Milestone

January 2009 is officially the first month since we got married that Aaron and I have stayed within the budget we made. Woooooohoooo! That is of course if we don’t spend more than $19 tomorrow, the 31st and final day of January. But we’ll just pretend like tomorrow is February. It’s short a few days anyways.

I just realized this story may horrify people. And all I have to say in my defense is this- according to the golden rule of marriage and for the survival of the species, it is destined to be that in every relationship, there is a saver and a spender.
Aaron and I have spent the last seven months fighting against the natural order of things because we are two spenders, united under one bank account, all on our own for the first time ever.
In many ways I am thankful for the recession, because I think it has helped Aaron and I be more cognizant of our spending. (It’s all over the news, how could you forget?) Moreover, my income has stayed the same while everything keeps getting cheaper! It’s great. I don’t mean to make little of the terrible losses others have suffered, but in many ways this is the best time it could have happened. I have no money, no assets, no 401k or savings to lose. Sometimes I think about how awesome it would be to buy stocks now when they are all so low and hold on to them until I retire. Problem is you have to have the money to begin with.
One step at a time though. January, we are finally out of the red. Maybe next month we can see what it’s like to live in the black.

Music For All, Music For Always

Listening to Dean Westman’s nasally midwestern accented voice brought it all rushing back.

The nights crammed on school buses, wreaking of sweat and shrieking “but you say he’s just a friend” as we pulled into the high school parking lot. Dragging ice-filled water bottles and dorky clarinet cases to school every day and learning to feel no shame for the social branding. Standing for hours in the heat. Marching for hours in the heat. Mentally plotting self-inflicted injuries in the heat. So I wouldn’t have to march. So I wouldn’t have to work so hard.

But I put myself through the pain because the joy of music is like nothing else. The ecstasy of art, and the pounds of flesh paid to create it. Nothing else taught in school can compare. Math has concrete, finite answers. History is only the practice of regurgitating memories with accuracy. Music has no finite goals. It challenges you to never stop. To try and try knowing there will never be a point where you say this is “good enough”. Because knowing there is no set answer, no end point, drives you to perform far past any potential you thought you had. Holds you accountable to every other musician working towards that unattainable goal, sucks you in to those rare moments of being a part of something bigger.

I threatened to quit more times than I can count, but the undeniable truth is that I have never found something so cathartic as the creation of music. For those in my life who have not had this sort of experience in music education, I strangely feel the same way I do when I try to relate my faith to people that didn’t grow up in church.
It’s impossible to describe the life-altering difference it has made for me, impossible to describe how the heart strings are so intricately threaded through that experience.
And that’s why my heart aches over the possible demise of Bands of America. Because in a school system that desperately needs excellence, passion, our culture considers this secondary. It is too qualitative, too speculative. Too costly.
Love from the outside in looks completely insane. So it goes with relationships, so it goes with religion, so it goes with art. Only inside the insanity can you witness the glory. Understand and embrace the power. There’s something to it and the magic of it must be shared for all. For always.

Couch Potato

It’s occurred to me recently that as far as television programming goes, I watch the absolute worst garbage available. Most people use the common mainstays of shows such as Lost or Heroes or heaven forbid Dancing with the Stars to bond with people they don’t know so well.

I don’t watch any of them. I like my TV savory, salacious and generally demeaning to as many groups of people as possible.

Shows you can use to strike up a conversation with me:

American Idol
The Bachelor
How Clean is Your House
Desperate Housewives
Brothers and Sisters
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
The Hills/The City
TLC Shows on Obesity
TLC Shows on Beauty Pageant Moms, IE Toddlers & Tiaras

There are worse things out there, I’ll admit. And every now and then I’ll dabble in a little Surreal Life marathon or some COPS with Aaron, but for the most part I do have a crap threshold. But the point I am quickly digressing from is this: I watch some crap and now I’d like to comment to someone, ANYone who watches the same shows I do about the atrocities I have witnessed.

