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Archive for April, 2009

So – yes I realize I’ve been extremely MIA lately – and getting worse! For that, I’m sorry and WILL make a better attempt to find something (or anything!) to say, especially since I realized that TODAY, yes today, is the ONE YEAR mark for me starting this blog – and wow has a lot happened in a year.

cupcake2

That is my happy birthday, and by birthday I clearly mean blogday, cupcake to me.

A lot can change in a year – hell, a lot can change in a day – and my philosophy is to roll with the punches, and throw a few of my own into the mix. That’s not always easy. As someone who since childhood has consistently maintained a vehement loathing for change, over the years, I have found myself time and again thrown something that causes me to react…and ultimately change.

At the dinner table when I was a kid and naturally didn’t want to eat something that looked vile and disgusting, my mom always told me about the “Learn to Like It Club.” As a product of the ’40’s/50’s, she’s a woman who grew up around evening radio broadcasts. One show that came on around dinnertime featured this “Learn to Like It” segment as wells the “Empty Plate Clubber’s” bit. Parents would call in and share if their little angel had successfully kept down the broccoli they swore they would throw up if forced to eat. “Learn To Like It” had a similar purpose – if a kid found that they actually enjoyed grapefruit, Mom or Dad would call in Cleaver-style and report this to all the listeners. How 1950’s.

Mom used a similar tactic with me, even though the show had been on static for 30+ years. That mind-set of “maybe you’ll just learn to like it” spilled over from my plate into my real life. And I actually think this is how I’ve adjusted to those big changes – each time I’ve packed a suitcase – thought about a job switch – toyed another move, I’ve done it solely because I had to learn to like the taste of change. And I think I have (sort- of)…

So here I am, one year later from that first post about moving to the Big City. And who knows where this next year will take me – perhaps in a year, I’ll find myself back up there, but I do promise to keep documenting it – because I know that even as I write this, my tastes are changing and that’s not necessarily a bad thing anymore.

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“So today, KT, we’re going to work to failure…”

Failure. Shit.

I stared down my trainer with definite wariness.

He’s a fifty-something black former Navy Seal who cuts to the quick both verbally and when he’s piling weight on one of the machines he has me using. His name is Vince.

I’ve never been an athlete. Never even really played a sport (except youth soccer and softball – where teams were made of various colors like Teal and Gold) or tried to hone my skills in a non-organized pastime (i.e. skiing or golf). I never had the stamina or the coordination to even try-out…except 8th grade volleyball, but that ended badly and I’m still bitter.

What I have learned to do to exercise and stay healthy is workout…I enjoy going to the gym and through that, I’ve come to appreciate the dedication that goes into manipulating your body to work towards a specific goal regardless of endzone or finish line.

I’m pretty religious about exercise and it’s for purely selfish reasons. If I’ve had a crap day where nothing seemed to click in place, I’ll go to the gym and pound my frustration into a treadmill and feel better. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. It’s a sense of intense satisfaction when I’ve finished a good workout.

The gym where I’m currently a member offers free training for your first month and then once a month after that. I signed up for a session with Vince and knew we’d hit it off when after shaking hands he said, “ready to cry?” then swatted my shoulder with a, “let’s get to work.”

We train…to failure. Arms. Legs. Back. Shoulders. He has me lift until I am physically incapable of raising my arm again. I’m standing there staring at it and it’s absolutely, completely refusing to move. Then he says, “do one more.”

And I do. And the day I told him I was a Redskins fan, he doubled the weight, adding five extra reps – he’s not a fan of that football franchise.

“OK, we’re done here.” Vince makes a note on my chart and I hobble behind him to the next machine to repeat.

At the end of an hour, my muscles are shaking with exertion. But I feel good. And I find myself fascinated with the fact that he says this is working to failure because failure to me means not accomplishing something, not seeing it through, a cacophony of negative. Yet he sees these failures as measures of success, as an opportunity to learn and grow and build – to eventually reach a tangible goal of fitness.

I’d love to be able to apply this thinking to life where failure actually becomes a means for creation, but I have a feeling that in most cases if a person (me included) hits failure more often than not, they’ll be unwilling to ever try again. Somehow, I’d like to get out of that mindset – and in ways, I think I am.

Vince pushes my muscles to failure and I come back the next week ready to do it all again. I look forward to working beyond what I think I can do to what I actually am capable of completing. So each week I work to this end. I add more weight, do more repetitions until finally I hit failure again.

