Monday, September 18, 2017

DC Days: The Dinner Party

"Feminist practice means everyone's voice deserves to be heard." 
-Judy Chicago, Fresh Talk at the National Museum of Women in the Arts
September 17, 2017

One of the first artists I got to meet when I first started volunteering at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) was Judy Chicago. Three years ago, we had a small exhibition of her work to celebrate her 75th birthday. She came to the museum to give a talk, which I attended. She and her husband were walking around the main galleries before the talk and I happened to ride in the elevator with them to the performance hall. We said hello and she asked if I worked at the museum. I shared I was in docent training and she told me to enjoy it. The talk she gave, in conversation with Jane Gerhard, was fun, feisty, and feminist. It was a great reminder of why the museum was founded and why women need a place where their work is championed.

Wilhelmina Holladay co-founded NMWA with her husband, Wallace, after they began collecting work by women artists. They were interested in discovering these artists, many of whom had been neglected by art history texts and in some cases, lost to history. Like Judy Chicago's iconic work The Dinner Party, the Holladay's were interested in combating the erasure of women artists from history. The current collection spans work from as early as 1580 and includes many living/working artists from today. I've volunteered at a few other museums in DC and volunteering at NMWA has been the most satisfying volunteer experience I've ever had. Every time I walk through the museum or lead a tour or participate in an event like this weekend's Fresh Talk, I feel like I'm part of something and helping our visitors connect to these works and artists.

I've felt, over the last year and half (or so), that NMWA has been a saving grace of sorts for me. No matter what was going on at work or in my personal life, I could go to the museum for my shift a few times a month and leave everything else behind. It's a little community, from the other docents and volunteers to the staff and guards to our visitors. I get to talk about awesome artists and spend time talking with visitors about their experiences in the museum.

Beyond my experiences with visitors, my favorite part of volunteering is those times when I do get to meet artists. We host a large number of events throughout the year where artists are present to talk about their work and interact with our visitors. I try to attend as many of them as possible not just because meeting artists is one of those things I never thought I'd get to do, but because hearing them talk about their art helps me be a better docent. I can elements from their talks to my tours and really bring art life in a way I wouldn't be able to do without those stories. 

I had the opportunity to see Judy Chicago again this past weekend at NMWA during the first Fresh Talk of this season. Fresh Talk is a part of the Women, Arts, and Social Change program that looks at women and the arts as catalysts for change. The program launched in 2015 and includes curated artists' talks along with either a Sunday Supper or Catalyst happy hour which enables the audience to continue the conversation after the program itself. I've been to two Fresh Talks and have loved the experience both times. One of the cool things about Fresh Talk is that the programs are live-streamed and the videos are available online for later viewing. I attended "Who are the new superwomen of the universe?" in June and had a blast. 

Chicago's talk was entitled "Amplify" and focused on how art can amplify women's voices and visibility. Her career has always focused on this idea, whether it be through her teaching, her dedication to feminist theory in art, or her actual promotion of "lost" women in history through The Dinner Party. In addition to talking about how her work has evolved from the 1960s, she also shared plans for a new visual archive and partnership between NMWA, the Schlesinger Library (at Harvard), and Penn State to create a new way to view her work and preserve her legacy. It's an exciting project and one that will ensure that Judy Chicago's work is not erased. 

What I loved about this particular talk was seeing the breadth of Chicago's work at one time. Alison Gass joined Chicago for conversation. Gass is the director of the University of Chicago's Smart Museum of Art. She shared at the start of the program that she was an intern at the Brooklyn Museum when The Dinner Party was being installed and that Chicago's work had helped to shape her own art practice. Judy took us through her work, talking about learning new techniques like china painting, auto body painting (she went to auto body school in the mid-1960s), and glass work for newer exhibitions. Her dedication to learning is part of her art practice, from the techniques to the history and narrative she creates. She spent time researching the women included in The Dinner Party just as she would later do the same deep research on the Holocaust for her series The Holocaust Project: From Darkness Into Light (1985-1993). She talked a lot about how we move through history where there are times when we push back and erase one group or another. "We're in another moment of pushing back and erasure." It's our role to fight that erasure.

I appreciate her focus on learning as part of her practice. She's constantly learning; that's something that I try to bring to my tours, my own art (mostly writing), and my professional life. There's no magic formula for creativity or producing art except to get up and do it. That's what she does every day. It's these moments that make my time at the museum so important. It helps bring my own passion and creativity back. 

As I sat at Sunday Supper, I had a wonderful conversation with the woman sitting next to me. She had recently moved back to the DC area after a fairly long time away and has been spending the last year "experiencing" DC again. She came to the event for Judy Chicago but was intrigued by the dinner part. We talked about writing (she's a writer), the museum, and Wonder Woman. It was the perfect evening of women, art, and social change. 

If you're looking for a way to engage more and feel like you're not drowning in the spiral of hate and stupid that seems to be the way of the world these days, do yourself a favor and catch a Fresh Talk this season.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Island Book Club: Vacation in Derry, ME...No really. It's fine. Nothing weird ever happens here.

Please note: The Island Book Club is not a thing. Once a book club is established people will want to read about sparkly vampires and abusive relationships dressed up as steamy sexy times and allegorical nonsense that makes me want to gouge out my eyes with a pencil. Nope, not a real thing. However, I love book recommendations, so please share in the comments.

I grew up on a steady reading diet of Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, The Baby-Sitters Club, Christopher Pike, classics, and Stephen King. When I was ten, I read both Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret and Carrie within a month or so of one another. If you're not familiar with these books, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret is Blume's beloved novel about a 6th grader, Margaret, who is navigating middle school, experiencing her first crush, and dealing with the inevitability of being female, namely developing breasts and having to get her first bra and getting her period for the first time. Carrie is the story of  teenage girl raised by a frighteningly religious mother whose telekinetic powers are brought on by the start of her period during gym class. She's tormented by most of the kids in school, including having pig's blood dumped on her at prom. She gets her revenge by blowing everything up and killing everyone...with her mind. Periods are no fucking joke. Judy Blume and Stephen King both understand this.

