subsists on listener donations, and most of the people who listen to public radio are nerdy liberal types. They almost have to pander to their audience. They can't afford to be unbiased. Although, I still love to listen.

I guess I just take everything I hear with a grain of salt. I remember where I heard it, and when I relate news stories back to people, I ask if they think that's really the way things are. Inevitably, that person will have a different take on the issue.

That's what's cool about humans, though. We're not homogenous, though we sometimes seem to be. Just because we're similar doesn't mean we're identical. I wish the media would reflect that more.

More Precious Than Rubies

You may or may not have noticed the new link I placed under the one to my husband's blog. Jump is my absolute bestest gal pal. We've known each other since we were 12 or 13-so long I can't even remember exactly how old we were when we met. We lived near each other most of our lives. We went to the same summer camp, went to her prom together when her date flaked out, went to the same college (for awhile), and even lived in the same apartment there. We've been a witness to each other's lives for over a decade.

Jump taught me to love my southern heritage rather than be ashamed of it. She taught me how to cook. She introduced me to George Dickel and Southern Culture on the Skids.

Together, we endured the hell that is high school for smart, chubby girls. We've hated our bodies, loved our minds, bitched about our boyfriends, drunk too much booze, danced our asses off, knocked our heroes off their throwns (and put some of them back up there), skipped classes, smoked too many cigarettes, and one time, made her dog vomit an entire bag of Hershey's kisses in our bathtub using only hydrogen peroxide and a leash.

She was there when I became an adult, because we grew up together. In college, some 500 miles away from home, we were the only people we knew from East Tennessee. We were the only ones who could truly appreciate the irony of the Sunsphere, the gritty beauty of the Old City, the pompous backgammon players at Cup O' Joe, the deeply mourned Terrace Theater, and the importance of listening to bad music at the Mercury.

In the band at summer camp, we sang, "Son of a Preacher Man" together, because my voice sounds much better when she sings over me. We almost wet ourselves listening to the poetry teacher read Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" on a chilly July night, huddled together on dew-drenched grass next to a dark forest that crackled with the saw-song of cicadas. We learned to dance together. We learned to not eat the chicken and dumplins in the cafeteria. At camp, we found that any dance worth going to must feature the following songs: "Walking on Sunshine," the Violent Femmes' "Waitin' for the Bus," Prince's "Kiss," and James Brown's "Sex Machine."

Now, both married, both graduated, we still love to hang because we can finish each other's sentences. Because we immediately know whether or not the other will like a particular movie, song, book, tv show, or mixed drink. She has helped me hobble through the last year without my husband by taking me out to dinner and the movies. And I must say, a huge thanks to her man for letting me spend the night in their guest room all the time in a weird facsimile of our childhood sleepovers. They deserve a lot of credit for helping to ease my time away from Lunger.

I could relate a thousand different instances from our thirteen year friendship that proves not all true love has to be romantic. My relationship with Jump is the longest one I've ever had with someone I'm not related to.

I'd say that's something worth blogging about.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Blatant Advertisement

First, let me apologize for my lengthy absence. I spent last weekend out of town and work has been really busy. In other words, I haven't had time to blog. A real post is in the works, but I just had to give this quick shout-out to my dad.

My dad is going to be on NPR! No, seriously. He'll be on the national broadcast of Morning Edition between 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. on Thursday (the 26th, tomorrow, whatever).

He wrote NPR a letter about balanced reporting, and they asked him to read it at the local public radio station so they could record it and put it on the air. So, if you listen to NPR at all, or even if you don't, tune in tomorrow.

Ok, end of blatant advertisement.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

100 Years of Crock Pot

On my last post, my father commented that he would gladly send me care packages of cornmeal and bacon grease when I moved up north. God bless that man. This, of course, reminds me of all the dinners he cooked for me as a child.

Growing up, at least since I was about 12, it was just Dad and me. Mom was around a lot, but she lived across town. I saw her most afternoons and on the weekends, but Dad was mostly responsible for feeding me.

To this day, his cornbread is still the best in the world, according to my taste buds. Though, I must give a major shout-out to Mom's pancakes, which are also the best in the world. I know Lunger will back me up on that one.

He made a lot of cornbread, and he also made almost all other accompanying, dinner-related dishes in the crock pot. He made so many dinners in the crock pot, that he brought it to an art form. I could have ice cream or cookies for breakfast, but when I came home from school, we ate some sort of slow-cooked meal.

