Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The times, they are a changin'

Displace Me video makes it's D.C. debut: WATCH!


26,000 U.N. troops and police are being sent into the Darfur region of Sudan: READ!

Closer to Fine

Today I'm plagued with a case of the "Tuesday's" as Monday certainly did not follow suit with the usual. On the bright side, this week will seem shorter and my travels will feel as though they are more quickly approaching.

As the summer session is coming to a close, my hours for sleep have become seemingly less precious. Sunday was in fact the first "all-niter" I think I've ever pulled in my entire college career. I just kept putting off that paper...no motivation. The latter issue has proven problematic for most of the summer. I've been in a sort of "funk" for a while, stricken with the worst case of apathy toward everything except rediscovering my joy for painting, and my favorite East Coast drummer. Luckily those things have kept me smiling even at the height of temptation to eternally bury myself beneath the covers.

This lengthy state of being suddenly broke yesterday, perhaps the hallucinatory result of my caffeine-induced insomnia. After powering through and turning in my 4-page, memo-style, block formatted foe of a paper (on a book I absolutely did not read), instead of surrendering to a much desired slumber I opted for an afternoon of dress-up accompanied by Muse blaring in the background. What better way to pack for the weekend than to try on every possible article of clothing one could wear - ever?

It was mostly just an enjoyable indulgence, and it made me happy.

I'm packed now for Johnson City and Asheville...excessively over packed, actually :) But at least I won't be ill prepared. I'll leave Thursday after work for East TN, where I anticipate a fabulous evening spent with an old friend. And Friday morning will send me off to Asheville, NC for a relaxing weekend of panoramic mountain views, laying by the hotel pool, exploring waterfalls, art galleries, coffee shops, and figuring out answers to some lingering questions (::sigh::, my stress levels are decreasing at the mere thought). I haven't been this excited for a single event since maybe Christmas 1980-something :)

There are still some things that need to be checked-off before I head out on the open road...new front tires, an oil change, and several other school/personal tasks on the "to-do" list. They are stacked and crammed into the lines of my brand new planner in various shades and tones of black ink - a familiar element that has been missing from my life this summer. I'm starting to think, after talking with some friends (and Mom), that maybe that lack of structure and demand for deadline has been partially responsible for the said "funk" I've been trying to shake.

Perhaps it took the jump start of a good ole'fashioned college (and peach enviga) spawned all-night typ-o-thon to get me back on track, or maybe it is the reward for perseverance in my weekend away...could be the two in conjunction, but regardless of why, I'm glad to be feeling a bit more myself today.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The Clarity of Hindsight

OK, ok, ok...I know you are all thinking that I am the most compulsive blogger known to man, but I couldn't pass this up. I really just couldn't. Have you ever wished that you could rewind to some other part of life and watch it again as it replayed knowing now what you could only hope to know then? I got to do that tonight, er, this early morning. I did a Google search for my name and "blog" to see if anything was found as a result, and to my dismay, my old LiveJournal appeared from three years ago...wow. WOW!

Reading over my thoughts and ideas, and the lies that I told myself was...well, funny mostly. And that time in my life seems so very far from right now, to the point that I was reading about people I couldn't recall. "I said hello to Patrick." - who? I was still calling The Future Californian, something equivalent to "Cali," I was 2 years into the 5 year drama of The Musician, and I had just decided to take actions geared toward transferring schools, was about to move from Suburban Sprawl to Metro Nashville, I had just applied for the Hotel as an alternative to "hell" as I described my previous employment - ::laughing:: Oh, man, had I only known how horrific the hotel gig would be! No tolerance or desire for drinking - was I even reading about myself???

It's hard to believe that was me just 3 years ago at the ripe age of...20 - thinking I had it all figured out. It's crazy - CRAZY - to relive those days through my own words at the time but to feel like a stranger looking in on my own life...well, maybe not a total stranger:
"The day camp I work for took a field trip to this awesome cave in "Middle-of-Nowhere", TN and one of the things the guide did was show us how dark it was inside when all of the lights were turned out. One minute I'm standing there counting campers and in control and then the lights go out and it's just me and the darkness."
...somedays I still feel like that (p.s., I actually remember the trip to the cave). Although I feel estranged from the person I was then, I am infinitely grateful for the lessons I have learned and for where I am because of them. There are parts of me that I miss: I did yoga pretty regularly at the Y, I grew veggies in my back yard, I had the luxury of TiVo and a cheap house payment, BUT I wouldn't trade this life for the world because eventually it got too hot to garden, I learned to live without television, and everything I could ever need became reachable in 10 minutes or less.

