16 December 2008

Dalmatian Coast Daydreamin'

With the end of the year financial statements at work, I will now have enough money (and enough vacation time) to entertain the possibility of two trips abroad in 2009. (YES!) So now the big questions are when and where. Since I no longer am tied to a school schedule and my workload is fairly regular (no real peaks and valleys in work flow), I can travel pretty much any time of the year, so long as I give advance notice.


In our conversations on Monday, my Love and I were talking about potential travel plans, again. We daydream a lot, together and separately, about where we want to travel when I go to visit him. We started kicking around possibilities and narrowed down our list to start with:
  1. Albania, so I can see Joe in his adopted home, and then some adventures along the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia.
  2. The romantic rolling hills and dirt cheap airfares of Dublin.
  3. The never-ending excitement and culinary delights of Rome and Paris.
Thus, Monday's challenge was to smother my temptation to start doing any research while at work, instead of focusing on the horrendous database reconciliations I've been working on. Once I got home from work though, I quickly set up flight watches to see where and when the best flight deals are (looking at March or April), and I pulled out my Lonely Planet guide to help the scheming. If anyone has any travel suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

13 November 2008

Comic Codename Creativity

{Requisite background information: My Love is a boy. Thus, the most appropriate term of endearment for me to use on him is "Trouble" seeing as how he's either causing it, or it's not far behind him. Those who know him are most likely inclined to agree. I, on the other hand, am just like the nursery rhyme says: "Made of sugar and spice and everything nice." Those who know me are most likely inclined to agree. However, these irrefutable facts often come up in our conversations.}

My Love and I were talking today:


KtMac: have you read about the Obama's code names?
My Love: no, I saw the headline
My Love: what are they
KtMac: Renegade
KtMac: Renaissance
KtMac: Rosebud
KtMac: Radiance
KtMac: what would you choose for your code name?
My Love: "sexy mcsexerson"
My Love: but I think the bad guys would figure it out pretty quick
My Love: how about you
KtMac: lol
KtMac: "sugarandspice sassypants"
My Love: LOL
My Love: I love it
My Love: I'm calling you that from now on

The conversation rapidly went downhill from there, full of threats to emblazon my new codename all over my Christmas gift, etc, etc.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized, our codenames sound like superheroes! So, after work today, with a little burst of creativity and the limited capabilities of Microsoft Powerpoint, I created:

I have no doubt My Love could create a much better computer drawing, but my computer does not have all the cool toys his does, so consider this the blueprint for the Amazing, Awesome, International Adventures of Sexy McSexerson and SugarandSpice Sassypants! comic book coming out soon near you! First stop, awesome comic book, next stop, a full-length feature film coming to theaters near you in Summer 2010, after that, world domination!

23 October 2008

Good Grief and Good Riddance

I have deliberated for days about posting this blog entry:

I originally planned on not blogging about this challenge, mainly out of a misguided sense of respect for a former friend. However, this challenge was a major one for me, and, ultimately, one of the most liberating challenges I have had so far this year.

I "broke up" with a friend on Sunday.

We were friends on and off since middle school. We lost touch in high school, but in college, thanks to the wonders of Facebook and Instant Messenger, we reunited and became very close friends. I was quite impressed by his passion and drive to pursue his life-long dream, and often bragged of his accomplishments to those who would listen. I enjoyed our conversations and loved that we could often easily talk about anything and everything.

Out of this loyalty to him and our friendship, I often shrugged it off when someone close to me would question why I was friends with him. "Oh, that's just how he is," I'd say, even when something he said or did hurt or annoyed me. You see, dear reader, as much as I hate to admit it, my biggest fault is not impatience; it is that I am too nice, especially for my own good.

