Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Birthday Card for The Bob.

Birthday cards in my family are a form of tactical, psychological warfare.  Seriously- our exchanges could easily make up an addendum in the Art of War.  Our cards are cruel, scathing and pitiless.  And smart, very very smart.

It's been this way as long as I can remember.  I mean... when you're a kid, you get the cute stuff- ponies, unicorns, puppies, etc.  But at some age, my dad's sisters unleashes all their wit and decidedly dark humor on you.  And once you've recovered from the initial shock you begin to school yourself, year after year, in their ways.  Always trying to get that one up on one of them.  Usually the middle one.  Don't scoff at me, Auntie... you know who you are.

What can I say?  It's a thing.

Well anyway, this year, I didn't manage to get a card for The Bob's birthday (today).  Alas- despite my best efforts, cards in Norway are mostly in Norwegian... and don't actually seem to be that funny. Or mean.  Apparently on birthdays, Norwegians are considerably kinder than Seyfrieds.


In the meantime, what I did get him is a present to take the place of an AOW card....

Now let me explain something.  I had a couple of different possibilities lined up (from this website because I like it's agenda) but ultimately went with this one.  Much to my husband's surprise:

The Thinking Man's The Bob.
Likely planning global coup.
Steven: "The Bob (because everyone calls him that) is not going to wear that."

Me: "You don't think so?"

Steven: "No way.  He'd never wear that."

Me: "I think you're underestimating my father's abject adoration of me."  (To be fair, I may be overestimating the same, but I doubt it).

Steven: *snorts* "I don't think so..."

Me: "Place bets?"

Needless to say, it went downhill from there.

But here's the thing.  It's true that my beloved father is not exactly the most cuddly creature on the planet.*  And I swear I'm not being an awful daughter in saying that... I mean, I think he's a big ole' teddy bear, and Henry thinks so too.  (But that's because somewhere along the line The Bob learned how to Jedi Mind Trick my dog which led to the abject adoration of Henry for The GrandBob.)

*Which is why this is literally the perfect birthday present for him.

He's a bit gruff, a bit dry, has a sarcastic spin to his humor.  He's wicked smart, armed to the teeth with weird knowledge and periodically helpful day-to-day pointers ("Well Kathrine, if you bothered to back your files up from time to time, you wouldn't have that problem would you?", etc) and can do at least 17 different things at the same time.  Go ahead, I dare you to challenge him on that last one.  Also, there's a good chance that at any given moment he may be thinking about the many ways he can overthrow... well something- name it, he's probably considered it.

He's not real big on obvious displays of affection, but a few fortunate and challenging souls have managed to cajole him into a hug-in-public a time or two.

And I will bet dollars to donuts that The Bob will, in fact, wear that.

Outside even...

And ideally with the fifteen inch machete I got him for his 64th birthday- which in reality may have actually been the perfect birthday present for him.

If you manage to run into him on his big day you should probably hug him.

Or not, it's your call.  But I'm pretty sure if you try, he'll curse me a little, pat you on the back, and then drop you.  Careful, his kung fu is out of control.


Happy Birthday, Daddy... and here's to many many more.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Do Not Come Here To Die*

Whenever I travel, I try to remember to be grateful.  Grateful that I got from Point A to Point B safe and sound; grateful for the opportunities of and to travel; grateful for the destinations as much as the journeys.

It's important to me, the gratitude, the memory of privilege, because I get to go places and experience this world in ways that few people can.  I get to live, to borrow a phrase, deliberately.

This Easter weekend I traveled with my husband and best friend (and her husband) to Svalbard.  It's a place I've long wanted to visit, ever since I read Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials series and discovered that Svalbard was real: "and all around was the bitter Arctic cold and the immense silence of the North."

 It's a privilege to experience that cold and silence.  It is invigorating to see and know, without doubt, that at least for now, the high north is real- a place of frigid mysticism and icy, natural resolution.  It's a practical, wild place.

