Thursday, November 25, 2010

Color my world

So, the new Harry Potter film is out, have you heard?  (I didn't really write a whole post about how I'm grateful for a Harry Potter film - I mean, I could have, but it would probably be way more interesting to me than to you, so just stick with me here.)

D and I have, over time, become huge fans of the series.  We resisted watching the films initially, tending to dismiss the "sheeple" jumping on the the latest bandwagon.  Then a good friend lent us the first DVD, insisting that we really should give it ago.  And a passion was born.  Over the years, we've done a couple of marathon series of Friday film nights to watch all of the films and we are planning another for over the Christmas holiday.  We won't go see the new film for a while... we may even wait for the DVD - which we have done with every other installment of the series.  But the Biography channel has recently broadcast a thoroughly enjoyable series of documentaries entitled "Creating the World of Harry Potter" which offers a fascinating peek into the process of bringing the books to life.

It was when we were watching a discussion of scoring the film and the evocative impact of a few spare notes in the "Music and Sounds" episode that I was struck by how fortunate I am to live in a world where brilliant, creative people exist with the passion to create works of art for the enjoyment of others.  People who face a blank screen, or sheet of paper or canvas, or roll of film (or camera sensor?) and are compelled to pour a little of themselves into it and share it with the world.  I'm astounded and humbled by the talents others manifest in language, music, film, still images or other media.  Works of art that amuse me, move me and inspire me.  Sure, some people do it for money, but for many the act of creation is its own reward.  They undertake that first effort with no surety that it will come to anything significant financially... rather with a simple creative urge that must be released.

And we are so lucky they do.  How many times have you been brought to tears or laughter by a book, film or blog post?  How many times have you been soothed or compelled to dance by brilliant music?  How many times have you been drawn to an arresting image?  How much bleaker would the world be if we couldn't escape the dullness of simple existence through these works of art from time to time?

So today, before I stuff myself with a feast my dear husband will create for us (another talent I'm supremely grateful for), I am pausing to be thankful for the artists that color my world... including you, my blogging friends.  To morph a turn of phrase from the Discovery channel:  People are just awesome.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Many Blessings

Photo by Little Man
There's nothing quite like posting memories of September 11 and then not writing again for over two months to highlight a blogging lapse.  However, since it's a holiday, I've decided to take some time to count my blessings and get back on the horse with this here bloggy thing.  In light of major upheavals in 2011, I have so many things for which to be thankful and today is an appropriate day to reflect on them.

I haven't been writing because I have been completely caught up in effecting some huge life changes, and writing moved down on the priority list.  Very far down.  I've been preoccupied and lacking inspiration, and I don't have the eloquence of the lovely Leonore, who recently wrote a brilliant post about that exact issue.

At the beginning of this year, D was struggling and I posed a question to the universe as I pondered a course of action.  I grappled with the urge to throw caution to the wind and make a big life change, balanced against the desire to be prudent in a bad economy.  My mental wranglings were compounded by doubts about the stability of my relationship and the potential for regrets about any big decisions made in the face of these issues.

The question:  
Do I leave a good job and a bad house and the comfort of a life where I'm from to follow D into the great unknown?

Then in the spring, my company got acquired and my job was scheduled for elimination.  As I've previously wrote:
I really couldn't have received a clearer answer.  It's like the universe was saying, "So you're not sure whether you should give up your job for the good of your relationship?  Bam, problem solved.  Now go sort it out with your man!"
This is where the blessings start.  You see, we felt couldn't leave the little shack on the prairie without completing the major renovations we had undertaken and left half done.  We needed some time before the big life changes could commence.  I got such a soft landing, because I didn't lose my job - originally scheduled to wrap up in June - until the end of July.  Then I spent three months working as a part-time contractor, mainly from home.  This afforded time to get the renovations underway again while still making an income.

November rolled around, and we had secured a good contractor (that rare commodity!) and progress had resumed on the renovation in earnest.  I had substantially wrapped up work with my old company at the end of October when the blessings continued: I got a call asking if I had interest in going back to assist a company I'd worked with for four years before moving on to a better opportunity in 2008.  My old position was vacated and they were looking for some help while they find a replacement.  I get to work with a few of my favorite people in the world and secure an income for a bit longer.  

That extra bit of money is going to come in handy, because D and I are moving back to the UK to be closer to his family.  This is a huge move.  Although we lived there briefly after our wedding, I'm leaving career security in a city where people frequently call me about job opportunities.  My accounting specialty is valued by the small population of companies that need my skills and my reputation in this town is a good one.  Those skills won't be as applicable in the UK and I'll have to start building a professional network all over again.  Our plan to move there without jobs in a struggling economy could be considered foolhardy.  But D and I are so excited that any career sacrifices are worth it to me.  Looking forward to the move, together, has changed the dynamic in our relationship resulting in a huge improvement.  That is priceless.

