Planning for the Abyss

Yesterday’s haiku left a lot to be desired in the humor department.  That’s just how Microsoft makes me feel sometimes.  I had one big project that I needed to finish, and my computer decided that it wouldn’t open the Excel file that was necessary for that one project.  It made me grumpy.

Today is new and bright, however.  I even wore obnoxiously perky colors to guarantee a cheery outlook.  Bill Gates will be forced to bow to the perkiness.

Anyway, work frustration brings me to the lovely topic of work.  Work and goals.  Goals and life.

I haven’t had any real goals for the past year and a half, despite the fact that I’ve been a planner my entire life.  Having plans has always made me feel good, even if things didn’t turn out as intended.  For laughs, here are some of my past life plans:

Ages 3-5–Hug my favorite stuffed animal so much that he turns into an amorphous lump of stuffing and grey fuzz

Ages 6-14–Become a famous singer or Anne of Green Gables

Ages 15-17–Get into college and worry about the rest of life later

Ages 18-22–Become an editor, or maybe a lobbyist for free trade, or an art museum curator, or professional gypsy, or lobbyist for free trade, or banker, or travel writer, or lobbyist for free trade

Ages 23-24–Get a graduate degree so that having a job won’t involve burning my hands several times a day on coffee equipment

Ages 25-26–Oh, crap.  I don’t have any career goals anymore.

The important things in those plans did happen.  My stuffed animal definitely turned into an amorphous lump, I went to college, finished grad school, and my job no longer involves piping hot coffee equipment.  So when I arrived at the 25 and career goal-less stage, I thought I could use a few years to live without pressing goals.  I thought the lack of giant looming life changes would turn me into a super chill, go-with-the-flow type of girl.  Only that’s not who I am.  I’m still a planner.

It’s not about doing as planned.  It’s about looking into the yawning abyss of the future and convincing yourself that you’re armed to face the next step.  Instead of arming myself for the abyss, I spent the last year and a half buying a house, painting it lots of different colors, and learning how to mow the lawn and cook.  I also worked full-time and tried not to attack any Microsoft products.  It’s been a good year and a half.  But I miss my plans.

I don’t want to be floating around in goal-less land forever, so I’m working on that now.  I’m thinking and mulling and trying to come up with something more logical than “become a famous singer or Anne of Green Gables.”  Hopefully my mind has advanced since I was six years old.  When I do make a plan, I’ll be sure to announce it so that you can chuckle to yourself when I do something completely different six months later.

Cool Cat

I was writing an uber serious post today about connection to people and places, but it’s Saturday and I’m at work.  I don’t need serious.  What this blogger needs is a ridiculous cat.  Yup.  So courtesy of someone else’s blog, here is a ridiculous(ly cool) cat:

That did make me feel better, and since I can’t get the serious post to say what I want it to say in 500 words, here’s the condensed version:

I had a really unexpected dinner last night with a friend from high school.

Good things about that:

  • Seeing an old friend from high school (obvious, yes)
  • Hearing an East Texas accent
  • Getting news about other old friends
  • Seeing that life takes unexpected twists for everyone (and that can be really good)

Bad thing about the dinner:

  • I feel home(town)less at the moment.

For some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on, seeing someone from Elkhart made me feel like I’m not actually from there.  [Insert furrowed brow here.]  Anyone want to loan me a hometown?

(That’s half of Elkhart’s downtown.  Don’t blink.  Those trees in the background?  That’s the edge of town.)

Passing Notes

This week provided solid proof that some things do get better as you get older.  I’ve been sharing notes with friends since way back when.  In high school, they were mostly about how great it would be when Integrated Physics and Chemistry was finished for the day and we could just play tennis.  Or they were about boys.

I still pass those notes with my friends.  They’re called email now, and they revolve around evening plans and how much fun those will be compared to the spreadsheets and projects we deal with at work.  Not that far from the content ten years ago.

The advantage of getting older is that the type of notes you send and receive expands exponentially (well, not exactly exponentially… don’t make me get back into math class explanations).  In addition to notes about what you can’t wait to do after work, you get recipes tacked onto fresh fruit on your porch.  Shout-out to the friend who made that beautiful thing happen.  Or sometimes you get recipes in email or funny stuff via YouTube.  That’s what I call a good addition to life!

I probably wouldn’t have wanted a recipe very much 10 years ago, if I’m being honest.  Domestic skills weren’t high on my priority list.  Anything that includes the word “cobbler” is welcome in my life now though.  And isn’t cobbler at least somewhat healthy?  There are loads more peaches and blueberries than butter and processed sugar in the recipe.  That has to mean something when compared to other desserts like, let’s say, a Snickers bar.  Cobbler is totally a health food.

But I digress (cobbler does that to me).  The down side to grown-up notes is that as they expand in fun directions, they also come from the power company and local government and all sorts of other places.  Those notes are called bills.  Not such a fan of them.  They’re comparable to anonymous hate messages crammed into your locker.  Nobody likes them, but you have to deal with them before things get ugly.  The cable company can pack a mean punch if you don’t give them your lunch money.

Anyway, enjoy your grown-up notes today, bills, recipes, SPAM and all.

Fairy Tales and Dragon Tails

Your family might be perfectly normal.  You never laugh at (imaginary) people’s pain or when the make-believe dragon eats the make-believe policeman, and I’m very happy for you.  It must be nice to be that well-adjusted.  But if you aren’t that well-adjusted or if you want a glimpse of my slightly weird family for a few minutes, read on!

