Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happy Happy Happy

My family is suffering from a surfeit of happy couples.
Wait, that sounds wrong.  It isn't a matter of suffering, since the couples are happy.  And whether or not it's actually a surfeit could be argued as well.  What it boils down to is this: I'm the only single person in the family at the moment.  That is fact.  I'm not mad about it, I'm not whining about it, I'm not pitying myself . . .  but it makes for interesting dynamics.
When my two sisters were dating, then on the verge of getting engaged, then actually engaged, they had what I have always termed Happy Couple Syndrome.  Since they were one half of a happy couple, they thought everyone would be better off and happier if they, too, were half of a very happy couple.  Blind dates are not the norm in my family, but all of a sudden, both of them knew eligible young men that I needed to go out with.  I needed to be a member in a happy couple.
(Again, please note--I've nothing against happy couples.  I am, in fact, happy for happy couples.  At the moment, I just don't have any type of vested interest in making myself part of a happy couple)
Anyway, this Christmas has brought another all-but-engaged couple in the form of my brother and his girlfriend.  This brother, you understand, is downright mean on a bad day.  Doesn't understand me on an iffy day.  And delights in having faux-arguments with me on a good day.  (I'll admit it: the phony arguments can be a lot of fun, especially as they devolve into claims and counter-claims that become more and more ridiculous)
And now my older brother thinks I need to be part of a couple.  Because, and I quote, "I think, Katie, you'd be a much happier person if you were getting some action."  Other gems from his fount of wisdom include, "Don't say that you don't want a boyfriend right now just because you don't have a boyfriend.  Everyone wants a boyfriend."  Pause.  "Unless you want a girlfriend."  He's a charmer, my brother.
I've always had some silly notion I controlled my happiness, and I didn't need to have any particular people there--or not there--to be happy.  Then again, maybe if my older brother temporarily disappeared . . . eh, he'll get married soon enough.  I think I can do a good job of remaining chipper until then.  And after then.  And pretty much whenever I want to be happy.

Monday, December 24, 2007

. . . It feels like Christmas

It's in the singing of the street corner choir
Or the choir of Primary children lisping out a lullaby to the baby Jesus. It's even cute when a solid third of the kids are tone deaf. Cute squared, when the whole front of little girls have round faces and are missing half their teeth.

It's going home and getting warm by the fire
So my parents' fireplace is actually gas, but it's still warm. Unfortunately, this means we cannot attempt to roast marshmallows in the fireplace like we did when it was real. Fortunately, this probably means there is a smaller chance we would set the house on fire now. Also, getting warm by the fire usually means Scrabble--and with my parents and me, that's two types of fire . . . (though my mom insists it's going to be a New Year's Resolutions of hers to reform; I hope she doesn't, half the fun of playing is watching her get crazy competitive)

It's true, wherever you find love it feels like Christmas
My roommate and I knew exactly what we got each other for Christmas. It was our own dorky way of ensuring that each of us got to buy something for the other, before we bought it for ourselves. Most people would find a certain element of surprise lacking in our Christmas celebration, but they would also find it exceedingly random the way we connect and how the talking was my favorite part of Roommate Christmas 2007.

A cup of kindness that we share with another
I attended my parents' ward yesterday, what I will always consider my "home ward." The choir attempted the MoTab version of O Holy Night, which is basically a solo with choir accompaniment. The soloist, for some reason, missed her note, started crying in earnest, and barely muddled her way to the end of the song. She had not been back in her seat for two minutes before other choir members slid over to literally offer a couple of shoulders to cry on and reassure her.

A sweet reunion with a friend or a brother
If you don't think this is true, you've never seen any mother anxiously waiting by the phone on Christmas Day for a missionary to call. That call isn't really for the whole family, it's totally for the mamas. Trust me: my mom has already started looking anxious . . .

In all the places you find love, it feels like Christmas
I've felt Christmas wishes from a surprising number of places this year--people I would never have suspected who manage to overcome their inner Grinch and be nice despite it all. The office, especially, has been more tolerant of each other--making certain facets of my job much easier.

