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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Quick Christmas Recap

Well, Christmas has come and gone for another year. It makes me sad and relieved at the same time. The fact is, Christmas is stressful no matter what you do for a living, or how your family acts during the festivities, or what kind of presents you receive from loved ones. I'm pretty sure retail ranks up there in the challenging holiday jobs department, but I still love it for some reason. I think it's because I see so many good people rise to the occasion, and get to laugh at those who make the holidays a million times worse by being jerks--or that try to anyway. And I love my work friends during the weeks leading up to Christmas, as we all humorously lose our minds together. Group delirium and the subsequent laughter at work? Priceless.
As per usual, there was drama in my family during Christmas Eve AND Day, but I will still--as always--take away only fond memories from it all. It's what I do--it's what a lot of people do--and it was mostly great anyway. Of course, it doesn't hurt that I RACKED UP during Christmas. Gift cards galore, adorable (and much needed) new clothes and shoes...and a brand spankin' new 32" flat screen, no glare TV. I'm in love with it! The multitude of DVDs I also received are being enjoyed a million times more by me due, in large part, to this new TV.

Anyway, I'll write a longer post later to share some of the funny stories from the Christmas season, but for now, I've got lots to do on my day off. Can't wait for CHATTA NEW YEARS!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I'm getting too old for all of this, or is it too young?

Life can be pretty tough sometimes, and it is always going to be unpredictable. These are the things--among others--that make it interesting and fun, sad and often seemingly unbearable. I've known this for a long time; it was taught to me practically from birth, and then instilled further in me by the lessons of my parents: namely, having to get a job at the age of 15. Though I had my moments of hating working in those early days, usually when I had to miss out on a school dance or some other naturally life changing (haha) event, I found that I thrived in the workplace pretty much from the get-go. Customer service was, and still is I hope, my thing. I love interacting with people and (usually) spreading as much joy as possible. I've worked in fast food, upscale restaurants, and those oddly misplaced in-between ones that don't seem to fit into any category of restaurant exactly. I've worked countless registers and numerous customer service desks. I've been doing volunteer work for as long as I can remember, namely, spending 40 hours a week during the summer when I was 13 volunteering at a daycare near my parents' jobs. I've cleaned houses, condos, and apartments, and I've also been the head cleaning lady/maid for an awesome bed and breakfast--where I often pulled double duty by serving the rich at upscale shindigs hosted at said B&B. There have been moments I've wanted to rip my hair out--or really, the hair of so many, unnamed obnoxious, cruel, etc. etc. customers, but in the end, I've loved each and every job.

Like I said, customer service seems to be my thing, which probably helps explain why I dove so passionately into psychology and resurfaced with both a bachelors of arts degree in the subject and and intense, ongoing love of all things psychological. People often seem shocked that I'm working in a bookstore after I've already gotten my degree, but these people should realize that well over half of the staff in my store alone have college degree in a diverse, amazing group of subjects. And, if any of those shocked customers stepped back and used their own intuition, they would realize that I employ the use of that degree every single day; honestly, most days I use it multiple times each hour of every day. Because I'm not working directly in my field, people assume my degree is being wasted.

It's not. It certainly isn't the way I imagined I would be using it, but I wouldn't change my experiences for the world. Even now, as I'm trying to branch out (LSAT) towards "bigger and better" things, I realize that those aren't the right adjectives to describe my new quest at all: "different and slightly unnerving" probably fit better. Though so many try to make me feel-- intentionally or not--that what I'm doing isn't good enough (read: you have soooooo much potential! what a waste of such intelligence! blah blah blah!), I don't feel the same way at all...and haven't for quite some time. I love what I do, and the family I've created for myself at work, and one of the hardest parts about even deciding to TAKE the LSAT was knowing that, eventually, I would have to leave my home at the bookstore--and more upsetting, my family there--behind in order to take such a leap of faith. The thing is, I want to try law because I think I would be good at it, and I believe I could help a great deal of people, especially using the psychology and law together. Dubious looks abound from strangers, family members, friends, your mom...when I tell people wanting to help others is my primary reason for wanting to take such a risk. Everybody assumes, and many opt to voice loudly, that it has to be because I want to make more money more than anything else. Seriously??

I won't even try to lie and say I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to not have to, quite literally, live paycheck to paycheck. My bank account the day before pay day usually ranges anywhere from $10 to, no lie, 6 cents. It would be wonderful to make unexpected plans with a friend to go out for dinner and drinks and not have to spend an hour budgeting before I go. I'd love to be able to travel and see my friends in their hometowns nowadays without worrying that I won't be able to eat anything but Ramen noodles for the next 6 months. And I would have loved to have been able to buy a (new to me) car when my other one broke down after 16 years of life, instead of having to bum off my parents for the use of their truck (which they are very, very generous with, but that's not the point). Do I think about money? Naturally. Do I worry far too amount and much too much about money almost everyday? Probably. Am I alone in either of these things, even remotely? Not by a long shot.

I'm not one to pine away for a spoiled rich life, living in a house with dozens of rooms and several brand new, high end cars. I don't care to have a yacht (though I'd totally love some Sea Doos... some day). Flashy jewelry doesn't really suit me; it clashes too much with my flashy personality.
I love nice jewelry, and even own a few pieces, but I wear the same rings and bracelet everyday, and I used to wear the same necklace everyday for nearly two years. I don't feel the need--or want--to show off to people in that way, and I'm actually way more turned off by people greedy for money than I could ever be turned on by what Mr. Trillionaire buys me. These things just aren't my style, and I hope they never really are. I love nice things, especially clothes and shoes, but I don't need a wardrobe that could leave me showing up to the next three years' events never wearing any same stitch of clothing; I wouldn't do it anyway. I appreciate money, and I respect what it means for society as a whole, but I'm not a slave to it, and I plan to keep it that way. The fact of the matter is, of course, that money really does matter to most people in the world; oftentimes, it holds more value to those people than family, friends, name it. It is for those people--the ones who so clearly don't get what is important at all--that I most feel sorry. Between losing friends over business deals and getting constant requests for handouts, that life made so rich by cash and changes turns out to be so poor in the things that matter most. I mean, what's the point of having a yacht if there's nobody to enjoy it with you? What kind of loser needs a yacht when nobody wants to talk to him or cuddle with him or anything. Yay for you and your giant boat...I'll be over here talking to real people and being what used to be called "social". It is unfathomable to me what it would feel like to not laugh (almost) every single day, to squeal with joy for a friend's good fortune, hold their hand (literally or metaphorically) when life becomes (hopefully briefly) unbearable, have debates and learn new things...basically, I don't ever want to think of a world or a life where my amazing friends aren't there forever (well, as forever as it can). I miss GPS, and Ole Miss is rooted in my heart causing an intense drive to get back there to live, but I'm no longer afraid of what new adventures and risk taking will bring; the friends who have known and loved me for years are the first ones in line to cheer me on during my triumphs and behind me to catch me if I fall. My bookstore friends have joined these ranks as well, and in June I will CELEBRATE 3 years there.

So no, it is not an easy decision for me to make, and I won't even let myself think of how much of a mess I'll be when (and if!) the time comes to bid adieu to my wonderful job. Even as I know I've formed forever friendships, and built up good references professionally along the way, and even though I know time and distance do little to destroy strong friendships like mine, the leaving won't be any easier. I'm fully aware of this--I just choose to think of other things at the moment. It's months away at the earliest, and time goes by fast enough without me speeding it along with my thoughts.

Sometimes, I feel like I have far too much responsibility AND restrictions at age 25, this is life. Money can be a real bitch, and I'm becoming more and more convinced that the economy will never, ever be anywhere near "fixed", at least not in my lifetime. This is not to say that I'm all la-de-da about finances; in fact, I'm anything but that. When my store didn't make percentage last week--and I very nearly doubled service leader with over a 6%, so WTF?--I could have totally sworn actual steam was pouring from my hours for a couple of hours. Because for so many of my coworkers, especially the young ones, the amount of money I'm losing out on every time that happens (and worse, cumulatively) doesn't seem to be within their realm of understanding--or caring. But when I lost out of just under $100 of extra money in my account because they don't feel the need to push for such things as discount cards, or my family Christmas for that matter. The thing is, I'm glad we are a little less tough on mess ups and blips in performance than we used to be, but 3 years ago when I started (after the 3 month probation period), I got a write up for missing percentage 2 weeks in a row. Again, I think that may have been a little harsh and too early in my career for that...but I'd gladly trade that for now. People don't make percentage for weeks, and since much of the blame is deflected to me as head of ATR and I try to use constructive criticism to make positive changes when it does, they continue to perform like that--and get worse and worse, most times--because they have nothing to be afraid of. I always hated the idea of write ups, until I realized their importance to the store--and company--as a whole (as long as it becomes constructive and not suicidal inducing). A team should work together--and more importantly, WANT to work together. A write up isn't always terrible, and it doesn't mean you're on your way to the unemployment office. Much of the time, it really means we like you enough to want to give you ways to change the problem, so that you can stay rather than losing you as an employee. So, I guess...write ups for serial offenders and disastrous occurrences and not all the time, but write ups need to come back. My GM is incredibly fair and respectful of everybody. Nowadays with the obvious difference standards (especially for register people who both want and can work ) , or criterion rather, for being a successful employee, everybody should realize that if the GM has to give you a write up, it's because you slacked off on what you should be doing; family medical problems and the like are handled very differently and almost always honored if at all possible.

