Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Typing Out Loud: The (Polish-Italian) Princess Diaries

Bwahahahaha! The predicament of being fourteen.

I started keeping a diary when my sisters gave me a red, faux leather, gold embossed book with a teeny lock and key for my 6th birthday.  The juvenile tome is long gone, my messy scrawl revealing my not-so-secret love for Tommy Augustine and the thrill of receiving a fire engine valentine from him, declaring me "hot stuff".

Of the diaries that have survived cleaning and purging, the timeline starts around 7th grade. Labelled with the sophisticated moniker of "journal", I recorded my thoughts in the pastel Hello Kitty or Little Twin Stars notebooks with leaky purple and pink pens. The handwriting was strong in those early books, my 12 year old thoughts exciting, recorded in all caps, with lots of exclamation points.

By high school, the tiny notebooks gave way to regular-lined school notebooks and steno pads. The scrawl was loopier and to combat the shyness of talking to myself about myself, I wrote the passages as "letters" to real friends (Lynn, Shelly, Jim) I had no intention of mailing. The biology textbook that served as both diary and super-secret message system to Cindy. There was also the college freshman English composition "journal" I had to keep as an ongoing assignment. The compare/contrast lists of all my boyfriends, including the fortune telling games, easily manipulated so I ended up with the latest man of my dreams. Attempts at fiction writing. New Year's resolution lists with vows that numbered into the late teens. Drunken college confessions where my writing wasn't quite contained within the margins.

The stash!

What did I discover? Reading these as 42-year-old me, I've fallen in love with the 12-20 year old me. She's cute, funny, loves with all her heart, is thoughtful and insightful. I want to say mostly positive too. I want to hug her. The quality of the composition improved as I aged, but I'm struck at the consistent quality of the content, observations of the human condition, mine as well as those around me.

Looking at life through my younger eyes as an adult, I've been able to forgive a lot of hurts. I hadn't given certain people or relationships much thought until I relived them the past few months. Certain boys who courted me in my youth, dismissed as cads "only after one thing", have had their reputations redeemed and their rightful place secure in my heart based on my rediscovered recorded history.

I'm also sad to realize how amazing I was as a person back then, even though I didn't believe it. Talk about being your own worse enemy. No healthy 120-pound girl should ever call herself fat. Or ugly. Or stupid.

But I'm pleasantly surprised to realize how lucky I was. The friends I made. My first love, and the heart-racing, crazy roller coaster we went on through 1986. My after-school jobs where I first gained confidence in myself. How sweet my parents were, each in their own way. All of my small-town, middle-class experiences. The passion I had for everything in my life.

You can take my word for it.

Researching my box of diaries for this blog entry, I was startled to read this passage; I could have written it last week. When I placed the date of when I wrote it, it makes perfect sense. This journal entry was written sometime in 1984, a few months after my grandmother passed away. It would appear my coping mechanism in dealing with loss then is the same as it is now - to OD on nostalgia. I don't think it's a bad thing, I'm taking stock of the people and memories that matter to me. But perhaps it is time to start looking to the future again.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What's Right in the World: Relay for Life

Dad's luminary on the goal line/in the end zone at Comstock Park High School during RFL.

So this last week was the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life. While I've donated in the past, their mission struck a chord in me for obvious reasons.

It started with hat day at Greenridge Elementary, and I paid $1 for Will to wear his Tigers hat;  dad called him Little Sparky every time he wore it. They also had pink day, purple day, and then there was the Relay for Life.

I went to CPHS after the Tigers game (near no-hitter by Verlander). There were fundraising booths set up along the football field, luminaries ringing the track, a tent village for the high schoolers to spend the night, CURE spelled out with tea lights in the bleachers, a DJ, and tons of people walking or running the track.

It was an emotional thing to take part in; while the message was one of hope and a cure, the luminaries were for those who lost their fight. I did a few laps on the track, and the urge to do one for dad was great and I went to purchase one. One of the teachers at Will's school kindly gave me one and some markers, so I created a simple tribute, above.

Walking the track and trying to figure out the best place for it, I took a picture of the bag with the goal posts in the background. Smiling, I figured it out - the only logical location for a memorial for my dad at a high school is going to be in the end zone of the football field.

I placed the luminary on the goal line, took a few pictures and smiling, circled the track for an hour, or the "official" length of a football game. The teen boys who were playing ball respectfully played around the bag, occasionally stopping to read the message.

All good things do come to an end. Because of the turf and the kids playing games and dancing, the principal had the bag removed from the end zone and we placed it perfectly on the track to line up with the goal posts.

