Thursday, August 30, 2012

I Win a Gold Medal at Being Late on Current Event Posts

When I was a kid, I used to LOVE the Summer Olympics. I guess I should say that I loved the 1996 Summer Olympic Games that were held in Atlanta, because those are really the only ones I remember watching. I was twelve, which meant that I suddenly wanted to be a gymnast when I grew up, even though I would have started way too late in life to ever be properly trained, and nevermind the fact that I had all the coordination of a newborn giraffe. I couldn’t even do a proper cartwheel, let alone even contemplate doing a flip. When we did “tumbling” in gym class, I had the most pitiful somersault the likes of which I would not even dare to attempt today for fear of injury. But I’d walk along the railroad ties that formed our landscaping, pretending I was walking on a balance beam, feeling rather victorious when I jumped and landed back where I started. I had a poster in my room and probably persuaded a parental unit into purchasing the Wheaties box that they were on. (We never ate Wheaties.) I was a fangirl – but I suppose, being twelve, there were far worse people to look up to as role models. 


It was more than the events themselves, though. It was the way the games were steeped in such magnificent tradition. The ceremony, the customs (both spoken and unspoken), the national pride, the flags, the beaming faces of the winners. Bob Costas and his heartfelt commentary and bios of the athletes. The significance of what certain historic occasions were about to go down. USA! USA! USA! I still can’t quite explain what it was that mesmerized me so much, but I was drawn into the pageantry and glory. I think I even owned a VHS copy of the highlights of those Olympics.


Then I pretty much ignored the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and forgot about the 2004 Olympics in Athens and only saw a snippet of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing because I was at my roommate’s house and her family was gathered around watching Michael Phelps win his record-breaking millionth gold medal. Which, I admit, was rather exciting to watch. But the magic that the 1996 Olympics held was gone, and I figured I’d never really get into them again.

Cue: 2012. I was a little more keenly aware of the London Games, because they were in our brethren country from whence we had once come from, or something. We’re tight with the UK, is what I mean. Plus they had that godawful logo that I’m not even going to show you because I’m sure you’ve seen it and I’m sure you know how bad it is. I happened to be in Denver visiting my friend Stacey and we were at a bar with a big ol’ screen playing the opening ceremonies. And then it was the parade of nations, and we inched closer to the screen until the couch (a glorious, plush leather couch, planted directly in front of the screen) was vacated and we snatched it up. The rest of our group was headed to the bar next door but we were determined to stay put and see it through until the end – or at least until the United States paraded on by. The entire bar cheered, which surprised me for some reason, and I felt a warm fuzzy glow, something resembling pride and excitement.

 [source]

I didn’t follow the events that closely and I didn’t really watch much of it (except for the half hour of dressage that we watched on Sunday morning which, I’m sorry, is the most boring sport OF ALL TIME – it was just guys on horses trotting in a giant square. Lame.) but I couldn’t help but hear snippets and soundbites and I felt sad for Lolo Jones when the media tore her apart and I rolled my eyes when the world went on and on about how much of a manwhore Ryan Lochte was and then Michael Phelps won more medals than anybody ever and that was kind of cool, and then there was the gymnastics team which kept getting compared to my beloved 1996 “Magnificent Seven” team that won the gold after Kerri Strug’s dramatic medal-clinching vault performance (are they called performances? I don't know) on a busted up ankle. Except there were only five of them, and local Iowa heroine Shawn Johnson wasn’t among them because she’d injured herself and retired. (Yes, retired at 20. It blows my mind.). I think Shawn Johnson is adorable (I saw her in person once - she probably comes up to my chest. She's THAT tiny!) and her absence from the Olympics contributed to my overall indifference. I also feel compelled to always refer to her by her full name. So there's that.

I didn’t know anything about any of the "Fab Five" until I saw Gabby Douglas and Jordyn Wieber being interviewed and little bits of coverage and then the greatest meme to come from the Olympics, which pretty much makes McKayla Maroney my favorite person ever now. (Especially after this clip). I’ll probably do more of my own ridiculous variations thereof.

So anyway, McKayla got her own meme, Jordyn got excluded from competing in the all-around finals because of a lame “two per country” rule even though she qualified, and… everyone was talking about Gabby Douglas and her hair.

HER HAIR.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by this, because thanks to Twitter, even the lowest common denominators in society can blurt out their every thought and suddenly have it be a trending topic (bonus points if it's grammatically incorrect), but… seriously?

I had two initial reactions to this:

  1. Who the hell CARES? She’s a gymnast, and a gold-medal winning one at that. Do you honestly think that she cares about her hair? She has much more important things to focus on, like sticking landings and not falling off things or not breaking her neck when doing a flip (okay, maybe those would be MY personal concerns, because they are things that are very likely to happen if I were to attempt any of those things.) But she’s out there to work her ass off and do well, not obsess about her ponytail. She’s too busy gymnasticizing to worry about what her hair looks like. As long as it’s out of her face, boom: mission accomplished. Besides, have you actually looked at her? She’s gorgeous.
  1. Have you SEEN the rest of the gymnasts and THEIR hair? It’s the last visible faction of the population that still uses scrunchies*, and they’ve collectively got more barrettes and clips among the lot of them than the number of condoms given to the Olympic Village. (Which, if you didn’t click that link, is a LOT.) But, alas, Gabby got the brunt of it, which I suppose is the peril of being in the spotlight. 
*If you're interested in more gymnastic fashions, I stumbled on this post while I was looking for images. It's a retrospective of the various leotards over the years. Yes, it's awesome.

