The part where I admit to being a cat lady…sorta.

Cats are complicated creatures. This is why they fascinate me so much. Don’t get me wrong, I love love love dogs and plan on owning one some day, but there’s something about cats that make them so relatable.

Sorry, I couldn’t help it. But, you’re welcome.

Dogs will love their owners unconditionally as long as they receive food, shelter, and love. I’m not insulting their intelligence (although some make me wonder), but dogs don’t really need much interest from their owners before they reciprocate with undying, unquestioning love. Dogs will eagerly and obediently trot up to your person, panting with flopping tongue and flapping ears, after you simply say their name aloud. They’ll also perform a trick on command when tempted with a bite-sized, slightly meat-flavored treat, or be absolutely ecstatic when you return home after a twenty second trip out to the mailbox. Dogs treat you like canine royalty; a bone-shaped sun revolves around you and your belly-scratching hands. I admit this is what makes dogs so lovable and such great companions, especially for lonely and/or old people, but sometimes I want to feel like I worked hard for the love I receive. It makes me feel like I actually accomplished something because the last thing I need is overkill on the self-esteem boost.

Fakers.

Cats are more like actual humans. If you provide them with food, a place to hide, and a sandy container in which they can defecate in privacy, you won’t see much gratitude. They treat you with the usual aloofness because they know that when you provide these basic things, you are just being a minimally attentive owner.

“Hey, thanks for NOT abusing us, but it’s not like you deserve a medal or anything.”

Cats make you earn their trust first, and then, possibly, sometimes maybe never, they will offer you their sometimes, but not always, non-transferrable, non-refundable, non-un-dying something that resembles, but isn’t completely, love.

I lucked out with my particular cats because they are the perfect cross between a “I worship the ground you walk on because you feed me” dog, and a “work for my love and I’ll make it worth your while” cat. They are Ragdolls, which you can read about here and look at kittens here if you’re interested (of course you are). They love cuddling and having their bellies rubbed, they are usually waiting at the door for me when I come home, and they like just being in the same room as me. Sometimes all I have to do is walk into a room in which they slumber in a tightly formed snail-like figure and they roll over and start purring immediately.

Sighting: beached manatees.

Yet at the same time I still have to earn their love and affection by giving them space when I sense they want it, not holding them more than necessary, putting aside time to play with and talk to them (yes, it’s loving, not crazy, to talk to your pets) and not making any sudden or loud noises. When I get a cuddle session with these guys, or one of them crawls into my lap, Handel’s Messiah Hallelujah Chorus plays in my head and I hold my breath. If I need to get up to pee or attend to whatever is cooking on the stove, those take a backseat because I milk this attention for all it’s worth and wait until they get up and leave. You see, with a dog, this would be expected and normal and I would get no hallelujah chorus. Sometimes, guys, it’s the little things that make you feel accomplished in your life.

eBayed: 1 Oxygen tank plus mask, 1 crate of Depends.

Currently, my big project is acclimating these guys into a house that already has two younger cats. Mine are eight years old, so are set in their ways and this makes it harder to introduce them to other cats. For now they are just in my bedroom (with all the essentials of course) and I make sure they still get all the attention they need. For their first two weeks here they were just working on getting settled in my room so it can be designated a “safe place.” I even bought one of those plug in things that emit pheromones, which makes them feel relaxed and safe. Occasionally the other two cats in the house would sniff at the door and they would interact with my cats that way. Unfortunately there was come paw batting through the crack at the floor and some hissing, but it died down after awhile.

A few weeks later I started letting my cats out to roam the house. This is when I had to be the evil-step-cat-mother and shut my sister’s cats up in her room while I let my cats have their “outside session” for an hour.

What a bitch.

This was surprisingly stressful for Bailey and Kai since they smell other cats, which causes anxiety for fear of being pounced upon by a strange animal hiding in every corner. Kai spends most of his time meowing pitifully and rubbing his cheeks on every corner (this spreads pheromones that tells them that they checked this place for danger and it’s familiar/safe), and Bailey rubs his paws like a DJ on every surface available (their previous owners de-clawed them so this is just spreading his scent everywhere). It keeps getting less stressful and more familiar for them so they now spend most of the time and concentration rolling around on all the rugs like a dog does in the grass.

Another thing we’re doing is, while my cats are in my bedroom, cracking the door so they can interact a bit with my sister’s cats. There is some paw swiping (could you resist swiping at some strange furry paws peeking through the crack of a door?) and meowing, but we hope this helps them get used to each other. Before these sessions, I actually had no idea cats could also growl like dogs.

You’re probably thinking, “This is crazy! All this work for a couple of animals?!” but it’s so so worth it. If we want to live in a house where cats don’t fight and yowl and spray it is necessary to do this part very very carefully. It’s not like you can just spray fighting cats with a hose and be done with it. Just like people, cats hold grudges against other animals at the most minute things so this has to continue to be done slowly and carefully to get the result we want: happy cats. We hope to start “supervised visits” soon, which makes it sound like some sort of child custody situation. I love these guys and they love me so I would pretty much jump through any sort of hoop for them if it will make them happy. Call me a cat lady, I don’t freakin’ care. I work hard for their love and it makes me feel great when I get it. Plus, they are the only living creatures that, at the end of the day, will still never judge me for what I say, how I look, and my sketchy showering habits. Boo-ya. Score.