At midnight, a trio took to the stage, and performed the sweet, mellow guy-and-a-gal-with-a-guitar rock ballads. In other words, lots of Plain White T's, John Mayer, etc. It reminded me of how sweet it is to be a teenager, and how adorable they all were.

I bid on a few silent auction items and went home at 1am, driving home under the stars with the top down on the car.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Resolutions 2012: an update

Oh hell yeah I did it.

It's May, five months later, and Happy Mother's Day. Since I accomplished something quite major yesterday, I thought it would be a good idea to look at what I put in "print" back in December and see how I'm doing:

Pass Gold MIF: not yet, but the goal has been set to test by August. The power circles and 3 turns, which account for 4 of the 6 moves, are passing according to Michelle. I'm having trouble with the brackets and the back figure 8. The fix for the 8 is supposed to be easy, and according to Michelle, so too the brackets. We shall see, but I was anxious about alternating threes on the silver and I passed those. Accomplishing!

Compete at ANs: Did it and did it well. Accomplished!

1,000 pieces of art: I have 808 done. We have entered ArtPrize and secured a venue, City Art Gallery in the Monroe/Belknap district. They are excited to have us and we are thrilled to be there. Accomplishing!

Back on the goodeats: I was diagnosed with diabetes in January, a relief of a wake up call. No hedging with the diet, no cheats, time to make changes for good. The perfect storm that resulted was the diagnosis along with Biggest Loser at work and the March Madness challenge at the Y. I'm down 14 pounds, I was one of 16 to complete MM, and came in second in BL, with a cash prize that was used to buy new clothes that fit me better than my old clothes. Most importantly, I made those changes to my diet. Accomplished!

Train like a 5K: I had originally not planned on doing the RBR because it conflicted with a skating competition, but then I wrote the Tell Your Story essay and won my free entry into the race, so I decided to do it anyway. Training became part of the MM and new lifestyle. I did it yesterday, earned my t-shirt and pin, was a member of the road team for work, and posted a time more than 3 minutes better than last year. Accomplished!

Honey do: it seems the more we do, the more messes we make and the more we want to get done. The flip side of that is the flooring we bought for the laundry room is still sitting in boxes in the garage waiting to be installed and boat season is around the corner. Oh well, we aren't going to die unfulfilled if it doesn't happen until fall, are we? At least we managed to fish the tub toy out of the crevices of the toilet after Will flooded the upstairs. Accomplishing!

Joy: One of the lessons learned the last 5 months is that life is short and precious. There have been so many moments of fear, regret, sorrow, pain and loss where my dad is concerned. The loss of hope was painful at first but replaced by calm acceptance and peace. I've discovered how miracles are delivered. What bravery is. How a funeral can also be the final chapter of a fascinating book about a beloved character. Thank you to my mom for insisting on bright, cheerful colors that day. Yes, joy. Even through tears, I can definitely say accomplishing.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Why Art Matters: Greek and Roman Mythology

Persephone the goddess of vegetation. I'm all for eating my vegetables if I can rock a goddess gown like this. Yowza. 

Ah, mythology: tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies. It was a subject I fell in love with in grade school and could not wait to take by time I hit high school, an honors class I busted my tail to get into my junior year.

The appeal for me lies in the storytelling. Dramatic, tumultuous, dashing and daring, the Greeks and Romans had a flair for some serious tabloid-ish yarn-spinning. If the naughty, idle gods had a modern-day equivalent, it would be the Kardashians: vapid, useless, powerful, fascinating.

But what really fascinates me is how these gods and myths were created to explain the unexplained. My favorite, the story of Demeter and Persephone, explains the changing of the seasons, coloring the excitement with kidnapping, famine, sex, desire, dark underworld and exotic fruit. To celebrate this, I routinely eat a  pomegranate on December 21, the first day of winter.

I also love the empowering tale of Diana, the goddess of women and virginity. Why empowering? The myths are fraught with tales of goddesses and mortals being claimed, raped, seduced and kidnapped, yet Diana was a strong, beautiful, athletic goddess who called her own shots.

As I reintroduce myself to these magical tales, I'm impressed with not only the craft with which these stories explain our world, but how these tales have colored our vocabulary in these modern times. Will bears such a striking resemblance to me as a baby and toddler, that a flippant comment I make is "it's like he sprang from my thigh," a reference to how some of the gods were borne of Zeus.