It all happens for a reason.

Jealous of the Moon

I've not taken notice of the moon more so than in the last weeks. It's funny how something so wondrous can so easily be forgotten. I've watched it over the last several days unfold from a sliver of brightness into a low, orange-glowing mass suspended among midnight clouds.

It's a bit unfathomable to think of all the lifetimes it has witnessed...all of the wars, and ages, and eras, and change it's seen.

For me, the moon is my bridge...the closest way to travel without leaving home. It is both here and there when I cannot be, and looks down over all of the earth when only my immediate surroundings are visible. It is my messenger and my eyes, a liaison, if you will. He is my middle man, my courier of dreams, my homing pigeon. It is a beacon in the sky that reminds me of the small nature of the world, and how temporary the miles are that stretch across it.

Shake it like a Polaroid Picture

I've suddenly been bitten by the desire to possess a Polaroid camera. Deterred only by the price of film, I have been flirting with the purchase...mostly skimming Ebay for a fabulous bargain.

I want to embark upon a year long mission - a photo per day. With the film cartridges sitting around $10/20 pics, they certainly wouldn't all be the product of an old school instant camera, but the vintage look for some would be great.

It would be a fun (and challenging) way to get back in touch with the photographer in me...if she still exists.

It actually links into a bigger possible project, but the world isn't ready yet for it's unveiling.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Diamond is Forever

I was talking on the phone last night when the topic of diamonds filtered into the conversation. They've been a subject on my mind since seeing Blood Diamond a few months back, also following my quick read of A Long Way Gone, the chronicle of a child soldier in Sierra Leone (a major hot spot for diamond conflict until 2002, and also the setting of the mentioned movie).

As for many things in the vast world in which we live, my depth of knowledge is rather shallow regarding this topic of concern, but my hesitance to endorse the diamond has certainly been heightened after seeing the reenactment on screen of ruthless village attacks, violent amputations, and the enslavement of innocent people...not to mention the kidnapping and brainwashing of children later to be made into rebel soldiers.

So laying in bed on this lazy Sunday, performing my usual a.m. routine of checking email/surfing the net, I looked over news headlines until this caught my eye: Liberia Lifts Diamond Mining Ban. I figured that now was as good a time as any to check into the issue of diamonds.

It's a sad truth that the Western World's hype to jump on the anti-conflict diamond bandwagon is perhaps too late to be significant in making change. The countries suffering the most violent of wars have settled into more peaceful times as the encouragement to boycott diamonds has risen. It seems to be our style: turn a blind eye until a major producer in Hollywood funds a movie. I'm not above admitting that this is how my heart was turned. It was Rwanda's genocide that changed me through the impressive role of Don Cheadle as Paul Rusesabagina. It's borderline disgusting that Hollywood has more "umph" than the news, and myself included, that Americans are so naively informed.

From what I can tell, the issue of conflict diamonds is now being controlled by the Kimberly Act, which aims to track each diamond to ensure it's origin. Within some sites this seems to be a positive movement, at others, there is skepticism that it is enough. In one article, only 1% of the world's diamonds are claimed to be mined under rebel conflict in Africa, yet the same article links 20% of diamonds on the market to a larger group of "controversial diamonds" made up of "smuggled diamonds and diamonds mined in abusive labor situations all over the world" (Washington Post). It is also repeatedly noted (in this Post article and others) that the sale of diamonds is an economic benefit to the African nations and that the boycott of the stones will prove detrimental to the already poverty ravaged nations where legitimate and prosperous diamond mines are run.

Another very interesting element of my research into conflict diamonds revealed a link between middle eastern terrorist groups Al Qaeda and Hezbollah and the corrupted governments of Sierra Leone, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The article I was reading, sponsored by Amnesty International, goes on for numerous paragraphs explaining the money movement between Africa and the Middle East. Quoting author Greg Campbell, "Osama bin Laden's terrorist network began buying diamonds from the RUF (Revolutionary United Front) of Sierra Leone according to FBI sources quoted in the Washington Post." - and that was in 1998. He also writes that when assets were frozen to these groups they were still able to operate through the currency of diamonds. Campbell, throughout his article, lays a lot of blame on the unethical mining and trading of "blood diamonds" in the funding of the actions carried out on September 11, 2001.

