Photography Friday: Rule Of Thirds

In keeping with my new goal to get back on a regular writing schedule, I’m picking back up with an old theme for Fridays, photography. I’m in Chicago on work, so not a ton of time to post new photos, but here’s a shot I took on Wednesday in New Orleans. The current Daily Post photo prompt is to show a photo that follows the rule of thirds, where the focal point is off center. I didn’t take this shot with the post in mind, but I certainly did have the rule of thirds in mind, as it’s a great guide for creating visual interest in even the simplest of scenes.

Electric Shadows by Anna Harris

Belly Button Lent

Can you tell that I like horrible jokes? I’m as corny as they come. Last night, in fact, I spent the better part of an hour reading a website for The Potato Rock Museum, an online collection of rocks that look like potatoes, with arguments that these rocks might actually have been potatoes at some point. I laughed over some of the images until there were tears streaming down my face. I mean, seriously – you can’t possibly tell me this isn’t one of the most amusing things you’ve seen today:

Yum, what a lovely baked potato! Wait a minute, that’s no spud – that’s a ROCK!

Whatever, I thought it was hilarious.

Anyway, I’m just writing this little post because it’s the first day of Lent, and I felt like it deserved some attention. Not for any religious reasons, mind you. I’m decidedly not Catholic. I’m not even celebrating Lent in any official capacity. But since the first day of Lent happens to mark the end of the Mardi Gras season, it’s a useful demarcation for me in other ways.

I didn’t get too crazy over Mardi Gras. In all, I had eight drinks over two weeks. I ate a tiny sliver of king cake, a huge BLT poboy, a slice of pizza, and a decent enough helping of fried foods and snacky things, as is my custom during the season of debauchery. Overall, though, this was a very tame holiday season for me. I didn’t even leave the house on Fat Tuesday. I’m getting old, and as it turns out, I really enjoy being sober and healthy.

That being the case, I’ve decided that this Lent I’m going to go for it. No drinking for the next 40 days. I’m also going back to eating paleo, and even though the Iron Tribe transformation challenge is over, I’m going to keep working out four to five days a week. Right now my loose goal is to get to around 170 lbs by Easter.

Now here’s the kicker. If I can get to my next goal mark of 170 within the next 40 days, I’m going to buy myself the present I’ve wanted for a few years now. I’ve had my eye on this ridiculously trashy diamond belly button ring.

white-gold-body-jewelry-with-pave-54

I’m currently wearing a sterling silver one with swarovski crystals, but if I can keep up the good work, I think I deserve to get something lovely and silly for my good work – a genuine white gold and diamond ring for my naval, perfect for accenting my prized lint collection.

Too bad I can’t find one with potato rock accents…

A Year Later – The Things Left To Say

When it ended, I thought there was nothing more to say. I was wrong.

At the time, I thought I understood exactly what both of us were going through. I knew you felt blindsided and betrayed, but were trying to see it from my side. You were much gentler in your sorrow than I’d ever known you to be in eight years of dating. As for me, I just felt free, like I was being released from this cage of silence I had built inside of our relationship. I could see the edge of the relationship, and where that edge ended, a new type of happiness beckoned. After feeling trapped for so long, I used everything I had to break out. I threw myself against my bonds like a wild thing. Maybe I surprised you with showing passion for something after years of walking around, dead-eyed. Maybe I should have been easing my way out, or I could have given you more warning. I didn’t know how; I still don’t.

You were confused. You asked me why. I tried to tell you everything, but I didn’t know how to put it in words. I knew that you weren’t right for me, but that you were a good man, a good person, with so much to offer someone else. I knew that our differences were fundamental. Your disinterest in spiritual connection and partnership, your bemusement with my creative struggles, your inability to help me with the things I asked for, and rigid insistence on helping with the things I didn’t need. The way I didn’t fit in with your best friends. The way you didn’t fit in with mine. The conservativism and forced gender roles that we talked our way around but never quite got right. No real physical affection, coupled with a constant harping on my lack of libido. Hating each other’s music. Silence on car trips. Silence everywhere. I felt trapped in this thing that wasn’t me, and I knew that I’d been digging my own grave, so it wasn’t all your fault, but I had to get away. I tried to say that. I’m not sure that you heard it. I’m not sure I even said it right.

