Archive | August, 2010

Live your insecurities. Then get over them.

17 Aug

Gave the blog a makeover: like it? Tell me. Hate it? Also tell me, but then follow it with “you’re pretty.”

It’s four days until the big day and I just finished a slideshow of our childhood pictures. Such a trip down memory lane got me reflecting in a way that’s good for all of us to do (briefly) Who were you? Who are you now? Who are you glad not to be anymore?

This was when I was the only child. Life was full of possibilities. I lived in the back of an orange Datsun (go with me, here). This was also when my mom wore giant glasses and clothes to match our car. I didn’t know who I was yet, but I look confident (and like I might want cake).

Then I became the big sister and I had lessons to teach: “Take my hand, little Kate, let me show you what it’s like to walk in my red shoes. Since red doesn’t match anything, you can wear it with everything!” 17 months of life experience pre-sister gave me all kinds of wisdom that I couldn’t stop sharing with her (she loved this). 

That’s us years later feeding dolphins at Sea World, my only other trip to Florida until 2010. My sister is happy, carefree. At age 8, I’d already started obsessing over my ears sticking out. Note shaggy hair to ensure coverage of ears.

I had braces for two and a half years, yet this is one of the few pictures I could find where you can actually see them because I refused to smile in most pictures. Before braces, I didn’t smile to cover up my buck teeth. Here the wind is betraying my carefully crafted hair-over-ears placement as well. Ear + teeth insecurity was very serious.

Hello, paisley! 10th grade school picture: braces still on. I look at this picture and want to scream, “Smile, you joyless looking bore!” I smile excessively now for pictures (and sometimes with crazy eyebrows). Overcompensating.

Since the slideshow was childhood focused, I don’t have scans of me from college. Secretly, I’m glad of this (I was 20 lbs  heavier), but the visual would be helpful. The 90’s was the grunge era (read baggy clothes and flannel). This look made people at size 2 look large, so on 6 ft’ of me at size 14, it was unfortunate. Grunge was anti-feminine fashion: at one point I was wearing an oversized, black, zip-up hoodie, baggy jeans, and steel toed boots. I looked like a chubby-faced thug. Luckily I was charming.

My point is not that once I started smiling, wearing my hair in a ponytail, and stopped eating entire boxes of cereal as snacks that my life got better. It’s that I stopped fixating on all the stuff that was wrong with me/my life and started focusing on being happy. At that point everything started falling into place.

Leo Tolstoy (who is surprisingly not intense 100% of the time) said “if you want to be happy, be.” So simple, Leo (as most good advice is). Don’t stay in situations and ways of thinking that make you miserable. So obvious, yet it took me years  to get it.

This self help guy also said, “Most people would rather be certain they’re miserable, than risk being happy.” Being happy is a risk, and as a friend said to me “it’s easier not to.” It hurts in the beginning to shake up your routine and your thinking, but once I did I never looked back. At least not more than twice.

Like Conan,  I  hate cynics. It’s so much easier to criticize others than to change your own life. Or to compare your life to others saying “at least I’m not like that.” I speak to you not only as president of the former cynics, but also a member.

Thank goodness I finally GOT OVER IT.

This will be my last post ’til I’m wed, so until then, be happy!

I think like the Urban Dictionary

14 Aug

The first time I arrived in the Ft. Lauderdale airport back in January, there was a giant sign:

“Welcome to South Florida!”

I immediately thought “Welcome to SoFlo!”

I’ve lived in Virginia all my life and never thought of Florida in north and south terms until that moment in the airport. I’d never heard anyone abbreviate it like that, so I thought I was clever, maybe even original.

In the same way people think their bee pun is original when they find out about my fiance’s hobby.

In my delusion, I was ready to recommend a new marketing campaign for South Florida.

Go West, young man?

No, Go SoFlo.

Just look at the name of this blog: I had fallen hard for SOFLO. But not until today did I decide to investigate whether or not anyone else uses this abbreviation I’d never heard before. No surprise to any of you, I’m no original.