If nothing else, it gets you thinking (or it should)...

Moving to a less controversial argument, and in a more bohemian, "damn the man" direction is the fact that De Beers is said to have created the value of diamonds through intense marketing campaigns, and an especially large increase in movie presence in the 1930's (and again, we're taking cues from Hollywood). This article highlights the arbitrary sentiment placed on the rock in the Victorian era, when apparently people felt the need to assign meaning to inanimate objects (e.g., flowers, gem stones). The guys at De Beers set out to put wide-eyed starlets in movies being offered these "tokens" of love, and we all followed suit.

I think that I need to digest all of this information before announcing to the next guy I date never to think about buying me diamonds. It's intense, as are most things in the world. It makes me sick to think about the stories illustrated in Blood Diamond (chopping off limbs and whatnot), and mentioned over and over again as a result of African rebel armies moving illegally into the diamond industry. It's also something to consider that not purchasing them might have negative repercussions in the developing nations in need of economic increase. It's something to ponder how corrupt organizations of terror work together in the name of greed and evil, and yet another to think that we might all just be duped by De Beers.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Reading & Wine - A Fabulous Combination!

I have to admit that my favorite place in Nashville might very well be the Grand Reading Room in the main public library downtown. I have come here today to get some much procrastinated work done for class and to pick up a copy of Jack Kerouac's On The Road in anticipation of the next three weeks of academic freedom! Perhaps this doesn't sound like much to look forward to, but until you've given his imagery a chance and the unique style in which he narrates, you can't judge. I'm quite excited to road trip the country with Dean as Kerouac paints vivid illustrations with his prose. Yes, I'm a nerd, but it explains the desire for an MA in writing, right? My last Composition professor said, "You become a good writer by reading good writing." Kerouac is good writing.

There is something very tranquil about The Grand Reading Room...it's lofty ceilings and rows of reading tables are nestled between shelves and shelves of books and pages and words. More words that I could ever know, and more ideas than I could ever conger. It's inspiring and peaceful here, with large towering windows that invite soft natural light and frame the state capital building. I can hear the city moving below my third floor location, but inside this room only the quiet "whirrr" of an overhead air vent can be heard, and the occasional turn of a page, and maybe a murmur as someone speaks deliberately low.

On another note, I had the pleasure of going wine shopping this morning...not to drink this morning. It's for next weekend's trip to Asheville. I got my usual bottle of Kris Pinot Grigio and opted to try a new bottle that I had never before seen: FairValley. I was really excited to see that it is made on a vineyard in South Africa that is run by black Africans and that they are the individuals who reap the benefits of the wine. Naturally, I'm going to show up next weekend with African wine that is benefiting people otherwise living in poverty. It's almost too predictable :) Several people working at the store said really good things about it, though, especially that it's great this time of the year because it's fresh and light and good when it's so hot outside. I'll post when I know more about it's taste, and if it's fabulous, I will definitely encourage it to all.

With that, I'm going to wish all a Happy Saturday! For now, I must get back to my priorities.

Friday, July 27, 2007

A laughing matter

I find that I laugh more than I used to. Today, walking through Macy's with The Future Californian on the phone I was almost certain they would ask me to leave. It isn't that life has gotten funnier, I'd even venture to say that it is more complicated than it has been in years, and maybe that's the main contributer to the current state of increased humor. One of my many mantras is that it's better to laugh than cry. Maybe it's more healthy to be able to celebrate your own flawed humanity than to wallow in it, or maybe it just looks better when you're wearing it than the alternative. But these days I'm laughing it off because frankly, life is that funny. Who has parents like mine? Or friends like mine? Who meets guys in the round about ways that I do? I always kid that I should have a personal film crew because I live a comedy...maybe a dark comedy, but I would totally watch the plot unfold except that I'm living it.

