November 2008 Archives

No mo NaBloPoMo

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Today is the thirtieth day for National Blog Posting Month, and I'm glad I participated. There were many days when I would not have ordinarily written, but I found occasion to think about people, things, and situations I may not have otherwise. It kind of reminded me why I started this blog in the first place, as writing is both therapeutic and an opportunity for discovery.

I made a lot of decisions this month, and I thought a lot. Probably the best decision was to start swimming, and I'm feeling fantastic - I reached 2k this morning! I'm feeling a lot better about spending the rest of this rainy day inside now that all of my muscles and my entire torso are aching.

I also decided about my feelings, and moving forward I think I am much better prepared to enjoy the opportunities life presents as they come, without spoiling them for myself with worries or expectations.

I decided what I want to do with school and my career, and I even worked up the courage to apply for graduation this coming May.

Though this month has been full of changes and adjustments, it's been a really good one, and I think my life is going in an exciting, happy direction.

I plan to keep posting regularly - perhaps not every day, but certainly more frequently than I had been before - as it's nice to remember my days and the way I feel. That's a nice change of pace.

One thing at a time

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I'm trying to calm down about things that are distressing and focus on one thing at a time. I have plenty of things to work on in myself.

Of course you know, this means swimming. I've been taking everything emotional, upsetting, frustrating, and downright maddening into the pool with me and letting it all wash off.

Earlier this week, I swam a kilometer, and today it was either 1700 or 1900 meters (I lost count). I've gotten comfortable swimming 100's at a time instead of 50's. I still get annoyed at myself when I remember that my best event used to be 100 backstroke, and I treated it like a quick sprint.

Either because I really don't like myself, or because I really do, I've been working harder to try to get a better workout as I go. If I have even a little bit of energy, I force myself to go faster and stretch my stroke longer. My goal has been to leave the pool completely wiped out, and even though I'm really sore after this morning's swim, I know I could have pushed a little harder still.

Thankfully I can swim again in the morning and work some more things out.

With all the warmth and happiness I was experiencing yesterday, it was easy to only look inward, to forget about the rest of the world and enjoy myself with my family.

Today, though, it's hard to miss the atrocities people are committing against one another.

The stuff going on in Mumbai is just heart-breaking, and I can't make any sense of it. The more I read, the more my eyes fill with tears and I sit aghast wondering where the sanctity of human life has gone.

I think to myself I'm so lucky to live in a (relatively) free country where I feel safe, and then I read about the disgusting things that happened at Wal-Mart and Toys R Us today, and I can't believe it. What's the matter with people?!

A few days ago, I joined Amnesty International because I felt like I needed to use my voice more. I was all excited about signing petitions and writing letters and doingsomething, however small. Now I wonder how that can possibly help. If we are willing to trample each other to death for deals on computers and tube socks, how is there really any hope for humanity at large?

Greetings from a happy home

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Today was awesome. My brother gives me a hard time for taking photos of everything, especially food, but as I'm looking through the (often blurry) shots I took today, I keep smiling with warmth and happiness. Get ready to scroll.

This is the house I grew up in, and where I've just moved back. My bedroom used to be the window on the right above the porch, but now I'm in the room on the left. It faces nearly exactly north, so the light is lovely. I took this photo earlier this fall, but they've actually added really nice rails to the porch since then.

We finally got all of my stuff out of the main areas of the house, and it's so relaxing to be here. I particularly enjoy sitting in the bay window there.

My father was setting the table with paper napkins, and I declared that if I had to wear pants, there must be cloth napkins with rings.

He went for these wooden ones with African animals, and we each got a different one - mine was the elephant. When I was trying to take photos of the pies later, my mother and brother reenacted the Great Migration in the background to distract me. These napkin rings also may have been dancing to Diana Ross and the Rolling Stones, but I can neither confirm nor deny this allegation.

It was just my parents, my brother, the pets, and me, and it was so cozy and delightful. I love these guys so much.

I think it's hysterical that my Dad puts on his glasses to carve the turkey. As he explained, "This is serious business."

We spent hours sitting around the table eating, talking story, and laughing our asses off. I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard and so much, and it was just perfect.

The spread was just right, all of our very favorite dishes.

Now, let's talk about the food. This was my plate:

Clockwise from left, we have...

the moistest, most succulent turkey I've ever had, with homemade gravy (I am now an official consultant on my father's gravy process), and buttery biscuits...

broccoli casserole, mashed carrots...

rice croquettes, which, oh my GOD so good...

the awesome cranberry sauce that I made, and sweet potatoes with maple and pecans.

