Cogitations on a Senseless Tragedy

I should be sleeping right now because I just worked two nights in a row & I’m leaving for Boston tomorrow morning to visit my college roommate, but there is no way I can sleep after the news I’ve heard this morning.  As I was getting into bed, I saw that an acquaintance of mine from college had posted a plea for prayers for his WDBJ7 (a news station near where I went to college) family on his Facebook.  As I scrolled further down my newsfeed, I saw more & more posts about a WDBJ7 tragedy.  As it turns out, two young reporters, both essentially my age, were shot & killed during a live news segment from Smith Mountain Lake (near Roanoke, VA) this morning.  As of this time, there is no known motive & the killer is still at large.  The news segment was not about a crime so there seems to be no reason to have suspected there was any danger present.  But sure enough, a 27 year old man & a 24 year old woman who were simply out doing their job trying to make a living in this world are both now dead for no damn good reason.

These are the two journalists who were shot & killed during a live broadcast at Smith Mountain Lake this morning

These are the two journalists who were shot & killed during a live WDBJ7 broadcast at Smith Mountain Lake this morning.

After watching the horrific video in which you can hear the shots & see some of the carnage, tears are streaming down my face as I ponder the horrible cruelty of it all.  If I, a stranger who has never met these people or even seen them before on TV, can be so horrified by this senseless tragedy, I can only imagine the grief their friends & family are experiencing during this time.

At a time like this people, myself included, always ask “How can this happen?  What would inspire someone to do such a thing?  Where was God?  What is happening to this world?”  Such questions go on & on . . .grief path

The fact of the matter (in my opinion anyway) is there are no good answers to these questions.  The best answer is that these things happen because people are flawed; we are far more animalistic & far less civilized than we like to believe.  And I think that’s about as good of an answer as we’ll ever get.

I’ve written on here before about how one of my biggest pet peeves is people who go around saying the world’s “going to hell in a handbasket” & everything is so much worse than it’s ever been.  I truly do believe that the world is at least as, if not more, civilized than it’s ever been.  Nevertheless, in the face of such a horrific tragedy, I confess I too find myself questioning why I would ever want to bring children into a world of such chaos & sorrow.  I too find it hard to focus on the beautiful aspects of life in the midst of such unspeakable & unnecessary suffering.Miss Marple quote

And as petty as it is, I also want to tell all the people who think they’re safe living in the country that they need to get their heads examined because they’re clearly not as safe as they think they are.  After all, this isn’t the first time Central Virginia has made national & world news for violent murders.  Remember this?  That’s my hometown!!  And this?  That’s my hometown again!!  As I’ve stated on here before, Agatha Christie was so right when her delightful Miss Marple stated over & over again that even the quietest, most placid little village is filled with just as much crime, peril, & evil as anywhere else in the world.  Listen up, folks: the world isn’t, never has been, & never will be a safe place.  You can run but you can’t hide because violence will follow you everywhere; it’s inherent within us, or so history would teach us . . . & today’s tragedy only further serves to bear that out.

I don’t suppose there’s really a hell of a lot of a point to this other than to try to calm my own mind a bit so I can get some sleep & prepare for my trip tomorrow.  And also to try to express the horror & confusion that the Roanoke/WDBJ7 community as a whole is experiencing right now.grief quote

Speaking of my trip tomorrow, this will be my first time flying alone & my first time navigating Boston alone (just for a few hours tomorrow afternoon).  I know I’m going to do just fine, but I also know it will be a major test of my willpower & anxiety management skills.  But I will survive.  If anything this tragedy just serves to remind me that life is nothing if not short & completely unguaranteed.  So we had damn well better make the most of every single minute we have on this planet because, as trite as it may sound, not a one of us, no matter how young or healthy, knows when our time will be up.  And the greatest tragedy of all is not in death, for that is inevitable for all of us, but in a life wasted on bitterness & fear.

A Veil of Sadness

If I have any regular followers on here, I apologize for my sudden absence.  I realize it’s been over two weeks since I’ve posted anything; indeed I had to actually pull up my own blog to even remember what my last post was about.  My life has just been a whirlwind these past few weeks between general insanity at work (including doing some overtime) & my grandfather being sick.

I'm including some pictures from our recent vacation to Asheville, so this post won't feel overly pessimistic.

I’m including some pictures from our recent vacation to Asheville so that this post won’t feel overly pessimistic.

To elaborate on the last point, I rarely post such personal things on here, but my grandfather had a bad fall about a month ago & spent several weeks recovering in UVA hospital.  He was finally released to rehab only to now end up back in another hospital with aspiration pneumonia.  Over the past few years I’ve noticed that his memory has been slowly worsening, but ever since the fall in addition to his injuries & subsequent surgeries, he’s had a lot of confusion & restlessness.  As a nurse, of course I know this isn’t uncommon in someone his age who’s been hospitalized, especially after such a traumatic fall.  But nonetheless I can’t shake this horrible feeling that he’s never going to recover to his baseline.  Statistically speaking, the odds really are against him, as I well know from the many similar patients I’ve cared for over the past few years.