And here, you have to maintain gratitude in the face of such profound barrenness.  It's a humbling place, this archipelago that dances on the edge of the North Pole.  It's all snow and stone and permafrost.  The bones of this place are all made of ice.  It's provocative to be so far north and see so little human presence.  We're there, for sure, but we're not in charge, not by a long shot: there are more polar bears than people and you can't bury your dead.

This is not a place for the faint of heart of the meek of mind.  It's a place where you have to match the outer wilderness with your own.


*Right,  so this is actually a little less awesome than it sounds.  The thing is, you can't actually expect to be buried or treated well at all upon your imminent demise in Longyearbyen, Svalbard- or anywhere there, really.  There's permafrost year round and simply no way to accommodate the dead.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Youth and Time.

A couple of years ago, just before my 30th birthday, and acquaintance of mine said "Hey listen, your 30s is your best decade.  You're young enough to really enjoy your body, and old enough to know what to do with it."  Sculptor and sometimes paramedic, he knew a thing or two about the human body.

Lately I've been thinking a lot about what he said.  Basically that I should enjoy it while everything is still in working condition.  We all should.  It's been two years since he shared that wisdom.

And right now, I feel like I'm falling apart.  I'm becoming a stranger... to myself.  It feels like my previously working body is now slowly caving in on itself.  Muscles ache longer and deeper than they used to, bones creak more often.  Joints whose suppleness and flexibility I took for granted are getting tight.  Strange sensations creeping up and down my arms, consequences of a pinched nerve.  I can feel my body aging: gaining time and giving up youth.

It is the first time I've really spent time thinking about getting older, the first time I've let myself really sink into the idea of it.  Or rather, the reality of it.  You see it's never before bothered me.  I am not, well I wasn't, that girl who fretted over birthdays, wrinkles, time.  I've never been vain enough to be deeply distressed nor do I think I can cheat the passage of time.  Nor, despite my musings here, do I want to.  If you're around, year to year, to actually celebrate, why let it get you down?

At least you're, well, you know.

But this year, this past year, I've felt every straining second tick by.  In my bones, my sinew, my blood.  I feel it in the morning, and it weighs on me until bed time.  Time passing has become an unwelcome companion, taunting me with it's constancy.  I just feel it... all the time.

It's not just in my body, either.  It's an awareness that I'm losing chances now, I'm losing possibilities. I'm losing moments that I cannot get back.  Those moments that do make me want to cheat, that make me want to cling to what I have even while it's slowly slipping through my fingers.  It's those moments that make me inherently fearful of this march of time- moreso than ever before.

And I'm not getting any younger.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

End of March Obsessions.

I'm long overdue for an obsessions post.  Not that I haven't been obsessing about things, but I've been... side tracked.  Believe it or not, school takes up a lot of time.  And a lot of the creative energy that normally goes into obsessing and writing has been redirected toward chemical equations, dire climatological straits, and maths.

A lot of maths.

Who knew, when I started a degree that goes against the very nature of the other two degrees I already have, that I'd be pretty stunningly and regularly working like a dog.

But I digress.

Obsessions.  This song.  I am digging hard on this guy.  (Believe it or not, I discovered him on VH1, lol.  In Norway the music channel still actually plays only music videos.  It has not yet been infiltrated by bad reality series or serials). The rest of his album is a good listen, too.

The new iPad.  But here I have a problem.  Over the past year and a half or so, I have been graciously given an iMac and a laptop or two (or three, technically, but that's a loooong story rife with self-destructing screens and spinning rainbow pinwheels of death and a very obvious series of technological mutinies) and am uncomfortable even considering getting a tablet.  I mean... at this point, I think I have enough tech to keep me plugged in. ... Errr... I hope.  Also, if I get another Apple product, I will never hear the end of it from my beloved father.

Brandon Flowers.  This is an ongoing obsession à la Bon Iver or Matt Damon.  Still, The Desired Effect is so hammy and circa 1987 that it tastes as good as it sounds.