Oh man. Can hardly contain my self-esteem. This is SO totally happening.

That one time when I had dreams.

Sorry, another serious post. My next one will be funny. I promise I haven’t lost my sense of humor.

So last night, I’m laying spread-eagle on the floor of my bedroom, in my footie pajamas of course, listening to Les Misérables‘ “I Dreamed a Dream” over and over and over and having various thoughts about the interpretation of this particular song. This is a song that is usually sung pretty aggressively by a powerful female singer oozing with broadway poise and talent. I know this is necessary; people pay hundreds of dollars to see these actors perform on the big stage, but I’ve always wondered how the song would be sung by Fantine if she existed in real life. She is a destitute, unmarried mother in the 19th century driven to prostitution and selling her hair (right after she sings this song) to pay for her daughter’s upkeep in an abusive home miles away.

Here is one of my favorite performances by Ruthie Henshall, the epitome of the poised and talented Broadway actor in a clean, proper costume and styled wig, but very capable of projecting the character’s desperation and bittersweet nostalgia. While you’re listening/watching, think of a time in your life when everything had just gone to shit (sorry for the swears), your mouth thick with the metallic taste of bitterness and regret, and then try not to burst into tears, I DARE you:

Not really the same as when Susan Boyle sings it, huh? When she first became known, people thought this song was actually about hope and coincided with Boyle’s Cinderella-type story. Yet, when you read the words, you’ll see that this song is definitely not about those things:

There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong
I dreamed a dream in times gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung
No wine untasted
But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame
He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came
And still I dream he’ll come to me
That we’ll live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather 
I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed
The dream I dreamed.

Not really about rainbows and marshmallow ponies, is it?

Oh, Lisa Frank…

So back to the character of Fantine and how the song is sung; in my mind, as I read these lyrics, I imagine a woman who is truly and utterly broken; she has been fired from her job and life has just shoved her off the curb she was painstakingly balancing upon out into the icy, muddy street where she is forced to dodge the uncaring and abusive traffic of her community (if you could call it that). She is remembering a time when things were better, when she was loved by someone, and there is a mixture of fondness and pain. She then moves forward to do whatever it takes to live so she can continue to care for her daughter financially, which in those days (and these, too) meant literally selling your body. Though Anne Hathaway is not nearly as good a singer as Ruthie Henshall, the way she sings it in the upcoming movie based on Les Misérables is quite different:

It’s only the trailer (the movie premiers this Christmas) but you can tell that this song is sung after she has cut her hair and probably already entered into prostitution. She is sitting in the filthy gutter with inadequate clothing, clutching her shorn hair in agony as she faces her future in disbelief. She is wallowing in her sadness, singly softly in the dark as she quietly reminisces. I like this more intimate portrayal (I realize that movie actors have this benefit over stage actors) because I think it shows what wallowing really looks like. She isn’t singing about what she’s going to do next or how she’s going to keep a positive outlook, she’s just voicing how much her life sucks and I think that’s okay. Everyone should be allowed to wallow by themselves without people telling them how to act or what to do or how to exact revenge. It’s okay to take a look at your situation and say “Wow, this really sucks,” and then that’s it!

I can’t relate to Fantine’s level of desperation since I still have a great job, a really nice place to live, and the love of my friends and family, but when I listen to this song I can understand that feeling of looking back and seeing where things were at a certain era in my life, what expectations and, well, dreams I had. There is also that lingering hope that things will work out and go back to the way they were before, which just makes you feel pitiful at times. Welp, I think I’ve already wallowed as much as I need so I’m moving on. I believe I’m entering a new era of my life and it’s exciting, but still bittersweet. The tigers came and tore it up for a while, I suffer from intense nostalgia just from certain smells and songs, but I have something to look forward to: brand new dreams. MY dreams.

The part where I say thank you…and write some poetry.

Joss Whedon slays me sometimes: http://youtu.be/6TiXUF9xbTo.

My last post was a heavy one. It was full of emotion and anger, just like I was at the time. It was a declaration, but only to myself, written as my own sort of therapy without any agenda in mind or expectation of response or pity. It was made public so I had no excuse but to own what I was writing, not putting it in some sort of private journal or Word document. It felt weird. It felt GREAT.

Now, to the many people who reached out to me, either through comments, private Facebook messages, or emails, I want to say “Thank you.” I was blown away by your replies, because I definitely didn’t expect to receive any. The kind words, encouragement, and optimism shown by everyone who wrote me (you know who you are!) mean a lot, so I want to let you know that I really really appreciate you. I was shocked at how many people felt safe enough to share their own similar experiences with me, and it made me feel less alone with these feelings. The book recommendations, offers to get together and talk, and just the fact that you took the time to send me a word will go a long way.

So thank you. Thank you very very much.

Now, apparently I have taken up writing some sort of poetry so enjoy:

There was a moment, while we were standing on the beach next to the water, with the pouring rain and the blowing sand, when I turned to face the blasting wind and all it brought forth. I stood there, receiving it all on my face, dripping down my cheeks and chin onto my chest, feet sinking into the accepting sand. There was a moment when I flew, arms stretched out above the cloud-like sand, and felt like I owned myself. I had power. I had strength. I had the will to do it all on my own. That was when I turned and saw you facing away from me and the wind, away from all that I received into my being. It was all for me. This was my moment. I smiled and turned back around, toward it all, to see what has happened and face what has not yet come to pass. I’m still smiling.