I had no business reading Carrie as a ten year old but I did anyway. I did an informal poll on Facebook this week to see if other people read "age inappropriate" books as children. I feel so much better knowing that many of my friends were right there with me, reading Stephen King, Judy Blume, Toni Morrison, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Alice Walker well before we maybe should have. It's like when all the older girls at school passed around Forever...(another Judy Blume classic); we want to know what's going on over there. Both my older brother and my Grandma G were into horror fiction, most notably Stephen King and Anne Rice. I had a readily available stash of books at home and in Detroit when visiting so I started reading. Neither of them discouraged me but I wouldn't say they encouraged me either. Unless you count that time I stood in line at an Anne Rice book signing for both me and my grandma; that might have been a bit encouraging. Anyway, I love Margaret and Carrie equally and am glad I read them at the same time. They fit together in a way that was in no way intended by the authors. They're weird bookends on my pre-teen life.

I didn't really get into Stephen King novels until a year or two later when I picked up Christine and IT from among the books my brother left behind when he left for college. IT is my third favorite King novel after Carrie and The Stand. When I first read IT, it was the longest book I had ever read. It clocks in at just under 1100 pages in paperback form. It was also the most terrifying thing, book or movie, I had ever experienced.

IT takes place in the fictional town of Derry, Maine, arguably the worst place to live ever. Derry shows up in a handful of other novels and short stories but is the focus of IT. Derry is as much of a character as the members of the Losers Club and Pennywise the Dancing Clown. The story is about a group of seven friends who come together in the summer of 1958 to battle the evil that has taken over their town and killed a bunch of children, including the sibling of one of the Losers. The story moves between that summer, the present (1985), and several interludes of Derry history as told by the one of the narrators, another Loser named Mike Hanlon. The seven friends return to Derry as adults to do battle with IT again. What they discover is that IT has always been a part of Derry and that the killings will continue on a cycle if they can't stop IT once and for all.

A lot happens in this novel. IT most often takes the form of Pennywise, the world's creepiest clown. Think what would happen if Bozo the Clown and the John Wayne Gacy had a baby. That would be Pennywise. What makes IT more terrifying, is that it appears as whatever the person it's stalking fears most. During the course of the novel, we see IT through the eyes of the Losers as a mummy, a leper, a wolfman, an old crone, a giant bird, and a statue of Paul Bunyon come to life. In the form of Pennywise, IT makes other terrible things happen, like blood dripping from photos, fortune cookies with unfortunate surprises, and the fact that most adults turn the other way when anything terrible happens. They can't see the evil of IT although they can be taken over by it as evidenced by Bev's father and several other adults throughout the past and present.

I decided to reread the book in anticipation of the new film version coming out this week. I saw IT last night (more on this shortly) and was not disappointed. I didn't finish the novel before I saw the movie as I had intended; I'm about 200 pages from the end. What this rereading has made me realize is that I forgot a lot of things that happen in this story. Since the novel was published, it was made into a 1990 television miniseries starring Tim Curry as Pennywise. This is probably the reference point I have for IT. The miniseries is good; it's a mostly faithful adaptation of the novel. It gets about as close as it can given that it was on network tv (imagine what it would have been had FX or Netflix been around). In addition to Curry, the cast included John Ritter (in his sexy facial hair phase), Annette O'Toole, Harry Anderson (my favorite tv judge), Tim Reid (my favorite from WKRP in Cincinnati), and Richard Thomas (yes, from The Waltons) as Bill, the leader of the Losers. The kid cast included Jonathan Brandis and Seth Green. Tim Curry is, by far, the best part of the miniseries (I'm sorry everyone else). His Pennywise the Clown is campy and scary and evil; exactly what you want Pennywise to be. A lesser actor would have made Pennywise a joke.

The miniseries stayed faithful to the back and forth between the past and present that makes the book such a powerful story. Stephen King is a gifted storyteller and one of his talents is layering narratives within his novels. In a novel like IT, the history of Derry is hugely important for the children to understand in order to do battle with IT. They uncover the 27 year cycle by tracing old events like deadly explosions, fires, and shoot outs in the town. Mike Hanlon becomes the town librarian, staying in Derry to be the keeper of the history and the watcher. He calls them all back to fulfill the promise they made as children. The rest of them have forgotten what happened that summer; that's the genius of both the novel and the miniseries. We get to watch the six of them remember. We journey with them as they realize what happened and what they're facing again. In the miniseries, it's a little over the top and tv movie of the week but it's still powerful and shows what a capable storyteller King is.

This is the one thing I missed in the new film. Rather than trying to cram everything into one film, director Andy Muschietti has divided it into two chapters. Chapter One, out now, focuses on the Losers Club as children only. Many of the iconic scenes from those chapters are here: Ben being bullied by Henry Bowers and his cronies, Beverly and the bloody sink, the postcard, the rock fight, the movie theatre scene. They're all here but the nuances of the back and forth story telling is missing. I understand why this is and I applaud the filmmakers for making the decision to break it into two films. Normally, I'm against movies being made into two parts for no reason but it works here (I'm looking at you, Peter Jackson and the later Hunger Games films). IT would be disappointing if it was all crammed into one movie. This part of the movie is now set in the late 1980s, which works well for the story. The young cast is awesome; I enjoyed all of them. My favorites are Jack Dylan Grazer as Eddie and Finn Wolfhard (from Stranger Things) as Richie. Grazer's Eddie is a 12 year old version of an old man and he is so good at this. Wolfhard is playing opposite of his Stranger Things character and it's nice to see his comic side as Richie, the loud mouth of the group. Sophia Lillis as Beverly steals the movie from the boys; she's the right mix of tough and vulnerable and pre-teen girl. She and Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) have a running joke about New Kids on the Block that is both hilarious and unexpected. And yes, she does look like Molly Ringwald.

That's what I enjoyed most about the new film; there's humor and horror. At the end of the day, these are children who are doing something way beyond their years. It's nice to see the magic of youth and childhood friendship in this version of the film; I always felt that was lacking in the miniseries. They just do things there whereas here, we see the sides of friendship throughout the story. One of the things I didn't remember about the novel was the part where they all fight about taking on IT. Fighting with a friend is the worst without the added drama of an evil menace killing everyone.  Friendship, especially when you're young, is about the fun times and the terrible times. Your friends are the ones that stay with you through it all. The film captures that conflict and that truth so perfectly.

And really, that's the power of Stephen King.When you strip away all the gore and scary creatures and sex, his stories are about relationships and the human condition. He captures the magic of childhood and contrasts it beautifully against the harsh reality of adulthood. Our deepest fears manifest as a creepy clown or a leper in an abandoned house. An entire town is both part of and oblivious to a dark evil within. Our relationships protect us and get us through.

Just as long as we never, ever have to go to Derry.