Plus, I'm sick of cleaning up other people's mess first thing in the morning, and somtimes having to do reshop too, all while always being the one to stock everything and also, you know, WAIT OF PEOPLE. One of the primary reasons I created the register communication log back in the summer was to ensure this time of year would go as smoothly as possible...or people could just ignore it, not make percentage, and never seem to make the connection between the two. Believe it or not, I know a thing or two about the registers--after nearly 3 years, moving up to register specialist, taking care of the ATR and oftentimes saving the store from percentage doom--there are few things I can't handle or understand register wise. So how hard is it to just do a few things I ask? We get paid the same amount to do VASTLY different jobs, so get your head in the game a little. At least I know that my bosses and my bosses' boss truly feel awful when I don't get my money because of others--and they relish in the times when I do, especially getting to write me a bonus!--and they know I work very, very hard at every aspect of every job I do there; that acknowledgement and gratitude really does go pretty far. And, if everybody helped out up at the register a little each shift, nobody (let's be honest--me) will have to completely gut and reorganize the registers every month or so, and everything will be easier to find! Plus, I'll be nicer, which may seem like a very benign issue--but none of them have seen me truly pissed off before--at least not while they are there--and they are working their way to seeing that side of me pretty rapidly.

But of course, because it's me, I still love these people. I care for the individual first and a corporation later; I just wish others felt--or would act--the same way. Those of my work friends who do not fall into this category have been godsends and every day become more wonderful in my eyes, and we all help each other out as equally as we possibly can. Of course, all of us who do truly care seem to have matching cases of OCD, which helps (and gets annoying as hell) for organizing and making things work smoothly and effectively a great deal--and also gives us the opportunity to show off our organizational masterpieces with others whose level of OCD-ness allows them to totally appreciate every beautiful fixture, endcap, register, cafe, etc. Baby OCD for the win!

Alright, enough with my soap box! I do love my job, and adore the people in my life. I'm also pretty fond of sleep, so I'm going to go get some of that before I head back into work in the morning.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

30 Days of Thanks

So, people on Facebook have been putting their "30 Days of Thanks", posting one thing per day during this Thanksgiving month that they are thankful for in their lives. With my crazy schedule, I've fallen way behind in not even starting on my thankful list, so I decided to just do it all at once on here. There are so many things to be thankful for in my life, and I don't want to miss an opportunity to put a few of them in writing. So, here goes...

1) My amazing, hilarious, creative, lovely family. Quite literally, I wouldn't be who I am without my immediate and extended family, and since I think I'm turning out pretty spiffy, I have to say I owe quite a bit of credit to them. My sense of humor is a great blend of my dad's sarcasm, my mom's quirky wit, and my brother's comedic timing. The intelligence I *hope* I possess is very much due to my parents insistence that I study hard and often, and that I always find ways to apply what I learn in the classroom and out of it to everyday life. Creative writing? Both of my parents, but also from my brother's incredible gifts of poetry and musicality. I'm so thankful, despite passionate fights and heartfelt tears, that we always find a way to find laughter in everything instead of dwelling on the hard parts. I'm so blessed.

2) My honest, crazy, supportive, and loving friends. When things have gotten hard in my life, like really painfully difficult, they are always there to support me with tough love, humor, and just the right amount of sugar coating when needed. I never fear that I'll be mislead by them, but I also don't have to worry that they will say anything to me purely out of spite or just to hurt me. Literally and figuratively speaking, they have in so many ways saved my life. I can never thank them enough, but I will certainly spend every day of my life trying to do so.

3) My "furbabies". Copper and Gus-Gus (and Karma, though she is an outside cat now and actually kind of belongs to my landlord these days) never fail to greet me after a long day of work and/or studying with nuzzles and love. They are my favorite movie buddies, and the best cuddle bugs. There is nothing like the love and affection of animals, and even more so from those who are rescued, as Copper is and Gus-Gus is the offspring of (Karma is the mommy), and I'm so grateful for all they bring to my life. Even if I still hate the litterboxes more than any of chore... okay, cleaning those is pretty much tied with doing dishes. Ugh.

4) My house. I know how lucky I am to get to live in my own house at 25 (with a roommate upstairs, but not's a weird, awesome arrangement), and the rent I pay--which includes all of my utilities too--is kind of incredible. Yes, I clean my landlord's house to knock off part of that, but I'm hardly complaining. Organizing, cleaning, and cheaper rent--kind of three of my favorite things.

5) My job...and all of my coworkers. Having a job in general during this recession is a blessing, so it means even more that I happen to have a job that I adore, where I get to work with some of my very best friends. I'm good at my job, and I get to use my psychology degree all the time in dealing with customers. Leaving it once I (hopefully) get into law school is going to be very hard, more difficult than most people realize and more than I've fully let myself fully comprehend. I know I'll stay friends with these people for years, and since my parents live here, I'll get to visit often...but it will be very hard to not see these people day in and day out. I love what I do, and my slight OCD cringes to think of what will become of those things I care so much about once I'm gone. But I know I'll leave it all in good hands, if I can ever bring myself to do so!

6) My book club, SCI. Not only do I get to keep in touch with four of my best friends, but I'm able to read books I oftentimes wouldn't think of picking for myself. Working in a bookstore, I get lots of book suggestions, so many so that sometimes it is difficult to pick the few I have time to read during any given month. I love the books my friends and I have picked thus far, and I can't wait to see what else people will pick! My sincerest hope when it comes to this club is that it lasts for a long, long time. With all of us living so far away from each other, sometimes the only time I get to talk to these wonderful friends is during our Skype discussions. We always plan on the meetings lasting an hour, but they usually fall much closer to two. We always have to catch up on each others' lives after the book discussion! So totally the best part :)

7) Movies...both my collection and the ones I (rarely, these days) get to see in theaters and at friends' houses. Often, stress relief is most quickly found in a simple movie (or TV show marathon!); other times I really like to pick a movie that challenges me to think deeper, or on a topic that I don't typically give much thought. Plus, movies also help to bring friends and family together, for fun all nighters or lively discussions. Films can be great for healing, learning, and so many more things.

8) Coffee. Yes, so simple and integral in my life. Caffeine is my friend, always totally has been, but even more so with the chaotic nature my life these days. It's the little things, really.

9) The Holidays, and everything that goes with it. It's true that this time of year can sometimes bring out the worst in people, and I see a good many of those people at work and out shopping, but mostly I see only humanity and love during this time of year. Also, extra holiday money at work is AWESOME!

10) My iPhone. Okay, okay...I know it sounds stupid. I'm just grateful that I have a way to stay in touch with more people more effectively throughout my day. With my e-mail, Facebook, text messages, phone calls, Twitter, blogs...and all the other (clearly too many online services I'm subscribed to...) ways to keep in touch, I don't feel like I'm going to miss out on the important updates in my life. It's a wonderful tool.

11) Facebook (and my laptop). The fact that I'm able to keep in touch with so many friends who live so far away is a blessing. So scoff if you must...but I'm grateful that such a site exists. My laptop helps me update my blogs and brainstorm story ideas and journal entries, and since writing is such an important release in my life, my laptop is kind of crucial. It's getting older and slower, but it has so many memories and documents on it. Simply wonderful.

12) Old TV sitcoms. By old, I mean the ones from my halcyon days--Friends, Will & Grace, Heroes, Home Improvement, Grey's Anatomy (yes, I know it's still on, but it's changed a lot and I don't have time to watch that much TV these days anyway), Seinfield, Daria (miss this one so much!), Clarissa Explains It All, The Secret World of Alex Mack, Are you Afraid of the Dark?, and many others. What's funny is that TV has never taken up too much of my life, and I'm not one to freak out if I miss an episode of something, but these shows brought a good bit of cheer to my life. I mostly don't even get into shows until the boxed sets come out anyway, so the week to week grind isn't pertinent to me. On a side note, I hate commercials even more than ever because I'm not used to them anymore since I watch shows on DVD. Commercials are a bitch! I'm glad that I get the time each week (usually) to watch Dancing With The Stars with my parents (free food AND quality time--double score!), and Tim Allen's new show (drawing a blank of the name right now) is HILARIOUS. I'm glad to see a show that is sitcom format instead of all reality TV. Clearly, I'm okay with some reality TV (DWTS), but at this point I'm really over turning EVERYTHING into a reality show. It's just too much, and it's draining creativity on TV to the point of ridiculousness, and I hate that these "celebrities" with no talent make so much money exploiting themselves, their families, and their friends. I just miss old school TV.

13) Red Wine. No, not in an alcoholic way. I drink FAR LESS than I used to, and I have no real desire to go back to drinking that much at this point in my life. It's just very nice to sit down with a glass or two of wine after a long day and read a book or watch a DVD. It doesn't hurt that red wine, in moderation, is good for the heart and the eyes. Since I'm blind in one eye and have a (very minor) heart murmur, these health perks are kind of awesome.

