Sunday, January 31, 2010

Snow springing from my palm

So, my grandma died.
It wasn't a horrific surprise. We knew it was coming, she'd had Alzheimer's for over a year. And the memorial service was two weeks after she had died. Thinking about her was a little melancholy, perhaps, but nobody was heartbroken, and traveling down to Palm Springs for the service turned out to be a very nice trip.
I always enjoy going down there. All of my relatives live there, and they are these mega-blinging-rich people who buy Dior hand soap for each of the fifty bathrooms and travel to Egypt and Spain every summer. The people who flew over here from Kansas and wherever stayed in this fancy Marriott hotel, and the first day we got there, we had dinner at one of the restaurants inside, those ones that charge seventeen dollars for a salad.
Wow. It was a huge place. This crazy hotel actually had BOATS that would take you to your room, and you could cruise across this enormous lake full of ducks and black swans to get there. I have no idea how much it would cost to stay there for a night.

My family and I were staying at a nice low-key Best Western, but everybody else was staying at this enormous place. The decorators must have spent at least fifty thousand on palm tree seeds alone. Or bulbs. Whatever palm trees grow from, because they were everywhere. Anyway, the dinner was so awkward. Two of my dad's cousins got terribly drunk and started acting so obnoxious that other diners would turn and glare. My sister and I didn't know anybody except our parents and grandfather: the rest of them were these complete strangers. But apparently they were related to me. Whenever they started conversations with me, they just did not know what to talk about, and neither did I, so I just stuck to smiling and laughing occasionally at whatever the rest of them were saying as I ate my eighteen-dollar cold-turkey sandwich and fruit salad.
Yes. Eighteen dollars. For two slices of wheat bread, two slices of tomato, a pickle, two lettuce leaves, and turkey, plus a small bowl of pineapple, honeydew, cantaloupe, and grapes. I could make that dinner myself for five dollars.
The adults went to the bar afterward, and my sister and I were free to wander the hotel. We considered splitting a Starbucks, but a Frappichino was nearly five dollars. I can't imagine how people could afford life like this.

More exciting-ly, on the way back, it started SNOWING, which thrilled all of us, except my mom, who is about as easy to thrill as a zucchini.
We stopped at the first rest stop we could and exploded out of the car and into the whirlwind of tiny white ballerinas twirling madly towards the ground.
My sister catching snowflakes on her tongue:
I love the taste of snowflakes. They are a fairy queen's finest delicacy, tainted sweet by their fleeting presence, rich with promises and cool on the tongue.

I love the feel of snow crunching beneath my feet. The sound is crisp, the footprints left behind distinct, the entire sensation a satisfying one.

Even this dirty, murky old stream is beautiful because it is dusted with snow. Snow is magic. It lifts my spirits and makes everything around me so much more fascinating, and I always feel so dizzy and intoxicated after just moments of prancing around in its fluffy, freezing, enchanting beauty. I climbed back into the car with glittering diamonds melting in my hair and tiny butterflies perched on my eyelashes. I felt like a goddess, a mythical snow goddess.
It's too bad I live in California. We very, very rarely get snow, but I suppose that's what makes it so special.


My world is dying, some of it is dead already.

It's a bit depressing to watch the trees extend skinny, naked arms up towards the sunless sky and to see plants droop drearily, defeated.
Though I have to say, the silhouettes of bare tree limbs against a cloudy sky is actually a very beautiful sight to see. And winter air is clean and fresh in the lungs, even if it chomps at fingertips with ice-cold teeth.
While the rest of the world is dying, the orange tree thrives.How many oranges do I pluck, peel, and eat during the long months of winter? A thousand, at least. The compost bin is already littered with orange skins.
Yesterday was actually a pretty nice day, but I craved comfort food nonetheless. I wandered through the grocery store and bought a package of ground beef, a bag of chocolate chips, and nine enormous mushrooms.
Stuffed mushrooms and chocolate petit fours for dinner. Yum.

I want to try to do more posts with pictures in the future, because the last time I've done a picture post was...
...long ago. I don't even remember.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Self-induced heresy

As you can see, I have added a little animated llama to my page. If clicking around isn't enough to satisfy your entertainment needs, there's always the tab in the lower right corner that says "more." Click it, and you can get hay so you can FEED the llama.
Try not to waste too much of your life playing with it. I'm warning you because I've gotten myself mildly obsessed.
The heavens have been pouring since Saturday, which means being holed up inside doing homework and laundry and cleaning the bathrooms and working on projects, taking bubble baths, and reading quietly. Boring, but actually pretty nice at the same time. Certainly not much to blog about.
HOWEVER I have been working on a scrapbook of pictures of my friends and family and whatnot. I don't know if I mentioned this, but I got a camera for Christmas, which sparked a picture-taking obsession. Now I'm scrapbooking all the good pictures, leaving out the random shots of pebbles, trees, thumbtacks, et cetera.
Though all those random shots might make for an interesting scrapbook.
I also finished up my vignette project. The hardest one, for some reason, was the "A Place I Have Lived" one. My first draft was way too long, but when I restarted, cropping most of the ideas out, I found I didn't have enough to say. The mediocre product of all that toil:

