Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sailing to Philadelphia

This weekend, we head to Philadelphia. I have a weird relationship with Philadelphia. I lived in the area for over 20 years, I went to school there, but I never truly felt I was a part of it. Philadelphia is a hard nut to crack. Philadelphia is that tight-knit family that you might marry into, but they'll never completely explain all the private jokes and secrets to you. You'll be part of the family, but not really.

Twenty years is a long time to live anywhere. I moved around a lot when I lived there, but I stayed close enough that when someone from out-of-twon asked where I lived, I just said, "Philadelphia." Although I was technically an adult when I moved there, in some ways, it was where I grew up. I was a kid just out of college when I arrived. I did the "adult" things when I was in Philadelphia: grad school, home ownership, marriage, divorce, mortgage, 401K, adult things.

The Philadelphia area is really beautiful. They love their history and they really try to preserve as much as they can. Everywhere you walk, there are landmarks: places Ben Franklin lived or the first something in the US. You stop to think that, wow, George Washington actually did sleep here! For a while I lived in a town that was over 300 years old (this about that for a minute), and there were streets that were just rows of lovely colonial houses. The real-deal colonial houses. If it has even a possibly that it might mean something, Philadelphia will throw a plaque on it and you cannot tear it down ever. I kind of love that.

Philadelphia has a chip on its shoulder. It's not that it wants to be New York City, but it's so close. It's like that cousin who always did everything better than you and was prettier and married that doctor. Not that there's anything wrong with you, but everyone talks about that cousin. When you live in Philadelphia, you go to New York for stuff, but you resent it. You hate their sports teams.

I can't say Philadelphia is my favorite city or that I'd want to live here again, but I'm excited to see it again. I'm getting a cheesesteak, heading to South Street, and eating too much at the Reading Terminal Market. It's gonna be great!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

So don't you bring me down today

I am wondering about my internal editor today. The phrase "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" wouldn't exist without our internal editor. We've all seen pictures of ourself and been surprised. "That doesn't look like me!" My internal editor has me pegged at about 25 years old; I like my editor.

I can see myself so many different ways. Sometimes I am very happy with what I see; sometimes I need to just walk away. I suppose this is why I put on make-up and have days I change my clothes five times before heading out the door. I don't know why I am so insecure about how I look. I probably care a little too much about it.

We all want to be with people who see us the way we see ourselves on our best days. But, true to my insecurity, I worry that they will stop seeing me as beautiful someday. I don't know why that's a hang-up for me. I don't worry that the people I love will stop seeing me as smart or funny, but I worry about this.

But then I have days like today, when I see so much beauty all around, and I feel the positive thoughts coming to me. I am so grateful for the people who see beauty in me. And I am so thankful for the people who bring their beauty into my life.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Just the way you are

I have a lot of fine qualities, but I'm not stunning. I'm not throwing a pity party here, but the fact is there are incredibly beautiful girls out there and I am not one of them. This is not to say that I don't have my type of beauty. But I am not the girl that is noted for beauty. I have to rely on my other characteristics.

It's different for beautiful girls. I'm talking about the really beautiful ones. The top one or two percent. The ones who men stop to talk to and then buy them drinks, even though they have a whole row of drinks (and men) in front of them. The girls who can throw on a sweater and look better than I look after I try on everything in my closet and spend a half hour trying to get my make-up and hair to behave. The girls that people drift towards for aesthetic reasons.

What must it be like to not have to depend on other parts of yourself? What is it like to be the one people gravitate towards, the one picked out in a crowd? Do they worry about their beauty faltering the way I worry that I might say something stupid? Do they ever wonder what it is like for the rest of us or do they just not notice that people just go to them?

It bothers me when those beautiful girls act like they don't know it. How could they not? Was it always that easy for them? Do they not understand that the rest of us have to rely on being smart or funny or clever to get this sort of attention? Do they miss not being invisible at times?

Maybe it's a good thing. Maybe if I were a beauty, I'd worry about it fading. I'd wonder if someone cared about what I said or what I did. I wouldn't want to be the center of attention. I suppose that you always want what you don't have. But, I must admit, I'd love to try it on for a day or so.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

How do you measure a year?