Pennywise image
Miniseries kids
New cast

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Lazy Movie Weekend: Let's Get Ready to Rumble

I've been helping my parents clean and organize their basement. I started this project back in June when I was still in the middle of my job search. I needed a distraction/to occupy my time; my parents needed the manual labor. Win-win if you ask me.

My parents' basement is 45 years (how long they've been married) of stuff. We've moved eight times (at least) and there are some boxes that probably haven't been opened since we lived in Virginia the first time (1992-98). This project is one part attempt to organize and reduce the stuff in the basement and one part amazing trip down memory lane. Every box my brother and I open contains some fragment of our lives - toys, family photos, every uniform my father ever owned, my mother's wedding gown, dishes we haven't used since 1987 (I'm looking at you, wooden salad bowl). It's nostalgia overload. Yesterday, we finally found the box containing the missing Star Wars weapons and a box of tickets from my brother's high school/college years including the ticket to the first show he went to by himself (Cutting Crew) and proof that he has been to all of the baseball games. We also opened the box my mother's wedding dress was in; sadly it's yellowed with age, but we were able to answer the question of what happened to her veil (it was under the dress). She thought she lost it; my grandmother must have had it all along.

What does any of this have to do with the Netflix series GLOW? On the surface, nothing. However, if you dig a bit more, more than you think. GLOW is, like Stranger Things, a show that plays to the best part of our desire for nostalgia and the heady days of the distant past. I will do my best to avoid spoilers for the remainder of this post but seriously, stop re-watching Angel, mostly because it's terrible, and get your wrestling on with GLOW.

The Netflix series is loosely based on the show, GLOW: The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, that ran from 1986-1992. The original series was created by David B. McLane a wrestling promoter and announcer who saw something beyond T&A when the rare female wrestler made an appearance on the wrestling shows of the day...enjoyment. Crowds tended to like these women but promoters and owners saw the women as novelties and didn't want to waste money on a show or event solely focused on women. So McLane did what anyone would do; he moved to Hollywood, found a backer, and put out an open call for women to audition for the show.

The open call mainly attracted out of work actresses and dancers with little or no wrestling experience. Eventually, McLane and show director Matt Cimber would cast everyone from clean-cut, girl next door types (Liberty, Babe the Farmer's Daughter, Tara Belle), rock and roll inspired characters, sad stereotypes (Palestina, Big Bad Mama, Matilda the Hun), and oddball characters like Mt. Fiji and Colonel Ninotchka. They enlisted Cynthia Peretti (a WWA wrestler) and Armando Guerro to train the cast. The whole operation moved to Vegas and lived in a hotel and GLOW: The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling was born. What eventually emerges is a campy and highly entertaining women-centric wrestling show. There were rivalries (the Good Girls and the Bad Girls being one that ran through the whole series), a rap song for every character, special effects, and actual athleticism despite only a handful of real athletes in the cast. The women were popular and the show was a success, garnering higher ratings that the WWF's show Superstars.

Before diving into the Netflix series, I recommend watching the 2011 documentary about the original show, GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. It's a great look at the show and the women who made it the success it was. The documentary provides background that helps fill in some of the gaps of the series. The series isn't a straight up remake nor is it a homage; it uses the original show as a launching point. What I enjoyed about the documentary was the way the women talk about one another and the experience of being a part of GLOW, almost like it's a sorority. The show had a huge impact on all of them and many remember it as a high point in their lives. One of my favorites from the original cast is Emily Dole (Mt. Fiji). She is the heart of GLOW and I loved listening to her memories. It's also super fun to spend time with Dee Booher (aka Matilda the Hun/Queen Kong), one of the only actual wrestlers to appear on the show. Her perspective on early wrestling helps round out the story.

The Netflix series came about because the current owner of GLOW, Ursula Hayden (who wrestled on the original series as Babe the Farmer's Daughter), sold the rights to the show to Netflix. The series stars Alison Brie, Betty Gilpin, and Marc Maron. It's the most 80s-tastic show I've watched since finishing the first season of Stranger Things. The fashion is amazing as are the bangs and glitter makeup. The music is fun and fitting, and the political/social themes of this period are oddly impactful give our current climate. I'm thinking specifically of the first tag team match we see and the Liberty Belle v. Zoya the Destroya match more broadly. The show is fun but also deals with some serious topics, particularly around racial stereotypes, abortion, and 80s era feminism. At the end of the day, the word that comes to mind about GLOW is charming. The show is charming. Because it's not set today, there's no hipster nonsense or need to be so freaking clever about every thing. We can simply enjoy a show about lady wrestlers. If you watched the original show, cool. If you didn't, welcome to the party.

Most of the charm comes from the the cast. I love Marc Maron and would have watched the whole series because of him even if it had been terrible (thankfully not the case). Maron's Sam is a stand-in for Matt Cimber, the original director. He's a B/C movie director who also happens to be an addict and a womanizer. Despite or maybe because of these things, I love Sam. Maron steals every scene he's in and can best be summed up by this line:

Remember Short Attention Span Theater and the heady days of mid-1990s stand-up comedy? That's when my love affair with Marc Maron began. I've since followed him through acting gigs (the promoter in Almost Famous, random movies where I'm like, "hey, was that Marc Maron?", and of course the wonderful Maron). I'm not a podcast person but I occasionally listen to "WTF with Marc Maron" because it's entertaining and sometimes very emotional; I appreciate that about him. He has cats and occasionally posts funny/awesome photos of them on Instagram. In his book, Attempting Normal, he talks about the cats and also relays the story of when he bought new jeans at a Levi's store and the clerk told him to get in the bathtub wearing his jeans to really break them in. I think of this particular anecdote often because it's the exact hipster nonsense that I cannot deal with even if it means I get better coffee and can buy fancy cheese whenever I want (these things are all related).

But I digress.

Let's talk about the actual gorgeous ladies of wrestling. My two favorites are Cherry (played by Sydelle Noel) and Carmen (Britney Young) who becomes Machu Picchu. They're both fun to watch and add elements to the show that would be lacking without them. Cherry is a former B-movie actress (think Pam Grier in Foxy Brown) who becomes Sam's right-hand woman as the show trainer. Of course, they have a past which makes their scenes together even better. She provides the order this chaotic scheme needs. Carmen is one of the younger cast member who happens to be part of a wrestling family. Her father doesn't want her to wrestle but she does anyway, coming into her own. I hope there's more of both of them in season two.

