Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Constructive Compulsion Has a New Home

It's become too difficult to maintain two blogs. Constructive Compulsion will be absorbed into Disturb the Universe and this site will serve as an archive. Please come join us. We'd love to have you.

Thank you for your readership, kids. See you at DTU!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Five: Best Things About Summer

Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer. I've already got a BBQ to attend this weekend, and new bathing suits are arriving via UPS any day now. It's the most wonderful time of the year, as far as I'm concerned. The big fat man in the red suit's got nothin' on summer.

1. Summer Concerts: Summer brings more concerts, particularly outdoor festival-type shows with several bands, tailgating, and lots of shirtless guys with badass tattoos. It is far more satisfying to leave a venue sweaty and grimy after a full day and night of rocking out than walking out of an area after a mere few hours. Plus, I get to wear my signature cowboy hat. No one appreciates it indoors.

2. BBQs/Pool Parties: It's not even so much about the food. By the time September rolls around, I couldn't be more sick of macaroni salad. It's the social atmosphere. Everyone's chill, having a good time, drinking fun and fruity drinks. Evening swimming is always a blast. No matter how old you are, it feels like a special grown-up treat to swim at night. Little kids don't get to do that.

3. The Beach: Two summers ago, I had Fridays off. For the first time in my life, I went to the beach alone. And though it wasn't a long stay, it was one of the highlights of that summer. I find the beach to be incredibly spiritual, especially when it's quiet (which is hard to find in the summer), when the only things that seem alive are you and the ocean. The ocean is powerful and mysterious and to be revered and respected. I adore the beach, even on crowded days. Even with the stupid seagulls. And the people-watching. Ohhh, the people-watching on the Jersey Shore is top notch!

4. General attitude: People are happier in the summer. There's a more laid-back collective, traffic is lighter, the kids are out of school, schedules loosen up a bit. Everything flows a little more smoothly when people aren't rushing through their days Monday - Friday. People are more pleasant. Maybe it's the Vitamin D.

5. "Solar" Energy: Summer makes me want to get out there and do stuff, see things, go places. The days are too beautiful to waste on the couch, the choices are plentiful, and before you know it, we'll be back to stuffing ourselves into jeans and sweaters and thinking about Christmas. Farmer's markets, street fairs, the Boardwalk, the park... It's hard to take advantage of the summer when you work the 9-5, but I'm far more ambitious (and poor) during the summer months.

So, a virtual "toast" to the arrival of summer. May your grills burn hot, your drinks stay cold, and your tan lines be minimal. Happy Summer!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Five: Reasons Why Team Tigerlily Is Awesome

Monday 5/21 marks a year to the day I met this pretty terrific guy thanks to OKCupid.com and a lazy editor's eye (read about it here). This year has been remarkable in terms of happiness in this aspect of my life, and while I'd like to say it's all his fault, well... I want some credit, too. And so, I present to you five reasons why Team Tigerlily is positioned for world domination.

SIDEBAR: Year of the Tiger (his Chinese zodiac and part of his tattoo work) + Lily (my favorite flower) = Tigerlily. Shut up. We like it.

1. There is no "I" in T-E-A-M: Cooperation keeps Camp Tigerlily at full operation. We both cook, we both clean, we both handle chores, we both care for the dog... In short, we help each other out. All the time, at first request, with no balking. And if one of us needs something and the other can't accommodate, an alternative is always offered.

One of my favorite teamwork moments came pretty early on when I discovered something horrifying in my kitchen. We were eating breakfast on a Saturday morning when I dropped something on the floor. I bent down to pick it up and discover that my kitchen floor was littered with what appeared to be maggots. He actually tried to lie to me about what they were (I believe the word was "mealworm"), and quickly sprung into action to help me clean up the mess. He prevented me from destroying the vacuum cleaner out of frustration. While I bleached my floor and ranted incessantly about how I could not understand where they came from, he indulged me with "it's ok" and "it happens sometimes." We got the issue resolved and I can honestly say I would not have handled it so gracefully if he hadn't been there.

Why this is important: To be perfectly blunt, sometimes bad shit happens. And there's nothing more comforting than knowing that you can be there to help each other out, physically and emotionally. It's easy to love someone when things are good. But when the shit hits the fan, it's nice to know that someone will get down on his hands and knees and bleach your maggoty floors with you. And not throw it in your face sometime down the road.

2. Laughter is the best medicine: We laugh every day. This is not an exaggeration. From the first email exchange until this very morning, we have laughed every single day. Even on days when we've had a fight, either before that fight or after, there was a chuckle, a guffaw, or a side-splitting, tear inducing belly laugh. We also experience a phenomenon called Sunday Night Giggles. For some reason, every Sunday night, when the house is quiet and we are starting to doze off, one of us will burst into uncontrollable giggles.

Why this is important: Humor is a very personal, very subjective thing. If you aren't on the same page when it comes to senses of humor, a lot of miscommunication can happen. He is a ball-buster. I am sarcastic. And if we didn't love and understand that about one another, we'd never have gotten this far. Because we can laugh. And we absolutely do laugh AT each other. Because we can both be ridiculous. And witty. And gross.

Also, laughing is really, really fun.

3. I and Me come before You and Us: Most people view this idea as a selfish one, that you aren't supposed to put yourself first, but let me clarify. We both agree that you cannot make another person happy if you aren't happy with yourself, if you aren't a happy individual. There are many things that go into being a happy, well-rounded person, and they cannot possibly all come from your romantic relationship. We understand the need for and absolutely give one another "alone" time. If I want to go out with my girlfriends, I go. If he wants to go play with the boys, he goes. Sometimes, he doesn't want to talk. Or I feel like reading, while he does something else. In plain language, we are not up each other's butts all the time.

Why this is important: The afore-mentioned individual is important, but also... its really nice to miss each other sometimes. Even if it's just for a few hours, it's important to us to not grow complacent. Plus, it gives you stuff to talk about when you do get home and see each other.

4. Honesty is the best policy: At the inception of TT, we made a deal. The truth: ALWAYS. No matter how ugly, no matter how big or small. NEVER lie. And it has not steered us wrong. Not even when the truth was the reason for the biggest fight we've had...of the two fights we've had. In a year.

Why this is important: The truth will NEVER EVER EVER lead you in the wrong direction. It's that simple. If you are lying about something, you are already admitting guilt. Even if you have done something wrong or stupid, chances are telling the truth is going to resolve that issue long before lying will. And you're going to learn something about each other, even when the truth is ugly. Learning who you are as opposed to pretending who you aren't is our preference. We've already been married to pretend people.

5.Try a little tenderness: I'm not going to get detailed here. My mom reads this stuff. So, I'll say this. We're affectionate. And not when one of us wants something, not when we're trying to get out of trouble, not for any other reason than he's the bees knees and I'm the cat's pajamas. We are drawn to each other. And while no one will ever tell us to "get a room" (because we're not 17 and we know how to behave in public) no one will ever mistake us for "just friends."

Why this is important: Everyone loves to say that it's so important to be friends. And that a lot of great relationships start out as friendships. True, true, true. But here's the thing... Physical contact is what separates lovers from friends, and it's a really important distinction. Is he my friend? YES. Is he a great friend? YES. Is he my best friend? No. Someone already has that role. But when I'm hanging out with her, I don't have an urge to bite her hiney. Well, there was that once, but...

My point: The physical aspect of the relationship is critical to reminding each other of why your particular union is special. Why you are together. Why you aren't just pals.

And so, today, I honor the other half of Team Tigerlily. Virtual high five for us, Babe. WE. Are. Awesome. Every single day of this past year has been a joy. Even in the Dutch oven. Even driving to Manhattan at 4am. Even at the ugliest, most embarrassing, most vulnerable times. You stink sometimes. You're an annoying boy sometimes. But I love you all times.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"When you start thinking of pressure, it's because you've started to think of failure." ~Tommy Lasorda

There's been a black cloud following me around the past few days, and I've identified it as my own sense of struggle and failure. Purely self-imposed? Yes. Mostly irrational?  Probably. Nevertheless, it is here, and it's dribbling all over my energy, motivation, and mood. The reasons why I feel this way are mostly irrelevant, and I don't want to invite a chorus of awkward compliments. I know you all love me and support me, and believe me, I love you all so much for it, and I recognize the value of your support.

