On the television front (cause though you bust your booty in grad school studying, television becomes essential to turn off your brain at the end of the day):
So I resisted watching Girls for a long time. In part because I had no HBO access and feel a little old for pirated television. That problem was remedied when I got my cousin’s wifi password (thanks to my aunt’s ex husband who still pays for my cousin’s upgraded cable, and thanks to my cousin who shares it with all of her family and friends! With this new acquisition I of course, also binge watched Game of Thrones and cringed my way through the Scientology documentary).
I also didn’t watch Girls in larger part because I resent the fact that it’s cast full of famous people’s daughters and I doubted that Lena Dunham could really have any insights about what it truly means to be a normal twentysomething girl. And on that preconception, I must eat crow, because there are elements of the ridiculous about it (and, uh, that’s how you make a television show!) but man oh man there are aspects of it that are unnervingly accurate.
Those of you who don’t watch Girls are free to skip to later in this post, but I particularly want to opine about the Patrick Wilson episode, which I imagine was controversial. I thought at the beginning, as I imagine many people did, “YEAH RIGHT! No absurd circumstances would ever conspire in bringing together a socially awkward, immature, narcissistic, chubby and unremarkable looking girl in a bizarre romper (Hannah) with a movie-star-handsome doctor in a beautiful brownstone because of some ridiculous misunderstanding that involved her illegally dumping coffee shop debris in his trash bin. Lena Dunham wrote this episode as an excuse to make out with Patrick Wilson”. (Which, for the record, is something I might do if someone gave me a TV show :D)
But (spoiler alert) after spending two blissful days shacked up in this imaginary perfect world, playing ping pong and having deep talks on the patio and so on, Hannah does the thing that maybe we all fantasize about doing- she confesses her feelings! She starts crying and shakily admits, “Please don’t tell anyone this, but… I want to be happy.” He goes, “Uh, of course you do, everyone does” and she says, “Yeah, but I didn’t think I did. I made a promise such a long time ago that I was going to take in experiences, all of them, so I could tell other people about them and then maybe save them but it gets… so tiring. Trying to take in all the experiences for everybody, letting anyone say anything to me. And then I came here, and I see you, and you’ve got the fruit in the bowl and the fridge with the stuff.” She shares an anecdote of something degrading she had allowed to happen in her last relationship, and admitted that despite her buying into the cultural narrative to be game for everything and soak up experiences and not have any expectation of being cared for, she wants it! She wants to stop asking for bad things to happen to her- and oddly, I hugely related to that! I know it may sound insane, but really think about a time you were in a relationship (this is something my good girlfriend and I talk about a lot) where you found yourself so preoccupied about getting to the heart of things and getting things out in the open that you constantly prompted, constantly dug deeper until you were basically begging the other person to say or do something that would deeply hurt your feelings.
Anyway, she makes this very vulnerable confession and the dude visibly shuuuuts doooown. You see the interest and the desire leave his eyes and he soon takes off, emotionally and, just a bit later, physically. Of course! It was this brilliantly constructed, super condensed version of a relationship taking place over two days instead of, say, two years. At the beginning, newly in love, you tell yourself that this is it! this is perfect! you are with a movie star handsome guy and you love what he does and you love everything you do together! (She literally passes out in the shower at one point, an apt metaphor. And then he heroically finds her and takes care of her and strokes her hair. Oy.) He has the fruit in the bowl and the fridge with the stuff!
And I’m not saying that it’s relationship destiny that this has to happen, but it does happen a lot! There’s this wearing down of the walls and the vulnerability and (and I think this is particularly true in the post feminism era) women wanting to let their guard down and wanting to quit being strong all the time… and then getting bitten in the a** for it.
Anyway, for that episode alone I love it, but there are a lot of moments of brilliance. I also think it’s key to watch with a friend, preferably another twentysomething year old woman :) My roomie and I have been watching it together (often while drinking wine!) and it’s been so fun to talk about the episodes- sometimes in a deep way, as in the episode I just discussed, and other times just to be like, “AGH, MARNIE, DON’T DO IT! DO NOT GET ON THAT STAGE AND SING A KANYE WEST SONG! PLEASE GOD!”
On a much less serious note, I also have been loving Broad City.
Since I don’t own a TV, I’ve never seen it on Comedy Central but (note to anyone else in my shoes!) its first season is on Amazon Prime.
Mom, you might be able to handle Girls, but don’t watch this show. There’s too much profanity and marijuana. You wouldn’t like it.
However, for those of you who can abide by such things, it is RIDICULOUSLY FUNNY. My friend introduced it to me and I rolled around on the floor giggling at her place, and then I came home and I still laughed out loud watching it alone (which, uh, demonstrates that I am a pretty terrible roommate).