He prepared all the standard crock pot meals: chili, stew, and soup. But he also made a lot of plain old meat, like barbeque pork chops. His foremost medium, however, was chicken.

Barbeque chicken, garlic chicken, ranch-flavored chicken, and the very memorable "Chicken Italiano," as he so aptly named it. "Chicken Italiano" consisted, basically, of chicken breast and tomato sauce. If you think this tasted good, you are sadly mistaken.

For some reason, this particular concoction did not work out. The chicken was so dry as to be crunchy, and the outside was a charred, tomatoey brown. We ordered Chinese that night.

He also liked to make Rice-A-Roni, especially the red beans and rice kind to go with our barbeque chicken. Another favorite was microwaved frozen broccoli with cheddar cheese melted on top. And salad, of course.

Don't get me wrong, Dad tried really hard. He told me many times that it was important to our relationship, as parent and child, to eat dinner together every night. He liked to relate all sorts of child psychology factoids to me. With Dad, it was never a matter of him simply implementing a parenting skill, he liked to explain the theory behind it too.

He also told me that the average person needs at least five hugs a day to remain emotionally balanced. I don't know if he made this up or read it somewhere. The latter is more likely because he was and still is, a voracious reader. Where he got this information is irrelevent. Sometimes he would just look at me and say, "I don't think either one of us has met our hug quota for the day."

He's a pretty cerebral guy, but he's also a great dad. I always know that he loves me. He always makes sure that I know I'm special. Both my parents make sure I know these things. They've been divorced a long time, and even though their parenting styles differ considerably, this is the one thing they have in common: they love me and my brother fiercely.

This is what I think about when I remember I'm moving to a different country. I will miss them so much. I keep telling myself that I'll see them much more than a lot of grown-ups see their parents. But I know I'll always need them, no matter how old I am, no matter how far away I live. I try to make sure they know that. I hope they know I love them as much as they love me.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

14 Reasons Canada is Weird...or Cool

In honor of Saturday the 14th and in light of the fact that Friday the 13th is now over, and I presumably have the time to post without all the freaks traipsing into work, I present 14 reasons that Canada is weird, or cool, depending on your perspective.

  1. The Metric System. They buy their gas by the liter, which seems cheap, until you remember that liters are considerably smaller than gallons. They also list the speed limit in kilometers per hour, which, again, seems really fast until you realize that kilometers are somewhat shorter than miles.
  2. Temperature. It's freaking cold there, man. Yeah, I know I'm from the south, so my psychological temperature guage is kind of skewed, but dang! Oh, and it's cold in Celsius.
  3. Poutine. Yeah, it's French. It's also a dish you can get at the Swiss Chalet or Harvey's Hamburgers. Poutine is french fries covered in that brown, KFC-esque gravy and cheese curd. Not cheese, cheese curd. Heck, I love gravy just as much as the next good ol' gal, but I like white gravy, milk gravy. What they do to french fries up there is bordering on the criminal.
  4. Barbeque. As in cooked outside on a grill. What is up with this? The last time I checked, barbeque was pulled pork with sauce. Barbeque sauce. By the way, they don't have any real barbeque. Apparently the average Canadian is leary of pork. Canadians: be not afraid. The pig is your friend. He is juicy and good. Especially when slathered in barbeque sauce on a bun with cole slaw.
  5. Cornbread. Meaning they don't have any. Well, they do sell it at some bakeries. But that's just it: it's bread made with cornmeal baked in a regular pan. This is an affront to my entire culture. Cornbread is to be baked in a cast iron skillet which has been seasoned. Seasoned meaning slathered in bacon fat many, many times, sometimes over years.
  6. The Beer Store. They have an entire store dedicated to beer. God bless their wintery little hearts. Both beer and liquor are regulated by the government, so you can only buy them at THE BEER STORE, or in Ontario, at the LCBO (liquor board of Ontario). I mean, it's pretty darn cool that in Tennessee we can just go to the gas station and pick up a six-pack, but the selection, oh yes. The selection.
  7. Fries Supreme. This is something you can only get at the Taco Bells in Canada. It's like a nachos supreme but on FRIES. See? The cold weather is worth it.
  8. Theatre, Colour, Behaviour, Labour, etc. Canadians use British spellings for words. Most people would not have a problem, or rather, a handicap with this. However, since language is kind of my specialty it tends to throw me off.
  9. Aboot and Beyond. My husband claims that no one says "aboot." But, I have heard his friends use this particular form of about many times. I think he simply cannot detect it, having lived there all of his life. Further, dorks are "birds," whiners are "sucks," and idiots are "knobs." Personally, I think Canadians have an oral fixation.
  10. "Eh?" Canadians are famous for this the world over. I find it to be useful, mostly because it's a shortened version of "y'know?" It's so pithy, so sleek, so compact. I put it in the same category as "y'all," though many people may find this blasphemous.
  11. Canadian Dollars. Not only is my American dollar worth more there, but Canadian money itself is just cute. Firstly, it's all different colors. There's purple, red, blue, and the traditional green bills. How nifty is that? Just like Monopoly! And, they have nature scenes on their bills, like beavers chewing on logs and Canada geese flying in formation. It's all so adorably cuddly in a way that American money never could be. Plus, Queen Elizabeth II is all over their cash. From a purely feminist perspective, I think that's super neat-o.
  12. No Smoking. Dude! I know non-smokers will be instantly happy about this, but it kind of chaps my ass. There's no smoking in restaurants. Not even bars. What the crap?! When I'm drinking my "rye and coke" I want a fricking cigarette, goshdarnit.
  13. Cigarettes, in General. Ok, I actually think this is kind of amusing. Their cigarette packs are covered in these huge, color pictures of rotten lungs and hearts and deformed fetuses and stuff. All right, maybe I do have a sick sense of humor, and everyone knows I like horror novels, but really, that just makes me giggle, like, a lot: "Don't smoke, it'll char all your meat!" And, their packs have 25 cigarettes instead of 20, which is rad, but does not make up for the fact that they cost like $9.00 Canadian a pack. Ouch, my wallet hurts more than my lungs.
  14. Moose. Besides the fact that stuffed moose are completely cute, the real things are all impressive and majestic. Plus, they're mean as hell. People where I live complain about hitting deer with their cars, but that damage does not in any way compare with the utter annhilation that happens to your car when you hit a moose. Seriously, if you don't duck, you'll probably be decapitated. Which, again appeals to my fascination with all things morbid and disgusting.

