Back To Junior High

Kids are funny things.  Sometimes they’re annoying little bastards, but mostly they’re just endearingly comical.  I suspect that’s why people decide to have kids – the high entertainment value.
I volunteered at the Williamson County Schools Career Fair yesterday. 
Imagine a ginormous arena full of rambunctious 8th graders who are ecstatic to be out of class and not terribly interested in their future careers.  And really, who can blame them?  At 14 I was concerned with far more immediate things.  Like whether it was cool or not to wear socks, or which couple had just starting “going” together, or who made editor of the school newspaper (yeah, I was a dork even back then).
Sitting behind my booth, it was amusing to both observe and interact with these not-quite-kid, not-quite-adult creatures full of timid self-doubt, energetic bravado, and raging hormones.  If I remember correctly, this is the age when kids start to identify themselves and coalesce into various groups. And that phenomenon was so painfully apparent while watching the kids float around the career fair. Some pretended to be diligently pursuing the gathering of future career information.  Bless their little hearts.  They were the ones wearing starched jeans and button-down shirts or knee-length skirts and black pumps.  They were the ones with the neatly parted hair and the bright shiny faces, and carried clipboards and ball point pens.
Then there were the kids self-consciously trying to model themselves after media-inspired images of high schoolers.  You know, the Laguna Beach/Dawson’s Creek look.  Look-at-me casual, but please don’t think I actually care about how I look.  I did NOT spend hours applying barely-there make-up or getting my hair to look sufficiently beach-blown.  They wear the suede Birk clogs with low-waisted scruffy-looking jeans accented with an appropriately wide belt.  They coolly meandered around the arena in small groups pretending not to notice anyone besides themselves except when they ran into another small group of their kind at which point they would hug (females) or engage is some form of handshake (males).
And then there were the jock groups.  At one point the entire wrestling team crowded around my booth.  They were, of course, all wearing identical wrestling team jackets and maneuvered through the arena en masse like a heard of water buffalo.
There were the “alternativey” kids wearing the punk, cigarette jeans with laceless Vans.  They’re the ones with the chunks of color in their spiky hair.  They’re the ones who will get piercings and tattoos as soon as they are able.  These kids try their hardest to be different, but end up looking and acting exactly like each other just like every other Junior High clique. They were also the ones who demonstrated genuine interest in some of the careers and open disdain at others.
There were haphazard groups of the smart-ass juvenile delinquent kids who showed no interest in any careers but visited every booth to see what freebies were being given out and then loaded up with as many as they could manage.

It was like a freakin' flashback to Junior High. I desperately wanted to impart some wisdom, not about architecture, but about being yourself. I wanted to tell them not to pigeonhole themselves into cliques. I wanted to tell them that the labels they attach to themselves and each other won't matter in 10 years. I wanted to tell them not to worry so much about looking and acting like everyone else. I wanted to tell them that the interesting people in life are the ones who don't follow the crowd like lemmings.

But then I remembered what it was like to be 14 and I could empathize with their need to blend. The need to "fit in" to some kind of group. The need to feel like you belong and have something to contribute. The need to feel like you are surrounded by people who "get" you...cuz lord knows your parents don't "get" you at that age.

So, I smiled and didn't talk down to them. I treated them with respect and friendliness. I answered their questions and joked around with them. I took my own advice and refrained from broadly categorizing...and had fun at the Williamson County Schools 8th Grade Career Fair.


Thanksgiving Weekend Recap

Thanksgiving weekend.
Not a "major" holiday for me. Really the only thing I like about Thanksgiving is that it signals the official start of the Christmas season and I can now revel in Christmas merriment all I want without reproach.

Thus, Thursday morning consisted of going in to work. Yes, I worked on Thanksgiving. Didn't bother me, so please don't let it bother you.

Thursday afternoon I went for a hike at Edwin Warner...which was surprisingly populated. Apparently I wasn't the only one not slaving away in the kitchen preparing a Thanksgiving feast. I did however try to make a pie. Tried. To make a pie. A chocolate pie. To take to Kelly's for dinner that evening.