So yeah, you sit at home in your living room and make fun of the gymnasts’ hair and makeup and use of glitter, because they’re busy being superhuman athletes and winning medals and achieving their dreams, and you’re… doing what, exactly? Sitting at home watching TV, right. It saddens me because it’s a reflection on American culture that we’re so preoccupied with the way people look, holding them to that supermodel standard of beauty that not many of us can actually achieve. Her hair became a talking point – not the fact that she won TWO GOLD MEDALS.

Besides, she’s young. When I was her age, I had the WORST hair. I had those sausage-curl bangs that were rather unfortunately everywhere in the late 90s. If my hair wasn't up, it was probably haphazardly blowdried and frizzy and, well, big. I have very thick hair. Once I grew out my bangs, and decided to embrace the natural wave my hair took, rather than fighting it every day, I went kind of gel-happy and my hair, though no longer "big", was, well, crunchy. I would have made fun of my hair ALL THE TIME. In fact, I do, in hindsight. But I had the benefit of not being visible on a world stage, so my ridiculous “style” is fortunately filed away in the pages of history, or at least until I chose to scan a picture and post it on my blog for all to see.

Actually, hang on. I think I might do that right now.

This. This is what my hair looked like on a regular basis.
At least when I was having a "good" bang day.

And just for the sake of comparing apples to apples (as much as can be compared when we're talking about my lame-ass teenage self and an OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST), here are some of my high school sports pictures, circa age 16. The difference being? It was PICTURE DAY so I MADE AN EFFORT with my hair. And it was STILL ridiculous. 

I think I must have some sort of bang-related trauma that I will someday need to address. It's... it's a rather unhealthy aversion, at this point.

Please note, this is probably the closest evidence we have to my natural color.

See? I bet your hair was awful when you were sixteen, too. Unless you were one of those pretty girls who had perfect hair, in which case, I hate you a little bit.

I wish I could find my passport, which had the worst picture ever. It expired last year which was probably just as well because if I had tried to use it, they would have never let me back into the country. In addition to being photographically youthful, I had The Bangs, while the rest of my hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail, and I still had my braces at that point. (God, I SO do not miss those.) Probably some unruly eyebrows as well - though, I suppose it depends on what point in the year it was taken. I believe that was the year I discovered tweezers and then just went to town on them, taking them from one extreme to the other. I was probably wearing a choker, too. It was probably beaded. It's what 90s kids DID, you know. Plus I was about *cough* pounds skinnier. The point is, they would never ever believe it was me. 

But, I can look back and laugh, and someday, when Gabby Douglas is my age and is a mega-millionaire from all of her endorsement deals, she can sit and roll around in her pile of gold medals and laugh at the world, because who gives a shit about her hair? She’s GABBY DOUGLAS, and she’s better than you.

Actually, I hope she’s doing that right now.

 [source]

[In other news, by the time I finally got around to posting this: [1] Gabby has apparently hired a stylist, which, I guess that’s her prerogative, and I would do the same thing if I was suddenly thrust into the media spotlight, but I hope she did it for her, and not for the masses, because: screw them. [2] Gabby – along with fellow Iowa-based athletes Lolo Jones and Jake Varner – got a nice homecoming welcome earlier this month. I mean, technically, she’s a transplant, but we’ll totally take her. Between her and Shawn Johnson, we’ve got ourselves a nice gymnastics legacy going. In what will be a huge digression from everything, I’m now curious as to where all the athletes are from and what the “medal count” is for each state. I suspect somewhere like California has the most, but… I’m curious now. SOMEONE GET ME AN INFOGRAPHIC, STAT. Or at least a list of US medal winners, if I get bored enough, I could probably do the research myself.]


Why do you think we're so focused on athletes' looks, rather than their abilities?

Better yet: what did YOUR hair look like when you were 16? Bonus points if you can dig up a photo.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Nothing to Fear Except Everything That Scares Me



There are so many quotes about writing that one could probably put together an entire book of them. (Wait, has that been done yet? If not, DIBS!) One thing writers love to talk about is, well, writing. (I suppose it's just as an archaeologist would love to talk about fossils or a botanist would love to talk about plants or a politician would love to talk about themselves... it's all in what you do.) While I know some people find it annoying, I personally find it to be helpful. Because more often than not, someone has already said the very thing that I'm feeling, and they were able to put it into words... something I can't do, which clearly means I've failed as a writer. But that's neither here nor there.

One of the emails I get daily (alongside a bajillion junk mail lists I'm too lazy to remove myself from) is an "Advice to Writers" quote-a-day thinger which I always read. Some are lame, some are boring, some are long-winded, and some make me nod along in agreement.

This one made me stop and stare at my screen for a while.

I'll level with you. I have no idea who Richard Rhodes is. But this quote captured the message of one of the constant critics in my head: who the hell am I, that I think anyone would care what I have to say? What could I possibly bring to the table? Everyone out there is better than me, wittier than me, more eloquent than me. It doesn't matter that you've been wanting to do this your whole life. It doesn't matter that, as a ten year old, when your classmates wanted to be doctors and lawyers and astronauts and movie stars, you wanted to be a published novelist. None of that matters, because you suck.

My head is a pleasant place to be.

Other people have commented that it seems like everyone they know wants to be a writer. Every once in a while I will take the time to remind them (and myself) that, hey, it seems that way because we've all gravitated toward a circle of like-minded individuals. Guess what bloggers are? WRITERS. So if you're basing your survey sample on the people you associate with, it's going to be skewed. So when it seems like everyone I know and read about is trying to be a writer... it's because I'm friends with them BECAUSE they are a writer. That's how I found them. That's how we bonded.

(Or, y'know. Maybe everyone DOES want to be a writer. I don't know.)