It is the season of the heart, a special time for caring, the ways of love made clear
People are surprisingly kind this time of year, including my older brother. Of course, I have to wonder if that's more the influence of his new girlfriend than anything else. But I'll keep him anyway.

It is the season of the Spirit, the message if we hear it--'make it last all year'
I modified this lyric slightly. To me, it is the season of the Spirit--the fundamental spirit of Christmas has the Spirit at its root. Not to sound terribly cynical, but people usually just don't have that type of goodwill without a little prompting.

It's in the giving of a gift to another
Whether or not they know what it is. I loved my roommate's gift to me. I'm guaranteed to love the boots my sister picked out with my help. The magazine subscription from my grandparents will make me happy. So will all of the surprises. For me, it's not how much I know--it's the intent behind the giving.

A pair of mittens that were made by your mother
I don't recall Mom ever making mittens, but until my Grandma's hands were too crippled from arthritis, we got a pair of slippers knit in our favorite color. Or colors, if we had more than one.

It's all the ways that we show love that feel like Christmas
My family shows love primarily by being together, by showing a more vested interest in each other as people and not only as siblings, parents, in-laws, outlaws. (Just kidding, there are no outlaws in my family. Yet.) I hate to admit this, but we're all much more helpful during the holidays, easing burdens so my parents don't have to bear the whole load.

A part of childhood we'll always remember
It's nice to have a day where I don't have to be a grown-up, where I can crawl around playing cars with my nephew while we're still both in our pajamas. And Christmas is one of the holidays I believe was specifically designed to help us retain a sense of child-like wonder. All of the snow globes and the lights and how everything sparkles after the first snow . . . the carriages (okay, the horses smell, but it's still a pretty picture) and everything with ribbons and poinsettias. It makes me want to skip. I don't, of course, but I still want to.

It is the summer of the soul in December
There is no other time of year when I feel closer to the Savior than this time of year, as we celebrate His birth. That makes my soul feel very summery indeed.

. . . Yes, wherever you find love, it feels like Christmas.
If you're reading this, chances are I've felt love from you in one way or another, whether you realize it or not. Thanks for that. And Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Confuzzled's Sense of Fashion