Wildflowers at Mt. Mitchell, highest point in NC & on all of the East Coast

Wildflowers at Mt. Mitchell, highest point in NC & on all of the East Coast

This is one blog post I kind of hope my family doesn’t see because I don’t want them to be disheartened.  I really don’t want them to know how negative I feel about this whole situation.  But at the same time I feel like I really need to express the sadness I’m experiencing right now.  I know it doesn’t make any sense, but I am terrible at expressing emotions around my family, at least so-called “negative” emotions, that is.  For example, it’s very rare that I cry in front of anyone other than my husband.  I just hate for even my own family to see me being “weak.”  I know that’s ridiculous & totally unhealthy, but it’s just the way things have always been for me.  At times like these, I realize how much harder that makes things because in the end I’m just bottling things up which is never, ever a good idea.  So that’s why I’m writing all of this, in an attempt to be more honest about how I feel & not just try to put on a brave face for everyone.  In the end I don’t think putting on a brave face helps anyone.  It’s better to just be honest & say how we really feel.dr seuss quote

I guess since my grandparents on my mom’s side are so much younger than my dad’s parents were I’ve always taken it for granted that I’d have them around for a really long time.  I never really doubted that they’d be around to see me graduate from college, get married, & have kids someday.  As it turns out they’ve seen the first two of those things & for that I’m eternally grateful.  But I just keep having this horrible thought that even I if I got pregnant tomorrow (which is not going to happen, just to be clear) my grandfather might not live to see that child.  Or even if he does he might not have the mental capacity to really understand & appreciate the experience.  And my future children might not have the blessing of getting to really know him as the man he really is.  And that breaks my heart.

Most recent good picture I have with my grandparents is from our wedding 4 years ago. Photo credit to Triskay Photography.

Most recent good picture I have with my grandparents is from our wedding 4 years ago. Photo credit to Triskay Photography.

Of course it’s possible that I’m being fatalistic & overly negative here.  But the fact of the matter is that as a nurse I see a lot of similar cases & I can’t deny that the endings often aren’t pretty.  One of the first things I learned as a nurse is that merely surviving isn’t enough.  Quality of life is everything.  I know my grandfather would never want to live the rest of his life in a nursing home, so even though he’s made a lot of progress, for which I am very grateful, I still fear that he’ll never make it back to his baseline & thus his quality of life will suffer greatly.  I really do hate to sound negative, but I’m speaking from experience here . . .

The truth is I’ve never seen the point in being overly positive or overly negative in life; I just strive to be realistic.  I learned a long time ago that sometimes it’s best to have low expectations for the things in life which you can’t control . . . I find this prevents a lot of disappointment & quite often leads to unexpected happy surprises.  Maybe some people would say that’s a negative way to live, but it works for me.

As I finish this the same way I started it, with tears in my eyes, I guess the best I can do is prepare for the worst & hope for the best . . .

Misty morning at Mt. Mitchell

Misty morning at Mt. Mitchell

PawPaw, I love you so much.  Every time you hug me I can see in your eyes how much you love me & how proud you are of me.  I’ll never be able to say how much that means to me.  I want you to recover & get back home to the life you knew before all of this.  But if that isn’t possible & your quality of life is such that you don’t feel you can take it anymore, I want you to know that we love you enough to let you go.  Please don’t hang around being miserable just for us.  More than anything I don’t want you to suffer.  I love you.

In conclusion (for real this time), I’ll end with a few Pema Chodron quotes because her words always bring me a sense of peace & calming, no matter the situation at hand.pema chodron quote 2

Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit & not be squeamish about taking a good look.”

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together & they fall apart. Then they come together again & fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

In Defense of Marriage

Let me just preface this post by saying that this is NOT a post in favor of “traditional marriage” & against gay/lesbian marriage, in case anyone reads the title, assumes so, & thus decides to forego the rest of what I have to say.  I’ve made it quite clear on this blog that I100% support gay/lesbian marriage & have no problem with “alternative” sexualities (homosexuality, transgender, bisexual, etc).

Now that that’s out of the way, I can get to the meat of the subject at hand: marriage.  My husband & I just got back from vacationing in Asheville, NC where we celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary.  I guess four years really isn’t that much, but when you consider that we were together for almost a decade prior to marriage, I think you can understand why we feel like we’ve been married for a lot longer than “just” four years.

Our wedding rings with my bouquet . . . Photo credit to Emily Sibitzky of Triskay Photography

Our wedding rings with my bouquet . . . Photo credit to Emily Sibitzky of Triskay Photography

In any case, it’s occurred to me many times in my life, but especially so lately, that modern society has some pretty warped ideas about marriage.  Actually, I think that’s probably always been the case.  After all, if there’s one thing I resent in life, it’s people who go around proclaiming that the world is “going to hell in a handbasket” & everything is so much worse than it used to be.  Not only do I think that’s BS, even if it were true, whining about it isn’t changing a damn thing.