Then there's Alison Brie and Betty Gilpin. The series opens with them as friends, both actresses at various stages of their careers. Gilpin's Debbie is a "retired" (because she got married and had a kid) soap opera actress and Brie's Ruth is a struggling actress, going out on any and every audition. She's also every pretentious actor friend you've ever had (trust me on this if you have no actor friends). Season one is really about these two characters and their journey from friends to enemies to the ring. I totally agree with Sam on the Mark situation/attraction; I don't get it but I'll let you decide on that one on your own. I'm not a huge Alison Brie fan but I do enjoy her in GLOW. Maybe it's because she's playing a pretentious actress and her being annoying is part of her charm on the show.

The rest of the ladies include gems like Kate Nash as Rhonda/Britannica, Kia Stevens as Tamme/Welfare Queen, Sunita Mani as Arthie/Beirut, and Britt Baron as Justine, who is on the show for a very specific reason (I won't spoil it for you). There's also Chris Lowell as Sebastian (Bash), the money behind the operation. He's a fun addition to this motley crew with his weird houseboy, robot butler, and expansive costume closet. His existence also gives us an appearance by Elizabeth Perkins as his society mother. The episode where the GLOW ladies crash her party is one of my favorites and it's exactly what Nancy Reagan would want in a fundraiser.

GLOW is a great show. It's hilarious, empowering, and nostalgic. I hope the second season will include more of the secondary cast, particularly Sheila the She-Wolf, Arthie, and Carmen. Will the show move to Vegas? Let's hope so. Will we get to see more matches? We better. Will Ruth and Sam become a thing? I don't really need that to happen but it'd be fine if it did. Will Debbie leave her husband? If she's smart, then yes. At the end of the day, GLOW is a lot of fun. We can argue for days about whether wrestling is real or not but to be honest, who cares? Just sit back and enjoy the gorgeous ladies of wrestling.

Coming soon to the Island: I'll do everything wrong when it comes to meal planning, we go back to Derry and meet a new terrifying Pennywise, and we'll do a check in on my new work life goals. 

GLOW Netflix cast
GLOW original cast

Monday, August 21, 2017

We got Annie

When I was a little girl, my favorite movie was the musical Annie. I could watch the movie everyday and not tire of it...just ask my parents, my brother, and my Aunt Pat. They all hate this movie with a passion and it is entirely my fault. As an adult, I still have an affection for the movie but it's mostly due to my love of national treasures Ann Reinking, Bernadette Peters, and Carol Burnett, and adopted national treasure, Tim Curry. The movie is worth it simply to watch these four performers have so much fun.

My family has teased me about my love of Annie forever. This is probably a better things to be teased about than say most of the clothes I wore between 1987 and 1995 or my love of New Kids on the Block. I hated the teasing over the years, but it led me to the discovery of the cat we all know and love as Pumpkin.

I moved to Hawaii after graduating from college. My dad was stationed at Ft. Shafter and I had zero idea of what to do with my life, so I took my parents up on the offer to live at home while I figured it out. I enrolled in a graduate program at the University of Hawaii Manoa (not a great idea) and found a job working at Diamondhead Theatre. The only downside was that I had to leave my cat, Molly, behind in New Orleans. Mainland pets have to be quarantined for several weeks and it's expensive. Molly was adopted by a friend of mine and lived a wonderful life in New Orleans. My parents knew I was disappointed about leaving Molly behind so they decided to "get me" a cat for Christmas (they paid the adoption fees at the SPCA). We decided to go to the shelter while my brother was visiting for the holidays so the whole family could be involved in finding the cat.

Right before we went to the find my cat, my dad saw an ad in the paper featuring an orange cat named Annie. He joked that he had found "my cat" and we had a nice laugh over. I don't remember if I called to see if she was still there or not; I don't think I did. I feel like we decided to see if she was still there when we got there. Cats are particular about people so I didn't want to get my heart set on her and then she didn't like me. In my heart, though, I really wanted that particular cat. I wanted to be her human.

The experience of going to an animal shelter is overwhelming. There are so many animals that need love and a good home. Unfortunately, many of them don't find that home and it's sad to think about what happens to them. The areas for cats are often the most full parts of shelters; people abandon cats with a frequency that has always alarmed me. At the SPCA we went to, the older cats were in the first room and were mostly allowed to roam and laze about as cats do. Since I was interested in adopting a younger cat, our SPCA lady walked us quickly through the open room to a smaller side room where younger cats were kept. I walked in behind the SPCA lady and moved forward so everyone else could come in. My dad stopped by the first set of cages while I started looking around. Not even a minute into the room I heard him say, "I think I found your cat." In the cage right next to him was Annie. She had stuck her little paw through the cage and tapped my dad on the shoulder as if to say "Hey buddy, I'm over here!" I walked over, she meowed, the lady let her out, she jumped into my arms, and the rest is history. This also explains why my father is her second favorite person. We renamed her Pumpkin, after a series of votes (where the popular vote actually mattered), and she came home on January 3, 2002. She spent her first few days soaking up the sun on the lanai and terrorizing geckos. Eventually, she would "patrol" the lanai to keep us safe from the wild pigs that roamed Ft. Shafter. She was always looking out for our safety...or something.

Pumpkin lived a great life. She got to live in Hawaii and California, two states many people covet as homes. She caught mice in my apartment in New Orleans to show me what a killer she was. She enjoyed torturing bugs who dared to come into our home. She made the sassiest faces, perfecting the side-eye shade like a freaking boss. She made me laugh, annoyed me, and comforted me when I needed it. I, in turn, fulfilled my role as her devoted human (with hundreds of photos to prove it). What I didn't realize was how much joy she brought other people, many of whom never met her. They only experienced her through social media posts and stories on the Island. It's amazing to me to see how much joy she brought people and how many commented on her "personality" and how they looked forward to following her adventures. She have ignored most of them in person, but what can I say? Cats are jerks. Tiny, fluffy, adorable jerks.