Every year, this time of year, I recall that not only was I raised in ACC-land, but I also went to a major basketball uni. Perhaps you've heard of it: I'm currently lusting after this circa 1987 sweatshirt from my alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Tar Heel born, Tar Heel bred... etc.

In the meantime, I just finished The Lost City of the Monkey God: A True Story.  And it was good- but here's the thing: it wasn't good for the reason you'd expect it to be good.  I went into it hoping for a modern day Indiana Jones-esque adventure.  I mean, it's not every day that we run across a 'lost' or 'missing' city in the wilderness- let's face it, there's just not that much that's lost or missing these days, not on the scale of a city anyway.  And the book is good for that aspect, but it's great for it's discussion of Old and New World contact and disease.  I mean, by the time I put the book down, I had to fight myself from googling leishmaniasis because I didn't think I could handle the image return.  (I just did- here's the wiki page if you dare- it's pretty tame but I'm still avoiding the image situation).  There's about a four-chapter span that blows 'disease as a symptom and inheritance of colonization'  out of the water (all the while the author goes through his own harrowing experience with it).  So much so that by the end of it, I was beginning to wonder about my own travels and intersections.

Late as always... I've been watching American Crime Story: The People v. OJ Simpson on Netflix.  Sarah Paulson and David Schwimmer are gold.  Certainly worth a watch- it more or less (definitely less) fills a void that finishing The Jinx left behind.

This song, too.  Nina, oh Nina.  Sing it.

And I think that's probably enough for now...

But seriously... leishmaniasis.  It's keeping me up at night.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Sometimes You Just Want a Hamburger.

The days when I am really sick of myself, I just want a hamburger.  This is how I can tell exactly how sick of myself I am- by how badly I want to sit down and eat a hamburger. Preferably one with sautéed mushrooms and onions, cheese, and maybe even some bacon.

Today I want a burger and fries.

The thing is, no matter how great I seem.  Scratch that.  No matter how great I am, no matter how great I actually feel,  I'm never really as great as that.  I never feel comfortable, so to speak.  And to be honest, I don't think that's a bad thing.  Comfortable is unfamiliar to me, and dangerous.  It's a state of stillness that I cannot afford nor will I ever.  Comfortable is confusing.  I think it's okay to be uncomfortable and I think it's important to be challenged.

It's been a while since I was really sick (not of myself, just sick in general).  It's been a while since I starved myself for real.  It's been a while since I actively did terrible things to myself because of a deeply entrenched battle between revulsion and control.  Now I don't think I'm in danger of going down that road again.  Not that I'm an expert or a psychiatrist, therapist, psychologist, etc.  But I am an anorexic.  And I know myself pretty well. So I guess I am an expert on something...ish.

But it's been on my mind lately- this combination of greatness and not greatness, of being uncomfortable, of being sick, of being sick of myself.  It's a combination that is on my mind now.  Because I have so much guilt over it.  And it's the guilt that drives it forward over and over again.  You know, because it's not like it's not constantly in my head.  It is.  Just sometimes I keep it back, and sometimes it creeps forward. And it's the guilt that drives it.

Why is it that I, with this life that I lead, can't just be grateful, gracious and comfortable?

I know the answer.  Because I have this disease, and my brain is addled and nothing works right.  But it's still hard to handle that.

And today all I really want is a hamburger- because it's normal, because it's something I would eat before I was sick, because it's something I'd like to eat again (and enjoy).  And because someday I won't be guilty enough not to.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Silent Shakedown.

At some point, as a woman not prone to histrionics, you learn how to shut it down.  You learn how to scream on the inside.*  It's a good thing and a bad thing: useful because you're screaming, useless because it's on the inside.

At some point, you learn the value of not wailing but weeping.

You learn how to paste on a smile, be nice to strangers, kind to others, and laugh with everyone else.  You learn to live on cue.

There are days when I feel like I am beating against a wall that will never come down.  I am trying to heal a mortal wound, and I'm too stubborn to give up.  And I'm frequently doing this in the confines of my own head.  My own heart.  My own reflection.