14) Great makeup. As I get older, I'm much more comfortable in my own skin, but the added spark with makeup always helps cheer me up. There's nothing wrong with wanting to look nice, nor is there an issue with letting it help you feel better about yourself and the world. Plus, makeup is just fun!

15) Fireplaces, and the smells of fall. I'm not a fan of being cold, and my fireplace is one of my favorite parts of my house in large part for this reason. There are few things in life more relaxing and comforting than a warm fire as the weather starts to turn bitterly cold. The smells of fall are just luminous, and just happen to be the first thing that stir up my holiday excitement and help me to be cheerful as opposed to overly stressed during the time of year where happiness should be front and center.

16) Long chats, long letters, long term memories. Sometimes, it's impossible to fit in a three hour phone chat...actually, it's often too hard to do such a thing. I'm okay with that, even as I know one of my favorite ways to bond with friends is through said chats (and even more so in person, but that's even tougher), because it makes it so much more special when I DO get to have them. Of course, because of that whole time issue, long letters help too. First off, I think letter writing is a lost art form, and I don't want it to completely die out with the the digital age. Second, I'm just much better at expressing my thoughts in writing as opposed to speaking--especially when it's particularly emotional. Third, I just love writing, and though I love to get letters back, I don't write them to others assuming I'll get a written response. It doesn't matter, because I know they'll have my letters, and will hear what I mean so much better. That being said, write to me! I do love getting mail OTHER than bills and junk. Both of these things help lead to those long term memories--the ones that give me comfort, joy, and strength forever afterwards. And what gifts could be better?

17) My Mama's home cooking. I don't get it often because of that damn time issue again, but when I do---YUMMY! Not only is my mom an amazing mother and great at her job, she also happens to be one of the best cooks I've ever met. I hope I have retained some of what she has taught me. Many of my favorite childhood memories have their roots in my mother's cooking, and I also learned about how to be healthier from her as well. Two amazing lessons, a gazillion delicious dishes, and one incredible woman. Thanks, Mom!

18) Movie Dates with my Daddy. These are so rare now, but I can still count on a fun night out whenever an action movie (usually the ones based on superheroes!) hits theaters. These "dates" started with the first Harry Potter, continued through college as I would forgo the midnight releases and drive the nearly 6 hours home to see them with him, and ended with the last movie release earlier this year. The original inspiration for these "dates" may be over, but the "dates" have become a tradition. For that--the time we get to spend because of them more than anything--I'm very grateful.

19) Traditions. Much like the daddy/daughter dates, the other traditions in my life are quite meaningful as well. Whether it's Christmas Eve Service, our annual Christmas Eve viewing of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, DWTS viewings, monthly (or bimonthly, during less hectic times) chats with my brother, SCI meetings, spending the night and watching HP (and talking all things HP) with Laura, Faux Christmas with my GPS best friends, or so many other random traditions, I'm glad to have the stability and somehow the spontaneity that these traditions ensure.

20) "Regulars" at work, many of whom have become good friends. Retail work can be ugly, and people can be outright nasty when they want to be. That's just the truth, and years of working in customer service have taught me patience and understanding, but sometimes...TOO MUCH. My kind regular customers--the ones who know my name by heart and genuinely want an update on my life when they ask, or who bring me cookies when I'm stressed and give me hugs when I'm down--they serve to remind me that there are so many more good people in this world than bad ones. People can certainly get you down, but not everybody is lucky to have customers who help bring you back up. I am, and I'm so blessed.

21) Hugs and "cheek kisses". As much as I love my crazy schedule, I do occasionally just find it all to be too much. Don't forget, I have clinical depression and anxiety and I'm ADHD. My medicine is something I'm lucky to have, and it helps, but sometimes everything comes crashing down at once. It's fairly normal, and it doesn't worry me when it happens--it just SUCKS. Coming into work or meeting a friend somewhere and being greeted with a hug and/or a kiss on the cheek is oftentimes enough to lift me out of the funk. Like I said, it's the little things.

22) TWLOHA, or "To Write Love on Her Arms". Though I'm less vocal about my past than I used to be--not out of shame, but instead out of maturity--but most of it is no secret. I "was" a cutter (I put it in quotes because a relapse is always possible, and I'm well aware of that, but after months without one, I'm hopeful), I had anorexia, bulimia, and exercise anorexia. I still live with the root causes of many of these issues. A lot of aspects of my life--friends, proper medication, future plans, etc.--go into helping me keep my day to day sanity. But I'm one of those people who usually has to learn things the hard way, hitting rock bottom before I can rise from the ashes kind of thing...and TWLOHA saved my life. The organization is a resource for all types of people--self-mutilators, drug addicts, the eating disordered, and so forth--and it's helped in many parts of my life, but the cutting is at the forefront of the issues helped by this incredible group. As a cutter, I never wanted to kill myself; indeed, I wanted to feel more alive, or sometimes, alive at all. I cut to remember that I could feel things, and to cry out for help on my flesh in a way I could never seem to express in any other way. TWLOHA gave me hope, and a support system, and a reminder. Many reminders. In January of 2010, I got "love" permanently tattooed on my left arm--the side of the body that holds all of my self-inflicted wounds. Many think I did it as a way to cut without cutting, and that's not so far fetched. Many people do just that, and then become obsessed with tattoos and piercings. I still just have my ears pierced and 2 tattoos (the first I got when I was 18 in 2004). Part of me wants probably 2 more tattoos max (one HP and maybe one for the NEDA), but I'm in no hurry, if indeed I ever even get them. No, I got my love tattoo because I love, and because the organization means so much to me (for myself but also many other friends). The primary reason, however, is that it reminds me that I am worth NOT cutting, and that I don't need it, and that I need to respect and love myself as much as my loved ones respect and love me. I got it as a reminder not to cut, even when it seems that's the only thing that will help. When things are bad, I am forced to look at it and therefore must think if I REALLY want, NEED, to do it, and though I've relapsed a couple of times, I know tend to pick up the phone and call somebody instead of making that first cut. Because it's never just one cut, and also because that could be all it takes anyway. Like I said--I never wanted to die, but I shudder to think how easily I mistakenly could have. One of the 2 National To Write Love on Her Arms Day (the other is February 13th) is tomorrow (well, today technically), or November 13th. Mine is permanent, though sometimes I still write in anyway on that day, but it warms my heart when friends tell me they wrote love on their arm for me, or for others. Amazing. Wisdom can be strength and compassion...and hope.

24) Hope. Speaking of TWLOHA, I'm so thankful for hope, and for the ability and gift of hope itself. Times are tough, and hope is easy to lose sight of, but it's always going to come back if you let it. I'm grateful that such a thing even exists, and that I'm lucky enough to feel it. I try to give hope to others, and I think I sometimes do, because it's such an easy thing to give and can so quickly change sometimes day, mood, or entire life. Yelling and criticizing are easy; hope and friendliness take work. So work at something. We all need hope in our lives or we can possibly dream of surviving. And giving somebody else something that brings them hope? Priceless.

25) Food. I know, kind of a given...except it's not for so many people. I often complain about how much Ramen I have to eat to save money, and trust me, it's a lot of frickin' Ramen, but really? Some people can't even afford that, and there will always be a hot meal when I need one at the homes of my family and friends. I hope I remember to donate a toy to the Angel Tree this Christmas, along with some canned foods for this season. As poor as I feel (and am, to a large extent), I have so much more than so many others can ever even dream of having. Sharing is a great gift--for the recipient and the giver.

26) My gift of writing. I'm aware that this sounds conceited, but it isn't meant to do so. I don't think I'm the best writer in the world, and I'm definitely not the most prolific, but I'm okay with saying that I'm a pretty fine writer. Being able to express things how I want them to be taken is very important to me, and though people may not forgive me, listen to me, heed my advice, and so on--I'm glad my thoughts can be seen that way. Writing is a comfort for me, and I hope I never tire of it. Time doesn't permit me as much writing as I'd like, nor does the creativity in my mind, but I always come back to it. One of my first loves, my therapy, one of my "vices", my passion, and something that can piss me off quicker than just about anything else--writing is all of these things and so much more. It's my voice, whether people want to listen or not. I love writing to and for others, but this writing thing? It's really for me--to heal, to guide, to accept.

27) The use of my parents truck. In late April/early May, my car died. I could get it fixed, but that would run me about $2000, and as the car is pretty old (it's a '95), it really just isn't worth it. So, I'm going to have to sell my beloved Dixie for parts, hoard most of my tax return, and keep my fingers crossed for more bonuses and such at work. In order to get a new car, which I need regardless but especially if I'm heading back to school, these things will have to be done. Until then, I'm so very, very grateful that my parents let me use their truck, the only other vehicle they have. They work on the same street downtown so they usually ride in together, and I never complain (okay, rarely) when they need to use both cars for meetings or the like, but they still don't HAVE to let me use it. Since I have a lot going on, and also because I get called into work sometimes semi-spur-of-the-moment, it's very convenient. Sure, somebody else is sometimes available to work, but I also need and love the extra hours. Sometimes, somebody from work could pick me up since I live so close, but often it's too big of an inconvenience or there is literally nobody to come get me, and the truck allows me to get in and earn that extra money, or things like that. It's just nice that I have parents who are willing to help me out.