I've been tempted before to write a post about my own sense of snow, but it would be short: my right elbow and my left ankle twinge before any type of storm and they throb when it's going to snow.  End of story.  They are as reliable as Babette's ankles.  (And to all who understood that reference, I applaud you.)
Anyway, I thought I would write about my sense of fashion instead.  Alas, I have no pictures.  And though I know a picture is worth a thousand words, I'll do my best to draw a picture of myself for you verbally.  In the course of the week, I appear to be a "with it" sort of person; Monday through Thursday, I look like a professional.  If my socks are going to be visible, they coordinate with my pants and my shoes.
If my socks will be invisible--not in the Harry Potter sense, but rather in the sense they will be hidden under what my co-worker calls my "hooker boots"--I don't care if my socks match anything at all.  After all, they're hidden under boots all day.  Besides, it gives me secret delight to wear socks that are bright blue with fuzzy little yellow chickens on them and "Chicks rule" scribbled all over them in black print underneath my boots when I'm wearing them with a suit.  It's my own small way of stickin' it to the man, I guess.
If I had a choice, I would spend the entirety of my winters in hooded sweatshirts and jeans.  Summers--t-shirts and jeans.  Polo shirts when I felt like dressing up a smidgen.  Dresses--never.  Socks and shoes--what are those?  (My whole family, except my dad, is somehow wired to go around barefoot during the summers and stocking-footed in the winter.  We don't believe in shoes.  And we especially don't believe in shoes that, while cute, are uncomfortable.)
My mom, I know, laments my dress style.  She cringes if I elect to wear a pair of quirky socks with my jeans instead of regular-human-being socks.  When my dad re-gifted a pair of singing Christmas songs he'd received at work to me, my mom glared at him as I pulled them on.  (I was sixteen at the time, and some would argue I should have known better.  But I was tickled pink to have singing socks!)
She always disapproves of anything I buy that she thinks is trendy.  Good clothes last, regardless of the current fashions.  White sweaters should not be worn with green t-shirts.  T-shirts with writing on them are not only kitschy, they're downright abominable--and also distracting.  Pale people should not wear orange.  (So far, that's one of the few of her dictums I've agreed with.  Me in orange?  A downright ghastly sight.)  Shorts should not be allowed unless legs are properly tanned.  Only ragamuffins wear pants that have a hole in the knees.
I should grant she taught me important things about buying clothes: always find a place in the dressing room to imitate sitting down in a skirt to see just how high it rides.  Bend over in every way possible to make sure a shirt's neckline is not something you would be uncomfortable worth.  Walk up and down the aisles in those shoes before you buy them just to make sure they won't be too hard to break in.
These days, she's tickled when she gets a chance to have a hand in dressing me.  At 23, I've grown set in my ways.  I don't care if my socks coordinate with my pants and shoes if I'm not at work.  If a pair of pants still fits and they have a hole in the knee, who cares?  Nobody at Smith's . . .
She was excited this morning to loan me socks.  I slept at their house last night, and I neglected to stuff a pair of socks in my backpack.  She poked her head out of her room this morning to ask what I was wearing.  (It's a casual Friday; it's a given I'm wearing a hoodie and jeans)  "Pink."
She rolled her eyes.  "What color are your pants?  Everyone knows you match your socks to your pants and not your shirts."
"Jeans, Mom.  It's Friday, I'm wearing jeans."
She threw some navy blue socks down the hall.  Then she emerged all the way.  "Wait," she said, "what color are your shoes?"
A small intake of breath.  "But you can't wear navy socks with black shoes.  Especially because those have flecks of white." (Scandal most fashionably foul!)
She went back, rummaged through a door, and emerged triumphant with socks that would coordinate with my shoes and my socks.  I could tell by the look on her face that she felt I was better dressed than average--purely because of a pair of coordinated socks.
So there you have it--even though I'm a college graduate and a working professional, my mother still has little to no confidence that I can dress myself.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What I Didn't Realize About Service Professions

As I prepared to graduate college, I was pretty sure I wanted to go into a service profession of some kind.  After working at the writing center, I knew I greatly enjoyed working with people and feeling that I had helped someone.  (Sometimes, this took on a warm, fuzzy, I'm-glad-to-have-helped you kind of feeling when students thanked me; sometimes it was more of an I-helped-you-dang-it-whether-you-like-it-or-not kind of feeling)
So Human Resources seemed like a good fit for me.  It involves helping people, doing some writing, and knowing the people who surround me on a daily basis.  What I didn't realize when I started this paper is that once you start a job--an 8 to 5, take-up-the-bulk-of-your-days, define-how-tired-you-are-when-you-get-home, rather-large-chunk-of-your-life-and-time kind of job--people expect certain things of you during that large chunk of your life if you've elected to be in a profession that serves them.
To be specific, the employees you work with expect you to be happy.  All. The. Time.  They want you to be wreathed in smiles, whistling as you work, name any happiness cliche you can think of . . . they want you to be the sunshine on their shoulder, members of KC and the Sunshine band, erstwhile stand-ins for Santa and his elves . . . they want you to be turning cartwheels, tap dancing if they deign to talk to you, delighting in any and all menial interactions with them.  You think I'm exaggerating, but let me illustrate:
One of our employees came in to my office yesterday, proceeded to call me "Catty" instead of properly pronouncing my name like a normal human being, and commenced making himself annoying for no purpose.  For twenty minutes.  I ignored him, except when he started whining about how I disliked him.  That I ignored him at all was to my credit, because I could have bit his head off much earlier than I did.
Finally, using my proper name, he said, "Katie, you're cranky.  Isn't it part of your job description to be happy and nice?  I'm going to talk to your boss."  My boss, glad someone finally told this heinously annoying employee off, told him it was not part of my job description, and he walked away from her office disappointed.
I thought of this as I waited in line for a cranky cashier to scan my items at Target last night; from now on, I will fault nobody their crankiness.  Everybody has as much right to being cranky as they do to anything else in this world.  So maybe some customers need to soften their expectations to account for outside disappointments, stressors, and frustrations: mean customers, bad family situations, PMS . . .

