Reflecting on dream catchers.

I have a sleeping cat next to me, music playing, internet in my apartment (for the first time in a year and a half, making it easier to write this in my pajamas and in bed), and The Hobbit laying within arms reach (I am doing a re-read because let’s face it, you need to when the movie is out).  It is utterly cold outside, but warm in here.  My apartment has the small touches that make it wholly and completely mine, from the multi-colored owls to the fake flowers, the art my mom painted to the mismatched collection of pillows I have collected through the years.  These details are what makes it cozy, comfy, warm in a different way that has nothing to do with temperature.

A collection of dream catchers hang above my bed.  Years ago on a vacation (to some place, somewhere) I convinced my mom and dad that the perfect gift for the trip would be to get a dream catcher.  I picked out a small turquoise one and hung it above my bed.  The theory is that they will catch all nightmares, ghosts that haunt our sleep.  A believer in mystical things, otherworldly and inexplicable acts, it was my hope that the tiny catcher would help create more restful sleep.  Power of suggestion is just that, a power.  That is why we have placebos, because if we convince ourselves long enough that something is good, that something does help, maybe we can trick our minds.  (Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the placebo effect, but I do not discount true medicine and how it helps those ailing from terminal illness; I’ve seen too much and been around too much death to suggest otherwise.)  It was my hope that the tiny catcher would help with the unease I was having drifting into sleep, to stop the nightmares that were haunting me, to give me a restful sleep.  That was about ten years ago.

I now have eleven hanging above my headboard.  Along with a small hand carved wooden box called a Dream Box.  Everywhere I go I attempt to find and buy a dream catcher.  I collected them from places ranging from Portland to Savannah, Chicago to Iowa City, Salt Lake City to San Francisco.  They reflect more than my superstitions, they are more than hanging art, they represent places I have come to love, places I want to remember, places once called home and places I want to call home.

Saturday fun day.

It seems that today is a day for updates. Resumes, cover letters, blogs, itunes, awesome new games like Scramble with Friends and Draw Something. Did I mentioned that for my twenty-sixth birthday I received an iPhone from my parents? How freaking sweet is that? And they took the family out to this great little wine bar in Chicago called Webster’s Wine Bar. Amazing food, amazing wine, amazing time with friends and family. A bill that probably should have paid for a small studio apartment, but with nine people and four bottles of delicious wine, can’t really complain too much. And I must, again and again and for the seventy-fifth time, THANK my Dad for being the wonderful host. The last couple of years have been difficult, and it has made me realize the importance of family more and more. With my parents getting older and, well, let’s face it, my sister and I getting older, I think it is extremely important to hold on to those familial ties. Granted, sometimes the annoyance level sky-rockets, but it never seems too dramatic anymore. Maybe life experiences like leaving your fiance, starting over, and moving across the country will do that to you. Big, huge, ginormous things in the past just seem small potatoes in comparison. The only real thing I wish was different was my residence. I miss Chicago terribly. And I miss my friends there. And I especially miss that alive feeling I got when I was there. Poor, but more alive than anything I feel here in Iowa. And I think some of it has to deal with wanting to surpress those uncomfortable memories of when Jonathan and I were here. It’s been over a year, but when I drive through Iowa City, it feels fresh and painful. At least I am not biting my nails anymore! Huzzah!

Since I have no internet at home, I have been sitting at the local Starbucks hoarding the connection. They appear to be cleaning up for the evening, so I think I am going to scoot. Hopefully more updates will happen. I need to make more of an effort to get my ass up and moving in the morning. Peace out guys. And thank you for reading.

Sushi.

I feel there have been certain things my life has centered around.  A theme becomes clear in the midst of confusion and chaos, and it is something I grasp on to.  It has a weird way of guiding me through the murky waters and the questions that arise.  It is often something small, typically unnoticed but by myself and the few people involved.  For months and months during the difficult break up from Jonathan, stars were a central theme.  There were two songs that I was (and still am) obsessed with that dealt with stars, eyes, guidance, and the wish to not lose someone (the songs are “Beautiful” by The Firebird Band and “Cosmic Love” by Florence + the Machine).  They are two songs that have had such an impact with their lyrics that they are on my queue for future tattoos.  Though I will not get a tattoo of this new theme, it is emerging, and it is becoming central to my life: sushi.

