14 December 2008

on Parenting

I am not a parent. Yet. I do like to think I know a thing or two about kids, but I'm not quite sure exactly what it would be like to be a parent...
Even so, I sometimes find myself witnessing various situations in which I can't help but question the choices of my fellow Americans and wonder how those choices affect their Parenting. Thee thoughts in my head are interjected with "How the hell would you explain that to your kids?"

For example,
today I saw a car remarkably similar to this one:

(most especially the gold grille)
A woman, perhaps mid-40s, was driving a ten-or-so year old boy in this very car. I was at a stoplight and saw them making a left turn in front of me. I noticed the grille at first, of course, but then I noticed the kid.
And all I could think of was, how does a mother explain that car to her child?
"Gold, Juan, in honor of our Aztec heritage."

Or what about the guy with the horrible tattoo (truth: this tattoo is on a man: "Fo sho, all ho'z r scandalous")?

"No, son, I was held at gunpoint and forced to get these nasty images tattooed on to me. I think the woman holding me at gunpoint was your mother, but I don't remember her name."

But what kills me are the hippie young ladies in Whole Foods.

"Honey... it's natural to have hair that smells worse than my armpits and clothes made out of the same stuff I smoke for lunch."

And then there's Halloween.

"I dressed you up as a dying alien monster penis thing so that I can not only embarrass you at your wedding but embarrass myself as a parent. It really was perfect, baby!"

I guess one day people will be asking about me, how's she going to explain that red hair to that poor kid when he's older

10 October 2008

on Cleaning Out my Closet

Upon my long-ago return from John Knox, I began a seemingly never-ending expedition through the depths of my “closet”—that is, the loads of clothes and shoes (oh, the shoes!) that had amassed themselves in 5 drawers, on 3 2-foot long closet racks, and in one very large, plastic storage container. Considering that my apartment has only one closet and therefore not nearly enough space to house this horrid collection of mine, I decided to get rid of it. ALL of it.
Half inspired by guynameddave.com (I based my chaplain lessons on this guy all summer) and half inspired by my own disgust with myself, I embarked upon a wild journey that began with a plastic drawer full of shoes. 32 pairs, yes sir, 15 that I determined I’d never wear again, 3 that I never wore, ever, in the first place, and one “pair” who was missing his second half. So I’m down to 13 pairs, which, of course, is an unlucky number, but will be remedied when my Chacos return from the Chaco hospital. (Jeanna, you’re not supposed to be adding pairs…)
Then it was on to the clothes. The fabric stuff. Without even looking at it, I put that very large, plastic storage container in the back of the ‘vette—I figured if I hadn’t opened it since I’d moved 7 months ago, I probably wasn’t going to need to open it again. So that was gone with no questions and no regrets.
I spent the next few days doing an Extreme Closet Makeover, donating all of my Youth Medium T-shirts and old guy pants. I vowed that for three straight days, every time I left my apartment, I’d take with me 6 more articles of clothing and bag them in the numerous paper bags I had stashed under the hatch. By the end of a week I’d made two packed-to-the-ceiling trips to Salvation Army; a week later, I’d made another one.
Getting rid of the too-small winter crap, “the style” that was such bad example of “the style” that it had to go and the other random garments I’d acquired over the years was easy. The hard part? Emotional attachment.
I look back now and think to myself that it sounds pretty lame to have emotional attachment on items of clothing, of all things, but it at least makes some sense. The homemade “Team E” t-shirt I got for being part of the Editorial Board my junior year; the ripped-up North Texas football shirt I'd been keeping as a reminder that I once went there; the first skirt I ever made that is now way ugly and way too small for me: they were just clothes, but at some point, they’d been a lot more than that.
As artist and actor Eminem once put it in his pleasing pop ballad, “I never meant to make you cry, but tonight, I’m cleaning out my closet.” I didn’t really cry, but I did second-guess myself as I reluctantly placed things in the To-Go pile. It took driving away and dropping that pile off for donation for me to realize that things don’t inspire memories, memories do.
After that, the rest of the cleaning was remarkably easy: Will I wear this or not? IF the answer was “not,” I gave it away, memories attached or not. It’s not about having tangible things to rattle memories, it's having the friends and family that constantly inspire me to remember what an aamzing few years I've had to make them.

09 October 2008

on Moving

About 4 years ago, I think I exasperatedly relayed to my mother the following sentiment: "I'll be living in a different country by the time a Democrat becomes President."
Shit. I'd better get moving.

