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Too Fabulous


Ah, Nebraska in January! As much as I try to deny that it’s winter, sometimes it just slaps me in face with five inches of snow, twenty-five mile per hour winds, and a super balmy temperature of five degrees. It’s days like today that I feel like I’ve made some poor winter wardrobe decisions. Instead of the svelte black leather jacket, I should have opted for something that would make me resemble a walking marshmallow. Instead of the virtually tractionless leather riding boots with the cute buckles that make a satisfying clicking noise as I walk, I should have gotten galoshes. This became incredibly evident as I attempted to dig my driveway out this evening. I’m sure the neighbors got a good show as I slipped and slid around behind the snow blower in my less than practical ensemble.

By the time my driveway was finally clear, my jeans were soaked through. My cateye glasses were encrusted with frost and my nose and ears matched my scarlet scarf. In a weird way, this is somewhat uplifting. Even as I’m mucking about sans makeup with my hair a mess, this experience makes me feel like I just may be a little too fabulous for my own good.

A Beautiful Mess


I had a realization today.

I realized that I am in love with process. Most people start a process to create a product. It’s the end that everyone is looking for and the process is the means to an end. Endings are so often disappointing.

I had lunch with a friend that I haven’t seen in a long time. It’s one of those friendships where we can go for years without seeing each other, but conversation flows like we had never been apart. Anyway, somewhere in this conversation, we realized that a lot of people in our lives have hit this point where they’re suddenly dropping their current occupations, reevaluating priorities, and trying to figure out what it is they want to do, really. As we have fallen into our mid-twenties, we have a much better grip on reality and our personal values. We’re still just not sure what we really want.

T and I met freshmen year in the art department. At that time, I mostly wore black and thought I was going to be some kind of super famous artist and save the world. I also thought I would graduate in four years. Ha! We reveled in making messes. We wore our graphite smudges and paint spatters like badges of honor as we galavanted about campus. It was silly and it was glorious. Now, a little older and slightly wiser, we’re still searching for what we really want to do. We have both shifted our dreams from conquering the world to just wanting a small piece of it to call our own. I don’t have to conquer the whole world, I just have to conquer my world.

I realized I was missing my process. That’s what my creative work is missing lately. There is a process to it now: get assignment, meet, research, plan, sketch it out, put it together, cuss at my computer, revise, revise, revise. It’s not my process yet. This process doesn’t leave charcoal smudges on my face or stain my clothing. There’s no smell of color pencil or dizzying paint fumes. There’s to texture of canvas beneath my fingertips. There’s no instructor looking at the class sternly as he lists off the various chemicals in a cabinet and the multiple ways they could kill you if they are misused. Everything is smooth and sleek and clean. There is a pane of glass between me and my work. The element of danger comes in the form of touchy clients, deadlines, and software crashes.

What I value in life is the mess, the utter chaos of it all. I need to learn how to make design dirty and dangerous. I need some ink on my face and blood on my print. It’s this exchange that makes the art breathe for me, lets me bend the canvas to my will (most of the time). Love. Friendship. Food. Sex. Art. It’s all the good things in life that are messy.

 

Halloween Is Better Than Christmas. (C’mon You Know I’m RIght!)


Last weekend I stopped by Target for some last-minute Halloween shopping. As I made my way back to the seasonal section, I was horrified by what I found. Halloween had been hastily condensed down to two aisles. Costumes and decorations had been hastily packed haphazardly on the shelves. My poor Halloween! What happened to you?

Then I saw it, in all of it’s glittery, consumer-driven glory: Christmas! Christmas had muscled it’s way into Halloween’s territory, nearly driving it to extinction. I had been lulled into a false sense of comfort by the gorgeous fall weather, the uncrowded stores, the contemporary pop music playing everywhere I go. I knew you’d be back Christmas, but I didn’t think we would meet again so soon. I have only just recovered from the trauma of last year. I’m beginning to see trees and tinsel everywhere. Tomorrow, November 1, some local radio stations are turning over to all Christmas music all the time. I’m seeing ads featuring a fat man in red ominously reminding me that there aren’t many shopping days left. I need to hurry up and spend my money!

Wait a minute. It’s only October, right? Aren’t we skipping a few holidays?