Because I mistakenly treasured our friendship, I ignored so many of the warning signs that this was a toxic friendship, until this past year. Over the many conversations we have had, I began to notice certain trends:

1) Every conversation had to be about him somehow, or about something he wanted to discuss at that moment. Anytime I tried to talk about something I needed or wanted to discuss, the conversation still ended up being about him, his issues, and his inability (more accurately, his unwillingness) to try to resolve those issues.

2) He is never happy. Even the little happinesses seem to escape him. Instead of finding joy in the things he has or has achieved, he can only focus on what he does not yet have. I, on the other hand, am a simple soul and often find the greatest happiness in the little things. I subscribe wholeheartedly to the idea that "while every day may not be good, there is some good in every day," and do try to keep my complaining to a minimum. (I don't always succeed, but I try.)

3) Most importantly, I could not be myself in conversations with him. Gradually, the list of things I could not talk about grew:
* I could not talk about my job - despite his own very awesome job, he was jealous of the things I got to do.
* I could not talk about my love - it reminded him of the fact that I had a love life while he does not, and that my love life does not involve him.
* I could not talk about my dreams and hopes for the future, where I want to live, where I want to go, and what I want to do - my ambitions and dreams are not, simply put, ambitious enough for him. Instead, he would demand that I become "incredible person x" or "live in place y" because they better match the ideals he had created for me, despite my insistence that those were not things I aspired to or would be happy with.
Whenever I tried steering conversations towards something about me, particularly one of the three things I just mentioned, our conversations would become quite antagonistic, and I would inevitably wind up hurt or frustrated. If I tried to point this out, his answer always was, "You know me better than that. You know I'm just teasing." But it never felt like teasing to me.

On Sunday, we had a conversation, in which I was trying to bounce an idea I felt quite passionate about off of him. Instead of the rational discussion I wanted, he instead began to once again demand that I pursue a position of power, so that I could get "power, respect, and money." The angrier I got, the more he dug his heels in, so I eventually just logged off the computer to avoid getting my feelings hurt any further.

When I logged back on, he insulted me, and I snapped. I told him I was done talking to him and tried to offer a brief explanation as to why, but he kept interrupting me and the conversation ended with "have a nice life."

I felt bad about how the conversation ended, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized the relief I felt at not having to bend over backwards to continually soothe his ego. By trying to be a friend to him, I was hurting myself. So I let it go.

On Tuesday, he sent me a very nasty email. Knowing his temper the way I do, I was not all that surprised that he sent me such an email. However, I was severely disappointed in him. He spent part of the email talking about how I meant the world to him and he would do anything for me. Then, he ended the email with "May you die, burn in hell, and never cross my path again. I am and will forever be dead to you."

That made me sad. It also made me realize that I made the best possible decision for myself in letting our friendship go.

On Wednesday, after work, I got rid of all the pictures I have of this former friend. I have never done that before. I still have pictures of "friends" who deliberately hurt me in the past. I still have pictures of ex-boyfriends. I keep those pictures because even though things ended badly with some people, I still have good memories of the times I did share with them, and when I look at those pictures, it is the good times, rather than the hurt, that I recall. However, I knew I would never be able to look at pictures of this friend again without recalling his parting words to me. So I got rid of pictures, pages out of my scrapbooks, and anything that could possibly make me think of him again.

By letting go of a friendship, it hurt. By getting rid of all the memories we've had over the years, it hurt.

By doing both, I feel so much better.

I no longer have a "toxic" friend that I have to cater to. I no longer have to censor myself in conversations. I can instead focus on all the great friendships I do have - all those wonderful people who share their lives, hopes, triumphs, failures, and mundane daily routines with me the way friends should.

08 October 2008

"Patience is the Greatest of All Virtues."

So said a semi-famous dead guy.

Why is it that patience always seems to elude me?

I have no problem dealing with life's trials and difficulties. I realize that tribulation is part of the dues one pays to life a full, rich life. In short, without the bad, you can't have the good, and I acknowledge and accept that fact.