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Some thoughts on Betrayal.

First off, check out this gem I recently came across:

Also, this: http://fairytalesfor20somethings.tumblr.com/

Ok, now that I’ve got you laughing, it’s time to get serious. Very recently I’ve had to face the worst kind of betrayal a married woman may encounter. I’m not talking about “someone ate the rest of my Nutella and put the empty container back in the cupboard like nothing happened” betrayal, but one that genuinely, absolutely, incapacitates you. The kind that makes you feel like you just lost half of your soul. The ache it leaves behind is staggering.

I have a lot of support from friends and family and it is overwhelming wonderful, especially when it seems like the last week of my life could be made into a Lifetime movie, but when you’re away from the voices that reassure and comfort and offer help, you are still left alone with that remaining half of your soul, the bitter and betrayed half;  it’s the worst kind of company.

That half of your soul wants to obsess about what could have been done to prevent this betrayal. It seethes and smolders and pushes right on your forehead as it consumes your thoughts hour after hour. You develop a form of insomnia as you toss and turn at night, running through the whole experience in your head, rationalizing and justifying events like you can go back in time and change what happened. The fact that there was, and is, nothing you can do just makes it worse.

I am angry. It took a while to let myself feel that way, but I am absolutely furious. I was wronged, disrespected, and deliberately deceived. I feel like society doesn’t let women be angry. We’re supposed to be good and kind heavenly creatures that are only allowed to be “frustrated” and “sad” but never completely and entirely enraged. Just the ability to say out loud “I am angry” without some sort of guilt attached is extremely difficult.

I am broken. It’s like a violent raging party just took place in my chest and I’m left to clean up the broken Red Solo cups and vomit – all by myself. I was the type of person who always looked for the good in people and accepted it as truth, wanting to trust what they said at face value. It will take a long time for me to mend the pieces of that part of myself so it can function again. It’s like a broken plate you glue back together with hope – it may look as good as new, but when you hold it up to the light you notice all the seams from the original broken shards; sharp edges visible, scarred.

I am traumatized. It seems silly to type that, because it’s not like I was just diagnosed with cancer, or assaulted, or survived a horrific car accident, but it’s the only way to describe the shock I’ve felt this past week. I feel like a whole part of my life was a lie, like it never existed, or was just covered up by another reality. I turned around and unveiled a rotting, stinking body of lies that has been slinking through my being, stalking me disguised as something familiar and good. Once this was uncovered I felt like I was unable to comprehend or cope with what was there. The shock of facing those lies was a trauma in itself and the more I uncovered, the more repugnant it became. It feels like I’m being repeatedly kicked in the stomach.

I am bitter. Ooooooh, am I teeth-clenchingly bitter. My mind is constantly full of snide comments, violent accusations, sarcastic jabs, and vindictive declarations. It is all I can do to keep them that way: inside my head. I want to take the high road, be the better person, but it is so damn hard. My mind is a 2 liter of root beer that’s just taken a rocky trip down the Grand Canyon; I may blow at any time.

I am betrayed. You may be able to guess the details, what may have happened to start what will be the ending of my marriage, but the important detail is that I had no control, no say on what occurred. I was completely left in the dark when it came to the real circumstances and the actual mission at hand so I was unjustly left behind to be taken prisoner by self-doubt, anxiety, distrust, and never-ending nausea.

This is not a cry for help or sympathy. If you know me personally, you know this is not something I ever seek from others. This is a statement to myself in order to say that it is okay to feel these emotions. It is healthy. Is it natural. It is good. What really matters is how you act on these feelings and whether or not you let them affect other people. It is an hourly (sometimes a by-minute) struggle, believe me, but I’ll continue until I see a hint of that light at the end of the tunnel. Until then, it’s still pretty freakin’ dark in here.

Not a real post. Well, kinda.

Wooooo wee! Nothing like hot-boxing yourself in a small room all by your lone self. Don’t worry, I’m just burning some kick-ass incense. I got me my overstuffed yellow chair, most likely manufactured when Nixon was in office, a “mulled cider” candle burning, some peanut butter cups at hand, and hot chai that will probably keep me up all night with multiple two minute peeing sessions (TMI? Don’t care!).

I’m also craving this thing a guy at the Target Starbucks had me sample the other day when I was buying my footie pajamas. I don’t normally take free samples from strangers but he had the Starbucks apron on which was apparently a sign to trust the man.

Ask me for soy milk ONE MORE TIME.

I took a sip and he asked me what I thought it tasted like. I said it was a mix of strawberries and Cheerios? (I stated it like a question.) He said, “We call it Captain Crunch!” (very enthusiastically). And you know what, he was exactly right! Apparently their strawberry and caramel syrups, when combined with other smoothie ingredients, make Captain Crunch flavored deliciousness that doesn’t scrap the skin off the roof of your mouth. My burps tasted (and smelled) like this concoction for the rest of the night. Totally worth it. And now I find myself wanting more! I hope the same guy is working there the next time I go to Target. I do need some more scented candles…

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Also, this just happened.

So I’ve been working from home for about two months now. Most importantly, my 25 year old sister recently bought a house! I live in a giant house instead of an apartment now and it’s very very nice. I freakin’ love this house.