It was a fair-sized house at the bottom of a hill, with trees and a sidewalk out front and a thousand acres of untamed wild stretching out into the distance out back.
At least, that’s how I saw it when I was six, just out of toddler-hood and eager to explore. The stretch of tall, dried-out grass waving cheerily to me from the backyard--which was really far too big to be considered a backyard at all-- enticed the adventurous child that I was to explore. I was drawn to the ferns, so golden, absorbing the sunlight and reflecting it back towards the sky. Later I would discover that if I crouched, I could be hidden amongst the ferns. They extended their shining arms up towards the stratosphere like children reaching imploringly for a cookie jar placed just out of their reach; I huddled down into the dirt, shrinking, shrinking as I stole through the tall grasses, carving out avenues with every footstep until a maze was engraved in the field, an indistinct labyrinth serving as a record of every square inch of the artificial wilderness that I had discovered so far.
I had always been a hider. I wiggled my miniature child’s body into impossible spaces, a habit that my parents were determined to break. “It’s not normal,” my dad would growl, “It’s not healthy,” my mother fretted. I heard several of these “Jenny’s-a-freak” conversations, crammed into a cupboard or squeezed into the narrow gap behind the sofa in the front room, holding my breath for fear I would be discovered. They never found me, hushquiet mouse girl disappearing, fading into invisibility in whatever hidey-hole I was occupying. But when their anxiety blossomed into arguments and their speaking became shouting, I had to squeeze my eyes shut, swallow down the building tears to control the shaking of silent sobs.
I don’t know why it bothered them. I don’t know why I had such an intense addiction to being in confinement, but I did, and I learned to flee to the field when I felt like hiding. They liked to pretend I was out frolicking like any other, normal little girl would be, which I sometimes was, but the three of us knew that I was really going out to curl up in the densest patch of ferns that I could find and take pleasure in knowing that right then, I was one speck on the planet that no one could see, and that if I wanted to I could disappear, vanish into the magical meadow of sun-bleached grass and never have to return to the real world, the world of schoolgirls who wanted nothing to do with me, of clamming up at times when I really needed to speak up, the world of disappointment, of insecurity, and of stony-faced parents who shook their heads at me when they discovered me harbored beneath an end table, parents who didn’t understand that sometimes, I just needed to hide.

...the end.
Hiding felt more natural to me than being out in the open where people could see me and judge me as they pleased. I was born an introvert and grew up an introvert. I developed the insecurity of adolescence several years too early, and it only festered within as I grew.
Once my classmates were old enough to realize that some people could be decided better than others and that they bore the power to exclude, exclude they did. I was stuck on the outside for a good part of my life. I was so used to being pushed away that even when people did open up to me, I didn't trust them and closed up, retreated into my very limited comfort zone and told myself that they were just ridiculing me. I did not believe that anybody of higher social caliber would want to associate themselves with me. My brain had been wired to think that I was an unacceptable being, so I just focused on keeping out of the way.
This self-induced heresy hit a climax in eighth grade. Possible friends slipped through my fingertips like thin silk ribbons, fluttering back into oblivion to find somebody else to befriend. One would-be love dropped to the floor, shattering like a thousand-karat diamond into a thousand useless fragments.
What if I was angry at myself for letting one perfect person waltz in and out of my life, without allowing myself to actually enjoy my time with him, without telling him what I had always meant to tell him, and for lying to him just so that he would never know what I really thought about him?
What if I decided to try again, but what if I was still too afraid? What if the idea that I was unwanted had ingrained itself so deeply into my mind that it had become true? What if I took a leap, and was brought down to a crushing halt with a single word?
After all, it only takes one word to break a heart.

Friday, January 8, 2010

My own oafish self.

of my entire history of attending school, I have had to write an essay about my name.
Okay, maybe not every year. But I have certainly churned out my share of swirling, whirly commentaries about one single word.
It's not the easiest thing on earth, writing an entire essay about your name. I try to keep it going by first saying what my name means, then why my parents named me it, then whether or not I like it, and what I would change it to if I could, and blah blab blahbbl blah. My essays were lies. I loved my name, I hated it, it was the name of the daughter of the cousin of the king of Wales, it was my super-Nazi great-grandmother's name, I would change it to Scarlett, if I could, I would change it to Jennyanne, I would change it to Esmerelda. Maybe I didn't say all those things. Maybe I said none of them. Who knows? I have written so many "My Name" essays that they have all blurred together like sweet potatoes in a blender.
This year we were instructed to write not an essay on our name, but a vignette.
Just to, you know, spice things up a little.
And since I realized I have nothing else, really, to post, I shalt post it.