I have a million quotes piled away on the subject of comparing yourself to others and why that's stupid (perhaps I will make little graphical lovelies out of those, too) and I know better. I KNOW BETTER. But I can't help it. I envy the writers who have a clear voice, who know their way around a paragraph, who write so well that it inspires jealousy in others like myself. I'm jealous of the bloggers who write so well that I can't bring myself to "mark all as read" when my Reader is overflowing. I'm jealous of every single person who has published a book or at least finished something that could even be SENT to a publisher to review.

Maybe it's not an inferiority complex, though. Maybe, as the mysterious Mr. Rhodes suggests, it's fear. (Fear of being inferior?) Fear of finishing something and THEN having it not be good enough. Fear of realizing that I DID actually suck all along. Fear of writing some shit like Fifty Shades of Grey or Twilight and having the entirety of the Internet rip it apart (though, really, if I managed to make that much money off of something I wrote, I might find myself caring a lot less about what the Internet thinks.) Fear that I'll never do it, I'll never finish anything, I'll never be what I wanted to be.

Fear is overwhelming, and that sense of being overwhelmed is often what keeps me from even opening up a document in the first place. I don't have writer's block. I have ideas. Lots of ideas. Getting started is hard, sure, but the best way to tackle it is just to start.

I've just been too afraid to do so... because if I don't start, I can't screw it up. It's failing by default, but that's not the point. The point is... oh, I don't know. Identifying the problem was easier than I would have thought. Doing something about it? That's the hard part.


If you want to write, you can. Fear stops most people from writing, not lack of talent, whatever that is.  Who am I? What right have I to speak? Who will listen to me if I do? You're a human being, with a unique story to tell, and you have every right. If you speak with passion, many of us will listen. We need stories to live, all of us. We live by story. Yours enlarges the circle. - Richard Rhodes

Monday, August 27, 2012

Just Another Meme-ic Monday


Hello, bloglings. Not much has changed since last time we spoke. I'm still way behind on everything and I still haven't tackled that drafts folder... instead I've been trying to work on a redesign for the blog because that's apparently a good way to avoid actually writing anything. Writers block FTW! (Speaking of which, Ameena has an awesome guest post over on Doni's blog that basically is what's going on in my head at this very moment.) Anyway I'm not quite done with my hiatus or sabbatical or "period of being a lazy POS" yet, but... I actually made, for the first time in the history of this blog, something resembling an editorial calendar aka I AM ACTUALLY ORGANIZING MY THOUGHTS which is already calming my stress down quite a bit. We're going to have a lot of posts that are, well, significantly belated and perhaps not as relevant as they may have once been, but... we'll get there. If I can assign something I wanted to say or remember to post to a certain day, then I can actually breathe a little bit knowing that, yeah, it's got a spot coming up, so just chill the eff out and keep chipping away at the to-do list.

By way of saying hello, I made a meme. Well, I made a meme out of my current favorite meme. I've also submitted it to the actual site but I doubt it will get posted. Whatever. It's nice to be able to use my mad Photoshop skillz for my continued entertainment. It's been a while


McKayla is not impressed with the giant chicken.

Anyway. I hope to resume regular posting either this week or next. We'll see if I can get my head back on straight and out of the "OMG YOU SUCK, NEVER WRITE WORDS AGAIN" mode. FINGERS CROSSED.

Monday, August 20, 2012

BRB.

So, I'm going to take a brief hiatus. Like, a week. Maybe two. I really want to get caught up on my drafts folder and all the half-baked posts in my head. I want to complete them without feeling like I'm rushed or need to hurry to post just for the sake of posting. Because then they'll likely be crappy and nobody wants that. I just need to take a deep breath, step back, refocus, and then dive back in. Part of my "calm the fuck down already" self-prescribed therapy has been to dig through my Pinterest craft board, so I have decided to try and make some things. Armed with not much info beyond the pictures themselves, I have raided Hobby Lobby and Wal-Mart. It's a nice offline project. Because every time I get online, I get stressed out. By my unwritten posts. By my unread Reader. By the fact that I've managed to fill up my hard drive on my computer and now I have to go through eight years of files to condense and purge so that I can actually do things like have Photoshop AND iTunes open at the same time again. Plus I'm behind on my baking blog. Plus... you know what, it doesn't matter. I'm way behind on everything and it's stressing me out.

I just wanted to give you a heads up so that you didn't think something horrific had happened to me. Or, worse, decided to unsubscribe. HAHAHAHA priorities. Whatever. My connection's been crappy all night and when I went to hit "publish" it instead decided to go backwards and leave me with a half-saved draft. And so I ad to rewrite this entire post talking about how I wasn't going to write anymore posts until I was caught up. RAAAAAGE! Sigh.

ANYWAY. I'll be back when I have something interesting/finished to post again.

DON'T GO ANYWHERE, I SWEAR I WILL BE RIGHT BACK.

xoxo
Kelly

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Blergh.

I planned to go to bed early tonight. I have a long list of things that need to get done, and not even a fraction of the motivation to do it. The laundry will remain in the basket, my roots will remain un-touched-up, the garbage will remain in the kitchen for another day.

I am overwhelmed by my mental to do list of another sort: the running tally I keep of all the ideas I want to execute. I so badly want to create. To draw, to photograph, to write, to craft. Something, anything. I have no time and no idea where to start, anyway.

Years ago, as a design student, I remember longing to use the left side of my brain again. I wanted to do something logical, rational, something concrete, with correct answers and absolute objectivity. I missed math. I missed numbers. I missed having a possible correct answer. I did so well in the classes for my psychology minor because there were definitive theories to wrap my head around. When I was given an exam, there was a correct answer for each question. Black and white, black and white.