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I have a view of a freakin’ lake!

The leaves are also changing and Fall (my most favorite of favorites) is here. I freakin’ love Fall! It seems like I can’t stop saying “freakin'” today so I’ll stop before I drive you away. The house is located in West Salem in the beautiful suburbs surrounded by houses full of families, trees that have made themselves at home, and a lot of joggers/people walking their dogs. After three years of living in the middle of Portland it’s a nice change. The only thing that keeps me awake at night is the absolute quiet. I purposely hung a ticking clock above my head in my bedroom to try and solve this problem. We’ll see what happens.

I started this post with something in mind, a list of the things to watch out for when you work from home, but then I got distracted and I need to go to bed because I’m driving to Portland early in the morning. Just for the day, mind you, but I’m getting my cats back! I’ll return next time with a real list, so for now, I’ll leave you with this little nugget of random/awesome because it involves space and robots and Mars: http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/10/curiosity-bright-plastic/. It’s nice to know that smart people, not to mention smart robots, are also distracted by shiny objects.

How I got the crap beaten out of me by a couple of bees, Part 2.

BEEING continued…

Bwahahaha. Still can’t resist the puns. This is Part 2 of my Bee Saga, so if you haven’t read the first part GO BACK AND READ IT NOW! It’s been a long journey getting this down, but I couldn’t have done it without the help of these guys:

Yep, got me some footie pajamas.

So you left me, Lauri, and Molly in the woods, in a lot of pain, with no where to go but forward into a two hour hike. We obviously can’t go back through those bees so we decide to hike a bit and see if we can find a way back to the car. Like I mentioned before, every step for me at this point is sheer pain and I am, for lack of better terms, extremely grumpy about being out in the middle of the stupid woods with the stupid bees and stupid weather being all hot and humid. We all have a touch of PTSD at this point and whenever any type of insect buzzes or flies within a five foot radius we FREAK the HELL OUT.

Lauri is in better shape than Molly and me, just with her Popeye arm remember, so when she sees a path leading away to the right she suggests that she look ahead and see where it goes. She appears a few seconds later to say that it looks like some sort of campsite with a gravel road leading out of it. Molly and I shrug and say “Why not?” before we follow her back the way she came.

It is a sign of getting out of this hell hole, but the idea of walking down a road and not knowing if it will just lead us to getting lost or further away from our goal sounds like a really bad and painful idea. Lauri (a.k.a. Xena: Warrior Princess at this point) enthusiastically volunteers to run (yes, my freaking amazing sister is willing to purposely run for our cause) down the road a ways and see where it leads her. I am mostly like “Yeah, whatever, I just want to go home” at this point so she takes off.

Don’t worry, I’ll get us out of this mess.

Molly and I stand around comparing our stings, drinking water and, well, to tell you the truth, I don’t really remember much of what happens during those moments. I look back and it seems like we stood there for about five hours (later I figured it was more like 15-20 minutes), but it eventually gets to the point where Molly and I keep sharing nervous glances and shuffling our feet more than we want to. Lauri has been gone a long time, TOO long.

MY MIND CAN’T HELP BUT GO HERE.

Molly and I start to walk down the ominous gravel road through the ominous woods towards Lauri’s ominous disappearance. We are convinced that she should have been back by now and that something definitely is wrong. We walk and walk and walk, occasionally screaming “Laaaauuuurrrrriiiiiii!” There isn’t an echo and that creeps us the hell out.

And then my mind went here…

That was the longest six hours (okay probably another ten minutes) of my life. We keep yelling Lauri’s name and hearing no answer, twitching at the slightest buzzing sound and slapping at imaginary bugs that are out for our blood. All sorts of scenarios were running through my head, all involving Lauri being macheted and buried alive, or Bigfoot dragging her to his cave for a late lunch. What if there were creeper moonshiners in the area and Lauri accidentally found their stash? If someone showed up with a banjo I was going to pass out. Finally, Lauri magically appears walking toward us! Good grief, are we relieved! She said she found the car. HALLELUJAH.

Xena victorious!

Everything is going our way. We actually found a way back to the car when we were at most hoping for some major road where we could hitch a ride. Things are looking up. We are going HOME away from the bugs and toward the popsicles. There is a huge sigh of relief all around. But then IT came.

To this day I’m not sure exactly what it was, but it sounds the “buzz” of a hundred bees as it swoops down and flies right past us. Of course I am the only one that panics, which draws it back to try and land on my arm.

Pretty sure it was this giant bastard.

(Note: don’t Google “Big flying insect” or your ears will ring from the screaming of your mind.)

At this point I have had enough of all this flying/stinging bug crap. I scream and swat at that mofo before I push past Lauri (she is walking in front) and start hauling ass to the car. (If you ask Lauri about this moment she will recreate my scream and the horrific look on my face for you before she laughs her ass off.)

So I am running down this gravel road hoping to get away from this thing. I run about ten yards and stop. Then, “Oh my god, this thing is actually following me.” I keep running while I am hearing this giant bug buzzing and laying into me like I am Cary Grant from North By Northwest. You get the idea.

