Coffee Table Declarations
Thursday, November 25, 2004
I admit that I've told this story before, but it's a Thanksgiving classic so I'm going to recycle it. Thanksgiving four years ago was our last Thanksgiving with my grandfather and our last holiday at his house. He came out of his assisted living facility to join us for dinner. My mother and aunt thought they would make things easier all around by getting food from one of those places that offers a complete Thanksgiving feast. It came in foil packages and my mom and aunt just tossed them in the oven to cook.

A little while later, someone opened the oven and realized that one of the foil packages had caught fire. It was pulled from the oven in flames and all hell broke loose. My mom and aunt were trying to put it out and salvage the food. I was opening windows to let the smoke out and checking to see if my grandfather was too chilly with the windows open. My little cousins were running around playing loudly.

All of a sudden, in the midst of all this chaos, my dad lost control. His face bright red, he started shouting, "Someone get the baking soda! We need baking soda to put out the fire! Get the fucking baking soda!" and dead silence fell over the crowd. My dad doesn't swear ever so this was an unusual outburst.

Later, with the fire put out safely and the remnants of the Thanksgiving feast served, as we were all sitting around the table, I asked my dad if he could pass the soda. There was a big bottle of it sitting in front of him. He had been listening to conversation and not paying attention. He turned to me and said, "what?" I replied, "Oh sorry, I meant could you pass the fucking soda."

There was a split second after the words left my mouth that I thought, "uh oh..." but then everyone burst out laughing, my dad most of all. Luckily we were able to turn a potentially traumatic incident into a humorous holiday anecdote. I just hope my grandfather wasn't offended that we set his kitchen on fire and then swore about it.
Monday, November 22, 2004
Whenever my family is gathered around a table for any length of time, consuming a meal together, my sister will inevitably start telling stories about how me (and my brother, but mostly me) tormented her when she was little. She is the baby of the family, nine years younger than me and six years younger than my brother. She loves to recount how her sweet little innocent childhood was tainted by her older siblings making her the subject of experiments, scaring the wits out of her for fun, and taking advantage of her good nature. These stories always invoke the desired response - my mom saying, "oh that's terrible!" while looking at me with disdain and showering my sister with sympathy.

As if things were so clear cut. For one thing, I don't even remember most of the things my sister claims took place. I swear she's making them up for effect. Secondly, her innocent act is all a ruse. She's always known how to manipulate my parents for sympathy and affection. I can remember her complaining about things I allegedly did and then sticking her tounge out at me from the safety of behind a parent. When I would point out that she was sticking out her tounge, she would instantly transform her face into a sad, victimized expression that would make it impossible to believe the truth.

Her most recent story at our most recent family gathering sounded like something she had invented on the spot. I have absolutely no recollection of it whatsoever. She said that once when she was five or six (making me fourteen or fifteen at the time) I was hanging out with a group of friends in our basement family room. She claims that I called her to come in and then asked her to tell us what swear words she knew, purely for the sake of our entertainment. She supposedly responded that she couldn't say because Santa Claus was listening to which I purportedly replied, as if it were the most obvious thing ever, "Santa can't hear you in the basement!" You know, on second thought, that does sound like something I would've said.
Saturday was Pinky's birthday. Everyone please go on over and say hello!
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Last night my roommate and I were calmly watching tv in the living room when suddenly there was a loud, aggressive knocking at our door. We both looked at each other. Neither of us was expecting company. Since I was wearing socks I slid quietly across the hardwood floor to peer out the peephole. A dark round shape was obscuring it and I was horrified to realize someone had their finger covering the hole. I slid back across the room and whispered frantically that whoever was out there was COVERING THE PEEPHOLE with their finger.

At first we tried to think if anyone we knew would do something like that as a joke. My roommate even asked me, "did you bounce your rent check?" Meanwhile the pounding on the door continued. We were frozen with indecision. My roommate suggested asking who it was but I thought we should just ignore it and so we waited, exchanging looks of confusion. It was a pretty scary few minutes.

Finally the knocking stopped. After waiting several more minutes, I quietly slid across the floor and once again peered out the peephole. This time the hallway was empty so I decided to quickly open the door just in case it had been an urgent matter of some sort (as the loud, persistent knocking would seem to indicate) and see if anyone left a note or anything.