I'm more interested in why I am doing this to myself. The things that I am pressuring myself over, and the things I am accusing myself of failing at are all things to which I normally would be impervious. I'm hammering away at my confidence, my productivity, my ambition, my accomplishments... since when did I aspire to be a super hero?

It's seems as though what I think I want and what I expect of myself are not in line with what is realistic. But I don't see that as a fact of life. I see it as falling short. Why isn't it realistic? Sometimes the idea that "anything is possible" is a poisonous one. It can lead us down destructive paths that are doomed to failure.

I was talking with a friend yesterday, and I was expressing some of these things, and she empathized with me. She said that if she listed all the things she was dissatisfied with, rather than be reasonable about her expectations, she'd see it as a list of all the things she has to be better at. YES. YES. A thousand times YES.

She asked me where I thought this came from. I think it's a really bad product of perfectionist + over-achiever. I've was always taught to push harder, work harder, think harder. Eventually I took these habits on and my adult-self governs them. But I'm not doing a very good job of managing it. I don't know how to balance it. I don't know how to be reasonable. My boyfriend said I have two settings: 0 mph and 100 mph. I don't know 55. And to some extent, he's right. I totally suck at moderation. But I don't think it's all about moderation. Moderation is a component to this, in the sense that I have to be more realistic about what can be accomplished in a certain time frame. But I think there's more to it. Acceptance? Realism? Practicality?

I fear these things lead to complacency. I see it as settling for less. When you set a certain standard or goal, anything beneath that is falling short, isn't it? Is the answer lowering my standards or my expectations of myself? I've never been good at accepting that I couldn't do or accomplish something.  And then the flipside of that is "You can do anything you set your mind to."

No. I can't.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Five: Why I Will Never Be a Mom

It seems everyone around me is either starting or expanding their families, and so babies are an ever-present topic these days. My best friend is about to have her first child, while another dear friend is trying to find a good preschool for her first daughter, and has a set a of twins about to celebrate their first birthday. Whenever it comes up, people ask me if I want kids, and I say no. They typically respond with "no?" when what they really want to say is "Why?"

This is always such a touchy subject, so let's start off with two points:
1. I do not hate babies. I'm not one of these "babies are gross and icky" people. Babies are adorable and funny. 
2. I do not scoff at parents/parenthood. What you guys do is outright amazing. By no means am I making fun of or downplaying what you do every single day of your life. I'm merely pointing out why I can't do what you do.

1. Domestic delinquent: Back in the 1980s, Roseanne Barr coined the phrase "domestic goddess" to celebrate the moms and housewives and women who toil away in the home.

I am not one of these.

I can cook. I can clean. But as of late, my house looks like 12 boys and 14 dogs live here. There are always dishes in the sink, there's almost nothing in the fridge, and last night the big decision was whether to order onion rings or zucchini sticks with dinner.

We chose both.

My boyfriend left garbage on the stove because there was no bag in the trash can and you know what? I'd probably have done the same.

The point is, when it comes to chores, I do them, but I'm damn lazy sometimes. You can't do that with a baby around. You can't be lazy about these things. And you can't feed a baby onion rings.

2. Mobility: If I have to run an errand, all I do is wash my face, brush my teeth, throw my hair in a ponytail, and I go. I can be public-presentable in 10 minutes. Apparently, this ability goes away when you have a child. When my friends tell me what they go through just to get out of the house to go food shopping or to a doctor's appointment, I find it terrifying. I realize that as the children get older, this is obviously easier, but you're talking several years of these struggles.

3. "Tell me about your mother..." I am a perfectionist. Sometimes this is a virtue. Often, it is a flaw. I am absolutely certain that I would project that onto my child, and create such a maladjusted individual in the process, that college tuition would be replaced with psychotherapy bills. I know what it's like out there. I know what I see in my classroom. And I would be so worried that my kid would be that dumb. And you can all say that I wouldn't do that, and that everyone worries about this, but... I know me. I feel physical pain when my DOG misbehaves at the vet. He's "that dog." What if I had a problem kid? Or created one? No way, man. And to be responsible for another human being's well-being for the rest of my life? No. And don't tell me it's only until 18. My mother still worries about my well-being. I'm 34. My grandmother still worried about my mother's well-being. She was 90 and my mother...well, you get the idea. She'll punish me if I finish that sentence.

4. The force is not strong in this one: Ladies, you know how when you hold a baby, you get some sort of weird urge in your belly, your heart swells with an overwhelming emotion to create one of your own?

Yeah, me neither.

I don't get that urge or what they call maternal instinct. In fact, I'm 99 percent sure my ovaries literally shut down and steel barriers form in my uterus. I go into total lockdown. Whatever the opposite of maternal instinct is, that's what I have.

5. Me me me me meeeeeee: I really like my lifestyle. I don't want it to change. I have the freedom to not clean my house, to eat take out every night, to sleep late on my days off, to stay up and out all night, to go on vacation on a whim. It's as simple as that. I've done the domestic thing. I was married. I kept a house, I had matching curtains, and china, and all that stuff. It didn't fit right. I learned that the hard way. But the thing is, you can go to court and get rid of a husband pretty easily. I don't think it really works the same way with a kid.

And so, to all you parents out there, my own included: You are amazing people. What you endure the day you find out you're going to be parents until your last day is absolutely admirable. It goes above and beyond anything else I can think of. No other challenge of this magnitude is as permanent as parenthood. All others are likely temporary, and probably have far fewer consequences if you screw up. I appreciate all that you do share with those of us who are not parents. I've learned a great deal from you, and it's taught me that I absolutely never want to be in your shoes. That's not an insult. It's probably one of the best lessons I've ever learned.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Five: Awesome Nostalgic TV

Being a grown up sucks sometimes. Like on Friday mornings when your alarm goes off at 5:15 and you were out at the bar drinking vanilla rum and diet Coke with your friends on Thursday night. And then your boyfriend makes fun of you for having to go to work on a beautiful Friday when he has off, and you picture him frolicking in a field of dandelions with your dog while you sit at a desk with a single lightbulb dangling by a thread over your head, surrounded by piles of paper, dust, and dirty coffee mugs.

My office doesn't look like that, but it feels like it.

ANYWAY... it got me thinking about being a kid, and early mornings, or days off and the awesome television that isn't on anymore. And so, here is what I would have marathon viewings of today if I were home with my boy and my pup, eating sugary cereal, and waiting for the milk to get all sweet so I could slurp it out of the bowl.

1. The Muppet Show: Some of the guests and the costumes really date this show, but overall, it's still really funny and entertaining. The humor is timeless, and one of my favorite segments is the ballroom dancing with the one-liners. Corny and hilarious. The Swedish Chef? Come on. He's funnier now than he was when we were kids. Also... Mahna Mahna.

You're welcome. :-)

2. Looney Tunes: It is frustrating and heartbreaking to me that Looney Tunes aren't on anymore. If anyone knows of a channel who reruns them, please let me know. Again, far more entertaining for adults than children, because they weren't made for kids in the first place. There are episodes that I have seen probably 1,000 times that I will still laugh at. Bugs Bunny as the Matador. "Heeeeeey! Quit steamin up my tail!!!" Bugs and Daffy and the Abominable Snowman. "Gosh it's hot..." Foghorn Leghorn and Prissy. "Happy husband huntin' deary!" I'm giggling right now just thinking about it. Bugs got a bad rap somewhere along the way, but that's crap. Compared to the garbage that's on today, I think kids would still be into Bugs. Scooby has survived, so why not?

3. USA Cartoon Express: This was great because it was a whole bunch of cartoons smashed together. JabberJaws, Grape Ape, Captain Caveman, Huckleberry Hound, Josey and the Pussycats... the USA Cartoon Express really didn't have any bad cartoons. They were a bit low-rent compared to some of the flashier stuff, but they were still so entertaining, in the same way kids will be more interested in playing with the giant box that the giant toy came in.