My mental breakdown is all queued up as I flail like those nature-hating women in movies of which I always made sport. I actually remind myself of the evil fiance Vicky from The Parent Trap (The Hayley Mills version). I am a hot mess, swinging my backpack at the bug each time it comes around, yelling obscenities and whimpering like a butt-hurt chihuahua. At one point I stop to gasp for breath when the buzzing abruptly stops, thinking the thing decided to finally leave me be. I stand there, a petrified piece of prey, as I wait to hear if the Jeff Goldblum-sized insect was still around. I glance behind me to see Molly and Lauri still casually walking with nothing buzzing around their persons trying to murder them. Why was this thing only after ME?

Then I hear it again! I flail, backpack swinging left, right, left as my sunglasses fly into the bushes. I remember screaming “What the HELL is THIS THING?!” At this point I think Lauri takes pity on me and hears the extra crazy in my voice because she grabs the car keys from Molly and books it toward the car. She disappears from sight and I soon hear (through the incessant buzzing around my person) her start the car with gravel flying everywhere as she speeds towards me. The bug disappears yet again for a few seconds so I think this is my moment of escape as I hazardously run toward Lauri in the car.

It returns as I make a last mad dash to the car; a final whimper escapes from me as I fling open the car door and hurl myself inside the still-moving vehicle. I am safe. I am safe as I watch Molly non-chalantly walk to the car without worry, without an elephant-sized bug stalking her. Anyone watching the scene from the sidelines would think I was bat-shit crazy.

I take a look at the clock in the car and determine that this whole ordeal, the hours of getting stung by bees, hiking toward “non-hope,” and getting chased by predatory, Jumanji-esque beasts took 45 minutes. FORTY-FIVE MINUTES. The time it takes to get a pizza delivered.

When we got home I took a picture of my sting from an unflattering angle and here it is in all its glory so you can feel sorry for me. If I had a raised-relief option it would look like Mt. Everest.

Talk about an extra saddle-bag.

And so ends the tale of how I was defeated by all nature could offer me that day: some homicidal insects and a paranoid fear of being murdered in the woods by demon trees and rapist hillbillies. I actually woke up in the middle of sleeping that night terrified that there was a bee in the room trying to swoop and sting me. I am actually still jumpy around buzzing things outside, haunted by my memories of that day. After spending a lifetime of camping, backpacking, and actually sleeping in the middle of the woods without fear, I had a single experience that sums up everything horror movies warn you about: you will end up wounded and running for your life from something that wants to kill you. You will also lose your sunglasses.

4 reasons why grocery shopping is the worst!

I actually enjoy my time shopping for groceries immensely, moseying down aisles of delicious food, meandering slowly through the produce section; it’s a time for relaxation and solitude. I purposely schedule my shopping at a time after which I don’t have anywhere to be or anything to cook, and when most people are at work. However, there are certain moments that cause me to reconsider venturing through those automatic sliding doors ever again.

1. That moment when you are trying to figure out what brand of peanut butter to buy this week (basically the cheapest) when a man slowly walks up behind you so that he can figure out what kind of peanut butter to purchase as well. This particular man doesn’t understand PERSONAL SPACE and brushes against you as he reaches across your person for his choice. This may have been done on purpose, since he then turns to make eye contact and grin, mouthing “Pardon me,” with a gleam in his eye. It makes you want to instantly leave to go home and shower. Twice.

2. That moment when Mrs. Old Lady ahead of you in line pays with a bajillion coupons and a slowly written check. She has the clerk scan the coupons slowly, one by one, so she can monitor the whole process by reading each coupon out loud and comparing it with the “amount owed” screen. If she doesn’t get 50 cents off her 24 roll pack of Charmin, by golly, she will speak up in outrage! The line is getting longer behind her, but she pays absolutely no mind. After everything is rung up, because of the intense concentration needed to micro-manage the employee scanning the items, she just now starts to dig around in her purse full of used Kleenexes, Werther’s so old they unwrapped themselves, and countless Sweet n’ Low packets, to find her check book. Now she needs to find a pen. Finally, the clerk exchanges her neat, calligraphic check for a receipt, but then she needs to stand there another few minutes to study it like a twelve year boy and his first experience with an R-rated movie.

3. That moment when you realize you forgot your “Earth friendly” reusable bags at home and now have to use the paper ones provided at the store. What you have to look forward to are the judgmental stares from the people in line behind you, and the unspoken accusation from the judging checkout clerk’s eyes as they WHIP out that paper bag, causing you to wince with guilt (this is all times ten if you are shopping at Whole Foods).

4. That moment when you leave Roth’s with their trademark insistent “Let me help you carry your single bag out” employee and you can’t remember where you parked your car.

How I got the crap beaten out of me by a couple of bees, Part 1.

I could title this “The Saga of the Bees” but then you might start taking me seriously and this story doesn’t need that; just your pity.

Also, I renamed my blog so I hope that’s not too confusing for some people. Disclaimer: This may happen a lot. Settling on a name is an unsettling business.

So I’ve found myself living in Salem at the moment with two other upstanding women: my sister, Lauri, and Molly (don’t worry, they said it was okay to use their real names). If you are a close friend or family member of mine you know the reason why I have not moved to Utah, as I led everyone to believe. For everyone else, it is a complicated business but know that I currently have a wonderfully welcome place to live and work from, even if it isn’t in Portland. I wrote this post last month (when the following events actually took place) but have been in a gray/darker gray place since then and couldn’t bring myself to actually publish anything here. I am not ready to share more about my uprooted life at the moment, so for now here is something funny.

