Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Nights

Sunday nights are always bittersweet, aren't they? Bitter that it's the end of the weekend, but sweet in that it's usually when I get most of my housework done and there's the calm-before-the-storm kind of relaxed, fun, homebody vibe to Sunday nights. I often cook, or not. We snuggle in bed and watch television. For the past few months we'd watch Mad Men. We're going to try out the Frank Darabont, zombie show The Walking Dead, and of course Sunday nights on HBO are where it's at. We don't get HBO....but we do have laptops and good internet. I'll let you fill in those blanks.

I love, love, love Bored To Death. Its relaxed, funny, bittersweet nature perfectly fits Sunday nights. Ted Danson is fantastic in it. I know a lot of people are getting tired of the ubiquitous Zach Galifianakis, but I think he's hilarious and very good in this too - but no one comes near Ted Danson in terms of great delivery, facial expressions, and comic timing.

I'm also slowly, ever so slowly, creaking my way through some books. Currently those books are The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Committed. Next up are Three Cups of Tea and Craig Ferguson's autobiography, American on Purpose.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Not October Again

I kind of wish I could boycott Halloween this year. Of course I can not because a.) I'm a mom - even though Stella's pretty much on her own as far as costumes/celebrations go and b.) we host a huge Halloween party for the students at work which means I'll need a costume and my participation is mandatory.

Time to suck it up and force myself to get into the spirit.

Frankly, all I can think about it is that my sister ANGELA IS COMING TO VISIT!!!! I haven't seen her beautiful face since 2007 and I'm so excited to see her the week of Thanksgiving. I'm already looking forward to learning about all sorts of yummy wines, cooking meals together, laughing, telling stories, and catching up.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Palomino Alert

Periodically I'll be giving you Palomino alerts - if only to keep the term in your memory and increase its usage. Coining a term is hard work, yo.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bringing The Room Down For A Minute...

It's easy to get dragged down by the day-to-day frustrations of a job, the office politics, the nonstop multitasking, the every-day, all-day-ness of it. But once in a while something happens to elevate the experience, or give me pause and make me really grateful that I am in this position. I have always been drawn to stories and sometimes I am very lucky to hear some incredible stories and learn about the students' lives in far-flung corners of the world.

In addition to intensive English classes, volunteer opportunities, and community and cultural activities, my students take art expression classes. These sessions do not teach them to be artists, but rather encourages them to express parts of their cultures without language.

Wednesday evening the students were sharing their pieces with the group when we came to a painting of a mangled hand. The painter was a Palestinian man. His hand had been mangled by the Israeli military, preventing him from being able to use any weapons in the future. I thought that was bad enough until I learned that this student's mother had been shot to death, for no discernible reason, by Israeli soldiers. This student, who had every reason in the world to despise Israel and turn to terror or violence, spoke only of his desire for peace between Palestine and Israel. He has now devoted his life to education, working in schools in the poorest parts of war-torn Palestine, ensuring that those children do not grow up hating their oppressors.

The weight of his story sank deeper and deeper, through my emotions, my rudimentary knowledge of history, bore its way down through equally upsetting stories that do and maybe do not corroborate his experience, and, finally, down into a sad, hopeless place where I have to put things I believe I can never resolve or improve.

Feeling good now? Need another picture of D. in his hirsute phase?

Well, luckily there's somewhat of a postscript. The more I think about all the heart-breaking stories I've heard through the course of my work, the more I'm struck by how optimistic and hopeful these people are (regardless of age), or at least energized to counteract the worst parts of their conditions. The man whose story I told up there is so very kind, curious, intelligent, and empathic. Where I'd be a total wreck, trying out endless pharmaceuticals, breaking down, and feeling awful, he refuses to give in to such indulgences. I HAVE SO MUCH TO LEARN about grace, strength, coping mechanisms, and choosing optimism. It is a choice, so why am I not making it? I can and I will.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

He Is So Going To Kick My Ass

BLAH...Need to shake off that crappy mood from yesterday, despite still being in excruciating shoulder/neck pain. What better way to do that than to raid D.'s old photo collections. For those of you who know my wonderful, sweet, funny, smart, talented, considerate boyfriend, you'll be tickled to see these relics from the past.

80's D.....who WAS this man? With the mullet and the mustache? And this unforgivable Hawaiian shirt and multi-pocketed, pseudo parachute pants:
Rockin' out. Oh yeah....it's getting better. I'm on the verge of cracking a smile.


Just wait for the best one.






Are you ready?



THAT'S MORE LIKE IT! I feel infinitely better now. Yes, sweetie, don't worry. I blurred out the vulgar gesture that I can never imagine you doing now.
This is the man I love. What can I say? Don't you love him a little bit more now?

Thoughts On: Mad Men Season 4 Finale

This should go without saying, but WARNING! - if you have not and plan to see the finale for this season's Mad Men enter at your own risk.