ANYWAY, what I’m trying to say is that I’m not surprised that a number of people of my generation have a lot of qualms about marriage.  Between many of us growing up with parents who ended up divorced (or in some cases with parents who probably would have been better off divorced) & the multitude of negative depictions of marriage showcased in the media, it’s really no wonder that some of us have a very skeptical view on marriage.real act of marriage

I’ve read recently that the statistics aren’t as bad as we’ve been told for years now, but consider that the divorce rate in the US is generally accepted to be hovering somewhere around 50%.  Then consider that the media (everything from TV shows to commercials to movies) often depicts marriage as a milestone that magically causes women to gain 50 lbs, stop having sex, & become psychotically obsessed with having a perfect house while men become disgusting Neanderthals who can’t be bothered to lift a finger around the house or generally be anything more than overgrown teenagers.

No, no, no!!  It doesn't have to be like this.  It SHOULDN'T be like this.

No, no, no!! It doesn’t have to be like this. It SHOULDN’T be like this.

This negative portrayal of marriage in the media is not a new phenomenon.  Going back as far as the 1950s, marriage has often been portrayed in less than stellar fashion, usually for the sake of laughs of course.  Consider the classic I Love Lucy in which Lucy & Ethel, but especially Lucy, are depicted as incapable of balancing a checkbook & generally in need of a man to watch over their every move, meanwhile Ricky & Fred are buffoons who couldn’t iron a pair of pants or cook a pot of rice to save their lives.  Negative jokes about marriage were a regular part of the show’s routine, & I seriously doubt that the average viewer found this unusual or offensive.  It was just standard operating procedure.  And frankly I don’t think a hell of a lot has changed.  For example, a year or so ago I tried to watch a modern TV show (can’t remember the name right now) about which I’d heard a lot of good things.  However, I never made it past the first episode in which a recently engaged couple suddenly morphed into these bizarrely different versions of each other.  I just couldn’t take it.

I know a lot of people probably think “Oh, it’s all in good fun” but I think such depictions of marriage reveal a more sinister problem.  Or at least perpetuate negative stereotypes that, while sometimes reflected in real life, certainly are not inevitable consequences of marriage.ML BS

As a side note, it boggles my mind when I hear people say they’re so shocked that a celebrity couple like Miranda Lambert & Blake Shelton are getting divorced.  I’m not surprised at all.  Hell, I’m a lot more shocked when such celebrity couples DON’T get divorced!  Why is it surprising that two people with a lot of money/fame/power who spend a lot of time on the road away from each other would not achieve lifetime marital bliss?  Get real, people.

I just finished reading Corey Taylor’s latest book, as I mentioned in last week’s blog post, & I’ve been inspired by his bluntness to be a bit more blunt myself.  Now remember I’m not some relationship guru or expert, & I’m under no illusions that I’m Jesus or Buddha or some kind of divine messenger or any such nonsense, so you can take everything I say with a lump of salt.  I’m just a 26 year old woman with an opinion & the desire to share it.  So you can like it or lump it as far as I’m

With that disclaimer in mind, allow me to put it this way:

If getting engaged means your partner takes this as a license to become obsessed with every detail of the wedding to the point that you don’t even feel like he/she is the same person anymore . . . you’re doing it wrong.

If getting married means you no longer have sex on a regular basis . . .  you’re doing it wrong.

If you’re legitimately surprised that your fiancé proposed to you . . . you’re doing it wrong, & you probably shouldn’t be getting married because if you’ve never even discussed marriage before, you obviously have crappy communication skills.alimony

If getting married means you think you’re entitled to that person’s money for the rest of your life, even if you get divorced . . . you’re doing it wrong.  Allow me to go on a short rant here: alimony makes absolutely zero sense to me.  The whole idea of having access to another person’s money/time/body/life is dependent on the fact that you’re married to that person.  So if you get divorced & are thus no longer married, what makes you think you’re entitled to his/her money anymore?  Argh.  Feminism takes a step backwards every time a woman accepts an alimony check.  To be fair, if a recent divorcee is a stay-at-home mom (or dad), I can see how she might need a year or two to get back on her feet & into the workforce & able to support herself.  But there’s got to be a limit on these things.  Otherwise, how can we claim to be equal partners in marriage?  We can’t have it both ways, ladies. 

I understand that people change as they grow & mature, but if marriage means you don’t even recognize your spouse anymore . . . you’re doing it wrong.long-lasting-marriage

If marriage means you think you have a free license to gain a ton of weight or generally no longer care about your appearance at all . . . you’re doing it wrong!  Here’s another rant: nobody wants to be the a$$hole who says it, but just because you love someone that doesn’t mean you’re going to be sexually attracted to them if they morph into some completely different creature than the person with whom you fell in love & married.  You can call me whatever horrible names you like, but I think it’s just part of having self-respect, not to mention respect for your partner, that you continue to keep up your physical appearance no matter how long you’ve been together.  Trust me, I’m not saying we all need to traipse around the house in lingerie 24/7 or that every man has to have a 6-pack or he’s failing in life . . . I’m just saying let’s have some common sense & stay attractive, not to mention healthy, for our mates as best we can.  End rant.