A couple of years ago, I did a 365 photo project. Although there were some days that I felt I had nothing to shoot, I loved it. If you want to see what I did, go here:
My 365 set

I became a better photographer, I learned to look for pictures around me, I played with my camera and angles, I made friends on-line. After that year, some of us made a half-hearted attempt to try again, but it feel apart. It does take time and commitment, and we all needed a break. We still share photos on-line, but not as regularly. Now that it's been a little while longer, I'm itching to do it again.

This is a call for membership into a 365 group. Here's what it'll require: one and only one picture a day for a year. That's it. We'll post to flickr, so it'll require a flickr account (I have upgraded to pro, so I can dump loads of pictures, but if you're using it on a limited basis, it's free.) For more details about flickr, here's the FAQ:
flickr FAQ

A few other bits: anyone can join (if you have a friend you want to hook up, just contact me), no negative judgment, no penalties for missed days/weeks, any camera will do (in fact, it might be fun to see how far you can push that cell phone). I'd like to start March 1 (February is often not the inspiring month). You can truly do anything: your dog every day, what outfit you're wearing, whatever you please. I tend to do whatever catches my eye, which results in more than my share of sunrises and Murray. (I'll try to be better about that this year, at least with Murray.)

If you are interested, contact me. If I get enough to form a group, I'll set it up on flickr and get you the details. Let's have some fun and play with our cameras!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Breaking Away

I have fun watching television with my parents. They're interactive but not (usually) to the point that you can't follow the show. We rate the commercials, discuss what we would have done to make it better, sell more cars or computers or get them to Target quicker. We loudly state our opinions about this contestant or when someone is acting like an idiot. We watch too much reality television but we don't care.

I grew up in a time when television changed a lot. When I was little, it was three stations; when I was in grade school, we got a few more thanks to the benefit of being close enough to Detroit and Canada to pull those stations in on a good day. Around that time, cable was starting to sneak into the landscape (26 channels! It was amazing! Although we had to manually flip from "A" to "B" to get all the stations. But 26 whole stations!)

Even harder to believe was that we didn't have the ability to record shows. Think about that. Say you miss an episode of your favorite show: you are out of luck. Maybe you could get a friend to give you a summary (no internet either -- the horror!), but otherwise you have to hope you can figure things out the next week or wait for reruns. Yeah, reruns used to have a bit of a use, back in the olden days.

Movies were even more of a challenge. When a movie you wanted to see was on tv, you had to watch it then, because who knows if or when it might appear again. Maybe because they were a bit of an event, but the movies I remember watching on tv the most were the ones I watched with my dad. Some of them he had seen before and he rewatched them with me. These were movies he felt I really needed to see. He laughed with glee at the poker scene in "The Sting"; he saw the first time I cried at a movie (when Tony dies in "West Side Story.")

We also discovered movies together. I'm not sure why we watched "Carrie" as neither of us were fans of horror movies, but I remember how we both jumped about five feet in the air when the hand reached out of the grave at the end. The one I really remember was "Breaking Away." My dad had heard it was good but I was sceptical. Cyclists in Indiana? Whatever, Dad. But, nothing else was on and it was an excuse to stay up late.

If you haven't seen it, you need to. (And I'm going to spoil it, so if you want to be surprised, stop reading now.) It's not flashy, but the story has all the standards: David-vs-Goliath, Rocky-type sports inspiration, us-vs-them, parent-just-don't-understand, haves-vs-have-not, growing-up-is-hard-to-do, stay-in-school-kids -- it's shocking how many little plots they tie together. In case you want to smile (or check out a young Dennis Quaid, shirtless), here's the trailer:
Breaking Away

When my dad and I watched it, we were completely unspoiled as to what was going to happen. We didn't know if things would work out, the twists of the plot took us by surprise. We were just excited that the cutters were allowed to race in the big race with all the college teams, and when Dave made a good show of it but got injured, we were fine. The cutters would put in a good show but not win, but they would be fine. They were all closer and better for the experience, and that was great. But then they won! The cutters won! We couldn't believe it! It was so exciting! We cheered! What a great movie!