On the last day, as we moved out the last of our stuff, you asked to be left alone, to have no contact until you were ready. You said that might be never. And I’ve respected that as much as I can. You’re still showing up in my newsfeed from time to time (ah, the joys of social media), but in most ways, it’s been easy to let you live your life. Who needs to hash over old shit, best forgotten?

But the fact remains that you were my friend. You might have seen me as a lover, and I still remember good times in the beginning. But by the end I’d come to see you as family. And that’s a hard loss to take for an only child. After all, you took care of me like an older brother. You fed me and clothed me and worried over me like a mother. You were bossy like a father I didn’t want, and in the end I felt smothered and weak. It’s taken me a year to get some of my old self back. It will take much longer, I’m afraid, to be really strong again. You just wanted to keep me safe and make me feel loved. I understand how that goes – I’m a giver, too – but you made me feel useless. I couldn’t do anything right. Every action felt subject to scrutiny. In the end I resented you for that.

You asked if there was someone else, and I said no. There’s been some gossip, so I want to set things straight. I told a half-truth in a misplaced effort to protect you. There was someone that I was interested in, but that interest didn’t affect my feelings for you, or my need to get out of the relationship. That interest was also not acted upon while we were dating. I was very careful to not do anything that would hurt you any more than I was already bound to. But life is messy, and the truth is that I should have cut ties or made some huge changes in the way we talked to each other years before we called it quits. By the time the end rolled around, we’d been in the midst of a communication breakdown for at least three or four years. I’d been desperately unhappy since the apartment on Clark Street. It’s easy for me to say you should have seen it, but that’s unfair. I should have tried harder to make you see it.

I’m happy now. I don’t know if what I have is going to last, but it sure feels like it. It feels really strong, like I’m finally getting it right. He gets me in ways that I don’t even get myself, and we have all the right things in common. But I try to manage expectations. I’m not ready for a heartbreak, and if an eight-year relationship can throw you a curveball, what use is it placing all of my hopes in something so new? I’ve learned that the best I can do is be honest, and talk, talk, talk. I’m even learning how to argue. It’s not going so well, given my need to throw things and scream and cry, but I’m trying really hard to get it right. It’s a life skill that I should have probably figured out by now, but back then I thought that holding my tongue was the key to calm waters. What did I know?

We will see each other again at some point. It’s inevitable, now that you’re back in Chicago and hanging with all of our old friends. And you won’t have read this, because you never read anything I wrote. But at least I’ve said it, and I can hold my head high knowing that I’ve never wished you ill. I’m happy now, or at least on my way there. And now that there’s a year between us, I can see me clearly enough to see more of what the problem was. We’re too alike in too many ways, you and I. We never argued, because we were too busy being strong and calm. But even if we had, we wouldn’t have been able to find a middle ground. Neither of us ever wanted a middle. We wanted what Scorpios always want – to consume, and be consumed by, our lovers. Your pragmatism would never allow my need for magick, and I simply don’t believe in the same reality that you insisted on living in. Because fuck it, that’s why. Concentrating on how unfair the world is, and how it will never get better, is simply not worth the heartache.

I hope you got into therapy, and started sleeping again. I hope that you start playing softball this summer – I only saw you really smiling and happy that one time years ago, when you were trying to teach me to play catch. I hope you find a beautiful, successful girl with a great body, a high libido, a nice family, lots of great recipes that she’s happy to cook you, and a true wish to be a mom. I hope you write that book you were talking about, and then get a really good editor, because your writing is far too redundant and technical. I hope you get a job that doesn’t make you come home angry every day. I hope you learn to admit that sleeping for an hour every afternoon definitely counts as a “nap” and there’s nothing to be ashamed of. I hope you stop getting awful $10 haircuts, and buying clothes that are too big for you. Most of all, I hope that one day we can be friends again, so we can finally be honest with each other. Also, so that I can have decent nachos. It’s been far too long.