However, I severely lack patience. I don't like waiting. I expect results instantaneously, or at least quickly enough to gain satisfaction from the ordeal in the first place. When things, even things that are clearly going to be issues, do not go smoothly, I get frustrated. The more frustrated I get, the more irritated I get, and then we just get an annoyed KtMac with no patience in sight.

What is patience? According to Merriam-Webster, it is the act of being patient. Patient, evidently means:
1: bearing pains or trials calmly or without complaint
2
: manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain
3
: not hasty or impetuous
4
: steadfast despite opposition, difficulty, or adversity


Ahh! Dear reader, really, when you read the Merriam-Webster definition of patient, do I cross your mind as meeting any of those possibilities? I think not.

Which is why it is a challenge of mine this year to find ways to remain calm, and even-tempered when I encounter opposition, difficulty or adversity. Some days are much better than others. But then again, the days my patience is most likely to be tested are the days I need to work on keeping it.

Like today.

Y'all know my work deals with a bureaucratic organization. Details are unnecessary in this blog. Accurate, complete details are a must in my particular position. In fact, my job is to ensure that accurate, complete details have been given and are always current. If not, I have full permission to rain fury and thunderstrikes upon the fools who did not provide the full details. (Well, not quite to that extent, but you get the idea.)

However, I frequently am dealing with people and parts spread out, literally, across the globe. This a) makes details even more crucial, and b) makes for more than one test of patience when key details go missing.

On Monday, I was informed that a very key point was missing from quite a large group of data. I was not surprised because this particular data group has been the one with issue after issue in the conversion process I've previously mentioned. However, to track down that key point for each data item, I need a name and a number of a person to call and "discuss this delinquency" with. No big deal, right? Our conversion process is complete and the wonderful new system should make it easy to enter the data I do have into a search to find a name and number to contact. At the very least, I just need a name....I'm smart enough to figure out how to contact the person.

No go.

I do not yet have enough experience with the new wonderful program to know how to make it do what I want. Normally, since time, as always, is a concern, I would have just taken the back-door and looked up the information on the old system. However, I'm locked out of the old system until next week while the end-of-the-fiscal-year computations are completed (I have nothing to do with those....every user of the system is locked out across the board).

Instead, I spent yesterday trying to teach myself how to find what I am looking for. I tried tricks. I hacked my way back into the lessons I took (I even tried going over the lessons again today, hoping a fresh eye might catch something). I talked it out to myself (my coworker and I really do need to devise a signal or something to let the other know when we're talking to ourselves out loud). Finally, I cried uncle. I emailed the helpdesk.

Now, with the old system that we just converted from, the helpdesk was wonderful. They would respond within an hour, even if just to say "Hey, we got the problem - we'll get back when we have a solution," and almost always, they solved the problem by the end of the working day.

Can't quite say the same yet about the helpdesk for the new system. It's new to me and my client, but it's been around for a while now, so the helpdesk isn't new. As of quitting time today, more than 24 hours after my initial flag for help went in, I still have not yet received a response.

I know I can call one or two other people, but, a) this is something I'm going to have to do more than once, so I might as well learn it, and b) I hate asking people to do my job. So I tried, all day, to keep my patience as the hours ticked by without a response. I tried to distract myself, I tried to discover a new technique I hadn't tried yet, and I tried to not curse inefficient bureaucracies while I tried to figure out why it seems someone in charge is hell-bent on teaching me to be patient this year.

At the end of the day, I can say I didn't lose my temper. For me, that counts as keeping my patience. Now tomorrow? New day, fair game as far as I'm concerned, when it comes to staying patient.

05 October 2008

Falling in Love with Fall

Fall is absolutely my favorite season.

I adore all seasons for all their unique reasons, but by and large, fall is the best. It is the season I miss home the most. I miss the apple orchards, fresh apple cider and warm doughnuts, pumpkin patches, the glorious fall foliage that shows up in the upper Midwest, the scary thrill of haunted houses, and the almost seductive smell of campfires.