Here, the blessings begin to rain down.  Before I was laid off, I spoke to the VP of European operations to see if he could introduce me to people in the UK that might be good contacts as I search for employment.  His words: "I'd like to hire you!" Thus we began discussions about creating a position for me in the UK, though in a different function that will require some growth and expansion in my skill set.  There were budget constraints to overcome and it has taken some time for matters to progress.  All signs are go, and I'm now waiting for the final offer letter and the start date to be determined. If it all comes together, it looks like we will be moving very early in the new year.

Ah, but the house... we are still a couple of weeks away from putting it on the market, and a very poor market it is.  However, I have this optimistic conviction that if we can just get it listed, things will simply work out.  Everything else has.  This house will turn out to be a spectacularly bad financial investment - we will have lost a substantial amount of our life savings on it.  But you know what?  I don't care.  We are so very fortunate that we can get out of it without having to resort to a short sale or foreclosure.  That is a blessing too.

Looking back to the beginning of the year when I knew this change needed to be made, but was hesitant to take the actions to accomplish it - I can hardly believe how fortunate I am.  In part, you make your own luck.  We are in this position because I have been a dedicated employee and because we took on the purchase and renovation of the house with fiscal prudence - well, as much prudence as possible when you pay top dollar in an overheated market, invest a ton of money into renovations and then sell after a 20% drop in real estate prices.

But bad things happen to good people all the time, no matter how much one tries to "create your luck."  So I know that I am also very, very lucky that things have worked out this way.'s a word I generally hesitate to use, because it reminds me that I can't control everything with the simple force of my will.  But lucky I am - pure and simple - and I'm going to own that admission for a while.  2011 has been a tough year - one that has forced me into some big decisions that needed to be made.  That is yet another blessing.  2012 will present its own set of challenges, but because I can count so many blessings, I'm facing the world with a grin I can barely wipe off my face.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Great Internet Bangs Smackdown of 2010

For most of my childhood, my mother insisted on styling my hair based on the firmly rooted tenet that I should be wearing bangs because I suffer from five-head.  Bless her, she never actually used that term, but I was painfully aware of my high forehead and therefore I wore bangs all the way through high school.

I had a love-hate relationship with my bangs, and with my baby fine super straight hair in general.  As a child, the bangs were the blunt-bowl-cut-straight-across-the-forehead variety.  Then in seventh grade I became the proud owner of a curling iron and I would curl those suckers and spray them up within an inch of their life.  Then there were the unfortunate perm years.  Oh the frizz, the shameful, shameful frizz.

Anyway, when I grew into adulthood, I let go of my five-head insecurities, grew out the bangs and thought little of it for a while.

However, recently I felt a tug to change my hair, which I've been wearing pretty much exactly the same way for damn near ever.  I won't dye it because I don't want to mess with the striking blond color - my hair's best feature.  I've worn it in short layers - hated that.  I've worn it long, but it tends to suffer under its own fine, tangled weight.  And recent consternation with forehead wrinkles, which I can indubitably attribute to a severe sunburn sustained on a 4-day houseboat trip on Lake Shasta when I was 25, led me to the conclusion that I should try wearing bangs again.

I did this once before, about 5 years ago, and the husband?  He hated it.  At the time, I was wearing them in a "fringe" (the British word for bangs) straight across.  This go round, I showed my stylist a picture of Reese Witherspoon's sideswept bangs and hoped they'd meet with the approval of the husband.

The response was lukewarm - but that's far better than before.  And to his credit, regardless of what he thinks of my hair he is quick to assure me that it's what I think that matters.  I think I like it, but I dipped my toe ever so gently into the water, with the bangs cut long so that I can quickly revert to my old boring style if need be.

So internets, help a girl out.  Don't sit on the fence, people.  Get out the vote and let me know what you think.

Before (passport mug shot, excuse the harsh lighting)
Leave a comment and let me know - should I go all in on the bangs?

A) No way.  D's right, what were you thinking?
B) For defs - this is a much better look.
C) OMG - get over yourself - nobody cares!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's your language; use it

I am inspired by this today... I could write for decades and never come close to such an indulgently sensuous use of words... but that doesn't mean I shouldn't try.

Stephen Fry, on language:

"So if you’ve got it, use it. Don’t be afraid of it, don’t believe it belongs to anyone else, don’t let anyone bully you into believing that there are rules and secrets of grammar and verbal deployment that you are not privy to... Just let the words fly from your lips and your pen. Give them rhythm and depth and height and silliness. Give them filth and form and noble stupidity. Words are free and all words, light and frothy, firm and sculpted as they may be, bear the history of their passage from lip to lip over thousands of years. How they feel to us now tells us whole stories of our ancestors." 