06 October 2008

on Growing Up

Yesterday was my first day of work.
Considering I've been working for about 10 years now, it didn't much feel like my first day of work. In fact, I've had a handful of other days in my life that felt more like work days than this one did: the day my thesis was due last semester; hopefully finishing the Trinitonian by 2 a.m.; hell week at Knox. No, today didn't feel anything at all like work, because I sat and watched an orientation power point, I sat and watched my new co-worker Molly do layout, and I sat and looked at the clock wondering if every day would be this long. I didn't work, I sat. (Aside: who still uses power point? And for that matter, who still uses flying in text and bullets on power point? Ugh...)
But all that not considered, today was the day I suppose I entered the "real world" by simultaneously entering the income-taxed, health-insured work force.
And it made me instantly miss freelancing. (Freelancing, v: sitting on the couch with a laptop watching HBO re-runs and eating popcorn whenever I feel like it)
It also made me instantly miss college, and the drive to produce my best work at all times. It made me miss the community, the family I acquired, and the bonds we had.
But most of all, it made me miss the times I was able to make fun of myself for one day Growing Up. I'm not a Grown Up, and I don't plan on being any time soon. I'm a kid who wants to make newspapers and still sleeps with a stuffed pig.

13 September 2008

on Police Cars

I said this to Liz the other night: "But it's just not fair. I want to be able to break the law whenever I can, and know that there's not some secret cop waiting there to catch me."
You've seen 'em, especially if you're around the Alamo Heights area, anywhere on 281, or you've been to Austin (who knows where else they've infiltrated): the Police Cars that could easily not be Police Cars except for the 5% lighter lettering that reads "POLICE" on the side. I think I might speak for a few people when I say that this pisses me off.
You see, I have recently acquired the use of a beautiful, red, 04 Corvette that begs to be driven over 90 mph... it's so hard not to do. Give me 281 at 6 am or midnight and I'll show you what 120 mph feels like; 306 to Wimberley and I'll show you 135, but don't tell my mom. And why not, you know? The Department of Transportation has blessed us with 8-lane, smooth-as-a-baby's-bottom highways that are virtually empty at certain times of the day, and we're supposed to not go fast? Really?
Really. Just when I've hit 92 mph I have to slam on the brakes because I've come up behind a black Dodge Charger or a silver Chevy Impala or even a beige Tahoe. Normal cars, right? There's no light bar on top, no spotlights danging off the sides, no "Police" written across the top of the trunk... so why am I slowing down? Unfortunately, these vehicles are Police Cars, and I've come to notice them only with my keen eye for "exempt" license plates.
I call them "5% Cars," because they have 5% paint on the outside and 5% police on the inside. Instead of screaming "Look at me, slow the hell down, and respect my authoritah" like the light bars and the blue & yellow paint do on the "Real" Police Cars, the 5% Cars whisper "Hey, don't look at me, because I don't have enough guts to announce that I'm a police officer, and I have to trap you with my ridiculous ride." I will slow down for you, O Police Car with Light Bar and Flashy Paint Job. But the minute I get pulled over by one of these 5% Cars I will be furious.
It's the principal that's just, well, different. Thus the makings of the quote that began this whole ordeal: I feel like I should be able to break the law when there's not a Police Car to be seen, and cease the law-breaking when there is. It's not entrapment, because they drive around in the plain of day. It's not undercover, because with perfect vision one might be able to differentiate between the 100% black paint of the car and the 95% grey paint of "Police" sprawled across the side. It's clever, it's sneaky, but most importantly, it's keeping me and others like me from being comfortable with driving fast.
I never know, now, do I? These stupid cars have instilled a fear in me that I can't seem to shake. I just can't help but wonder, as I round the corner of 281 at San Pedro at a smooth 87 mph, if they guy on my left that I'm sailing by is really an officer of the law in his blue Ford Focus, or if the gal on my right in her black Dodge Calibur is really out to get some unsuspecting dupe weaving through traffic downtown.
Let's just hope that the next 5% that tries to pull me over is an SUV, so I can outrun his undercover ass.