Here in the city, I still love the fall. I actually get a little more time to enjoy it down here since it seems like autumn stretches out over a month or two, rather than just a few, too-short weeks in October. It's been a glorious fall down here so fall. Beautiful blue skies, abundant sunshine, crisp breezes, and just a hint of color showing up in the leaves.

Days like these are not to be wasted indoors. So, yesterday, I took myself out on an adventure. I wandered. I went into the city and strolled. I walked through neighborhoods I really haven't hung out in for a while (for no real reason). I sat in a few parks and watched people. I treated myself to lunch, and sat outside, enjoying the weather, the people, and my thoughts.

When I finally wore myself out, I came home, threw the window wide open, and had a nice, long, delicious nap. When I woke back up, I was just as in love with fall as I ever was back home.

21 September 2008

Fed-Exing Puppies

I spent part of the morning trying (most likely unsuccessfully) to convince a certain someone once again that Fed-Exing puppies between the two of us is a horribly bad idea. And no, Fed-exing two puppies is even worse. What happens when the one I've gotten attached to dies? If we want to get a puppy together, it's probably best if we wait until we're in the same country, preferably in the same town....

Since the whole "fed-exing puppies is a bad idea" is an on-going challenge, I also cleaned my apartment today. It was the first time since I've moved in that I didn't have company or wasn't too incapacitated by mono to clean. I'd kept it picked up, but my place was dying for a dusting and a vaccuuming.

It's a lame challenge, I know - damn mono. I'm working on a list of more exciting challenges to come once I'm completely recovered. Any and all input is welcomed...

14 September 2008

Smart....and....Beautiful?

I was talking online via g-chat with a friend at work on Friday. I know, I know - for shame! (But, in all fairness, it's the only chance I get to stay in touch with some folks, and obviously if my client's boss is asking me to assist him in addition to my client, I must be getting some of my work done...)

Somehow, in the conversation, we got onto the fact that I generally hate myself in pictures. Close to 87% of the time (rough estimate), I'm blinking in the picture (Thanks Mom!). In the few that I'm not blinking in, 68% involve me making a horribly odd face or is just an unflattering pose. Thus, there are few pictures that I like myself in.

Given that I also believe that pictures are as close as you can come to seeing yourself through the eyes of others, I've always thought of myself as average, looks-wise. Usually cute in that average girl-next-door way. Never really thought of myself as ugly, but not really beautiful either. Occasionally, with the right light, the right outfit, and some magic, I look pretty in pictures.

As I've gotten older, become more comfortable in my skin and with myself, I seem to hear people use the word "beautiful" to describe me more often. Other than when a very select few people call me beautiful, I tend to rankle and not believe them. Somewhere along the line, I started believing you could either be smart or you could be beautiful, but that the two were mutually exclusive.

Given that I'm smart (I mean, not to brag too much or anything, but I did get all A's in grad school...), I've just assumed beautiful was not part of the equation for me. So unless certain people (those who love me dearly) say I'm beautiful, I tend to not believe it when I'm called "beautiful". As such, I have a hard time accepting compliments on my looks.

In our conversation, without knowing all that I've just explained, my friend scolded me. He said, "You're a looker and you don't even know it. You're beautiful, but you don't believe it. You need to start accepting that, and start being able to graciously accept compliments on your looks."

After giving me a minute or two to mull that over, he continued, "You have this spark that's just incredible. When it gets captured in a picture, your picture just becomes absolutely captivating."

Wow.
That's a hell of an awesome compliment.

Challenge one, to accept that compliment graciously. I think I did quite well.

Challenge two, to start accepting compliments on my looks graciously and without suspicion. (And no, I'm not going to start fishing for compliments to practice challenge two.)


Challenge three, to start believing that being smart and being beautiful are not mutually exclusive (without blowing my ego out of proportion either).