I don't know what gets into me sometimes. I am old enough and self-aware enough to know my limitations. But somehow I always delude myself into thinking I can successfully create complicated recipes. The first thing that went wrong was the pie crust. Which kind of surprised me because I have actually made pie crust before (just ask Jennifer) and it turned out fine. But for some reason still unknown to me, the pie crust failed miserably. When I pulled it out of the oven it had melted into a gloppy puddle of butter and flour. It was truly disgusting to look at. Meanwhile, I had started to make the chocolate filling (again, from scratch) and the recipe called for self-rising flour (I don't even know what that is much less actually have any in my pantry), so I used plain old flour. But then there was a problem with the eggs. The eggs needed to be separated. Naturally. The yolks to be used for the chocolate filling. The whites to be used for the meringue topping. Those obstinant little fuckers refused to separate for me and I ended up with thick yellow ribbons in my whites and filmy white snot mingling with my yolks. It was at this point when I discovered the failed pie crust that I gave up with a grunt of disgust, threw everything into the trash bin and hurried my incompetent self off to Kroger to buy a pie. Kroger, of course, was closed...as was Publix...and Harris Teeter. Thank god for Wal-Mart! Not only were they open, but they had a perfect looking frozen chocolate pie. Excellent.

Off to dinner at Kelly and Matt's with frozen chocolate pie in tow. Dinner was fun. The alcohol flowed freely, the food was yummy (especially Kelly's Pillsbury crescent...er...ameoba rolls). Between dancing toddlers, potato-covered racks, stories of overflowing hot tubs and leather tassels, and structurally unstable seating there was much raucous laughter. I think we kinda scared Daniel but he was a good sport and unexpectedly found a kindred "partner" in Matt. Hee.

So that was my Thanksgiving.

Black Friday was not Black for me. I gave up shopping on Black friday years ago. It's just not worth it to me. The crowds completely irritate and stress me out. So, instead I went to the spa for a facial and a manicure. Ahhhhh. Lovely. Friday night Kelly and I went to the TPAC to see Anuna. Anuna is a celtic vocal group from Ireland. Amazing voices. Beautiful and haunting performances. You should look them up. They have a CD out called "Celtic Origins" I think.

Saturday I went back to the spa for a massage and an eyelash tinting. Call me frivolous but I so needed it. The massage was blissful and the eyelash tinting was something I hadn't heard of til recently and wanted to try. I now have dark dark eyelashes and no need to wear mascara...until it wears off in a month...although I can totally see me becoming addicted to this treatment. Saturday night was spent with friends, conversation, and Thanksgiving leftovers.

I had ambitious plans to decorate my apartment for Christmas today, but got a late start on the day and then got busy cleaning and doing laundry and have decided to save the decorating extravaganza for next weekend...if I can wait that long. We'll see. In the meantime I will be listening to Christmas music non-stop except when I am watching my Netflix Christmas specials! Thanksgiving is OVER - so back off! I'm entitled to my Christmas music! :)



She said, "I'm alone"
He said, "Come over"

She said, "I'm afraid"
He said, "Hold my hand"

She said, "I'm hungry"
He said, "How about sushi?"

She said, "I'm working"
He said, "I'll call you later"

She said, "Don't forget me"
He said, "How could I?"

She said, "I'm doubtful"
He said, "Have faith"

She said, "I'm sad"
He said, "Tayyeb"


Opera Season Once Again

Some people look forward to this time of year for the football or the deer hunting or the pumpkin pie, but for me, this time of year means opera season has begun! (don't laugh...I'm serious!)

Went last night to the world premiere of Elmer Gantry, composed by Robert Aldridge and based on the Sinclair Lewis novel. Having never read the book or seen the film adaptation, I didn't know quite what to expect. It was one of the only operas I have seen performed in English (the other being The Threepenny Opera).

It differed from traditional operas in that the music was not strictly classical, but showcased a lot of the American evangelical musicality of the early 1900's (gospel, Appalachian folksong, brass band...American roots music). It wasn't as lavish or grandiose as compared to many operas, but it was fun and thoughtful and showcased excellent vocal performances. And, really, I'm pretty much in awe of ANY opera.

The sheer magnitude of the effort that goes into composing an opera is astounding when you think about it, at least to me it is. I'm sure that plays a big part in my affinity for opera - open mouthed admiration.

The opera last night was something new, something different, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Yay for opera season!