I opened the door and sure enough something fell to the ground. I picked it up, shut the door, and looked at the pamphlet in my hand. It was a biblical tract. I was completely unnerved. I mean sure, the salvation of one's soul may be considered a particularly urgent matter by some, but does it justify scaring the crap out of two young women alone in their apartment? Covering the peephole is much more sinister than your run of the mill proselytizing trickery.

The tract was from the church around the corner which often has signs out front like before the election when the bold black letters said something about Kerry that I won't repeat here but it involves his pro-choice stance being portrayed in an extremely negative way. My favorite thing the sign ever said was, "Please don't read the bible or attend this church, says Satan." I laughed to myself over how polite that sounded. But I digress. The point is, I am familiar with this church. Several times tracts have been left in the doorway to the building and I've been approached on the way to or from my car by someone handing them out on many occasions. I always smile and thank them and hurry on my way. I always thought they were well intentioned, however misguided. But last night's experience was downright creepy.

For one thing, I don't know how Mr. Fire and Brimstones got into the building. You have to be buzzed in and I've always felt safe because of that. I know someone was in the building a few weeks ago because there were tracts left in the hallways and on people's doors. The fact that this is adding up to more than an isolated incident is unsettling. The other thing that freaks me out is, what would have happened if we had opened the door? And I have to wonder - why did he think covering the peephole would make any difference? Did he think that the fact he would be someone we didn't recognize would make us LESS inclined to open the door than the fact that he was covering the peephole? Who would do something like that?

And what is UP with religions trying to scare people into converting? You should have read this pamphlet. It said things like, "if you try to be a good person in your everyday life and you go to church regularly but you do not accept the son of God, you are most certainly going to Hell." In red lettering it said, "You could die tomorrow" as a motivator for acting now to become saved. Gee, that combined with the covering of the peephole sure makes me want to run right out and convert. Where do I sign up?

I have half a mind to take the tract, write on it with thick black marker, "Proselytizing not allowed" or "Religion not welcome here" and maybe draw a pentagram or two and then tape it to our door. But that would probably just make us an even bigger target for salvation.

Monday, November 15, 2004
Yesterday I experienced what can only be described as speed-shopping. I was on my way to meet my family for my mom's birthday lunch. She chose a restaurant about 45 minutes from my apartment which happens to be somewhat near my favorite store in the world which I haven't been to in ages. By somewhat near, I mean that you would head south down the highway about 20 minutes, and instead of merging onto a west-bound route, you would hop onto the same route but headed east.

Meanwhile, my mom called to say they were running late and that I should poke into a nearby store. I didn't need any more encouragement than that, even though it was a race against the clock and my adrenaline was pumping. Approximately 25 minutes before I was due to meet my family at the restaurant, I pulled into the parking garage and took three escalators up to the main floor, running when possible instead of passively riding. I then took the remaining four escalators up and checked my watch as I ran toward the store like it was the promised land.

Upon entering I felt giddy, I couldn't believe I was there. I had seven minutes to get back down to my car. I made a beeline for the sales section, tore through the racks, selected three shirts and rushed over to pay for them. I then flew back down the thousands of escalators and out of the garage.

As I was driving to the restaurant I felt better, calmer. Even though being late was unavoidable, I was relaxed as only a post whirlwind-shopping-trip can induce. And luckily enough, the three shirts fit me, even though I didn't try them on at the store. So, speed shopping - no nonsense, just run in, grab a few things, and leave - I may be onto something.
Friday, November 12, 2004
Thank goodness it's Friday. It really could not have come soon enough. It's been a long week but here are the highlights:

1. There is a new ceramics painting place right around the corner from my apartment but I haven't been able to bring myself to go in there alone. I think it's because whenever I go by, there's never anyone there. If I was the only customer I'd feel a little on the spot somehow like I couldn't just sit anonymously in a corner and paint. Sunday afternoon I finally had someone to go with and when we got there the sign on the door said "closed" even though the hours read "Sunday 12 - 7". Looking inside, we saw the girl working there, sitting at a table in the back, on the phone and crying. We figured she had closed early because of whatever was causing her to cry. I just hope she wasn't crying because she never has any customers because we were there.

2. There's something about hearing the Beastie Boys on the radio on the way to work early in the morning that somehow makes it all seem worthwhile.