I took a job that was rooted in my left-brain specialties. I have a painfully overwhelming need to pay attention to all the details, all the quirks, all the nuances. I make charts and spreadsheets to maximize efficiency. I work in concrete answers. I leave no stone unturned, no minutiae unresolved. I like it. I'm good at it.

Something's missing.

I watch our designers with envy, knowing that their job is the type of job I'd always intended to have. Would I be any good at it? Who knows. I'll likely never know. The longer I'm away from it, the less competent I'd be if I tried to return. It doesn't matter. The world is brimming with talent and I have nothing special to add to that pool. I'm better off where I am. I know where my talents are best suited, and it's entirely for mundane or procedural things.

But, oh. To create. Something. Anything. I scour pinboards and websites full of lovely, well-executed designs, and something inside me aches. It's an odd type of jealousy, I think? I could have done something like that. I know the theories and the technical skills to do it - or at least, I used to. I see photographs and I think about the hundreds - no, thousands - of image files taking up space on my hard drive. So many shots were done with a certain idea in mind, a certain angle, a certain artistic quality. But I lack the execution to turn it into actual art. And even if I did, I wouldn't know what to do with it. They'd just sit in a different folder somewhere else on my hard drive. And the words... I have a different post that I'd meant to write first, about my crippling self-doubt and complete and total writer's block. It's painful for me to not write. But I can't. I can't make myself sit down and create anything. Like my design skills and my photography skills, my aptitude for fiction is rapidly circling the drain. Use it or lose it, they say. I'm losing all of it.

I'm lost in that sea of black and white, and I miss the colors. I'm Dorothy, back in Kansas, and I've seen the other side of the rainbow, and home isn't as sweet as I remember.

I feel useless. I used to feel like I was put here for a purpose, and I used to think that my ability to absorb information, to comprehend the world around me, to understand without trying... I used to think that it was going to help me someday. I was convinced I was meant to be a communicator. Whether verbally or visually - maybe both - was a mystery, but I built myself an arsenal of tools to be able to do either. And now I can't seem to do anything. I can barely talk my way out of a paper bag anymore. I get frustrated and tongue-tied.

I wish I knew what I was supposed to be doing with myself. I wish I could wake up one morning and have a grand epiphany about what path I'm supposed to be on, or what direction I was supposed to go.

Hell, I wish I could see something that inspires me, that ignites a spark of creativity, that I could hold onto long enough to turn into something real, instead a jumble of thoughts and half-baked ideas and that endless void of incompleteness.

I want to feel like I'm contributing. I want to feel like I'm doing something worthwhile, or interesting, or even that I'm doing more than just getting by. I want to feel like all of the people that have ever had faith in me to do something meaningful with my life are validated in that belief. Myself included.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Someone's Actually Listening.

Got this email today from the Iowa Senator that's (a) not crazy and (b) doesn't tweet like a pre-teen girl. I've bolded the things I find to be most interesting and encouraging. Someone gets it. Someone is defending their constituents. Someone realizes that it's not the doomsday clusterfuck that the right would have you believe. The intent was merely to help people - specifically, women. Why is this such a bad thing? It's not. And even one of the old white men from Iowa understands that.

Progress, people. We're getting there.




Dear Kelly:

Thank you for your continued support for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), landmark legislation that guarantees quality, affordable coverage for millions of Americans. This summer has marked several significant events in the implementation of this historic law. As you may recall, on June 28 of this year the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the constitutionality of the ACA, and starting this August a new wave of critically important benefits begin to take effect for many women in Iowa and across the country.
Beginning August 1, millions of women will be able to receive additional preventive services from their doctor without cost-sharing, co-pays, or deductibles. Thanks to the ACA, 611,000 men and women in Iowa with private health insurance have already received free coverage for recommended preventive services, like vaccinations, cancer screenings, and cholesterol screenings. Now, for women with health plans that begin on or are renewed after August 1, the ACA expands the list of free preventive services to include:
  • Well-woman visits, or annual checkups to obtain recommended preventive services;
  • Gestational diabetes screening;
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) testing, sexually transmitted infection (STIs) counseling
  • HIV screening and counseling;
  • Contraception and contraception counseling;
  • Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling; and
  • Domestic violence screening and counseling.
When their health plans renew, roughly 47 million women across the country, including 519,908 women in Iowa, will be eligible for these free benefits, which are recommended by the non-partisan Institute of Medicine. I firmly believe that preventing disease before it starts, rather than treating it after the fact, is critical to saving lives and to reducing costs in our health care system. Yet a recent study by the Commonwealth Fund found that in 2010 43 percent of women in the U.S. reported that they were forced to skip recommended care, or failed to fill a prescription, because of costs. Making it more affordable to stay healthy is one of the reasons I fought so hard to include free preventive care provisions in the ACA.
Let me be clear that despite some critics' misleading claims, the law does not mandate that women use contraception, nor does it force employers to dispense it. Instead, it gives women affordable access to birth control if they decide that it is right for themselves and their family. Further, President Obama has issued a sensible compromise that does not require religious organizations that object to contraception to pay directly for this coverage. Instead, the compromise enables women who receive health coverage through religiously-affiliated non-profit employers to seek contraceptive coverage directly from their insurance company, free of charge. This guarantees that women will have access to vital preventive care and respects the beliefs of religiously-affiliated employers.
The health insurance reform law ensures that women - not insurance companies - are in control of their health care. Yet despite the millions of women benefiting from the ACA, members of the Senate minority party continue to attempt to repeal the law and eliminate its consumer protections that now stand between ordinary Americans and insurance company abuses. I refuse to allow our country to be dragged backwards to a time when insurance companies called the shots and Iowans were forced to watch their premiums skyrocket while their coverage dwindled. The ACA turns the tide for women and makes it easier for them to access the comprehensive, affordable coverage they need to stay healthy. Rest assured I will continue to fight to protect access to comprehensive health care for all Americans-including millions of women-as we continue to implement this law.
To see a video of me speaking about these important new preventive benefits for women, please take a moment to visit my website: http://www.harkin.senate.gov/video_HealthReform.cfm. In addition, please visit http://www.healthcare.gov for additional information about the benefits of the ACA for all Americans. Feel free to contact my office again about any issue that concerns you.