Lauri, Molly, and I decided to go on a hike on the Little North Santiam Trail that goes through Three Pools. The location may not seem important, but I’m letting you know just in case you want to try and avoid it in the future after you read more.

Cue horror music (REE REE REE REE).

Life was just great at this point. We had the right amount of water, the right hiking shoes; I even remembered to cover my shoulder tattoo with the right sunscreen and had the right headband in my hair that keeps it in the right place for not poking my right eye (it really is only the right eye, my left eye is usually left well enough alone). The only concern at the trailhead was that there wasn’t a bathroom around, after which I bragged about my many exploits using leaves, rocks, and even pinecones for the swiping of my downstairs.

Charmin schmarmin. Just what those creepy-ass bears are missing.

It was around 11:30am at this point so the sun was shining along with a gentle breeze as we set off on the trail.

I really enjoy hiking out in the middle of nowhere. There are trees all around, no other people making noise but you and your company, which makes for a very serene and relaxing environment (I guess that does depend on the company you choose). I happened to have great company so we, with our perfect water and perfect headbands, tramped with glee through the forest like Peter’s Lost Boys, all relaxed and happy, for about five whole minutes before we came upon the terrified, sobbing little girl.

Got your attention now, huh?

She was with her mom, so we weren’t too worried, but then the mom started talking about bees, particularly the one that just stung her child. They had apparently started a hive (the bees, not the mom and little girl) right in the middle of the trail in or underneath some tree roots. The pair had a few more family members with them (unstung, mind you) that were turning back to abandon the hike so they could take care of the girl’s sting. They warned us where we might find the hive and said that if we “stay high and keep moving, we should be fine.” I now know that “should be fine” really means “will PROBABLY NOT be fine.”

When I think back this is what the woods look like in my mind: ominous and freakin foreboding.

The hive was about 50 yards away so we three made eye contact and decided to just push through it. None of us were allergic to bee stings and we were still all happy-go-lucky from the perfect five minutes of hiking we just experienced so the thought of anything going wrong seemed impossible. We were going to hike and enjoy it, dammit!

We came up to where they said the tree roots were and saw that there was a way to leave the trail (yes, I know, we are horrible, horrible human beings) and walk a few yards away from where we thought the hive was and thus avoid the problem altogether. It was slow going since we were walking through underbrush and over a fallen tree, but eventually we made our way around in a crescent shape and returned to the trail. We didn’t see or hear any bees, even though we saw tree roots, so we made the hugest mistake we could have ever made at that moment: we paused to discuss our surroundings.

“Is this where they were talking about?”

“I don’t see any bees, do you hear any?”

“I think the hive might be further down, should we walk back to the right?”

“I don’t know, maybe we should…OW! OH, OW! (this was me)”

An instant before this moment some sun peeked down through the branches of the tree under which we were standing and I saw them. I saw several bees flying right and left in an unfriendly manner (not sure how one would swarm in a friendly manner) so in my mind I said some nasty words and then I felt the pain.

Probably this little motherf-er.

Oh, the PAIN! I felt a sharp prick on the back of my right thigh, as well as another on the front. I also felt the start of one on my left wrist. My instant reaction was to slap the front of my thigh, yell some of the nasty words I was thinking, slap my wrist, and then sprint down the trail screaming “AHHHHHH!”

Behind me my sister asked, “Oh, did you get stung?” right before she also yelled some of same words I did and sprinted after me. Molly followed straight after.

We were about 50 yards away from the hive and paused for a second, bewildered and confused, gasping from the sudden unwanted exercise and sheer terror of being unwillingly harpooned by insect behinds. We realized later that all three of us hadn’t been stung by any bees since childhood, hence the terror and low tolerance of such pain. Besides my three stings, Lauri got one on her forearm and Molly, her finger (the worst!). After this pause (didn’t we learn our lesson the first time?) of maybe five seconds Molly shouts again! “OW!” so we all turn and start running yet again, longer and further this time, maybe for about two minutes, sheer sprinting and sheer terror. Molly got stung on her back as well as on her freaking head. These mo-fos meant business! There was no way in hell we were turning back and stepping a toe into their turf!

So our emotions were awry at this point. We started off at an emotional 10, maybe 9 and a half, and were now at a low 2, or even 1 (10 being super happy, and 1 being “I want to murder some bees and then go home and sleep all day”). The back of my thigh was aching and smarting some fierce, but luckily me slapping my wrist and front of my thigh kept those bees from finishing their business and only hurt a little. Actually, let me take that back, I actually bruised my thigh pretty bad from the slap – there was a hand print there for the rest of the day, but hey! No sting! But seriously, my leg hurt and swelled up pretty much instantly. Molly had it really bad on her head and finger, and then Lauri started developing a Popeye arm. We instantly wanted to go home.

That whole “we can’t go back there!” mentality (a smart one, I should think!) put us in quite a pickle. The hike we were going to take was about 2 miles to Three Pools, and then we were just going to hike back the way we came, you know, back through where we got stung by a hundred bees. We had some family that were camping in the area that could maybe pick us up at Three Pools, but I had the only cell phone and didn’t have service! Oh no! Just like in the movies. I was waiting for the human sacrificing cultists or Bigfoot to appear and turn this into an episode of Grimm (I’ve been watching a lot of TV lately).

