Monday, December 15, 2008

A tree, a TV, back pain, and super David to the rescue!

I write this from David's couch, where I have been sidelined with a herniated disk in my lower back. Back pain is not fun! I have new appreciation for what my mom and so many other people with chronic back pain experience every day, and I don't know how they do it! Not being able to move is both scary and extremely frustrating. Luckily for me, with rest, physical therapy, and the temporary help of narcotic painkillers and muscle relaxers, I should recover just fine. (I thought I would write this before I take another dose of pain medication, which really fogs up my brain.)

Despite the injury, we had a nice weekend that was full of Christmas spirit. First, we got a new TV...merry Christmas to us! We were finished shopping for our friends and family, and so we decided to get ourselves something new too. We went to Best Buy and got a 52" Samsung LCD TV. It is beautiful, and David will pick it up on Tuesday. Though I have to admit that I never used to be a technology kind of gal, I am really excited for our new TV. We plan to watch Dark Knight once it is installed, which was one of my Christmas presents to David.

Also, though the TV would not fit underneath it, we got our Christmas tree. And by we...I mean poor David, who singlehandedly cut it down, dragged it down a snow covered hill, brought it up to the apartment, and put it up.
At least I was able to help decorate a little bit! The tree has really brought the Christmas season into the apartment. (I will post pictures later when I find the charger to my camera battery.) We picked a really big tree this year, and it completely fills the room that normally holds David's poker table and chairs. I love it!

Coming soon in January 2009: Chochobo's Cranberry Winter Ale! I helped David brew beer this weekend (well, I added things to the pot anyway...again, couldn't really help as much as I had planned to because I can't lift anything)...I am excited to try it!

If you get one thing from reading this entry, you should realize, as I did, that David really was super this weekend. He made me dinner and tea, played games with me, ignored the fact that I slept through the movie we were watching, cheered on my Steelers against those thugs from Baltimore, convinced me to e-mail my boss to ask to work from home until I could move again, made me take my medicine when I was being stubborn...and so on and so forth. I am one lucky lady, and when I get back to normal, I will have to do something extra special for him!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A is for Aramis

Tonight I went to see Slumdog Millionaire with my book club. So well done! I really enjoyed watching it, and not just because of the Bollywood dance number during the credits (though that was AWESOME, and really looked like a lot of fun...maybe at my PhD graduation my classmates and I could coordinate something similar?) -- everyone should believe all the hype that this little film could be a Best Picture contender this year.

This movie talks a lot about destiny, a concept I have trouble grasping and constantly think about. It's a nice idea in theory...there are these fantastic things that we are all destined to do or be, and regardless of the twists and turns in our lives, we will all achieve our predetermined (hopefully happy) ending. In some ways, it's a comforting idea. It makes our mistakes seem makes our obstacles seem matter what happens, we're just along for the ride until we achieve our purpose. The way our life plays out is in someone else's hands. This thinking limits our responsibility for our own lives, which can be a hopeful way of looking at things when our failures or setbacks have us down in the dumps. God (or fate, if you are not so religious) has a plan for us, and we will fulfill it.

But what happened to seize the day? Being accountable for who we are and what we do? After all, when things aren't going poorly, we may thank God (fate), but we also usually credit our judgment or talents. When our lives are successful, it is much nicer to think we played a direct role in doing well.

So which is it? Is life a book already written that we live from start to finish, or is it a choose your own adventure novel, where the ending changes as we make decisions? I truly don't know. It's probably a mix of both, but I doubt I'll ever truly understand how these two conflicting concepts coexist in one universe. Call me a control freak, but I lean towards feeling like I am "taking charge" of my own destiny. I cannot accept that I am not responsible for the way my life turns out and the type of person I continue to be, even if who I am is God's creation. But that doesn't mean I'll stop trying to think about why I was created, and what my purpose in life is.