Top Google hit was Urban Dictionary. The intriguing part about this is that three entries down is the adjective form of the word, meaning a person who possesses a certain “social fluidity” as a result of spontaneity. It mentions people who are into music, dance, skateboarding. And if you keep reading, it mentions that the line between possessing soflo and con artisty is a fine one. Excellent news.

A few hits down I found Your Resource for Florida Indicators and they actually bagged the URL Indicators was such a broad word to me, so it took some reading to figure out what they actually do on this site, but it’s Florida Atlantic University’s bank of resources on the regional economy, etc. It’s intelligent, classy SoFlo. Things are looking up.

Next hit was for the SoFlo Skate Shop in Miami. Grungy font, edgy photos, spray-painted t-shirts? Dude, yes! The web store is “under construction” and directs you to “check us out on MySpace!” This is where you learn that the owner claims to be an 84-yr-old male. FYI, his status is “swinger” and his body type is “excess baggage.” Ladies?

And finally we arrive at SoFlo Apparel, whose mission is to bring the “swagger and attitude of South Florida and the East Coast to the rest of the nation.” Their newest item for 2010 is this electric blue shirt.

And while they take pride in their “extreme sports background,” they do not discriminate. As long as you are “living life to the fullest” and “loving every minute of it,” you too can be a part of the SoFlo family.

And so I remove my cynical hat and you know, chill. After all I can be spontaneous, flirt with adrenaline rushes, dance, and work a room in most social situations. In fact, armed with a little soflo, I might fit right in.

(Especially if I wear that shirt while blasting this Icehouse classic.)

I’m a professional noncrafter

12 Aug

Before I begin, a little shout out to my regular readers (you know, all 15 of you): thank you for tuning in! It’s easy to blog away being pretty certain only my fiance and my mom are reading this (except I don’t even think my mom reads this; blog-a-what?)

And I started this as a regular writing exercise with little or no expectations for it to be more than that. Then maybe two weeks ago, unsolicited, a former high school classmate wrote me a message on Facebook to tell me how much she enjoys reading my blog, noting that I still have the same sense of humor as I always did. And I think she’s smart and funny, so this gave me hope. And then last night one of my (almost former) colleagues told me she loves my blog, citing enough specifics that I believed her. When she mentioned my bit about shredding memories she had an “I felt that” expression on her face and this made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

After all, it’s a writing exercise I HOPE resonates with people. Or makes them chuckle, snicker, sigh, eyebrow raise, lean back in shock, or any reaction other than yawning. Unless it’s 6:00 am and you haven’t had coffee (but OMG, you’re reading my blog at 6:00 am? I love you while I’m still sleeping).

So, comment, yo! Maybe my ego could use it because I have another friend who’s especially good at blogging and being hilarious and I envy her. Lots. And I will copy her as much as possible. Just kidding (not really).

Now back to the title I’ve been teasing you with. I’m getting married in (gasp) 10 days, so I’m no stranger to wedding blogs and weddings sites. Most of them are ridiculous and are targeted at (as my friend aptly observed) high maintenance people. So I tried to go for the more organic ones for normal people. I found myself at DIY Bride, thinking I’d get some cool ideas; instead a got another dose of crafting insecurity. Khris Cochran (the self-proclaimed DIY Bride herself) started today’s entry (which was a review of the Glue Glider Pro) with “As a professional crafter, I…”

(Record screeches).

Did you just say professional crafter?  Let me explain.

I’m a mover (and a shaker).

I do things.

Sometimes I avoid doing things.

I am things.

Sometimes I even create things.

But I do not make things.

I repeat, Kara doesn’t make things! (When I say this I’m using the intonation of Joey from Friends when he says “Joey doesn’t share food!” You’ve seen that episode, unless you never watch TV because you are reading instead. Or amateur crafting.