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We had on my college campus, Gettysburg College, a coffee shop called Uncommon Grounds. I always thought this a really clever name whose meaning held more than just that of an on campus mini-mart. Nestled in a corner of our College Union Building, I often met my friends there for lunch or a quick cup of coffee between classes. During finals, I plunked myself in a corner booth and faded into essays about the Bronte sisters’ impact on English Literature.

I loved to spend my time there; it was a safe little haven where I could decompress. I people-watched all the different groups of kids who passed through…listening to rehashes of parties and regrets mingled with stresses about tests and rigid professors.

Everyone stopped at Uncommon Grounds through the day…our stereotypes distinguished by clothing in Madras and flip-flops, Black and fishnets, sweatshirts and jeans all had similar scattered thoughts as they waited in line or rushed by in a dash to make their 1:10.

This space was the first thing to spring into my mind yesterday when a g-chat box popped up on my computer screen: Did you hear what happened at Gettysburg?

I hadn’t.

A girl was stabbed this morning off campus…*

Another email pinged in whose subject line have you heard? was all I needed to read. All Facebook status’ updated to thoughts and prayers with Gettysburg. I read a press release, caught links to MSN as the story spread, a little wildfire through the small town. No names had been released.

I called my mom to see if she’d heard anything as she still lives in Gettysburg, my hometown. She’d only just seen it on the news…and didn’t know anything additional except it was on Carlisle Street, a road I’d run down on afternoon jogs, driven through since I first got my license at 16.

Murders don’t happen in Gettysburg – sure we have drugs and robberies, peeping Toms’ and domestic violence, but murders are pretty rare. And this is the first one I know of that broke through the Gettysburg College bubble, that invisible film over the pristine campus community that separates the students from the townies.

Yes – it can happen anywhere – but its effects are equally as trying and devastating when their 5,000 miles away as when they’re in your backyard.

More came to light through the day – I realized when the names were released that the parents probably had to have been notified, one set called to break away from their mundane daily routine to identify their daughter’s body at morgue. The other set called to a jail where they’ll look upon the child they raised for the first as a murderer. Can you imagine?

It was her boyfriend or ex-boyfriend who stabbed her multiple times in yesterday’s morning hours. “Hands were involved,” I read in one statement. While I did not know either student, and will not presume to know motivation, action, choice, I cannot help but wonder how someone can so brutally drain the life from another person. Does he comprehend he’s responsible for this girl never, never graduating, getting married, having kids? Do you think he gets it yet in today’s newly dawned light?

As the afternoon became evening, students were called together in our CUB, walking by familiar solaces like Uncommon Grounds into the Ballroom to hear developments.

Our college president sent this out to students:

April 9, 2009

Dear members of the campus community,

As most of you know, a tragedy occurred earlier today involving two Gettysburg students, and our very tight-knit community is grieving for a loss that has deeply shaken us all.

Until an official statement was released by the Adams County District Attorney at a press conference this afternoon, we had very limited information that we were able to confirm and share. Details from the press conference are now available on our web site.   In short, District Attorney Shawn Wagner announced that Emily Rachel Silverstein, 19, a sophomore anthropology major from Roosevelt, N.J., was found dead early this morning at 524 Carlisle Street, an off-campus College-leased residence. Kevin Schaeffer, 21, a senior history major from Oley, PA, surrendered to police at the scene without incident and was taken into custody. The District Attorney announced that the tragedy was a domestic homicide and that at no time were other individuals in any danger.

As I requested when I gathered the on-campus community together this morning, please keep these students and their families in your thoughts and prayers.  In addition, I would also ask that you reach out to one another, share your thoughts and your tears, listen to and console one another. Our counseling staff is available to the campus community all day today and in the days ahead at our Health Center. If you would like to talk with a counselor, please stop by. If you have friends who are having a particularly difficult time, please suggest that they speak with a counselor as well. In addition, I would encourage you to respond to all media inquiries by directing them to our Office of Communications and Public Relations.

This loss affects us all. We are a strong, caring community, and in the days and weeks ahead, we will find solace and a source of healing in our communal strength. We will plan an appropriate campus gathering in the near future to help us begin the healing process.  For now, I ask that you reach out to one another with great compassion during this difficult time.