Monday, December 17, 2007

Non-discriminating Moviegoer

My older brother once complained to me that he could never take movie recommendations from me. Book recommendations, sure, but no referrals for movies. I am, to quote him, "one of the most non-discriminating moviegoers of all time." So if you believe in listening to only the most discriminatory of moviegoers, by all means--stop reading now.

My roommate, our friend, and I went and saw August Rush last Saturday. And I have solace in this, at least--even if I am, as my brother cites, an incredibly non-discriminating moviegoer, then I was in like company. We all loved that movie.

I'll admit, right now, that a good percentage of the reason I loved that movie is scrawny, brown-headed, with two adorable dimples and a heck of a lot of acting talent: his name is Freddie Highmore, and I could forgive him in those moments when he didn't sound entirely as American as he should.

Another part of the reason I liked the movie is Irish and has messy hair, and I could forgive him for never being entirely on-pitch. His name is Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

But my liking of certain actors aside, what I enjoyed most about this movie was its theme. I'm a theme girl, valuing theme over plot in many instances. And this, I will admit, is most likely one of those instances--I have a feeling that if I stopped, thought, and started to analyze the entire plot of the movie, that the plot could be shredded in five minutes or so. As has been noted, well, everywhere, it does carry a certain Dickensian aroma that does not, to many minds, work to the movie's favor.

But that is neither here nor there. I loved the message it communicated about music, i.e. music is everywhere, and it has the power to connect people across a variety of boundaries--whether they be cultural, environmental, or socioeconomic.

It also, interestingly enough, conveyed to me the same idea I'd been taught about literature: all music is communicating with all other music, just as all literature is basically communicating with all other literature. This, tangentially, led me to why I really liked this movie: the juxtaposition! I love it when you're watching or reading something that juxtaposes different genres such that, at first, it seems odd. But then, after a while, it dawns on you--it works.

Maybe because all art is talking to all art and only silly humans try to impose divisions where divisions did not necessarily inherently exist . . .

Friday, December 14, 2007

I'm Dreamin' of . . .

My brain is so cluttered, there are a multitudinous number of things I could blog about right now. Strictly speaking, I should probably not blog about any of them and go back to crunching numbers. But I hate crunching numbers with a passion and I want to have a brief pause where I need not look at them--because if I had actually wanted to crunch numbers as part of my profession, I would have followed the road all men in my family have taken and been an accounting major. Especially since I've already decided I'm the one sister in the family who will not, under any circumstances, marry an accountant. I refuse to help create a practically guaranteed environment of financial-business-related nepotism.

I've been thinking lately. Judith Thurman once said, "Every dreamer knows that it is entirely possible to be homesick for a place you've never been to, perhaps more homesick than for familiar ground." I'm homesick, but not for home. In fact, I'm not entirely sure where I'm homesick for, except to say that I know it's not here.

I want to live in a new place to re-create myself. Not that I would change my personality in any way, sell myself out, or doing anything drastically different from how I conduct myself now. Rather, I want to be re-created in the same way books are re-created when I read them for a second time, after I've allowed time to elapse. It isn't that the words have changed or that the plot runs any differently than before; the new experience is that the book has new thoughts and experiences to interact with--thoughts and experiences that hadn't come about when I read books the first time around.

One of my professors at Weber once said it was necessary to the study of literature to remember that everything you're reading now has slept with everything you've ever read--Dostoevsky is being influenced by Shel Silverstein, your interpretation of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is being influenced by Miguel de Cervantes, Louis Sachar, and Maurice Sendak.