Sincerely,

Tom Harkin
United States Senator

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Firstiest of First World Problems



Hello, kittens! Did you miss me? Probably not, because of all the great guest posts, AMIRIGHT?

It's kind of overwhelming, being gone after a week and a half. I have stories, dear bloglets. Stories of my vacation to Denver where I saw the glorious Florence and her Machine and it was breathtaking and surreal and magnificent. Stories of great food and long-lost friends. Stories of how I then had to promptly go directly from Denver back to Las Vegas for a trade show for work. Stories of the things I've learned about myself being alone in Las Vegas and how I can totally make my own way in that city, even without the safety net of my BiSCuits. (I was, admittedly, a bit anxious about being there by myself.) Stories of being stuck in the Minneapolis airport and finally being reunited with my BF that I missed so horribly much while being gone and that while Skype is wonderful, it almost makes things worse on the missing front. Stories of how my mother came to my apartment and cleaned it for me while I was gone because she is awesome and knew I was stressed out and didn't have time to clean it before I left because Unexpected Work Trip was Unexpected. Stories of how I just suddenly got so irate and so frustrated and so disheartened by this country and the politicians in it and how terrible everything is going to be if we don't make some drastic changes (specifically: if we don't separate government from corporate money and influence) and so many brewing rants and pleas and probably bruises from the repeated banging of my head upon my desk. Perhaps even stories of how I watched some of the Olympics and was a little bit inspired by them - something I hadn't felt since way back in '96.

But, alas. We're not going to start with any of those things. We're going to start with the story of extreme sadness, superficiality, and insignificance.

I have a love-hate relationship with change. Frequently, I will subscribe to the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality. Is it because I get comfortable or because I'm lazy? It doesn't matter. It's just there, it's the status quo. That's why it exists. To BE safe. When the rest of the world has gone crazy, you have the old familiar to fall back on. Sometimes, I'll shake things up just to keep things interesting. Usually I'll shake things up because I've spotted something better on the horizon, and oh yes, it will be mine.

Mostly, if I'm content, I like to stay content. I'm a very high-strung individual (SHOCKING, I KNOW) and I tend to worry and fret about anything that can possibly be worried or fretted about. Which is why, when something works, I like to maintain that steadiness as long as possible.

Which is why, on Sunday afternoon, when I had my eyeshadow case balanced on the edge of my sink, I didn't realize the implications of what was happening when it teetered and crashed to the ground. The top shade cracked and became a little shimmery pile of pale pink dust on my bathroom floor. I might have sworn at it, I might have just sighed. I was about due to buy another one anyway. I could see too much of the metal at the bottom of each compartment anyway.

Besides, I needed to go to Target anyway. Aside from the fact that I hadn't been to Target in probably two weeks (WITHDRAWAL!), I had some other various things to pick up. Plus my eyeliner was running low and I needed to replace my crappy straightener.

So, off I went, merrily, not knowing the turn the afternoon was going to take. I fumbled in the cosmetics department. It wasn't there. I was slightly bewildered. I couldn't remember the brand with 100% certainty, because I never paid that close of attention. I always just gravitated to it. Was it Revlon? Maybe it was L'Oreal. Maybe it was Maybelline. (HEH.) Definitely not Cover Girl, I don't like their eyeshadows. I'm pretty sure it was Revlon. I wandered the entire cosmetics department at Target about three times before I concluded that it wasn't there. Same story at Wal-Mart. I looked at Walgreens, because we were in the area. Hell, I even looked at the grocery store, in their feeble little cosmetics section. At this point, I didn't care if it was overpriced. A panic was welling inside of me. Had the time finally come? I knew it would have to, eventually, but I was unprepared for it.

The thing you must understand, friends, is that I have been using this eyeshadow for well over ten years. TEN YEARS. It was sometime when I was in high school. At the very earliest, it was between my junior and senior year, as I know I used it in my senior portraits. My aunt complimented my makeup and asked me if I'd had it professionally done for the photos, to which I simply smiled and informed her that, no, I'd done it myself. I've been using it ever since.  I'm actually pretty impressed with my teenage self for managing to pick out such an excellent palette - my eyeshadow routine has not changed in the last ten years, either. A lot of eyeshadows nowadays specifically tell you which to use on the lid, the crease, the browbone - I somehow figured it out all on my own, and well enough to keep doing it into my late twenties.

As time went on, I started to worry that it would, in fact, be discontinued - there were fewer and fewer of the color palettes on the shelves, but my trusty Sandstorm was always there.

When I was picking up the new eyeliner, my boyfriend joked that I had better be sure I was getting the right one, because my eyes are what make an impression on people. Even his coworkers, upon seeing my picture, commented on my eyes. His mother even complimented them immediately upon meeting me. Ever since I was a baby, it has been my eyes that have made me stand out, my eyes that have been my saving grace through years of acne and braces and - nowadays - a little extra padding in the chin region. *cough* I laughed and told him he was right and that I knew exactly what I needed, so not to worry.

