Preemptive Haunting

ghostovertime

Today I’m going to a haunted house up on the hill of a strange town in West Virginia. I think it was once a bed and breakfast, but before that it was definitely inhabited by a pair of outcast sisters, misunderstood by the people who lived in the town below. I’m sure they somehow died together in a tragic accident, likely due to the actions of the fearful townspeople. Now they haunt the home that I’ll be sleeping in for the next two nights, so I need to get prepared.

I think they may already be pre-haunting me, because something unknown has been trying to murder me all week.

First, I was attempting to remove a straight pin from a plastic container and it flung toward me, hitting me in the throat before falling to the ground. Luckily, I have really thick neck skin, so I survived.

Later, I almost electrocuted myself by not noticing my plugged in hair dryer in the sink before turning on the water. This is particularly embarrassing since my sink is the size of a small cat or a large kitten. I still maintain that I didn’t leave it there.

After that, I had to drive to the grocery store in the rain and my windshield wipers decided to just move the water around instead of clearing it away. Obviously, I slowed down to the speed of an 86 year old for safety. It turned out to be a less safe choice, because the city bus behind me got frustrated and swerved around me—almost pushing me off the road.

I’ve evaded the attempts of these sister-ghosts so far, but going to sleep in their bedroom just seems like I’m flying too close to the sun. Though I hear there might be a hot tub, so… you win some, you lose some.

 

 

Unpretty

LonelyReflection

Yesterday I got my hair re-dyed by the stylist I always see. It’d been a while and the dyed portion had faded to a pretty blue-ish grey that I liked but wanted to enhance.

My hairstylist is wonderful and friendly and not afraid to take risks. That last part is why I keep going back to her. When I went in, I told her I liked the way the blue was bringing out my eyes and that I’d like more of it. She happily agreed. We went through a few shades and came up with a plan. Then she went rogue.

I guess she thought adding a touch of green and a brighter blue would add even more zest. And it did. Too much zest. By the time she unfolded the foil, I had hair the color of Skittles. She was really excited about it. I think she was also trying to do me a favor, because she knows it will fade soon and wanted to give me some more time. I like a good deal, so I appreciate that. However, what had been a really lovely blueish grey is now a bold shade of cotton candy.

I was feeling depressed about it not being the pretty tone it once was, but then I said to myself, “Girl, you are not here to be pretty. You are here to be awesome.”

If that means rockin’ an extra bright blue for a few weeks, so be it. This week, it has also meant getting super sweaty at the gym, earning my tired-eyes after working late nights, and wearing my sneakers to the office. Each of those things helped me get closer to the person I want to be and none of them helped me get any prettier. In fact, a less-than-kind person might say they took me further away. I have more important things to worry about than looking pretty though, like how I can help support girls education around the world and where to find the best vegan donuts.

Nerd Island

costumeparty

I really earned my nerd card yesterday.

I started the morning by making a May the 4th joke in a meeting that no one understood. We were discussing a party we’re throwing on that date, and I said it should be Star Wars themed. Everyone just blankly stared at me. So then I had to explain the whole thing and it turned into a big nerdy mess. I’m usually surrounded by fellow geeks, so sometimes I forget how to relate to the normal kids.

After that I went to the gym to run with my zombie app. I had to pick up some medical supplies and make it back to our township before getting caught by a zombie runner. This seemed totally legit until I tried to explain it to someone else at the gym. Doesn’t everyone use apocalyptic storytelling as exercise motivation?

In the evening, I read some feminist literature, played a video game where you shoot the undead, and watched the newest episode of Game of Thrones. I didn’t get answers to any of my most pressing questions, so I ended the night a slightly disappointed nerd. That’s a feeling that we, as a general geek group, are used to.

Amphibi-Boats

NoGills

I tend to have strange dreams that stay in my mind long after I wake up. It’s probably because my brain never stops, which is a blessing when I need to come up with nicknames for river otters at the zoo and a curse when I am sitting in a low-key yoga class.