One of my inspirations in life

One of my inspirations in life

In conclusion, I understand that not every marriage is going to work out.  But I do think a lot of divorces are precipitated by the fact that many couples have less than stellar communication skills, not to mention the fact that many couples rush into marriage for a variety of reasons.  And to be perfectly honest I don’t think getting divorced should be viewed as some kind of grand failure in life.  It happens.  It’s just a part of life like everything else.

Also, let me be clear in saying that I understand there are some couples who are fully committed to each other but have no desire to actually get legally married.  And I have no problem with that.

T-shirts like this, & the message they send, make me so angry!  It doesn't have to be this way!!

T-shirts like this, & the message they send, make me so angry! It doesn’t have to be this way!!

What really bothers me is seeing marriage portrayed as some kind of trap or the “end of the party.”  I can’t remember who has said this to me, but more than once in my life I’ve had people ask me how I could possibly get married so young (22, which isn’t even that young in my family/culture) & didn’t I feel like I was missing out on a lot of fun.  Aside from the fact that I find such questions incredibly rude, it saddens me that so many people think of marriage as an inevitable damper on life. 

Perhaps the best way to sum it up is this: yes, life is hard & even the best relationships aren’t always a cake-walk, but if your marriage doesn’t add to the quality of your life, if it doesn’t make you a better, happier, more fulfilled person . . . you guessed it, you’re doing it wrong!

Musings From a Perfect Summer Evening

Over the past 24 hours I’ve frequently found myself thinking about just how blessed I really am.  For example, yesterday evening I spent some time at our neighborhood pool reading the new Corey Taylor book (he’s the lead singer of both Stone Sour & Slipknot, two amazing rock/metal bands, in case you were unaware), & during my time there I kept thinking to myself how absolutely perfect the evening was.  Taylor’s latest book is, as always, both astoundingly hilarious & devastatingly profound, so that alone would be enough to make for a pleasant evening.  (It’s called You’re Making Me Hate You, & you can find it on Amazon.)  Add to that the pristine peacefulness of sitting by the pool watching the sunlight filtering through the pine trees, creating dancing shadows & shifting shapes on the fence.  Furthermore I had the pool entirely to myself for quite a bit of time, so I said “To hell with safety” & swam alone for what was probably the first time in my life.  To be clear, I’m a perfectly adept swimmer, but the nurse in me was screaming “No one should ever swim alone, not even Michael Phelps!”  But I silenced that voice because, as I said to myself then, what’s the point of life if you don’t take a few (calculated & intelligently planned) risks now & then?

The pool last night

The pool last night

Additionally as I walked back to the house after my time at the pool, I found myself watching the sky in utter fascination & awe.  It doesn’t matter how many beautiful clouds or sunsets I’ve seen; each new experience is just as meaningful & stunning as the last.  As I stopped to take a picture of the vibrant blue sky with feathery white clouds, I thought to myself, “THIS is why I want to have kids someday, so they can experience the beauty of nature & the simple pleasures of being alive.”

The sky last night

The sky last night

This of course led to further pondering about why I do in fact, after much deliberation & a boatload of self-doubt, want to be a mother someday.  I don’t want to be a mom so I can have a “mini me” running around.  God knows, the world probably doesn’t need that!  Ha!  I don’t want to have kids so that I can live vicariously through them, to have them fulfill the dreams that I haven’t yet fulfilled myself. And I don’t want to have kids just out of fear that I’ll regret it someday if I don’t.  Furthermore, though it’s tempting at times, I don’t want to have kids just so I can “keep up” with my friends who are pregnant & starting their own families now.

My favorite hike in VA: Grayson Higlands

My favorite hike in VA: Grayson Highlands

No, I want to have kids so I can share with them the intense pleasures of being alive.  Yes, going to college & obtaining a great career is wonderful.  Indeed it is exactly what allows me to live a financially stable life in which I can have, within reason of course, almost anything I want (decent vacations every year, concerts to see my favorite bands, going out to eat with friends on a regular basis, etc).   But I don’t want to have kids just so I can see them grow up to become doctors or lawyers or scientists or whatever else represents “success.”  To be clear, I’ll be damned if they grow up to be ignorant fools who are a burden on society.  Of course I want them to be successful . . .