Arts and crafts time at summer camp was the longest hour and a half 8-10-yr old me could imagine. Each minute felt like 10, each hour 100.  The days we weren’t making macrame anklets or candles (okay, I kind of enjoyed that), we got to go swimming. So while I was trapped in that screen porch-style room for 90 minutes making God’s eyes or keepsake lanterns, I daydreamed about the lake: frolicking on the beach, cannonball contests, and sinking the dock (where everyone stands on one corner of the floating dock and um, tries to sink it).

I loved swimming.

I hated crafts.

Attention crafters: I do not hate you. In fact, I’m in awe of you (and always feeling inferior to you). Like most people, I hate stuff I’m really bad at. Math, gardening, painting, crafting.

Some of you might know about the gardening craft party I was once invited to: talk about insecurity! I was sitting next to my artistic, craftastic, gardenista friend (also a bridesmaid) who is hand-painting an intricately-limbed tree onto a tiny pot while I’m using stamps.  And I couldn’t even do that! I told everyone my niece and nephew made the pot for me, but then I realized even they would not claim my smudged octopus and smeared seaweed.  I faired better in the gardening portion because I am good at following directions (when I’m paying attention and not cracking jokes to fight off my anxiety over failing at both themes of the party). Luckily my friends laugh at my jokes, so I had fun at the party.

I think the swimming/crafting debate perfectly summarizes me as a person. Crafting requires a great deal of patience and fine motor skills. A patience I have only for words and people, and the kind of fine motor skills I have only for…opening a bottle of wine? I’m drawing a blank, here. See?

This is a good time to point out that I failed the fine motor skill portion of  the ‘are-you-ready-for-kindergarten-at-age-4′ test. I blew it with block building. I could read but I couldn’t craft to save my life. Even at age 4, the experts knew I was doomed.

So I went to private kindergarten at age 4, made some terrible art projects throughout my childhood, and then arrived at the sewing portion of middle school home economics. Humiliation ensued. While I wasn’t looking my parents threw away my “basketball,” because really, no one needs to see that.

But I’ve made peace with my craft deficiency.

To this day, I still dive into the pool, lake, ocean (well maybe not ocean). I almost never do the “ease in, not going to get my hair wet” method. It’s just not me.

If I was a t-shirt I would say:

“Life is short: Jump in!”

This explains why I’m moving to SoFlo to meet new people and have a new life. Oh and marry someone who is very into arts and crafts. Comes from a family of crafters, in fact. He made his own beehive equipment. In high school, he made his dates’ corsages for dances. No, really, he was that cuter-than-cute guy. And I get to marry him!

I told him my sister became extremely crafty upon having her children and he said “maybe you’ll do the same!”

I wish I could be as crafty as my sister. Or his sister. Or his mom. Or anyone who is not me.

Alas, I am the antithesis of the DIY Bride: Professional noncrafter, that’s me.

Shredding my memories

7 Aug

I have lived in my house for going on six years. This is (other than my childhood home) the longest I have lived inside any structure. As a kid we moved once when I was 8. From one house in a small town to another house in the same small town. I mostly remember going through stacks of World magazines with my sister in her new room while we waited for the movers (who were my Dad’s poker buddies) to bring in our clothes. Starting in college, moving became part of my life. It went something like this:

Fall 1994: Mom and Dad drive an overly packed Suburban (thanks, neighbors for the lend!) to college. I see Dad tear up through the rear view mirror as we near the campus. (I didn’t see that again until he and I pulled away from his childhood home when we left my grandfather there after my grandmother’s funeral six months later). I’ve officially moved out and even Dad’s choked up. This was going to be different.

Spring 1995: Move out of dorm, sadly leave all my new friends, move back home. Anti-climatic, but no less irritating. Moving = hell.

Rinse and repeat through Spring 1997. This was the year of epic moving. I moved out of my dorm end of exam week  (for one week) then moved into another Summer Leadership dorm. Moved out of said dorm and back home (for one week) and then into my senior year dorm Fall 1997. 4 times moving, one summer. And in case you haven’t done it in awhile, moving sucks. All the boxes and sweating and yelling at your family; it’s enough to make anyone disown you.