We tried walking a bit to see if the hike could be managed and if I could get a signal on my phone, but it was slow going. Every time I had to climb something steep, or just walk in general, searing pain shot up my leg like venom seething through my veins and I started feeling ill. I tried the whole “just don’t think about it” but that’s extremely difficult when you are amongst others in pain and despair. We needed to find a way back to the car and NOW!

This is getting pretty long, so stay tuned for the next part of the story to find out if we made it out of the forest alive! Okay, obviously we did but just go with it because this story is far from being over or uninteresting. And so just because I can…

To BEE continued…

Mwahahahaha

Update: Here’s Part Two of the Saga.

6 reasons why you should let people suck your blood (NOT vampires)

I’ve been listening to Jefferson Starship and feeling nostalgic all day. 80’s music always does that to me even though I didn’t technically grow up in that particular decade, born in 1985. But I remember the song “Sara” when I was little and listening as my older brother Eric and his friends sang it to me for fun. Now that I know that the song isn’t actually about me, as I was falsely led to believe, I still like to listen to it and imagine that I am the “one that got away.” “Saaaarrraah, Saaaarrraah, storms are brewin’ in your eyes / Saaaarrraah, Saaaarrraah, no time is a good time / oh, I’ll never find another girl like you / we’re fire and ice, the dream won’t come true…” Yeah, I’m that girl, the one that got away…<sigh> I’m just so cool and elusive… What am I going to do without my manic pixie self?

Every 56 days (usually to the day) I go to the Red Cross and give them a pint of my homegrown, all natural, O negative blood. I love the Red Cross. They are amazing. So here are the reasons why you should go in right now and give them your blood:

1. They do awesome things with your blood. Right now they are giving it all to the people in Colorado and Utah that really need it because of the wild fires. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, Google “Colorado Fires” and read some freakin’ news once in a while, geez!) One pint of blood (1 pint = 1 donation) can save the lives of up to three people.

2. You get a free mini-physical in the process. They have to check things like your pulse, blood pressure, body temperature, and hemoglobin (iron in your blood), before you can even donate, so voilà – free health care! Take that Obama! (Yeah, I know that doesn’t really make sense.)

3. The Red Cross staff make you feel like a super hero. Seriously, I’m not over-exaggerating at all. They are so nice and accommodating, their hiring process must really squeeze out any potential meanies and awkwards. They practically bend over backward to make sure you’re comfortable and have everything you could ever need or want. I know this has something to do with the fact that they’re literally sucking the life out of you, but still, they are very nice and make you feel like an angel sent from heaven to save the world from bloodlessness.

Or maybe the Red Cross Fairy Godmother? Just go with it.

4. This might just be me, but it’s kind of a rush to have a big needle poked into your arm. Yeah, I know almost no one will feel this way, but still…I like it. I also have to watch the needle go in each time and the person doing the sticking is always surprised that I do. One even said that most men who come in turn away and wince, while women handle the pain like it’s nothing. Part of me wanted to be like “I am woman, hear me roar with my high pain tolerance!” but the other part wanted to retort “Don’t give credit to my gender, I’m just awesome!”

5. The day you give blood, you have an excuse to do absolutely nothing. You don’t really feel that weakened, but it’s enough to make you feel tired and not up for much physical activity after you give away a pint of your body juice. So if somebody asks you to drive them to the airport really early the morning of, you can say “Nope! Sorry, I’m giving blood today and I need to get 7-8 hours of sleep.” If somebody asks you to help them move, you can say “Nope! Sorry, I just gave blood and I’m not supposed to do any heavy lifting today.” If somebody asks if you want to go see Magic Mike that afternoon, you can say “Nope! Sorry, I gave blood today.”

Sorry, Channing. I can’t stomach your beefiness whilst minus one pint of blood.

6. You get free cookies and juice. Seriously, all you want. Even if you cram most of it into your purse. Need I say more?

NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM

(That is supposed to be the cookie monster and if you didn’t know that go watch some freakin’ Sesame Street once in a while, geez!)

A Disney princess with womanly curves? Oh my!

I finally saw Pixar’s Brave and found it quite enjoyable. I didn’t read any reviews before going in, only the trailers, and I think that’s what made me really like the film. You see, I tend to really hype myself up about certain movies right before I see them. I mean, really really get wound up, expecting it to be my new favorite movie every damn time. It’s exhausting! I will be so let down at the end that I won’t find the movie as enjoyable as if I went in without any expectations, because those are: a life-changing revelation, multiple boisterous laughs at insurmountable hilarity, and an ugly cry at the end, complete with snotty nose. What is an “ugly cry” you ask?

Here is a picture of me modeling a normal cry, the kind you get then you watch something emotionally touching or slightly melancholy, like the end of Toy Story 3 (don’t worry, no spoilers here):

You can see the sadness in my eyes but my composure is somewhat intact.

Now here I am modeling an “ugly cry,” which last occurred when I watched that other sad part in the middle of Toy Story 3 (again, no spoilers) when you think all may be lost:

*Missing: trails of snot and spittle on my chin.

As you can see, this is not something you want to occur in the light of day, but is acceptable in the darkness of a movie theater where people may only hear the “ugly cry.”