I'm just going to cut and paste from some emails that Kelly and Marty and I have been exchanging regarding the finale and this season. I can't pick a favorite season. Each one is special and incredible for different reasons. Now that we viewers really know the characters, I think the digging in to the development of each one is happening and, as a lifelong curious observer of the human condition, I LOVE IT. You can really tell that Matthew Weiner cut his teeth on The Sopranos because, although tonally and subject-wise, they are so different, what I love about each show is its constant unpeeling of the characters' motivations, histories, desires, and psyche. It's rare to witness GROWTH in characters of television shows - writers and producers seem stuck in thinking that the audience wants to watch something predictable people do predictable things.

Oddly enough, though - I'm going to start off by saying that Don Draper acted exactly how I expected him to in this episode. As much change as he's gone through, internally and externally, this season....he's still that same guy who is constantly searching for....something, for a woman who will allow him to feel himself and make him feel worthy in a way his own mother couldn't (it's SO telling that his mother was a prostitute, because he is the classic man seeking a madonna/whore).

Some more unrefined and unedited thoughts:

Some people I know were shocked at Don's engagement. I wasn't surprised at all - haven't they been hinting at/building up for this all season long? Didn't Faye tell him the very first time he hit on her "You'll be married within a year?"

The first time he slept w/ Megan I felt that the show was prepping us for this. She's too perfect....for him. Kind, smart, loving, different from the high-maintenance blonds he's usually drawn to (Betty, Faye, Bethany). Also...California always makes him feel more relaxed and "himself" whatever that means so I wasn't surprised at all that the spirit of California swept him up and caused him to make this rash (and possibly regrettable) decision.

I thought Joan was going to terminate her pregnancy? And now she's really trying to pass it off to her DOCTOR husband that it's his? Didn't they teach him math in med school? But oh how I loved Joan in this episode, from her reaction to Lane's "promotion" to her conversation with Peggy - that scene was the highlight of the whole episode and possibly the season for me.

It'll be really interesting to see how it plays out w/ the Don/Peggy relationship. Don seemed to set it up that Megan was her counterpart. He wanted a "sexier" Peggy. Peggy was clearly and deservedly taken aback.

And yes..the Carla scene filled me with rage. It's clearer and clearer that Betty is a child. The loss of her mother a few years ago and now the loss of her father have caused her to regress more and more. Curling up in Sally's bed and talking to Sally's therapist as though she were HER therapist really confirmed that. I feel sorry for Henry! He didn't know WHAT he was getting himself into. But I like that he doesn't coddle her...he, like Don, like SO MANY MEN, love playing the role of the hero...however the hero swoops in, saves the day and then leaves.....you can't be the hero day in and day out, that's exhausting and unrealistic.

However - as much as Betty hates Don, she also loves him for what he represents - success, wealth, confidence. Her only self-worth is tied up in her appearance (remember, she used to model) so when she purposely powdered up for Don, she was grasping at that - trying to get back to the place where she feels powerful (only when men are wanting her). She obviously resents motherhood, most likely because it conflicts with her sexual appeal. We see a little of that with Joan too, the younger secretaries taking her place as the sex object.

I think this show is the most feminist show on television. although I'm starting to hate the term "feminist" for all its negative connotations and misconstrued meaning. I may start using the term "equalist" instead because that's what feminism means to me....okay, I'm getting off topic.

No other show digs in and reveals all the different aspects of womanhood - our choices, our challenges, our obstacles. Sadly, they really haven't changed much since the 1960s. We're still expected to be loving mothers, physically attractive to men in order to gain even a modicum of power, responsible, attentive, mind-readers, cleaners....

Joan pushing the mail cart. Man....that scene....

Bravo to Matthew Weiner for having the balls to write these scenes for us to dissect and relish in. I think most people can agree that Peggy is one of the most exciting (in terms of "what will she do next" or "what will happen to her") characters in this show. Sally too, to some extent. I appreciated how much screen time Sally Draper got this season. In many ways Peggy represents the possibility for change (she WANTS to be an artist/beatnik/liberal) but knows the price she'll pay (shunned, ostracized at work, not able to work her way up in her career). How many of us have felt that way? I know I've made way more compromises than I'm comfortable with. I'd love to be out in the streets, burning down banks and credit card companies (the ending of The Fight Club is one of my favorites of all time) and being completely honest with my outrage and disgust at the inequalities I face every day....but I have a family to support and want to be respected in a professional setting.

/rant and impromptu Mad Men review

Monday, October 18, 2010

Why Hello, Brass Tacks!