3. The strawberry flavored Starburst are by far the best.

4. I watched a wonderful program on pbs about gorillas who can communicate with people using sign language. I love pbs and I love the idea of talking with gorillas. I think I've found my new calling in life - teaching sign language to gorillas. The show was so touching because the gorillas were able to express emotions and have conversations and even paint works of art. So far there are only two gorillas who know sign language. Why aren't we teaching them all?
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Two nights ago I joined my friend for her yoga class. It was held in an old church in an urban area where parking was nowhere to be found. We parked light years away it seemed as we hurried through the cold dark night, yoga mats under our arms. I was completely out of breath by the time we got there, like I had already gotten enough exercise for the evening.

The church itself was somewhat intimidating, dark, old, and large. A lady was sitting on the inside steps to collect money for the class. She had wild hair and crazy eyes. The cost was $12 but I only had a $20. The lady looked up at me with her crazy eyes and said, "you're getting all ones back." "No problem!" I said cheerily.

We hurried up the stairs and into the yoga classroom. The room itself was long with a giant fancy window on the far wall and high ceilings. Seated in front of the window, facing the class, was a woman wearing all white, including a turban. There were five or six other people already seated on yoga mats when my friend and I arrived. The turban lady greeted my friend by name and came over to meet me. She was awfully nice. I asked her if we could leave the door open a crack because I explained, I often feel a little claustrophobic and uncomfortable in unfamiliar places.

Sidenote: I think I've mentioned my weird anxieties before. I don't like to feel closed in and having doors opened a crack helps. It's not all the time, just certain places. I know it sounds strange to others. I'm sure it sounded strange to the turban lady - but, hey, she was the one wearing a turban and that's a little out of the ordinary. Anyway, it's embarrassing to always have to explain myself like that, wondering what people will think of me, judging from this first impression. It's a frustrating way to go through life, let me tell you. But the turban lady was kind and understanding. She had no problem with leaving the door open a crack and then told me that the breathing exercises we were going to do were very helpful for phobias.

Then crazy-eyed lady came into the room and shut the door behind her. "Great," I thought to myself, "now what do I do?" I covertly got up and opened the door slightly and returned to my mat. I was hoping no one would protest and luckily no one did.

We started with chanting and stretching exercises. We continued on to breathing exercises, some of which were familiar but odd, like the so called "breath of fire" which is basically hyperventilation. Some were new and challenging like inhaling for a huge length of time and then inhaling some more before finally getting to exhale. There were also some mediations toward the end.

My friend swears by this yoga class saying that it's tremendously relaxing for her and a great way to start the week. I couldn't say it was entirely relaxing for me but that was because I didn't know what to expect and I was focusing hard on learning the techniques. I definately felt that there was power there. I could see how doing that breathing on a regular basis would have a beneficial effect.

At the end of the class, the turban lady served special tea. It was really good - full of spices and warmth. It was also a nice chance to chat with the others. One guy talked to me about my claustrophobia. He said that he had anxiety problems and this yoga class helped him. He also said I was brave for talking about it - he had kept it inside and suffered for years. Brave? That seems a little counterintuitive when referring to fear but I was pleased by the compliment. One lady told me not to worry and that I was among friends. It was a nice group of people.

After two cups of tea my friend and I trudged back out into the cold for the long walk back to the car. That was the worst part of the night because I was already exhausted and then I felt like I was sick because I was simultaneously sweating from walking so fast and freezing from the cold wind. Yesterday and today I just feel sore. I don't know if it's from the yoga or the walking or the two combined. My friend asked if I would like to go again and I think I would but only if we could find a closer parking spot. Or maybe if it's summer.
Monday, November 08, 2004
I have discovered my calling in life and it involves make up. I know that I could spend hundreds of dollars on beauty products. No matter how many I have, there is always something new to want. I like to play with technique and I study the beauty pages in magazines carefully. I could spend hours discovering bright glittery objects and bringing home something new makes me feel happy.

Yesterday I accompanied a friend to a makeup counter and she mentioned wanting to find some colors that would look good on her. Within moments she was sitting on a stool being made up by a professional while I watched with a critical eye. I added my comments and suggestions and the poor make up artist must have been a little flustered to have such an active audience. When she went off to select lipstick, I told my friend I was envisioning a reddish stain, something shiny. The make up girl brought back exactly what I was envisioning and I wondered if she had heard me or I just guessed right.