28) The LSAT. It's driving me nuts and totally stressing me out, and it's also giving me a plan and a purpose and motivation. And it also is helping me remember that I'm fairly intelligent and worth a good job. So, while I want to hit somebody much of the time, I'm happy that it has already given me more than I ever expected in positive payback. December 3rd, people! Send good vibes my way!

29) Baths. I don't get to take them a lot, and often I'll get in and immediately feel too hot and get out within 20 minutes. But after a double, or a day of studying, working, and cleaning, or randomly when I just need to decompress (or want to rip my uterus out rather than face my cramps, or do similar to my spine because of my nerve and muscle damage), there are few things more helpful than a bath. Bubbles aren't required, but they certainly are fun. A bath, a glass of wine, a good book--hello, dream Friday night!

30) The United States (and the rest of the world)--and my life in it. I hate politics, and I often think our government is slowly--or, you know, rapidly--sinking us beyond repair. But I still live in the land of the free (thank you, military men and women!), and in a time full of diversity and cultural learning opportunities all around me. I would love to have the money to travel, and someday I think I will, but for now I'm good in the States. As bad as things can--and may--get, nothing on this thankful list would be possible without the existence of a wonderful world--one that continues to thrive even amidst controversy and scandal. It's a world where it is easy to remember and lament what you don't have and forget what you do. Try and remind yourself of your blessings sometimes. It's way more fun than sulking over your misfortunes--and also causes less wrinkles.

So, that's the list! As always, I talked to much about way too many of these, and this is just a dent of my thankful list. There are so many blessings in my life, and though I sometimes forget in the day-to-day things, I never take them for granted.

I know how lucky I am, and I'm thankful. Are you?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Holidays in Retail, LSAT Prep, Oxford Visiting, Root Canals, and Cleaning...Only One of These TOTALLY Sucked!

Life is so crazy right now, and yet, I absolutely love it. Sure, I'd love a little more free time, but whenever I have free time in my life, I always end up finding ways to work more anyway, so....never mind on the more free time thing. Haha. Between work, house cleaning, and (MOST IMPORTANTLY) LSAT studying, I just have a lot on my plate right now. Today was the one day sale at work, and I LOVE those. They completely wear me out for sure, but I love the excitement level and the preparation for the holiday rush that is seriously just around the corner. Plus, I sold 27 discount cards today, making my total 62 for the week, so my spiff pay out (think, in addition to my regular paycheck, and I hit .21 hours of overtime this week too) is going to be $83.75. Hello, Christmas presents! Just one more reason I adore the holiday season at my work. Yes, it is exhausting to work in retail around the holidays, but the pace being heightened helps a great deal, since it means I normally don't actually REALIZE I'm super tired until after my shift. That spiff pay out will also help me make what I hope will be about 20 or so pies to give out to friends and family for the holidays. Also, this was my 24th week of service leader, so if I hit 25 weeks (hopefully next week!), then I get an additional $250 bonus check in addition to the spiff for that week. I generally do pretty well each week during the holidays, so here's hoping! That extra money will help a ton with Christmas, and also for saving towards getting a new car in the early months of 2012. Fingers crossed people! PLEASE!

So, the LSAT is less than a month away, and while I've been preparing like crazy and am feeling more and more confident by the day, I'm still FREAKING OUT. I haven't taken a standardized test in roughly 8 years, so I'm nervous that I just won't do as well as I used to on such tests. Of course, I've been on my ADHD medicine for over a year, so I'm well adjusted to it and I think it will be very beneficial to me in doing well on the exam. Once again, fingers crossed! Actually, even more so on this one, PLEASE! I'm loving the studying process, but it is weird and a little disconcerting that the testing is based mostly on logic and the ability to apply it to common problems and scenarios--which is HARD to study for, believe it or not. I've been doing okay on practice tests, but I do need to get about 18-20 more questions right on the overall exam to get the score I would like to get. Most of those will need to be made up in the logic games section, where you are given one full scenario that you have to "crack" the "code" (of sorts) for and break down the components for in order to answer about 6 questions directly related to said scenario. There are, at least according to the practice tests I've been taking, 4 of these mini "sub" sections, totaling 24 questions overall. If I am able to quickly figure out all of the connections, the 6 questions fly by. Therein lies the problem, unfortunately. Time is not my friend here, and with only 30 minutes to complete all of them, I'm only going to have a little over a minute to effectively answer each question. Of course, I have to set aside time to break down the scenario, and it takes me a long time as it stands right now. Basically, I'm at the point where I'm able to finish 2 of the scenarios and feel pretty comfortable with them, and then I have like 5-7 minutes to do the other two. All I can do is keep practicing, because my only hope is having the logic tools down to a science to save time, otherwise I'm SCREWED. See? Psyching myself out! I've gotta stop doing that!

I visited Elise a few weekends back, and just fell in love with the town of Oxford, MS all over again. I really, really hope I get into Ole Miss Law School, because I'd love to be living there again, especially since I'll get to live with my best friend again. Here's hoping! I'd go into detail on the weekend, but that would take forever and I've gotta get some studying done and get some sleep before work! Suffice it to say that I had so much fun, and getting to see Bonnie too was a great perk--I'm so lucky I have such absolutely wonderful, true friends. I don't ever take it for granted, and I appreciate all the time I get to spend with everybody when I do. Now that we're all older, we are all so spread out across the United States--my closest friends live in Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Ohio, California, Mississippi, and Iowa. I mean, seriously? Most I only get to see a couple times a year--at most--so I really appreciate the time I get to see them. Don't get me wrong--I have great friends here, and I love, respect, and appreciate them as well. I'm just starting to realize more than ever how quickly time goes by, and how precious time spent with loved ones really is. Oh, aging!

Cleaning at Amy's is still going well, but last week didn't really work out, because I had to have a ROOT CANAL. No, seriously. Probably the most painful thing I've gone through in my life. The worst part was actually before I got it done, because my exposed nerve literally made me cry pretty much every time I opened my mouth...and then after a while, even when I didn't. I had to leave work early TWICE, and I NEVER leave work early. After the root canal, I had to take the next day off as well, mostly for gum sensitivity. Next month, I have to get the permanent crown put on in place of the current temporary one, and I'm praying its far less painful this time around. Originally, they wanted to do it on December 1st, but two days before my LSAT made me a little nervous, so December 8th it is! The temporary crown is fragile, so I'm being very careful with it. A toothache is NO joke, and I will never doubt anybody ever again who complains as loudly as they wish if they have one. Typically speaking though, my house cleaning schedule keeps me just as busy as we all know I like to be, and it allows me to live in my amazing house for an even cheaper rent rate. Plus, I get to indulge in my love of organizing and cleaning just a little more. To answer your question, I SLEEP LIKE A BABY WITH SUCH A BUSY SCHEDULE.

Now that the one day sale has happened, holiday season at work is upon us. We won't get into the crazy, every day rushes until Black Friday, but it's starting! I couldn't be happier. Now, if my family would just tell me what they freaking want for Christmas instead of the "you can't afford too much, don't worry about it, we just want to all be together for the holidays and that's all that matters" spiel they've been feeding me, I'd be all set.

Fingers crossed again. Just don't hold your breath on this last one.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

No, Pro-Choice does not mean Pro-Abortion. It means HAVING THE CHANCE TO DECIDE FOR YOURSELF.