I've been struggling for quite some time...like I need to even type that out. Because, on the surface, I guess it appears that everything (work, home life, parenthood, goals, finances, friends, pets, personal time, family, etc) is going okay, for the most part. I get asked that a lot. "How do you DO it, Alannah?" I don't know how to respond...because I don't feel like I'm doing anything all that well. I mean, I know I give my job my most concentrated energy and focus and the students all comment on how much they appreciate everything I do for them. I know that Stella is doing about as well as a 15 year-old can and I love her and am proud of her beyond description. I know that D. and I have a mutually loving, respectful, supportive, compatible relationship. But y'all...MY BODY IS REBELLING AGAINST ME. Migraines, ulcer, fatigue, debilitating neck & back pain. The pain is constant and just switches location.

Today my boss asked me how everything was going. "Really everything is fine," I answered...and then it hit me, "Everything is fine BECAUSE I AM NOT." I am able to keep all these plates spinning because I am paying for it. With my body.

I can't figure out how to make work less stressful. I can't change the frequency of our programs, nor the unpredictable things requiring my immediate attention that always pop up. I can't change my parenting responsibilities. If anything, that's the one area I really wish I could give of myself more. I see parenting as an investment. The more I put in, the more I'll gain in knowing that I am doing my best to raise a healthier and happier person than I could ever be. I certainly don't want to give less to my relationship or friendships. The way I see it, my only option is to find a new position, a less-demanding job. Like perhaps a trauma nurse. Or a politician.

All I know is that I'm too young to feel this old.




....to be continued....

Saturday, October 16, 2010

This Week in Crazy

"Hi! Naaah, we're not chock-full of anger, resentment, repressed emotions, and sadness. Not at all! We're celebrating our country. Right, son?" "Right, Pops. Celebrating like we've never celebrated before. I've never had more fun in my life." "Hey hep cats! It's your favorite stylin' mofo, the Libyan lech, the man who put the 'dic' in dictator. Say what? There was a dress code? I make my OWN dress code! (emphasis on the "dress"). Now, don't mind me while I get a little more comfortable here."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

New Beginnings

You know what it feels like to take the moving sidewalk thingies at airports? And that moment when you step off and you still feel like you're moving quickly but you're not and your body and feet and brain have that disconnect that takes a few seconds to reconcile? That's sort of what my life feels like. My work schedule isn't AS busy as it was July through September, but I am still having a mental disconnect. Perhaps it's partly because my weekends have been CHOCK FULL. Yes, they've been crammed full of goodness - friends, concerts, trips, fun things, but that doesn't stop me from being completely exhausted during the week. Couple that with a slower work schedule and I think I'm losing my mind. Yet again.

Last weekend D. and I went to a wedding featuring another member of my favorite family on earth. I was a bridesmaid in the youngest sister's wedding a few years ago. This was the oldest sister's wedding. You could tell this couple has been to more than a few weddings and knew exactly how they wanted theirs to be: fun, lighthearted, sweet, lots of great music, and did I say fun? The entire ceremony couldn't have been more than 30 minutes and then the reception lasted four hours! Now that's how you do it!

The happy couple:
The bride dancing with her father:
D. and me. We have hardly any photos of ourselves together and even fewer that we both like. Slam dunk!
The incredible chandelier at the reception hall:
The Maid of Honor (middle sister) and longtime reader of this blog (Hi C.! ;-)), whom I never get to see enough of, and me:
I couldn't get many shots of the couple dancing, and they danced all night long (just TRY not to sing Lionel Richie now. I dare you)!

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Lulling Methods

I used to read before I went to sleep every night, until I moved in with a man who insists on watching Charlie Rose and MSNBC late at night. I tossed and turned with the voices of various pundits and newsmakers in my head until the magical Netflix for iPhone application debuted a few months ago. Now I watch my own personal movie! In the past few weeks I've watched Ira & Abby, Me and You and Everyone We Know, and Year of the Dog. My falling-to-sleep movie selections are running a solid B-.

I put off watching Me and You and Everyone We Know for quite a while out of a stubborn anti-hipster, twee, performance artist stance. But (here we go...) I honestly did like it! Mostly for the two young boys in it. And John Hawkes who is pretty much solidly awesome. It had an off-kilter pace and storytelling technique that I liked, and a genuine affection for the "good" characters. And hopefully it will give people pause before having cybersex (is that term even used anymore? I feel so 90s Gen X) with a stranger in a chat room. Here's a little secret: everyone lies on the internet! Except for me. I will tell you the truth.

As for the other two movies - they were ehh. Not awful, certainly more interesting plots than Avatar, kind of a small waste of excellent performers.

And this concludes my ridiculous, pointless film review post.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

It's True

James Franco, you confound me. You star in stoner movies, beloved canceled television shows, and films that shamelessly promote a gay agenda (yay!). You are also apparently concurrently enrolled in Rhode Island School of Design AND a Yale PhD program. You've written a collection of short stories. You guest-starred on General Hospital.

And this photo was recently released:

I'm intrigued, confused, jealous, fascinated, and disbelieving. WHO/WHAT ARE YOU????

P.S. - I can't decide if I love you or want to be you.