I think Lincoln is my favorite character. My favorite moment of his was in the episode where Abby’s phone is stolen and at first Alana is convinced that Abby is dead. She tracks Abby down, but doesn’t tell Lincoln, so when they finally see him later in the episode, he says, “Why didn’t you tell me? I was so scared I baked a whole cake. And then I ate a whole cake.” The concept is already funny, but his delivery just killed me (in a good way).
On the literary front:
This has been out for awhile but I’m just getting around to reading it, which is silly given that it brings together some of my favorite things. First of all, Curtis Sittenfeld wrote Prep and I loooooved that book, so she has been on my radar. Second of all, I have for many years been deeply curious about the secret inner life of Laura Bush. I am not, not, not a fan of her husband (and I could go on about this but I won’t) but she has always seemed… benign with a secret. In part, of course, everyone suspects, because of the major tragedy in her early life.
Anyway, this is ostensibly a novel but for all intents and purposes is the author’s speculative look at Laura Bush’s life. I will confess that I haven’t finished the book yet but enjoy it enough to already recommend it. Sittenfeld is exploring the character (“Alice”) from such an interesting angle. There’s a lot of focus on formative experiences that seem, at least at first, not to have much to do with Alice’s life arc but are nonetheless so well written you really enjoy them and, now that the story is progressing, clearly will have far reaching impacts.
On the healthy living front:
Our last unit in biochemistry (at least, in this semester of biochemistry; I have two more eeeeaaaaauuuugggghhh) we focused a bit on vitamins and minerals. This convinced me that I had to get serious about building bone mass before I hit 30 (which is roughly when we hit maximum bone mass, ladies). I like that these contain vitamin D as well, which is necessary for calcium absorption and a vitamin in which I’ve been deficient in the past. But, truthfully, I mainly like them because they are chocolate duhhh. They upset my tummy at first but I seem to’ve adjusted to them.
PSA about calcium: I kind of thought my body had it figured out. I knew that there were circumstances under which your body absorbs more calcium, when you need it more.
However, what I didn’t know, is that your body’s calcium is largely indifferent to your bone health. Your body’s #1 priority is to keep a steady level of calcium in your blood. (Quite rightly, as calcium is needed for muscle contractions like, oh, in your heart). Therefore, it is true that when your blood calcium is low, your body will take a variety of steps that you absorb more calcium (both that you make more receptors for it in your intestines and that you lose less in your urine). HOWEVER. At the same time it is doing that, it is turning to the other handy calcium source in your body: your bones. The calcium in your bones is removed by osteoclasts (basically, bone busting cells) and it does a great job of keeping your blood levels steady. However, this is no bueno for your bones.
The moral of the story is, get enough calcium. If you can rock three servings of dairy a day, do it. If you don’t feel inclined or able to do that, supplement!
Also on the food front, less about nutrition, reduced guilt push pops!
Total impulse purchase at Whole Foods but gooooosh these are good! Only 80 calories each, and they still have that wonderful satisfying push pop action that really helps you savor your frozen snack enjoyment.
Also, I have been extremely into hula hooping:
I taught my neighbor’s five year old son to do it and (demonstrating the amazing neuroplasticity at that age) he was doing it pretty much effortlessly and perfectly after about twenty minutes. He can also do it around his neck, hahaha. Hula hooping is nice because it is fun and still at least moderately physically active, so usually on days when I’m too exhausted for a workout I can at least hula hoop while I watch Grey’s Anatomy. Also, I hula hooped for my friend’s one year old and she thought it was the most hilarious thing she had ever seen so then I put the hula hoop down on the ground and she sat in the middle of it and I held the edge of the hula hoop and ran in circles around her to give her the hula hooping experience :D It was precious.
Finally, good walking podcast:
As I’ve dealt with end of the semester projects and finals, I’ve made a deal with myself that I’m going to be kind to myself regarding expectations about healthy diet and exercise. Set my expectations low, and then be pleased when I exceed them. Something that has worked really well for me is taking long walks. Fine, it’s not super sweaty cardio or weights, but it’s physical activity and it’s good for my physical and mental health. And, having this podcast to keep me company is very pleasant. Jillian is sometimes overly preoccupied with certain things that I, as someone in dietetics program, find to be overkill (like goitrogenic foods, or the perils of high fructose corn syrup- yes, HFCS is junk but the excess fructose hasn’t shown to really have much of any worse effect than sucrose; our problem is that we’re eating too much sugar, period). However, I love her guest speakers (particularly the endocrinologist) and I think her advice to callers is usually spot on (people calling about weight loss get a conversation about mental health, which makes me really happy). Note that I am years behind (literally years, I’m listening to 2011 episodes) and I’m not wild about the direction the show seems to’ve taken lately (the one recent episode I listened to, Janice her hilarious producer had quit- waaaaah- and there was a lot more product placement. However, if you want a diverting podcast to make you feel good about yourself for exercising while you listen to it, this is a pretty good one.