All this was enjoyed with a fantastic Venetian pinot grigio and with a delicate centerpiece of Playboy roses. The wine and I got along rather famously.

I have to admit, I'm all about the side dishes and not such a fan of turkey, even though this one was noteworthy. I went back for second helpings of the cranberry sauce (my favorite) and broccoli casserole. Now that I've had a few hours, the rice croquettes in the fridge are also calling my name.

Whenever I describe family occasions I'm inclined to say "just the four of us," but there are three dogs and two cats cruising around too.

Molly, Smooch, and Otto aren't so into being in focus, but luckily Oreo and Smokey are.

Here's a little game. Spot the Smokey:

There he is!

My buddy looks so dapper against tufted velvet.

Hours after eating, drinking, and carrying on, we dug into the pies. I made the pumpkin and coconut custard last night before going out with my brother, and my mom made the most delicious Dutch apple pie I've ever had this morning. One of my father's friends gave us the pecan pie, which rounded out the selection quite nicely.

As usual, I went for the sampler, with three slices' worth of whipped cream. Nom nom nom.

Everything was just phenomenal. My family does holidays so nicely, and I enjoyed their company so much I'm beside myself with appreciation.

This day has left me a very, very happy girl.


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I have much to be thankful for this year. My friends, my family and pets, the direction work is going, the experiences I've had, good health, good heart, and so on.

I'm thankful for a fresh start, however much I resisted it. And I'm thankful for all the possibilities life holds.

I'm thankful for all the joy I experience and the many opportunities I've had to do so. I'm also really  thankful for the amazing support system I have when things go badly.

The past few days I've been walking around feeling pretty cheerful. I think it's to do with getting obsessively into painting and swimming and their associated endorphins. Also, I'm finally in a place where I can concentrate on work and school and do whatever I want with the rest of my time. That's something pretty special, for which I am incredibly thankful.

I hope that you have much reason to be thankful this year. I hope that you have a happy and safe celebration and enjoy your holiday. Your pies can't possibly be as delicious as the ones I made yesterday, but we can't have it all.

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

You teach people how to treat you

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This past weekend I was browsing PostSecret and I came across this secret about quoting Dr Phil:

The thing that struck me was the second little DrPhilism, "You teach people how to treat you." I know I've heard that before, but it hasn't really carried much meaning for me up to this point.

I am usually way too eager to take blame for when people treat me badly. I tell myself that it's my fault because I'm passive-aggressive or because I chose a bad time to bother them with my feelings or... whatever. It's crap. People have a choice in how they treat me, and I have a choice in what I allow.

It's easy to apply in overt examples, when I'm being yelled at or criticized very harshly - I have known when I am being too permissive or acting like a dumbass. It's a little murkier when the negative treatment is tough to pinpoint but still makes me feel awful.

I don't really know how to become more assertive or express myself better. All the advice I've read and received on this subject (since I'm confessing to what a gigantic dork I am anyway) is to just blurt it out. To tell people how their actions make me feel and what I want and so on.

I keep thinking of the flip-side: how would I feel if someone called me out on something mundane that I said or did that made them feel bad? Would I critically evaluate my behavior and reconsider how I treat this person, or would I much more likely think they were being over-sensitive or weird and avoid them for a while so I don't offend them again? I get pretty sad when I think about how many friendships have ended because I opted for the latter.

I like to think that I'm a reasonable and compassionate person. When people are calm and say "ouch" or "that was mean," I do think about it and often apologize immediately then clarify what I meant (since usually I don't actually mean to say crappy things, it's a misunderstanding). That makes sense to me. But if they unleash a litany of feelings and tell me about over-arching behavioral patterns and how they affect them? That's a lot of teaching in one lesson.

So how to deal with people like me? Can we be taught to treat others well, or are we destined for failed relationships over and over? Is the same thing which foredooms my interactions causing me to teach others to treat me badly? How do you change that anyway?

Suddenly I wish I could talk to Dr Phil.

This clever planet

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I keep forgetting to post about these mind-bogglingly wonderful satellite photos I ran across the other day on the Environmental Graffiti blog (new favorite).

It's probably pretty immediately apparent why they appeal to me.

You can view the whole set here, and there are three pages of them. They are so totally worth checking out. I really wish I knew more about the imaging techniques and how to interpret the different colors and such, but as images alone they're fantastic.

I love the way that the universe has a certain order, from a micro to macro scale and that the more you look at the earth, the more it reveals this order to you. I've probably said it before, but looking at the world this way feels like staring into the face of God. It's staggering.

Related, a while ago my mother (I think?) sent me an article discussing an Antarctic mission that found a bunch of striped glaciers that resembled frosty candies. There are more photos at that link.

