Friday, April 27, 2012

Glen Campbell, kindness and other musings...

It's anyone's guess where this blog post will go.  My head and heart are feeling a little mixed up these days.  Annoying female emotions have ridden dangerously close to the surface from time to time the past few weeks (And guys, don't you dare say in that smug tone "it must be that time of the month", because it's not.  And gals, no, I'm not pregnant.), to the point where I broke down in front of my parents this past weekend over something that really wasn't worth the effort. 

I don't really know why.  Actually, that's not true, I know exactly why.  It's the reason I didn't pursue a career in international studies (my major in undergrad); politics.

Politics has always tied me in knots.  Other than boys and job interviews, nothing else can keep me on edge or awake at night quite like it.  Trust me, I wish I could rid myself of this; it's annoying and pretty inconvenient.  But I can't seem to turn off the part of me that frets about how I can love and respect people so much, and we can disagree so dramatically on certain issues.  Or that there are so many people on both sides of the aisle who actively and aggressively dislike those on "the other side." It makes my stomach hurt a little, which is foolish.  But there it is.

Perhaps that's why an email turned me into a blubbering kid again in front of my shocked parents (who responded as only parents can, with steadfast support, love and housecleaning.  My fridge and windows have never been so clean).  Or why, while listening to Glen Campbell sing to a packed house tonight, I found myself getting teary-eyed.

This, dear friends, is really silly.  I'm not a Glen Campbell fan.  Oh, I'm not anti-Glen Campbell, I just didn't listen to him growing up.  I know Rhinestone Cowboy, and I know he's a legend, which was all I needed to determine that I wasn't going to miss a chance to see him, but I wouldn't call myself a fan.    

Mr. Campbell, an Arkansas native son who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease, walked onto the stage to a swell of applause and an audience that rose to it's feet immediately.  It was an older crowd; other than a handful of kids, I was one of the younger audience members.  But unlike most older crowds, it was a lively one, whooping, cheering, jumping to standing ovations at least 3 times.

Usually, when I don't know the music I'm hearing, I'm bored.  Tonight, though, I was carried off on a wave of something special; I loved every song I heard.  Mr. Campbell was animated, sang well and pretty much rocked his guitar solos (in my humble opinion), and though he lost his way from time to time (his daughter had to remind him what key he was playing in once or twice), there was a lot of love on that stage, and in the audience.

The fact that we all age was front and center tonight.  I know that's at the heart of the emotions I felt, as I reflected on the great visit I just had with my parents. I took them into the Ozark woods and made them hike some steep hills, only realizing about halfway up that maybe we should have taken an easier path.  Luckily, they are in pretty good shape and took to the hills with gusto, but it was still a sobering thought. Mr. Campbell is the victim of a disease that touches a lot of people today, some of whom I know personally, and it was both heart-wrenching and heart-warming to see his family and the audience embrace and support him.  From reading reviews, I gather this was a good night for him; some haven't been so good.  It's a brave and wonderful thing he and his family are doing.

Earlier today I listened to a blogger talk about how she makes a concerted effort not to blog anything mean.  She tries to think of kindness in everything she writes.  Mr. Campbell mentioned this at one point before singing about it, and then he dropped this quote on us (paraphrased):

"I'm continually amazed at how, when I come out on stage, you all give such wonderful support to me and my family."

And I guess that's it.  What makes me sad and happy at the same time.  Sad because there's a lot of unkindness out there, and no one political party or group holds the exclusive rights to it.  Happy because there's also a lot of love.  Naively, idealistically, I hope the latter wins out. It certainly did tonight.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The hidden message in the bookshelf

If you're like me (ie, more than a little weird and introspective), you've probably spent some time thinking about the books on your bookshelves.  Actually, if you've ever pondered buying a coffee table book just because you think it will look impressive on your coffee table, we're more kindred of spirit than you'd probably be comfortable with. However, I think it's safe to say that my introspection (or obsession, for the more judgmental among you) with my books goes a little deeper. For example, I used to keep a copy of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables (Unabridged) hanging around, just so I could answer pompously "why yes, I have" when asked if I'd read it.  

I love books.  Or I guess, to be fair, I love to read.  I like books.  If I truly LOVED books, I wouldn't have a Kindle.  But that's a blog entry for another time.

But what I do love about books is how they look.  They're aesthetically pleasing, or most of them are.  All those colors and typefaces on the spines, lined up so neatly one next to the other, but often, at least in my bookcase, different sizes and heights.  They are a bitch to haul around when you're moving, and once you've gotten a Kindle, there's that whole moral dilemma about which books to buy in digital form and which to buy in real book form, but they add character and dimension to a room.  And, they offer a little insight into the psyche of their owner, if you care to look.

The bookshelf across from me, right now, for example, has a clear method to it's madness.  On the top shelf?  Books I have read that make me look intellectually curious. Stuff like Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat, investment books, the much-maligned Three Cups of Tea.  What probably distinguishes these books is the lack of memory I have for most of them.  So much for intellectual curiosity.