Mardi Gras Eve

Mardi Gras Band by Anna Harris

So many Mardi Gras days under the bridge. It’s not a happy day for me. Maybe once it was, but I can’t remember any solid examples to lend that thought creedence. I keep wanting to turn it around, make it into a day of wildness and magick, the way it feels it should be. I want it to be a Bacchanalia, to be mad with wine and desire, but instead I keep it on an even keel. I walk around the city, maybe wear a mask and some sparkly clothes. I have a few drinks, do some people watching, then retire in the early evening to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for the rest of the week. I guess that makes me old and boring.

For me, the joy of Mardi Gras stopped that morning when I woke up in your bed without you. In the kitchen, WWOZ was listing out the day’s concert information, interspersed with snippets of old time carnival songs. You’d be playing your own songs that afternoon on Frenchmen Street. The sun streamed weakly through the windows of the pink house, falling in bars across that futon mattress on the floor. I lay there, thinking that I’d already missed Zulu, and would probably miss Rex at this rate. I wondered how I’d get downtown. I felt regret, but it was bigger than a missed parade. There was distance between us that had nothing to do with carnival plans.

It rained that afternoon. But doesn’t it rain every Mardi Gras?

Music Monday: Riot Nrrrd by 2 Skinnee J’s

Music is a huge part of my life. I spend at least half of my day listening to tunes on Spotify, and I’m constantly finding myself slipping song lyrics into conversation. I’m that person who can’t help but start singing the song you just inadvertently quoted, completely destroying whatever serious point you were just trying to make. Heaven help you if you say anything that even remotely sounds like a lyric from an oldies song – I just cannot help myself. Hope you like to sing along, because it will be the only way you can make it out of this relationship with sanity intact. In fact, I knew my boyfriend was absolutely perfect when I started unconsciously humming a song to myself during a stressful moment at a card party and he joined in automatically (well, that, and the night he purposely sang a dorky Peter Cetera song for karaoke night in front of all of his friends just because he knew how much I love Chicago).

I thought it would be fun to start a Monday tradition of talking about songs that are important to me in some way, whether it’s because of a great lyric, an important memory, or just because it happens to be something I’m obsessed with that minute. I’m calling it Music Monday, because I’m not trendy enough to come up with something more clever. Or clever enough to come up with something more trendy? Meh, whatever. Today we’re going to talk about “Riot Nrrrd” by an American band called 2 Skinnee J’s.

My favorite 2SJ’s song at the moment is “Girl With The World In Her Eyes“, but “Riot Nrrrd” will always hold a special place in my heart. I was listening to it again for the millionth time the other day, and instead of using it as comforting background noise, I found myself really falling into the lyrics. One part always got me when I was a teenager, and it still gets me today:

I’m lookin’ for intelligent life.
I’m lookin’ for a blip on the screen.
So I can reach out and touch somebody -
Anybody!
Everybody!

If that doesn’t sound profound to you, imagine being the only geek/goth/pagan in a town of 2,000 born again Christians, just biding your time to GTFO and meet other people who want to talk to you about Star Wars and The Egyptian Book of the Dead. Congrats, you’ve just met me at 17. I’m slightly less intense now. Thank goodness for New Orleans.

If you’ve never heard of 2 Skinnee J’s, don’t worry. They’re a tad obscure, it turns out. Not obscure in that “gee, I’m so cool for knowing this” way, though. (Though I am, because they’re amazing.) More like “shit, I wish they hadn’t gotten screwed by record companies and fallen off the map” way. I first heard them in 1998, as a junior in high school, when “Riot Nrrrd” started getting steady play on my local alt-rock station, 99x. I have this very specific memory of being in my car at a stoplight in Washington, NC, about 30 minutes down the road from my tiny hometown of Belhaven, and hearing a commercial for an upcoming concert come on the radio. They were playing in Virginia. I had a single moment of elation, followed by a 30 minute ride back home of complete depression, since I knew that my parents would never let me drive all the way to another state just to hear some rock band play. Maybe missing that concert is why I now find it completely acceptable to drive to Austin or Atlanta (or fly to Chicago) to hear a band play whenever the mood strikes. Hmmm…