So freaking beautiful.

Wrapping it up

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I haven't talked with my paternal grandmother in a pretty long time, like since she was here to visit in July. When my dad passed me the phone, I felt so guilty because I'd promised her I'd call and write more regularly and I've been so utterly self-absorbed that I never make time to keep in touch with people.

We had a really long conversation, and I told her everything I've been up to since July. I mentioned that I am trying to finish my art history thesis and that I need to do it by May so that I can get hired for a position this summer (that's a long story I'll get into soon).

I mentioned that Pratt's graduation is going to be at Radio City Music Hall this year and I started to realize that I really wanted to be there. Admittedly, I was planning to blow off graduation, get my diploma in the mail, and discourage my parents from any celebrations.

We kept on talking about other things, and I promised to send her articles about work stuff and photographs of Italy and suchlike, and once again I said I know I make promises all the time and I'm sorry I'm so bad at keeping them.

Her response floored me, "I live years waiting on those promises, Vicki."

In some weird way, I feel like I owe it to my grandmother to finish my degree already so she can come to my graduation. I kind of promised her I would.

Just a few minutes ago, I applied for graduation for this coming May. I am hyperventilating and I can't stop shaking thinking about the ponderous amount of work between now and then, but I keep picturing my gram at Radio City, and I just have to do it.

For me, painting is often a love affair with music made visible.

Music plays an essential role in my process, and while I do experience synesthetic responses to sounds, it's not just that. It's more the way that each painting's soundtrack, combined with what's going on in my life, elicits something intense inside of me that needs to come out.

My life hasn't been conducive to painting until just recently. And now, I'm thinking about it all the time again. Which is to say, I've had a bit of time to work on the painting I started on Saturday.

It's driving me mad because right now everything is wet, so I can't get back in to rework all the areas I want to change. It's having problems with its tonal balance, and I know exactly how I want to change it. You can see this very readily here:

(That is one of my favorite problem-solving tricks with paintings.)

Still, I don't hate it, and I think I'm going to really like it when it goes where it needs to.

Some of the main songs upon which this painting hangs would be a phenomenal Flaming Lips cover of "Nobody Told Me", the Jets to Brazil song "Sweet Avenue" and Smashing Pumpkins "Drown." If you want a fuller picture, you can look at the Audiostalker and get it all.

The other thing that makes me exquisitely happy is the place where this painting is coming from. It's one of my very favorite places and one that I've missed dearly.


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It's pretty obvious to say that it feels good to meet or exceed goals. Actually it feels incredible, and it shows you your capability as a person.

To me almost all goals are simply a challenge of will-power. My father approached difficult classes in college with the attitude of "I'm smart, and if it's physically possible for a human being to learn this and pass this class, then I will do it." Admittedly, that attitude has gotten me through a lot more situations than I expected it would.

Today I went swimming after taking a week off while my mother was away. I was still metabolizing tequila from last night, and at first my body was not too happy about being stuffed into a swimsuit and dragged through water. Still, I had goals for myself this week, and damned if I wasn't going to make them.

People who actually swim regularly will laugh hysterically at how small my goals were, but this week I wanted to swim a straight 100 meters of freestyle, which is four lengths of the pool without stopping. This is a very small distance if you're in any kind of shape, but I just started swimming again two weeks ago and my lifestyle has been, well, mostly sedentary the past few years. I've been able to swim 100's of breaststroke no problem, and while I could force myself through 100's of free, I couldn't really do it with any kind of finesse or grace.

But today, I did it. And it was actually pretty easy. I think I've broken the same barrier as I did in the first week when I worked to get back into swimming straight 50's. I also found this inner strength today, where instead of slogging through the lengths, I was challenging myself to go faster and work harder at what I was doing. I would say to my mother "So this will be the last 50?" and I would swim with everything I had, trying to use up the last reserves of my energy. Afterwards, she would say she could go for another and so I pushed myself even harder.

At the end, my face was hot and my heart was pounding, and every muscle felt fantastic. The body knows what it wants, and I'm finally in a place where I'm capable of working it the way it deserves. I know it is purely a question of mental fortitude and having a good attitude about it.

I was thinking about other goals in life I want to attain and the extent to which swimming, and the discipline I'm gaining from it, can really help. And I will confess, it was also exciting to think about losing weight and getting in better shape for (ahem) dating.

In short, for the first time in a pretty long time, I'm actually proud of myself. It feels damn good to set and meet manageable goals, and I like seeing visible progress. I'm gonna keep it up.


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Intermittently throughout the day I've been grumpy because all I wanted to do was paint.