Last week’s dreams did not disappoint. A couple days ago, I woke up at 5am and said to Dave, “You can swim without arms if you have to.” He just said, “What are you talking about?” I repeated myself and then went back to sleep. I also had a dream where I needed to swim through very shallow water over the bones of a thousand long-dead tiny sharks. It was scary, but not nearly as terrifying as it sounds. I was mostly concerned about my belly rubbing against the jagged skeletons. Yesterday morning, I woke up and asked Dave, “Have you ever ridden on a metro car that turned into a boat?” He responded by standing up, announcing, “Good morning, metro riders. I’ll be your captain today,” and tipping his imaginary captain’s hat to me. I responded by throwing the sheets over my head.

I’m beginning to see an aquatic pattern here. It makes sense. Summer is on its way, which means I’ll be wishing I’m at a lake for the next 4-6 months. If I dream about mermen tonight, I’ll let you guys know.

A Strong Spirit Transcends Rules

Jumpsuits

I lived in Minneapolis for three years and always dreamed I would see a flash of purple velvet crossing in front me as I walked down the street one day. I’d see a lithe, teenage girl in a Vikings jacket and do a double take, hoping it was the prince himself. I never got that gift from the universe, but I wasn’t the only one in the city with the wish. People in Minnesota feel a connection to Prince and claim him as their own. Really, people across the world claim him—feeling something powerful in his freedom and boldness. With so many fans hoping to catch a glimpse, Prince had a lot of street corners to briskly cross. I was still on the waitlist when I left that winter wonderland.

There’s a reason why people longed to be graced by even just the passing presence of the artist—and its the same reason why people were heartbroken yesterday. I don’t think it’s merely that Prince was a beyond amazing artist and musician. I think its because he was so much of himself, in a way we all really want to be.

We spend a lot of time trying to fit into the boxes we’re handed. We buy the clothes that make us look like people in magazines and we change the tone of our voice to sound like someone we’re told is valuable. We work hard to stand out only in ways that bring praise. I’ve always struggled with that box and my struggle against it has brought me equal parts joy and torment. It takes a lot of energy to be walking in and out of it all the time.

Prince spent all his energy becoming more of himself.

And that self seemed to be inclusive and kind and radical and gifted. I’m sure that sometimes he stayed in bed all day and I’ve heard he got a little preachy in his later years, but if we can’t idealize a living work of art, then how can we dream? Yesterday, I was reminded that if we spend less energy trying to be people we’re not, then we’ll have more available to become the amazing, thoughtful, brave people we really are. And maybe we’ll rock glittery jumpsuits during the day—if that’s what speaks to our souls.

Prince

 

Fear Itself

FearItself

I read somewhere that people with anxiety have brains that can’t distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate danger. It said that we can’t judge whether a situation will actually be harmful and we react to safe circumstances as if they were deadly. Well, I’m pretty sure the person who wrote that study will be kidnapped by a stranger in a windowless van as they happily stroll through life worry-free. But I won’t, because I’m mentally and physically prepared for that.

I’m well aware I have an extremely active amygdala. Sometimes it’s frustrating that my brain makes me extra awkward in crowded spaces or in the face of a seemingly simple decision, but usually I say thank you to it for keeping me safe and prepped for the dangers of life. To be honest, I think people who walk around without at least a moderate amount of anxiety are just naive.

To help educate those delusional folks, I’ve compiled a list of things that stress me out—each of which I’ve been told are irrational by someone who doesn’t understand reality. Here they are:

  1. Peeling potatoes or any other round items. That is a shape that just isn’t meant to be peeled. Your hands will inevitably get in the way and then you’ll be one finger down. And you can kiss your dreams of playing piano in Carnegie Hall goodbye. All because you had to peel that damn potato.
  2. Walking next to a railing in a mall. Obviously, when you’re walking by the railing, you will lose all control of your body and will fling yourself over the edge to your untimely death.
  3. Standing in lines. Because where are you going? You may think you’re headed to buy a movie ticket, but who really knows what’s at the end of that line? And what if people panic once they discover they’re actually in line to be force-fed crickets and stampede toward the exit behind you? Also, your legs will get tired.
  4. Eating a treat cut in a perfect square. Any real baker won’t waste his time slicing dessert into geometrically flawless shapes. Only a sociopath trying to distract you from the fact that the cake is actually poisoned would go through that effort.
  5. Writing a list with an even number of items. Because that’s just unnatural and everything will be off balance.