At some point you learn that madness is not anger but agitation; that from some dark and distressed corner of your being a beacon locates something sad and raging but silent.  

There is a part of me that wishes this were easier.  I wish I could wake up every morning, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to face the day.  I wish I could carry the first happy instant of sun (or cloudy rain) through the rest of the day as I face it.  And then there is that part of me that recognizes the need to wade through the less-than-easy.  We all need to feel the down, the dirty, the blues of it all in order to really get a feel for these lives we lead.

'Cause they ain't easy, that's for sure.

*I myself am pretty bad at hiding things, so my insidedness erupts in pouting and frowning: a slithering, obvious, excruciating silence.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Sea Change.

When you're young, at least when I was young, familiar wisdom seemed trite.  Silly.  Antiquated in it's consistency.

'Everything changes' was the worst.  Of course everything changes.  Of course it does.  It always does.  Need we be reminded of that?  And here I am, how many years later, marveling at the fact that everything changes.

Yes, it is true- everything changes.

A decade ago I was getting ready to go to graduate school for colonial North American history.  Now, much to my chagrin, I'm back in school and this time for Environmental Sciences (with all the maths a non-maths gal like me could possibly hope for).  Sarcasm has not changed.

But I have.  Gone is the ferociously independent wild child that I was for just about 3 decades.  Gone is the girl who lived deliberately (and, unchanged, dislikes Walden with something close to religious zealotry) and decisively.  Gone is the mouth, gone is the arched eye-brow, gone is the flippancy, intellect, and sometimes I think the writing chutzpah (ego might be a change, too).  Boy how I have changed.

And here I sit, having just finished up a mind-numbing redux of the Laws of Sines and Cosines, thinking about change.  About my change and the changing world around me.  You see, the other day, my husband asked me if I was feeling a little too 'Groundhog Day' (think the movie, not the actual event) about life.  And to be honest, I thought I was.  I thought there was something humdrum about the in and out of what I do day to day.  And I thought that that was the reason... the reason that I was fading, changing.  Maybe I'm changing myself to suit this everyday.

But then I looked around and realized how very much has changed.  It's impossible that I'm ground-hogging it because things are changing all over the place.  They are admittedly often infinitesimally small changes, but things, they are a-changing.

Which means I have no excuse.

So there's that.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Covered Ground.

In these past few weeks, I have had an immense amount of trouble writing.  Not for lack of material, not for lack of need or desire, but for lack of... well, for lack of hope.  And inspiration.  I have had trouble writing because everything I write, or begin to write, ends up something like this:
I am 32 years old and this is the first time, in my life, that the dread had outweighed the hope. 
The first time that the Future* has seemed at the very least bleak, at the worst, spiraling into dystopian and post-apocalyptic.  Yeah, I said it. 
*By Future I mean the big one, the big, complicated, messy, confused hazy future that EVERYONE faces.
Seriously.  I have at least a dozen posts rumbling around, barely written, desperate to escape, who are never getting out because they look like that.  Because that post, like the others, would only get worse, more honest, and more abrasive from there.

I hate and fear that I am becoming one-sided and mean.  And hopeless.

Trying to combat that, I have looked around me for good(ness).  I have avoided staying on the Facebook feed for long periods of time.  I won't watch the news... well I watched the press conference last night and almost launched plates at the tele... so I'm back to not watching the news.

I have embraced the ebb and flow of personal interest in a bid to remember passionate obsession and that aforementioned good(ness) and in doing so have once again returned to my first Great Love: Poetry...

And it turns out that the poetry that really gets me going is not so much hopeful and full of good(ness) as it is.. ermm.. potent, resonant, dark, probing.  It's abrasive and frank.  This should not come as a surprise.  My favorite poet (a well known and discussed fact) is TS Eliot.  There is a reason he is a Lion amongst Lambs: his genius is as personal as it is biting.  I covet talent like his.  But rereading his work for the (what feels like) millionth time, I am struck by the notion that I am dark, really dark.  That I might be as lacking in hope and good(ness) as these times which unsettle me.