My name is Jennifer, and it means “fair one.” I’m not so sure how I feel about that. In sixth grade, my mother’s teacher read her a story, and one of the character’s names was Jennifer. My mother decided that it was the most beautiful name she had ever heard, and stored it away in an airtight container pushed to the back of a shelf in the corner of her mind. She must have packed it away too well, though; by a slip of memory her firstborn was named Laura. By the time I arrived, though, my mother had found the dusty old airtight container and brushed off the grime. I was to be called Jennifer. By preschool, that had changed. They called me JJ, which I hated, but I couldn’t protest because I was abnormally quiet not only for my age, but for my species. There was not a child quieter than I, nor a turtle, nor a rabbit, nor a mouse. I don’t know if my mother cared that they had chopped down her resplendent Jennifer to a pair of short, stabby letters. She wanted me to be Jennifer, but I was JJ. If she minded, she never let on. Maybe Jennifer had been beautiful when the name had first endowed her sixth-grade ears, but its radiance had been leached away after years of it being part of her daily vocabulary. “Pick up your toys, Jennifer.” “Time to go to school, Jennifer.” “Jennifer, go get your sister for me.” The word ‘Jennifer’ was becoming a drooping decaying deteriorating dishrag that had scrubbed the leftover gunk off of one too many dirty plates. And then, as silently and obscurely as I had slipped into being “JJ,” I turned into “Jen.” Then I was “Jenny.” “Jenny” stuck around for many years, and became so much a part of me that even my mother addressed me by that name. By fifth grade, I knew enough to hate it. Jenny was the name of an awkward loser who couldn’t figure out how to grow up. When I thought of what kind of person deserved a name like Jenny, I thought of an ungainly wreck, inept in the ways of the world. It only angered me further when I realized I had painted a perfect mental picture of my own oafish self. I envy the graceful Gabrielles, assured Alices, and poised Phoebes. With an incapable name like Jennifer, or Jenny, or Jen, or JJ, or whatever bits and pieces you can hack my name into, I know I am doomed to forevermore be a vagrant in the competitive universe of 21st-century society.

I realized that "Jennifer" really is a very awkward name, which explains, you know, me. I have been trying to fix that, by the way. I even bookmarked an "overcoming social awkwardness" page that I'll get around to actually reading at one point or another.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Maximum home enhancement.

So, remember how in the previous post I was just running off to go see Avatar?
Well, my mom decided she wanted to see it after all. And she insisted we stop at the Cost Plus World Market on the way to the theater to show us some furniture that she had seen there before. So we looked at a very dull brown armchair and nodded encouragingly as she rattled on about all the strategic places in the house she could place it for maximum home enhancement. Then we looked at a set of shelves that we really could not possibly need because it was so big, and it's not as if we have space for anything much larger than a single wooden stool.
Anyway, that made us late for the movie. By the time we got to the ticket window, (which is not even a window at all, because we went to Century Theaters) they had sold out of the next two showings.
Me: "We could see The Blindside... *nudge* *nudge*..."
Dad and sister: "No yuck ick no."
Mom: "Okay so, let's just go home."
The rest of us: "Wait for real?"
Mom: "Sure."
We ended up going to Target to buy ping pong balls and socks, which was a crazy adventure, but then we just sort of meandered back home and went on with our lives as if the whole seeing-a-movie-together charade had never even happened.
Sad news: My winter break ends tomorrow. This is my last day of schoollessness. *bawls* But to be honest, break has actually become pretty boring. I don't think I mind going back to school so much. So this is actually neutral news.
Happy news: Yesterday, I made these pretty little cakes that I meant to take a picture of, but they got eaten up before I remembered to. Heh, heh.
I made a half-batch of white cake batter, but baked it in larger than a half-size pan so it wouldn't be too thick. Then I cut it into cute little cubes, dipped each one in a sugar glaze/thin icing, then painted little flowers and things on them with food dye. They were so cute! It's too bad I didn't get a picture of them. :(
Speaking of pictures, isn't this cute?

Friday, January 1, 2010

What do blind people think people look like?

It's a new year. Can you smell the fresh air? Does it seem cleaner to you? Does it taste newer?
Yeah, I don't think so either.
Usually my cousins come over for New Year's, and we stay up until midnight and pop those little firecrackers and light sparklers and watch the ball drop like normal people. This year they didn't come over, I got too tired to stay up until midnight, and my dad forgot to buy the sparklers and poppers.
It's not like we wasted an actual real holiday, though. I mean, it's not as if we didn't hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, or like we forgot to put up Christmas lights. New Year's isn't really so much to celebrate.
And we are sort of celebrating by going to see a movie today. Whenever there's a movie I want to see, I go with my friends. It's been a long time since I've gone with the rest of the family like I used to. So this should be dandy, eh?
Except for that my mom bailed on the rest of us. She and I wanted to see The Blindside, and my dad and sister wanted to see Avatar. She didn't put up much of a fight.
Mom: "Okay, I won't go. Save a couple bucks."
Gee, mom, I can tell you were really excited about our bonding experience. I didn't put up much of a fight either after that, without even some flimsy support from her.
Me: "Okay, I guess I want to see Avatar, too, then."
So I looked the movie up just now, because all I knew about it was that it involved strange blue people in outer space. It is THREE HOURS long, and doesn't appear to be about anything at all except blue people bopping around in an outer space forest. The trailers aren't exactly the most informative pieces of video I have viewed in my life.
I don't believe I will enjoy this movie. But who knows? Nobody knows! Maybe I will love it! You can't be sure about anything until you try-y-y!
Yeah, so, I have to leave now.
Enjoy your life.