Beautiful fall colors at House Mountain near Lexington, VA

Beautiful fall colors at House Mountain near Lexington, VA

But more than that I want them to be happy, to understand that the point of life isn’t just to have a good career, own a house, get married, etc.  The purpose of life is simply to live it, to soak up as many experiences as we can during our short stay on this earth.  I want to have kids so I can share with them the feeling of the wet grass beneath our feet & the sand between our toes.  I want to sit under the stars with them & stare in wonder at the nighttime sky, to watch a sunset & feel the magic of simply being alive to witness it.  I want to share with them the beauty of the mountains & the beach & the Fall leaves as they change colors & drift to the ground.  I want to share with my kids the pleasures of exploring the world & learning about different cultures & people & ways of life on this planet we all call home.  I could go on & on, but I suppose you get the picture by now.diverse kids

As I’m finishing up this post, it occurs to me that my husband & I moved to NC three years ago today.  What a crazy day that was!  When we moved here, I had no idea if I’d really like it or not.  I had no idea if I’d be able to adapt to living in a city with almost half a million people, in a culture that is very different than anything I’d ever known previously.  In reality it took a few months, closer to a year I suppose, to start making friends & really feeling at home here, but now I love this area & can’t imagine a better place to raise kids somedayAmazing how life works out sometimes when you take a calculated risk & run with it!

One of the absolute greatest pleasures of my life: our Welsh corgi named Chacuer

One of the absolute greatest pleasures of my life: our Welsh corgi named Chaucer

I’m not sure really what the exact purpose of this post is other than to say that I’m once again reminded of the gloriousness there is in just being alive & having the chance to chase your dreams while also relishing in the simple pleasures of life that make this journey truly worthwhile.  As I draw to a close, a storm has just rolled in, & as the rain pours down & the thunder snarls, I’m reminded once again of the beauty & power of nature.  I grew up being terrified of storms, & even now I still feel an initial blip of fear whenever a storm starts.  But I’ve learned that storms can be beautiful.  So instead of sitting here in fear like I would have for most of my life, I’m going to watch the rain, listen to some music (but not loud enough to disguise the rolling of the thunder), cuddle with my corgi, & revel in the beauty of nature once again.

I didn't take this picture, but I thought it was pretty cool.

I didn’t take this picture, but I thought it was pretty cool.


Breaking Benjamin is Back & Better Than Ever

Breaking Benjamin was one of the first rock bands I got into when I was a freshman in college & started my adventure into the netherworld of rock & roll.  With clean vocals, melodic guitars, & memorable lyrics, the band was a perfect fit for me, & songs like “So Cold” & “The Diary of Jane” became instant favorites of mine.  Two years later when Dear Agony was released, the singles “I Will Not Bow” & “Give Me a Sign” again became instant favorites for me & many other fans.  However, in the ensuing years the band became locked in turmoil & went into what appeared to be an indefinite hiatus.  Along with many other fans, I was saddened to think the world had probably heard the last of BB.benjamin_burnley_by_ausalazarc-d3ixbvp Thankfully I was wrong in my assumption that the band would never exist again . . . In 2014 lead singer Benjamin Burnley announced that he had reformed the band with an entirely new lineup, aside of course from himself at the helm.  When “Failure,” was released, it became immediately apparent that despite the lineup changes Burnley & his band still had plenty of magic left in them.  Indeed, it is a testament to Burnley’s songwriting abilities that he was able to retain the signature sound of his band despite having an entirely new lineup supporting him.  “Failure” quickly became a #1 hit on rock radio & fans like me were chomping at the bit to hear the rest of the new album.

The new Breaking Benjamin lineup

The new Breaking Benjamin lineup

I saw Breaking Benjamin live for the first time at Carolina Rebellion in Charlotte this May.  They were definitely on my list of “must see” bands, but to be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect even though I knew “Failure” was a great song.  I just didn’t know if the old magic would still translate with the new lineup.  As it turned out, I, along with my husband & a good friend who was there with us, got caught in a massive crowd surge during the BB show, leading me to near panic levels of anxiety.  Thankfully my husband & friend were able to keep me relatively calm despite the crowd around us.  I also can’t help but believe that the music itself helped to break my anxiety.  If you’re like me & hate crowds, may I just say that a Breaking Benjamin concert is definitely the place to get caught in one if it has to happen?  There is plenty of anger & sadness in Burnley’s lyrics at times, yet there is something infinitely soothing about his music.  As the band performed their new hit along with about a dozen of the older songs, it became very apparent to me that the band is back & better than ever.  And thus began the even more anxious awaiting of the new album release the next month.  And the quest to ensure that I would see the band live again soon!