Instead, I unpacked and lugged boxes, cleaned out closets, fought with my dad, worked at setting up my studio better...

...but FINALLY I got to start a painting.

And now I have to go out to dinner. Fortunately cucumber margaritas and painting are very miscible.

Otherwise awesome

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Last night I made a delicious soup with little handmade meatballs, pasta and so on. My parents' cat Oreo kept trying to eat the meatballs while it was simmering, so I put a cover on the pot while I ate. It was fantastic, and I contemplated having a second bowl when the dachshund Otto decided he would help lick my bowl clean.

"Ah well," I thought, and snuggled up with a contented Otto on my lap for a nice long nap. A few hours later I woke up to a smoky, oddly familiar smell and rushed into the kitchen, where the pot of soup had been cooked down into a smoldering pile of burnt-up noodles and charred meatballs. Even the wooden spoon had split and burned.

I had left the stove on simmering with a lid, which may be what kept it from starting the whole kitchen on fire. Way to go, Vic, burn your parents' house down.

Also, I forgot to vacuum and I left the light on the fish tank all night, so they were partied out by this morning.

In much better news, I had the random thought to weigh myself this morning, and I learned I've lost 14 pounds since moving to Connecticut in September. I want to say it's all because of swimming, but I've only been like five times and I was losing weight before that. This was confirmed by the pants which used to be my tight skinny pants now fitting very loosely today. I will totally take that.

I dropped my car off before class this morning to find out why it was making a high-pitched squeal, and they needed to adjust a belt that they had just replaced, so they did it for free. The good news is that while the car was up in the air, the mechanic noticed a huge slash in one of my tires which, while it wasn't leaking, could have caused the tire to explode at any minute while driving. This obviously would have been disastrous, and when I said I'd been driving to Somerset and back all week, he was like "Man, I'm glad we found it now!" and detailed how awful it might have been if my tire exploded on the parkway. I couldn't get in touch with my parents to figure out what to do, so I arranged to just pick the car up and drive it very carefully home. While I was at lunch with a friend in Brooklyn, my mother arranged to have my two front tires replaced. My car has never driven so nicely.

If this entry feels like a random smattering of daily events with only the tenuous theme of "wow, that could have been worse," it's because it basically is. I'm really really sleepy.

Home alone

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I think a lot of people's dissatisfaction in life stems from not being able to be content by themselves.

It's kind of like when you're a young child, and you want to pray, but you're not sure how to start, so you mentally stammer things, awkward ice-breakers with God and such, and even though the entire process is contained within your mind, you get embarrassed and feel uncomfortable.

I think sometimes the interior monologue gets like that. We surround ourselves with daily interactions with others or fill our thoughts and consciousness with entertainment and news, television and other media, all to keep from that intense quiet of being alone and the peculiar strains of "Hey, self, uhh, how's it goin'?".

I may be an anomaly, but I love being alone. I think it's why I got into drawing and painting, as well as writing, and I think it's why I enjoy great stretches of time by myself, with my thoughts.

My father left for a short conference in Atlantic City today, and my mother is still in Canada, so for the first time in a long time, I am home by myself. It's given me time to think about things, reevaluate where I stand on some and open my mind to the possibilities of others.

I took a nice, long bubble bath. If you know me in real life, you've probably heard me extol the soul-purifying virtues of a quality bath, and as I filled the tub I was disappointed with myself that I haven't had a bath in, well, months. I guess that's the kind of thing you only do when you're alone, and that's a shame because I do most of my best thinking in water.

I had to ask myself about the things I think about on a daily basis. Are these really my concerns, or are they the things I occupy my time with because they're pleasant or energy-consuming distractions? Do I indulge in these particular daydreams because they're really what I want, or is it a reflexive habit developed over years?

I thought about the way my life has been lately and my general attitude toward it. If you had asked me a few months ago, I would have said I wanted to finish school, marry Eric, have kids, and so on. I had dreams and plans, and I thought I was on a track toward something. It's okay that my path has changed, and I have faith that the universe has its reasons.

I realize this is an opportunity, that once again I get to do whatever I want.

I thought about the way things have gone kind of full-circle. The last time I felt this way, I had just graduated from undergrad and I spent a summer hopelessly in love, painting feverishly in my kitchen studio, dreaming and planning all the time. The difference is that when I was 21, living in New York was still a dream, to say nothing of working in Italy or going to grad school. I thought I understood love then (I still don't now), and I thought I had a pretty good grasp on how people work. I am delighted how wrong I was, about everything, and it's humbling to see all that I've learned and experienced since the last time I was watching the fish tank and absent-mindedly stirring paint.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'm really happy to have some time alone, to think, to discover things about myself and the way I feel. The heart is a fickle and strange little thing, but it knows what it wants, if I can just quiet my mind long enough to really listen.