Spring-Fall 1998: Graduation! Yay! I’m a real adult! Moving out is triumphant! I’ll miss my friends, but….woohoo! More like boohoo. Enter mild depression for three months, lose 20 lbs. Move again. (Turns out being a real adult blew, and after brief excitement over buying a bed and a dresser, I had to work at the Olive Garden. Neverending pasta bowls still give me nightmares).  Live there for three months and decide to be a teacher, move again to take a job back near hometown working with children under the age of 7 (with plans to return to Richmond).

Summer 1999: Re-enter Richmond with a trailer of my stuff, this time for grad school: I’m going to teach high school English, people! Party time. Real adult was better this time; I was back in school with a plan.

Summer 2000: Move again (two blocks away). One of my two roommates (both with the same name, different spelling) moves out to move in with her boyfriend. The two of us left behind can no longer afford our rent, so we move into a Uhaul and down the street.

Spring 2001: Holding pattern of school is over, need job. Grad school graduation party thrown by parents ends with sadness. Jobless, directionless, but not homeless–have an apartment on my own & sign a lease…but before moving into said apartment, accept job teaching 1 hour away. Move into new apt. in Richmond for 2 months, then move again into house on the Rappahnnock River (well, an apartment inside a giant house). Third summer as real adult = another two moves.

Summer 2002: Wait, no Uhaul truck? Sure, I hate it here, but no moving? Totally worth it.

Summer 2003: Whoa, I lived in one place for two years. SO MUCH CRAP I NEVER THREW AWAY! Without the yearly purge, I was floundering. A trip to Goodwill solved (most) of my mini-hoarding issues. I had 4 closets in that place (storing and forgetting = cake). I moved back to Richmond to take a new an exciting teaching job at a brand new high school! (And I would advise the yearbook, oh shit).

Summer 2004: After a fantastic year of living in the Fan again, I had to um, move again. This time for good reason: I bought my first house! So exciting and yet another moving debacle, but OMG, I’m a homeowner. Debt and responsibility ensue. Game nights, dinner parties, and I ended an 8-yr relationship while living in that house. Real adult x 10.

Summer 2010: It’s six years later and I’m trying desperately to get every little thing out of this house. I have tremendous friends and parents helping me go through an excess of memories. The photos of who I was, the 401K statements of what I could be, and the [insert where my friend tells me to shred all my memories and make new ones]. When you have a townhouse full of memories, you need to buy a shredder. So I did (with Target gift cards). I’ve spent the last week shredding (and unjamming said shredder), but at some point when you’re moving to Florida to start a new life with the love of your life, you don’t want to carry all these burdens with you.

Memories are embedded in my brain; I don’t need physical tokens to feel them, be them. Every step I take is on the heel of a past experience. I once thought that experiencing a fire would help me to separate myself from my possessions. Not that I wished for my house to catch on fire but I did think of the positives of such a tragedy. Then of course I met people who lost everything in a fire and I’m marrying someone who lost most everything to Hurricane Katrina. I am grateful I was not them. But the idea is still the same: as much as I love momentos and pour over them for hours when I find them, memory is deeper.  So I shredded and trashed far more than I thought I might. And it felt good. And then I was strangely emotional about an TV show on hoarding–while I don’t understand the depths of real-life hoarders, I understand the need to hold onto papers, to evidence of your previous life. It feels like you’re disappearing.

Thing is, you’re constantly reappearing in better form. Young Kara held onto everything. Young-at-heart Kara lets go in the physical sense and embraces the adventures lying ahead. Life will keep getting better the more you can release the past into the wind. I like to think of it as a warm breeze that comforts us when we need it, and cools us off when things are too hot. Like in Florida. Thank God above for the breeze or the humidity in SoFlo would knock me over. And ultimately, that’s me. Easy. Breezy.

Memories shredded, but I kept most of the pictures. Sometimes the breeze needs a visual.