I thought so. So I’ve decided to stand up and be a champion for the best holiday ever: Halloween. So here goes, a list of reasons why Halloween is the best:

1. Christmas is the bully of holidays.

Christmas is big and flashy. It really doesn’t share the spotlight well. Christmas starts to sneak into our lives as early as September. It is known for invading other holidays’ territory and muscling them out of the way. Shame on you, Christmas! You have your own month. Go back to December and stay there. Wait your turn and let the other holidays have their fun. Christmas even forces retail workers away from their families on Thanksgiving for Black Friday ridiculousness.

2. Halloween is in the fall.

I realize the living in the Midwest doesn’t guarantee me idyllic fall weather. It could be in the 70 and sunny, or there could be a foot of snow on the ground. However, more often than not, fall is awesome. Halloween has golden trees, bonfires, hoodies, pumpkin patches, and hayrack rides. Christmas has sub-zero temperatures, blizzards, trying to get to relatives’ houses in hazardous driving conditions, trying to put lights on your icy roof, frostbite, and general freezing-your-ass-off-dom.

3.Black Friday.

People lining up outside stores in order to trample each other to death for a Tickle Me Elmo. Because of this, Christmas certainly beats Halloween in the scary factor. People don’t kill each other over a piece of junk for Halloween.

4. The clothes are better. 

Sexy Pirate Costume vs. Ugly Reindeer Sweater. Is there even a contest?

5. Jack-O-Lanterns.

The only thing you get to carve for Christmas is maybe a turkey. That’s not nearly as awesome.

6. Makeup.

Halloween is THE holiday for makeup geeks like myself. It’s the one day of the year you can go as crazy as you want with your makeup, go out in public, and get compliments. I love it!

7. The music is better.

Yes, I know, everyone loves Christmas music, right? Wrong! Retail workers are forced to listen to the same crappy songs over and over again from now until about February. By the end of the season, we are jingle belled and pa-rum-pa-pum-pummed to death. I would rather listen to Werewolves of London and Monster Mash.

8. No Gifts.

Call me unAmerican, but I think Christmas would be so much better without the gifts. I hate the idea of a day where you are forced to give and receive gifts…OR ELSE! I’m a random-gifter. I like to buy things for people when I find things that make me think of them. I hate roaming the stores agonizing over what to get people. I hate shopping in general. I’ve also started dreading getting gifts. I dread finding a place for all of the knick-knacks I will receive and asking for the receipts for the clothing that doesn’t fit or is not at all my style in a way that won’t hurt the gifter’s feelings.

9. Nobody gets angry with you for “accidentally” missing church.

Grandma never gives me an earfull for not going to church on Halloween.

10. The parties are better.

Christmas parties are generally, as a rule, awkward family and/or office events. Halloween parties are generally wild, drunken events with your friends.

11. Nobody yells at you for wishing/not wishing them a happy Halloween.

The whole Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays debacle has been a major problem my entire retail career. Merry Christmas. You’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t. Technically you’re no supposed to wish anyone a merry Christmas while on the job, but lots of times, if you wish someone the more PC Happy Holidays, you’ll get your head ripped off. “IT”S MERRY CHRISTMAS GODDAMMIT!!!”

So yeah, eleven reasons why Halloween kicks Christmas’s ass. I’m sure I could keep going with this, but I should probably wrap it up. Team Halloween, feel free to add to my list. Team Christmas, you’re welcome to try to change my mind. I enjoy a good argument.

The Wandering I


 

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

I have this idea for a screenplay. It would have a romantic comedy-esque plot line about a young woman who was afraid of commitment, career commitment. She would go through several random career paths and eventually dump them before they could begin to have a more permanent place in her life. The young woman would get bored too quickly, or the job would not turn out to be what it had been when she was first courting it. Nice jobs can seem to turn nasty out of nowhere. She wonders how she got herself into such a predicament. Ever optimistic, she gets out and moves on to another career path. She hopes this time, it will be The One.

She often fantasizes about The One. She dreams of something that will make her rich and fulfill her in every way. Ideally, as romantic comedies go, something will make her realize that she’s been blinded by her impossible expectations. This realization will then lead to the discovery that The One has been waiting right under her nose the whole time. She lives happily ever after, or at least something close to that.

That’s how I hope it ends. Because this movie is based on actual events, I don’t really know how it will turn out. I’ll just have to wait and see.