1. The Bachelor. I’m a big Johnny Come Lately on this show as I only picked it up last season with what’s her name and the guy who has a kid, but I’m completely hooked. One could assume that women could not sink much lower on The Bachelor. Twenty-five women vying for such a hot commodity as a successful, attractive, reasonably sane man is sending a pretty clear message of inferiority and desperation. But this year, we’ve decided “we’ll take worse!”. “I’m willing to be a baby’s mama too if I can still have the successful, attractive, reasonably sane part”. So demeaning. And I know they think this is all progressive and blah blah blah but the truth is that we all know if this were a bachelorette with a kid a whole lot less men would be trying to get on TV and win her over.

2. Toddlers & Tiaras. This is the sole reason why I wished more people watched the same shows I do. Because, really, there are no words.

3. How Clean is Your House is genius. I’ve learned so many things from those awesome, crazy-ass British ladies who insist on not only witnessing, but sniffing and sampling everything foul in every house they encounter.

Things Learned:
a) Soda is corosive enough to remove limescale from toilets.
b) Banana peels can be used to polish shoes
c) Coffee makes a great polish and stain for old wood furniture
d) If anything smells weird, pour some vinegar on it.
e) feather boa-lined rubber gloves really spice up any occasion where you are “getting the nasties out”

Mouth-Watering

Yep, so in love with this bag I want to eat it. Problem? $350. FOR A CANVAS BAG! Let me repeat, FOR A CANVAS BAG YOU COULD GET AT THE HOB-LOB FOR $3 AND A SHARPIE….. which got me thinking… who’s up for a craft project?? Anyone? Anyone?



I’ve got a bad case of the Fridayitis. Help.

Current List

I like to make mental lists and run them in my head often and with an OCD type fervor. If I can’t remember things, I am irked.

Current List: Every Concert I Have Ever Been To, In Chronological Order

1. Reba McEntire, First concert ever at Rodeo with Allison and my parents
2. Amy Grant Christmas (I believe Vince Gill was there too?) Nicole, me, and our moms
3. Backstreet Boys, Katheryn Draper’s B-day in elementary school
4. Shania Twain, Chelsea, Nicole, Ashley List, me and a limo. Has to be the weirdest group ever.
5. 98 Degrees, Nicole, Rodeo, Don’t ask.
6. Dixie Chicks, Rodeo, Can’t remember?
7. Jars of Clay, Astroworld with Lizz and Allison
8. N’Sync, Chelsea and me, seventh row
9. Pat Green, Rodeo with the Pinky Pals
10. Death Cab for Cutie, Thida and Punag?
11. Green Day/ Jimmy Eat World, Thida at Reliant
12. The Used, roommates and various drinking buddies from Texas State, at Stubb’s
14. Dave Matthews Band, Chelsea in the Woodlands
15. Billy Idol, at Stubb’s with Marton
16. The Rocket Summer, Emo’s with Marton
17. Jimmy Eat World, Chelsea at Emo’s
18. Dixie Chicks, Allison at Erwin Center
19. Britney Spears (March 30, 2009) with Nicole, Kristen and Emily!

The fact that there are ones I can’t remember drives me nuts (even more than the fact of how horrible and embarrassing many of these are). Even more so, I’m starting to doubt I ever saw the Dixie Chicks at the rodeo. Maybe I imagined it. Maybe I just wished I had and saw them on TV enough to believe it happened. There is nothing more unsettling than a faulty memory.

Majestic Prose is Anecdote for Hope

An editorial attributed to the London Daily Mail on Obama’s Victory

Tue, 01/06/2009

Obama’s Victory

A victory for the hysterical Oprah Winfrey, the mad racist preacher Jeremiah Wright, the mainstream media who abandoned any sense of objectivity long ago, Europeans who despise America largely because they depend on her, comics who claim to be dangerous and fearless but would not dare attack genuinely powerful special interest groups. A victory for Obama-worshippers everywhere. A victory for the cult of the cult. A man who has done little with his life but has written about his achievements as if he had found the cure for cancer in between winning a marathon and building a nuclear reactor with his teeth. Victory for style over substance, hyperbole over history, rabble-raising over reality.

A victory for Hollywood, the most dysfunctional community in the world. Victory for Streisand, Spielberg, Soros and Sarandon. Victory for those who prefer welfare to will and interference to independence. For those who settle for group think and herd mentality rather than those who fight for individual initiative and the right to be out of step with meager political fashion.