I loved how the main characters in Slumdog Millionaire believed in their destiny and followed it through until the end -- it made for a great story and a really entertaining/uplifting film. (And if you want another great movie about this sort of subject, I also recommend Sliding Doors from the 1990's.) I'm just not sure what I believe my destiny is yet. Or what I can do to work towards accomplishing it. I guess all I can do is keep asking and answering multiple choice questions until I can answer that million dollar question.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Haul out the holly...

Ready or not, here comes Christmas!

Or at least, this is what retail America wants us to believe until New Year's Eve approaches and it becomes Valentine's Day season. In fact, some stores didn't even wait until Halloween was over this year to start bombarding us with holiday cheer -- the CVS in my W. Philadelphia neighborhood started putting up the twinkle lights and cone shaped pine trees on Oct. 20, and the following weekend, I saw Santa's workshop open for business in the Ithaca mall. If Halloween isn't a barrier for early Christmas decorating, does this mean that Christmas in July might really be a reality in Macy's next year?

It is no secret that I love Christmas. LOVE IT. Advent season in the Catholic Church is my favorite time in our faith, but I also love the commercialized rituals -- the cards, the specials on TV, the parties, the decorations (the tree!), the presents, the songs, the food...and yes, the cheesy Santa hats. I love taking time to go shopping for the people I love, on a quest to find an absolutely perfect present. But all of these early Christmas displays (and overly loud holiday music!) in stores everywhere do not help rekindle my Christmas spirit...they are a buzzkill. They ruin my excitement. It's hard to be full of anticipation for that special time of year when the definition of special becomes extended to a three or four month period.

So, to try to get in the swing of the holiday season, I started brainstorming for Christmas presents for my relatives (and David's) and friends. Nada. I could not think of a single thing that would make any of them happy! I browsed all of my favorite online shopping sources...and was totally uninspired. I began to panic. What was I going to do? I suddenly felt enormous pressure -- what if I never came up with good presents for all of them? All of a sudden, my annual shopping trip to King of Prussia with David didn't seem so appealing.

However, on Monday morning, there was a snowfall in Ithaca that was breathtakingly beautiful, and I marched through the cold just to be a part of it. Perfect white flakes fell all around me, and through the woods, the trees had a slight dusting that made them shine in the afternoon sun. As one would expect, I needed no sound system blaring Dean Martin or incredibly tacky garland to become excited about Christmas...that scene was enough to put a smile on my face, and holiday spirit in my heart. (NOTE: This is not an open invitation for Target to install a snow machine in their storefront doorways nationwide.)

And then, as I walked in the door to David's apartment it hit me -- the perfect gift for my sister. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas here...even if it's a little before Thanksgiving. Let the holiday preparations begin!

P.S. Do avoid the radio though. Flipping through stations on my way back from Ithaca today, there were FIVE that were already non-stop Christmas music. SERIOUSLY? Those songs only have a limited lifetime before they defeat their purpose.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I have a dress!

On a lighter note, I have a wedding dress! And Jenn has a maid of honor dress! It's starting to feel so real and so surreal at the same time... :-D Here is a picture of Jenn's dress (which we ordered in black).

237 days to go until the big day!

Gonna be some changes made...

John Mayer has a song called "Waiting on the World to Change" which I have often remarked is the anthem for twenty-somethings that feel powerless to change our world...until now. We no longer have to wait to make an impact. More than ever, we have the power to really change things by voting. So please, VOTE. Our future depends on it.

Whether you support Team Maverick or are campaigning for Change, I don't think anyone would argue that our government isn't in desperate need of a new direction. Things aren't going so well for us right now. Our economy is in shambles, our education and health care systems are inadequate, and we are putting a lot of money and resources into fighting wars abroad rather than solving problems at home. (Note: I mean no disrespect to those troops overseas...I simply feel it is time for all of them to come home and use their skills to serve our country well within our own borders.) We need a fresh start, and we need it fast.