So, you’re welcome. Now you have five more things to worry about every day. Unless you already have these on your list of stressors. If so, I tip my hat to you, my thoughtful friend.

Park Yourself

TreeHug

This week is National Park Week, which means we should all be going outside and enjoying some wild spaces. I have a soft spot in my heart for parks—all of them, even the creepy ones that I sometimes have to walk through to get home. I feel about them the way that I feel about libraries. And you guys know I am all about libraries.

Those wonderful homes for books were created to share knowledge, to keep it from being held only by the rich and elite. Protected parks stand for equality in the same way, as an avenue for everyone to experience the wonders of the natural world. That and because Theodore Roosevelt loved to shoot animals and keep them as trophies. But, hey, we dirty hippies have to take what we can get.

Interacting with nature—feeling the grass between your toes and the sun on your face—is really good for a person. Every person. Just thinking about nature has a positive effect on your brain. There are about eight hundred thousand studies that have come to that conclusion, but I don’t really need any of them to convince me. I can feel it when I hug a tree or jump into a lake. It’s why Central Park exists. It’s why people plant gardens in their sixteenth story windows. It’s why worker bees bring their Chipotle out to the crowded park benches at lunch. Because even in the busiest city, people need space to breath.

Dave would say my love for wild spaces is mostly about me never wanting to shower. That’s definitely a fact, but I think he’s just jealous of my superior ability to adapt to the environment. Because it’s better to not smell like vanilla bean sugar scrub when you’re sitting around a campfire. That tip is in the “avoiding bears and staying alive” handbook the park rangers give you at the entrance gate.

Second Plague

FrogsBucket

When I was three years old, the rapture arrived at my door. (Note: I first wrote “the raptor arrived at my door,” which would be a way different story.) This rapture came in the form of a plague. Frogs rained down from the sky and landed in my basement.

We lived in a old house in western Michigan, right by a pond. When it rained really hard, the pond would overflow, which apparently sent all forms of wildlife our way. This happened one evening, and a deluge of amphibians was sent on a monsoon-initiated journey to me and my family. It was kind of a Noah’s Ark situation, if Noah had chosen just one species to save.

My memories of this experience are scattered but vivid. I can close my eyes and see flashes of frogs hopping around our basement. I remember trying to put them in buckets, as they jumped out to escape. I can still see them plunge from the tiny basement window and jump around on the concrete floors. In my mind, there were hundreds of frogs filling the space. I have no idea how many there really were and, frankly, I don’t want anyone telling me.

I’d like to think if this happened to me today, I’d find as much joy in it as I did then. It’s really easy to feel overwhelmed by life’s minor disasters, but if you can just laugh at the all frogs raining down on your face, it’s gonna be ok.

 

Tiny Mistakes #137

Kitchen

This week, Dave went out of town for work. I was left to my own devices and it went fairly well, since I’m still alive and have all my limbs. I made it to the office four out of five mornings and ate candy every day. I consider candy consumption to be a pretty decent measure of success, so I think I was on track. Although I got through the week without any totally life-altering disasters, no week goes by in my life without accumulating a list of minor to moderate mistakes. Here’s a sample from this week:

  1. Punched myself in the face while pulling on the sleeve of my shirt and bit my tongue
  2. Dropped a knife trying to cut carrots and just barely pulled my toe out of the way in time, narrowly avoiding dismemberment
  3. Determined that all technology has revolted against me after breaking my phone, losing my headphones, and nearly snapping my computer cord in half
  4. Gave an unsolicited opinion to a coworker before remembering that I should learn to keep my mouth shut
  5. And then did it again
  6. Almost burned down the house by leaving the burner on after I’d already removed my grilled cheese from the pan

Overall, I’d say my mistakes were relatively manageable, but that’s just because they were all almost-disasters instead of actual-disasters. Thankfully. And also because I was able to get a new phone since I live a life of glamour and privilege. Call me Beyonce.