I'm only sleeping

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I had this whole post I wanted to write about Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest singers of all time, and I was gonna obsess about music for a while.

The trouble is, as I was making dinner (pheasant stir-fry over rice), I got all light-headed and my vision blurred, and now I can't keep my head up.

Let's say it's over-tiredness, and I'll try again tomorrow.

Groovy tunes

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Because my car is so much more fuel efficient than his truck, my father often drives it to work and around town. He tends to tune the radio to CBS-FM, which I usually thought of as the oldies station but has evidently been re-branded as "New York's Greatest Hits."

It turns out that this is exactly the music I want to hear in the mornings. It's energetic without being assaulting, it's emotional without being maudlin, and it has so much nostalgia because it evokes all the songs I loved so much throughout my childhood.

A friend and I were talking at a wedding a few weeks ago, and I said how there are random songs, like anything by the Temptations, that I know every word to. It comes out of some deep recess of memory, and I find myself singing along. My friend had the same experience, with a lot of the same bands, and we agreed that it's a really warm, cozy feeling to rediscover old timey songs with the familiarity of nursery rhymes.

These past two days driving to Somerset early in the morning, I've really enjoyed listening to my father's radio station. Some alchemy of the Beatles, Diana Ross, and the Who really put me in a fantastic mood. Traffic was vastly improved as well, and I was so into singing along that I was almost disappointed when I got to and from the conference in record time.

The conference itself was a lot better today too. I was mistaken - we focused on X-ray fluorescence today, which I worked with a lot this summer and understand pretty well. It was very interesting to learn all the things we've been doing wrong and think through new processes using our instruments.

Tomorrow is the last day of the conference, and the technical sessions in my field are only in the morning, so I'll try to take a little time to wander around the exhibition portion to play with the instruments and pester manufacturers with asinine questions. I can't wait.

My brain is full

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I spent the day in technical sessions at the Eastern Analytical Symposium, and my goodness, I'm exhausted. The talks were fascinating, and I know I need to learn this information, but after looking at a few hundred spectra and hearing the minutiae ofchemometrics, I started wondering if my front lobes were dripping out my nostrils.

Tomorrow promises to be even more complex. Today mostly focused on near-infrared spectroscopy, which I more or less understand (or I do now)... but tomorrow gets into NMR spectroscopy, which is both what I'm learning to do for work, and the thing I understand the least (that fits, right?).

I think what wore me out most was actually the traffic. I've gotten accustomed to taking the train into the city, so I forget how much driving wears me out. This conference is in Somerset, and it's not really that far away - the Parkway is easy enough and takes like a half hour. Then this stupid stretch of 440/287 that is less than 20 miles took an hour, both this morning and this evening. I'm not looking forward to that tomorrow.

I'm also mad at myself because when I got home at 6:30, I was so tired I just collapsed in a ball on my parents' bed. My mother is leaving early in the morning for a trip to Canada, and my father was at work late, so I was supposed to make dinner, but I was so tired I just went straight to sleep in my own bed with my conference badge still around my neck. I woke up a little bit ago and found both my parents already asleep, so I felt as terrible as I deserved to. Gah.

Art think

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I was talking to a friend the other day about painting, and I blurted out something that I'd always thought about art but never really had occasion to say.

I think most people think that making art is a process of using art materials to create an image or experience of some kind. To me, being an artist is more a way of life, a means by which one understands the world, a certain sensitivity, or a way of thinking.

The creative process doesn't just happen in actually creating. I think it's a perceptual thing, as an artist (you can also insert writer, musician etc) goes around in life and takes things in. The actual art is their thoughts, and the things that they create in response to those thoughts are basically a means of communication by which they attempt to capture or express what it is to live with their sensibilities.

That's how you can make a technically proficient painting that isn't art or not create a single tangible thing, but live a life full of art.

I'm sure that's all been said much more intelligently and poetically than I just did (actually I wrote a whole bit about it in my painting thesis draft), but once I said it in a similar way, it seemed really clear to me.

That said, I've been watching light dancing under water all week and feeling my hands and arms glide as though I'm flying, and I can't wait to make paintings that convey what that's like. (You probably thought I'd finally posted without mentioning swimming but hahaha, no, I'm really truly obsessed with it.)

Fog and tired feet

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I didn't go swimming yesterday. I had ample time and could have gotten on an even earlier train, but I was invited out for dinner with my boss and a bunch of professors and scientists, which was a very nice time.