Well, I hope you've all enjoyed this break from our regular programming. Next time I promise to write without the aid of a numbered list. I might even use paragraphs and stuff. Shudder to think. I'm mostly in love with the idea that I'll be some kind of pseudo American ex-patriate. I'm so punk rock.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

You're Not the Boss of Me

I've never been a girly-girl. I don't think anyone could ever accuse me of that. I played a lot of sports as a kid. I even stuck with soccer for 12 years. I don't often wear dresses. I don't usually wear makeup. I don't like bows in my hair. If given a choice between playing poker with my husband or watching a Meg Ryan movie with his friends' wives, I'd choose the former.

However, I know guys need their man-time. I get it. I know I'm not welcome at poker night, which is kind of cool because I don't really know how to play. Besides, they usually end up arguing over poker-related minutiae, which is a one-way ticket to Snoresville for me. I like hanging with the guys, but up to a point.

With the prospect of being Susie Homemaker for the next few months looming over my head, I'm chewing my nails a bit more than usual. It's so old-fashioned, so feminine, so not me. Plus, I like having a job. Not necessarily working, mind you, but making my own money. My parents taught me that I have to take care of myself because no one else is going to do it for me.

Now, I have to let my husband take care of me. That's an almost foreign concept for me. Let someone else pay for my stuff. Heck, it's not even my stuff any more. It's our stuff. Lunger will buy the stuff and I will cook it, clean it, and iron it. Weird. Just, weird.

I'm so used to being self-sufficient. I can easily entertain myself. I happily go to the movies by myself. I gladly eat in restaurants alone. What is it like to truly have someone with you, all the time?

I had roommates in college, but it's not quite the same, is it? Living with a spouse is a horse of a different color. I had another taste of it last weekend, when I visited my husband in Canada.

May 6th was his slava, or Saint George's Day. The celebration consists mostly of having a ton of friends over to eat a gargantuan amount of food. Cabbage rolls, roasted lamb, roasted pork, schnitzels (chicken and veal), mashed potatoes, potato salad, salad salad, cookies, cakes, soup, etc. and so on. There were just over 20 people there, so there weren't exactly enough seats. My husband and I served instead of sitting.

Growing up in my house, it was every man for himself. If we wanted something to eat or drink, we raided the fridge. If we had people over, the meal was served buffet-style.

This all leads to the concept of the woman as homemaker for me. Gender roles are more clearly, traditionally defined in my husband's family. I always thought I would hate a setup like this. As if this sort of partioned lifestyle was archaic and unequal. That's not really the case.