Brave caused the first normal cry exactly two times at two very touching moments in the film that occur between the mother and daughter. I think Pixar did a wonderful job depicting the complicated and complex relationship between a mother and her teenage daughter, more complex than I would ever expect from an animated film. I give major props to them for this. I’m not a mother of a teenage daughter myself, but remembering myself as a teenager has me thinking it’s really really hard.

<Steps up on soapbox>

*Note: I’ve never reviewed a movie before and while I know what “spoilers” are and most of these things are hinted at in all the trailers, I will try my best not to ruin the movie for you. If you have not yet seen Brave, read this at your own risk! (Oh, and go see it ASAP so you can come back and read this!)

You have a mother (named Elinor) that genuinely wants the best for her daughter, teaching (well attempting, at least) her everything she will need to know in preparation for marriage, child-raising, running a household, and being a queen. She teaches what she knows best, and boy, is she a determined teacher. You can see her love for Merida (the protagonist) throughout the whole movie, but also where she seems to go wrong in handling Merida’s continued resistance to all her lessons. If you’ve ever seen the Disney channel, there are a lot of sit-com plots that involve all-knowing, deceptively wise teenagers with absent, child-like parents which drives me crazy because it is so over-the-top unrealistic! Also, I want to point out the fact that Elinor is a princess’s mother that’s actually alive. I could only think of one exception: Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, and her mother is pretty must absent most of the movie. Actually, do we even hear her talk once? Seriously, what is the deal with Disney hating on alive, present mothers?

On the other end you have Merida, which you can see from all the posters that she has awesome, unruly, curly red hair that stereotypically reflects her fiery temper and refusal to be tied down with responsibilities that don’t involve her bow and arrow or galloping her horse through the forest toward adventure. When she has to be strong, she is strong. When something needs to get done, she does it, and she won’t let a restrictive, formal dress hinder her in the process. But she is also a teenager with teenage emotions and views on what responsibility is. She only likes what she knows right now (shooting arrows at targets and climbing treacherous waterfalls). Also like a typical teenager, she doesn’t really care about what happens tomorrow, or in a few years; only the present matters, and that is how her decisions are driven because it works for her in that moment.

I don’t want to go more into it without ruining the movie for people (Merida’s decisions lead to something of the Ursidae variety) but the movie starts with a depiction of a battle of the wills between Merida and her mother Elinor that obviously occurs on a daily basis. Elinor acts like a typical mother might in laying down the rules and proper actions, expecting Merida to follow them without question or debate, after which Merida rebels to the lack of discussion and acts out, leading to the major conflict of the movie’s plot. The process with which they reach the conclusion involves mother learning about her daughter’s true strengths and skills and respecting her more for them, with daughter realizing the true reasons for her mother’s actions and loving her more for them.

Also, look at these guys! You can’t contain the cuteness!

The second props I give to Pixar is their decision to finally make a film with a female protagonist (a curly red-haired one at that!). I think they could have included more supporting female characters (all the clan members with speaking parts are kilt-wearing, sword-bearing males) besides the mother and the less-talking-more-shrieking, voluptuous maidservant, but I don’t want to get too picky here. A lot of Merida’s character traits made sense when I found out Brave was directed and developed partially by a woman: Brenda Chapman. She directed Prince of Egypt and has been involved in writing and animating for major Disney movies like The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and Fantasia 2000. However, it looks like she left the project halfway through and I’ve been unable to figure out why. Articles say she was “fired [because of] creative differences” but nothing seems clear and she still shared a director credit with Mark Andrews.

She also has awesome curly red hair.

I could write a whole other post discussing what I read online about the struggle of women in the animation world, but I’ll move on… (apparently it’s a real “boy’s club.”)

The first thing I noticed when I saw our heroine, Merida, was that she looks like a real 17-18-year-old girl. I had a hard time tracking down a still shot that truly displays what I’m talking about, but I found this:

Look! I could actually push a child’s head out of my vagina if I wanted to!

Merida has womanly, child-bearing hips! I almost exclaimed that aloud in the theater, but I didn’t want any popcorn thrown at me. Mind you, she still has the enlarged head and eyes of a typical Disney princess, but still! Look at those curves and that healthy-sized waist! She exudes strength and athletic-ability, not petite fragility and Barbie-skinniness like these unearthly creatures:

Except for Mulan, she’s cool.

The only hips I see are coming from Jasmine’s Hammer-time pants. I could snap all their arms in half like toothpicks and not even feel bad! Yes, I know that medieval(?) Merida probably isn’t wearing a corset and most of those above are, but still, everyone looks like they have anorexia or will fall over gasping at any minute, cursing their animators for their disproportionate figures. No one can look like that in real life!

Well, except for this freaky deaky.

I almost feel like Merida and her mother (who also looks like a normal-sized 40-ish year old woman who is clearly very intelligent and also as strong as her daughter) portray the start of a new “empowered Disney woman” but I don’t want to go that far. Maybe if Pixar would create a female protagonist that isn’t a princess I would truly think that. Just a thought.

So in conclusion, I applaud Pixar’s efforts at introducing a realistic mother-daughter relationship that doesn’t involve a skinny, Disney teen pulling another one over on a good ol’ unsuspecting parent and getting away with it, as well as a princess that looks like a real teenage girl and not Barbie, awesome archery skills included.

More, please.

<Steps down from soapbox>