I was tipped off to Stephen Frye's whole essay, Don't Mind Your Language, along with Matthew Roger's mesmerizing kinetic video excerpt of that essay by the good folks at Lifehacker, who this week are writing about... writing.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Falling back

I love daylight savings time.  In fact, I think we should be on daylight savings time all year round.  Then, of course, it wouldn't actually be daylight savings time, it would just be "picking up our country and moving it one step to the right on the global time zone map." (Take that Greenwich Mean Time!)

I hate, hate, hate losing an hour of sleep in the spring.  And all the parents I know with infants or young children can't stand "gaining an hour" in the fall because children don't know they are supposed to wake up an hour later on their circadian bio-clock.

But I was struck today that, due to the ubiquitous nature of clocks linked to "the grid," I've all but lost a time-honored tradition in Keenie-Beanieland.  You see, I am a godless heathen who doesn't go to church on Sunday - and indeed, rarely makes a date for that lovely, lazy day of the week.  Even though I am godless, I take that "day of rest" commandment thing pretty damn seriously.

So in the good old days, I would wake up and trundle through my lazy Sunday blissfully unaware of the time change until the evening, when I might turn on the television and notice that my favorite show wasn't going to be starting for another hour.

And friends, this is a priceless gift, because just as I was starting to wind down the weekend and bemoan the fact that I had to be at work the next morning, I was handed another whole precious weekend hour.  How cool is that?  I would go around the house resetting all the clocks an hour back and revel in the found time.

That is way better than getting an extra hour of sleep.  My unconscious self has no appreciation for the gift.

But now on "fall back day," I wake up and check the time on my automatically-synchronized atomic alarm clock - mildly pleased that I seem to feel a little less sleepy than I usually might at this hour of the morning. I turn on the DVR whose clock has been updated by its satellite tether, note the (naturally) accurate time on the morning news, check messages on the smartphone with a clock reset by those clever folks at T-mobile, and fire up the laptop that somehow knows what time it is before I even connect to the net.  As it happens, the only clock I need to reset is the watch that I rarely consult anyway and apparently wear primarily for decoration, and only on weekdays at that.  I usually figure out the watch is wrong sometime around the middle of Monday, which if anything, makes me feel like I have to spend an extra hour in the office.

So as far as I'm concerned, I haven't gained anything.  Where is my precious found hour?  Sometimes technology is too smart for its own good.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Not so good at the details...

So I went to a dermatologist on Monday because I've had this bit of contact dermatitis on the side of my hand for like, six months.  It isn't really all that big of a deal.  But after so many months of not being right, it had got to the point where it didn't feel like hand skin anymore... more like those calloused bits on the edge of one's feet.

I finally didn't want to have foot skin on my hand any more so I sucked it up and booked an appointment with a dermatologist.  I've never been before.  I felt kind of dumb going in with this eensy little problem, but I started to think, "what if this never gets better and now my hand is just like this for the rest of my life?!  And then it didn't seem like an eensy problem anymore - we're talking about the rest of my life, people!

Anyway, I went in with this little problem on my hand and when the nurse took my blood pressure, she handed me a gown and told me, "the doctor does a full body scan for skin cancer on all new patients so please disrobe and put this on over your underwear."

Um... you mean the raggedy ones I pulled out of the drawer in the dark so as not to disturb the sleeping husband this morning?  Practically the only ones left in said drawer because I hadn't gotten around to doing the laundry for a disturbing couple of weeks? Those underwear?

But it gets better, because I am so severely blond and my hair is so fine that I can get away with being, shall we say, a little cavalier about shaving my legs in the colder months.  So not only am I wearing grim underwear, but I'm sporting Sasquatch legs too.

And I only remember about the scraggly remains of a weeks-old pedicure clinging forlornly to my toes as I'm sat there fidgeting nervously waiting for the doctor to knock on the door.  Dammit.

So I don't know whether to be relieved or dismayed when a medical student (it's a teaching hospital) steps into the room instead of the doctor and indicates that she'll be doing the exam.  Because she is adorable.  I bet her adorable little toes are sporting a perfect pedicure.  And we know how perfectly put-together women make me feel.

After quizzing me on my sunscreen habits (which are exemplary) and doing the full-body scan, including peeking between my pathetically manicured toes at the end of my furry legs, she says - "How old are you?" and I tell her, and she says, "You have taken very good care of your skin!"

So - lingerie, pedicure, de-fuzzing? Epic fail.  But minimizing sun damage: Aced it!

And she didn't give me permission, but you can be damn sure I had my clothes back on the very instant she walked out of the room to get the doctor.  Because there's only so much humiliation one can take in a day.