It seems that wherever I go, or whoever I speak to, sushi correlates to building friendships and relationships.  I have always shared sushi dinners with Kaitlyn.  It was, for the longest time, a Wednesday night activity between us.  There is a restaurant in Iowa City called Formosa.  On Wednesday’s they would have half price bottle of wine nights.  We would go and get a roll, a salad, and edamame, and then split a more expensive bottle of red wine.  Since coming back to the Chicago area, we have had similar nights, just talking girl talk and planning the next steps of our lives.  It feels very inclusive and like things are on the right track again.

When in California Jonathan and I did not have sushi once.  You would think that being as close (closer than Chicago or Iowa City) to the ocean as we were that it would have happened.  But it didn’t.  It’s this odd idea that sushi is right and the lack of sushi is wrong.  Things begin falling apart and all the small details that make life good, like sushi, disappear.  Granted, that is because when things go bad you lose some of the patience it takes to realize the small details.  But even in abject sadness, right when I returned from California, Kaitlyn suggested it one night.  Shortly afterwards I had this emotional awakening that desiring what I had is far worse than what I could have.  At least there is hope in what I could have.  I do not think it was the sushi that brought on this realization, but the theme was there, the symbolism that sushi holds for me, and it helped push me over the hump, to face the fear of potential loneliness, but also to help me realize that as long as I have those close friends, I will never, ever be alone.

Now sushi is coming into play again.  Eating it with Kaitlyn on Sunday and then entering Vintage Underground; finding all these wonderful artifacts from other people’s lives and turning them around to create something new and stylish.  The potential for Chicago living and the chance to reincarnate a living situation but with a higher degree of love and compassion.  It seems like everywhere I have gone in the past three days someone mentions sushi, and it is always accompanied with positive and affirming actions.  Beginning again, starting over, letting the cycle birth itself.  Maybe there is a heaven, and it involves Sweet Potato maki.

Sitting at a coffee shop.

I am sitting at the Caribou coffee in Iowa City.  Half of me feels this sense of relief, like I am home, because for six years I lived here.  The other half of me is squirming.  This metaphorical itch that I just keep scratching until I’m a bloody (quite literally) mess.  There is a solid sense of pain in my chest.  This is the first time I have been back since Jonathan and I broke up.  This was OUR home.  This is where we met, fell in love, and for me, where the first fractures of our relationship began to happen.  This town encompasses everything about that relationship.  I feel somewhat a masochist for sitting here, for looking around and remembering Burrito Thursdays and how every weekend Jonathan would take me to the mall when he knew boredom was setting in.  I was recently at the Target because the dumbass named I forgot sandals.  As I was leaving I saw a couple walk from the Best Buy to the Target, and it was like a floodgate crumbled beneath the pressure of being here and the tears came swift and steady.  We used to walk like that.  Hand in hand, joking, laughing.  Now when I think of Jonathan, my heart is heavy and I find it hard to smile.  Not because there were not good times (there were so many), but because I still miss him.

I was thinking earlier that there is no romantic interest in him.  I do want to cultivate a relationship, but I want the friendship.  I want to laugh with him again and not have it be tainted by the immense hurt we inflicted on one another.  I know, somewhere deep within these emotional pools, there is the ability, the potential, for a friendship.  I just am not sure I am strong enough to swim against the current yet.  There are still moments where the anger, the pain, the fear, the hurt erupt in me.  But it has gotten better.  So much better.

I was listening to a lot of music on the way out here, and one song in particular has been on repeat, Chris Broach’s “How Well You Know Me.”  There is a moment in the song where he sings, “how can you know me if I don’t even know me, myself?”  I feel that lyric.  I feel it in my heart, in my chest, in the image I see reflected in the mirror.  This experience has allowed me to begin again, to find out who I am and who I will be.  But the pure chaos and fear involved in self-discovery sometimes waylays me.  I am too emotionally and mentally exhausted to move forward, to open up my mind and heart to something new.  A little over a week ago there was the carpe diem/Jonsi weekend.  It was the miraculous event where I followed instinct and not thought and had unbelievably pure moments.  Things, since that weekend, have been moving forward, have been positive.  And I tell myself, every morning, that things will continue to be positive.  The next option, the next motivation, is to merge my relationship with Jonathan into the mix.  I will not give myself up to him again.  I will not lose who I was or who I thought I was for him, but I do want to join him into my life as a friend and close confidant knowing who I am before all else.  And it will happen.  It just make take some time.