As I sat at the vet on Saturday waiting to hear what was wrong with her, another cat owner sat down next to me to wait for his cat. We started chatting as a very sinister looking dog came in to been seen by one of the vets. The man's cat's name is Charlie so I'll refer to him as "Charlie's dad." The ER vet who took care of Pumpkin was also taking care of Charlie. Charlie got into a fight with something and had a nasty scratch on his face that looked like it was infected. Charlie's dad asked me how long I'd been waiting. I told him what was going on with Pumpkin and that I had been there for about three hours at this point. He asked me a bunch of questions about her, our life, and asked for some fun stories about her. I shared all of this as one proud cat parent to another. When I was finished he said to me, "We only need two things in life: beauty and inspiration. Cats provide both. Whatever you decide to do today will be the right thing for Pumpkin. You might not think so now and you can be sad but she was both of those things to you. Remember that." He proceeded to tell me that he may have broken the law by letting his cat out (and then it got in a fight) and recommended I adopt two cats when I adopt my next pet (which he knows I will do) since cats should have friends. Obviously.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out about Pumpkin. Your kinds words mean a lot to me. I'm so glad she provided so much entertainment, sass, and cuteness over the years. Please enjoy some more photos of Pumpkin but before you do, take a listen to my favorite song from the movie version of Annie. This is definitely a song about Pumpkin.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

In Which I Let a Stranger Select My Clothes

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to hear Margaret Wheeler, the Chief People & Culture Officer at Stitch Fix, give a talk about building a company culture. It was during an employee engagement conference; in the same conference similarly titled leaders from Hulu, Tesla, and Columbia Sportswear shared various insights into engaging employees in different ways and what makes their organization unique. Wheeler was my favorite presenter of the entire conference. She was fun to listen to and talking about an interesting challenge Stitch Fix has in that most of their employee base is made up of remote stylists. Engagement of in-office employees is a challenge; remote employees bring an entire level of complexity to the engagement conversation. Her session was about the use of pulse surveys in assessing company culture, which are quick, frequent surveys of employees to test the "health" of an organization (Get it? Health. Pulse. Ha.). Their organization deployed this type of survey and had a lot of success learning about their employees and what they needed. Questions ranged from very organization specific questions to more social/fun questions designed to paint a picture of the employee group as a whole.

One of the questions Wheeler* shared was this one: What is Stitch Fix doing for you to help you reach your goals?" The question stuck with me long after the conference. I wrote a blog for my then organization about the topic and would return to this question often over the last few years, particularly when I was struggling with something at work. The question wasn't necessarily about professional goals, although you could answer it that way. Wheeler went on to share that employees shared goals about travel, learning new skills, connecting with people from all over, and being bold enough to try something new. When I originally heard her talk, I was really focusing my writing and my work blog focused on how I felt my old company was helping me expand my writing skills and giving me opportunities to do more writing. I saw in Wheeler's question a reality for myself and my colleagues shared my opinion too. That certainly changed over time but I still keep coming back to this question over and over again. When I was in the middle of my recent job search, this question was part of my process for evaluating organizations. I was able to dismiss organizations if I felt like the role wouldn't be advantageous to me or my career. Obvious right? Not so much when you're in the job search hustle. 

As much as I enjoyed Wheeler and her thoughts about creating a strong organizational culture, I didn't run out and join Stitch Fix. Despite the fact that she is a super-fashionable woman and was wearing a gorgeous white dress, I didn't sign up. At the time, Stitch Fix was still limited in sizes so I wasn't sure that they would actually be able to find anything for me. I was doing alright on my own in the fashion department anyway; I didn't need a stranger to help me. I may not have ever received lessons in how to dress like a woman, but I was making fashion work for me. Which is the point. I love avant-garde fashion as much as the next person, but I'm never going to wear it. I want my clothes to make me feel good. As Ariell Johnson so bluntly put it, "Like all my clothes, when I put them on, I was not thinking of you." I feel like it's taken me for-freaking-ever to really embrace this philosophy, but embraced it I have.

The thing is, I really don't enjoy shopping. I like shopping when other people are looking for something. I will be your shoe sherpa forever but when it comes to shopping for myself, I don't enjoy it anymore. I can trace this change, because I used to enjoy shopping, to the rise of skinny jeans. Now, I have come to enjoy skinny jeans (more on this shortly) but their initial rise in popularity made it so hard for more fuller figured ladies (like myself) to find pants and jeans that looked good. Eventually, clothing designers got their shit together and figured out that skinny jeans are actually flattering for all body types and made versions that look good even if you have hips or larger calves. I own skinny jeans/pants in several colors and black and gray. I still love my boot cut jeans but I have given friends in skinny jeans.

Since I don't really enjoy shopping BUT I want to be fashionable in my own way, I decided that the time has come for me to join Stitch Fix. In the last few years, they've expanded their women's size range and added a fix for men. They're running a new line of commercials right now were incredibly convincing about how awesome I would feel getting my first "fix" (that's what they call each box) and how I would love everything in the box. So I signed up. When I say signed up, I don't mean a simple "enter my email and create a password" process. No, in addition to those steps, I also had to create a style profile for myself. This includes questions about fit, what I like and dislike in clothes and accessories, and a long list of sizing questions. I was also able to leave a note for my personal stylist about what I'm looking for in clothing.

I liked this part of the process. It feels personal and it's fun. I got to really focus on what I love about fashion and clothes. I talked a lot about whimsical patterns and loving stripes and how I really love bold colors but also wear a lot of black. I want to look professional but also like me so a little humor and fun injected into things. I'd been cautioned by friends and some of my new co-workers to be very specific and provide feedback on my fixes or else I'd be disappointed. If you're going to pay for something, you should be honest about what you want. So I was very thorough with this stage. I even created a Pinterest board for my stylist to look at (no idea if she does this). Never ever did I think I would create a Pinterest board for anything. I'm never going to have a wedding in a reclaimed barn so why would Pinterest be in my life?

And then I waited. I selected the quarterly fix option so I had to wait a few weeks between signing up and receiving my first fix. While I was waiting, my newest acquisitions from Modcloth arrived in the mail. Leave it to Modcloth to finally allow me to realize my dream of finding work appropriate dinosaur patterned clothing.

It's such a great shirt...subtle dinosaurs. One of my co-workers didn't realize the pattern was dinosaurs until she sat next to me in a meeting. I also love this picture and I never love pictures of me. I'm not saying it's solely the dinosaur shirt but I it deserves a little bit of the credit.

Finally, my fix arrived. Of course, Pumpkin claimed the box as hers (see above photo) so I had to wait until she got distracted by air to actually open it. It did, in fact, feel a like Christmas. I was excited and a little nervous about what I would find once I opened the box. Would this stranger hit the mark or be so off base that I'd end up disappointed? Would I love everything in the box so much that I'd spend money I really shouldn't on buying all the things?  I was cautiously optimistic that this fix was going to be fabulous.

And fabulous it was. First, let's discuss the lovely packaging that is a Stitch Fix box. Talk about a perfectly integrated brand. Everything goes together to invite me into the fashion club I now belong to. 