Housework is shared because Lunger's parents both have jobs outside the home. That's how it will be when I work, eventually. If I'm not working, I think it's only fair that I take care of the everday household maintenance. It's not something I'm used to doing, but that doesn't make it sexist.

Basically, what I'm getting at here is that I have to redefine myself again. This time, as a wife. That doesn't mean aprons, high heels, and hair-curlers. It means I have to think and act as a couple. I've been married for two years, but we haven't worked on the everyday living stuff because we've been in different countries.

After this weekend, I'm starting to see that I like filling some of those traditional feminine roles. I like serving guests. It makes me feel useful, like I'm taking care of people. And God knows, I like to do that. Just call me Miss Fix-It. Doing things for people is nice, even if you're just mixing them a Crown and Coke.

I see this new person emerging from the old, selfish, child-me. It's like I've said subconsciously to myself, "Ok it's your turn to be the grownup." That doesn't mean I'm not hip, though, darn it. I still like to listen to the White Stripes full blast while I clean things.

And I'll never give up my funky thrift store t-shirts and my Vans with the pink elephants on them, even when I do have kids. So there.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Midol-Induced Introspection

So, I'm sitting here eating my Darth Vader M&M's and trying to come up with some sort of direction or topic for this blog. I often have a problem coming up with topics because I do basically nothing but work. Honestly, I'm almost as sick of writing about work as I am of actually working. The most eventful thing that happened to me last month were those Jehovah's Witnesses. I remember having a social life at one point, I really do.

However, as I get older I become less willing to go out. If I go out and drink, someone has to drive me home. Live music is not as fun as it used to be because I have depleted my tolerance for loud, stinky, sweaty evenings. Mostly, I prefer to go hang out at my friend's house in the country, get t-rashed, as we like to call it, and smoke tons of cigarettes, which is what we used to do when we shared an apartment in Memphis.

In high school, I used to go out all the time. My friends and I would pile into someone's crappy, hand-me-down car and go to coffee shops on the university strip where we would drink an absurd amount of caffeine and try to look as cool as the college kids.

Ah, those were the days. The artsy-fartsy days, that is. I shunned football games, dances, and anything else that a normal teenager might do. I tried desperately to hide my naive, upper-middle-class, pampered-ass mentality behind a thin veil of thrift shop clothes, acrylic paint, and countless sheaves of scribbled-on notebook paper.

Maybe I'm being too hard on myself. I was a deeply unhappy person, whether because of raging hormones or a chemical imbalance, I'll never know. I just remember a lot of pain. I was isolated, surly, stand-offish, and snide. I suppose most people are as teenagers.

Where other kids my age were cliquey and petulant, I was too, even though I thought I wasn't. My rag-tag group of art-fag friends was just as hard to permeate as any "popular" group. I never deliberately shunned people because I didn't think they were "cool" enough for me. It was more like I felt comfortable with four or five people, and I thought everyone else was probably out to get me, or would think I was lame.

I've never been the center of any group. I'm usually the sidekick to some emotionally screwed individual with a lot of charisma. My sarcastic commentary, die-hard loyalty, and sense of righteous indignation endows said person with an aura of command that they usually don't deserve. This was completely the case in high school.

C introduced me to a lot of stuff I would've never been interested in otherwise: collage, making my own clothes, P.J. Harvey, letters as art, spontaneous gift-giving, body piercing, purple hair, and bing cherries. There were a lot of positive things about my friendship with her. There was also plenty of negative personal drama. I don't regret knowing her. Even more, I don't regret that she cast me off after our first semester of college. I never thought I'd say that, but if I was still friends with her, I never would've grown up.

They say you can't catch mental illness, but in a way you can. The people that surround you influence the way you think. She opened my mind in some directions and closed it down to others. Left to my own devices, I've come to understand the world more fully without her. The people you share life with, not just spouses or other family, shape your experiences. Eventually your life takes on the shape of those people.

My husband says his life is better because of the people with whom he's chosen to share it. He says it's his only talent. If you ask me, it's the most important.

I'm more picky about my friends now, though more understanding. I judge them based on actions rather than background, musical taste, reading habits, or personal rhetoric. I'm more concerned with what people do than what they say. And when I say judge, I mean whether I want to associate with them, not whether they're going to hell.

Having bad friends has taught me how to be a better friend and a better person. I think that's what people mean when they say they have no regrets. I don't regret anything I've done wrong, because I think I've learned something from my every one of my mistakes.

I'm still a stupid kid, but at least I know it.