I love technology. I love being able to record shows and watch them when I feel like it. I love being able to look up movies and know what happened, and I love being able to watch pretty much any television show or movie whenever I want. But there are times I miss the surprise of a truly undiscovered movie.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Hard to say I'm sorry

Bru and I were just talking about this the other day, that sometimes the best choice is to say that you're sorry and move on. That the better thing to do is fess up, assess the damage, fix what you can, and move on. This had nothing to do with our personal lives but rather apologizing at work.

We've all been there: working on some project when something goes terribly wrong. A forgotten task, a missed deadline, a technological malfunction -- these things happen. And they might happen because someone screwed up. Unfortunately, the current environment in most workplaces is one where the best way to deal with a problem is to cover it up. Deny, deny, deny. Or, even better, see if you can blame someone else.

It's difficult to apologize at work. You are, after all, a professional. The problem is that when no one takes responsibility, the problems often start to multiply. Let's say you forgot to review a key document. You were sent the email but you got it the Friday before a long weekend and by the time you were back at work, that important task has completely slipped your mind. Fast forward to about a week or so later when the original sender sends you a gentle (or not-so-gentle) reminder that you are late with this and that it's completely holding up other people on the project.

There are many ways to handle this: pretend you never got the email; fuss and fume that you are so busy that you couldn't possibly be expected to jump when they ask; ignore the request altogether; blame the sender for not being clear on the request. Turn it into some big deal. Or you can just apologize and do what you can to fix it as soon as possible.

I know a lot of this has to do with your boss or your team. If you have a boss who likes to point fingers and find scapegoats, it's kind of hard to be the one that says, "yeah, it was totally me." However, I would like to think that if you take responsibility, then actually fix it, in the end, you'll be alright.

Sometimes just saying you're sorry lets everyone move on and take care of the problem. Isn't that a better way to go?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Resolution #2 (or is it #4)

I'm not sure if I'll tell you all my resolutions, but I'll tell you about this one. (I've already shared "be playful," "lose weight," and "exercise" so I'm calling this #4.) This is an unusual one: finishing my blog posts.

It started when I was trying to determine how many posts I have here. The dashboard claims I have 343 posts, but if you go to the "Edit Posts" tab, there's a number that are still in "draft" status, so some of those don't actually count. These are ideas that I started but let go, at least for a while. Sometimes I start but the mood isn't there, sometimes I just get pulled away and then return, only to have the idea not speak to me. Some of these posts are almost there, but most are just a sentence or two, waiting for the rest of the words.

This nicely combines another resolution (the "more writing" resolution) and my love for crossing things off a list. Plus, it has the bonus of being a ready-to-go idea on those days when I'm at the computer thinking, "I'd love to write today, but I have no ideas."Of course, now there means there's no excuse.

I'm not sure how many of these unfinished posts are waiting for the final tweak, but I'm hoping they'll inspire me to post here more often.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New year, similar resolutions

It's that time of year, time to change everything, then go back to our old habits. ("No, no, this year will be different!") I know people who are anti-resolution for that very reason, but I'm still a sucker for sitting down and making that list.

I like making resolutions because it is a time to reflect, then dream a bit. Aren't resolutions simply dreams for ourselves? For me, resolutions represent what I hope I am really capable of doing. I don't resolve to write three novels by 2013 (spoiler: not gonna happen), but I can resolve to be more attentive to my writing.

If you've been employed by a big corporation, you know that when you set your goals, you can't just vague it up, but you need to have them measurable and achievable. Right now, I have the vague notions of resolutions in my head but I haven't added the specifics. Do I make it easy so that I can actually achieve my goals or do I make it difficult so that I have to really reach? For example, as always, diet and exercise are on the list. But how strict should the diet be? How much exercise should I commit myself to do? I know, it's not really a test or a contest, but, then again, I'm kind of nuts, so setting goals I can cross off my list might be a good thing for me.

Today, I plan. I head to the grocery store and pick up vegetables instead of cookies. I schedule writing time for the next week or so. I make a list of blog topics and clean my closet. Let's see if I'm still working on all of this by February.