Spring Break.

It is Spring Break time on the University of California-Davis campus.  Yesterday was the last day of classes, and this week is finals.  Jonathan has one tomorrow and then we are heading out to Salt Lake City to visit his parents.  And I know this question is all on your minds, but no, he is not from a Mormon family.  He is from a staunch Catholic family.  The reason they are in SLC is because Jonathan’s dad works there, his office relocated him while Jonathan was still in high school.  Once all the birds had flown the coup, Jonathan’s mother moved out to Salt Lake.  Rather than being a plane ride away, in Davis we are about a 10 hour drive away.  The only issue that has stopped us thus far from making more trips to see them is the mountains to our east (the Sierra Nevadas) have had multiple snow storms and lots of snow.  While good for skiers, it’s not so good for a four-door sedan that would require pricey chains on the tires.  Thus, our dilemma.  We decided to leave tomorrow after Jonathan finished his final, but the forecast predicts there will be three to five inches of snow dropped during the day and the reports are already saying chains are mandatory.  Hopefully Thursday will give us the opportunity to sneak by.

This got me thinking about spring breaks.  When in grade school, middle school, and high school, the break in the school year was typically spent with family.  Some people would go south to warmer weather, and others would go on mini-vacations to visit family and friends.  When I was a senior in high school, my mom and I went to Ames, Iowa, where my sister was in school.  Our spring breaks did not match up so she was still taking classes, and when she would come home a week later, I would be back in school.  I was only out there for an extended weekend, meaning a Friday through Monday.  We spent some of the time going to Des Moines to the new shopping center, walking around campus, and of course, my sister and I, along with her boyfriend at the time, spent the evenings doing shots of various alcohols.  I have this distinct memory watching Ice Age, drunk off of Mike’s Hard and Jagermeister.  The movie has never been the same.

College years are the ones where you hear of people going to foreign countries.  People would hit up the beaches of Mexico, which always made me wonder what the appeal was.  No doubt it was like a class reunion.  My roommate of three years, went to New York one year, and came back with amazing stories, along with awful moments (someone stole a very expensive jacket of hers; I wonder why Lindsay Lohan was…).  My spring breaks were boring.  Either I would go home to visit my parents and see if I could reunite with old friends (usually that didn’t happen, because while I was in the Chicago suburbs they were all meeting each other randomly in Cabo), or I would stay in Iowa City, glad that the it was relatively void of students.

That was the magic of Iowa City.  During break times, winter, spring, summer, the beauty of the city was really showcased.  You didn’t have a bunch of underage kids wandering downtown getting drunk.  The Iowa City natives would come out and fun activities like farmer’s market, the Iowa City Arts Fair, and different festivals would go on.  Students, though contributing greatly to the town’s economic status throughout the year, ruined the sublime peacefulness of summer.  My roommate recently commented that the summer she spent in Iowa City was the most romantic of her life.  And we are not talking about romantic love, we are talking about the poetic idea.  She loved that she would wake up, get ready for work, and while walking there, stop at the local coffee shop.  She would work her shift, walk to the Bread Garden and get some food.  She would eat, read or design jewelry.  The evenings were warm and she would spend them with friends either drinking beer at one of the local bars, or enjoy a glass of wine as she worked on her handmade jewelry.  The days were simple, the living was cheap (relatively speaking, she lives in Chicago now, and though she has lucked out on rent, everything else does cost more money).  Davis has some of the same feel, but it is drastically different.  Whenever I say this, people always ask how, and unfortunately for me, it is an intangible thing.  It’s not like I can point at a tree and say that the tree is why.  It’s a feeling.  This amorphous something that is in the air, in my head, and my heart.