I "met' my stylist, Jami. According to the clothing guide included, she was "digging" a classic vibe for my first fix. She selected pieces that would be work appropriate and fun to wear more casually (exactly what I asked for). There were stripes and bold colors and a cute dress (lacking pockets but rocking sleeves). Jami seemed to get me.

Each fix includes five items that vary depending on my profile selections. Since I selected clothing and accessories, this fix included four clothing options and a necklace. The necklace was not my style but still nice. I put it aside and focused on the clothes. I wanted to keep all four items before I tried anything on. I liked everything. I didn't think I would but I did. I was hoping it would all fit...that would be the true test of whether Jami and I would continue on this fashion journey together or if I would run far, far away from future fixes.

I started with the one item that I truly hoped would fit me: a navy and striped three-quarter length sleeve top. I love stripes and think navy is one of the most underrated clothing colors in the world. It's also super soft and could be casual with jeans or a little dressier with a cute skirt and heels. I love this shirt. I decided the second I put it on that I would be keeping it. I should also note that none of the brands were familiar to me; that's another thing I like about Stitch Fix. I'm getting access to brands I wouldn't normally find or even know about.

Next up...the dress. I wanted to like this dress. Also in navy, it was a good length (just at the knee) and the addition of sleeves made me happy. However, it had an odd front panel that made me think of a nun's habit and it was a little big in the top. I don't have a full length mirror or a selfie stick so the picture isn't great but you get the idea. My feedback on this was "style is good, fit is off, panel is weird."

While they weren't styled together in the guide that came with my fix, I decided to try the last two items on together. Like the first shirt, I immediately liked both items and was hopeful they would fit.

Yes, that's a pair of fuchsia skinny jeans and a black lace top. I'm currently obsessed with these pants. I thought I loved my purple Elle skinny jeans but they have nothing on these. They fit perfectly. Pants never fit me perfectly. They're the right length and hit correctly at the waist. Turns out, this particular style is a Stitch Fix exclusive. I want to wear these pants every day. Did I mention they have real pockets? They do. It's so great. The top was nice but again, fit was an issue. It was a little big in the bust area so the drape was off.

Please excuse my cluttered sink.

All in all, my first fix was awesome. I kept two pieces and sent the rest back. After trying it all on and packaging up the rejects (although they were very nice rejects), I logged onto my account any provided Jami with feedback on each item. I hope she enjoys my enthusiasm for the fuchsia pants as much as I enjoy wearing them. In theory, Jami will use my feedback, her stylist knowledge, and seasonal trends to curate my next box. Since shipping my items back, I received a few emails from the company encouraging me to share my latest obsession (I would if I had a good photo of me in those pants) and how to transition summer items into fall. Now all that's left to do is obsessively add items to my Pinterest board while I await my November fix.

Pumpkin is a fan of the fuchsia pants too.

*Video is from a different conference on a similar topic. She's awesome.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Sharknados

I'm not entirely sure what I just watched. It might have been an Indiana Jones homage. It might have been a classic sci-fi creature. It's possible it's a weird rom-com. Or maybe a long-form advertisement for extreme sports. It's very possible it's a religious movie that also involves time travel. A lot of things happened in the space of this movie and we've been set up for more. But I still have no idea what I just finished watching. I was treated to a nice little interview featuring the creator and director of the Sharknado films, Anthony C. Ferrante, last Friday and on top of proving he is the nicest human being in the film industry, he basically confirmed that we will be watching Sharknado movies for the rest of our lives.

I'm torn on this. On one hand, I love the Sharknado movies. They're ridiculous, campy, completely unbelievable, and a wonderful testament to the power of social media to drive fandoms. The cast and crew seem dedicated to making these movies and from what Ferrante says in the interview, they commit to the most ridiculous ideas because they're enjoying being part of this franchise. Many of them, most notably Ian Ziering and Tara Reid, have salvaged their careers with these films. On the other hand, I don't actually believe we need any more of these movies. Five was way too many despite the fact that there are some delightful things in the fifth one (we'll get to these shortly). I'll continue to grapple with my love/hate/love/hate relationship with these movies and provide the service I always promise you: I watch these movies so you don't have to BUT you can feel like you did.