Next shelf, speaking of bragging about intellectualism, my diplomas from Colby and UW Madison.  And a few yearbooks, and a couple of anthologies, my graduate thesis and a research report I helped create.  Sensing a trend?  Yes, I really want you to think I'm smart.

Moving on, we have the "I want you to think I'm a theater person" shelf, featuring probably about 50 scripts or books of plays, scrupulously arranged by order of the author.  Also a couple of musical scores thrown in there.  This shelf makes me a little gloomy, because I was in many of those plays and sang most of those scores a long time ago.  Now though, I say things like "I used to be an actor/singer."  How depressing.  Let's move on.

The next shelf reveals my somewhat embarrassing love for youth fiction.  This is where the Harry Potter, Twilight and the House of Night series live, along with a few dog-eared copies of books I actually read when I was a youth, like Shel Silverstein and Island of the Blue Dolphins.  The Hunger Games Book 1 lives here (books 2 and 3 are on the Kindle as is an entire series of really fun books about "bird-kids" by thriller writer James Patterson).

Below this is my sci-fi/fantasy shelf.  Robert Jordan, Tolkien, books about dragons...yep, I admit it.  I'm a geek.   I've also read all of the Game of Thrones and Outlander books, but these are on my Kindle, too.  I'd display them if I could. Proudly.

And hiding on the bottom is the first of many shelves of my extensive romance novel collection.  These spill over into the other bookcase, and I'm sure it expresses some lack of self-confidence that I hide these books on the bottom shelf.  After all, it's not very intellectual to admit that you love Nora Roberts or Sandra Brown, but I do. THIS is where having a Kindle is a bonus; it's super easy to buy trashy novels on the Kindle, and no one needs to see them but you. 

In my other bookcase I have what I call "random fiction"; the various John Grisham, Jodi Picoult, Tom Clancy and assorted "literatures" like A Prayer for Owen Meany or Lonesome Dove (you know, those books that your smart friends tell you you'll be sure to LOVE).   I've yet to find the deeper meaning hidden on these shelves.

The shelves I'm obsessing about these days, however, are the ones full of books I haven't read.  There are dozens of them.  I'm trying to convince myself not to buy any more books until I've read them, but yeesh.  That's going to be tough.  Because, to be honest, I'm not sure I actually want to read a full tome of nature poetry given to me by a colleague, or the rantings of a conservative author that my dad happened to leave in the guest room.  Honestly, I just bought that Malcolm Gladwell book because it made me feel trendy, and I have no desire to read a highly-recommended "moving" story about immigration that will just make me depressed and guilt-stricken.  I'm currently reading The Inside of a Dog, which is at least practical to my life, and I have been trying for three years to finish Seth Godin's The Purple Cow, which I have an entry in, for Pete's sake!  Clearly, I'm not as intellectual as my other bookshelves would have you believe.

Even with all these great books just dying to be read, I just downloaded the 2nd of Stephen King's Dark Tower books onto my Kindle.  I think this means I'm not destined to be a great thinker or thought leader, because for all the reading I've done, I can't proclaim to be expert in much but the structure of an epic fantasy (here's a hint; if you've written few than 5000 pages, you're not allowed in the club). 

Ah well.  Life's too short to read books you're not enjoying, I say.  Dark Tower, here I come!  Purple Cow, you'll just have to wait until I'm feeling more virtuous and in touch with my willpower.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wasting time, courtesy of Dell

Act II of today needs to get started; ie, those precious few moments of uninterrupted work when I accomplish more between 9pm and midnight than I do in 8 hours in the office.  But my work laptop decided it needed rebooting.  This is normally a 20 minute process, so I figured, why not write a quick blog entry?

First, a quick rant about technology and all it doesn't do for us.  Actually, in this case it's just a rant about my laptop, the main purpose of which is to increase my appreciation for my Macbook with each passing hour.  Enough said.

Let's move on to happier things!  First, I can't forget to remember Monday, my "supposed" day off where I worked about 4 hours, but also got a little play time.  A lovely, though buggy, hike around Lake Wilson was fun, and then I monitored email while doing some deal-making and finishing Mockingjay.  No joke, I cried more reading it this time.  But anyway, the real story of the day comes from my 3-hour volunteer shift at KUAF 91.3FM, our local NPR station, for their spring fundraiser (have you pledged yet?).  I got to take a few calls and donations and chat with some nice folks.  But my evening was made when, after the on-air folks mentioned my name and that I work at Walton Arts Center, the phone rang, and a sweet lady asked for me in person.  She was calling to pledge to KUAF, but she was so excited to talk to me, to tell me how much she loved the shows we bring, how many other shows she's coming to, and that she saw me on stage once giving a pre-show announcement and just wanted to talk to me.  I mean, come on.  Is that not one of the most awesome things?

Yesterday was something of a blur, and today started in the dumps.  An 8am meeting, and then I got back to my office and realized I'd left my computer at home.  So, grumbling all the way, I drove back home, hitting every. single. red. light. possible, retrieved my stuff and hustled back to the office by 9am.  But then the day took a turn for the much, much better when a simple solution to a big problem revealed itself.  Gotta love that.

