Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Buffy!!!

I currently do not have cable. I have no plans on getting cable either, because mainly I get addicted to it too quickly and sit in front of it for too long. Although I greatly miss Paula Dean, Sanctuary and Bones, I can usually get my fixes from Hulu and once I start actually making enough money, I'm going to subscribe to Netflix.

But that's neither here nor there. I've been watching Season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (gotta love good Christmas presents) and last night I watched the episode where Buffy's mom died. And if that was a spoiler to you, then good god what rock have you been living under?

I think it's like the second time ever I've seen that episode, which is odd because I've seen most of them like a gazillion times. When it originally aired - Feb 2001 -  I wasn't the Buffy fan I am now (I was still reeling from the horrid movie and refused to watch it for the longest time on the grounds that anything based on something that bad could not in any way be good). Then in December of 2001, my dad died. For the longest time, it was simply too close to home and I could not watch it.

That episode remains for me one of the most poignant episodes not just of the series but of television. It so closely mirrored my own shock, my own experiences, and my own grief that even nine years on it can still bring me to tears.

Although I will say that in no point did I ever have a peroxide-haired vampire stalking me nor did I have a robot made in my likeness.

Sigh. A girl can dream, can't she?
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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Suffering.

Well, I'm not personally. Today, at any rate. Yay, me!

But one of my friends is going through a rough patch. He's struggling right now, trying desperately to provide the basics for his family and himself while dealing with extenuating circumstances.

My initial gut reaction (being a girl) was to empathize and to say everything would be okay. But really, will it? And my empathy - how much good would it do? I mean, when someone says "I know how you feel!" but then goes back to their place of happyhappyjoyjoy while you're stuck in your pit of ick, doesn't it just come off as depthless and almost a kind of rubbing it in?

I dunno.

Waaaay back, when I was at Hell Job, I moved offices at one point. As I was going through the desk of a departed employee now bequeathed to me, I found a framed excerpt from one of Thich Nhat Hanh's books The Heart of Buddha's Teaching. I've kept it ever since, and I want to share it with you:

Sometimes we feel as though we are drowning in the ocean of suffering, carrying the burden of all social injustice of all times. The Buddha said, "When a wise person suffers, they ask themselves, 'What can I do to be free from this suffering?' But when a foolish person suffers, they ask themselves, 'Who has wronged me? How can I show others that I am the victim of wrongdoing? How can I punish those who have caused my suffering?'" Why is it that others who have been exposed to the same conditions do not seem to suffer as much as we do?


Of course, you have the right to suffer, but as a practitioner, you do not have the right not to practice.


Please don't complain when no one seems to love or understand you. Make the effort to understand and love them better. If someone has betrayed you, ask why. If you feel that the responsibility lies entirely on them, look more deeply. Perhaps you have watered the seed of betrayal in them. We are all co-responsible.


This resonated very deeply with me when I found it. It still does. Of course, when everything around you is falling apart, the last thing you want anyone to tell you is to look to yourself for the reason. That feels like being kicked when you're already down. Suffering happens. Sometimes it's done to you, sometimes you do it to yourself. Regardless, it still hurts like hell and the struggle to work your way out of the pain feels never-ending. And sometimes the struggle to get out only digs you deeper and you wonder why you bother in the first place.

I think we bother because we're human. So long as there is a shred of hope left that there is something better on the other end of the clusterfuck we'll fight until we get there. We'll muddle through and we'll suffer because we're reaching for that better - whatever it is.

I think, though, that sometimes we're so busy reaching that we forget that we don't always have to. Sometimes that better is right here with us, just waiting patiently for us to look over and notice that it's been there all along.

Where the heck am I going with this post? It's like all over the place.

I guess where I'm going is that I hope my friend hangs on, and that I hope he knows it will get better. And I hope he knows he's not alone.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Introvert

I just finished reading a book on introverted people (oh, how I love the library! Why have I forsaken you all these years?). It was a pretty interesting read, mainly because it described me pretty much to a T. Not that I didn't know I was introverted. I mean, there's a picture of me in the dictionary right next to the definition. But I picked up the book because it looked interesting and the outside promised to help introverts deal with things like parties, socializing with the masses in general, blah blah blah.