Note: I just took a 10 minute break to go and play around on the band’s Facebook page, and found this gem in their “About” section:

Underground New-Wave/Hip-Hop icons with a zealous cult following, 2SJ has more friends than fans – the divide between band and audience is destroyed on the stage at the the most fundamental level. Grassroots following combined with road-dog work ethic has carved out a niche in the annals of rock iconography as Selfless Leaders of the Peoples Movement of Rock! Organic social messages that make Occupy Wall Street/99%ers blush, combined with Party Rock over-the-top extravagance make 2SJ THE FUNNEST BAND OF ALL TIME!

I fucking love them.

Anyway, so I missed the concert my junior year, but wonder of wonders, I moved to New Orleans after graduating from high school in 1999, and not long after that, they came here to play a concert! Finally, my chance had come. What’s even better is that I was working for my college newspaper at the time, and the editor tapped me to interview the band via phone and do a writeup on their album and the concert. (It wasn’t the only “celebrity” interview I was to do that year; I also ended up interviewing one of the members of Joydrop, who hit it big in the States with a song called “Beautiful”.)

The interview went…well, it went. I don’t remember what questions I asked, only that I was extremely unprepared. Luckily, I spoke to Special J, and he was really kind to me despite my idiocy. I was 18, and the internet was still pretty new back then, so it hadn’t occurred to me to try to find out more about the band via the web. Not sure that it would have helped, either, now that I’m thinking about it. I remember him identifying himself to me as “the white rapper” (useful for me, since I knew almost nothing about them), and telling me that their costumes for the upcoming concert were going to be amazing. He invited me to the concert and told me he’d put aside a couple of tickets for me at will call. I told him I’d be there in my velvet flame pants and white go-go boots (yes, these were both things that I wore on a semi-regular basis, without irony). I hung up the phone with this feeling that I had a date with destiny.

So exciting, right?

Here’s a spoiler for you: I didn’t go. No one wanted to go with me, and I’d never left the campus before. In the end I was too chickenshit to go by myself, and I missed out on what would have been one of the most epic concerts of my life. Then they broke up in 2003. I’m still kicking myself.

Fast forward to today, 15 years later, and 2 Skinnee J’s still sees steady rotation in my playlist. Luckily, they haven’t dropped off the map entirely, so there’s still a chance for me to see them live at some point, if I’m lucky. They’ve done a few reunion shows over the years, typically in NYC (at least once it was on a party boat in the Hudson River), and they did a tour in the southern and mid-Atlantic states back in 2012. I’ve yet to have the resources to go see them, but if they do it again, and if I have enough time to save up, I’ll definitely be there. Who knows, maybe I’m the last major fan who’s never made it to one of their concerts.

What do you think my chances are that those two tickets are still waiting at will call?

Thanks Coach

itisinherself

Yeah…but having a few friends doesn’t hurt, either.

 

I’ve been taking my time with answering the Beautiful You prompts, mostly because I don’t always have an easy answer when I read about what I’m supposed to be thinking/writing about that day. Sometimes it takes some time to think everything through enough to take a stab at talking about it here. For instance, I’ve been ruminating over today’s prompt for almost two weeks now. Slow and steady wins the race, right?

Day 21 asks us to consider how we’ve been championed, either by ourselves or others. Who has stood up for us, told us we were worth something, made us start to realize it for ourselves? I’ve got to be honest with you, this took a long time to wrap my head around. It’s not that I don’t have some wonderful, supportive people in my life. It’s just that until lately, when it came to the mental and physical battle of coming to terms with my body, I felt like I was all on my own.

Tomorrow’s the last day of the Iron Tribe Transformation Challenge. I was having a hard go of it last week, and now I’ve been sick for the last couple of days, so I’m having my doubts about winning the competition. However, I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that no matter who gets the prize in the end, I AM a winner. I have won something really important over the last 40 days: knowledge that I can change, that I am much stronger and more capable than I’d imagined, and that there’s a support system in place for me. I’m not on my own in this any longer.