Victory for a man who is no friend of freedom. He and his people have already stated that media has to be controlled so as to be balanced, without realizing the extraordinary irony within that statement. Like most liberal zealots, the Obama worshippers constantly speak of Fox and Limbaugh, when the vast bulk of television stations and newspapers are drastically liberal and anti-conservative. Senior Democrat Chuck Schumer said that just as pornography should be censored, so should talk radio. In other words, one of the few free and open means of popular expression may well be cornered and beaten by bullies who even in triumph cannot tolerate any criticism and opposition.

A victory for those who believe the state is better qualified to raise children than the family, for those who prefer teachers’ unions to teaching and for those who are naively convinced that if the West is sufficiently weak towards its enemies, war and terror will dissolve as quickly as the tears on the face of a leftist celebrity.

A victory for social democracy even after most of Europe has come to the painful conclusion that social democracy leads to mediocrity, failure, unemployment, inflation, higher taxes and economic stagnation. A victory for intrusive lawyers, banal sentimentalists, social extremists and urban snobs.

Congratulations America!

* * *

My dad just sent me this, citing the highlighted portions as examples of his difference in political orientation and sources of “grave concern” (I think he is afraid he may have lost me to the liberals). I told him I would call this article strands of truth among dark, heavy clouds of pessimism.

Isn’t there something to be said for self-fulfilling prophecy? Isn’t Hope the point? Aren’t we to visualize success? If the renewal of our country is truly dependent on the effort of many versus the few, aren’t we to believe that a man capable of inspiring action is more capable of creating the change than someone qualified to create change all on his own?

I like to think of Obama as the new FDR. Stepping in in times of crisis and taking decisive action. Creating programs, getting the wheels moving. Building bridges, rebuilding America. Celebrity love of liberalism and celebrity status of Obama meant little to me when I voted. If it really meant that much to others, we were already doomed before the vote was ever counted.

Dark Weather

In doing some work-related research on movie release dates, I came upon a very exciting discovery- the book Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs will be made into a movie that is set to release September 18, 2009!


Does anyone else remember the spectacular brilliance of this “children’s” book? It’s dark in a way few children’s books are, and while I had hoped for that artistic brilliance to carry over to film, this Wiki entry citing Anna Fariss as a co-star and describing the movie as a “parody” of other disaster films such as Armaggeddon and The Day After Tomorrow leaves me less hopeful.

Although I feel the same way about seeing animated movies in a theater without having kids as I do about planning trips to Disney World without kids (sorry Katie) I might actually fork over the money. Or not. $10.50 is a hell of a lot to pay if they are going to turn such a foreboding masterpiece into a campy, goofy parody where Anna Fariss runs around as if in House Bunny 2.

Inauguration

Woohoo.

….yep, I think that’s all I have left to say about that at this point. Talked and talked and talked leading up to the election, leading up to today. Now it’s not about talk, it’s about action. Get excited, people.
* * *
For posterity: How I Celebrated: Ate one (and only one!) of the American flag cupcakes Melissa brought in from Central Market. The PR house is nine to one democrats, so it was a pretty good day for all (the one lonely red state we bought off with the cupcakes). I could hear their CNN.com streaming videos echo between the offices throughout the day. Made me smile.

I am displaced.

Having one of those days where I don’t like normal. I feel defeated by the real world. Feel constrained to a nine to five existence. Constrained to remain exactly who I am, rinsing and repeating. Weekends are for that- rinsing the brain, washing the laundry. Starting all over again with the same old things.