I grew up with stories about cute bunnies and princesses.  Sure.  I also grew up with bedtime stories from Der Struwwelpeter.  Every story was about someone who had a bad habit.  One little boy sucked his thumb, another wouldn’t pay attention to where he was walking, and one was a picky eater.

Yeah, that’s about to be a bloody stump in a children’s book and it perfectly represents the end that all bad children met in Der Struwwelpeter.  The kid above was the thumb-sucker.  He didn’t quite catch on after his first thumb was cut off, so he ended up minus both thumbs.

Odd humor also found its way into our family song repertoire.  Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road was a favorite, as well as The Green-eyed Dragon With the 13 Tails.

For several years, my parents have tried to remember the last verse to The Green-eyed Dragon without any luck.  On Sunday, the internet saved the day and they found the final verse.  I got a phone serenade to celebrate the momentous occasion.

Here’s the first verse of the classic I was listening to while other kids were hoping the itsy bitsy spider would make it up the water spout:

Once upon a time lived a Fair Princess
Most beautiful and charming;
Her Father, the King, was a wicked old thing,
With manners most alarming.
And always on the front door mat,
A most ferocious Dragon sat,
It made such an awful shrieking noise
So all you little girls and boys…
Beware, take care,
Of the Green-eyed dragon with the 13 tails,
He’ll feed,
With greed
On little boys, puppy dogs and big fat snails.
Then off to his lair each child he’ll drag,
And each of his 13 tails he’ll wag
Take care
And creep off on tip toes.
And hurry up the stairs,
And say your prayers,
And duck your heads, your pretty curly heads,
Beneath the clothes, the clothes, the clothes.

Nothing like parents who wanted their kids to feel safe in bed at night.

Summertime ADD

Happy thoughts at the moment: fields, the World Cup and Wimbledon, and my front porch. I’m actually pretty predictable in the “happy thoughts” department… except for the World Cup.  That one’s a fluke.

Perfect evening plans: time on the porch and a viewing of Field of Dreams.

Perfect soundtrack to current daydreams: George Winston’s Ballads and Blues. Did your family play specific music on summer road trips?  Mine did.  It was George Winston all the time, and it was good.  I still think about sitting in the back seat of a warm rental car, driving around the Adirondacks every time that music comes up on my iPod.

Once again, this is not my photography.  It sure is pretty though.  It belongs to this photographer.

Pink Tights

My first official stint as a ballerina was at age 6.  It went really well until I realized that the older girls in the class didn’t appreciate my fine self-choreographed dances.  I decided it would be more fun to just dance around the house for the next few years, so I stuck with swimming and tennis lessons instead.

Then in college, a friend and I signed up for a ballet class together.  It seemed like a brilliant way to avoid an extra class like German Lit in Translation and see each other more often.  It was a mostly brilliant idea.  We felt graceful, feminine, and all-around good for a few hours a week.  And when we didn’t feel graceful or feminine, we laughed about it together.

The things that got the most laughs were the clothing requirements and spins.  First, imagine a self-conscious nineteen-year-old who is told that she has to wear a black leotard and pink tights to class two days a week for an entire semester.  Yeah, not fun.  Second, imagine that nineteen-year-old trying to spin across a large room on her tip-toes without crashing loudly to the floor.  The loud crashing only happened once, so I counted it in the success column.

Yesterday, I attended the ballet recital of a friend in town.  The little kids were adorable (and great at ignoring the teacher while cutely looking out into the crowd), the older kids were good dancers, and there was even a self-esteem boost in there for me.

I feel bad about reveling in other people’s mistakes, but I loved every second of the older students’ spins across the stage. There were a few legitimate tumbles to the floor and more than a few dizzy, confused looks at the end of spins.  I couldn’t help smiling, since an entire class of college students watched me do the same thing.

My secret about all of this?  I still practice ballet sometimes.  I’ve never been good at it, but it has this incredible power to make me feel graceful even if I just killed a roach while burping or something equally lovely.  Sometimes I catch myself attempting a ballet leap over a puddle or trying a spin when no one is looking.  And every Sunday, sometime during the hymns and prayers at church, my feet slip into fifth position for just a few seconds.

Treehouse Naps

There’s something just right about a rainy day at the library.  Getting out of bed is kind of a struggle (and that’s an understatement, since you could say that I have “kind of a struggle” getting out of bed every day), but once you’ve made it from the cocoon of pillows and sheets to the over-air-conditioned library, things get better.  The weather doesn’t technically make any difference in my work day.  It does, however, remind me of some great moments in college.

Rain has always struck me as the perfect excuse for a nap.  I wasn’t particularly fond of napping in my dorm room though.  It made me feel lazy to be sleeping like a rock at 2 p.m. when my roommate would return from whatever productive things she had been up to.  So rain or no rain, I spent many an hour in college trudging up the curved library stairway to the second or third floor, picking out a window alcove, and making the most of two soft, pushed-together chairs.  The chairs made an ideal napping spot complete with rails to keep you from falling onto the floor.  Those rails were more useful than you might think.  When the surface you’re sleeping on is about one square inch bigger than your body, it helps to be locked into place by something.

I did occasionally study for finals or do some research at the library, but it won my heart through naps, not high-tech equipment or well-chosen books.  If anything about college was perfect in its simplicity and lack of responsibility, it was nap time in the library.  I was never once late for class because of those naps, and I never felt like it was wasted time.  The library turned into some secret part of the universe where only good things could happen.  No one knew where you were, and you woke up looking out at treetops that made you think just for a second that you might be in a treehouse.

I might be at work, but I’m thinking about sleeping in a treehouse in San Antonio.  Like I said, there’s something just right about a rainy day at the library.