Spring break has become a thing of my past, though.  I have been out of school for three years and offices do not offer a week’s vacation in March.  Imagine the productivity level if they did.  It’s surprising what a few days off can do for the psyche.  I am still in the grasp of spring break, though, because Jonathan is a student still.  I have mixed feelings about this.  He turns 26 this year and he still gets these periodic “free times” throughout the year.  He has been a student for 21 years, and student life is drastically different from working life.  There is freedom.  And I know there have been arguments with my friends that master’s programs and PhD programs and not “easy”.  I don’t claim they are, but I also think there is a level of freedom that is never taken into account.  Jonathan always says that this is his job, and I know it is.  He gets paid as a student because not only is he taking classes, but research is a major part of his academic career.  I feel it is unfair of me to think that his life as a student is easier than mine as a person working 40+ hour weeks, but I also think it is unfair of students (masters and PhD candidates specifically) to assume that the working life is somehow better than what they are going through.  My job was never my passion.  It was a way to get paid so that we could afford certain things.  Passion is what motivates masters and PhD students.  They have such a passion for what they do that they are studying it further for the option of a career.  The hours of study, the research, I am sure it is difficult, but it’s still bolstered by passion, and there is something in that.  Where is the passion in scanning a million little tubes filled with synthetic DNA?  There is none.  It’s a means to an end.  There is no internal motivation.  And I don’t even have that means anymore.  I am living my dream career, also known as the pauper’s career.  I am the tortured artist living off of macaroni and cheese, sending in job applications to Starbucks and Borders book stores, so that I have more time and freedom to write.  Unfortunately with this economic climate, not too many people want to give writers the chance.  That, and people are not spending money on frivolities, like books.

Oh, student life.  I was once told that the best way to “get by” in this economic downfall was to become a student again.  I am guessing that many people had this idea, as applications are abounding.  It’s dog eat dog, and I think I just became the next meal.

Home.

The idea of home is an intriguing one.  I am from the Midwest.  I grew up in a suburb of Chicago and then went to school at the University of Iowa.  For two years following my graduation date, I stayed in Iowa City.  This past year my fiancé and I moved to California as he began a new chapter in his education.  We are in Davis because he is a PhD student in Conservation Biology.  My sense of belonging is nothing.  I have no connection to this place aside from being a support to him.  There is a small job market and anything that is available has a firm background in the sciences and agricultural studies that this place is famous for.  Any government jobs are surveying areas that are known for their crack and methamphetamine addicts.  It seems like there is no place for me, no place for growth, no place for interests similar to mine.  We are a relatively short distance away from Berkeley and San Francisco.  Though I still do not feel a dramatic pull, I am more connected to the liberal ideals and fine art opportunities that these cities have to offer.  The only problem that arises is the all too common money issue.  Do we move to a middle ground, like Vacaville or Napa?  Can we afford that?  Even the short distance between Davis and San Francisco is an enormous leap in household income and property value.  What opportunities await me?

I often think about home.  What is home?  What makes somewhere home?  How do other places differ from this feeling of “home”?  Is it a tangible thing or is it something completely amorphous?  And can a single person create a feeling of home when everything rebels against it?

Home.  The famous saying is “home is where the heart is.”  This statement confuses me immensely.  Is this a reference to the relationships we have with people?  If so, how can home be where the heart is when families live thousands of miles apart?  If home is where the heart is, does that reflect the intangible feeling that happens when you move some place that just feels like home?  It’s like being punched in the gut, but completely desirable.  I remember the first time I ever saw Iowa City, it was February, grey, snowing, completely miserable conditions to initially see an area (there is a common belief that weather and college decisions correlate; if it’s a bad weather day when you visit your potential campus, it can indirectly affect your decision to move there), but I loved it.  It was this warm feeling that settled over me.  The town was relatively small, but still managed to maintain a city feel.  The different restaurants boasted unique meals and different ethnicities.  The layout of the town intertwines the campus and the pedestrian areas, and it somehow made it more unique.  I knew I was head over heels for the place when my mom and I decided to walk around in subzero weather which introduced us to Iowa City’s coffee supply, the Java House.  We walked in to the one on Washington Street in the pedestrian mall.  The people working, the atmosphere of the place, half home half shop, unique paintings and people reading literary greats ranging from Reagent England to Burrough’s exploration of the drug scene in New York.  It felt like I was home.  This was my place.  I knew I was going to be one of those people, sipping coffee, reading novels, and enjoying the warmth as the wind blew outside.  It was a mini-Chicago, a place that encapsulated all the beauty of a city in the middle of the country.  It was a step in the right direction to realizing my childhood dreams of city living.