I'm not sure if I'm just imagining this or not, but I swear I always feel the need to blog about a serious, heavily debated issue immediately following one with a bunch of happy pictures or nice stories. Not because I've talked about happy things and consciously want to balance it out, but because some discussion or book stirs up my passion on any remotely emotional and/or controversial issue somehow find their way into my life. Or, let's be honest, most of these debates (internally and with others) appear on my radar (or reappear, as the case is today) via Facebook status updates. Sad, I know, but I'm a busy girl, and keeping up on current events rarely seems to take any top priority slot--that goes for celebrity gossip too, unless it's a conversation going around work or I happen upon it during the occasional lunch break spent perusing People magazine.
Yesterday, Kristin put up a status regarding pro-life and pro-choice debates, and the link/disconnect with feminism. Naturally, I wanted to blog about it immediately. My last blog post consisted of a few pictures from Laura's wedding, and the one immediately preceding that one was written in a very happy state of mind, because that it was right after I made the conscious decision and preceded forward with plans to take the LSAT in December, and HOPEFULLY start law school at Ole Mis in the fall. Both blogs were happy ones, even amidst my nerves trying to convince me that I won't get into law school. My nerves can suck it, btw.
Now, I don't think my blog is going to be particularly unhappy or argumentative, by any means. But I was born opinionated, and for something like this especially, I wanted to say my piece. So.
Years ago, like I think before I even started at GPS in 1998 or maybe after 7th or 8th grade, my view on abortion changed pretty dramatically, not so much because anything happened or anything but becuase I really sat back and looked at the issue in this debate instead of just agreeing with my parents or taking the Presiden'ts word for it. Now, at age 25 and having been the victim of rape on more than one occasion, I understandably possess even stronger views on it. I'm not going to accost you in the parking lot to yell about what is right and what is wrong, nor will I shut you out completely if you disagree with me (same goes for all issues here) as long as you at least pretend to take what I have to say into consideration. As a young woman in her 20s who is in no way prepared to raise a child (and fear I wouldn't give the baby up for adoption once I gave birth and saw him/her for the first time). Or as a rape victim more than once (yes, I realize rape is not the only route that could lead to an unwanted pregnancy, bu it does make up a very high percentage of them). I've also developed a much stronger sense of self than I possessed 12 or 13 years ago, and while I'm not seeking out any protest rallies to attend, I very much believe in feminism as a concept, though naturally flawed as is any political idealology. When humans create new ideas, or buildings, or works of art, the end result is flawed because humans are flawed. And, of course, extremists ruin the fun for everybody for somehow managing to be blaringly ignorant on a topic they apparently spend all day, every day researching and analyzing. But I digress.
Feminism is, at its core, an idealology that supports women and seeks them out as leaders, if they wish to even be a leader. The concept of having and using "choice" to determine the path your life takes is a pillar of the foundation of feminism. We get to decide on daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, and lifelong goals, because the opinion of women is just as important as that of men. It's the choosing that makes us unique individuals, not the color of our eyes or the texture of our hair. How, then, can a self-proclaimed feminist be pro-life and not pro-choice? Really, it doesn't make too much sense. I think part of the issue is ignorance about what each term really means. Pro-life is anti-abortion, in most cases no matter what. Pro-choice, however, means that the woman can choose for herself whether to have an abortion, or have the baby, or give it up for adoption--she gets to decide. It doesn't mean she doesn't take input from others, or rush into wanting an abortion before really thinking about it. Some women (many, I'm sure) do make that decision is such a way, not allowing or feeling just in general any emotional attachment to their unborn baby from the start. It may be less messy that way, but it would take soem thought for me. I think most women are like me when it comes to this issue--I want to be able to choose what stays in me and/or comes out of me at any given time, but it would be an incredibly difficult decision to make if it happened to me. Depending heavily on the circumstances, of course, I highly doubt that I would abort my child. I know myself well enough to know that I would never forgive myself if I did, and living a life of regret. But like I said, cirumstances vary and some aspects of a woman's decision making process--like if there was a good chance I"d die and the baby may or may not live, or if I were raped and could not detach that act and trauma from the life growing inside of me. These examples once again show why a choice is important; no two scenarios are exactly the same, and saying always or never doesn't typically sit well with humans.
I've even thought about what I might have done if any of my rapes resulted in a pregnancy. Not that any rape is okay, but some are less violent or cause less trauma and may not constantly be tied to the child in that woman's mind. Some rapes astound me, both because of the sheer rage that builds up in some people and how violently that can escape through a person during such an act, but mostly because the women survived, often taking parts of their rapist with them (chunks of hair and skin, for example) and reminding such people that women should never be underestimated. One of my rapes clearly comes to mind as being one it would be difficult to separate from the child, and the knowledge that the emotional state of mind of both me and my child would likely be compromised would make me want to protect even my unborn child from a life lived in the shadow of a rape that destroyed a portion of my soul...and an even bigger piece of my sanity. There are some scenarios that I feel would make me waver back and forth for days, tormented with the decision. But don't misunderstand--I'd always WANT that decision.
I understand the argument that abortions result in a death, if you believe it's a life from the moment of conception or once there is a heartbeat (on average, around the 5th week of pregnancy). To a certain extent, I believe that. Personally, I think it's a person once there is a heartbeat, since the prescence of one is a primary indicator for life and death for every living being on Earth. The prescence of a heartbeat while in utero bridges a connection to my own heart beat, and that connection validates life to me. So yes, I get that.
Adoption is also a wonderful alternative, but that process is more difficult for all parties involved than one might think--some of the time, of course. Choosing between a private or open adoption while dealing with pregnancy hormones would be trying at best, and then there are those who don't decide until after the birth--and tell me that process isn't emotionally draining. I think it would be particularly difficult to decide on a private adoption, as you wonder how you or the child may feel 10, 20, or 50 years down the road. Sure, there are ways to unseal those documents, but that process takes both time and money that some just don't have available to them. There is also a "trial period" for the adoptive parents and the birth mother alike, where the birth mother can change her mind and opt to keep the baby herself instead (I want to say it's like 60 or 90 days, but I'm not sure). For the adoptive parents, that would be undoubtedly earth-shattering, but those agonizing days would stretch on forever for the birth mother also, if she were unsure of her decision in the first place, or once the pregnancy hormones began to wane. Of course, it is generally pretty expensive to adopt a child, not including the cost once it becomes your child. Hundreds of screenings and interviews and letters of recommendations later, you still aren't guaranteed to ever be matched up with a child. There are private agencies you can go through to get a chance to screen prospective adoptive parents (for birth parents), then meet them in person as many times as is necessary before deciding--an arduous process, but worth it I'm sure. And yet? Very expensive. Many children just bounce around foster homes and "orphanages" for years before being adopted; others still never get matched up and leave the foster care system once they turn 18, without a family to truly call their own. That happens more often than the use of private agencies--way more. That life would be tough on the child, for sure, but sometimes for the birth mother as well, who wll worry every day if their child is happy...or even alive. Adoption is an exhausting process (so I've heard) and can cost a small fortune--and even then it sometimes doesn't work out. So, to those out there who consider adoption their trump card for any abortion debate, give it a rest. It's not nearly as easy as your making it out to be, though it is wonderful for everybody involved if all goes well.
There are stories of birth mothers who decide at the last minute (or sometimes well before delivery) that they are going to keep their child, and end up loving it and doing a fantastic job. Happy endings are possible, but then again traigc ones are as well, with the end result being suicde, murder, drug addiction, name it.
Truth be told, none of these decisions would be easy, and they aren't meant to be. The future of a human being hangs in the balance. Still, isn't it important and meaningful to make that decision yourself? Or with the help of close friends and family, who know you and love you as a unique individual? Making abortion illegal shouldn't be left up to crotchety old men in government, or even up-and-coming young women. They aren't in your body, and they won't have to live with your decisions. Not to mention, everybody knows that making abortion illegal won't stop it from happening; instead, it will just make it riskier and shadier. People will find a way to achieve what they want, or haven't we learned that from money counterfeiters and kidnappers?
When push comes to shove for me personally, I just don't want somebody telling me what I can and can't do with my body. I've experience enough of that from those who wanted to badly to feel important and loved and powerful that they held me down and forced me to see and feel them. Here's the thing, though: having to act that way and do those things to make yourself feel powerful and special really ends up making you look cowardly and insignificant. The same holds true for those in government; the more hostility and control you convey, the less we respect what you have to say. True power and importance is felt by the outsider before they even see the person. Those you have it don't need to flaunt it, and those who don't just won't ever stop trying to prove to you that they matter. I mean, really? The average male is about 7 inches taller than me and 70+ pounds heavier. If you hold me down and force yourself on me, I don't see you as important and powerful, as you are lacking that ability to be resepcted; what I see is a lonely, scared coward. Forcing the ideals and beliefs of yourself onto others won't make them listen any more closely. People in government--listen to the citizens and take their ideas into consideration. They won't always be right, of course, but then again...neither are any of us.

So, give us a choice and we'll most likely think hard on it and come up with the best decision. Take things away, and there's intrigue. People want what they don't have.

P.S. In case you couldn't tell, I'm pro-choice :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

When good friends get married (I wanted to put up more pictures, but my internet is being stupid!)

Laura Dunn and Scott Arnold
September 10, 2011
1:30 PM
Gatlinburg, TN

1) The cutest chapel ever, where the awesome couple said their vows

2) Just married!

3) Caroline caught the bouquet! Brian's response: "Well...that's awkward." HAHA!

4) Me, Laura, and Caroline...two of my very first BAM friends.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Things, they are a-changin'...I hope.