Evidence of the huge crowd BB drew at Carolina Rebellion this year

Evidence of the huge crowd BB drew at Carolina Rebellion this year

As it turns out, I clearly wasn’t the only fan eagerly anticipating the Dark Before Dawn release.  Despite the six year hiatus, the new lineup, & the fact that “rock is dead” these days, the album sold 141,000 copies in its first week & thus topped the Billboard chart, becoming the band’s first #1 album ever.  So there, Gene Simmons!  Just more proof that rock isn’t dead after all! With additional obvious radio hits like “Angels Fall” & “Defeated,” the album retains the band’s signature sound but with even more power, largely due to the addition of backing vocals from one of the new guitarists & the new bassist.  Burnley has stated in quite a few interviews that having bandmates who can do backing vocals, both on the album & live in concerts, has added a whole new layer to the band.  He is absolutely correct in this statement, as has can be clearly heard throughout the entire album.  Aside from “Failure,” “Angels Fall,” & “Defeated,” some of my favorites include heavier pieces like “Breaking the Silence” & “Bury Me Alive,” as well as the beautiful ballad “Ashes of Eden.”Ben Burnley Naturally when I saw a few weeks ago that Breaking Benjamin is coming to The Ritz in Raleigh next month (Friday, August 21), I was determined to make it to the show.  Now I’m even more excited for the concert because one of my college friends whom I haven’t seen since we graduated four years ago is coming down to Raleigh to go to the show with us.  Seeing one of my favorite bands + being reunited with an old friend = AWESOME!  :) If you’re in the Raleigh/Durham area or anywhere within a reasonable driving distance, I highly recommend you set aside the time & money to attend this concert.  It will be well worth it.  You can get tickets here.  Also do yourself a favor & be sure to pick up a copy of the Dark Before Dawn album.  I’ll stop now & let the music do the talking for me.  Check out the links below to some of my favorites from the album. Breaking Benjamin’s “Failure” “Angel’s Fall” “Breaking the Silence” “Ashes of Eden” “Defeated”

Pictures, Feeling Fat, & Weightlifting

This post is largely aimed at the ladies, but guys, please feel free to read & chime in too if you’re interested.

Yesterday, I saw some pictures a cousin of mine posted on Facebook from a family gathering.  Initially I thought “Oh, these are cute pictures of me, my husband, & Chaucer ” (our corgi).  But upon closer inspection I found myself thinking “Eww, I look so fat.  I might as well be pregnant because my waist already looks like it!”  I’m pretty sure every woman who is reading this has had a similar scenario & knows exactly how I was feeling when looking at those pictures.feel fat cartoon

Now realistically I know that  at 5’6″ & 153 lbs I’m in pretty good shape.  My BMI is within a healthy range (barely), although I’ll be the first to admit that BMI is a pretty useless tool (particularly for men: consider my husband who, at < 10% body fat, still scores in the obese range).  I wear a size 8-10 in most clothes, & I’ve never had an inch of cellulite anywhere on my body.  My doctors have all told me I’m at a perfectly healthy weight, although it would certainly be safe for me to lose 5-10 lbs if so I desired (& I do).  My arms & legs have fairly visible/palpable muscle, for a female anyway, & as my husband tells me all the time I’m one of few women who has visible traps/lats (basically shoulder & back muscles), which thankfully he finds incredibly sexy.

This picture is from almost 4 years ago but I still look the same; if anything, I have more muscle now.  I just haven't taken a picture like this in a long time.

This picture is from almost 4 years ago, but I still look the same; if anything, I have more muscle now. I just haven’t taken a picture like this in a long time.

Yet I am still not satisfied that I look the best I really could, mostly because I know I still carry too much extra weight around my waist, which of course happens to be the most unhealthy place to have extra fat.  In our current culture of fat acceptance, I know plenty of people reading this will say “Oh, you’re just another one of these poor girls who’ve been brainwashed by airbrushed models & actresses.”  As much as I like to think I’m too smart & logical to be affected by these things, I’m slowly starting to realize that my idea of how I should look has probably been more warped by such things than I’d like to admit.  To be clear, I’m not trying to look like the next VS model or to be as thin as the average actress.  I know those are unrealistic goals & that most of those women are airbrushed anyway by the time we see them.  But I do want to look the best I can & be the healthiest I can be because life is far too short to do anything else, & I know I need to get serious about achieving this goal NOW since I’d like to become a mom some time in the next year or two.airbrushing

With that in mind, I thought it might be beneficial for me to list out my current gym stats, partially because it will help me realize how much ground I’ve already covered.  At the beginning of this year, not to mention a few years ago, many of these numbers were only half of what they are now.  Perhaps focusing on the progress I’ve already made will encourage me to keep going.  I really wish I could say I’m one of those people who just LOVES to work out, but the truth is I’m not,  & I probably never will be.  I’ve learned to tolerate a little cardio as long as I have some pumping music to keep me motivated, & I really do enjoy lifting weights, largely because I can literally see & feel the results on my body, not to mention because of the increased confidence it gives me.  But even so, I still have to force myself to go to the gym or take a bike ride around my community.  I’d love to say I’m one of those people who just doesn’t feel complete without getting a good workout in every day, but I’d be lying if I said so.  Maybe that will happen one day, but I’m not placing any bets on it.

I actually like all the mirrors at the gym, but I still thought this was funny.

I actually like all the mirrors at the gym, but I still thought this was funny.