Back-tracking a little, it was beautifully foggy yesterday morning. This is the train station at about 7:15:

The ride was really pleasant because the train I take runs through a lot of waterways. I was admiring clumps of sedge grass and gray water near South Amboy and watching the fog roll over the sky line. It was a contemplative and quiet way to start the day, and I enjoyed it a lot.

I wore what have heretofore been my favorite, most comfortable Mary Janes.

The trouble was that those tights (which I love so much) are more slippery than the usual hosiery I wear with those shoes and somehow my feet kept sliding forward. My toes mashed into the fronts with every step, and I developed epic blisters on the balls of my feet. (Tap-dancing during lab might also have contributed.)

Combine this with hobbling around miles of Brooklyn and Manhattan, and my feet are killing me today. Yowza.

I did go swimming this morning, and it even hurt my feet to push off the walls, but I got a great work-out in, and it felt wonderful to get back into it after missing two days. Since joining the pool last Sunday, I've been four times, and I can already feel a huge difference. I can't wait to go tomorrow.

Sorry, but...

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Did you ever have someone say or do something junky to you, then they start to apologize and you think they've really come around, then they say "So, I'm sorry, but..." and start in on why they were angry or mean or inconsiderate and why (it is implied) something you did caused it all in the first place? (Does this just happen to me?)

I'm not going to apologize for whining yesterday because everything I wrote is still true, and if I start talking about it, I'm going to start rationalizing the way I feel again. Yknow, I'm sorry, but...

So instead, I'm going to focus on my motivating force today. I have a really busy day ahead of me, which will start in less than 2 hours (I have a paper printing as we speak, then it's an hour and a half of blissful comatose sleep). I'm going to try to catch a 7:20am train, to be in class by 9:30. I have class all morning, then a lecture in Manhattan all afternoon.

All day, I'm going to be thinking that I need to get on either the 6:01 or the 6:26 train to be home in time to go swimming. If I miss the 6:26, I will miss the pool, and because I didn't go swimming yesterday, I really really want to go tonight.

As I think this and prepare myself for a tiring day in the city, I feel like a stranger or some Imposter Vicki, one who suddenly not only cares about, but lives for exercising. A week or two ago, I only felt this way about eating and knitting.

What is it about swimming that is so addictive and satisfying? Why do I spend my days craving it? It seems joining the pool is the only good decision I have made lately, and thank goodness I have that.

Burn Out

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I'm taking a break from work to present a basic equation I've just stumbled upon.

The hexagon is a sort of shorthand for organic chemistry, or work in general, and that would be me, burning in effigy, which is to say I'm really burnt out. (Can you tell my Paint skills are a little rusty?)

This is supposed to be what I love to do. So why do I always want to put things off and rush at the last minute? Why do I not want to do my work, or even get out of bed?

I found a really awesome program to get either a master's or PhD in art conservation, and I'm almost completely positive that this program is what I want to do. But it's three more years of even more intense school, and I have a rather daunting list of chemistry/math classes and required work experience I must deal with before I'm even qualified to apply.

I am exhausted with school, and I'm tired of feeling destined to be a career student. I want to move out of my parents' house, have my own life, fall in love, have babies, and concentrate on life for a while, but that's just not in the cards.

There are so many steps between where I am now and when I can just take a break and work a real job, that I want to hide under the covers and cry. Most days, I wonder if I can ever do this. I'm tired of that feeling.


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Whew. I took all the things I was worried and frustrated about into my swim tonight. Combined with not swimming yesterday, my body is really tired now.

While this isn't becoming a swimming blog (hehe, I originally typed "swimming blob" and thought "fitting, Vic, but a little on the nose."), it is perhaps the only worthwhile thing I've been doing lately.

So yeah, I'm tired. I keep telling myself that the more the wobbliest bits hurt, the better, but it feels really good to lay around and watch Top Chef now.


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November 11th is usually a hard day for me. It's the anniversary of my grandfather's death(which I still struggle to address without anger), it tends to coincide with school and work stress, and of course I must remember all the veterans who have given their lives in often senseless wars.

I want to be positive about America and where it's come and how these vets did not give service in vain and so on.

The thing is, I got really bad news today about a dear family friend who is in the hospital in pretty dire shape. So I'm gonna focus my energy on positive vibes for him. Gah.


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I went swimming again tonight, and whereas yesterday we huffed and puffed for barely 45 minutes, today we swam over an hour.

Swimming is amazing to me because it is such a visible build. With each lap, then each set of laps, then each group of sets, you can actually feel yourself becoming fitter and a better swimmer.