4. Fraggle Rock: "Dance your cares away!" *clap clap* 'Nuff said.

5. The Smurfs: Little blue people who live in mushrooms and sound like they've been sucking helium. It doesn't get better. And I regularly have the urge to shout, "Johann and PEE WEEEEEE!" No one knows that, cuz I don't do it. In public, anyway.

What would your 8-year-old self watch tomorrow morning, when you wake up at the ass-crack of dawn and plunk yourself down in front of the TV, waiting for your parents to get up?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Five: Odd Superstitions

Greetings, Kids. It is Friday the 13th, which strikes fear in the hearts of many superstitious folks. And so, while you are busy driving around black cats, throwing spilled salt over your shoulder, or feverishly gluing shattered mirrors together, here are some lesser-known, and outright strange superstitions that claim to bring a bit more than bad luck.

1. Be sure to crush your eggshells: What's a good superstition without a witch? It was once believed that if you didn't crush the eggshells after eating eggs, a witch would gather the shell and make a boat out of it, which she could then sail out to sea to raise up storms. If you are going to do this in hopes that you will stave off rough weather, take the shells and add them to your coffee grounds before brewing to cut down on the bitterness... If you're going to participate in a wacky superstition, might as well get something practical out if it!

2. Don't put your purse on the floor: According to this superstition, if you put your purse (and therefore your money) on the floor, it means you will lose it. Or, someone will steal it... Orrrr, you'll knock food or a drink off the table into the purse. Which is a huge pain in the ass.

3. Corner of the table = 7 years single: There are many superstitions surrounding marriage, particularly those pertaining to women. This particular one says that a woman who wishes to marry should not sit at  or face the corner of a table, for this will doom her to 7 years of singledom. Had I known that, I'd have made that my permanent seat at EVERYTHING... But, I digress. Personally, I think these superstitions were put in place to avoid telling certain woman they were just undesirable. The same way we say rain on your wedding day is good luck. It keeps the bride from going banana sandwich when the dark clouds roll in.

4. Catch a falling leaf: Forget Vitamin C, plenty of water, good sleep, and washing your hands. If you want to avoid catching a cold, all you have to do is catch a single falling leaf. But what would happen if you went out with a wet head to go catch your leaf? This is a mystery for the ages...

5. Paging Dr. Doggie: There are possibly hundreds of superstitions pertaining to cats, probably due to their close link with witches. However, dogs have their own weird superstitions, too. Apparently, if you are sick, if you take a piece of bread and lick it or put it to your lips and then offer it to the dog, the dog's willingness to eat it (or not) will tell you how serious your condition is. Hmmm. I'm pretty sure I could have the Black Plague and my dog would not only gobble up the bread, but lick my fingers in hopes of getting more. A second opinion would likely be in order.

What strange or odd superstitions do you know and/or believe in?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Friday Five: Favorites Among the Arts

I had a lot of trouble coming up with a topic for today's Five. And so, I decided that, if mish-mash was how my brain was working, then we'd turn that mish-mash into something constructive. And so, I present to you my favorites among the creative arts.

1. Favorite poem: "The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot.

I could read this poem 1,000 times over and I get chills every time. I feel as though it's from a time where there was still some structure and integrity to approaching poetry--that is not to say good poetry hasn't been written since--but it's kind of like watching a movie from the 1940s or 50s and wishing that we were still that formal and fancy. Eliot captures the universal conflict between love and bravery (or lack thereof), introspection, and eventually regret. I love this poem for putting on display the darker side of falling in love, the sheer madness and lack of courage, the fear of rejection, and the consequences of letting those fears take over. Poor J. Alfred becomes what we all fear we will become: old, alone, and afraid to eat a peach, lest our teeth loosen and leave us.

Read it here.

2. Favorite painting: "Christ of St. John of the Cross" by Salvador Dali.

I don't know shit about art. That's my sister's department.I don't know what Dali's intentions were, nor his reasons for painting this. I only know this painting has always captivated me.

I love the fact that we are subject to what would be God's view of the crucifixion. Rather than seeing it from the earthy perspective, from below Christ (I get it, we are his servants, so we would be looking up at him as a figurehead), we are looking at it from far above, a place reserved for God. I don't see this as egotistical or blasphemous. I'm not even looking at it as a Christian (because I don't consider myself one). I'm looking at it as a person who has always been exposed to typical renderings of this event. If you look at it long enough, you may even start to feel dizzy. It makes me think about spirituality and how confusing and dizzying it can be. It also makes me think about how so few are willing to look at the same thing from a different perspective, how we're not really encouraged or allowed to, and if we were to try to take the viewpoint of God himself (again, from the Christian standpoint), we would be committing a terrible sin: we are not to ever place ourselves on par with The Big Cheese. But Dali does here.

3. Favorite Song: "Lateralus" by TOOL.

I discussed this song several Fives ago in this post: http://constructivecompulsion.blogspot.com/2012/01/friday-five-songs-that-compel-extreme.html

Being it's my work, I'll just copy/paste what I said. Because I can. Because it's mine.

This song always connects me to a sense of spirituality. Lyrically, it basically sums up the core of what I believe, and musically it fires up an instinctive connection to universal energy. The drumwork, albeit complex, is somehow tribal in its nature, evoking a sense of ritual, and building to points of epiphany and clarity. I have seen/heard TOOL do this song live, and the energetic reaction is not only palpable, but euphoric and also exhausting.

Listen to it here

4. Favorite Movie: Fight Club

Eye candy aside, I love this movie for a variety of reasons, which I believe count as artistic. First of all, again, I don't know shit about technical movie-making, but I do know that there are elements of this movie that tickle all my fancies. Lighting and color correspond to the narrator's experiences: the sharp brightness of his day job/life that gets progressively worse the further into Fight Club we go. The association of bright but deep colors with Tyler Durden, particularly red, which is associated with passion as well as rage: the two things that Fight Club awakens and encourages to the point of anarchy. The dizzying effects when Tyler and Marla have sex are the same effects used with some of the fight scenes, suggesting that these two things evoke very similar emotions.

Plus the soundtrack kicks ass and the cast is spectacular (seriously, Helena Bonham Carter is so completely underrated as an actress, it's baffling). I love the movie for the same reasons I love the original author's work: it pushes the envelope past where you expect things to end and where you are comfortable. I like being forced out of my comfort zone.

5. Favorite Book: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

There will never be a film adaptation of this story that will satisfy me. Most on-screen renderings mix together Wonderland and the sequel Alice Through the Looking Glass. Props to Tim Burton for getting creative and making the film a follow-up rather than trying to re-render it (like he did and failed miserably with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).

I love this book because it's a children's book that doesn't read like one. Yes, Carroll wrote it for a 7 year old girl (who starts as the main character), but Alice goes through some seriously traumatic experiences that take on a whole new perspective when an adult reads it. Some of the characters and places she encounters are outright nightmarish (and no, contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence to suggest that Carroll was a drug addict). Alice is also constantly pressured to identify herself, but she can't. She thinks she knows who she is, but quickly learns that she doesn't, and it's absolutely frustrating and terrifying to navigate an unfamiliar world. Eventually she is forced to figure it out and find her way... aren't we all?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday Five: Childhood Fears We Never Grow Out Of