Let's dive into Sharknado 5: Global Swarming (pun intended).
  1. There are an incredible amount of movie references in this one. I can only assume Ferrante was watching Stranger Things between movies and was like, "I'm going to do my homage to everything ever because I can! With sharks!" We've got, and these are just the ones I caught, Indiana Jones, a Godzilla reference, Back to the Future, James Bond references, an Infinity Stones/Marvel inspired plotline, the Brendan Fraser Mummy movies, and possibly a veiled Terminator reference although I may just be projecting that one.
  2. Remember nothing good ever comes of repelling into cave or spelunking. Nothing.
  3. Nova! She's actually back this time (seriously she was what was missing from the entire second and fourth movies). Nova belongs to the single greatest creation of the sharknado universe (yes, I just typed that sentence): the Sharknado Sisterhood. Seriously, why are we only now learning that they exist? More on the sisterhood shortly. "Please tell me you've started a band not a cult." Funniest thing Ian Ziering has ever said in his entire career.
  4. I don't think they know how NATO or British people work. No one says "chap" that much.
  5. Of course the sharknados are from the past and there are basically Infinity Stones at certain places around the world (Stonehenge, the pyramids) to keep it all in check. Of course this is why these things happen. It's not the Shepard family despite the fact that they are always in the middle of it. I know I said before that I don't blame them but now I'm not so sure.
  6. Don't touch anything you find in a cave under Stonehenge, especially if it's surrounded by sharks. Haven't you ever watched a movie in your life?
  7. "Don't aggravate the sharks." Say it in a delightful British accent for the full affect.
  8. Took 15 full minutes for a "London Bridge is falling down" joke.
  9. Normally the cameos make me laugh but we have to talk about Bret Michaels (which may also be the title of my first memoir for no apparent reason but that it's a great title). What is this even about? Why is he in London? Why is he randomly walking down the street? Why does he randomly have a guitar and starts playing once attached to the bus? Does he die? I missed it if he did. Why is Bret Michaels here? Vince Neil made sense in the one he was in; he was in Las Vegas which is basically the only place Vince Neil can feel like a normal human. There is literally no reason for Bret Michaels to be in London.
  10. I still really dislike April and spent most of this movie cringing every time she speaks...which is often. Oh and she flies. Remember, she's a cyborg now.
  11. So Gil, the youngest Shepard child, gets sucked into the sharknado, Fin rides a shark into Buckingham Palace so he can stop it from killing the Queen, and Charo is the Queen of England. All of this happened before the opening title sequence.  
  12. Slow motion running = tragedy has occurred.
  13. "We should have never gone into that cave." Understatement of the year.
  14. Y'all, Nichelle Nicols is in this movie. Uhura is in this movie. But so is the Dance Moms woman, Chris Kattan, and Geraldo Rivera so maybe her appearance is negated by Geraldo. I don't know if there's some form of cameo math at work here. For everyone that's cool and amusing, there are six that are stupid.
  15. And suddenly we're in Switzerland because now the sharknado is actually a transporter and people who are sucked into it just end up in another country. Maybe the sharknado isn't all that bad if you don't have to deal with the airlines anymore.
  16. Meanwhile back in Kansas (literally), the other Shepard son is preparing a bunker of sorts with a weird old guy and foreshadowing his ultimate demise. The Shepard kids get the short end of every stick in these movies.
  17. How does this movie even work? They're in Australia now and there are sharks in the water (where they belong) and April is injured even though they all jump in punching sharks in the face. I really thought she would die at this point and then Fin and Nova would end up together as the Goddess of Inappropriately Aged Co-Stars intended. 
  18. Wait, is this movie actually about women running the world? Is Beyonce going to burst in and save the world by dropping a new album, having triplets, and having flawless hair all at the same time? The Sharknado Sisterhood is the part of this movie that I was expecting the least but love the most. It's like every 90s movie involving a woman in a cat suit met up with Wonder Woman and the Women's March and this is what we got. Olivia Newton-John is here making both Grease and Xanadu references and making April over in a way that would make Sandy proud but makes me rage-ful. She also says, "Don't get too physical."
  19. Tony Hawk! My favorite cameo of this film because obviously skateboarding will save the world.
  20. "The Paxton Initiative" - is that a reference to Bill Paxton? I really hope it is.
  21. So now we're in Brazil and we've learned that the stone they took is one of several (See? Infinity Stones.) that allows a person to control the sharknados. And of  course a shady dude (played by Greg Louganis) steals it so we get a car chase through sharknados via Italy.
  22. Which leads us to Downtown Julie Brown and Pope Fabio. Apparently, Downtown Julie Brown is an emissary of the Pope. Nothing makes sense anymore.
  23. The sharks have gone nuclear and are heading to Japan because of course they are.
  24. "Clear your mind of all thoughts." Shouldn't be hard with this movie.
  25. They've created a Sharkzilla! I repeat, they've created a Sharkzilla!
  26. There's the Xfinity plug I was waiting for. It took almost the entire movie for it to appear. Crazy.
  27. Followed closely by our required "Today Show" appearance. Thank goodness for Kathie Lee, Hoda, and Al. I enjoy every instance of Al beating sharks to death with a baseball bat.
  28. The Sisterhood arrives in Japan dressed for battle like they're going to either a stripper convention or a very dark bachelorette party. Nova jumps into the Sharkzilla/sharknado to save Gil (yes, we're still trying to save him although I've made no reference too him because too much is going on). And then Nova dies. Yes, of all the people to die, Nova dies. Fucking Shepard family ruins everything.
  29. The only thing missing from this movie is Gilbert Gottfried. Oh wait, there he is, introducing us to "safarinados." If he had only screamed "Damned, dirty sharks" this movie would be complete for me. 
  30. So they try to go back to Stonehenge to right the wrong of removing the stone but end up in Egypt at another temple to sharks (sure) located in a pyramid. Have we not learned anything, remaining members of the Shepard family? Don't touch anything. Don't go in the secret tomb you opened when you touched stuff. And don't turn on the ancient machine that you think might stop the sharknados. You'll just mess it up like you mess up everything else. 
  31. And then...April dies. She sacrifices herself to save the world. Or something. Her somewhat grief-stricken husband picks up her cyborg head, ties it into a hobo pack, and starts his journey to find any survivors. 
  32. Just when you thought we were at the end of these movies, Dolph Lundgren appears in a time machine/truck claiming to be future Gil Shepard. He's come back to save the world and bring everyone back from the dead (because all of the Shepards except Fin are dead). So they're going back in time because now we're in Back to the Future (they even used the same font). "Where we're going, you don't need a license." What I don't "understand" about this part is this: if he's gone back to the past and to the future to stop the sharknados, is Gil going to write himself out of history? Because if the first sharknado doesn't occur, his parents never get back together and he doesn't exist. Is that what the next movie is going to be about? 
There are about fifteen things I excluded from this list because as I was writing it I was thinking to myself, "this might be why I'm still single." I love suspending disbelief, particularly for campy, ridiculous sci-fi movies but at some point, the logical side of my life takes over and I'm back to where I was at the beginning of this post...I have literally no idea what I just watched.

Like all good things, it may be time for this one to come to an end.

Although, if Anthony C. Ferrante wants to make spinoff series of movies about the Sharknado Sisterhood, I'd be on board with that. I'd even send some suggestions to you about how to be better when it comes to creating strong female action heroes. I'm helpful that way.

Coming soon: I try StichFix and let some stranger on the internet select clothes for me. Let's see what she comes up with my first "fix." I'll also share my distrust of Pinterest and how to wear dinosaur themed clothes at work. We also need to tackle the glory that is GLOW (series and documentary) and tackle my fourth attempt at getting my meal planning act together. This time, it features chia seeds. All coming your way this August on the Island!!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Old habits die hard

I don't like strangers touching me. I know this is a relatively obvious statement to make; most of us don't like it when someone we don't know bumps into us on the street or our hands brush on the Metro. As I am female, I have also experienced my share of "being female in public" moments of dudes thinking it was appropriate to grab my butt or touch some part of my person at a bar. Nope, it is not appropriate. As the great Patrick Swayze once said, "This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don't go into yours, you don't go into mine." I like to live my personal space life with occasional Johnny Castle quotes in my brain as it seems appropriate (he knew a thing or two about personal space). We can all agree that none of us enjoy these types of encounters with strangers. Don't get me started on sweaty crowds at music festivals.

When I say I don't like strangers touching me, I'm actually talking about people who are in professions where they may actually have to touch a person to do their jobs. This includes massage therapists, manicurists, hair stylists, and yoga instructors. I don't doubt that their intention is professional and in their clients' best interest but I find the type of familiarity that comes with these interactions somewhat exhausting. Several of my friends think this is strange, particularly the massage part since they find massages relaxing (I don't). And it's not like I don't make exceptions; I like my stylist and I have a favorite manicure place. I typically attribute my dislike of these types of interactions to my introverted, slightly Type A nature and call it a day.