The body responds marvelously to swimming, muscles stretching and toning, the lungs and heart responding happily, every part working at a zero-impact yet intense exercise.

My mother is still learning how to swim laps - she refers to her current skill level as "not drowning," but I think she's underestimating herself. She has markedly improved already - I'm helping her practice bilateral breathing and efficient strokes so that as she gets in shape, her technique improves as well.

As for me, it's all coming back, and more rapidly than I could have hoped. This is not to say I'm in any kind of shape yet (except spherical), but I remember what it feels like to be athletic and fit. I really really love this feeling, and I'm so happy we're doing this.

I keep telling my mom that not too long from now, we'll be swimming 500's (20 consecutive laps) as a warm-up, laughing at the time when we struggled through 50's (2 laps) and needed a minute and a half in between them. I can't express how much I look forward to that day.

Scary morning

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For as long as we've lived here, there's been a loose step in the attic stairs.

This morning as we were getting ready to go swimming, I off-handedly mentioned to my mother that she might want to bring flip flops to wear in the locker room and pool deck, and she said she had a pair of shower shoes.

I wrestled with the indignity of my sausage-casing swimsuit, musing about why we thought it was a good idea to join a pool in November, when suddenly I heard a huge crashing sound and my mom cry out. I ran down the hall, where the dogs were crowded in the bathroom looking into the attic stairs.

I could hear my mom cursing and saying how much it hurt, but it still scared the Bejesus out of me to see her head at the foot of the steep stairs and her legs pointing up. Or rather, I saw one leg and she was crying "Oh my God, my leg!"

The top of the loose stair had evidently come completely off, and someone had left it on top of the next stair. My mom said she'd seen that and stepped over it going up, but she got distracted coming down and stepped right into the hollow beneath the stairwell. At the last instant, she realized that her upper body was going forwards, against the way her knee should bend, so she did a mid-air twist and threw herself against the sides of the stairwell facing backward so that her knee would bend into the hole, which I think is the only thing that kept her from breaking her leg (or something much worse).

In a panic, I tried to figure out what to do, helping her pull her leg out of the stairwell, then quickly checking that she hadn't broken her neck or back or dislocated or fractured anything. She continued grimacing and kind of crawled through the bathroom and into the hallway, then into a chair in her bedroom. We surveyed the damage, and she had crazy scrapes and bruises all over her knee and lower leg. Just beneath her knee was immediately swollen the size of a fist, and I was freaking out thinking that she'd torn a tendon and that I was looking at some muscle bunched up.

The pain seemed to set in all at once and she got dizzy and light-headed and kind of tipped herself out of her chair and onto the floor. This scared the crap out of me because I have zero emergency preparedness skills. If she lost consciousness, I knew I was supposed to call 911, but do I administer CPR? The furthest I got in CPR training was undressing the mannequin with a friend and taking compromising photos of ourselves with it... so uhh, I'm rather useless at these things.

Fortunately, my mom remained conscious and she finally listened to me about elevating her leg (because then I had this flood of stories about people having blood clots dislodge into their hearts and brains after an injury). We got her set up in bed with lots of pillows, ice, and a towel wrapped around for compression. Otto helped by giving dachshund presses.

We called my Dad (a physical therapist), who was still three hours away, driving home from North Carolina. While my mom told him what happened I had her pushing her toes up, down, side to side, and so on to make really certain it was just a lot of swelling and not a torn tendon.

She's okay now, with some truly epic battle scars. We spent about an hour on and off with the RICE thing (rest, ice, compression, elevation) until my mom felt well enough to walk on her leg. Now that she'd been through so much, she was absolutely determined to go swimming, so we did, and it was wonderful. More than a few times I found myself looking down the lane at her and thinking this morning could have gone so much worse.

The kick in the teeth? The pair of shower shoes were in her bedroom the whole time.


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I almost forgot to blog today because I was ummm busy watching The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (ahem).

Whatevs. It has Serena and Ugly Betty and that girl from Gilmore Girls in it and gorgeous vistas of Greece. You know you're sad you didn't watch it too.

In equally riveting news, I'm going swimming tomorrow morning (hoorays!), my dad is coming back from a trip in the afternoon, and I have a lot of cleaning and work to do.

Maybe you are seeing why I don't ordinarily blog every day... I will have to work on that.


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I started today all grumbly because I was sleep-deprived on account of these situations:

(indigo dye)

(orange II dye)

And how to represent them in a lab report? (Answer: a lot of annoyance with hexagons in Paint).