01 September 2008

Heart to Heart with the One Who Stole My Heart

Following the request I got in Joe's reply email, I was choosing to not reply right away and consider our options and our future. I planned on calling him on Monday.

However, after a morning out with my Mama, who does such a great job of wearing me out, and a lazy afternoon nap, we were bumming around my apartment just gossiping and talking when I realized that my Facebook chat window was open. I was originally irritated to see I had a new message (I thought it was from someone who has been a bit annoying lately), but was delighted to see it was the one I'm in love with.

We chatted a bit - he's opted to continue his service with the Peace Corps and is being reassigned to Albania (ironically enough, his original number one choice of a country to serve in) - so we discussed the logistics of his transfer and his excitement about his new placement.

Then, thanks to modern technology and Mark Zuckerberg (or whatever his name really is), we had a long heart to heart and really opened up to each other. It was a conversation we probably should have had prior to his departure, but in this case, it was much better late than never at all. We don't have any answers yet for how we're going to handle the next two years; we'll figure it out as we go along. What matters right now, is we both know, finally, exactly how we feel about each other and how the other person feels about us.

It's horribly awkward to have such an intimate conversation via instant message and emails, but I can't even begin to imagine how awful the wait would have been had we had to carry out such a conversation via letters and snail mail from a developing country. Evidently, we both had a lot to say.

By the time we ended the conversation, knowing we'll try to figure out our relationship as we go along, that we love each other, and that we do have something worth fighting for, I couldn't believe two hours had passed.

I'm thrilled we were able to talk. I'm thrilled we were able to open up honestly. It was still difficult, even after opening up so much just a few days prior in an email, but I'm proud of myself. For as much as I wear my heart on my sleeve, I'm still pretty guarded once intimacies (with a friend, a lover, an accquaintance) reach a certain level, so to continue to open up so much made me quite proud of myself.

Of course, I'm delighted that being so open has worked out so well...

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

After Thursday's seemingly impossible challenge of opening myself out and holding my heart out in my hand, I didn't think it could get any harder. Yet, since I knew this email I sent was going halfway around the world, to a very different time zone, to someone who most likely was not expecting such an email and would need time to think about all the things I said, I had to put the thoughts and anxieties out of my mind.

I think I did a good job (Mama will have to weigh in on this) of putting my fears of saying the wrong things, or too much too late, or being badly hurt by being so open, out of my mind and enjoying a day of adventures with my Mama.

Then, I got home late Friday night and checked my emails.

For the dear readers interested in my personal life beyond the daily challenges, his reply basically was, "Wow, I didn't realize you felt as strongly as I did. You're right - we have something special, and we should give ourselves, our relationship, a fighting chance."

28 August 2008

Being Vulnerable Requires Courage

As a direct result of last night's late night heart-to-heart with my Mom, I did the scariest thing of all.


I opened myself up and let myself be completely vulnerable. It was terrifying - there's no telling if I will get hurt from being so open and honest, and if I do get hurt, how badly it will go - but it was also liberating. I let my feelings be known and now, I'll never have to wonder "What if I had spoken my mind? What if I let him know exactly how I feel and exactly what I want, from life, and from him?"


I'm still vulnerable, and it's a bit scary, but it's invigoriating and liberating and I'm relieved. And I realize that putting myself in such a position requires a great amount of courage to speak up despite my fears.

19 August 2008

Happiness is in the Little Things

While working out today, I started thinking about happiness and what it means to me. As y'all know by now, I've an "interesting" (read: roller coaster ride of emotions) summer.


I'm still trying to figure out who I am and what I want in life, and along the way, I've begun to assess what happiness is. I'm currently reading The Geography of Bliss which is about a grump's search for the happiest places on earth. While the book raises some highly interesting points that I will continue to ponder for a while, I still firmly believe that it is the little moments and the little things that make life worthwhile.


So, as I worked out, I started making a list of all the things that make me happy. This list is not in any particular order, nor is it all-inclusive. It's just a start, but it makes me happy just to think of all those little things that make me happy.