For example... in case you've never bothered before...

There are so many lines.  So much text to wade through.  And yet it captivates me endlessly.  I've prattled on about this so many times that I don't think I need to add more.

Then there's Donne... whose lines echo in my mind relentlessly:

I mean.. this isn't exactly popcorn reading.  I've got to sit back every now and then wonder what is wrong with me??  What is it that drives me into my melancholic mind, into a fragile refuge?  And finally it drives this question that's been bothering me for the past few weeks.  Why can't I see daisies and rainbows rather than absence, darkness,.. well you get it. 

Poor press conferences notwithstanding... it's confounding.   

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Monuments, Revisited.

A dozen years ago, as a young, interested, wide-eyed student, I moved to Paris for a term.  I lived there the same way I would live as a student anywhere- with my head in the books.  Oh sure, I took the trips, I visited museums and family, I ate and drank with my friends and got into all manner of trouble.  But I was, essentially, a student.

This past weekend I made it back to Paris for the first time (layovers at Charles de Gaulle notwithstanding) and it was like being there for the first time, again. 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

F*ing Grizzlies.

I am not a suicidal person.  One could make the argument that the eating disordered are, by nature, passively suicidal.  I would beg to differ- I starve myself for many reasons, death is not one of them.  But I digress.

I am not a suicidal person.  I don't have suicidal tendencies, I don't harbor death wishes.  I don't fear death, but I'm not actively seeking it out by my own hand.

That being said, there are some times (lately more times than not) that I don't want to live in this world.  There are times that I don't want to live in this world that we've so overwhelmed and so distressed and so degraded.  I don't want to live in this world that we are merrily destroying.

I'm no Pollyanna, folks, that much is obvious.  I'm not a sunny-side, always on the sunny side, keep on the right-side, etc., kind of gal.  Nope, I'm an eyes-open, brain churning (sometimes stomach churning) inquisitive, questioning, scathing kind of gal.*  I doubt a lot.  I read a lot more.  So it's nearly impossible for me to ignore the articles that I come across which state that the educational gene is failing in human beings; that bees have been put on the endangered species list; that primates are increasingly endangered.**  (It's impossible for me to ignore the man coming into the United States Presidency under a banner of hate, discrimination, and ignorance.)

It pains me.

There are days that I wake up and don't want to be a person who is living in/on and hurting this beautiful, miraculous planet.  I'm being serious here.  Look up the f*ing statistics about the distance from the sun, the atmosphere, the development of provocative, interesting, intelligent beings.   Look up evolution the way it happened.  The timeline.  The fact that humans have been on this planet for less than a split second in the grand scheme of things.  We are the miracle- or rather, we are privileged to have been born from the primordial past of this miraculous planet.  Some people believe in God-the Almighty, Yahweh, Allah, etc.  And that's cool.  But I believe in the Earth.  I believe in the planet that sustains and nurtures us.  And it terrifies me, shames me, that we have so irresponsibly beat her down.

That we have sown the seeds of our own demise so recklessly and with such abandon.  Because we are not the Number One here... she is.  And we've ripped this world apart like... like nothing short of a Hollywood analogy could describe.

It kills me.

Tonight I'm tired.  And I'm bummed.

And tomorrow it's no doubt going to be worse.

*Don't get me wrong.  I like my life.  I have a good life.  I count myself among the lucky few who love deeply, are greatly loved.... and who have dogs lol.  But seriously.  I am going to school, I am living abroad, I am adventuring as much as I can.  I like my life.

**The Iceland study/Education gene... welllllll..... I mean... I do have to pose the question- how many times have you (or I) been told that you are the kind of person who should have kids?  I have a queer feeling that there is an alarming number of incredible intellectual folks out there who are not having kids (see the article) because of.. whatever reason they are not having kids.  And those are the people who need to have progeny.  Those are the people who could stand to raise a kid.

Fo. Sho.