In any case, here are my numbers.  As I said, I’m hoping looking at these will help to keep me motivated on the days when my motivation is sorely lacking.  And if it helps inspire anyone else, then that’s just icing on the cake (& yes, I realize that is a terrible metaphor for a post about fitness, haha!).

To be clear, these numbers represent the normal amount of weight I do on each machine/exercise.  I can technically do more on some of them, but if I can’t consistently do at least 5-10 solid reps with good form, then to me it doesn’t count.

Chest press: 50 lbs

Seated leg press: 135 lbs

Incline shoulder press: 20 lbs

Flies: 60 lbs

Hip abduction/adduction: 140 lbs

Lying leg curls: 65 lbs

Deadlifts: 80-90 lbs

Bench press: 40-45 lbs

Tricep press: 85 lbs

Lat pull down: 70 lbs

Rows: 60 lbs

Wow, what an inspiration!   I want to be like her someday.

Wow, what an inspiration! I want to be like her someday.

One of my favorite things about my current gym is that I often see dads (& sometimes moms) working out with their teenage sons (& occasionally daughters).  When we have kids, I know my husband & I are going to do the same, whether our kids are boys or girls.  However, this gym does not offer regular classes of any sort.  Considering I work night shift & my schedule changes every week anyway, it’s very unlikely I’d ever participate in any classes even if they were offered.  Frankly I’m too self conscious to take a class & I really much prefer to work out alone anyway.  Maybe that’s illogical because I’d probably stand out less in a group than I do when I’m one of  the only girls (or sometimes the only girl) in the weight room.  But in any case, I know how my mind works, & I know that organized exercise routines just don’t do it for me.  I have to find my own pace & my own routines in order to be motivated enough to keep working.  Nonetheless, I’m hoping this post will help me to hold myself more accountable to getting my workouts done more consistently every week & to keep pushing myself to truly be the best I can be.


Bookstores & Subsequent Musings on Femininity

One of my favorite things to do in life is to read, so consequently it follows that bookstores are some of my favorite places in the world.  As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I have a particular affectation for used books, not only because they cost less but also because there is just something magical about knowing someone else owned (& presumably read) a book before me, particularly if it’s an older book.  In any case, today I stopped by a B&N (Barnes & Noble, not a used book store of course) to stroll through the sale/clearance section, just to see what I might find.  And naturally I wound up purchasing two books which have now been added to my ever increasing “to read” list.

How I feel when perusing most fiction aimed at people of my gender (aka women)

How I feel when perusing most fiction aimed at people of my gender (aka women)

As much as I love trawling bookstores, I’ve noticed a certain phenomenon happens every time I go look for new (to me) books: I end up having a slight “crisis of femininity.”  If you’re wondering what the hell that means, it simply means that I find myself cringing at most of the books that are clearly aimed at women.  For example the ever popular Nicholas Sparks makes me want to puke.  I can’t stand that sentimental, romantic BS.  Maybe I shouldn’t call out what I haven’t actually read, but even the synopses of his books (& the theatrical versions of such) make me sick.  I’ve actually tried reading books by other popular “chick lit” authors such as Lauren Weisberger, Sophie Kinsella, & Jennifer Weiner.  I’ve made it through a few of them (I’ll even admit The Devil Wears Prada was pretty good), but others made me roll my eyes so many times that I haven’t made it past the first few pages.

If the cover looks something like this, I probably ain't interested.  And, yes, I am judging a book by its cover but only because I've found that books with these kinds of covers really do suck (for me, that is).

If the cover looks something like this, I probably ain’t interested. And yes, I am judging a book by its cover but only because I’ve found through experience that books with these kinds of covers really don’t interest me.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that a large portion of popular fiction aimed at people of my gender just makes me want to gag.  I find myself wanting to punch most of the characters in the face for their irrationality & general idiocy.  For example, as much as I try to be an empathetic person, I’m fundamentally incapable of feeling sorry for a character who’s upset about losing $500 Jimmy Choo heels.  I just can’t relate to that at all.  (Even if I had that kind of money I’d never spend it on something so ludicrous.  If that’s judgmental, I’m sorry I’m not sorry.)  Or when a female character is devastated that a man who was clearly an ass turned out in fact to be an ass, I just don’t have much sympathy for her.  Instead I find myself wanting to yell at her, “How did you not see this coming, you idiot?!harlequin romance

To be clear I don’t find myself reading a lot of books clearly aimed at men either.  But I have noticed that at least half (actually, probably a good deal more than half) of the books I read are by male authors &/or have a man as the central figure of the story.  Hell, the book I’m currently reading, & enjoying immensely I must add, is Post Office, the first novel by the iconic Charles Bukowski.  If you know anything about Bukowski you know that his books could truthfully be described as ribald & irreverent, all the while being immensely profound & astoundingly hilarious.  But a far, far cry from mainstream chick lit in almost every possible way.  Yet I am devouring this book like it was my first meal after a long famine.