As I read on, I'm curious to explore other culture's mythologies, like Norse and Native American. There is one that I read many years ago in grade school that tells of a young Indian girl who so loved the sun she played all day without care for food or drink. The gods answered her prayers and turned her into a sunflower.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Playlist: Band 6 v. Revolution #9

Favorite Beatle George with favorite Monkee Peter - I am in love with this photo.

A godawful podcast I listened to a few months ago pitted the Beatles (Fab Four) against the Monkees (the Prefab Four). I love both bands. I own all their records, even the crappy ones - I'm looking at you Yellow Submarine and Instant Replay.

Both bands had their amazing deconstruct-the-myth-in-a-movie moment with Let It Be and Head.

Both had their "WTF was that?" TV specials with Magical Mystery Tour and 33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee.

If you were to stack the awesomeness of the Monkees TV series against the badassery of A Hard Days' Night and Help!, I'd say things are even.

Blasphemous? Whatevs. I watched the Beatles cartoons alongside Monkees reruns when I was a wee lass of six. I don't judge, I just love.

Except for now. The original podcast I refer to had one guy pick his favorite 5 Beatles songs and the other guy would pick his favorite 5 Monkees songs, and they would debate which song was better. As George Harrison says in A Hard Days' Night, "I would be quite prepared for that eventuality." I'm doing six in honor of Band 6, a crappy jam on an otherwise stellar Headquarters album, with a bonus three in honor of Revolution #9, a crappy mess on the otherwise stellar White Album.

The "wrong lads" teasing Ringo about pizza. Let's dance on.

Girl That I Knew Somewhere v. Here, There and Everywhere - It's a battle of favorites. First, you have the Michael Nesmith-penned song with Tork on harpsichord and Dolenz's winsome vocals. Then you have the seductive McCartney ballad with gentle crooning. The romp featured Julie Newmar as April Conquest in love with all four Monkees. MTV Unplugged had this one with Paul onstage with a guitar. I can't do it, I cannot choose one over the other. DRAW.

Sometime in the Morning v. Something - Goffin and King sung by Micky at his most sensual. George Harrison coming of age and trumping John and Paul for the band's best ballad. The mind boggles and I'm reluctant to pick one over the other. DRAW.

Words v. In My Life - Micky and Pete singing a call-and-response song about betrayal, a lush orchestration with Davy on wind chimes, of all things. The other is John Lennon at his best, a song destined to be played at my funeral. A worthy fight, but I give it to the BEATLES.

Circle Sky v. Revolution - One one hand you have Nesmith's hard country rock, featured in the movie Head where the band is ripped apart and revealed as mannequins - trippy. On the other hand, you have the Beatles foray into hard rock with the awesomely distorted fuzzbox and some fierce piano playing. The remake of Circle Sky in 1997 rocks even harder, with a grungy crunch and new lyrics. The Beatles second shot at Revolution kind of sucked; the third was even worse. Then there was the Nike commercial. MONKEES.

Pleasant Valley Sunday v. A Day in the Life - Both tales of everyday life in suburbia. Both from 1967. Both from career-defining albums. One is a driving rock song with a catchy riff that served as a bumper to sitcom. The other, the closing opera to arguably the greatest album ever, a collaboration by the two best rock songwriters ever. I thought this would be a good fight, but after careful consideration, it's not very close. BEATLES.

You Told Me v. Paperback Writer - You Told Me opens up the amazing Headquarters album, a Nesmith song featuring Tork on banjo. Paperback Writer was a single during the Help!-Rubber Soul-Revolver era, with some classic Ringo percussion. I'm almost willing ot call it a draw, but give the slightest of edges to Tork's banjo and the need to recognize a very underrated rock song. MONKEES.

Forget That Girl v. I Want You (She's So Heavy) - A Davy Jones ballad up against John Lennon's primal scream ode to Yoko Ono? It's not even a fair fight, this round goes to the hypnotic grind that closes side one of Abbey Road. Even if I were to substitute the amazing Randy Scouse Git, the Fabs have it. BEATLES

A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You v. Two of Us - Davy Jones sings Neil Diamond. John and Paul channel the Everly Brothers. The Monkees song was remade by the Specials which triggered this Monkee resurgence in my house, see Feb blog for the details. The other makes me think of hoboes and goodbyes. MONKEES.

Tear the Top Right Off My Head v. While My Guitar Gently Weeps - oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I've managed to pit Tork against Harrison? Tork is so sweet in this one, I love this his coffee cups for two, pressing fingertips across lips, jangly banjo and harmonica. Harrison has Clapton, spiritual concepts from the I Ching, and way more drama. I love you, Peter Tork but the Quiet Beatle gets this one. BEATLES.

Probably no surprise the Fabs have it.