Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dangerous Liaisons in Squirrel Hill

I seem pretty good lately at assaulting myself.  I don't know why I've become extra clumsy these past two weeks, but it feels like my body, and sharp, roughened, or heavy objects, yearn to be together and will do whatever it takes, however painful, to achieve the union.

Part of the injuries are the inevitable result of trying to pack up an apartment in a small, increasingly crowding space.  Those instances are how I bruised both sides of my right knee (on two different days),  my hip, and scratched my leg.

The rest have just been 1) brain absenteeism, however, which I put down to the heat and to the act of packing being so boring that I can't bear to be mentally there while it's happening; and 2) an overestimation of how much brawn I've picked up at the gym lifting my 5 lb. weights.

Here's a running inventory of my injuries thus far:
  • bruised knees
  • bruised hip
  • bruises and individual burst blood vessels on the insides of both arms from carrying, and occasionally dropping, boxes
  • raw skin on fingers from trying to scrape double-sided tape off the wall with an old PetSmart reward card
  • red rash and sore throat muscles where the edge of a flatscreen TV tried to decapitate me; I, however, remain alive--you fail, TV!

My goal for the moment is just to avoid battering myself to the point of incurring a hospital copay.  Because I need that money to pay for the moving van.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Nailing Fashion...Every Time

Just when I think the exciting parts of my day had come to a close, I come home from work to find that a bottle of nail polish has completely overturned and sneakily unscrewed itself in my bag.  I had brought LorĂ©al's Tweet Me, a canary yellow shade that made me feel sunny just looking at it, to work to paint my nails over my lunch break.  It was so innocent.

What proceeds is a comic romp, but with sounds of sadness instead of sassy montage music.

I retrieve the bottle of nail polish from the depths of my bag and set it on the table, where it immediately sticks.  Then I quickly grapple it away before it can totally fuse to the surface, and holding it between my fingers, which are sporting freshly painted yellow fingernails, I peer into the bottom of the bag and pull out my Kindle, where a fiendish blob of polish threateningly clings to the bottom edge of the cover, but thankfully has not touched the actual device.  (Editor's note: I have already spilled red wine and water, on separate occasions, on my Kindle, which is part of what prompted the purchase of the case).  I scratch at the gooey blob on the cover to prize it away, and more or less just rub it into the surface and into my fingers.

With a sense of futility I gaze upon the other blob at the bottom of my bag, catching the light of my dining room and merrily winking up at me.  It'll dry.

I take the nail polish bottle and move into the bathroom.  My fingers are already conjoined with the bottle, like the rites of a Celtic marriage, but for some reason I still find it a good idea to use them to spatula away a majority of the polish.  The result is as disastrous as you'd expect any idiot could have guessed if they weren't impatient at having to have to clean up nail polish goo mess after a long walk home from work, and if they weren't totally starving and actually more focused on the cupcakes from Dozen Bake Shop in the bag in the kitchen.  But anyway.

I scrape away the polish goo as best I can with the pads of my fingers, trying to save my precious nails, which is more or less to say I smear the goo more fully around the bottle and my fingers, seemingly determined at my own self-destruction.

Okay.  I need nail polish remover.  And cotton balls.  I drop, or rather, violently fling, the polish into the sink, then use my wrist to edge open the cabinet under the bathroom sink.  With one hand I grab the nail polish remover (acetone-free) and plunge the other into the bag of cotton balls.  I don't really need to grab them because I come out with about six sticking to me anyway.  I carefully pour remover onto some of the cotton balls the furthest distance from my still safe nails, and start scrubbing.

I'm proud to say that I got about 80% of the polish off of my fingers and off of the outside of the bottle, but it wasn't all without final casualties to the precious nails.  This all started with the great idea that I had of "I'll do a manicure at work!" and has now become "I will have acid-happy Big Bird fingers!"

Ah well, the color is at least seasonal.

Photo courtesy of

Monday, March 19, 2012

Alchemical Husbandry

I'm not ready for the big long-term commitment just yet, but I've been able to narrow down the qualities I'd like my husband to have, amongst these four men:

Indiana Jones
Solves problems with brash ingenuity and chutzpah.

James Dean
Sends me smoldering glances, even when we're both 80 and can't see very well.

Rob Petrie
Helps with housework and makes me laugh all day long by tripping over things.

Bill Nye
Dedicates his brilliance to making the world a better place.

I think this is reasonable.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Wow, it is March. March. Is that possible? Apparently. I am impressed by how time has flown, and put it down to an incredible flurry of activity for me.

I went back, after a hiatus of feeling lazy, to putting together a structure for my novel. I'm also brainstorming with the proprietor of Falkora Jewelry, on some fun social media campaigns to increase her network. She does great sales when she goes to shows and conventions, but as we all know, 140 character virtual tweets are now how we communicatively define our lives.

Seriously, though, I've been having a real love-hate relationship with technology lately. I recently read an article about AT&T and Verizon's predictions that within the next couple of years, we will have serious spectrum issues trying to handle the volume of data being volleyed through the ether by smartphone users. P.S., trying to find that article again to repost it here, I had to wade through about 3,000,000,000 articles about the iPad 3 or 4 or 8 or whatever. Another tangent.

I really hate how slow my android Motorola Citrus is most of the time. We pay for an unlimited data plan, but half the time I feel like I could walk to Google's headquarters in California before their homepage finishes loading on my tiny touchscreen, which is covered in my tiny-hand fingerprints. I also hate myself for caring about something so trivial. What do I really do on my smartphone that's that worthwhile?

I want to be disconnected from this crippling need to constantly be connected, and yet it is supposedly critical to social and economic survival in this world. Isn't it? I don't know.