I have made some big decisions over the past few weeks...ones that I hope work out! I doubt it's any secret that I've been trying to find ways back to Oxford pretty much since I got back to Chattanooga, even amidst a lot of fun experiences and the formation of true, lasting friendships here. Though I've spent 20 years of my life in Chattanooga and only 5 years in Oxford, Ole Miss will always feel like home. I've felt that way since the first day I walked on that beautiful campus, and I understood it even more deeply when I ripped out a piece of my heart and decided to move away. Obviously, I don't regret moving home--I've made wonderful friends and created memories that will last a lifetime, and I would have missed out on all of that had I stayed in Oxford. But now? It's time to go home.
Of course, at 25 I both have to be and enjoy being more organized, so I can't imagine myself even attempting to just up and move without a set plan for everything (job, insurance, lodging). It just seems implausible to me now, which is different from my early 20s for sure. Granted, because of my ongoing money struggle and busy work and school loads then, I typically couldn't take a random trip anytime I wanted anyway...but when I could, I certainly did! will I get home? Law school!
A few weeks ago, I helped my Dad out with a road project in Cleveland, TN. Now, my Dad has been telling me since I was about two that I would make a great attorney, but I never really considered it much of an option. When I was a kid, my dream was to be a doctor, and that lasted until I went to Ole Miss and took Pre-Med Biology...and realized, I suck at biology. Obviously, that's kind of an important subject to excel in when considering Med school. For a semester or so, I kind of floated in college major limbo--and then fell in love with Psychology. I love it more and more every day, and also find a way to use it pretty often in my every day life. My only major college regret is that I didn't persevere and get a second major in English. I mean, I was only two classes shy! Now, I'm totally pissed at myself for not finishing up that major, but at the time I was just burned out. So much so that I even thought I had grown sick of Oxford, which I discovered to be completely and totally untrue...about 5 minutes after arriving back in Chattanooga. Le sigh--life moves on. Anyway, I think I also shied away from considering law school because I always worried my temper would get me into tons of trouble with judges. Yes, my temper is still there, but after 10 years of working in customer service and the maturity that comes with age, I feel that I'm able to control it much better. So, as it turns out, I'm pretty good with the law. My dad could ask me all kinds of random questions regarding what I was working on, and I would be able to regurgitate the information. And in a weird way, it was a fun project. Suddenly, law school became a definite possibility.
So--I'm taking the LSAT in December, and hopefully all will go well so I can start law school next fall--in OXFORD! Fingers crossed, please! Elise has moved back to Oxford, and we're planning on on being roommates again--hopefully in a house. She's a great roommate, so that's awesome, and it will be nice to be moving back there with a built-in friend waiting for me. I just pray I get into Ole Miss Law School. I've mentioned it to a few of my work friends, but I'm holding off on telling all the managers and what not. For one thing, it may not work out, so why put the idea out there and then have it fall through? Plus, it's going to be a hard conversation, especially with my GM. The thing is, I love my job and my work friends. I've been working there for over two years, and I work all the time, so those friends are the ones I'm closest to here. I have made some truly incredible friends here, ones that I'll miss very much if I move. BUT--since my parents live here, I'll be able to visit fairly often and see them! Still, it will be tough. Even when I'm at my most fed up with Chattanooga, I'm glad I moved back home when I did. I never would have met my work friends, and I'm such a better person for having them in my life. Life is just like that--give and take. I'm hoping things go swimmingly if I take this leap to Oxford again.

Anyway, it's my day off and I need to go clean my landlord's house and do some organizing in her garage, and finish up the last of my house cleaning. I'm off! I'll write a longer entry next time... I hope.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

All the Best News...and Pictures as Proof of how Random my Life is...

**Since none of the pictures I'm putting on here really relate to what's in the blog, I'm putting them at the top. Basically, they are snapshots (mostly from my phone) of my life as of late.**

<3 Pictures <3
1) What my book club meetings (SCI) look like via Skype--when somebody is talking, their box glows.
2) One of the 3 homemade pizzas I made with my Mom the other day--this one is Canadian Bacon and Pineapple--YUM!
3) This is what happens when my Mom and I shop for anything remotely serious... we turn into little kids.
4) Sunset outside of my work when I went in to help out one night on my day off (I typically work days and love it).
5) Fortunes from lunch at Mandarin Garden while in Atlanta shopping for Jamie's wedding dress. The top is Jamie's, the middle is Karen's, and mine is on the bottom.
6) An invention of Bill's at work: A Frozey Palmer--or a frozen Arnold Palmer (which, to those who sadly don't know, is sweet tea and lemonade). There is also the BFrozey Palmer, which has blackberry in it. They are stupidly good.
7) My mom found this picture as she was cleaning out the office at home. It is from a football game when she was at Ole Miss--and probably the coolest thing I've ever seen. So proud of my mom, and forever grateful that I could follow in her footsteps to Ole Miss. Plus, she's in the paper for being at a game--why didn't I ever get that deal?!

As per usual, it's been a little while since I posted a blog. I blame the fact that work has been busy (and fun!), but also because I haven't thought anything in my life has been too terribly interesting, at least not enough to write about. Turns out, once things started to get interesting again, I looked back and realized the sequence of events leading up to the interesting parts were actually kind of blog worthy themselves. So...sit back and prepare for a long I'm totally NOT going to write one, just you wait and see.

My last post was on July 19th, so it's just three days shy of a month since I last updated the world about my life. I'm just going to have to start from my sweet news in the past few days, and work backwards if I feel extra information is needed. First, Rachael had her baby, Eli Thomas Cade, on August 11th. He is completely and totally adorable, and I'm in love with his name. Obviously, I've only seen pictures (they live many, many miles away from me), but I can tell he is going to be such a precious child--and totally a little stinker! Rachael and Matt's personalities--fun, loud, opinionated and the life of pretty much every party--couldn't possibly produce an uncool child. I'm so happy that Rachael and I are on speaking terms again--it's not even that we ever weren't, but we're both stubborn so we just didn't talk for a while. When I heard she was pregnant, my joy for her negated any stubbornness I cared to possess. Though we haven't spoken on the phone (so weird!), we have exchanged numerous FB messages and wall posts, but the thing that makes me know it's going to be okay is the way we comment on each other's pictures. When you look at those comments, it's like nothing has changed and there never was any falling out. Basically, I told her that, though I don't regret my decision to not be in her wedding or the reasons behind it, I very much regret the way I handled myself and that I opted out so close to the big day. Part of me DOES wish I would have been there, mostly because it's one of those lifetime moments you never want in the lives of your friends, but I don't think I would have completely fulfilled my role (for many reasons) as a proper maid of honor--and she deserved that. The important thing now is that I have a friend that I shared so many memories with back in my life, and I fully plan to create many more with her, especially now with her adorable baby. Side note--it's so weird that I have a friend I'm that close to (and close in age!) who has a child now--hell, she's even younger than me!. I was just getting used to my friends getting married--SLOW DOWN EVERYBODY! Well, not really. All I want is for my friends to be happy...I just don't want to be reminded that I'm getting older all the time ;)

Okay, now the news that I hope all works out because it would make me so happy. The fluke way it all happened about is pretty weird in and of itself, for one thing. A couple of weeks ago (maybe a month?), I was talking to Lauren through text and I suddenly just knew I had to visit her. It's been at least two years since I've seen her, and that fact seemed to hit me amidst our relatively typical conversation. Knowing that my new year of vacation days starts sometime either at the end middle or end of February, I decided I would make a concerted effort to go visit her in March (I planned to use probably about 3 of my PTO days and work the other days into my normal weekly days off, as I did for the California trip). It's pretty far away, so I hadn't put much thought into detailed planning...and then my Mom told me she wants to dance in the Iowa Dancesport March. What are the odds? It would work out perfectly, as the comp is about half an hour or so away from Lauren. I really hope this works out, because it would be a great chance to road trip with my Mom, see her dance again, and see my dear Lauren. Win-win-win!

Well, less than a week after I got that exciting news, Lauren told me she wanted to go to Oxford in October. Lo and behold, if all works out, my Mom, Amy, and I could go for a visit during the Ole Miss v. Alabama game on October 15th--in perfect time to celebrate my Mom's birthday AND see Lauren and Elise! I'm hoping Elise can make something happen on a hotel room for Mom and Amy, but if not, there are places available a few miles down the road. Lauren and I would be staying with Elise, of course, and I'd finally get to meet Lauren's boyfriend, Justin. Once again, please keep your fingers crossed this works out. I desparately miss my girls and need to see them!

So...those are kind of the big news things. Next month, on September 7th, my Mom is taking me to Huntsville to visit my eye surgeon. When I turn 26 next May, I'll be officially off of my parents' insurance, so I'm trying to squeeze in all the appointments I can before I have to pay my own deductibles and what not (my medicine will be expensive enough!). This particualr one is especially important, because I'm pretty sure I'm going to require a second surgery--one I had been told I would likely need in the future after my last one four years ago. It's a more invasive surgery with a longer recovery time, but if successful, will lessen the strain on my functioning eye, improving the vision in it and also relieving the intensity and frequency of my tension headaches. I would say that I hope I don't have to have the surgery, but I honestly would be relieved to have it. Without it, my good eye will much more rapidly decline in function and my headaches will get worse. At this point in time, I'm fully aware that I will most likely completely lose vision at some point in my life--at least legally, but also for the use of driving and reading--but a successful surgery could add years or even decades to the amount of time I will retain my sight. And who knows? By the time I reach that vision loss point in my life, they may very well have found a way to fix it completely. Big time fingers crossed on that one! Compared to what so many others have to go through medically, being unable to drive and read in a typical manner are not the end of the world. My big fear, however, is that once my vision in my other eye goes bad, I will see out of it just as I see out of my bad eye. For me, that means I wouldn't be able to see the details of my loved ones' faces, or my beloved sunsets, or any of those little things that add up to making a life with vision so precious. Sure, I would remember my friends as young long after they began to age and that's not so terrible, but the older I get, the more I want to see us all age together--quirky, crazy, and beautiful for years to come. As I've known about the possibility of losing my sight in the future for quite some time, I've accepted it more than I thought possible, and therefore take the time to appreciate the beauty of the world and those people (and animals!) that make my life so sweet. I'm forever grateful that I was confronted with something so early that made me want to absorb everything while I can, and now I know that I am entirely capable of living life one day without vision. Still, I would love to take that lesson and live that way the rest of my life with vision instead of without it, and I know that my intense appreciation for even the simplest of beauty will never fade at this point--even if they told me tomorrow that they have found a way for me to keep my vision my entire life. Between being raised to love and respect everybody and everything (even if it takes a little work to do so) and then being told that I may one day not be able to physically see all those remarkable things has forever, unalterably, made me appreciate what we have in this world (good and bad) no matter what may happen in the future. So...I hope I can see for the rest of my life, but I'm living right now as if I won't be able to one day. And really, is there a better way to live?