My friends are always so helpful with the Friday Five when I have writer's block, and so, I have asked if any of them would like to guest-spot with their own lists. Jazz hands for my buddy, Leanne!
After spending the past two and a half years living with a roommate who assisted in obtaining things stored up high, killing spiders, and had gym-grown-man muscles to lift things and protect me, I have recently moved out and returned to having my own living space. Maybe he was my mental safety net or maybe I used him as an explanation for strange noises. Either way, it’s only been 5 days of living alone again and I am already experiencing heightened senses combined with a wacked out active imagination.
To sum it up: Strange Noises + Night Time x My Active Imagination = Camping out under a blanket while holding my breath and clamping my eyes shut.
I have come to the realization that I have quite a few fears. Most have been in my life since childhood. I am sure a lot of people have things they are afraid of. Or I just tell myself that so I don’t feel like I’m weird. In no specific order here are my extremely narrowed down top five fears, irrational or not…
1. Clowns – So common there is a name for it… Coulrophobia. Based on a study at California State University, “…clowns are universally disliked by children. Some found them quite frightening…” Well DUH! Some creepy evil person is hiding behind thick, white make-up and polka dot ruffles. There is an urban legend about it too. It comes in many forms, but the basic gist: Baby sitter is creeped out by a clown sitting in a rocking chair in the living room. Swears the eyes are following her and the children around the room. Calls parents asking if she can move it because it’s creepy. Parents say they don’t own a clown. Babysitter grabs kids and runs to a neighbor’s. Creepy clown turns out to be a person who escaped from a psychiatric ward, and to top it off, is a killer. I believe it. Ever seen the movie It or Killer Klowns from Outer Space?? My fear includes all masks. What are you hiding under there?!
2. Monster Under the Bed – As young children, my brother and I played a game in our room that seemingly every child had their version of. The Volcano Floor. We would jump from bed to bed. Only rule: you can’t touch the floor or you die. The only safe haven was being on the bed. This only started it. Little Monsters, the late 80’s movie with Fred and Ben Savage confirmed to me something was under there. I would stuff everything I could under there. I swore if the floor under the bed disappeared for the monsters to come up, all the stuff would fall on them and I would hear that, which obviously meant I would get a warning and be able to run. While I feel I may have mostly outgrown this I do have to confess… I still put lots of things under my bed which I claim is “just for storage.”
3. Boogeyman in the Closet – I have no idea where I got this fear from. As long as I can remember I have sworn there is something in there. The closet door has to be shut. This is not optional. The boogeyman does not know how to open doors. And he only comes at night. And any light is a deterrent. My worst adult incident was because of watching The Boogeyman, FYI, barely even a scary movie. I slept with the lights on in every room of my one bedroom apartment, lights in the closet on, and the door shut – with a chair in front of it. All night (for two weeks) I stared at the door, while trying to be quiet, hearing my heart beat so loud I was sure the neighbors could hear it,  and practically hiding under a blanket like I was 5 years old again. *cough, cough, 24, cough*
4. The Dark – Have you ever noticed that scary stories all start with “It was a dark (and possibly stormy) night”? Thriller and horror movies have all their goose bump moments at night or in a moment of total darkness. Even our favorite childhood channel Nickelodeon had Snick whose final half hour time slot was Are You Afraid of the Dark? …who didn’t love that big orange couch?! We always had to be home before dark. Why couldn’t we go outside to play after sunset? What did all those adults know that we didn’t?! Those same adults made sure we had night lights in our room. Why? If I’m supposed to be asleep, why do I need to see? Except I didn’t fall asleep right away, I was told to sit there quietly and try to fall asleep. So I laid there… with eyes as wide open as possible… looking around the room at all the large shadows on the walls… and those cute dolls, stuffed animals or toys we played with during the day looked completely evil. But now I’ve seen them, I know they are there and I have to keep my eye on them, so the night light must stay. Now the TV is my version of a night light.
5. Windows – I think this one started after I saw the movie Scream. In the first scene the Ghost Face killer was outside Drew Barrymore’s house watching her. He tormented her without even being in the house. She was a fish bowl and couldn’t see anything outside. You know how it is… if it’s dark out and the lights are on in a room, you can’t see ANYTHING out of the window. Sometime after that, I was home alone at night (which I was a lot) and something came over me. All of a sudden at 15 I was completely terrified of being by a window at night. During my junior year of high school I was sitting in my room (2nd floor), on my bed (back facing the window). It was about 11:30pm mid-week and I had just gotten home. Banging noises came from the window behind me. Without turning around, I exited my room and made my mother go check it out. She did, while making fun of me the entire time she made her way down the stairs and out the front door. “What, you think Spiderman is crawling up the house?” Funny. Well, she couldn’t say anything after we found a ladder at my window. Fear now completely solidified.
As Theodore Vail says, “Real difficulties can be overcome. It’s the imaginary ones that are unconquerable.” Maybe that’s why these fears have made their way from my childhood self into the life of my 30 year old self.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"There are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents, and only one for birthday presents, you know." ~Lewis Carroll

I am 34 today.

This time last year I was still cruisin' along on my new-found freedom, still trying to figure out what I wanted, what my path was. I was still basking in the glory of singledom, and being a bit selfish in my use of my time. I was in total "me" mode. That wasn't a bad thing. I'd definitely earned it, and I needed it in the wake of the previous few years.

A year later, I find myself with a much different perspective. I figured a lot of things out in the last 365 days. Some intentionally, some by serendipity. I received a lot of gifts. I made decisions that would create a more solid foundation for myself. I fell in love. I excised negativity and drama from my life. I had an epiphanous moment regarding my own creative endeavors. I continued to fight the battle of loose ends of my old life, which at times seemed to want to strangle my new one, but I fought. And the final string will be snipped in a mere two weeks.

I am not in "me" mode this year. I am giving up birthday shenanigans to prepare for a very special event for my dearest friend, and that is a gift. I am overjoyed to be such an intergral part of this event for her, so happy and excited about the plans, the gifts, the day. That is a gift. Our friendship is a gift.

My relationship is a gift--the love, the partnership, the support, the laughs. Those are gifts that I am blessed to indulge in every day. I love and am loved in a way that seemed unrealistic or unlikely, but I learned (and admittedly am still amazed by it) that this type of relationship can and does exist. I smile and laugh every single day because of him. Gift.

My family and my friends are a gift--always there to help, to spend time, to guide, to laugh, to celebrate all kinds of things. These are the people who go out of their way to make sure I'm happy and alive. Some have been doing it for 34 years, others much less, but their intentions all come from the fact that they love and care about me. Gifts.

My health and fortitude--gifts. I am able to do anything I want, to challenge myself, to face adversity, to overcome obstacles. I have a long list of goals that need meeting, and I can't do that without these.

It may sound corny and melodramatic to some, but I blinked and a year has gone by. Being aware of my limited time here, and being aware of the good things in my life is crucial to me. I took much of this for granted for many years. I have spent more time that I care to admit focused on what I did not or could not have. What a waste. And while I cannot change what I've done, I can plan and be more mindful of what I do now and tomorrow.

I have many new goals for the year ahead. But today, among the well wishes, the smiles, and the expressions of care, today I intend to fully enjoy all my gifts.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Five: Old Wives' Tales We Still Believe

It's 2012, and we are in the most technologically advanced century of our time. Yet, there are certain centuries-old practices and beliefs that we still adhere to because we "swear by them." Our grandmothers chased us around with some of these, and our parents may still try to enforce them. If nothing else, they make for a nice jaunt down memory lane.

1. No swimming 30-60 minutes after you eat: I think this is just so parents can have a few extra minutes to not worry about their kids drowning while they aren't looking. Because after a certain age, no one stops you from going in the pool. Hell, I've had parties during which we were eating and drinking in the pool. No one sunk to the bottom.

2. Going out in the cold with a wet head will get you sick: No, it'll just get you cold. What gets you sick are the disgusting other people who cough and sneeze all over and don't wash their hands. Little kids covered in boogers and dirt get you sick. Maybe we should encourage more people to go out with wet heads to ensure a shower before they leave the house and cause chaos. Buncha Typhoid Marys.

3. If a pregnant woman's face changes (and makes her ugly), she's having a girl: The "explanation" is that the little girl steals the mother's beauty. I think this was made up to make ugly pregnant ladies feel better by blaming the kid. And it's a baby, so you're more willing to forgive. But I know plenty of women who were positively gorgeous during their pregnancies, yet gave birth to baby girls. Maybe pregnancy makes some women ugly. Accept it. It's temporary, right? The tale doesn't say that you stay ugly. Chill out.

4. Cats steal the breath from babies: This tale comes from the medieval period when witchcraft was being persecuted, and cats were accused of being witches in disguise, or the "familiars" of witches. Cats were blamed for a lot of shit back then. I kinda get it. Cats are mean and aloof. But they got their feline revenge when the Black Plague spread wildly after they were exterminated en masse. Fleas spread the plague. Fleas lived on rats. Rats were not being hunted by cats because they were all dead from religious persecution. There you go. Fun fact for the day.