One of the things I promised myself when I started my new job was that I would not fall into the patterns I've been living in my work life for the last past 5 years (maybe it was the last 10 but I'll just say 5 to be generous). This is the list I made for myself of habits I want to try to break:
  • Eating lunch at my desk more than 3 times a week
  • Not taking a break at least once per day
  • Excessive baking
  • Not taking advantage of all the perks, benefits, and fun stuff available to me
  • Arriving early...every day
  • Feeling like my phone is a new appendage and I must read all of my work emails immediately
  • Not wasting my PTO
  • Going out to lunch more than 3 times a week
  • Only wearing jeans 2 times a week
It's not a work revolution I know but, when added up over time, these habits abet in creating a work life that feels like work. I want to enjoy where I work and what I do. Yes, the organization creates the culture and maybe encourages the habits. However, the reality is that I am part of the culture and the process. I have free will. I an adult lady who can do things. Attitude and practice are part creating habits.

I've been in the new job a month as of this week. A month is both a short and long time period depending on your perspective. I feel like it's gone by very quickly. I've done an incredible amount of work this month but have also only scratched the surface of the organization and my actual job. What's cool and satisfying is that I'm already contributing and getting things accomplished. Given my experience with onboarding new employees, I know this is not always the case when you start a new job. I like my new manager, my team, and many of the other people I've met since starting. I feel like I'm doing good work. There's a feeling of trust that I don't know I've ever felt this early in a new job. It's refreshing.

So how am I doing on breaking those old habits or at least not establishing new versions of them?
  • Eating lunch at my desk more than 3 times a week - I'm trying so hard not to do this. There are multiple lunch/break rooms in the office plus and outdoor area that's not terrible even on a super hot day. I'm getting better but still need some improvement.
  • Not taking a break at least once per day - Two weeks ago I starting walking around the outdoor track with two of my co-workers. It's about a 20 minute walk and I need to do the correct thing and put it on my calendar so I do this at least 3 times per week. And yes, I have walking buddies. I'm on the slow path of making friends at work.
  • Excessive baking - Haven't baked a thing. I have a lot of feelings about this since I really love to bake but don't really want to get in the habit of bringing stuff to work. I'm not saying my new co-workers would be the same but there is a point where this becomes an expectation rather than a nice thing I do for people. I don't want to get into the expectation place again. Thankfully, I'm starting a monthly crafting get together with my friends so they will get all th baked goods and I'll at get some baking done and order will be restored to the universe. Or something.
  • Not taking advantage of all the perks, benefits, and fun stuff available to me - We'll come back to this one in a moment
  • Arriving early...every day - My commute is much longer now so I'm very aware of time as I start my day. I wake up, go to the gym, get ready, and am out of the house by 6:30. I'm at work by 7:20 and ready to start my day. My hours are earlier so I leave by 4:30. I think I've finally adjusted to the new schedule. I occasionally go to bed at 9 pm on a weekday. I am totally fine with this.
  • Feeling like my phone is a new appendage and I must read all of my work emails immediately - Most of my direct team is located outside of the US so the bulk of my emails actually come in early in the morning given the time difference. I'm totally cool with this. I suspect this will change once the program I manage kicks off in September but for now, I'm managing my work email time quite well.
  • Not wasting my PTO - Noted. I already have several uses for the days I'll have this calendar year AND I took the bonus holiday of July 3 (floating holiday) so I'm baby-stepping my way to taking time off.
  • Going out to lunch more than 3 times a week - I've been pretty good about bringing my lunch but also reliant on the fact that we have a cafe in the building which is both awesome and terrible. This is a work in progress.
  • Only wearing jeans 2 times a week - I am crushing this one! In a month, I've only worn jeans twice. I've always tried to wear clothes that are on the dressier side of casual so this hasn't been as hard as I thought it would be. It also helps that everyone in the office is super stylish and incredibly put together in a very casual/professional way. They're very inspiring. Also, I may have just purchased business appropriate tops in dinosaur and cat patterns. I still have to be me.
As of this past Monday, I'm not the newest person on the team anymore. I was actually helpful to the person who started this past Monday. I could actually answer questions for her and shared the wisdom of my whole month of employment with the company with her. I know, it's great stuff.

Which brings us back to strangers touching me. One thing I've come to enjoy about this new organization is that they seem to have figured out how to have the perks of a typical tech company (ping pong table and Rock Band in the break room, car detailing on site, fresh fruit in the kitchen) without making it seem like they're pandering to some weird trend in HR or trying to be super cool to for the kids. Maybe I'm being naive but I don't believe so. There is an genuineness with these efforts that's hard to fake. One of these perks is monthly seated chair massages. It just so happened that the July day fell on my actual one month anniversary so I decided, in the interest of this new start, I would put aside my feelings and give it a try. The worst that could happen would be that it wasn't enjoyable and I'd never sign up again. The best? Well, my commuting stress would be massaged into submission.

It was somewhere in between. This is all set up in a large conference room on the first floor of the building. They darken the room and turn on soothing music. Each 10 minute time block includes four people; they do a nice job of setting up each chair in the space so it doesn't feel crowded. The massage therapist I was assigned to was very nice; I'm pretty sure he realized he was dealing with a slightly Type A person who is not great at relaxing on command (which is basically what a massage is in the big picture of life). I felt better afterward. I dived right back into work but the tension in my shoulders was gone (that's where my stress lives by the way). It was a positive experience. Will I do it again? Maybe. Even if I don't, I'm still trying to make a good work life for myself.

It was a good first month. The work is fun and challenging. The people are pretty cool. As I wrote back in May, I was getting so bored not working and not doing what I like doing (helping people be their best at work). Boredom can be a good thing but it's also exhausting. There are only so many hours of CSI reruns to watch (although there are 15 seasons so you can do the math). It feels good to be back in the world of work.

Now if I could only find the elusive best way home in the evening, I'd be all set. I don't know how people commute for years and years without becoming rage-filled psychopaths; I've only been doing this for a month and I want to physically harm people who don't realize the lane ends and they have to merge even though there's a GIANT SIGN that tells them this. These people are why we can't have nice things.

The desk dinos have a new home and seem to be settling in nicely. One of them may come with me when the frozen yogurt truck pays us a visit this week.