Throughout this journey, I’ve been so lucky to have some amazing coaches there at the gym, and on social media, and via text. Shelby, Joe, Hayden and Jim have had my back every time I had a question or a worry. Joe sent me a note in the mail the other day to tell me he was proud of my improvement, and I cried like a baby – because I KNEW I deserved his praise, and that’s not an emotion I’m really familiar with. Shelby in particular has been there for me every step of the way, and I can’t begin to tell you how important that has been for me. She’s so warm and genuine. She’s given me support when I was struggling (mentally and physically), offered me advice and laughter when I most needed it (but as always, was too proud to ask), and has been a shining example of what a coach – and a human being – should be.

It’s tough to explain it, but like a lot of people, I spend probably 95% of my time mentally beating myself up for not being good enough. The coaching staff at Iron Tribe has made me start to take a look at myself and realize that I don’t deserve that kind of mistreatment. Sure, I’m not lifting crazy heavy. I might be the slowest ever at burpees. I still haven’t mastered the double under or the handstand pushup. But I’m getting better at box jumps, and my deadlifts aren’t half bad. My squat is 100% better than where it was a few months ago, and you should see my calf muscles and triceps – killer. If I keep this up, I’ll be wearing a bikini this summer, and rocking that Star Trek TOS uniform mini by next Mardi Gras.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. I’ve lost almost 14 lbs over the course of this challenge, and I’m so much stronger and wiser. I’m eating healthier, drinking much less, and feel like I could keep this up indefinitely. Which I’m guessing is the entire point Iron Tribe is trying to get us to realize – those sneaky bastards.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that whether or not I win a single thing, I’m winning inside. Thanks Coach.

A Week’s Worth Of Notes In 45 Minutes

Mardi Gras Float Storage

This pretty much sums up how I felt this week. (Also, if you’re curious, this is what used Mardi Gras float components look like in storage.)

It’s almost 1am, and since I need to wake up in seven hours, I’ll try to keep this brief. However, I didn’t want to go to sleep without jotting down a few thoughts about this past week. So here goes…

Iron Tribe Transformation Challenge: We’re almost done. It’s hard to believe that 40 days has gone by this quickly. I’m not really sure how I’m doing just now, mostly because I screwed up last weekend and it took me most of the week to recover. One of my best friends was in town with her husband for the weekend, and we went out for a drink on Saturday night. Since I haven’t been drinking at all during the challenge, I was planning to just have one cocktail and then stick to water. But somehow I ended up having four or five. My body couldn’t handle it, and I was incredibly hungover (read: at death’s doorstep) on Sunday. The only food I could manage to get down was my “comfort food” – Chinese takeout, followed by pizza a few hours later. I made similar dietary mistakes (thankfully in lesser quantities) for the next couple of days.

To make it worse, my period started this week (sorry for the TMI, dudes), and from Tuesday through Thursday I was feeling terrible. Everyone’s experience is different, and honestly, every month’s experience is different for me. Some months I won’t even have a cramp. Others I’ll be doubled over in pain. This month I was ridiculously emotional, and physically weak. I’m not sure if I’m weaker every month, since this is the first time I noticed it. And boy, did I notice it.

On Monday at the gym, one of the coaches remarked that I should be using a little more weight, and I nearly broke down and cried over nothing. I couldn’t drag myself to the gym on Tuesday and Wednesday, but during Thursday’s workout the simplest movements were grueling. I had the lightest amount of weight on the bar that I could use and still look alive (35 lbs bar + two 10 lbs plates = 55 lbs) and every move was a struggle. To give you some perspective, I’m not terribly strong, but I’d typically be at at least 65 lbs for something where I needed to put the bar over my head (strict press, for example).

Today was pretty rough, too, but at least my emotions were in check. I’ve gotten so used to being happy and excited to go to the gym that facing this week’s emotional depletion was really scary for me. There are a lot of things that rock about being a woman, but the monthly emotional rollercoaster is not one of them.