Anyway... cats are not going to hop in the crib and suck the air out of a baby. At most, if they were to lay on the child's face, then there could be an issue. But realistically, it's more of a cleanliness issue. There's no need for a cat in the crib. Keep Felix where he belongs, and everyone will be fine.

5. If you want to know how you'll age, look at your mother: While I can hope all I want this is not a myth (my mom's foxy!), the fact of the matter is, there's a ton that goes into what ages you. Sun exposure, smoking, diet, lifestyle (but just a little bit of DNA) all determine what you'll look like when you're a Golden Girl (or...Boy? How does that work?). Skin type and coloring are more DNA-related. And apparently, I get fair skin from my dad... hope that doesn't mean I'll have a grey goatee when I'm 70...

What wives' tales, whether debunked or not, do you "swear" are true?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friday Five: Fashion Trends that Gotta Go

I am not a fashionista by any means. I don't read Cosmo or Vogue. But I am a citizen of society, and I do shop for clothes in fairly mainstream places. A rule I was taught long ago by my mother and my grandmother was that you should always wear what looks good and flattering on you. Not what is trendy. By all means, be trendy, but only if you don't look like a fool.

Sadly, as you are about to see, there are people who have not been so fortunate in their fashion advice, and thus are the inspiration for today's Friday Five.

1. Boys and skinny jeans: You have to be really tall, really skinny, and really famous to pull this off, and even then, they look kinda dumb. But most guys wearing these look something like this:

Chicks dig guys in stupid pants, right?

There's nothing hot about a square butt, saggy crotch, and bunchy pant leg that leads to giant footwear. It makes you look like you raided Mickey Mouse's closet. This is even worse if you happen to be chunky. Please refer to the shopping scene in Superbad with Jonah Hill. There's nothing wrong with being heavy, unless you're trying to stuff yourself into these ridiculous pants.

2. Open-toe Boots:  Seriously. Someone PLEASE explain this to me. Look, I love boots. LOVE THEM. From short and sassy to thigh-high and sky-high, I'm all about the boots. Leather, suede, rocker chick, riding boots, stilletto... it doesn't matter. Boots are awesome. But this?

Half hooker, half gladiator. All ridiculous.

3. Pajamas in public: We've all been in a situation where we're in our comfies, or it's really late/early, and we have to run an errand. I've been guilty of running out in my jammies and a sweatshirt. However, this fashion trend is baffling to me. I see it most often on my students. They come into class wearing a sweatshirt, makeup, hair is done or at least brushed, boots or sneakers on... and pajama pants. I don't mean plain sweatpants or lounge pants. I'm talking pastel-heart or penguins-in-hats-and-scarves-patterned pajama pants.

Look at how aloof I am pretending to be.

Perhaps I am overthinking this, but 1, if you're going to spend time doing all that other stuff getting ready, you don't have an extra 30 seconds to put on either jeans or just regular sweats? And two, didn't you have to take the pajama pants off to (hopefully) put on clean underpants? Is this an attempt at being "blase" about your appearance? You don't look blase. You look stupid.

4. Eyebrow manipulation: Eyebrows are an integral part of your face. If you've ever seen a picture of someone with their eyebrows photoshopped off, they look bizarre. Eyebrows should look natural. Now, I'm not saying you can't manicure them. Hell, I've spent probably a gazillion dollars ensuring I don't have a unibrow. But some people take it a bit too far.

My eyebrows are like, soooo perfect.

5. Men's "duck feet" Dress Shoes: There are few things sexier than a guy all decked out, smelling all handsome, wearing a sharp tie and a crisp suit. You look him up and down, but suddenly, sexy is stomped on. By these:

Because a man's foot isn't obtrusive enough.

The empty 2-3 inches in the front gets turned up as the owner walks, adding yet another sexy feature to these gems. GQ to goofy in .5 seconds.

Which fashion trends drive you crazy?

*Special thanks to my girl Elisa for helping me brainstorm these!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"We still live and breathe through native tongue and poetry." ~True Nature, Jane's Addiction

Being a concert-goer my entire adult life, I have always really loved the experience of live music. A good part of that experience relies on the crowd: this is not a private show, and the energy and behavior of the crowd can have a significant impact on the show. As of late, I have noticed that impact has been far more negative.

I saw Jane's Addiction last night at a small venue here in New Jersey. Back in December, I saw Clutch at another small venue. These two bands likely have little overlap in terms of fans, and they played two completely different venues and two completely different styles of shows. But one thing they have in common is glaringly obvious:

Concert-goers have become complete assholes.

It seems that short attention spans and the need to be constantly connected to media have completely soiled the experience. At both of these shows (and countless ones I've been to prior to these), people are at the venue, but not at the show. Phones are constantly in the air, horizontally positioned to capture video. God forbid the band/performer play a song the person doesn't know or like, and immediately they turn to texting, tweeting, facebooking...

People also feel the need, for a reason I cannot come up with, to talk throughout the entire show. Not just a comment here or there, but they scream at each other through the entire show. I have, on occasion, completely flipped out on these people. I paid for a ticket to this show. I didn't pay to listen to people yammer on and show each other stuff on their phones. But it's not even about the money. The concert could be completely free. These people are ruining the experience.

Part of me wants to ask them why they are even there. When people go to a show, and they behave in these ways, I want to know why. But then I realize I don't actually care. All I know is that my experience is ruined.

I am not just there to hear songs I know and like. I can do that at home, surfing YouTube for footage of other live shows, or listening to bootlegged tracks. I want to experience the live performance. For some bands, that just means the crew on stage, rockin' it out. And that's great. When you rock out as a collective audience, it's fun. But when it's fragmented and distracted, the energy is lost.

Other bands put on a show that appeals to all your senses--Jane's did that last night with characters who were swinging from the ceiling, dancing in the peripheral, etc. There were videos that corresponded with the music. Lights, smoke... it was theatrical. But apparently, not stimulating enough for the majority of the people there who were watching the show through the back of their phone, or not watching at all while they either texted or screamed at each other.

Music is a universal language. It is something that is supposed to appeal to a very primal aspect of humans. It's supposed to bring people together. One would assume that people bought a ticket because they are fans and want to see this performance. So, why don't they see the performance? I take the opportunity to escape from the rest of the world when I go to a show. A couple of hours of fun and entertainment, without having to be connected to anything or anyone but the music and those performing it. But we can't connect to the experience if we're connected to other things. It makes the point of going to a live show pointless.

And frustrating for those of us who expected to go to a concert.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Constructive Compulsion's First Meme

Happy Lazy Sunday to you all. My lovely friend Charlotte over at My Pixie Blog tagged me in a meme. Part of the idea is to tag other blogger friends at the end so that they may participate, but... *sniff sniff* I don't have any bloggy friends (yet!). So, I'd love to invite you all to play with me. These are fun, and a great way to connect. I suppose this is the bloggy version of bringing a pie to a new neighbor. So, if you are so inclined, play along!

The Rules:
1. Post the rules
2. Share 11 random things about yourself
3. Answer the questions posted to you from your tagger
4. Come up with 11 new questions for the people you tag
5. Tag your peeps on Twitter, Facebook, or on your blog

11 Random Things About Me:

1. I hate new car smell.
2. I eat eggs for breakfast every single day.
3. I would, in a heartbeat, move to Hawaii.
4. Due to a severe bout with the chicken pox and spending days on end in the Aveeno bath, I now have a
major aversion to oatmeal. Ironically enough, oatmeal raisin cookies are my favorite.
5. I love to be silly and crack myself up often.
6. The first records I had were DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince: He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper, and Debbie Gibson's Out of the Blue.
7. The first CDs I owned were Metallica's Black Album and Motley Crue: Decade of Decadence. Guess things changed a bit!
8. Most animated movies will make me cry, even if the sappy part is very short. Dumbo is blacklisted because of this.
9. To this day, I am certain my brother and I would sit in either a laundry basket or refrigerator box together if
we could fit.
10. Sometimes I have to think about my left and my right.
11. I am neither an early bird nor a night owl. I'm a mid-day kinda girl.
Charlotte's 11 questions:
1. If you could do anything with your life, what would you do?
I would write and teach. I'm halfway there. Bonus if I could do it in Hawaii.