29 August 2008

on City Lights

Last night Joe and I were driving down 281 through the new 410 interchange, and Joe said, "It's cool that they built that overpass, it looks like we live in an actual city now." Which got me thinking: we live in a city?
It's not that I don't love the traffic and the strip malls, but San Antonio doesn't really feel like a city to me anymore. Maybe it's because I'm going on my fifth year of living here--I feel like it's not just a city, it's where I live. It's the place that I sometimes call home. It's familiar, and it's routine. I suppose this happens to anyone who moves anywhere. I'm not special, I'm just saying.
So, in noticing these highway-brand City Lights, a phenomenon twinkled through my sights. It's happened to me quite a few times before, and I'm guessing that it will keep happening as long as I keep traveling. It's like this: I'm staring out the window of the 14th row of seats on yet another Greyhound bus, and I'm mesmerized. The Lights are just so, well, bright. They have that photo-lens twinkle that makes them shine in pointed rays. Even the lights on the Shell stations seem more friendly, more inviting. Red and blue and green and yellow lights entice me to visit downtown; white lights illuminate businesses and gas stations and strip malls that are almost invisible behind their bright and beautiful counterparts. Every single bulb in every single socket on every single fantastically-lit block of this city must have been freshly changed in anticipation of my arrival, and they're telling me I'm now passing through the best city ever.
...But Jeanna, you're in Tulsa.
It seems like no matter where I travel through, the Lights are always brighter. Shinier. More City-like. They're City Lights, and they guide me through this big strange place, beckoning me to come explore.
Of course, leaving the city, I watch the plethora of lights diminish down to the solitary lampposts overseeing the exit-off-the-interstate signs. And the next City's Lights do the exact same thing.

25 August 2008

on Going Home

While sitting at the stop light in La Grange on Saturday (yes, the stop light, and the only one of four that counts because you can actually sit at it), I realized that I had absolutely no reason to be there any more. See, Going Home for me has always meant at least one stop in La Grange to partake in certain childhood comforts the small town once provided me. 4 comforts, in fact: Chicken tenders from Golden Chick; Wonton soup from the Chinese place (for some reason, it's unlike any other); a mocha from Latte on the Square; a bean and egg breakfast taco from the Taco Shack.
Now, at this stop light, I wondered, "Left for a taco? Right for the soup? Straight for the chicken? Or U-turn for the mocha?" when it hit me: none of these things are any comfort at all to me any more.
Yep. Being a vegetarian eliminates the chicken and the soup, and I vaguely remembered from the last time I was on a Going Home journey that Latte had changed its brand of mocha syrup, replacing it with a bitter and far less delicious one. That leaves the bean and egg taco, but because I now call San Antonio the place that I live, and have an award-winning Mexican restraunt less than 100 yards from me, I can get a bean and egg taco any time I'd like.
So there I was, at this stop light, making the decision to turn left not for the taco, but because that was the quickest way to Go Home. It seems that now, the only things I really need from Going Home are the things I find there--a front porch, my family, and a really comfortable bed.

24 August 2008

on Last Days

It took me having a quite unremarkable Last Day to realize how often Last Days happen, and how often they're, well, unremarkable. Wednesday was my Last Day of summer at John Knox Ranch, marking the end of twelve and a half weeks spent on those 300 some-odd acres. 250 meals, 13,000 stairs, countless friends and memories and inside jokes, all to eventually be left in a big envelope labeled "Summer 2008".
Before last Wednesday, though, I had 2 other Last Days. There was the Last Day of summer camp--no more "Knox kids"--and there was the Last Day of camp camp--Braveheart came and went. But both of those Last Days didn't much come as Last Days to me because I knew I'd be back the next day or the next. And now I'm sitting here contemplating whether or not I should go back tomorrow, just to finish up some things I was working on. The fact that I have a choice as to whether or not I want to go back has made me realize that I have actually had my Last Day.
My Last Day passed without my best summer friend being there, without me saying goodbye to everyone I needed to, and without the sun to blind me as I drove home: it was just another year-round day at the ranch. Up until that point, I had thought that I'd have one more day to say goodbye to everyone and everything; I hadn't realized that everyone and everything had already said goodbye before me. Their Last Days had come already, while I blindly kept plugging through towards mine. I didn't even celebrate, really, except for an extra gin-and-tonic and sleeping an hour later the next morning.
A wise English co-worker told me, a couple of weeks before his Last Day, "But then, Jeanna, summer will be over, and you'll have to go back to where you were before your life here." I had shrugged him off: certainly, I couldn't just have a Last Day and then have it all disappear.
He was right--somehow, he always is. My Last Day became something to look back on, rather than something to look forward to. My Last Day became something to attach a label to, to learn from. My Last Day became a First Day and because of that, nothing really changed. There were no warnings, no Wet Floor signs, no bright orange notices on the front door. Only a landlord wondering where the rent was and friendships turning from best to too busy. Evidently, we all have our LastDay/FirstDay realities.
Tomorrow will be my Last Day of summer, I think. And hopefully some day soon, I'll have a Last Day of brief unemployment. They'll be Firsts, too, but I'm starting to think I've learned more from the Lasts than anything else: no matter how un-memorable, a Last Day means something memorable enough must have happened to make that Last Day matter.