So, you can imagine the irony of the situation, when, not ten minutes later, I was standing there empty-handed, with my one tried-and-true ally in the world of eye makeup. Eyeliners come and go, my friend, but eyeshadow is forever. I found something that worked, and I had stuck with it, because it was perfect. Not only did it work with my complexion and eye color, but it blended well, it smudged well, it gave me a smoky-eye look that was suitable for daytime or nighttime (the only variable for nighttime was the amount of eyeliner I used), and, most importantly, it had just the right amount of shimmer. Enough to catch the light, but not so much that I looked like, well, I belonged in Vegas.

I fished the broken container out of the garbage (all right - I lifted it. It was still on top. So, not as gross and/or dramatic) to double check it. It was definitely Revlon. I did another final check at Target the next night (what, you don't go to Target every day?) since I knew without question which section to look in, but no. It was gone.

I almost cried.

To be fair, I was really stressed out with all the traveling and the first day back is always overwhelming because of all the emails and tasks that piled up while you're gone, not to mention that the girl who was backing me up while I was gone, quit on Friday, so that threw me for a curveball as well. And I was tired, mentally and physically.

Oh, who am I kidding? It doesn't take much to make me cry anymore. I HAVE GOTTEN SOFT IN MY OLD AGE.

I sat down and went directly to the source of everything. If Amazon didn't have it for sale, it was likely not available anywhere.

The heavens erupted and angels sang and lo! There it was.



Admittedly, I shopped around a little bit and ended up ordering it from another site upon which I had qualified for free shipping, but it gave me a little glimmer of hope. It's still out there, at least for now. We had a good run, this eyeshadow and I, and I'm going to prolong it as much as possible. I'm stocking up and will be much more careful about setting it on the edge of my bathroom sink.

And now: I write to Revlon. THEY MUST KNOW HOW SAD I AM.

Friday, August 3, 2012

[Guest Post] Steph - TMI: An Ode to my IUD

Everyone say hello to my friend Steph! If you've been paying attention, you've probably seen her name 'round here before. Like Calee, we graduated from college together and have stayed close ever since. (Evidence: her wedding, which was perfect and amazing). One of the things I love most about Steph is how well-informed and opinionated she is. I love hearing her take on everything from book reviews to current affairs. And speaking of current affairs, this particular guest post (one that she wanted to share with as many women as possible, but wasn't comfortable posting on her own blog - but I was more than happy to share it here!) is very timely, given the debate surrounding birth control and health care. It also fits in quite nicely with my own personal agenda of preaching about the importance of prevention in the whole pro-life vs pro-choice debate. (Remember, here at [ICTH], we are pro-choice, but we are moreso pro-prevention and pro-education.)


Given the nature of this post, she politely requests that if you stop by her blog, maybe don't mention this particular post (specifically, it's content). As you can imagine, it would be extremely awkward for some of her IRL friends/family to read about her sex life and birth control methods, yes?


Anyway, if you've ever been curious about IUDs (inter-uterine devices) - which I'm sure most of us have been at one point or another - this is a great first-hand look at this under-the-radar option as compared to ones you may already know about and have possibly even tried.

***


TMI: An Ode to my IUD

When i wrote this post originally, i had had my IUD for about one year. It's been several months since then, but i've decided that i can't post this on my own blog. The thing is that I love my IUD and I want to tell women everywhere about it, but I don't particularly want people who actually know me to have to read about it and know more than they ever wanted to about me (besides Kelly and our mutual blog-reading IRL friends, that is). So, dear reader, you've been warned. TMI stands for Too Much Information, and if you don't want it you had better stop reading right now. 

I've been using contraception for many years. Here's a list of what i've tried and how it worked for me:

  1. Condoms. They're interruptive, they can break or fall off, they're smelly, they run out. I love that they exist, but I absolutely hate using them. Not a valid option for me, especially since I really, really do not want babies.
  2. The Shot. Depo Provera was the first form of hormonal birth control that I ever tried, because I didn't trust myself to take a pill every day. It totally messed with my body; it dried me out so that sex was painful, and I blamed it for my first real bout of depression. The hormones were probably not the sole cause of my depression, but i do think that they enhanced it. Either way, not a good form of contraception for me.
  3. The Ring. For a while I tried out the ring because I discovered that when I accidentally missed a pill (see number 4 below) and took two at a time, it made me puke. (The first couple of times it happened I didn't realize what was going on and thought I had food poisoning. I know, i'm brilliant.) Unfortunately the ring gave me a lovely month-long, heavy period, and so I quickly deep-sixed that method and went back to the pill. 
  4. The Pill. The pill was my best friend for a long time. I only ever took Mircette or its generic, Kariva, which I believe was a low-dose pill, and it worked just fine. I took it continuously, meaning that I only had four or five "periods" a year (and I use quotation marks because when you're on the pill, you just bleed. It's not a true period, which is why it isn't necessary). It even made my boobs a little bigger, which was a life-affirming experience. The only difficulty I had with the pill was remembering to take it, which was manageable as long as I left my pills out in plain sight in the bathroom. We had a long, happy run, the pill and i.

  5. I had my suspicions, though, that constantly putting extra hormones into my body was probably not a really great idea. I couldn't put my finger on why exactly it was a bad thing, but then I started having more overt conversations with some female friends of mine, and I came to realize that my near-total lack of libido was not a normal thing for a woman my age. One by one, I eliminated the possible causes: anti-depressants? Not on them. Depression? Not usually a problem. Exercise? I do it regularly. Overweight? Nope. Stress? Well, yes, but only recently (with the wedding planning). I decided it had to be the pill, and so I made an appointment at the OB clinic. It was time to get off hormonal birth control.