A random sampling:
  • The feel of sunshine on my shoulders
  • Whipped cream on hot chocolate
  • Butterflies
  • Gossiping shamelessly
  • Heart-to-hearts with Mom
  • Being Daddy's girl
  • Teasing my brothers
  • Calling Grandma
  • Kicking up leaves in the fall
  • Reading a book cover-to-cover
  • Snowflakes
  • Prettily painted toenails
  • Hearing a favorite song come on
  • Photographs
  • Waking up with sunshine streaming in the window
  • Being a passenger in the car late at night
  • Curling up under a beloved and perfectly worn comforter
  • The taste of apple cider
  • Making someone smile
  • Airports
  • Fresh flowers
  • Learning something new
  • Giving presents
  • Wearing scarves in my hair
As I said, just a small, random sampling. But it feels good to realize that some of the things that make me the happiest are the littlest things.

11 August 2008

Six Words

A memoir, in six words exactly. That's a pretty cool idea.

When talking to a friend last night, I quickly came up with one for myself. Surprisingly, it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.


Yet, today, I kept thinking about it. I liked the one I came up with last night, however, it's pretty personal, and I'm not quite ready to share it with the whole wide world just yet.

But, I liked the concept of six word memoirs, so today, I started playing around with my pictures on picnik.com to see what six-word memoirs I could attach to my favorite pictures.

Such as:

Or:
What six-word memoirs can you write about your own life?

17 June 2008

Me, Only Better

Since I finished grad school, I've been feeling a bit, well, stuck. I'm a dreamer. I always have these big goals and ambitions and dreams to chase. But I was so focused on getting through grad school in one piece - taking a full course load, working, being young and fabulous in the city, and surviving a semester of mono took all my attention - that I forgot to make dreams and plans for after grad school. So now I'm six months out of grad school, watching my friends all take off and start grand adventures of their own, and I'm stuck. Totally a typical twenty-something. No clue what I want to do now or where I want to go, just this screaming awareness that this isn't what I want.

So, I started thinking. There's no way I'm going to magically come up with an answer for what I want to do or where I want to go overnight. I know a few basic truths - I love international affairs, I am not a diplomat, I love asking the question "why," I want to travel and see the world for myself, and I want to make a difference somehow, someway.

I have a notebook tucked away in my closet that I've had since high school. Every now and again, I pull it out and either re-read it or add to it. It is a collection of quotes and sayings and random insights I've overheard that have had an impact on me. I was re-reading the notebook a few weeks back and came across the following:
"We change the world not by what we say or do, but as a consequence of what we have become."
It struck a chord.

I've been looking for a way to make a difference in the world. Perhaps, the best way to do that is to make a difference in myself.

My birthday is coming up. I'll officially be entering that point where I'm no longer a young adult, but an actual adult. So, instead of looking back in amazement at how much my life has and has not changed in the past year, and instead of looking forward with grandiose, fleeting dreams for how my life could change in the next year, I'm going to work on changing myself.

I like myself. But I think I could be me, only better. So, every day, for the next year, starting on my birthday, I am going to make it a point of challenging myself in some way, every day. Some of the challenges may be minor, such as finding that perfect shade of lipstick or talking to someone new; some of the challenges may be things I need to do anyway, like finding an apartment once my current lease is up; some challenges may be on-going challenges, like reducing my carbon footprint; and others may be wild, one-time-only, just for the hell of it challenges, which WILL include something like skydiving. The hope is, this time next year, I'll look back at all the ways I've challenged and improved myself and realize that I've also made a difference somewhere, somehow.

Or, at the very least, perhaps it will light the fire I need in order to figure out just what the hell I want to do and where I want to go with the rest of my life.

For the rest of you, I've no doubt that some of these challenges will provide you with hours of comedic amusement. Especially any challenges that require my use of hand-eye coordination or athletic ability.