In a similar vein, I've always believed that the amalgam of people who drift into and out of my life--as well as those who have more permanence--go a long way toward helping me understand various facets of my personality. It isn't that those facets weren't present to begin with; people rubbing their lives against mine just brings new and interesting results, because their lives are sleeping with the lives of everyone else I've known and been friends with. Oh dear, this sounds dirtier than I'd intended.

Anyway, I hope you catch the point. I am longing for a new place so I can learn new things about myself, so I can be enlightened by new people, so I can have old experiences new and let new experiences be influenced by the old.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A New Christmas Song I've Added to My Repertoire, Based on Personal Experience

O holey pants, you've been torn at the rivet.
You lived too wild and went out on a tear.
Shared a great view--though I didn't want to give it,
I'm so relieved I wore nice underwear.
I'll miss your lined and light brown cord'roy fabric,
your perfect length, your warmth on winter days.
Why did you rip, expose me to my colleagues?
O pants undone, o pants that caused dismay.
O pants, o holey pants, o pants undone.

**To the tune of O Holy Night

P.S. I'm oh-so-sad I've only come up with one verse so far . . .

Monday, December 10, 2007

Breathe, Breathe . . . In, Out, In, Out

I keep thinking my reasons for hyperventilation have ended, only to be presented with whole new reasons for the hyperventilation to continue.

I'd been freaking out for a couple of weeks, because the choir director requested another girl and I play a piano-organ duet of the Hallelujah Chorus--you know, the famous one that Handel wrote. From The Messiah . Not easy practicin', if you know what I mean. She told us two weeks before the Christmas program. If I've developed carpal tunnel in the past couple of weeks, it's not from my job. It's from practicing and practicing and practicing. I've decided practicing and playing a musical instrument is sometimes quite cruel--you work your hands to the bone (seriously, people wonder why there's so little padding on my hands--piano, people, piano) for hours on end to play something that is over in three minutes. Granted, those three minutes totally rock (like they did yesterday morning during the ward Christmas program), but it still seems less than fair.

Before that, I'd been freaking out about getting my graduate school application in to Chicago in plenty of time. Before that, it was figuring out all of the requirements for my company's Affirmative Action Plan (which, lucky me!, I get to write and assemble and analyze and ick). Before that, it was figuring out whether or not to find a new job. (Since I'm so in love with this one, th., as you guessed . . .)

After the Christmas program, I thought I had nothing left to worry about. (At least, nothing left to fruitfully worry about . . . after all, I trust all of the people writing my recommendations to submit them in a timely manner and send them off to help determine my fate. I can't control them.)

But then today, I spoke to one of my recommenders--my most important recommender, because he was my undergraduate advisor and he actually knows me quite well. (All aspects of my personality, really, and he's still willing to write me a recommendation--that's saying something) He hadn't received important links from one of the universities I'm applying to, the links that led him to their online recommendation system . . .

And then the hyperventilation started all over again . . .

Thursday, December 6, 2007

All of the Good References Are Lost on My Co-Workers

My office is right next door to the IT director's office, and lately he's been behind closed doors--on conference calls--more often than not.  This morning, a co-worker dropped by and asked if I'd seen him at all yet today, or just heard him.  "Just heard," I said.  "For all I know, he could have turned into a gigantic bug and doesn't want anybody to see him."
She raised an eyebrow.
"Kafka," I said.
"Bless you."
"No, Kafka's a writer.  'The Metamorphosis'?"
"Oooh, is it about a butterfly?  They metamorphosize, don't they?'
"And . . . never mind."

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Why Can't Someone NORMAL Tell Me I'm Beautiful?

Sometimes I err on the side of being too nice.

Yesterday, when I left work and went to my bus stop, there was a man there waiting for the bus. A Navajo, he told me (three different times before we got on the bus, innumerable times afteward). He thanked me for listening to him and told me I was nice, that most people usually ignored him. That made me a feel bad for him, so I didn't object when he sat down right next to me on the bus.