On the home front:
WE GOT A NEW STOVE! Our stove had always been terrible (at some points there was a frightening metal prong sticking out of the wall, the front right burner only worked about one in three times) but after gazillions of maintenance requests, we got MAD when they offered us a new lease that, once again, raised our rent. And we said WE WILL NOT RENEW UNLESS YOU MEET OUR NEEDS. Not only had our stove always been lousy, in the last weeks we had it, we’d started to smell burning plastic every time we turned on the oven or a burner.
So, blessed be, our new baby.
It’s none too fancy but it actually has a window and a light now, and there’s nothing sketchy about it. All I need! I am a simple girl at heart!
Also, this is very old lady of me (as in my neighbor’s mom does this and I thought it was a good idea so I started doing it too) but I want to keep my burners shiny and new and un-nasty so I put aluminum foil over them :D
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE! Along with the new stove and an unpictured fan that actually works (ooooh!) and is handled by a fancy remote control (aaaah!) we got a new dishwasher too!
The old one left a nasty film on everything it washed, and many things just… never got clean. This one actually seems to be a mini version of the one my mom has at her house (which was Consumer Reports approved… and having the same dishwasher also just makes me feel closer to my mom :D). It gets the job done and again- so happy to have a basic, functioning kitchen appliance!
Also on the home front, the baby birds have gotten bigger! They’ve started cheeping (when their mummy or daddy comes to regurgitate food into their little beaks, when they start hysterically cheeping, I fancy that they’re going “Snacks! Snacks! Snacks!”) They’re also starting to experimentally flap their wings. Such little goofs.
(Even as I call them goofs and laugh at how they’ve entered their awkward phase, it is pretty mind boggling that these little creatures have brains that are probably the size of peas and yet these little babies already know how to open their beaks, their mama and dad already knew how to build a nest in just the right safe place, and sit on the eggs and keep them warm and the dad took care of the mama, and now they find the right morsels of food, and chew them and break them down just right to feed to their babies, and teach their babies how to fly. Sob sob sob!)
Also, did you know there was a heartbreakingly beautiful, intricately illustrated children’s/adult’s book about birds becoming parents? It’s called A Sky Full of Kindness. We learned this because Alli’s friend Jessalyn called her and said, “Get a towel. I have something that will make you cry happy tears.” I think our first collective thought was “… a towel?” but when she came over and shared this book with us it really was pretty profuse-sobbing-inducing. (Also, Jessalyn has already been a part of this bird journey… in that when Alli talked offhand about the mama bird faithfully sitting on her eggs in a thunderstorm it had caused Jessalyn to openly weep.)
Finally, I have been immensely proud of myself because I have kept an orchid plant alive for WELL OVER SEVEN MONTHS (it was a birthday present, which is how I know this). I thought the last bloom had fallen off and was sort of idly thinking about whether it was worth researching online whether an orchid can regenerate and if not to just compost it.
Anyway, I had this dream… I was with my mom and my sister, and we were looking out the window at all these dead things- dead plants in vases and dead trees- and then my sister closed the curtain and reopened it, and this time there were beautiful white orchids in bloom. She kept opening and reopening the curtains and there kept being new flowers and new vases we kept softly saying, “It’s a miracle! It’s a miracle!” It felt very religious.
And then, I got up the next morning thinking about that dream, and as I stepped into my living room I saw that there were four little buds on my orchid plant.
I wouldn’t say I’m an especially intuitive person. I also wouldn’t say I have been a particularly religious person since the sudden, stupid, unfair, horrible death of my dear cousin.
And yet, I give a fair amount of credence to dreams. Members of my family (some passed, some still living) have had a lot of meaningful/prophetic dreams over the years, and as a result I’m not apt to discount it when I have one of my own. It was a dream about new life and rejuvenation, and it left me feeling such a sense of hope.
So, to wrap up what has been a largely trivial blog post, I want to note and express gratitude for the fact that I am feeling hope. Somehow the intensity of the grief that my family has felt has also resulted in all of us loving each other fiercely, and appreciating the times that we do get to spend together. It was so important for everyone to grieve together, and it’s so important for me to feel like I’m carrying some of Chris with me as I go about the rest of my life (years that are precious and most surely not guaranteed). It’s also important to take note that we contribute the most to the world, and do the most for others, and get the most meaningful experiences out of our lives when we have hope. However we define it, and however it causes us to live our lives, I’m feeling a lot of hope right now. It simultaneously it feels like something I’ve struggled to earn and worked hard to get (a mental health refresher was very necessary for me with the crazy events of this spring), and at the same time, hope feels like a gift.