Really what the book was about wasn't so much in dealing with the "extroverted" world but with claiming your own introvertedness and not apologizing for it anymore. If that fun party doesn't sound like fun to you? You don't have to go! Rather stay at home on a Friday night then get jostled around a packed bar? Stay home! It's okay. You don't need to make excuses, you just need to say "that's not for me, sorry."

Which, I think, can only go so far. In my 20's, my introversion and shyness (a lethal combination) pretty much left me friendless and isolated. I was too scared of my own shadow to go out and do anything about it. While I don't have a problem spending long periods of time alone (common with introverts), I was spending ALL my time alone, save for working hours. It wasn't healthy and I was most certainly not happy.

It took a lot of effort for me to finally admit what was happening and claw my way back into society. It still takes a lot of effort. Because, American society is not kind to introverts or shy people. You're expected to speak up, take charge, plow ahead, network, go and get 'em - things that are just not in my make up. I have gotten better at doing these things when they need to be done, but now I try my best to do them on my terms.

I will spend the rest of my life under vigil to make sure I do not slip back into my cave. Because it would  be so easy for me to do. Luckily, while I spend large amounts of time lately alone, they have been pleasurably filled with long walks, good books, nature walking and people watching. It's a solace for me, I think. I'm "recharging", as the author of the book called it. But I'll have to watch and make sure that it doesn't slip from recharging to hibernating, because I could do that. And I don't want to have to start the whole "clawing myself out of a hole" process again.

I like who I've become. I am not, nor will I ever be, outgoing. But I've managed to find a compromise that suits me. I will always find large parties and parties where I know only one or two people difficult and yes even painful, but I am no longer scared that I'll end up in the corner not talking to anyone, looking forlorn and lost.

I call that progress.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Shh...Keep it Down Now...

Voices Carry...

I never used to be one for silence. My family wasn't one of those boisterous families where everyone was in everyone's business. But we had a lot of background noise. The television or radio was always on. Heck, I remember listening to my Mom's Beatle's records when I was little. That's right. Records. I even had a few of my own, until at 10 years of age I got a "boombox" with my own radio and cd player.

Once I had my own radio, I seldom left my room. I'd be in there for hours listening to radio stations from Montreal, because it was the only stuff I could get that was playing popular music. With my own radio, I could finally listen to Madonna and and who the hell ever else was popular in 1984 (fun fact - because I was listening to Canadian radio I was one of the few Americans who can vaguely recall Alanis Morrissette's insanely early work). In high school, because there was nothing else to do and I was shy, I would make tape after tape of the Open House Party dance mixes broadcasted on Friday and Saturday nights. I dreamt I could dance like they did on the videos and mentally choreographed wild and amazing grand performances.

In college and post-college I pretty much gave the radio in favor of television. I watched it for hours. As my paychecks grew, my viewing window grew to include such wonders as the SyFy channel (still SciFi back then) and the ever popular Food Network. I was finally able to get the joke when someone said "You killed Kenny! You bastard!" and to get into the original BBC version of What Not To Wear.

The television was on almost all the time. When I was in the car, the radio was on. There was all this sensory input and I never questioned it. But I started noticing about two years ago I started craving silence. It started out small - just turning off the radio on the ride home from work. But then I started turning the radio off on the way to work. I think it initially started because I was working with a bunch of talkers that Never. Stopped. Talking. Talk about sensory overload.

But the habit continued after I left the job and moved on to school and a new position. I craved silence. I cut back on the cable until eventually, after moving for the first time earlier this year, I just let it lapse. I would come home in the evenings and sit in blessed silence. Sometimes I'd watch a tv show on Hulu and rarely turn on the radio, but it was quiet.

And now, in my new place, I have no cable whatsoever. I'll sometimes watch a movie in the evenings or turn the radio on (to the local college station) while I'm puttering about in the mornings, but for the most part, it's quiet. I listen to the wind rustle through the trees, the dogs barking, squirrels talking to each other, people passing by on their bikes or jogging through. I listen to the sounds of life now, and I find myself much happier for the new background noise.