However, changes in our government are not enough, and I hope that we have all realized that. So far, the economic crisis seems to have been a valuable wake up call to our nation -- we are more passionate and more informed about our government than ever before. Let's stay that way. George W. Bush made a lot of mistakes as president, as have so many other government officials during his administration...but they are not entirely to blame for the state of this country. We hold just as much responsibility! As a nation, we basically fell asleep for most of President Bush's second term in office. We gave him low approval ratings and hit the snooze button, vowing to take a stand on the issues that mattered when the next batch of candidates came around. And the election process started, some of us were still slow to action. Some of us were still indecisive, and some of us still didn't vote in the primaries. After all, George Bush was getting out of office, so wouldn't that be change enough?

We didn't wake up until we were jolted by the reality of ridiculously high gas prices and extremely low property values. We didn't wake up until the situation had spun so far out of control that the problems facing our nation were impacting EVERYONE. We believed the media when they undermined the impending financial doom early in 2008. We trusted the banks that were offering deals that were too good to be true. We didn't dare speak out against a war that was started under false pretenses and is draining our country's resources, because we didn't want to seem unpatriotic. And so on, and so forth. Our complacency, as much as our inadequate leadership, is to blame for our current situation. If we had been paying attention, we wouldn't have taken loans we couldn't pay off, regardless of whether or not irresponsible banks were offering to lend us the money. If we had asked more questions, the media would have been forced to cover the impending financial crisis before it became too staggering to ignore. If we had been more informed, we would have demanded that more money be spent to develop energy alternatives well before oil reserves became low and expensive (you tried your best, Al Gore). And the list goes on and on.

Right now, we are all awake and committed to voicing our opinion in tomorrow's election. We are angry about the state of our once great nation, and we are fighting back using our most powerful weapon -- our vote (or at least, we had better be). And though some of us will be disappointed with the outcome of tomorrow's election, don't fall back asleep just because your candidate was not chosen. Stay awake! Maintain your voice even after your vote is cast! Pay attention to new tax plans proposed to help fix the economy and write your congressman if you think those plans are detrimental to your situation. Ask questions about new energy alternatives that could save you money at the gas station. Demand full health care coverage. Get involved in your local school or attend school board meetings (which are open to the public) to help salvage our education system. Send care packages to our troops! Do whatever you can...but continue to DO something.

And I stand on this soapbox with just as much blame as anyone else. Because up until recently, I used my youth as a crutch to avoid taking responsibility. I said, "Well, I'm just a graduate student -- what can I do to change things? I may see things that need changing, but doing so is up to the real adults." Except...I AM a real adult! I am twenty-five years old! And so, a little too late I started being more informed about the election and the candidates. I started asking questions of those more in tune with the issues than I was. I started forming an opinion.

And that's really all any of us can do -- form an opinion, and then get to work fighting for it. We can all start tomorrow, with our votes!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Baby, you can drive my car...

David and I bought a car yesterday! Goodbye 1995 Saturn SC2...hello 2009 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE. David's car had seen better days a long time ago, and I am so happy that he will be driving in something much nicer (and safer) now. He seems to really enjoy driving it too! It has a ridiculous engine, and an intimidating amount of power. I think I will stick to driving my Cavalier, but I will say that I feel like a Bond girl when David gets behind the wheel of this car and I am in the passenger seat. (I gave full disclosure of being a total dork by titling my blog "The Dorkface Diaries.")

It still hasn't completely sunk in that we own this car. This is a GROWN UP car! My student lifestyle often leads me to conclude that I am still not a full-fledged adult yet, but more and more I am realizing that being a PhD candidate is not a "get out of getting older free" card. In fact, time does not stop just because my thesis sometimes feels as if it is frozen in time! And thank goodness! Even with all of the new responsibilities that I am discovering along the way, being an adult can sometimes be really, really fun.

At the top of my to-do list: buy sunglasses.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Okay, so I'm a copycat.

Hi everyone! I could list tons of intelligent-sounding reasons for starting this blog, but what it really comes down to is that it seems like everyone else I know has an amazingly insightful and entertaining blog, and I want one too! Even children have blogs now! I just received an e-mail linking me to the blog of a two month old! As usual, I am behind with the times...and so, I join you all in sharing opinions, one post at a time.