This really is one of the funniest books ever written, I swear.

This really is one of the funniest books ever written, I swear.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind romance in my fiction.  A little bit tossed in here & there is just fine.  But if romance alone is the central theme of the book, I’m sorry but it just doesn’t hold my interest.  Romance novels, whether of the Harlequin romance variety or the prim & proper Christian romance variety, are of no interest to me whatsoever.  And Fifty Shades of Grey might as well be in Greek for all I care.

(To be clear, I don’t think romance novels in & of themselves are bad or wrong.  Different strokes for different folks.  They just are of no interest to me.)

I’m not really sure what the point of this post is (that seems to be happening a lot lately), other than to say I know I can’t be the only woman who is a little disgusted by the majority of books peddled to our gender.  To be clear, I’m a far cry from a “tom boy,” but I also have a pretty strong disdain for most things pink, so much so that if I have a daughter I’ll almost certainly dress her in little boy’s clothes (or at least more gender neutral stuff) when she’s a baby, just to avoid the boatload of pink stuff.  (Baby pink really is the worst shade of pink, I swear.)  Yet as much as I sometimes hate to admit it, I fulfill a fair amount of traditional feminine roles within my marriage.  But I also listen to hard rock music, swear too much, devour murder mysteries the way most (or at least many) women read romance novels, abhor treadmills but love lifting weights, & speak way too loud for my own damn good.  (I don’t have an indoor voice, I’ve been told, & it’s just the plain truth, like it or not.)  I’ve had one manicure in my life, which was for my wedding, & have no interest in ever getting one again.  I don’t own high heels & don’t care to . . . I guess what I’m trying to say is I like to think I’m a good mix of both stereotypical feminine & masculine traits.breaking stereotypes

As I’ve written before, I think the most interesting people in the world are those who defy stereotypes, those who are difficult to place in “boxes,” the convenient categories of people society constructs in an effort to make sense of this confusing world which we inhabit.  I like people who are unpredictable in the sense that I can’t always predict what their opinion is going to be on any given topic.  Furthermore, I like people who prove me wrong when I find myself being small minded or petty.  And consequently I like books that make me think, that make me question myself & the norms of society.  And frankly most chick lit simply doesn’t do that for me.  All it makes me do is cringe & wonder if there’s something wrong with me for not relating to the characters who presumably represent “normal” women.  If any of this makes me unfeminine or weird, I truly couldn’t care less.

Actually, to be perfectly honest, I suppose I DO care a bit or I wouldn’t be writing this post . . . But just once I’d like to go to a bookstore & not be reviled by most of the books clearly marketed at people of my gender . . . Oh well.  Maybe I’d better start writing that novel I’ve always wanted to write if I want to make that happen.  Ha!pageant material

I’ll end this post the way I so often do these days, with a link to one of my new favorite songs, Pageant Material by Kacey Musgraves off of her recently released album of the same name.  The song contains the signature sassy but sincere, simple but profound lyrics that have become Kacey’s trademark.   (Skip to 2:50 in the linked video for a live performance of the song.)

See the full lyrics below (bold added by me to emphasize my favorite lines):

There’s certain things you’re supposed to know
When you’re a girl who grows up in the South
I try to use my common sense
But my foot always ends up in my mouth
And if I had to walk a runway in high heels in front of the whole town
I’d fall down
And my mama cried
When she realized

I ain’t pageant material
I’m always higher than my hair
And it ain’t that I don’t care about world peace
But I don’t see how I can fix it in a swimsuit on a stage
I ain’t exactly Ms. Congenial
Sometimes I talk before I think, I try to fake it but I can’t
I’d rather lose for what I am than win for what I ain’t

She might not be pageant material, but she is beautiful.

She might not be pageant material, but she is beautiful.

God bless the girls who smile and hug
When they’re called out as a runner up on TV
I wish I could, but I just can’t
Wear a smile when a smile ain’t what I’m feelin’
And who’s to say I’m a 9.5
Or a 4.0 if you don’t even know me
Life ain’t always roses and pantyhose

I ain’t pageant material
I’m always higher than my hair
And it ain’t that I don’t care about world peace
But I don’t see how I can fix it in a swimsuit on a stage
I ain’t exactly Ms. Congenial
Sometimes I talk before I think, I try to fake it but I can’t
I’d rather lose for what I am than win for what I ain’t

Maybe if there were beauty pageants for little boys too I wouldn't be so disgusted by them.

Maybe if there were beauty pageants for little boys too I wouldn’t be so disgusted by them.

I ain’t pageant material

The only crown is in my glass
They won’t be handin’ me a sash
And that’s okay, cause there’s no way
You’ll ever see me in a swimsuit on a stage
I ain’t exactly Ms. Congenial
Sometimes I talk before I think, I try to fake it but I can’t
I’d rather lose for what I am than win for what I ain’t
Yeah, I’d rather lose for what I am than win for what I ain’t