Oh, and I watched that video of two brothers convincing their sister that a zombie apocalypse occurred while she was getting her wisdom teeth removed, and I decided the world is a wonderful, hilarious place. If you are in need of something to make you feel that way, watch it and then laugh until you cry. Don’t watch it at work if you have stodgy, boring coworkers who hate really loud giggling.

The Wrong Gap

 

WageGap

Yesterday was Equal Pay Day, which is meant to represent the additional length of time women had to work into 2016 to make the amount that men in the same positions earned in 2015. And you know what I, along with all my fellow female coworkers, did to celebrate? We showed up to the office and were underpaid for our incredible work, just as we are every day. A few people were really invested and updated their Facebook pages, but we all walked away that day earning the same unequal paycheck we got last week.

There’s been progress. Women in my parents and grandparents generation had it worse. In 1964, women were, on average, making 59% of what men made in the same role. In 2014, that amount rose to 79%. But that number gets even worse when race is taken into consideration. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research says that, if these same trends continue, women will earn equal pay in 2059. I’m skeptical. I think the journey toward equal pay is kinda like the journey toward weight loss. It takes a big struggle to get started, but, once you do, you can get a whole lot done at the beginning. After a while, progress slows down and, by the end, you just can’t quite shed those last few pounds. Plus, let’s not pretend that no one is benefiting from this inequality—whether it’s the corporate leaders who bring in greater profits by exploiting their female employees or the men who pretend like they aren’t gaining from the privilege.

I hope I’m wrong though. I really, really do.

In my experience, it’s easier to talk about these problems on a grand scale, but much harder to bring up the real, personal details. The women around me know the truth. They walk around the office with the knowledge that the men sitting next to them are making more to do the same thing—or sometimes less. But men and women aren’t sharing our exact salaries and, without that discussion, how are we supposed to make a change? I get it. People are uncomfortable talking about it, because it seems so private and because we’ve been mistakenly taught to wrap our value into the number. Well, I think that vast, overreaching inequality that impacts every part of daily life is even more uncomfortable.

I will say this. As I’ve advanced in my career, the problem has only gotten worse. And this is a trend around the country. The higher the education level of a woman, the less she will make compared to her male counterparts. For me, I started my voyage into the working world with hourly jobs as a teenager, selling snowboards and sitting by the pool. All of us entry level shmucks made the same measly wage. After that, I worked in a series of public service jobs, where my offices were filled with women. Because I was in a female-dominated industry, I was underpaid along with the rest of my colleagues—and vastly underpaid compared to men doing the same job outside of public service. I was meant to be sustained by the knowledge that I was doing good in the world—a message that seems to be sent to only young women. Now I’m working at a corporation with a more equal number of men and women and the wage gaps are large and apparent—right on my own floor. It’s a frustrating reminder that we’ve got a long way to go.

There’s a lot of discussion about how this is a complicated problem, but I think a good first step would be to put everything out on the table. There’s rarely a situation where the truth makes things worse—mostly just when a friend asks you if you like her strange haircut or if your grandma bakes you really terrible cookies. I don’t know who companies are trying to protect by being secretive about it all, though I’m sure it has something to do with those inflated high-level salaries and a desire to not rock the boat. Or a desire to buy a boat. Or a yacht.

What I mean is I wanna buy a boat, but I can’t because I’m a woman. Maybe one day I can buy 79% of a boat. Hopefully they build it from the bottom up, so it will at least float.