I think I realized that I don’t like who I am becoming (or rather the lack of becoming anything) when I noticed today that a friend I used to have, a friend of the old me, has unfriended me on facebook. I don’t know why I took it so hard, I really can’t blame them. We- the we that involves this new me that has slowly replaced who I was then- that we, are no longer friends. Don’t really even know each other anymore.
But it’s a piece of such a beloved past. One more little something that drifts farther away and can’t be revisited. I’ve been mourning each and every piece in what feels like months of quiet desperation. Don’t know why I don’t ever reach out to people. Don’t know what I am afraid of. The Houston hermitization needs to stop. 
I blame the nine to five because I have nothing else. I curse my lack of time, but mostly I feel shy. Shy towards the people I was once so close to. Shy to start the conversations, ashamed to own up to my obvious absence.
Because that’s what I’ve loved most about my friends and what’s impossible to find elsewhere. The conversations- the realness of it. 
I feel suffocated in this new world of small talk and I long desperately for deep, meaningful, brutally honest conversations with deep, meaningful, brutally honest friends.
I can’t imagine living nine to five for the rest of my life. I hope I can figure out soon how to live between those hours. Squeeze in something. Hobbies, friends, passions. Because this is not sustainable.

Twitter

I’ve been a been advocate of Twitter these days, mostly because I feel like it fills in the gaps for when I don’t have time to blog. When I don’t have the mental energy to compose my thoughts.

That’s how I feel lately. Drained of mental energy. My creative banks are low these days. Been scribbling in my new notebook, but not enough pieces lately to put together.

Better than Politics

I’ve been wondering what I would use to fill the void left by election drama. Been reading a lot of CNN.com. Very unusual behavior, I know. In all that feigned interest in the “grown up” news I managed to stumble onto something miraculously horrible.

Alexandre Penney, a New York socialite and former editor of Self Magazine, after years of hard work and accumulated wealth, found herself virtually penniless. A victim of Bernard Madoff’s recent Ponzi scheme, she learned her life savings was gone for good.
At the age of sixty her inner starving artist came back out of retirement and began writing blogs on The Daily Beast documenting her experiences.
While the blog entries remain voyeuristically satisfying at best, it is the searing comments and hostile responses that make for prime entertainment.
I’ll refrain from sharing my own personal comments until you all get a chance to read a few of these:

the world is full of beautiful things

recent loves, renewed loves, pop culture I have been bingeing on lately:
fashion: betsy johnson, juicy couture, banana republic. yum, yum, yummy yum. be still my poor ailing credit score.
rose mcgowan: just love her. since Jawbreaker. since her dark Jackie O caricature in the Coma White music video.
movies I still want to see: Choke, Slumdog Millionaire, Rachel Getting Married
practical magic: Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, running around trying to cover up a murder in the most beautiful house I’ve ever seen. Someday I will make both an architect and interior decorator sit down, watch the movie beginning to end, then design my dream home.
rock band 2: the first of the Guitar Hero/Rock Band franchise that includes classic songs I loved before I strummed them on a plastic guitar, instead of the other way around.
how clean is your house: BBC does it better. Especially when it comes to finding the world’s nastiest homes, making you dry heave, then satiating your inner neurotic OCD desires with the best cleaning crew this side of Gloucester. I keep a stash of about twelve unwatched episodes on my DVR at all times. Just in case.

2009

I curse the person that planted the idea in my head that how you spend the first few hours of the new year determines the rest of your year. I remember them emphasizing how I should do something fun, something amazing. As if there wasn’t enough pressure already.

Every year since I stopped spending December 31st in my pajamas at home in my parent’s house with my sisters and our collective neighborhood friends (whose parents were all at the same party ours were) has been disappointing at best.
I can recall the brilliant disasters in procrastination and catastrophic let-downs in detail, but to get to my point- after four or five years of declining standards and shattered expectations, I arrived at December 31, 2008 indignant and hostile.
Not only because I am spending this god-forsaken holiday at home sick watching Dick Clark pathetically slur through his countdown (time-delayed from the actually Times Square clock no less) but because I am sad to see 2008 go.
This year meant a lot to me. My dad called earlier today to tell me that he had begun to write all the family Christmas cards (yes, procrastination is genetic) and noticed how much he had to include about me, dubbing 2008 “The Year of Lauren”. I got a dog, I graduated from college, I got married, I got my first job. I dominate the family Christmas card.
This new year holds no such milestones. In a way I guess I do expect these first few moments of 2009 to define the following 364 days- sitting on the couch with Ruby, sharing a box of tissues and NyQuil with Aaron while fighting over leftover quesadillas. I type on my computer, he watches Dog the Bounty Hunter, and all is right with the world.