Christmas Sensitivity

You may have heard of people having a sensitivity to nuts...or shellfish...or dairy. But, lately, it seems a lot of people are showing symptoms of a sensitivity to Christmas.

This morning, Rich was loudly (is there any other volume when it comes to Rich?) bemoaning the fact that Santas in some Australian shopping centers have been forbidden to say “Ho, Ho, Ho”. He speculated that it was due to someone thinking it was offensive to women, as in Ho = Whore, I guess…although that seemed like a stretch to me. The site news.com.au claims the ban stems from a desire to make sure kids are not frightened by the traditional bellowing of “Ho Ho Ho” (think scary Santa in A Christmas Story).

A few minutes later, Melissa informed me that Lowes has banned their employees from saying “Merry Christmas” to customers. And, they are calling the Christmas trees they sell, “Family Trees”. She also informed me that children are no longer allowed to sing Christmas songs in school; even secular ones like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. I’m not sure if this is true of all public schools all over the country, but she used to be a school teacher, so I feel I can take her word on this one.

Now, I am the first one to promote inclusive language and behavior, but these things sadden me.

I have been playing Christmas music at work for the past week. I have loaded up my Netflix queue with every imaginable Christmas movie. I saw a building lit up with Christmas lights this past week and audibly squealed with delight. I am a certifiable closet Christmas junkie. Which, I’ll admit, is somewhat strange considering my non-religious beliefs and attitudes. And yet, my Christmas enthusiasm is not completely rooted in the commercialism of the season. Granted, I enjoy hearing Christmas music played in the stores and browsing through all of the Christmas paraphernalia . And I have been known to display fits of glee over Christmas decorations – both tasteful and gaudy (often, the gaudier, the better!). And I take great delight in picking out, wrapping, and giving gifts to my family and friends.

But, really, the thing that puts the sparkle in my eye, the thing that gets me going, is the spirit of the season, the magic of the season, which transcends any particular religious beliefs…and all that encompasses. Forgiveness and graciousness and gratefulness…and tolerance. Ahem…I’ll say it again…tolerance.

Tolerance means not being offended if someone says “Merry Christmas” to you. Or “Happy Hannukah”. Or “Happy Holidays”. They aren’t saying it to be an insensitive asshole. They are saying it in an all too uncommon gesture of mutual goodwill that sadly only comes around once a year. So instead of ruffling your feathers and harrumphing because you aren’t Christian or Jewish…or because you ARE Christian or Jewish, just smile and return the greeting and allow yourself, for just a moment, to be part of a seasonal movement of peace and tolerance.

If it disturbs you that children are singing about a red-nosed reindeer, stop and think and perhaps ask the child herself if SHE feels offended to be forced into singing Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. The message of the storyof Rudolph is not an evil one, trust me. Tolerance. If you don’t want to call an evergreen that is decorated with lights and ornaments a “Christmas” tree, then don’t, no one can make you. But, that’s what it is. That is the definition of a Christmas Tree. And I’m guessing that anyone who genuinely doesn’t want a Christmas Tree, isn’t going to want something called a “Family Tree” instead. Does this mean we will have to start calling a Menorah a “Family Candelabra”? It is what it is.

We have all become so terribly and absurdly sensitive. I would humbly suggest that we all embrace the spirit of Christmas (religious or non, in the end I don’t think it matters) and let go of our indignant sensitivities and our intolerances and our prejudices. After all, that’s what Christmas CAN be all about…if we let it.


Rampant Petulance

Peevish. Cross and snappish behavior. Easily annoyed and bothered.

Do you ever have one of those days where everything annoys you? EVERYTHING. It doesn’t matter what anyone says or does, you just feel like stuffing Q-tips up their nose and screaming, “FUCK off!”. It’s as if something in you has snapped and you have simply lost the capacity to be polite or friendly or sympathetic. You balk at the prospect of having to be social and civil and productive because really all you want to do is pull the covers up over your head.

Some may mistake your petulance for depression or sadness or anger. But, as you know, it is none of these things. It is being absurdly irritated with the most trifling of things for no apparent reason. Which makes you feel guilty for being a jerk, which makes you feel more irritated. A vicious cycle. And you yourself are not spared. You are disgusted with yourself for your arbitrary irritability which makes any self-destructive behavior seem oh-so-attractive.