When I was little, I would have loved school if it wasn’t for all of the group projects, PE, and recess. I know this sounds weird, but it’s true. I’ve always loved learning. Discovering new things was always much more fun to me than running around, trying not to get bashed in the head with a rubber ball. This is what makes me weird. I will read anything on everything, but it’s the unusual stuff that intrigues me the most. I spent my summer reading books on neuroscience and the history of the beauty industry.I am interested in too many dissimilar things. That’s why I just can’t figure out what to do with my life. If I could get paid to just read, take lots of random classes, and learn random stuff, I would have been happily settled into a career already.

Unfortunately, I don’t get paid to learn stuff. It can actually be very expensive to learn stuff. So, I have to eventually settle on something to focus all of my interest on. I am roughly one semester away from finishing my BFA in graphic design. It has taken me a long time to get to this point. Let’s just say that I’ve wandered a lot. I started my college career as a Studio Arts major who dabbled in theatre, creative writing, psychology, and sociology. I eventually switched to digital media, then back to theatre. At this point, I became frustrated because I realized that I wasn’t really learning anything that would make me employable. I was tired of people thinking I spent my days coloring, so I decided to indulge my scientific side. I enrolled in an occupational therapy program. I loved the anatomy and psychology aspect of the curriculum, but I become cranky and miserable if I have no time to let my creative side out to play, so back to art school. I decided to study graphic design because it was creative and practical. I am still more than a little dubious about working in a cubicle in front of a computer for the rest of my life. My creativity is strongly limited by time, budget, my client’s tastes, and my ability to make the computer do what I want it to.  I find it incredibly difficult to make my computer cooperate. I spend a lot of time convincing myself that dropkicking my laptop across the room is a bad idea. People still think I sit at my desk coloring all day.

As I keep getting eerily close to graduation, I find myself wondering what’s next? I’m pretty sick of school but…

Since preschool, life has been scripted. Preschool to Kindergarten, Kindergarten to elementary school, to middle school, to high school, to college. I went to college because I was expected to. I didn’t really know what I wanted out of life at 18 so I just charged ahead blindly. It eventually became my quest to obtain a degree before I hit 30. At 27, I’ll have just barely made it. Nobody tells you what to do after that. There’s no clearly defined path. I could continue my education, or study something different. I could start job hunting, I could start a business of my own. I could start a family. I’m baffled by the possibility.

I don’t regret all of the wandering. I’m sure that all of the major and job changes have made more than a few people think I’m crazy. I have taken something valuable away from each experience. Maybe every class and odd job have been stepping stones to where I’m supposed to eventually land. Maybe I’ll wake up some day like the girl in the romantic comedy and find everything I’ve been looking for has just been quietly waiting for me discover it. If nothing else, at least all of the random experiences make for good stories. I keep telling myself that someday I’ll write a book about my journey. I would just like to know how the story ends.

 

Bricks, Mortar, Paper, Ink


 

I have this not so secret dream of owning a bookstore someday. When I’m overly stressed or have an idle moment, I often daydream about my bookstore. I stroll around the low, sturdy, dark wooden shelves in my mind. They’re a little battered and they are heavily-laden with well-loved paperbacks. The walls are colorful; each one painted in a different comforting hue: blues, purples, maybe a splash of red here and there. On these walls would be paintings from local artists. I like to support the art community when I can. I imagine worn wooden floors strewn with mismatched oriental rugs and cozy leather armchairs lining the walls. My patrons would lounge with their new adventure in hand. I want more than just a coffee bar in my shop. I want to team up with a baker that would make fresh pastries each morning and I want a liquor license because nothing goes with a comfy chair and a good book like a nice glass of wine. When one enters my shop, they are immediately welcomed with the scent of paper, ink, fresh coffee, and baked goods. It will be a little slice of bookish heaven.

I realize a bricks and mortar bookstore would probably be a poor investment in today’s climate. More bookstores are closing down than opening these days. Online shopping and eReaders are starting to take the place of good, old fashioned browsing. But it’s just not the same. There’s something special about visiting a bookstore, especially when you don’t really know what you’re looking for. You can slowly walk up and down the aisles for hours, letting your fingers caress the colorful paper spines until something calls out to you. Until you find The One. You know the feeling, it’s like a little electrical charge. Something inexplicable draws you to that one book sitting patiently among the other thousands. I have to pick it up and feel it’s weight in my hand. I carefully examine the front cover, then the back. Lastly, I open to the first page and read. If the first page gives me goosebumps, I know that, for better or worse, the lives of these new character and mine will forever be linked. I will know their loves and their vices, their dreams and their failures. I will know them better than I know members of my own family.  I will carry them with me forever in my imagination, long after the last page is turned. Few relationships are as intimate as this.