Also, my admiration of my other senses has increased with the decrease in my sharp vision (I say this with the understanding that, since I've had this vision issue for what we think is my entire life, I've never really had stellar vision)**. Sounds have so much more meaning and are often poignantly beautiful; smells can literally transport me to specific, and a lot of times pretty old, memories. I think my ability to listen and fully absorb what others' say--a big part of pscychology!--is greatly aided by this, especially in regards to my actual hearing, but also in terms of smell too. I'm sure my other senses are heightened, but I mostly notice the sight and smell aspects more acutely.

At any rate, here's to hoping my plans for the next few months--and trips--work out, and to praying they suggest (I'm almost positive they will) surgery for me--one that prove exceedingly beneficial to me. Love to all!

**been able to see out of both eyes. Considering how quickly and blatantly obvious my vision problem was the second I went to take my eye exam, it makes me pretty angry that NOT ONE pediatrician noticed I couldn't see out of that eye. Typically, my lazy eye was pretty unnoticeable to the average person, so I don't even remotely blame any of my teachers, friends, family members, etc. for not noticing. As I got older--ie the years between the discovery of the disease at age 15 and the surgery at age 21--the lazy eye became more noticeable in that it would float up when I became tired drunk. An interesting part of that last statement was that my eye would float upwards as opposed to inwards or outwards. Obviously, as with any medical condition, there are exceptions to the following rule, but my surgeon told me that roughly 95%+ of the cases where the eye floats up and not to either side stem from an accident and aren't typically the way the condition presents if a child is born with it. So, it's like I have an eye disease caused by an accident, which is kind of contradictory. The older I get, the worse my parents seem to feel about this fact. Sometimes, I give my Dad a hard time and tell him that the time he let me leap off a counter when I was a year old (he turned around to get a rag to clean up some juice I spilled--it took me literally 3.5 seconds to decide and go through with the idea of jumping off the counter) totally caused the problem--but the truth is, we have no idea. I seriously doubt that incident caused the issue, though admittedly it is possible. Babies and children run into things and knock their heads of stuff all the time, though, and all it takes is that one time where the hit is hard enough and the positioning of the child's head is just so...and BOOM! DISASTER! It's actually not that uncommon for amblyopia to appear because of tiny bumps that nobody thinks anything about; once again, not a big deal if found early enough and 100% avoidable for blindness to occur. Sometimes, I think all the times I fainted in the shower because of eating disoders may have caused it--mostly because it's easy to blame that on the EDs along with my back, joint, heart, and lung issues--but I know that it is HIGHLY unlikely. Because I never really realized my vision was off or any different than anybody else's, it is pretty safe to assume that the accident occurred when I was fairly young--likely before I went to school or perhaps while in preschool. I will say that something pretty neat happened when I was younger in that my good (right) eye adapted quickly to overcompensate for the lack of substantial vision in my bad (left) eye, so with the exception of those freaking "Magic Eye" things that required you to cross your eyes to see the hidden object and the old fashioned (blue and red glasses) 3D movies, there were very few things that I couldn't see growing up. Luckily, the newer 3D technology works in a way that I'm able to see in 3D now, so that's pretty neat. I'm sure I didn't have great periforial vision to the left as a child (if any at all, as I'm 100% blind in it now), but it didn't seem to affect my life much. Now, with that random increased guilt, my parents (especially my Dad) are always asking me what I can see. I understand that it is probably kind of complicated to fully comprehend for most people--because I'm describing vision problems that I haven't ever lived without, so it's hard for me to understand normal vision in both eyes enough to adequately describe why mine is different--what the world looks like to me. The simplest explanation is this: in my right eye, I've lived pretty much my entire life, until very recently (due to eye strain from doing all the work and regular aging), with 20/25 (I think--or nearly perfect) vision. The periforial to my right is pretty awesome even still, and I've maintained a good degree of my depth perception because of the weird vision in my left eye. This is where it gets more complicated. The vision in my left eye is alway getting worse, but I've always been legally blind in it. Weird?--YEAH. At the inside corner of my left eye (next to my nose), I have pretty good sight---though the space this encompasses is getting smaller now--so really my right eye used it's essentially perfect vision and merged with the okay vision in the corner of my left eye (I always see the middle of sunglasses and regular glasses because the vision essentially widens to encompass that sight instead of using two eyes), so head on I can see pretty well--thus the okay depth perception. From about the middle of my left eye (and getting smaller) through the periforial, it is pretty much black, or more accurately, everything looks like it is covered by a dark shadow. That part of my eye is pretty useless, so the eye is blind and unable to focus. My first surgery entailed clipping the main muscle at the base of my eye and attaching it higher to essentially anchor my eye in place and prevent it from floating--pretty cool, but useless to restore any vision. If I have the second surgery, they will be doing something similar to the main muscle at the top of my eye. It will also help anchor my eye, but the placement will (hopefully) alleviate tension headaches and help me keep the side vision a little longer, therefore lessening the strain on my good eye and keeping it from getting worse.>

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Post-Its, Fudge Rounds, Slumber Parties, and Serial Killers: Yep, that's how a conversation with me usually goes...

In the past few days or so, I have started and failed to complete more than 5 blogs. I'm sure a couple of times in the past, but I feel those times were most likely due to interruptions like friends coming over or leaving for work. I love to write--always have--and it is my sole remaining coping mechanism when I feel the world closing in on me. Generally when I start writing, the words flow out of me seemingly without me even needing to put pen to paper or my fingers to a keyboard. Of course, I know that's not true, and I simply allow my subconscious to take over, since it is able to recognize and identify what I oftentimes can't seem to express out loud. Everything I fail at speaking to somebody is eloquently expressed on paper. My writing is one of the few things I am almost never ashamed of, and that is rare indeed. So for me to start a blog and then suddenly feel the words evaporate out of my head rather than onto the's slightly disconcerting. What is stranger still, however, is that I'm not more upset by it. The few things I've written down (in paper journal form) seem to possess an entirely new depth of my personality--and I figure that this issue I'm having with writing is merely my brain trying to figure out a way to let this new, even more beautiful, writing flow out of me as words always have in the past. The one part of all of this that scares me is that I woke up the other day to discover I had written in my journal and had no memory of it...and what I read was terrifying. Even my handwriting looked different.

Now I realize what happened. I have been working non-stop, including from home, and stressing out about all the changes around my work place. On my days off, I clean houses or straighten up my own, or have slumber parties with conversations that last until it is far after dawn. I don't have my car back, and I don't know when I will either...and that stress alone was bound to cause some internal, mental turmoil. As for sleeping, I typically get what I'm supposed to, but sometimes the insomnia I experienced in childhood rears its ugly head, and when I am sleeping, my dreams are so vivid and relevant to my life that I can't imagine it's actually very restful. My worry for my friends--and the nagging, ever present feeling that I'll drive them away--has increased exponentially. I'm not positive, but I think a big factor in that issue is rooted in being torn between loving my friends here and wanting desperately to be back in MS. All of these alterations in my life have occurred over the last month, which also seems to be the height of allergy season as well. I was bound to break down a little. So now, I'm taking control of these situations to the best of my ability which, as it turns out, I'm very good at doing. Even if it seems I have forgotten myself, I can always bring myself back and fix the problem. It used to take months, but armed with the right diagnosis and medication I received over a year ago, I'm able to figure things out much faster. Have I mentioned lately how much that decision to go back to therapy and get tested improved my life more than I ever thought possible? It truly did.

I have to admit, however, that I am still reeling from the sudden departure of Riley at work, and as Elise's birthday (July 22nd) gets closer, I can't help but feel sad that she hasn't talked to me in months. I'm still going to send her a letter (to her parent's address, since I don't know hers anymore) and call her on her birthday. I haven't given up hope that my best friend will come back to me. I never will. When she does, I hope that she will be okay; my biggest fear is that she is depressed, and I can't help. All the laughter, tears, hugs, fights, late night conversations, early mornings watching the sunrise in silence after a memorable night with friends, and most of all that deep, sincere understanding that occurs between the best of friends without a word needing to be spoken--I only pray that she hasn't forgotten any of it. There are many, many reasons I want my car back, but the biggest one is wanting to get to MS to see the beautiful faces of my friends and remember myself as they see me--not flawed, but as one who embraces life with such a passion that would make anybody lose their way at times. I would much rather occasionally wear myself out as I take on life with all the intensity in the world than fail to truly live out of fear. My friends from college seem to understand this better than anyone else; indeed, it seems to be what they love most about me. They helped me to view all of my ups and downs as exercises that turned me into who I am today--and will continue to make me a better, more empathetic, sincere person--and they happen to love that person. I know that most believe people aren't truly capable of loving others without first loving themselves, but I had to be loved by people who weren't afraid to give me reasons to love myself first. They aren't perfect people by any means, and we have gotten in fights so big it seemed there could never be a resolution, but that's the thing with people who run full speed ahead at life's obstacles and triumphs: we always find our way back to those who can remind us of our importance when we forget ourselves.