Sincerely,

Janet Morgan Riggs ¹77
President

Strangers, acquaintances and friends sat side by side in our CUB and listened to the tragedy of one of their own. It didn’t matter if they knew the victim.  In moments of sorrow and loss, things like that are no longer important, you come together as one to support, grieve, and heal. You stand beside each other and cease the frantic rush through your day. You don’t brush by people without thought, you don’t focus on that test, last night, tomorrow. You’re in one moment and in that moment, no matter who you are, you end up finding that common ground and clinging to it.

*MSNBC

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So you may have noticed I’ve been a little MIA lately. I’ve had blog-block. Funny, random and awkward things keep happening, but I have no clue how to sort them into coherent thoughts to share with you all. After receiving a slight onslaught of complaints for my inactivity, I’ve finally sat down to write something…

Like many of you, I spend close to and sometimes more than 8 hours a day at work. Though I don’t particularly like blogging about my job, mainly because I would like to keep it, sometimes it’s impossible not to since so much of my time is spent in the office. I’m lucky that most of my co-workers are laid back enough that if they read any post where I mention them, I think they’d just laugh. At least I hope they would.

A few days ago, I popped into my co-worker’s office. She has two little boys, so we often swap stories about her kids and my nephews. Mainly we laugh at them and their antics. This is how we digress and refocus our eyes from the blurried distortion Excel spreadsheets cause.

I shared with Co-Worker a fact that many of my close friends and family know about me and a trait most of them hate. I DETEST being teased. I do not take it well AT ALL. With that being said, I dish it out quite liberally. People seem to think that because I can hold my own in a battle of sarcastic will, I should be able to accept the same treatment in kind. I just can’t do it. But in all fairness, I am working on it.

Co-Worker commented that her oldest son, at 7, is much the same way:

“Thing#1 hates to be teased too and the other day at daycare some girl came up to him with a Cootie-Catcher (*Editor’s note: I had no idea what this was and thus asked her to explain). A  Cootie-Catcher is like a fortune teller for kids.”

cootie_partyAfter you go through various hula-hoops, you end up with a fortune. In the case of Thing#1, his fortune was his future occupation. He picked a color; LittleGirl spelled the color. Then he picked a number; LittleGirl counted the number. Then, she told him to choose the number 3 to reveal his life’s path.

It said: HOBO.

He was devastated.

She probably liked him, right?

I felt for the little guy. Heart hanging there on his sleeve as he blindly chooses a fate doomed to living beneath an underpass with nothing to keep him warm but malt-liquor in a grody brown bag. Teasing sucks. Love hurts. And so it goes…

Cootie-Catcher (I personally think this sounds like a disease — and not a pleasant one) reminded me of another fortune game I used to play with my elementary, middle, and yes probably high school friends: MASH.

Ring a bell?

M- Mansion

A- Apartment

S- Shack

H- House

My friends and I’d sit in the back of the bus and script these letters at the top of our 3-ring notebook paper. From there, we’d pick categories: Husband, Car, Money, Occupation, Pet, Bridesmaids, Color, Relationship Status, Location.

I’d get to pick one of the boys for husband, but for the most part the FortuneTeller (FT) fills in the selections under the categories. FT’d then draw slashes until I said stop, count them up and begin to run down the list for my future life. Then, when the magic number was hit, FT’d cross through everything until 1 item was left in each category. At that, my future was set:

KT will be a waitress living in a House, married to PerfectBoy in Hawaii. He’ll be a lawyer. They’ll have 2 kids, a boy and a girl (sometimes we’d give specific names to imaginary children). V will be her bridesmaid and wear blue in her wedding. PerfectBoy and KT will have a Golden Retriever and drive a Range Rover.

And I’d believe it to be so…it’s funny how when we’re young, we put so much stock into these silly games. I would have rather died than to end up with TL (the whiny kid who picked his nose in Music class) and who would actually desire to become a hobo? We’d spend hours on the playground trying to act grown up, and when someone would show us a future we didn’t want to see, we’d throw a fit.

As I’ve grown-up, the tantrums have faded, but I still remember the effects of those pastimes – how I’d cringe in anticipation of my future and how absolutely shattered I’d be when it didn’t come out “cool.” The other kids would laugh that I was marrying TL and we were going to spend our days in a Shack. And I’d remember their laughs long after the bus ride ended.

So I guess this is how I developed my hatred of being teased and later the defense mechanism to dish it back in force.

Co-Worker ended our little chat with, “As Thing#1 and I drove home that evening, I told him he needed to get thicker skin….that the little girl was trying to play a game with him, that she was joking. But he just pinched his arm and said his skin was thick enough as it is.”

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