I met Jonathan at the University of Iowa.  We shared a class together my freshman year and his sophomore year.  As we learned more about one another, it was obvious that we were from two different families, backgrounds, and that the shared interests were on pleasurable activities, like entertainment and music.  When it came to business and the reasons we were in school, we were completely different.  I was a fine arts girl, majoring in creative writing and religious studies, he was a biology major with a background in ecology.  His dream was to gain a PhD and do research at leading institutes and develop ways to conserve and maintain the ecology of species.  My dream was to write, to live the poet’s life and entertain all aspects of art.  The way it looked to me, the way it sounded, the way it felt and the way it tasted.  I wanted to write poetry and short stories, take photographs and experience life through the notes of musicians.  I even began to develop an interest in Jonathan’s field by  viewing it with my artistic ambitions.  I may not have known the formulas he studied, I may not know the who or what or why, but I began to realize the beauty in their existence.  It always reminds me of this scene in Stigmata where Gabriel Bryne’s character, a priest who is also a scientist, expressed the reason he took the vows.  Though there are these things that disprove God’s existence, why did they occur in the first place?  What made this particle bond with the other particle?  Was it divine inspiration?  There are reasons certain things happen, why oxygen can create carbon dioxide, but what began it?  That is where the art, the beauty, the miracle comes from.  I carved a space for my thinking out of his interests.  I am not sure he ever reciprocated those efforts.  He would listen to me discuss literature and my writing, but I am not sure he ever understood it, or wanted to.

“Home is where the heart is.”  I think it encapsulates interest.  What we love about life and what we do.  Davis does not have a niche for me.  The most I share in common with these people is vegetarianism and a desire to live green.  These are superficial in the scheme of things.  They scratch the surface of my interests.  I remember my first experience with Davis.  We had made the decision, we had signed a lease, and I still had yet to visit the town.  In July my father and I traveled out here.  We flew in to San Francisco, rented a car and drove the two hours up to Davis.  When we first landed I felt some hope.  San Francisco was interesting.  It was different from anything within my scope of knowledge, and it was artistic.  But as we drove north, I could feel those first instances of hope disappear slowly until there was nothing but panic.  Davis is a nice enough town.  It is small, inclusive, and it has adorable shops, some of them being of the coffee persuasion which is an absolute must.  The colors are vibrant and vibe with a west coast mentality and are reminiscent of the hippie days gone by.  But it is not home.  It was as if a force field was around the city and I could not seem to puncture it.  Or maybe even more accurately, my psyche created a force field to which Davis cannot puncture.

There are people reading outside coffee shops, but they are reading scientific journals rather than literature.  There are people typing away on computers, but they are constructing Excel documents and not Word.  There are book stores that are beautiful, unique and locally owned, but they carry more Michael Pollan than Emily Dickinson.  Even authors from the area, like Karen Joy Fowler, describe this area through the eyes of technical and scientific characters rather than artistic ones.  They may read Jane Austen, but they are dog breeders and computer engineers.  The more eclectic characters reside in the Bay area.  These are all things I did not know until I came to Davis.  And these are all things that I felt upon first entering city limits.  It was instinctual.  My gut was hit, and it hurt.

Home.  What is it?  Where is it?  It is in the Midwest.  It is Chicago.  I recently visited and the days were miserable.  The snow was falling, the rain was coming, the wind was blowing, and everything appeared grey, but I saw more color in those days visiting than I ever have in five months of living in Davis.  The colors of this area are vibrant to the eyes, but it is dull and grey to my mind and mentality.  Chicago may literally be grey, but it is more vibrant than anything I have ever experienced.  So what is home?  The place where I live?  Where I physically reside?  Or where I can see color even when there is a bland palate?

Shhhheeeeessssssh. Read between the lines bozoooos.