2. You are leaving to go on a deserted island and are allowed to bring three CDs. Which ones do you take?
Tool: Lateralus, Tori Amos: Boys for Pele, Clutch: Clutch

3. Who do you look up to most in life and why?
I don't think I can narrow this down to just one person. I admire different people for different things, but
what links them all is that they were risk-takers, and/or chased a dream and persevered.

4. Book that changed your life?
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss. First book I ever read. First book I fell in love with.

5. What are the top three items on your bucket list?
a. Live in either a completely different part of the country or in another country for a time.
b. Get paid to write.
c. Learn to ride and be able to buy a motorcycle.

6. What is your proudest accomplishment?
Walking into a college classroom, a total n00b, and finding it was like a fish to water.

7. Vacation destination at the top of your list?
As a repeat visit, Hawaii. As a new visit, Greek Isles

8. First crush?
The older brother of a childhood friend.

9. The world is coming to an end and you are allowed to make three phone calls. Who do you dial?
I'll assume I'm with my boyfriend, so my parents, my brother, and my sister

10. What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?
I can never answer this question, either because nothing that bad has ever happened or it was so bad I blocked it out.

11. If you could chose one superpower, which one would you pick?
To be fluent (speak, read, write) in every language on the planet.

Questions to my fellow bloggers:
1. What is your favorite way to spend a lazy day?
2. Your first concert?
3. Your biggest fear and how you did/would conquer it.
4. What profession would you least like to have?
5. Do you still draft with pen and paper, or have you gone completely digital?
6. If there were no health repercussions, what one food could you live on forever?
7. What kind of exotic animal would you own as a pet if you could?
8. Three movies you will never turn off:
9. One thing you would change about your life:
10. What is your fondest childhood memory?
11. Worst date you've ever been on?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Friday Five: Biggest Workout Challenges

Happy Friday, Luvs! Today marks the first day back in the gym after a minor hiatus and a battle with a head cold. I am happy to report that I managed to stave off the cold with Zycam and some rest (I think), so I can try to get back into my routine. Again. For the billionth time.

Since November, I've really had difficulty stabilizing my routine, keeping it consistent, and sticking with it. There's a variety of situational reasons, but I've spent some time really thinking about what's getting in my way. Make no mistake: These are not excuses. I'm hoping that by putting them in writing and fully admitting that these are all my own fault, I might actually get past them.

1. Mindset: I feel discouraged a good part of the time. I gained a few pounds that I keep putting a small dent in, and then gaining back, and putting a small dent, filling it back up. But the discourage is compounded by my own frustration with that feeling. I lost 30 lbs and kept it off for almost two years. This is 7 or 8 lbs. Really, Nik? You can't get at it? But I find myself feeling like I'm never going to get back to where I was.

2. Diet: I love to eat. Period. Only lately, I've loved it a little too much. Fortunately, for the most part, we keep a healthy fridge, and even our snacks are pretty healthy. But that doesn't mean you're supposed to eat the ENTIRE box of Triscuits with a vat of hummus. It's not so much what I'm eating, it's how much of it I'm slamming down my gullet.

3. Schedule: Prior to July 2011, I was teaching a full-time course load and editing part-time. So the majority of my time was spent standing/moving in the classroom, running from campus to campus, and spending minimal time in a chair at my desk. Now I sit for 8 hours a day. The previous schedule also made it easier for me to work out at my peak energy time, which is mid-day. Now I'm dragging my butt into the gym after 5pm, when I'm starting to feel run down. That schedule change, though a bit easier on my sanity, has not been as kind to my waistline. The pants that I once zipped with ease and could pair with anything in my closet now beg for mercy and there's a select few shirts and blouses I can wear that mask the muffin top.

4. Impatience: Although I know it's impossible and unrealistic, I want instant gratification. I want to work out for a couple of days and lose 10 lbs. I don't want to wait for the results. But my brother told me that it ususally takes as long to lose it as it did to gain it. So, if I gained that weight over a few months, it may take me a few months to lose it. Well... I hate that.

5. Other Interests: I was originally going to say laziness, but I'm not lazy. I'm constantly doing things. The reality is there are about 500 other things I'd rather do for an hour a day than work out. I don't hate working out, but I don't love it, either. Do I recognize that I feel good after I work out? Sure. I know all of the benefits. But seriously. If I could spend an hour reading a book, while getting a pedicure and eating a pint of ice cream and get the same results, that's where I'd be every day at 5:00.

What challenges do you face in keeping your health/workout routine going? How do you get past them?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Mercury the courier, celestial messenger..."

I just received word this morning that, finally, finally, finally, I have a court date for my long-awaited, impossibly drawn-out divorce. When I wrote it down, I noticed something interesting: 4/4/2012.

Now, I'm no math whiz, but I see the number 4 screaming at me here. Obviously, the fourth day of the fourth month.Both 20 and 12 are divisible by 4: which works out to 5 and 3. Which equals 8. Which is 2 x 4. So I actually have four 4s. 

So, I decided to look up the significance of the number 4. There are many systems of numerology, some Biblical, some mystical, others astrological. I found this one, and it makes lovely sense: "The symbolic meaning of number Four deals with stability and invokes the grounded nature of all things. Consider the four seasons, four directions, four elements all these amazingly powerful essences wrapped up in the nice square package of Four. Fours represent solidity, calmness, and home. A recurrence of Four in your life may signify the need to get back to your roots, center yourself, or even 'plant' yourself. Fours also indicate a need for persistence and endurance." It also associated with Mercury, who, in Roman mythology is the winged-footed messenger.
(This explanation appears on several websites, including www.whats-your-sign.com and witchesofthecraft.com).

This resonates with me on a number (no pun intended) of levels. I have felt for quite some time that this dragging divorce has prevented me from achieving completely solidity and calmness in my home. Yes, I have moved on, I support myself, am in a phenomenal relationship, and am happy all-around, but it still nags, and there are times, such as when I sign a check, that I feel that uneasiness creeping into my chest. I hate seeing, signing, or saying my married name. I hate hearing it. It bothers me that I can't update my documentation until this is done so I can complete my name and address change simultaneously. It disturbs my ducks. I hate haphazard ducks.

This date will also bring good news, or a message of freedom, finally. It also amuses me that anything that is "mercurial" in nature is something volatile or erratic, which is what this entire process has been.

As far as persistance and endurance...if the past two-plus years was not a test of persistance and endurance, nothing is. I have faced setbacks, delays, confusion, and all of that persistance and endurance will finally pay off on April 4th. It's closure of a chapter I will never have to revisit, the snipping of the final thread that connects me to that part of my past, and a chance to finally get those little quackers in the appropriate formation.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Five: My Celebrity Cheat List

In most relationships, cheating is a big no-no, but there's a fantasy-based exception to this rule: The Celebrity Cheat List. If one of you happens to run into a celebrity who wants to have a torrid one-night stand, the other party gives permission. So, in the event that I have a fortuitous collision in an elevator, here are five celebrities I'd love to... bump into.

1. Corey Taylor:

Age: 38
Height: 5'7"
Eye color: Blue
Hair: Bald (Blond when not shaved).

Qualifications: I've talked about him before, so clearly he's my top pick. I had the good fortune of seeing him a few months ago do a small-venue, acoustic/spoken word show, and that totally upped the ante. He's not only hot, but he's smart and funny as hell. Gotta love a rock n' roll bad boy  with a brain and a soft side.

2. Jeffery Dean Morgan:

Age: 46
Height: 6'2"
Eye color: Brown
Hair: Brown

Qualifications: I love the blend of "man's man," laid-back personality, and a bit of mischief. In every film I've seen him in, he's got this dimple-laden smirk that you know will get him out of trouble and you out of your pants in a flash.  

3. Brad Pitt:

Age: 49
Height: 5'11"
Eye color: Blue
Hair: Brown

Qualifications: Yeah, I know, Brad Pitt, kinda cliche, but here's the thing about him, aside from the obvious: He's got longevity. He's classically handsome, and will follow in the smoldering footsteps of Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Harrison Ford. Brad Pitt will still be gorgeous at 60. In fact, I think he's better looking at 49 than he was at 29.