Do you ever have days like that? Yeah, me too.


Snipers & Poltergeists

Brace yourself. *dramatic pause*

Friday night I had a near-death experience. *another dramatic pause*

Well...I suppose near-death may be somewhat of an exaggeration. Have you seen that Friends episode where Ross, Joey and Chandler are riding along with Pheobe's police officer boyfriend, and during their stake-out, a car backfires and Ross thought it was a gunshot and saw his life flash before his eyes and then gets all philosophical about it and claims he had a near-death experience....? No? Okay, never mind.

My point is...oh hell, never mind. Here's what happened:

I was driving home Friday night at about 11:30. I was on Old Hickory, maybe less than a mile from my apartment. I was a tad tired, but not delirious. I hadn't been drinking. Traffic was almost nonexistent. The skies were clear. I was more or less on autopilot when all of a sudden there was this horrible explosion sound...like a gunshot. I screamed thinking I had run over something and my tire had exploded, but soon realized it wasn't my tire that had exploded, it was my left rear window. Yes, the one directly behind the driver's side window.

It had just completely shattered into a gazillion little pieces of glass all inside my car - mostly on the back seat, but some up front and in my hair. Yep, I had glass shards lodged in my hair. I pulled over and once the shaking and sobbing subsided, I drove the rest of the way home with the wind whipping around in my car and glass sliding around.

If you have never had a window explode on or near you, let me tell you, it is an extremely unsettling experience.

Now, you may be wondering, as I did, "what in god's name caused the window to explode?!"

That, my friends, is something we may never know. The next morning as I surveyed the damage in the light of day, there was no remnant or indication of any projectile or impact of any kind. There is no other damage to my car anywhere. The insurance guy offered that it may have been caused by a rock kicked up by a vehicle going in the opposite direction which just hit my window at the right angle. I thought, "that would've had to have been one hell of a rock!" I've had rocks hit my windshield before and they produced cracks or chips, nothing like what happened to my window Friday night.

Really, the only logical explanations I can come up with are 1.) I was the target of some international sniper, sort of like in Bourne Identity, or 2.) I was the victim of an exceedingly irrate poltergeist.

I think both scenarios are equally likely. Any other theories would be greatly appreciated.


Viral Complications

“It appears you have a particularly nasty strain. We’re going to have to do some more diagnostic scanning tonight. I’ll call you in the morning.”

Now don’t panic…it’s not a staph infection. And even after three days of treatment, they tell me the virus can be effectively contained and dealt with. Rest assured it is not contagious and is not fatal.

I’m referring, of course, to my computer. My work computer.

My poor companion of productivity, suffering from a viral infection for the past three days.

The ridiculously incompetent IT guys have been blundering about, running endless scans both remotely and in person while continually feeding me false hope and leaving me hanging in a fog of worry and impending doom. Just give it to me straight – if you have to dump my hard drive, then do it and stop dicking around with the scanning (and the not calling me back to give me updates on whatever the fuck you’re doing – or not doing). Golly, do I sound a tad frustrated?

Meanwhile, I have been banished to the “quiet side” of the office into an abandoned storage cubicle no larger than a spacious phone booth (and with considerably less attractive views) working on a computer which doesn’t allow me to print or make plot files, doesn’t have Revit installed on it, has no speakers (so I can’t listen to NPR) and won’t let me access my Outlook calendar. How? How does one function without their Outlook calendar!?

Seriously, I feel like Milton. “excuse me…I believe you have my stapler…”

Now, this morning, they tell me confidently that it will be fixed by Monday. I don’t believe them of course. I refuse to be lured into yet another false sense of hope by the sadistic IT monkeys. If they know, without a doubt, that my computer will be fixed by Monday then why the hell didn’t they just do whatever it is they’re going to do to fix it, on WEDNESDAY?

Lesson Learned: Do not download porn from your work computer unless you want a “particularly nasty” virus.


Acute State of Alertness

It was a dark and stormy night…

No really, it was! I was driving home from work last night, in the dark, with walls of rain pounding my windshield and debris flying around the roadways when on my radio I heard the unmistakable beep..beep..beeeeeeeep of the Emergency Broadcast System.