I'm sure there are a multitude of possible psychological, deep, introspective reasons for this shift, but I don't care enough about them to really delve too much. All I know is that the man was right - silence is in fact golden.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Middle Ground

Now that school is over and I'm working part time (I LOVE my new job, by the way!), I finally have some time for myself. Which is really weird. I spent so much of the last 10 months goinggoinggoing that now that I've had the chance to stop I don't know what to do with myself. So, I've kind of just come to the conclusion that I'm going to take this opportunity to really focus on getting myself to the healthy, even-keeled person I was before I jumped into the fire, so to speak.

So, while I'm working on building up my stamina for multiple massage sessions in a day, I'm also working on getting myself into shape. My new apartment (I LOVE my new apartment, by the way!) is right next to a bike path, and I've been using this opportunity to start my daily walks again. They fell by the wayside while I was in school, as I literally did not have a daily hour I could commit to it. It feels really good to be moving outside again! I also took my first yoga class in a good long while yesterday. Lots of chaturangas left my arms super sore today, but all key in building up my core and inner strength.

I've also been reading a book by Deepak Chopra entitled "The Path to Love." It's a pretty good book, and he draws on many inspirational texts. The one thing I really pulled away from it was the notion that we are all connected. We are all the Universe, the Universe is us. You are me, I am you, God is us, we are God. Which got me thinking about this idea and how it relates to Vegetarianism. If I am all things and all things are me, then that animal on that plate, that milk I'm drinking, that cheese I'm eating, that scrambled egg.... it's all me. The animal on the plate isn't so much the issue for me these days... but that damned dairy.

I think one of the reasons why I struggled so much with the veganism was that it was all-or-nothing for me. The perfectionist side of me (which, according to Chopra is an attachment issue, but that's another post for another day) insists that if I can't do it perfectly the first time out, it's not worth doing, period.

Which is hogwash.

But maybe veganism isn't for me. There's nothing wrong with that. I thought long and hard about the lines I was drawing while I was trying to go forth with the experiment. I felt I had to justify every last decision I made that wasn't in line with being the Perfect Vegan. But perhaps there is a middle ground. A way wherein I'm not calling myself vegan, but eating that way most of the time. That occasional ice cream cone or slice of pizza becomes a rare treat in an otherwise dairyless existence.

I know I felt lighter and cleaner when I eating vegan. I also know that I felt frustrated by the limitations and "rules".  Perhaps by letting go and eating cleaner, whole foods in general and keeping the richer, more processed stuff to a minimum, I will once again be able to find my equilibrium.

And isn't that the point? In order to move forward, I must first find steady footing.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Harry Potter, Returned

Okay, so I figured it would be easier to just do a new post than try to add the pictures to the last post. If you want running commentary on my experience of the park, just scroll down or click here if you don't see it below.

This is Hogwarts. You can find the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey inside. Worth going through the castle at least once, twice if the lines aren't so bad. There's a lot of cool stuff inside.
This is the last of the line before it goes into the castle. It was a very long line, but at least it was moving quickly. The wait didn't particularly seem like 90 minutes. We were lucky as it was rainy and overcast, but definitely take a few dollars out of your purse before you stow them, because on hot, slower days you WILL want to buy some water or something once inside.
This is the Flight of the Hippogriff. It's a very short little roller coaster ride that is appropriate for all ages and all those who don't fancy the more intense Dragon Challenge. Don't wait longer than 30 minutes for this one, as the ride is literally 90 seconds long. Short, quick, to the point. However, you do get to see Hagrid's Hut while you're waiting your turn:
Hogsmeade itself was a lot of fun to wander around. Very busy and crowded to be sure, but there was a lot to see while there.
Upon wandering around Hogsmeade, you'll discover that many of the stores found in Diagon Alley have outlet centers here. Who knew? Ollivander's is one of them. We never got in there, as the wait for the 20 minute show was consistently 3 hours for the entire time we were there. There was a 30 minute wait to get into Dervish and Banges (one of the gift shops), but once in you could make your way to the wand section and pick out a personalized one or one from the characters (Malfoy's is in the yellow box).