But the best part of today?  Getting a personal email from a head hunter.   Yeah, that is pretty much a guaranteed confidence booster, regardless of what you're being hunted for.

Anyway, the day wasn't all metaphorical sunshine, but it wasn't half bad.  I got my tickets to the 2012 Northwest Arkansas Naturals season, too, and had a semi-successful run/walk to the dog park.

Oh, and PS.  For those keeping score, the cute sandals from two posts ago won the battle.  The boring sensible shoes are going back to LLBean.  They were a bit too boring even for me.  

And hey look!  My work computer has decided to boot up.  Time wasted, check.  Back to it.  Catch you later, world.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Birthday blessings

Ok, let's be honest here.

When you're single and far from family, birthdays have the potential to be pathetic.  I'm talking wallowing-in-solitude-while-your-dog-looks-on-reproachfully pathetic. 

Lucky for me, since I moved to Arkansas, my colleagues and friends have taken good care of me on my birthday, never more so than this year.

So let's start at the beginning.  Weeks ago, my awesome staff made plans to take me out to Bonefish Grill for Bang-bang shrimp and beverages, and three days before my birthday, we did this.  What fun!  Along with Jill, Billy, Casey, Amanda, Beth and Alex, Barb from development came along, and we had mucho fun.   They (and other members of my team) also specifically disobeyed my directive to not bother with a gift and got me a much-welcomed Petsmart gift card.  So that was Wednesday.

Let's not forget that in the midst of all this celebration, I'm having a pretty craptastic week at work.  I mean, every week is a challenge, but this one sent me home with a droop in my shoulders almost every night.

Thursday, I was ruminating over my notes in the office in the morning when I hear someone try to sneak in; I look up and Terri has delivered an absolutely gorgeous bouquet of flowers.  Then, the whole Senior Team sang me happy birthday at a meeting, which was mortifying but very sweet.  A little retail therapy kicked in that night, with the arrival of my two new pairs of sandals, which are high-wedged and super fun.

Friday was a night to chill.  It was great.  That is all.

Saturday, the actual birthday, began with an extended brunch date with my two favorite Arkansas ladies, Lisa and Jennifer.  And wow, did they do it up right.  Lisa made sure my pooch got some presents too, and we ate and chatted on the porch of Jennifer's gorgeous home.  Homemade grits and cherry-almond scones, fresh fruit and cheese, bacon...and we stretched the whole cooking to eating process over about 3 hours.  It was glorious.

Then home to nap, and then out for dinner with Noelle, Jana, Megan, Sannee, Samantha and Evan, the latter pair surprising me with a gift card to The Academy, where I will have some fun outfitting myself for my next fitness venture, swimming.  Oh, that reminds me...long before all of these festivities, my parents and brother and sister in law helped me fund plans to join the Boys & Girls Club so I can take up swimming again.  Dinner featured guacamole made at the table, a hibiscus margarita and tres leche cake.  Nom, nom, nom.

And today, the same dinner gang, minus Noelle, hiked out to Hawksbill Crag, one of the most photographed places in Arkansas.  (Special thanks to Kay for making sure Jana could come). It must be noted that before we got there, we drove around in the hills for a bit, before some nice ladies (with horses) pointed us in the right direction and we drove 6 miles up a dirt road to the trailhead.  The hike to the Crag is pretty short and downhill most of the way, and there's a beautiful waterfall stop along the way.  But the views are so, so worth it.

We decided to head back to the waterfall for lunch, and found our way down to the bottom of a bluff via some adventurous exploration, which was the best surprise of the day.  Water was dripping over the bluff and catching the light; it was magical and none of my photos do it justice.  Then we began the trek back, which was all uphill this time, and I quickly realized that most of the hikes I've been doing lately are pretty tame.  It's time to up the cardio a bit; good thing I'm starting swimming!

Then on the way home, we made an impromptu date to see Circus Oz, a show I saw a long time ago in Berkeley and hoped would go over well in Arkansas.  It has gone over well, and was just as much fun as I remembered.

Tomorrow will be a delayed day off (peppered with a little pesky work stuff), which I will happily spend with my pooch (we're going to see what Lake Wilson looks like with leaves on the trees), shopping and volunteering.  And then, I might just finish rereading Mockingjay.

Oh, and lest I forget, it's always fun to have a birthday in the age of facebook, when your phone beeps repeatedly with people near and far posting birthday messages.  Some are random, like those from the high school acquaintances, and some are awesome, like the ones from the long-lost roommates and friends.

Anyway, chalk this birthday up in the "non-sucking" category.  I have that fuzzy-eyed, hot-skinned feel you get after spending the day in the sun, and I'm so full of good food that I've definitely set my weight-loss plans back by a day or two.  But most of all, I'm grateful to have so many good people in my life, who take such good care of me.  Thanks, y'all.