4. David Beckham:

Age: 37
Height: 6'
Eye color: Hazel
Hair: Light Brown

Qualifications: I was always aware of David Beckham, but I never really gave him much thought until this year's SuperBowl. The H&M underwear ad. Good GOD. The body. The ink. The men fell silent. The ladies gasped in unison. His contract with H&M should stipulate that their underwear is the only thing he's allowed to wear in public.

5. Joe Manganiello:

Age: 36
Height: 6'5" (DAMN!)
Eye color: Brown
Hair: Dark Brown

Qualifications: If I have to explain this one to you, go have your eyes checked.

Who makes rank on your list? Happy daydreaming!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Five: Student Types that Grate on My Nerves

After a pretty taxing week with America's Dismal Future, complete with heartburn and an eye twitch, I thought about this quarter's population and realized I have a rather disproportionate number of students I don't like. Sure, there's always one or two, but this quarter, it seems I have a representative from each type of the absolutely most irritating student types. And there are many things I wish I could say to them without getting fired. Or arrested.

1. The I-Don't-Have-an-A-Because-You-Don't-Like-Me: There is this misconception among students that if you try really, really hard, that means you automatically will be awarded an A. What they fail to realize is that earning an A (operative word being earning) requires mastering the material. But rather than recognize that not everyone is an A-earning genius, and that sometimes we're not as good at some things than others, it's definitely my fault. I just don't like them. I decided to take it personally that they don't like Oedipus Rex or they think the explanation to all of Sylvia Plath's poetry is that she was "crazy." And therefore I will unleash my wrath on their GPA.

Here's the thing, Cupcake. No one is good at everything. And very few students call pull off straight As. That's why it's a really, really big honor at most major colleges and universities to graduate with a flawless GPA. The sooner you're willing to recognize that you might have to work a bit harder at this kind of material and you still may not earn that A, but still walk out with a good grade, the sooner you'll actually LEARN something. The first thing to learn though, is, I don't really care that much about you on a personal level. I may hate your guts, but if you produce A-worthy work, then you'll get an A. I've had students who I absolutely adored, but they didn't earn As. Sometimes they didn't even pass. You're extra special, though. I don't like you and you're failing.

2. The Contrarian: I love a good debate, and I am always open to hearing another point of view. But there's a key here: both of us have to know what we're talking about. To be completely fair (as is the core of a worthy argument), I've had students who make an excellent case for their points. This is not The Contrarian. The Contrarian likes to argue just for the sake of arguing. The Contrarian has one main goal: to wear me down. The Contrarian will also try to use this method to negotiate for a better grade (more on that in a minute). The Contrarian's only goal is to weaken me to a state where I am malleable.

Bring it, kid. I've been stubborn for longer than you've been alive. And I'm the expert in this room. Argue all you want, but sticking to your guns as a refusal to say, make an effort to analyze a character, or write a better-organized paper, is only going to bite you in your argumentative ass. It doesn't make you resilient, it makes you a student who is unwilling to learn. And therefore useless to me. Go be stubborn somewhere else.

3. The Negotiator: These students literally make me laugh... and then I want to smash my face into a computer monitor. They often begin the quarter by trying to plant the seed. I've received several emails stating something to the likes of: "Professor- This is my final quarter at [our school], and if I get an A in your class, I will qualify for x,y,z. Please let me know what I can do to make sure I get an A." Or they "make a joke" of it in the beginning, "I really need an A in here! LOL." Well, it's pretty straightforward. Show up, participate, work hard, SHOW MASTERY OF THE CONCEPTS. Because again, it's not just effort. Effort is great, but it's not the only thing that goes into an A. Despite this explanation, and after spotty attendance, mediocre and/or inconsistent assignments, and not a whole hell of a lot of effort, this student will come to me requesting extra credit, do-overs, another chance, "What do I have to do get my grade up to an A?"

Womp womp. So sorry. You didn't earn that A. But you got some lovely consolation prizes: The grade you actually earned, and several lessons in responsibility, motivation, and the reality of the world... Or not. Because you'll do this again with another class, another professor. And you'll succeed.

4. The Leech: I am not completely souless or heartless (no, really, I swear). I will normally, especially at the beginning of the quarter, give a student who has fallen behind a chance to catch up. However, it's a one-shot deal with me. Most of the time, students take the opportunity and they do get on track. Others decide that once I've given them one chance, they can continue to negotiate, make excuses, ask for more chances, and so on. They always have some sort of sob-story to go with it. First it's their kids. Then it's their car. Then they are sick. Then it's other classes. Then it's they forgot. Then it's their computer.

Look, I know it's hard to be a college student sometimes, especially when you have a full life aside from being a student. But you chose this. You chose to add school to your already full plate, and that's great. But it's not my problem if you can't hack it. It's not my problem that you suck at time management. I earned a Master's Degree while working full time. Know what that meant? I didn't sleep much. I ate dinner while writing papers. I put in 18-hour days. Suck it up. If you want it bad enough, you'll make it happen. If you don't, it's not my responsiblity to make you care, nor is it responsible of me to make it easy for you. If you can't hack it, go home. Because it sure as shit ain't easy out here in the real world, Pumpkin, and babying you will do more harm than good.

5. "She's a pushover... Nope, she's a bitch": I'm not much older than many of my students. Conversely, there are many occasions, particularly in evening classes, where some of them are older than me. My age and appearance can damage my credibility (in their eyes) off the bat. The younger ones will look at me and assume I'm a pushover, because I'm young, attractive, and a woman. The boys will try to flirt their way out of trouble. They'll send me emails addressing me by my first name, or using language such as "hey," "lol" and "omg." Conversely, the older ones can't fathom how I could possibly know anything about anything because I'm "a baby" and "haven't lived." So, I'm forced to be pretty firm in my policies, to make them understand what no means, and to hold them all to the same standards. Which then transforms me from pushover to bitch.

Yep, that's right. I am a bitch. I'm a bitch when you expect special treatment, Snowflake. I'm a bitch when you don't pull your weight. I'm a bitch when you think you can blur the lines of hierarchy and respect because you assume I'm a certain way. No matter who my professors were, what they looked like, young or old, I respected them. Why? Because they provided me with the opportunity to learn. You don't provide me the opportunity to teach. I'm not obligated to do anything but hand you the tools and show you how to use them. I'm not a babysitter, and I'm not your mother. Grow up or shut up and get the fuck out of my classroom.

I really do love it, though. I have to. Otherwise I'd be in jail by now.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Five: Reason Why I Can't Kill Constructive Compulsion

Last week I mentioned a new endeavor and a potential new face for CC, displacing the Friday Five, and refocusing my blog identity. And while I still intend to do most of that, I came to several conclusions about Constructive Compulsion and what it means to me.

1. C'mon baby, finish what you started: It goes against the codes in my DNA to not finish something, to let it fall away. It would haunt me forever to simply shut down or just let the CC link die out there in cyberspace burnt out and forgotten. Even if I am unsure as to what Constructive Compulsion will actually be, it can't simply be cast out.

2. Don't neglect the first-born: Just because I have a new idea doesn't mean I have to abandon my first baby. CC taught me a lot about blogging, and helped me craft my focus for my next endeavor. I assume it's kinda like the first born/second born phenomenon. You have no clue what you're doing with the first one, and then when the second one comes, things that were mysteries are no-brainers. But you still have to love and care for the first-born. Otherwise there'd be an Island of Misfit First-borns.

3. Love it for what it is: I am still going to have something to say about things other than the topics of my forthcoming blog. I'm still a professor. I'm still a member of a twisted society. I'm still a daughter, sister, friend, girlfriend, woman. There are going to be other things for me to muse about, rant about, and have fun with. That was the initial idea behind Constructive Compulsion, and so it still must serve that purpose.  

4. Getting by with a little help from my friends: You and I have a lot of fun on here. It warms my heart and makes me smile when you guys say, "Hey! Where's the Friday Five? Did I miss it?" Or when you share my posts on your on FB pages. Or when one of my posts sparks a dialogue. I love that aspect of blogging, of being part of the blogosphere, and the idea exchanges. The Friday Five always gets at least one good laugh, and sometimes, it really hits home and you guys go nuts for it, which I am absolutely eternally grateful for.