Another theory is "the boy." It's possible that even though familial things have become a bit more hectic, and I'm suffering from a rather severe case of burn-out in what was originally billed as the summer session before graduation, every time I think of him I smile (like, right now - no joke). See look: :) For the most part, you all know the details so I'll spare the blogging world all of the sap. He's amazing, though - really, really. And the days drag as the hours until we're together near. He makes me laugh a lot, too. He just makes me happier in general.

Basically, life is just a big hysterical mess of living...it's true that it's oftentimes better than fiction.


It's 3:41am and moments ago I was about to call it a late night. I had shut off my lights, crawled under the covers when the unmistakable squeal of rubber on pavement caught my attention...it lingered long enough that I began to anticipate the rupturing rumble of crumpled metal. And then as though scripted, the noise explosion occurred.

I jumped from my bed and moved toward the window facing West End Ave. Right where the road joins a low stone wall and then drops several feet rested a lone Lexus with axles and wheels upright. This end of West End is not so well traveled this time of night, so it only felt natural to throw on today's jeans, a pair of flops, grab my cell, and sprint the distance of MBA's freshly watered field where the car had landed.

By the time I reached the wrecked vehicle two others had stopped to be of aid. One gentleman already had 911 on the phone, and another was talking to the driver who was, at best, disoriented. After a few moments passed, he began assuring us that he was alright, although obviously shaken...and intoxicated.

I think he was ok, and the situation lacked many a dangerous element that could have made it really terrible. The engine wasn't leaking gasoline, the driver seemed uninjured, he wasn't trapped inside, and he didn't hit anyone else. There are a hundred things that could have made it worse, but walking away, back home through the sloshy grit of sand and freshly laid sod, I couldn't help imagining what I would do if anyone who I value and love had been in his place.

It made me nauseous.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Closer Look at Long-Distance Dating: Why Do We Do This to Ourselves?

Meandering through the vast literary world of Amazon.com, I happened upon this cute little book: The Long-Distance Relationship Survival Guide: Secrets And Strategies from Successful Couples Who Have Gone the Distance.


Apparently this self-depriving movement is epidemic...enough so that authors are finding it profitable to publish books on the topic. It opens with a list of cleverly titled chapters, the first being, "A Closer Look at Long-Distance Dating: Why Do We Do This to Ourselves?"

::cringe, again::

Even the first words of the book forecast an ominous trial. Oh, the things we will do for love...

So why would one embark upon a challenge so steeped in obstacles? Can they work? Are they worth it?

Apparently someone in the 80's thought it appropriate to "walk five-hun-dred miles", while The Plain White T's are currently crooning hipster lyrics about love and distance - not to mention the military sweethearts that are definitely feeling the stretch. If there are songs and books, and an entire branch of the US government that is valiantly surviving the dreaded plague of separation, I guess it can't be all that impossible.

I'm no stranger to the reality of being miles and miles from someone I care about. I've dated someone in Tampa from Memphis (a considerable 845 miles apart), and Poquoson, VA for a period of several months while I was still in Nashville (685 miles), and now there is the possibility of trying a Nashville/VA Beach venture (a happy medium of 725 miles of separation).* Being divided by space is hard, and I'm certain that no one sets out seeking a long-distance relationship. You just meet people - atop mountains in Colorado, those in a life transition taking them elsewhere, or when you, yourself relocate and cross paths with others (in coffee shops, for example) - and sometimes the people you meet in travel and transition are really amazing and it just makes more sense to give it a chance. Apparently for me it's all the time, BUT I have never claimed to stick with conventional methods.

I think it also takes a certain personality to be able to weather the distance, and a plan - there has to be a plan, or at least an idea of a plan that eventually concludes the suffering. I won't hesitate to deem myself quite the idealist, or the hopeless romantic, and maybe even on some days an eternal optimist. I think it takes these qualities, the ability to communicate effectively (I've been told I can converse with walls, so I think I'm good here), perseverance, and trust.

I've seen the end of the spectrum - a friend of mine who is less than 2 years into marriage to a guy who just deployed to Iraq. She's really strong, but there definitely moments of anguish when we talk. Not only is he FAR, but she's got the added challenge of worry. Situations like that help to keep it all in perspective - the "it could always be worse" scenario. While 725 miles would be a significant distance, it's relatively peaceful in Virginia Beach, and if worse came to worse, in an 11 hour drive either one of us could be in the other's city.