The Three Broomsticks is the main eating area here (if you haven't filled yourself to the brim on Butterbeer and chocolate frogs, that is). When we walked in at 9:30am, they were taking names for lunch. However, when we wandered over to see if we could get in at 3:30 in the afternoon, they just let us walk in. Be forewarned though: vegetarians will have a nearly impossible time finding anything to eat there. It offers "typical" pub fare. Which means, hamburgers, fish n' chips, and turkey legs. Personally I've yet to be in a pub that offers turkey legs, but who am I to judge? Just a hungry vegetarian with nothing but pumpkin juice to ease the ache.
I was scared to taste this at first! This stuff ain't cheap, let me tell you ($6!). It's a good sized beverage and you can definitely share. This stuff grows on you. Very sweet, definitely geared toward a child's tastes. You can taste the nutmeg and other pumpkin spices. Very good cold, but you kind of can't put it away and come back to it, otherwise it's too much (I ended up throwing the last little bit away because it was too sweet).

Anything else?
You do get a card (my friend got Salazar Slytherin) and they don't hop away!

It was a lot of fun, and the Forbidden Journey ride is the best by far. I would definitely recommend it.

Have at it, fellow muggles!!!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Holy Harry Potter, Batman!

Guess where I went this weekend?

C'mon, guess.

Universal Studios Harry Potter!

Oh yes, I was one of those fools brave muggles who visited during the first month. On a holiday weekend, no less. I will say we had a few things going in our favor. It wasn't the first few opening days, it was over-cast and kind of rainy, and it was a Friday instead of the weekend.

If you've read any of the other postings and blogs about this part of the park, you heard about the crowds. There was more of an ebb and flow to them while we were there, which made it handy. The wait for the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey wasn't ever more than 90 minutes and the line moved the entire time we stood in it. However, the line to see the show at Ollivander's remained nearly a 3 hour wait for the entire six hours we were there. We decided it wasn't worth it.

It was much easier to get into the Three Broomsticks if you're willing to eat at a non-normal time (say, 3 in the afternoon). We were able to get right in, but unfortunately there is nothing, and I do mean nothing vegetarian on its very limited menu.  I was very disappointed in this, but it was Universal Studios after all. We only waited about 5 minutes to get into Honeyduke's, where I got some pumpkin juice. That was...interesting. Not as bad as I thought it would be, but very sweet! We waited a half-hour to get into Dervish and Banges. There was a lot of cool stuff in there and I saw I shirt I kinda wanted, but the place was packed and it was nearly impossible to turn around.

We rode the Flight of the Hippogriff once, didn't bother with the Dragon Challenge ride as it was just a repurposed roller coaster that was already there. We rode the Forbidden Journey three times! The first time we stood in line for the entire 90 minutes, as once you get into the castle there are a lot of great things to see. However, once you see it, the secret to multiple rides and virtually no wait is not the express pass. It's the Single Line. Sure, you're party gets broken up, but you can't really see or talk to them during the ride anyway and you wait maybe five minutes instead of 65. You're welcome. We'd have ridden it a couple more times, but my friend started to get nauseous from all the jumbling and jostling.

I did see one person turned away from the ride and another nearly so due to the "three clicks" rule. If you are a larger person you may run into this unfortunate rule. It seems you don't have to be all that much larger in order for it to take effect. It is a pity and Universal will be lucky if there isn't some kind of discrimination suit brought on for it, but I will say you get jostled all over the place in that ride and I was thankful for essentially being locked into place.

Overall, it was a fun day. I really enjoyed it and kind of wish they'd made they Harry Potter park larger. It was much smaller than I'd hoped it would be and I think they could have put more rides in. As my friend pointed out though, when you're just re-purposing everything that's already there, you have to work around what you've already got. Those of you who are waiting until later in the year will definitely benefit from smaller crowds and less overwhelming heat. As I said, we really lucked out because of the over-cast weather, but I still left with a pretty good sunburn.

All in all, recommended! I'll try to post some pics when the internet connection isn't quite so slow.

This is Two.

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