5. You never know who's watching: Opportunities arise from all kinds of unlikely places. You never know who might come across CC and think, "This is exactly what I'm looking for!" As a professional writer/editor, the idea of having more than one voice is not foreign. Therefore, I may need more than one forum for what I do. Authors such as Stephen King and Anne Rice have written under pseudonyms just so they can write outside their typical genre and be taken seriously. Having duel blogs is sort of the same thing. Crass humor will have no place in my other project, and the content I intend to craft there might be a bit too heavy for CC's angle. Someone who may not dig my CC voice may really connect with my other project, and vice versa. And those of you who are already loyal to CC may also get on board with the other project and share it with others. The kids can definitely get along, even if they are very different.

And so, once again, I thank you all for your continuous support and readership. I hope we can continue to play together here at Construction Compulsion...

And I am sorry, my dear first-blog, for having doubted your place in my heart.

Friday, February 3, 2012

"Change is coming. Now is my time. Listen to my muscle memory contemplate what I've been clinging to." ~MJK

A year ago, almost to the day (take that as you will), I wrote a blog entry about spirituality (view it here: http://constructivecompulsion.blogspot.com/2011/02/to-see-beyond-what-can-be-seen-and-be.html), and my need to embark on my own quest.
And a year later, I still haven't really delved into it.

Wednesday night I went to see TOOL in concert. I hadn't seen them since July of 2007. I was hanging a lot of importance on this show. I always view their concerts as more than just going to see a band I like. Their music has always resonated with me on a much deeper level. It inspires and centers me.

Wednesday night I focused on the show. I never touched my phone. I went to the show with my cousin, and we exchanged few words. I willed myself to connect to what was happening in front of me, the power of the music, the meaning of the images and videos on the screens that are meant to amplify the experience. It's almost like solving a puzzle or a riddle at TOOL shows: watching the videos and images and making the connections to the music. I released a lot of tensions, frustrations, and things that have been causing chaos within me.

January was a rough month. I was sick several times, my boyfriend was sick several times, and we couldn't get ourselves on a good schedule and healthy regimen. I faced more frustrations with my impending divorce. I'm frustrated that I gained some weight and couldn't get myself back on track. I've been battling chronic head, neck, and shoulder pain. I've been struggling to get a handle on everything around me. I recognized this spiral of feeling out of control of my life, and that in and of itself gives me great anxiety. It's all tied together.

It's all tied together.

Universal energy. The power of our own will, the electricity that is within all of us. This is what allows us to overcome, to change, to evolve. This is something that I have lost sight of in the past few weeks. I allowed adversity to dim my lights, burn out a few bulbs. It got the best of me. I'm certain that most of my frustration was not with the external circumstances, but with my response to them.

I've been kicking these ideas around for too long. I treat this need to expand my understanding of these concepts like a toy that I love one day, but then it accidentally gets kicked under the bed and forgotten about. And every time I find myself in this ebb and flow of positive and negative feelings, I immediately come back to this idea of universal connectedness and higher consciousness. But its base level is no longer enough. Once again, I find myself in this starving place, needing to learn more and expand my understanding of this phenomenon that I believe with relentless certaintly will answer my questions, will quench the spiritual drought, and will cultivate the growth that I very clearly crave.

And so today, I say officially that Constructive Compulsion will no longer serve as a simple dumping ground for the musings of my brain, nor the home of the Friday Five. (I'm not saying it won't continue, it just may get its very own home.) CC's purpose was initially to be, and will now be, the place were I chronicle what I am learing, experiencing and grappling with. A place where I can share revelations, but also pose questions and receive ideas and answers from all of you... a think tank, a chat over coffee, a heated debate... all of these things are possibilities.

I don't expect it to be easy. I don't expect it to all be positive. I expect to be confused. Frustrated. Challenged. Inspired. Enraged. I'm sure I will read things that don't make sense at all, or that contradict what I thought I knew. I expect to be wrong. But that means I will grow. I will expand my ideas, I will learn new ways of perceiving what is around me. That, my friends, is evolution.

"I choose to live and to grow, take and give and to move, learn and love and to cry, kill and die and to be paranoid and to lie, hate and fear, and to do what it takes to move through."

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Five: Songs that Compel Extreme Emotion

A bright Happy New Year to you, kids. I know it's been a while, but I am in the midst of reworking Constructive Compulsion and its purpose in the blog-o-sphere. Please be patient with me as I reinvent my vision.

However, this morning I was unexpectedly inspired (thank you iPod) to come up with today's list: songs that compel an extreme emotional response. Now I don't just mean weepygirl reactions, or songs about broken hearts. I'm talking about inspiration, love, sadness, sentimentality, etc. Narrowing it to five has proven challenging, but if you've learned anything about me yet... Bring it.

For your listening pleasure (or not), I have also provided links to each song, courtesy of YouTube. I don't know if I need some sort of disclaimer, but I don't own the rights to any of this, so thank you YouTube and all of the other organizations/companies/collaborators associated with this material.

1. Run by Snow Patrol: I will listen to this song over and over again until my iPod dies. There is something so beautiful in the tone of this song. The jist of the song is that the two people have to be apart, and have to run in order to be together elsewhere. They are scared and sad, but the message is to not give up, that they will find their way back to one another. The melancholy blend of hope and fear, mixed with the urgency of the vocal style is what I find so beautiful. It leaves the listener with a sense of absolute certainty that their love cannot fail, that they will find each other. Total fairytale kinda stuff.


2. Lateralis (Lateralus) by TOOL: All hail the Kings of Nerdrock. I include both the original spelling from the first pressing of the album Lateralus wherein the track was originally spelled "Lateralis" and then was subsequently changed to match the album. See what a big fan I am? ANYWAY...

This song always connects me to a sense of spirituality. Lyrically, it basically sums up the core of what I believe, and musically it fires up an instinctive connection to universal energy. The drumwork, albeit complex, is somehow tribal in its nature, evoking a sense of ritual, and building to points of epiphany and clarity. I have seen/heard TOOL do this song live (and hope they will again on 2/1), and the energetic reaction is not only palpable, but euphoric and also exhausting.


3. Moonlight Sonanta (Mov 1) by Ludwig van Beethoven: On days such as today, when the rain is pouring so hard, it sounds like a tiny platoon is doing drills on the roof, this song is sad, yet comforting. There's a contemplative nature to this piece, one that gently suggests you take some personal inventory... if you feel like it. It's a slow, quiet conversation that doesn't quite resolve anything, but alleviates the sadness, just a bit.


4. Caught a Lite Sneeze by Tori Amos: I have probably heard this song 20,000 times since 1996, and it never gets old. One of the most brilliant things about Tori is her ability to harness the rawness of universal emotions, whether it be love, heartbreak, loss, anger...

Lyrically, it wrenches out the urgency and confusion in the midst of a crumbling love affair: the frustration of realizing the weakness of the relationship; the lingering attraction and the attempt to resist falling back into chaos; the need to remain strong and not show too much pain. It also touches the need for support from the "Girl Zone."Musically, it maintains a sexy rhythm, backed by dueling harpsichord and piano, the fluctuation between strength, sensuality, weakness, and calm. Call her a "man-hater" all you want, but if you can honestly say you've been in a relationship that failed and you didn't feel any of this...


5. River of Deceit by Mad Season: The late, great Layne Staley brought a certain rawness to his music, the kind that is both relatable and haunting. This particular song suggests inner focus, introspection, and choice without punishment. It recognizes the difficulty in navigating a world that isn't always fair, honest, or nice. Yet, the message is that we choose to live in pain. Or we don't. He addresses the self, as well as the collective "we," juxtaposing isolation and safety in numbers.

The music itself also coaxes quiet contemplation, the acoustic guitars in their infinite ability to comfort, coupled with light percussion to keep the river moving. It's a song that serves more as a reminder to choose to live, with bright spots that suggest transformation and hope. What makes it so brilliant is that it maintains its air of solemnity. It's by no means a song that intends to inspire you to a life of positive thinking, but one that recognizes the duality of that struggle.


Feel free to share the songs that spark something compelling inside you.