Yes! I gripped the steering wheel tighter in my eager gleefulness. I love the EBS! I live for moments like this. What they said was, "the National Weather Service has issued a severe thunderstorm and tornado warning for Davidson County". What I heard was, "okay Cathryn, we have some extreme weather conditions going on and know that in your acute state of alertness, you are in a unique position to handle the situation". Damn right!

You may be unaware of this, but the "acute state of alertness" I am referring to runs in my family through the women on my mother's side. One of the first lessons embedded in my brain was to ALWAYS, upon entering a place, locate all exits and devise an escape plan (or, ideally, multiple plans) in case of fire or riot or natural disaster or whatever. My mom and each of her sisters all sleep with some sort of weapon near them. Seriously, I'm not kidding. Like a steak knife under the mattress or a baseball bat beside the headboard. I have seen these weapons. My sister does the same thing.

Gifts I've received for Christmas include a spiky hammer tool that one carries in the car to break the windows out in case you...um...well...ever need to break the windows out. ("Like if you drive off of a cliff into a lake, you can hack your way out" - this was when I lived in Nebraska where the nearest body of water was the Platt River which is so shallow that it's practically wheelchair accessible). I've also received a taser (no, I've never used it) and an emergency roadside kit.

Likewise, knowing of this acute state of alertness that runs in my family, my college roommate would often give me gifts with a "survival" theme. Like mosquito netting and waterproof matches. Yep.

So when the Emergency Broadcast System warns me of an impending "situation" - my inherent acute state of alertness kicks into overdrive.

Back to the tornado warning situation last night: the debris was flying around, the rain was coming down, the tornado sirens were wailing, Terah was out running around Brentwood (she's hardcore), the radio was letting me know that the most unsafe place to be during a tornado is in a car, and there I was with this big grin on my face as I scanned my surroundings for potential bunkers. As the adrenaline flooded my veins, my mind was like a steel trap calculating distances and probabilities (there are some people…*cough*, geeks…who are perpetually making these kinds of assessments, fortunately I only display this affliction under times of crisis); working out various scenarios in my head. It was great!

I was hoping my power would be out when I arrived at my apartment unscathed, but sadly, no.

This, THIS is what constitutes an exciting evening in my world. I need help.


Toilet Texting

Picture, if you will, a public restroom with four stalls (this is a women's restroom so don't picture any urinals). It's mid-morning. It's time for a potty break. You enter the restroom just as someone else is closing the door to one of the stalls. You, being the obsessive toilet room etiquette freak that you are, choose the stall farthest away from the one that was recently occupied. Suddenly, you hear the unmistakable punching of cell phone keys. Trust me, I know this sound.

I'll admit I am somewhat of a text messaging guru. Okay, well maybe not so much "guru" as "enthusiast". Yes…a text messaging enthusiast. Text messaging may be the most perfect communication method since smoke signals. It's less invasive than a phone call but more immediate than an email. It's personal but not intrusive. And it does not disturb those around you…EXCEPT when you are in a toilet stall trying to relieve yourself. And here we are.

First, there are the logistics of peeing while texting. Even the most dexterous amongst us surely would have difficulty composing a text message while going potty. Yes? Or am I off-base here? Maybe it's just me, but when I am in the bathroom (especially when it's not my own personal bathroom), my mission is to get in and get out in the shortest amount of time. I'm not going in there to hang out and chat with a friend via text. Knowing my luck (er…clumsiness), I would be texting…and…well…going to the bathroom; I would reach for the toilet paper; my fingers would become confused (um, excuse me - are we texting here or going potty!?) and my phone would end up IN the toilet.

Second, I know there are those (BETH-A-NEE) who will talk on the phone while on the pot (I hate that by the way) but at least in that case there are no innocent bystanders affected by the toilet talk. Don't even get me started on those inconsiderate cretins who engage in a phone conversation while in a public restroom. Unless you're calling 911, can't it wait until AFTER you're done using the toilet facilities?! Hearing someone furiously punching phone keys two stalls down from you is an inhibitor. An inhibitor! You heard me - and you know what I mean.

Bottom line: texting is a privilege, people! Do not abuse it by taking it to the toilet.