I have to choose my literary companions wisely. This takes time. I’ve had my process for years. I can’t even remember when it started. When I was little, I used to crave going to the bookstore and the library. My parents would dread these outings because I could never just pick one. The very thought struck me as horrifying. I had to carefully comb the shelves for intriguing titles, I had to approve of the cover art, I needed to read the back cover, I had to know for certain that this story would grab hold of me and hold me under it’s spell until the last sentence. I was always shocked that so few people really understood this. One cannot simply walk up to a bookcase and just pick one. That’s just crazy.

At this young age, I promised myself that I would work in a bookstore someday. It struck me as the most magical kind of job. While most kids were wanting to be doctors and firefighters, I was aspiring to work specialty retail. Story of my life, really. At eighteen I got my first bookstore gig. I had no idea that I would still be a bookseller nearly seven years later. It was much less glamorous than I had imagined. I had only thought of being surrounded by my beloved books and book people. I didn’t realize that I would be spending so much time wrangling the typical array of mixed nuts that a bookstore attracts. Nor did I realize I would be monitoring people as they made their adult movie selections or fetching an alarming amount of used porn out of the restrooms. Yet, the job was still magical in a way. It had to have been to keep me in the business for so long. As much as it aggravated me some days, I miss it terribly now.

The people who work in bookstores are a rare breed. My coworkers consisted of an odd mix of artistic types and academics, all brought together by a shared love of the written word, music, and caffeine. We all tended to have a twisted sense of humor. I’m still not sure if this is purely coincidence or if the environment itself just collectively warped our brains. You can’t scare me, I work in a bookstore. In this group, I never really felt like a nerd. Nerddom was praised and encouraged. The bookstore was a shelter for us. I’m fairly certain that a vast majority of my Facebook friends are bookstore people. I can’t even set foot in a major local bookstore without knowing at least one person. It’s like we’ve got our own little secret society. I guess it’s kind of weird if you think about it. What will happen to the book people if our stores are shut down? I know that I don’t fare well in other retail jobs. I’ve tried. They never lasted.

While online shopping is convenient, there is nothing magical in it. You need to know exactly what you are looking for and the virtual book world is dominated by bestseller lists. I don’t generally like book recommendations. Reading shouldn’t be a popularity contest. Just wander into an actual bookstore someday and open yourself up to the books. Let a small gem quietly introduce itself to you. Give it a chance. You may just find your new best friend. You may also give my imaginary bookstore a chance to come to life.

 

No Pants, No Cry


 

Whenever I wear a dress, people always ask me why I decided to dress up. They need to know the exact occasion that causes me to don something cute and flowy. While I would like to respond, “Darling, I’m going to the ball!” the real occasion is more like, “Darling, I’m going to the grocery store!” I don’t lead a glamorous life. I just enjoy wearing dresses almost exclusively when the weather permits. The main reason that I choose to wear a dress is that I just don’t feel like putting on pants that day.

Yeah, sad but true.

I find pants uncomfortable and extremely bothersome. Unless they are pajama pants. Most pants tend to chafe and waistbands and buttons dig into the belly. The biggest offender, jeans, seem to get some sort of wicked glee out of making me self-consious. They squash any spare flesh that one may have up and out until one’s once-cute top now looks like you are using it to conceal the kiddie floatation device you may have gotten stuck around your middle. At least, this is the effect jeans have on me. I’m over six feet tall and have a curvy frame. If you want to ruin my day, take me shopping for pants. In most stores, the only options seem to be skinny, extra skinny, low waist, extra low waist, and the mom jean. Forget tall sizes. So our only options become: Do I expose my barely covered posterior to the world or do I button my pants over my rib cage and make said posterior look even larger? Hmmm, decisions, decisions…

Utilikilt Man!!!