    At my consultation, the doctor told me that it was possible but not very likely that the pill was what was suppressing my libido. People are just busy and tired, she told me, and nine out of ten patients at the clinic ask her the same question. She also told me that very few women choose the IUD as their method of contraception, and only a fraction of those women opt for the hormone-free Paragard, as I planned to. I decided to go ahead with my plan anyhow, and I'm certainly glad I did. 

    I'm not going to lie to you—the insertion was painful. It used to be that they didn't even put IUDs in women who haven't had a baby, because there was too much risk of damaging something during insertion. Thankfully, that isn't an issue anymore, although it is a little trickier to perform the insertion on a childless woman. At first the doctor fished around a bit and said that she didn't think she was going to be able to get it to go in. Then I felt a stab, and we were clear for takeoff. I went right back to work that day, but I had horrible cramps unlike I had ever felt before. Within a couple of days I was back to normal.

    At first my fiance thought that he could feel the strings of the IUD during sex and it freaked him out a little, but gradually he started to feel it less (and he also realized that, either way, it wasn't going to do any damage to him). My first few periods with the IUD were painful and extremely heavy, but they have lightened up now to an almost-normal flow and little cramping (though I can scarcely remember what my normal period was actually like, I was on the pill for so long).

    I noticed a difference in my sex drive right away. I've read enough about psychology, though, that I had to wonder if I wasn't just experiencing the placebo effect. Not thinking too much of it, I went back on the pill for a few short weeks in the spring in order to "reset" my period so that I wouldn't be on it during my wedding and honeymoon, and I immediately felt completely dead in terms of sex drive. Luckily, its effects did not last and the honeymoon was not spoiled in the least. And my libido has been at a level that my husband and I are both very happy with ever since.

    So here I am now with what is practically a perfect method of birth control. I'm not the least bit worried about getting pregnant, my husband is happy with it, my insurance paid for it, I don't have to buy pills or condoms or rings, I don't have to remember to take anything, and my body is practically its own natural self. I highly, strongly, enthusiastically recommend that other women give the IUD a try. The only thing I miss about the pill is having fewer periods, and most women who take the pill don't seem to opt for that anyhow. 

    Well—and I also really miss being able to (barely) fit into a C cup. But what good are boobs if you don't want babies or sex?

    Thursday, August 2, 2012

    [Guest Post] Ameena

    I met Ameena way back in 2011 (we go way back) at Bloggers in Sin City (where else?). My first impression of her was that she was very tall and very adorable. She's also very sweet and awesome and our lifelong bond as friends was cemented on the first day last year after we hung out all day and ended the night with the infamous booze guitars. That's right - Ameena is one of the band mates. I was super excited that she came back in 2012 because it would not have been the same without her. This is also unrelated to everything, but she is the only person that I've seen that has successfully pulled off the ombre hair look. Everyone else just looks like they need to re-touch their hair color, but Ameena nailed it. 

    Anywho. Ameena brought her lovely, charming, and witty self over to my space of the Internet for her Very First Guest Post Ever. I shall try not to spoil it by trying to pre-recap it like I've sort of done this week so far. I basically suck at hosting guest posters. I'm also realizing how much I suck at HTML even when it's handed to me all ready to go, which makes me question my existence as a blogger and an Internet dweller, because: what the hell am I even doing with myself if I can't even handle basic HTML tags? FAIL FAIL FAIL.

    ***

    Oh goodness, friends. Did you know Miss Kelly just popped my guest blogging cherry? It's the truth!

    When I signed on to keep her clever corner of the internet company while she was away, I thought to myself, “Oh yeah! This will be a breeze! Of course I would love another excuse to talk about myself!” and then in typical Ameena fashion I remembered I am not at all clever and got so far in my head and had put so some much pressure on myself that I could no longer see straight.

    So I panicked.

    And then I panicked some more.

    If ever I find myself in sweaty palms freak out mode, there are really only two things that can calm me down – lists and my overwhelming love for the television. Oh TV you never let me down!

    Which is my rather long-winded way of telling you that I would like to share with you all my favorite television villains that I love to hate.

    Without further ado, here they are:

    5. The Walking Dead

    [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="566"] source: amc[/caption]

    Okay, so this one isn’t necessarily a TV villain per se, but I’m just going to kindly ask that you indulge me because a.) this is my silly list and making up the rules as I go is kind of my thing, and b.) I REALLY love to hate this show. In fact, hate-watching The Walking Dead is easily one of my favorite past-times.

    Surprisingly, I didn’t always hate this show. Oh no. Whenever zombies are involved in any capacity I am usually all about it and season one was gold. It wasn’t until about halfway through the second season that I began to notice that the zombies seemed like model citizens compared to the main characters of this show. Those main characters are pretty much just all around awful people. As it turns out, it becomes increasingly more difficult to be invested in a show in which you do not care whether any of the characters become zombie lunch. But because it is a tv show about zombies I am worried I won't ever be able to really let it go.

    4. Trinity

    If you ask a Dexter fan what their favorite season of the show is, they will no doubt tell you season four. This is the season during which John Lithgow spun a web of terror and destruction that was so terrifying I was still talking about it for months after the season finale. I’m actually not even sure if I loved to hate him. I maybe just add the "love" out of fear. How could the guy behind this:

    [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="324"] source[/caption]

    also be the same one behind this:

    [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="548"] source[/caption]

    3. Peter Campbell

    [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"] source[/caption]

    The number of times I have discussed Pete Campbell followed by “Oh my god, I hate him!” is a very large number. Have you ever seen a television character with the power to get under your skin like Pete can? No matter what he is up to, even if it is raising millions of dollars for orphaned baboons, I won't trust him. You won't either. Pete Campbell is ALWAYS up to something. And yet, as we spent this entire season on the Pete Campbell death watch due to all of the ominous signs, I couldn't help but feel panicked for our villain. That's how you know you love to hate something. Love will ultimately outweigh hate. Or something. Plus, his face is just so punchable.