I did, however, object when he attempted to touch my leg. When he asked me to help him write his resume. When he attempted to touch my leg again. When he kept leaning in closer and closer. I had felt sorry for him to begin with, but my obvious cracking open of Bringing Down the House did not deter him from what he had started.

He had a slight aura of creepiness I had discounted in the beginning, but it started growing more and more as he talked to me. By the time he told me I was beautiful and he'd always wanted to be with a white woman, I was trying very hard not to hyperventilate.

When he told me he'd graduated high school in 1984, I said--loudly--"Funny, that's the year I was born." Then he proceeded to list all the good qualities a young, educated white woman like me had. Still trying to touch my leg, obviously not getting the blatant hits in the form of the book and my age.

I managed to bite down a scream when he asked for my phone number. I refused to give it to him. He asked if I had a boyfriend, and I figured this was one of the few times when lying like hell was actually the wisest course of action.

"Yes," I said.

"Very much so," I responded when he asked if he loved me.

"Oh, we're planning on getting married," I told him when he mentioned that if things didn't work out . . .

For the love, I wish someone normal and close to my age would hit on me!! Just once!!!!!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Christmas through the Years

Last night, I spent the night at my parents' house in Centerville, and my parents I spent the evening pulling out Christmas decorations and hanging them up.  They had already assembled the tree (yes, it's a fake tree--a fake tree I'm fondly familiar with) and my dad had put up the lights, but we had to put on the braid.  And the ornaments.
As I unpacked a variety of things, I realized why I love Christmas so much more than I love any other time of years.  Christmas, for me, is memory.  There is not a single ornament on our Christmas tree, a single Nativity set, a single wall hanging, or a single toll-painted Santa or some such that does not remind me of a Christmas past.
The black Santa and black angel ornaments are a result of my older brother serving a mission in South Carolina.  He sent them home his first Christmas away and told us we needed to be more multiracial.
The doily-like snowflakes now officially have to move farther up the tree--again--because they are coated in sugar (to preserve them?) and my older sister and younger brother both loved to suck on them when they were younger.
The toll-painted Santa nails for 25 lifesavers, as a countdown to Christmas, always sparked a lively debate: to count from 1 to 25 or 25 to 1.  And then it would drift to whether the 1 got eaten on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, necessitating us to start eating them the last day of November.
Our tree has always been upstairs, and we have always had a carved Nativity set on the coffee table in our living room.  My great-uncle carved it for my mom way back when, and we've always loved it.  Even though the donkey is lopsided and gimpy.
I suppose the easiest way to sum it up would be this: I love Christmas, because Christmas is constancy.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Ten Stages of a Monday Morning

Stage 1: Grrr.  Who set my alarm clock, anyway?
Stage 2: Perhaps the furnace will turn itself on if I exert enough mind power.
Stage 3: Why didn't I get a job in Salt Lake?  Corresponding trail of philosophical career-related musings, further delaying leaving my warm bed.
Stage 4: Fine.  I'll move!!  But I refuse to be happy about it.
Stage 5: Where's my towel?  Where's my washrag?  Where's my shampoo?  Where's my body wash?  Why must I be so very blind and also very tired, with the blurriness multiplying the blindness . . .?
Stage 6: Where did all of my clean clothes go?  Is it legit to wear red solid with gray pants that have blue and white stripes?  Will anyone notice?  Why do I care?
Stage 7: Perhaps, if my roommate and I did our dishes more often, we wouldn't find ourselves washing dishes at every meal.  This seems like a novel concept at the moment, but I won't want to do dishes once I get back to the apartment.
Stage 8: How is it possible that I can never find the shoes I want?  Until I trip over them, hitting my leg against the corner of my desk, such that I can feel the bruises beginning to formm.
Stage 9: I should seriously be losing calories for all of the times I make it halfway out of my apartment building and then remember something I've forgotten.  And roommate wonders why I leave almost fifteen minutes before the train arrives . . .
Stage 10: Sleep, sleep, sleep.  Walk into work.  Freeze, freeze, freeze.