When I was younger I thought it would be fun to be a hairdresser until I realized I wouldn't necessarily enjoy having physical contact with strangers. I think the same goes for make up. I wish I knew what other make up related jobs were out there and what I would have to do to get one. Maybe being a beauty editor for a magazine would be my cup of tea. But how do you just go out and become one?

This is what it always comes down to. I am too overwhelmed by the process to try things out and so I end up doing nothing but make fantasy wishlists on the Sephora website and suggest lipsticks to my friends. Sigh.
Thursday, November 04, 2004
When I went to the doctor two weeks ago, she assured me I was in good health and all of my tests would come back normal. Then much to my surprise, the results of my blood test showed high cholesterol. I mean really high - your total cholesterol is supposed to be under 200 and mine was 241. Last week, I bravely went for a second blood test. This time I didn't eat for 12 hours previous and I went bright and early before work to a lab where I had never been and knew none of the medical workers. Sitting in a chair with my sleeve rolled up, waiting for my turn, I saw a sign on the wall across from me that read, "Tell technician if you need to lie down for blood test." I was surprised. I knew my mom always had to lie down for blood tests but I didn't realize it was an actual thing that was so common as to require a sign. I knew I could handle it without lying down but it would've helped if the woman let me know when she was going to stick the needle in.

As I awaited the results of the second blood test, all kinds of things ran through my mind. Things ranging from being convinced the first test was some sort of fluke, to feeling depressed at the prospect of having to take medication to lower my cholesterol. I eat healthy, buying organic groceries and avoiding trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils and greasy foods. I didn't understand why I would have high cholesterol until I found out that it's really mostly determined by heredity and then I discovered that my mom has high cholesterol and takes medication for it.

I know there are many worse things to have than high cholesterol so I definately was able to put it in perspective. On the other hand, it really got to me, making me think about how it is a major contributor to heart disease. I started to think about getting older and realizing I'm not immortal and worrying about all sorts of health problems that affect people as they age, and the whole thing just made me sad. It was a turning point between feeling young and invincible, and realizing that we all succumb to age eventually. Not to be dramatic or anything.

The other day I got the results from my second test. My total cholesterol was 234 and bad cholesterol, which is supposed to be less than 100, was 165. In the comments section at the bottom of the page, my doctor had simply written, "cholesterol is elevated, please watch your diet and exercise." Wow thanks, that's helpful. What am I supposed to be eating or not eating and how am I supposed to know? Should I go back in six months to see if my cholesterol has gone down? And how the heck am I supposed to get motivated to go to the gym and exercise after a long day when it's already cold and dark by the time I leave work and the only thing I feel like doing is watching tv? Goodness, getting old sure is hard.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
I'm not going to tell you to vote early and often, or to vote for the candidate I'm supporting. Instead, I'd like to share a little something about politics.

Two summers ago I worked for a state-wide political campaign. We put in long hours, seven days a week, whether it was answering phones at the headquarters, or holding signs on street corners, or soliciting strangers for signatures. I believed in what I was doing. I believed in my candidate. It was a fascinating first hand experience about the effort that goes into a campaign and how every vote truly does count. I went to events and spoke to people and swayed their opinions with my well thought out arguments. I spoke to members of the media and was even on tv a couple times - in the background at the office. Working on a campaign quickly takes over. We ate, slept, and breathed it on a daily basis. We had an early victory at the state-wide convention and it felt good. We were convinced we would win.

We did not win. I can tell you firsthand that when you put that much time and energy into something, losing is heartbreaking. I never saw so many men cry in my life as I did on that election night. Our life had become that campaign and then suddenly it was over. It's a strange feeling. Later I became even more disillusioned when our candidate turned out to be a jerk. He promised us all two extra weeks of pay and we didn't see a dime. So there we were, depressed, unemployed, and with no source of income whatsoever. But that is not the point of this story.

The point of this story is that's what campaigns and politics are about. Someone wins, yes. But someone always loses and regardless of my feelings toward the candidate, I can respect the hard working campaigners and I can feel sorry for their loss. Tonight may the best candidate win.
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