    2. Tyrion Lannister

    [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="482"] source[/caption]

    Tyrion Lannister has had a hard life. This is why I assume that no matter what he does he has some sort of good intention buried way down deep under the surface. Way down. So very deep. It's there. If you dig very far. On the surface, however, it definitely just looks like he is just another one of those terrible villains punks with a dash of charm. If Game of Thrones were only about Tyrion Lannister and his evil schemes and brilliant one liners, I would watch it all day.

    1. Benjamin Linus

    [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="612"] source[/caption]

    Benjamin Linus is not only my favorite villain of all time, he is easily my favorite tv character of all time. Always three steps ahead of everyone, he constantly kept you guessing as to which side he was truly on. Eventually you just had to accept that he was on his side and his side alone, which meant that no body ever knew what was going on in that brain of his. This was certainly terrifying. Defending Ben became my favorite activity during the series' prime. No matter what sort of evil scheme he was up to, I always found a way to rationalize his actions. "I know he is good," I could often be heard saying. I became so emotionally invested in Ben that by the end of the series he was the only thing I cared about (well and Desmond and Penny OBVI).

    I'll leave you with this:

    Alex: You put my boyfriend in a cage and then you locked him in a room and tried to brainwash him!
    Ben: I didn't want him to get you pregnant. I suppose I may have overreacted...

    Yup, he's still got it.

    Wednesday, August 1, 2012

    [Guest Post] Tori: "I Want to Have Written"

    Today's guest post features none other than the lovely Tori! She's awesome and wonderful and I basically want to be her BFF and also I'm an awful friend because she totally up and changed to a new blog and it took me probably a few months (okay, five) to notice because I can't get my Google Reader to stop saying 1000+. Ever. No matter how much progress I think I'm making. I got it to zero once, I'll do it again! Maybe. I fail at so many things these days.

    Anyway, I love love love this post, mostly because it's like she pulled it out of my very own brain. I've been struggling a lot with my own writing lately, and I've been searching for writing advice (I've gone so far as to subscribe to a daily "Advice to Writers" - that I ACTUALLY READ EVERY DAY). Perhaps when I get home I will write a response piece to this because: YES. THIS. 

    ***

    Gloria Steinem once famously said, "I don't want to write. I want to have written."

    That's a lot of what I've been feeling lately. I ache to write, but then when I sit down in front of an empty piece of paper (or computer screen, as the case may be), I feel like my ideas aren't good enough. I want to just be done already, and I want it to be fabulous.

    I think part of that is because I don't love what I've been writing lately. I haven't been writing with a plan. I just start going and then suddenly, I have two pages that are complete stream-of-consciousness and make little to no sense, even to me.

    So how can I fix this? How can I start planning my writing without feeling like I'm writing an academic paper?I decided to look into how other writers do it, and I found that many of them, unsurprisingly, have some very sage advice.

    Kurt Vonnegut: "Start as close to the end as possible."
    This is where I fall short. I begin a story with no ending in mind. A character is looking for something, but will she find it? Won't she? I have no idea yet. In fact, I probably won't for the next two hundred pages. (And by the way, HAHA! TWO HUNDRED PAGES! As if I'll ever get that far.) But I need to know. I need to plan. Even if I haven't planned anything else. Even if the remaining plot twists and turns will be organic. I need to know where the story ends up, even if I don't know where it's going.

    Henry Miller: "Don't be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand."
    I'm always nervous when I write. What will people think about when they read this? Should I not use that word? Have I already used it too many times? WHERE IS THIS STORY GOING? But Henry Miller is telling me to relax. Henry Miller is telling me that writing should be fun. And really, it should be. You're creating something that's entirely yours. If it's non-fiction, it's an issue or a story through your eyes. If it's fiction, it's a whole other world than the one you live in. Take sanctuary in the creativity. Let yourself believe that what you're doing is okay, is right, is beautiful.

    Jack Kerouac: "Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind."
    This is less a piece of advice than it is a reality. I have an idea for a story? Great. Good luck getting it down on paper. That is what Kerouac is saying. That writing is - and should be - a challenge. And it will be. I need to get it down, dislike it, and then fix it. The goal is to make that flow that "exists intact in mind" work just as well on paper. But I can't spend forever rewriting, because then I'll never finish what I start. So I need to learn to write, write, write, FINISH, and then backtrack. As many times as necessary, to make my work as good as possible.

    John Steinbeck: "If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another."
    This advice is just that: ADVICE. I don't have to take it, you don't have to take it, and neither does anyone else. But there's something to be said about listening to words of wisdom from people who are not just published, but world-renowned. With that said, story writing, as Steinbeck says, is "magic." It's not a recipe, it's not formulaic (though your high school English teacher will surely try to tell you otherwise), and it's individualized. We approach it in a different way, and that's what makes reading and writing fun.

    If there's one thing I learned from each of these nuggets of wisdom, it's this: Writing is work. It's not just going to get done without my having to put the effort in, no matter how talented my grandma thinks I am. It requires consistency, and patience, and imagination, and attention to detail. And even though "I want to have written," I'm only going to be able to say I actually have written if I begin by writing.