So the author poses the question of "why we do this to ourselves?" I suppose it just depends on what we want from life. I don't mind living intensely, taking on a challenge if the end result might be extreme happiness, and if there is someone out there who is a kindred soul it seems silly not to give it a try. The worst possible outcome is finding out that it doesn't work, and I'm ok making the sacrifice (apparently over and over again) to find that moment of certainty.

I figure you only live once, and having a colorful archive of stories to tell about the life you've led builds character and keeps you grounded.


*...why don't I date locals, and what's with the beach!?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Wage Love, Spread Peace.

Guess? has designed 2 tanks that are benefiting the Invisible Children organization. 100% of the proceeds are going to the cause AND the 2 tanks come with copies of the Invisible Children documentary...which if you haven't seen, you SHOULD!

Wage Love, Spread Peace Guess tank

Also, while I'm on my save-Africa-because-we-can soapbox, please visit these sites as well:

Amnesty International Worldwide Petition

Sign the petition, and check out the Lenon covers...yes, as in John. Amnesty International put out the 2-disc album about 2 months ago and it is benefiting the crisis in Darfur. The artists include: Green Day, Snow Patrol, Avril Lavigne, Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, Aerosmith, REM, U2, Maroon 5, Postal Service, to name only a few. Check it out! It rocks hard for a GREAT cause!

"Our soulmate is someone who shares our deepest longings, our sense of direction..."

"...When we're two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we've found the right person." - Richard Bach

When I awoke at 7:41am, my body's current and strangely consistant waking hour, I had a message waiting patiently for me on my computer - an explanation of an answer I had requested. Despite it's trivial role in the many words, "soulmates" stuck out. I thought for the half hour I allowed for getting ready, and the 10 minute drive to work, and even since arriving at my office, "Is there such a thing?"

I surely thought that in high school, Matt was mine, until I realized he wasn't. And that was because I was certain that it was The Musician, until that didn't work out as planned. When I met The Virginian, I knew I would never date again...you all know the rest of that story - not soulmates.

Even though at some point in any of the above mentioned relationships I would have sworn that I had found my end-all, I would have been wrong - SO wrong (sorry, gentlemen!). So how does one know - REALLY know when you have found your "soulmate"? I've heard it before "I just knew"...no, no, no...I want something more concrete than that. And I'm aware that I desire a bit much when it comes to certainty...a pre-marital counselor told me once that what I was looking for, as far as absolution, would never exist because every relationship - at best - is a gamble. My stomach knots when I think about the impossibility of there being a definitive answer in the beginning! Yet, I guess it makes it safe to assume that I haven't made any mistakes in my decisions thus far to end any previous relationship.

I'd like to think that the clouds might part and the booming voice of God will announce the conclusion of my search, or that Mr. Right will come, having been sent by the stars with delivery confirmation - item description, "soulmate". I've never really considered myself to be a person skeptical of the abstract, but it becomes more apparent each day that I have a high value for the definite. So maybe it was crazy to invest five years in a relationship with a year and half of it long distance, and crazier still to move to the East Coast, and sticking with trend, to be driving to North Carolina next week to see someone I haven't been face-to-face with in 10 months...but my Mom commends me because I move on opportunities no matter how outlandish they seem on paper. And while I've developed a laughable reputation for following my heart, I do explore opportunites and I find the answer to the "what if" questions - eventually.

Coming back to the original question of whether or not there is a partner destined for each one of us who we can later call our "soulmate," I supposed I do hold out hope that we are each wandering around until we cross paths with "the one". I don't know that he will meet my every expectation, but the core of him will hopefully fit to mine without wiggle room. And maybe when I'm wrinkled and gray I'll have the privilege of telling my posterity with confidence that, "I just knew - definitely."

...if I'm wrong, I've still got the "cat lady" back-up...and many, many degrees to be earned :)

Hell-OOO again, blogger world!

In past months I have caught some flack regarding the legitimacy of a "myspace blog." My only problem switching over to a "real" one is the change in familiarity. Everyone on myspace has easy access, but for the sake of authenticity, I'm going to again try maintaining a free-standing blog.

I don't know how successful I will be in my efforts, but to transition, I will be posting at both locations (the same blog). It's an attempt with training wheels, if you will :) Enjoy!