I am listening to “The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” and I remember being in the car listening to this in Iowa.  His warbling voice, straining to hit a note, barely audible lyrics, until it gets to the chorus where he goes, “…my yellow country teeeeeeeeeth…” and I am thinking about how I tried to sing like him and failing miserably, and hurting my own ears, let alone anyone who might have heard me.  I am thinking about getting burritos.  And sunglasses.  And polarizing.  Barnes and Noble and getting myself coffee before going in to work.  How D would always make fun of me for drinking so much coffee and then she would come back from her lunch break with a massive McDonalds Caramel Frappe.  How Shel got me that disgusting and oh so delicious Frosty-cino thing, and how Cybin got one and we all perked up and ask what it was.  Sitting outside at lunch when it was only March and I was freezing but at the same time did not want to sit inside anymore.  How when everyone else went for a smoke break, I would sit on the bench outside the north side doors with my book and Orange Crush would come back and make fun of me.  How my Quasian and I had secret code for every conceivable joke, like a different language.  Apparently I am good at solidifying inside jokes.  And it’s always nice to know you have them with someone, don’t you think? There is a sense of respect and vulnerability in having an inside joke with someone.  You are close enough to that person that they know exactly what you mean when the rest of the world is scratching their heads wondering what they hell is being said.  Certain looks and winks and laughs and dance moves.  How my twin and I will always know what the hairy things are.  How my swassy girl will always respond with easy snakes biting hot.  How ta-tas are forever the best term used for knockers.  How power punches are a way of respecting the shit that we have to go through (well, now you have to go through) every day.  How Snickers are by far the superior chocolate treat, and the message inside is always special.  Something to get you through the day.  How no matter what happens, I will always say that I have not fallen into the ocean yet, and how certain songs will always evoke a memory or a feeling that stirs deep in their chest.  And can also bring tears.  How “That’s Not My Name” will always cause a myriad of reactions, from laughs to curses.  How Jean Claude will always make people whistle and hoot and holler.  That TACO freaking PIE and SPAGHETTI freaking PIE will always make people roll their eyes and laugh.  UH-OH has forever been ruined for me, because automatically afterwards I think about double negatives and curse!  Fairway is no longer just a supermarket, but a repetitive noun that needs to be SHOT.  SHEBONS and DIRTY MARTINIS are at the top of my best memories and by far the best drinks ever.  Wednesday night sushi dinners and half price bottles of wine.  “Girls night” was just code for let’s get loaded.  Caramel cremes, five dollar bottles of wine, and Brett giving us multiple free martinis.  My pink heels.  Dressing up and being Carrie Bradshaw for an evening, and, DUDE, I AM SOOOOO DRUNK, I DON’T THINK YOU UNDERSTAND…. and yes, I BLAME THE SHOTS!  No one ever looking at mail the same again.  And the QUESTIONS!?!?!  Grrr.  Damn Worldsleaze.  And did you know, my quasian, WHEN I SEE YOUR FACE, THERE IS NOT A THING I WOULD CHANGE, CUZ YOU’RE AMAZING JUST THE WAY YOU ARE.  I hope that you have similar memories.  I hope whenever you hear Whitney, you smile slyly because you have that video, flashlight in hand, dancing, dancing, dancing.  Or that Tik Tok always makes you think about P.Diddy, because you know he’s not your friend.  And that hopefully you did NOT throw up glitter.  And I hope you can still smile whenever you think about the good old 1-2.  It makes me smile.  And then laugh hysterically for about an hour and a half.  Or that picture on Shel’s phone of me impersonating a specific sitting position.  Margaritas!  Chimichangas!  EXTRA SOUR CREAM!  RED FACED AND GIGGLING!  NOW THE PARTY DON’T START UNTIL I WALK IN.  Oh, and swassy, you have to remember this: GREETINGS LOVED ONES, let’s take a journey……………………………………………  Because you know, deep inside you know, you can travel the world but nothing comes close to the golden coast, CALIFORNIA GIRLS, WE ARE UNFORGETTABLE. I hope this walk down memory lane finds you all smiling, because it has made me smile.  I needed it.  I have been listening to songs, remembering good times, looking forward to the future, and the ability to share more moments with you.  Read between the lines and you know exactly what I am talking about.  I bet you ten bucks you are smiling right now, just like I am.  AND THEY ARE NOT FUCKING PIRATE BOOTS.