Here in Philadelphia, it is impossible to ignore baseball as October comes to a close. But, as the Phillies chase the title away from the favored Tampa (Devil) Rays this fall, I can't help look back on the last time they went to the World Series in 1993. When the Phillies played in that series, my dad and I stayed up way past my bedtime, wore our Phillies hats, and ate TONS of contraband junk food while John Kruk and his teammates took on the Toronto Blue Jays. We were giddy during game 5 when the Phillies scored early at the Vet and kept the series alive. We were heartbroken when Toronto used their home field advantage in game 6 to rally back in the ninth inning and win the title. (I was especially heartbroken when my dad informed me that the $5 I bet Anthony Resnick on the game was coming out of my lunchtime ice cream money.)

Why did I care so much about the Phillies you ask? After all, anyone that knows me knows my true sports love is football, and I bleed black and gold. However, in 1993, I was obsessed with all things related to Philadelphia, my father's hometown. My logic (which I can't really argue with) was that my Dad was the coolest person on the planet and so therefore, his hometown had to be the coolest city in the entire world. I may have lived in Butler, but my wall was decorated with
posters of the Philadelphia skyline and pennants for the Phillies/76ers to a Steelers pennant, of course. I brought in pictures of my trip to Independence Mall for history class. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up as part of a Parent/Teacher Night project entitled "About Me", I made sure to include that I'd be working IN PHILADELPHIA. I also mentioned in this essay that I would never marry (yes, Dad, I know I still owe you for that bet we made...clearly, as evidenced in this post, I should stop betting on things that are not guaranteed), I would become a successful emergency room doctor, and I would have a dog named Bosco.

I think we can all sense the irony here. Fifteen years later, I do actually live in Philadelphia, and it is not exactly the dreamland that I envisioned it would be. Now that I have seen more of the country and the world, I long to live times, anywhere else would do.
More than that, I am engaged to be married, studying for a PhD so I can go into scientific publishing (gasp! a field somewhat based in the liberal arts!), and dogless. I got it wrong in fifth grade. Way wrong.

I am so happy that I was wrong then, because that plan for my life no longer makes sense to me. It wouldn't make me happier than I am right now. Still, many people do not share this view. Many people (older adults) watching my life from the outside wonder if all of these changes in my life are really for the better. Though I doubt they still see me as a fifth grader, they can't let go of the person I used to think I would be. Questions like, "Is she marrying too soon?" and "Does she think she's not good enough for a better career?" linger around extended family gatherings and professors' offices. Words like "settling" float loudly in the air, but no one dares to speak them to my face. Like so many of my peers, escaping this label of settling is becoming a challenge for me. And sometimes, this can be really really frustrating.

Here's how I see it. The thing about being an adult is, change is the one thing we all can rely on. It is frequent and never easy. And so, as we experience changes in our lives and in ourselves, we learn, and as we learn, we adapt. Does that adaptation sometimes mean settling for something different than we expected? Absolutely. Will we have to sacrifice some old ideas about the future to make room for new ideas? Of course. Does that always have to be a bad thing? No! I truly don't think it ever has to be a bad thing, as long as we are continually looking out for our own happiness as we make the decision to go off course. Change can be good! Will we get things wrong? Human nature says that we will. Are they always fixable? No, but there is always a way to move forward. How can we tell the difference between settling and making unexpected choices? Well, I suppose this is easy for me because I already know what settling in a negative way feels like. I do it all the time. For example, "I really want to eat this yummy, greasy pizza for dinner...but I'll be healthy and settle for a salad instead." (Okay, who am I kidding...I rarely settle for a pizza alternative as healthy as a salad.)

And so...though my Dad is still ridiculously cool, my Phillies hat is buried somewhere deep in my closet, probably underneath one for the Red Sox. And although I can't escape all of the crazy Philadelphia sports fans running around the city over this coming week, I am definitely not one of them (though don't get me wrong, I would rather see the Phillies win than Tampa). I probably won't even stay up to watch the game tonight with a feast of junk food. Instead, I think I'll settle for eating a Fudgsicle, reading a book, and a good night's sleep. If that really even counts as settling at all.