I never thought I would get to a place in my life where I didn't have to merely accept myself, but where I could be proud of who I'm becoming. Sure, I've got a long way to go, but at 25 years old, I know there is plenty of time for me...and I have so many things I've learned to help others. Yes, I'm beginning to very much like who I am. Thank you to those people who tirelessly worked to make me value myself. That work is finally paying off, and though there may be no way to repay that kind of unfailing friendship and love, I'm going to spend the rest of my life trying to find a way to give the same support to my wonderful friends. I owe them my life--both quite literally my physical life and also the desire to live it outside of the box. I'm no longer afraid or ashamed of being different; in fact, I'm pretty darn proud of it. "Normal" sounds totally boring anyway.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My Top 25s (ie cleaning break!) Part 3: Music

Well, this entry should be interesting, simply because I so rarely know artists or song titles. Most of the time, I can sing them word for word, but my brain rarely takes the time to remember the specifics beyond that. If the song is really good I tend to remember it, but that's about it. Today was a day off of work for me, so I've been cleaning house all day. I'm exhausted, so I'm taking a SHORT break. I want the house to be really clean and be in bed by midnight at the latest. So, here goes...

My Top 25 Favorites in Music

1) "Take it Easy" by The Eagles
-This is one of the ones I took the time to remember by name AND artist...but not until my Junior year of college, though I had heard it long before that. I like the song for many reasons, but the number one is the quote "We may lose, and we may win...but we will never be here again". Hands down, that's my favorite quote from a song EVER. I think I took notice of it in college, and not before, because that's exactly how I felt about that time in my life--and how right I was. While I didn't take it for granted (I loved and appreciated every moment of my time at Ole Miss), it still hits me hard every time I hear that lyric. Of course we can't go back in time, and I know that it wouldn't the same anyway if we did, but sometimes I miss Oxford, MS so much it's literally painful. I'm lucky in that I've kept up with many of my best friends from there quite well, and others at least on FB, but I know that I will never find a place--or a time--like that part of my life again. Bittersweet, for sure.

2) "Fancy" by Reba McEntire
-I've always loved this song, both because it is amazing...and ridiculous. Especially the video. You're missing out if you haven't watched that on YouTube. Anyway, I love Reba and have tons of respect for her, and this song has a great message and a *very* catchy tune....buuuuuuuuuut, it's just a wee bit over the top. And by "a wee bit", I mean completely.

3) Rascal Flatts--pretty much in general.
-"Shine On" sticks out in my mind though, because it is almost guaranteed to cheer me up when I'm down. I generally just love their sound and the personality that comes through in their music.

4) Dolly Parton--always.
-I love her twangy sound and the lyrics in her music, but even more so her crazy style and flair--and her ability to admit it and poke fun of herself. She's one classy lady, even if she hides it in (intentional) white trash.

5) Mark Shultz
--...but only if I'm in the mood for tears and pondering of the past. But yeah, great songs with powerful messages. And tears--almost always tears.

7) "Find Out Who Your Friends Are" by Tracy Lawrence
--This song has always, and will forever, remind me of Elise, Lauren, and Rachael and the memories that I can only remember with happiness--even as things have changed a little with those friendships. I still consider them "my girls" and always will, and they helped me make some of the best memories I could ever hope to make. Those are some of the ones that bring me back up from the darkest depressions and lowest moments. As with so many things in my life, what has happened since college seemed to be almost entirely out of my control. I do still talk to them, but so rarely and in such a different way. After 2 years, I understand that things are understandably different as we get older and don't live in the same town anymore--and I know that those friendships were unique because of Oxford, and mostly because of those people. I miss them with all of my heart. Reason #56778965 for hating that my car is currently out of commission--I desparately need to see my friends and Oxford. Seriously, my heart needs this.

8) "Cha Cha Slide"
--Oh drunken memories--great at the time, and even better now that I don't drink or go out...well...ever. Mostly, I know that's a good thing and I'm growing up, but on the other hand, none of my friends I've made here since I moved back REALLY know how I was then--carefree (even during some of my worst psych times), happy, adorable, the life of the party. This song reminds me of that.

9) "The Climb"--Miley Cyrus
--Shut up, I know. I tried to hate it like I can't stand that little brat. Her regular speaking voice makes me want to hit her in the face, but I loved this song. It was sweet, and her singing voice doesn't sound anything like her talking one--phew!

10) Disney Songs (especially from Mulan, Little Mermaid, The Lion King, and Beauty and the Beast)
--I have a ton on my iPod, and I dare you to stay pissed at ANYTHING when one of those comes on. You can't--because you'll be singing. Yeah, don't even lie--we ALL know the words.

11) Johnny Cash (and June Carter Cash!)
--I don't particularly always like his voice, but his music? Amazing. I think the fact that he had such a rocky life, and lived through so much, makes me love him more. He truly fought for the things--and especially people--in his life, even if it was against himself. And Johnny and June together? There's a couple who fought to love each other, and prevailed. Just amazing.

12) "Ghetto Superstar"
--This is totally saved on my YouTube favorites on my phone. Because it's amazing. It always makes an awkward situation less so, unless the person doesn't know the song. Then I'm just confused and afraid and a little angry. But seriously--such a hit--and Halle Berry is in the video. Like, for real. Oh, the '90s.

13) "When I Get Where I'm Going"-Brad Paisely and Dolly Parton
--It's just a beautiful song, and the words--especially about his grandpa--hit so close to home. It almost makes me want to call my grandparents (Mom's side), but then I remember that they cussed me out and haven't called since--6 years ago. This song, though, reminds me of a time when they did love me (I think).

14) The Dixie Chicks (in the 90s)
--I still know all of these by heart, even if its been years since I heard them. No worries now--they're all on my iPod.

15) Old School Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, N'Sync, and Spice Girls
--Come on, they hit the scene when I was 12--I have no choice but to be infatuated with them. At that age, everything is ingrained in your head...forever, it seems.

16) Cotton Eye Joe
--I love it and hate it. It gets stuck in my head for--literally--weeks, but it's so fun. Oh conundrum.

17) "Wagon Wheel"--Old Crow Medicine Show
--Thanks to Elise (again) for making me listen to this so many years ago. I can't explain why I love it so much--I just do. It's such a beautiful song, and it reminds me, once again, of college. Any reminder of that time in my life is a blessing.

18) "Go Rest High On That Mountain"--Vince Gill
--Such a beautiful song with an incredibly important message. Not to be morbid, but it's the song I want sung at my funeral. It explains so much that it's hard to say out loud in everyday life. Wonderful, amazing song.

19) Most of the songs from both "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Les Miserables"
--I saw both of these for the first time when I was 10 (and got "golden ticket" keychains for both) and have loved them ever since. For one thing, they are very happy childhood memories; for another, both are amazing musicals that have spanned generations and will (hopefully!) continue to do so for years to come.

20) "Dreaming of You"--Selena
--Okay, the lyrics creep me out a little--is there REALLY nowhere she would rather be than in her room dreaming of somebody (like, why not go one better and be WITH him?) but Selena's voice is beautiful. It's such a shame she was killed (by her fan club president--WTF??) at only 23 years old--there's no telling what she would have done if she had lived. Not just musically--we all know it would have been amazing, but also just in life. Her family still mourns her as if it happened only yesterday, and it speaks about how wonderful of a person she must have been in her private life as well. Such a tragic loss.

21) Garth Brooks!
--Two that instantly come to mind are "Standing Outside the Fire" and "Calling Baton Rouge", but pretty much anything he's released ranks in my favorites. I just totally love his voice and his personality!

22) "Just To See You Smile"--Tim McGraw
--It just makes me insanely happy--everybody should be loved and cherished in such a way. Here's hoping!

23) "Love, Me"--Collin Raye
--Just as I can't read "I'll love you forever" without bawling like a little girl, this song gets me every time. It's poignant and sweet and right to the point. It makes me happy and sad at the same time--always a fun feeling haha!

24) "Ain't No Other Man"--Christina Aguilera
--I like most of her music anyway--what a voice!--but this one reminds me of Meredith and McAlister's, which makes it even better. It didn't matter if we had customers out the door...if this song came on, everybody knew Meredith and I were out of commission for the duration of it (especially the "break it down" part--because we always did). I could be totally half asleep, and if this song came on, I'm instantly wide awake! Love Love LOVE.

25) "Tootsee Roll"--69 Boyz
--I had to end on a fun one (and FYI, this list could probably go on forever. Turns out , music really IS the shit). THIS song, though, is in my favorites for a ridiculous amount of reasons. First, at the beginning of the song they remind you it came out in 1994 (SERIOUSLY?), and that serves to both make me feel old AND wonder...why in the hell was I listening to this song when I was 8? Second, you can't NOT dance when that song comes on--it's like a reflex. Also, don't be confused--"it ain't the butterfly, it's the tootsee roll"--in case you forgot the name of the song or the repeated "tootsee roll" phrase. For real though, this song is awesome no matter how you look at it. And by "awesome", I mean ridiculous... and timeless.

Like so much in my life, I love these songs because they take me back to a time when I was truly happy. I'm not saying I'm a depressed wreck now or anything, but happy like "Ole Miss happy"? Not even close. Maybe you only get that once in a lifetime? Or maybe it's time I get my ass back to moving in MS? We'll go with the latter :)