I would like to be a writer, and a marketer, who makes peace with the monsters of technology. But is it possible to compete in a world of communication, without being constantly in communication?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Post-Valentine's Caloric Count

For Valentine's Day I decided to make some cookies for my office. I wanted something that was vaguely healthy, delicious, and also would carry some sort of romantic, Valentine-y theme. I settled on making these Chewy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal-Raisin cookies from, which turned out to be the perfect recipe for all of my criteria.

The batter calls for two cups of flour, and one cup of oats, as a base:

While I wouldn't rate these cookies as "oatmealy" as some other recipes I've used, the advantage of the added flour was that it was much easier to shape them, and for them to retain their shape while cooking. Oats can kind of just go "blah" on their own, and collapse dejectedly into a blob. Instead I got these lovelies into the oven:

And they became these lovies:

They are perhaps not the healthiest cookies out there, but they were easy to make and got rave reviews among my easy-to-please colleagues. I have since had office requests for a St. Patrick's Day-themed cookie. We'll see. Shamrocks are a bit more complex than hearts, but maybe I'll just end making this some kind of Lucky Charms Magically Delicious Cup Challenge.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Beautiful Tower of Babel

Last night I watched a TED Talks video posted by a friend on Facebook, discussing the philosophy behind modern education, and why it has become both inadequate to serving the world's continued economic interests, and the personal holistic interests of children. The speaker's (Ken Robinson) main point was that education is designed around a "factory mentality" born out of the first industrial revolution at the end of the 18th century, and in conjunction with similar ideas brewing around personal freedoms and the connection between an individual and society.

One of many points that struck me was Robinson's emphasis that one of education's struggles is to balance teaching cultural identity to students, while teaching them globalization. It's the same struggle that hums at the core of public education–that effort to standardize, to make the many into one. In some ways, this is just what education should do, as no society can function at the most basic level without some shared beliefs and structures.

The flip side to this, however, is the reality of human complexity, and the inescapable fact that as multidimensional beings of infinite capability, we don't always fit into one mold. And perhaps we shouldn't.

Modern western culture teaches that at once both diversity and globalization are desirable virtues; but how can both exist simultaneously? At some point, one has to give in to the other.

The story of the tower of Babel is that originally, humans tried to build a tower up to God's level in order to make themselves all-powerful, and were punished by having this tower struck, and the people all on it, scattered to the four corners of the earth. Diversity of language, culture, and thought, supposedly comes from this original "punishment." Separation, or individuality, therefore, is the result of our confounded efforts to be one.

Of course this is just a slim interpretation of a cultural myth loaded with symbolism, and many scholars do not even apply a concept of punishment to the original story, so much as that of an etiology tale of how civilization came about. But my point is that Babel is beautiful. Our children's Babel is beautiful, and the Babel told in Egypt, Norway, and Malaysia, and in tiny, remote Amazon villages, is also beautiful.

Globalization teaches us to see each other as "one," and that is so important an idea–and yet, it makes me worry that the universality that we supposedly believe we are reaching for, is not universal and is not as liberating as we think. It's a dominant culture (undeniably often the West) that, for better or for worse, is spreading around the globe, and potentially eradicating other sounds of Babel, and even potentially squelching them in its own offspring.

Instead of seeing globalization, like education, as an opportunity to engage in a multi-voiced dialectic, it is so often pushed as a single truth, or to quote the TED Talk lecture, "There's only one right answer…and it's in the back of the book." In American public education, curriculums geared towards standardized testing heavily outweigh approaches more contextually designed around individual classrooms.

In the age of standardized testing, there's no longer an active search for truth, only the dead declaration that wonderful One-ness is coming (but it's our One and not yours). It's the same age that is drugging up so many kids with dangerous ADHD meds, obsessively tracking their academic progress in ridiculously unhelpful charts and numbers, and then continues to cut music, art, science, and recess. I can't think of anything more destructive to our economy than teaching our children to stop being creative, to stop innovating, to stop taking in information with five senses and to process it, play with it, imagine what it could become. You think a strong economy is built on a generation of people who simply learned how to regurgitate answers in Scantrons?

So I guess this has me both thinking about our attitudes towards educating our own children, and how we "educate" the world. I think globalization is inescapable at this point, but I don't mean to say that's a bad thing. In so many hopeful ways it is inspiring. But it makes me wonder what happens to diversity and individuality, as One-ness takes over. I hope it will be a One-ness built on all of Babel, not just some.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

It's All Okay

I got a lovely email recently from a young woman who I had once interviewed for admission to Gettysburg, who is now a current student there and wanted to talk to me about making the transition from student to professional in the admissions world.

Of course this email opened a floodgate of reflections for me. I remembered the interview with this charming girl, and how excited she was at the prospect of college. We talked and laughed well beyond our allotted interview slot, and I was thrilled when she ended up coming to Gettysburg. To be able to keep up a connection with someone with whom you'd been through the process of admission, to get to see what they've done with their time in college, to see how they've grown…well, to say it is rewarding is trite at best. It's simply unbeatable. And then to be able to be a guide once again on the next step of their journey is equally an honor.

These are the kinds of memories that remind me of why I loved being an admissions counselor. They also remind me of what I want to be in any job that I'm in. I want to help people. The moments that permanently imprint into my mind are those where I feel genuinely moved that I was able to improve the lives of those with whom I worked. You work because you want to serve a purpose, to make something better than it was before. Otherwise, why labor?

I especially feel blessed with these moments where I can turn to someone who's about to undertake the experience I've already had, and to be able to tell them it's all going to be okay. Isn't that all we ever want to hear? Especially now. And realizing as you're comforting them, that the words are still true for you as well. It's all going to be okay. And it will. It is.

the 18th century guide to modern living

it's not just for the classroom!