Work: It’s going pretty well. Nothing to write home about, but we’re getting some new contracts at one of my jobs, so that’s great, and the other job is running smoothly. For now, all is well.

Fortune favors the brave, you know.

Fortune favors the brave, you know.

Relationship: I’m coming up on the one year anniversary of my first date with my boyfriend. It’s hard to believe that it’s been that long. We didn’t start dating for real until April, but we’ve been counting the first time we went to a concert together as our official anniversary since it was such an important moment, and it stood out like a touch of magic in both of our lives. It’s a little weird, since it wasn’t supposed to be a date, and I was dating someone else, but we connected, and that connection grew, and now we’re here. Life is messy. But I love him, and he loves me, and all is good. I have never felt so emotionally supported as I do right now. He gets me. He gets stuff about me that I don’t even get. He sees things that I see, but never know how to explain, and we laugh so much. We’re synced in so many ways that sometimes it’s a little unnerving. We’re not perfect, but we make each other better people. We’ve been going to yoga together each week, and tonight we went to a ska concert (Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, and Authority Zero). He’s teaching me so much about my strengths and my limitations, and I’m really grateful to get to not only get to know him, but to know myself through him. I’m excited to see what the next year of our relationship looks like.

Drinking: I mentioned it above, but I don’t really talk about it that much on the blog in general. However, I should probably note that I’ve been unhappy with my drinking habits for awhile now. Joining Iron Tribe and starting this Transformation Challenge were a good kick in the butt to reevaluate my relationship with alcohol, and see if there was a way to make a positive change for myself in that arena. Without going into it too much (I’ll save it for another post), I’m really proud of how I’ve changed my alcohol intake since January 5th.

Before the challenge, a typical week for me would be going out two or three times a week, with 3 – 5 drinks each night, and a couple of glasses of wine at home on the other nights. As crazy as that might sound to those of you living anywhere other than New Orleans, that’s actually quite a reduction in my habits from a year ago, when I was drinking a bottle of wine most nights. At no time did I feel addicted or like I even had a problem, but I was always lethargic and achey. It’s obvious now that whether or not a chemical dependency was in play, the amount that I was drinking was poisoning my body.

Mostly I was doing it to self-medicate, which is dangerous in and of itself. I don’t like hanging out in crowds, or meeting new people, so if alcohol was an option, I’d gladly take it. Drinking at home before a year ago was to deal with an unhappy relationship and growing depression. Drinking at home during the course of this year was sometimes just because it’s damn pleasant to have a glass of wine and watch a movie with your boo, but sometimes because I hated my work schedule and was drinking to escape life for awhile.

Since the challenge started, I’ve had two nights where I drank 2 glasses of wine while watching a movie with my beloved, and one night where I drank way too much whiskey while hanging out with my bestie, her husband, my boyfriend, and one of his friends at a crowded bar. What have I learned? Avoid crowded bars, treat wine as a special treat, and most of all, enjoy sobriety. It feels a hell of a lot better in the morning when you haven’t actively poisoned yourself the night before. Also, when you’re in your 30s, your friends won’t treat you like a pariah if you say you’d rather just drink club soda. Or at least my friends won’t. I suppose if mine did, I’d just have to find new friends. We’ll see what happens when Mardi Gras weekend comes along, but as of right now I feel pretty good about my decision to keep it light on the booze and heavy on the working out.

French Quarter home, all dressed up for Mardi Gras. Follow me on Instagram for more architecture photos.

French Quarter home, all dressed up for Mardi Gras. Follow me on Instagram for more photos of New Orleans life and architecture.

Santiago de Compostela: I’ve been shopping for gear, but haven’t made any decisions yet about pretty much anything. The flight is taken care of, and I know I’ve got some time before I have to really start pulling together the bits and pieces I’ll need for my pilgrimage. Right now, my main mental battle is on whether to wear pants or leggings (I’m thinking leggings, b/c of thigh chafing) and whether I can get away with wearing trail trainers instead of boots (experienced peregrinos say yes). We’ll see.