That is why I love the dress. From a fancier style of the structured bodice with an A-line skirt to a graphic T paired with a long, comfy maxi skirt, dresses are by far more comfortable and flattering than jeans. It’s true. Just try it. Men, I must say that I’m a bit surprised that kilts have never caught on. Just imagine a nice breeze and a lack of zippers. Where do you store your keys and billfold? In the utili-kilt, of course. After all, skirts with pockets are the best. Just try to avoid the “Marilyn moment” please and pay attention to how you sit. A little mystery is a good thing.

There are really only two occasions I can think of where choosing pants would be the better option: Very windy days and winter days when there is a foot of snow on the ground. Even then, I hesitate. I may need to leave Nebraska for somewhere more temperate so I can finally have my ideal wardrobe. C’mon Hubby, let’s go!

 

In the Company of Chefs


In his book Kitchen ConfidentialAnthony Bourdain described working in the kitchen like

being on a pirate crew. Chefs are a bit of a rough and tumble crowd. They spend their lives playing with knives and fire. Their busiest work hours occur when the rest of the world finally settles down. They spend hours in cramped conditions while fires, tempers, and egos flare. When their shift is finally over, once the final beer has been emptied, they return home weary with fresh battle scars on their hands.

The shiny, clean, non-potty mouthed versions of chefs portrayed on food network seem a bit disturbing to me. Real world chefs are more Bourdain and Gordon Ramsey than Rachel Ray. Pixar‘s Ratatouille did a better job of portraying your common kitchen characters than the Food Network really does. You know the guy who supposedly killed a person using only his thumb? Those are my kind of guys. In a bit of a side note, Pixar actually consulted with Chef Thomas Keller of The French Laundry during their production. Thomas Keller is one of the top chefs in the country right now and I would love to eat in his restaurant someday. Ratatouille’s legit. Ahem. Anyway, I’m not a chef, so how do I know about their wily ways? I’m married to one, and therefore married into the pirate crew.

I generally get the same reaction from all women when I tell them that my husband is a chef. They sigh and become extremely jealous exclaiming, “Oh my God! You’re so lucky!” I’m sure they all have this picture in their mind of coming home from a long day of work and finding Fabio in chef whites (hair still blowing alluringly in the wind somehow). He lays out a gorgeous gourmet meal for two, complete with candlelight and flowers with some sexy mood music playing softly in the background. I have to admit that there is something incredibly sexy about a man who can cook and my hubby does look pretty amazing in his whites, but the whole Fabio scenario is far from the reality. We actually eat a lot of Chinese takeout.

I have the good fortune to be married to a romantic. He does give me those lavish gourmet dinners when we have time and when we

My Chef, Jeff

can afford those kinds of groceries. What the chef groupies don’t understand, is that chefs have a very rough schedule. They work long hours over nights, weekends, and holidays. We have to celebrate Valentine’s Day a few days before or after because a chef would be laughed out of the kitchen if he tried to take that, the busiest of restaurant nights off. Chef groupies don’t imagine soothing burned hands and patching up cuts. I actually had to fetch half of my husband’s finger off of a mandolin slicer once. I’m scarred for life.

The best part of being in the company of culinarians is the adventure. We vacation with our stomachs. We are always seeking out new restaurants to visit and new and strange foods to try. Going to dinner with a group of chefs is a unique experience. The menu and our choices are thoroughly discussed before we even talk to the server.

No one will order the same thing off of the menu. When we receive our food, a communion of sharing and tasting dishes commences. We pass our plates around, and if something is exceptionally good, there is much shouting and elation. We have terrible table manners and the restaurant people either seem to love us or hate us. I guess it’s a good thing that the culinary community is a small, tight- knit network. All of the local chefs seem to know each other, so our antics are generally well-tolerated and even appreciated at times.

So, do you still want a chef in your life? Here’s my advice:

1. Be open to new experiences.
2. Do NOT be a picky eater. I’m not much of a veggie fan, but I am willing to try brains, so it works.
3. Leave you prudeness at the door. Cuss words will fly and massively inappropriate conversations will be had. You’re on a pirate crew now, remember?
4. Stop caring about things like Valentine’s Day. Know he loves you and don’t make him feel bad about not being with you on that particular “holiday.”
5. Get over any blood aversions. You’re a nurse now!
6. Cook for him once in a while. He’ll appreciate it, even if it’s just mac & cheese.

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