It turns out there is a program that easily constructs organic molecules called ChemDraw, and you can download a free demo version. Woohoo! It's maybe a little sad how excited I am to effortlessly link benzene rings in the future. And proteins? Aww hell yeah.

(P.S. Today involved another round with multi-fiber ribbons in the lab. I am positively thrilled).

Existential healing

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One of my most relaxing afternoons in Volterra was when I wandered down to a community fitness club, bought myself a pool pass, orange bathing cap and matching goggles, and had a nice long swim in the Piscina Comunale.

I later described how happy it'd made me in Italian, and I said it was similar to "esistire nel cielo" which vaguely meant "to be in heaven" (in the sense of floating in the sky). My lab mates heard it as "existential healing," which is probably a little closer to what I was really saying.

While I was swimming, the sun was setting, and I was watching the amazing colors dance on the bottom of the pool through pristine clear water. Even if my swimming involved a lot of dead man's floating and labored breathing, it was one of the most relaxing workouts I've ever had.

This evening my mother and I went to check out the pool at a nearby university, and we were immediately greeted with the wet smell of chlorine which pervaded so many childhood mornings for me.

I used to swim all the time, with swim classes every day in kindergarten, swim team all summer and even a few years in the winter too. I taught stroke clinics to younger swimmers, I constantly drilled myself and perfected my backstroke, and for years I was more comfortable in the water than on land.

The pool is closed tomorrow and Saturday, but come Sunday morning, you will find me once again in a Speedo, latex cap, and ill-fitting goggles, gasping over a kickboard and trying to get back into the swim of things. I hope I find my existential healing again.

Yes we did

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President-Elect Obama. Oh hell yes!!!

I am so incredibly proud and inspired to be an American today. Watching Obama's speechlast night, when he was quoting Abraham Lincoln, I welled up with tears, knowing that I was witnessing a watershed moment in history.

The amazing amount of new voters who registered just for this election, and the people my age who were moved to care and get involved in politics, are just some of the many changes I hope will continue during an Obama presidency. He has restored hope to a cynical nation, and I believe with hope, you can do anything.

This might be our chance to live in what America could and should be. This can be one of the great pinnacles of society which is recorded in history. We are living in a significant, world-changing time, and I am so honored to be part of it.

Let's have a landslide

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I have been tap-dancing around waiting for the polls to close all day. Now I am watching the numbers come in and driving myself crazy, wondering if it's too good to be true.

CNN is calling states where less than 1% of the polls have reported and their talk has turned to an historic margin of victory for Obama. I'm all for a trouncing, but I do have to acknowledge that if I were a McCain supporter right now, I'd be miffed.

I think the truth is this election is still a lot closer than I'd like, but I'm thrilled so many people are going out and voting.

I hope I still feel the same way tomorrow.

Yes we can

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I try really, really hard not to alienate people with politics. Everyone sees the world a little differently, and I want to respect that.

In this election, I really can't keep it to myself. I know it's unfair because I've already voted, but I would urge you to think carefully tomorrow about who you choose and the direction that will lead this country.


(In case you need some well-produced inspiration).

You may or may not agree with me, and that's okay. Look into your heart and decide who and what you believe in. Just go, and vote, and do your part to participate in our future.

I have faith in America, and I really hope I'm not wrong.

From Scratch

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Whenever we have a store-bought dessert, inevitably one of my family members will joke that they spent the whole afternoon baking it. As my brother's birthday is two days after mine (that'd be tomorrow), we celebrated together yesterday, and I actually did spend the afternoon baking a triple layer German sweet chocolate cake from scratch.

This cake was seriously one of the best things I've ever made. It was unbelievably fluffy and decadent. I'm getting pretty confident about my technique in the kitchen - the batter looked like whipped cream. Everyone loved it.

To celebrate, my brother and my parents and I enjoyed a fantastic Italian meal at La Pastaria in Red Bank. The food was out of this world, a local wine store delivered two nice bottles to the table, and the ambiance was perfect. I felt right at home.

When we got back, my family gave me a seriously awesome lens, the 17-85mm Canon IS USM. I used this same lens when I was in Volterra and fell totally in love, so I'm thrilled to have my very own. Combined with the sweet 50mm lens that Eric gave me last week, I'm developing a nice little kit.

Earlier this week, I faced turning 27 with some trepidation. Things in life haven't gone exactly the way I thought they would lately, but instead of lamenting this fact, I think it's time to celebrate it.

Life is full of opportunity right now, and it's looking good.

Twenty Seven

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Do you know what day November 1 is?


That about says it. I will be off enjoying my pie, cake and ice cream now.

(p.s. I am doing NaBloPoMo again this year. Fun times.)

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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