Sunday, January 27, 2013

Guest post and giveaway!

My little sister is one of the funniest and most creative people I know. Today, she's hijacking my blog with a post of her own. And to sweeten the deal, she's offering a free, handmade bow tie to one lucky winner. Enjoy her story, and check out the note at the bottom to see how to enter!

I walked down the aisle searching the plane for a window seat. I spied a middle seat in the emergency row between two older gentlemen that would do instead. Extra legroom, I probably wouldn’t have to talk to anyone… I’ll take it! I asked if the seat was available and the man in the aisle seat sprang out to let me in.

“I saved it just for you,” he said.

“Haha oh, thanks,” I said, while wrestling the book that I was eager to read out of my backpack.

 “Austin or Orlando,” he stated. I was confused. It wasn’t a question and I wasn’t sure if he was directing it at me.

“What was that?” I asked.

“Austin or Orlando,” he said again, this time with a slight edge in his voice.

It still was not a question, but I obliged him with an answer anyway. “Austin. Time to go back to school! You?”

“Disney,” he said with a smirk and a twinkle in his eye.

“Fun!” I said while flipping to the first page of my book.

The plane taxied into position for takeoff.

“Time to practice my flying,” the man stated. He rolled his magazine up and held it like a joystick in his right hand. “I won’t pull back until we reach 120 miles per hour.”

The plane gained speed. The man pulled up on his imaginary steering wheel at the same time that the plane pulled up.

“Landing gear up!” he announced at the same time that the landing gear rumbled below us.

I ignored the urge to run and instead looked back at my book.

“What are you studying?” he asked.

I held back an exasperated sigh and said, “Business and Political Science.”

“Want to be a politician?” he questioned.

“After I make my millions. What do you do?” I didn’t want to extend this conversation, but I also didn’t want to be rude. He had been waiting for this question since I sat down.

“I’m an inventor,” he said with another smirk and a side glance. “Yeah, it’s a portable alarm something something something. Want to see it?”

I nodded along at his description, pretending that I understood. I nodded emphatically that I would, in fact, like to see it, when really I would not. He took out his iPhone and flashed the locked screen with a background picture of a key.

“That’s it,” he said proudly. “You just unlock it and enter your phone number for your alarm system information. You should really get it. A pretty young thing like you. It’s only $499.”

I tried not to blink too much at the price or the fact that he referred to me as a pretty young thing. Even though I didn’t understand his invention, I inquired no more about it. It was time to read.

“Yeah, I’m working with William Shatner right now,” he casually dropped.

“Oh?” I said.

“Yeah, he is going to do a commercial about our product. He’s totally behind it,” he said, his eyes twinkling more than ever.

“Cool!” I said, trying to end the conversation.

“Ever sold anything?” he asked.

After I explained that I had indeed sold stuff, he said, “You’re tough. And you have a lot to say.”

I blushed, smiled politely, and glanced away. I looked at the ceiling, out the window, at my book, then, mistakenly, back at the man.

“I also read faces,” he said with a shrug.

“Oh?” I asked, expecting him to guess how creeped out I was.

“Yeah, I’ve just told you some stuff about you. You are a good girl.”

I blushed more. My face felt hot. I looked away again.

“Know how I know?” he questioned. “Your ears. Your ears told me.”

I laughed nervously.

“Yeah,” he continued, ”You’re not going to be a CEO, you’re going to get married and have a bunch of kids.”

My face was about to burst into flames.

“You’re going to be a great mom,” he stated.

Thankfully he announced that he was done reading me and I finally got to settle in to read my book. 30 minutes later, I was 60 pages into my book and the man decided that it was time to comment again.

“Have you already read that much?” he asked incredulously.

I thought about answering sarcastically that no, I hadn’t read that much, I was just flipping ahead to see what was going to happen, but I decided to bite my tongue. I simply nodded and continued to read. After a while he left to go to the restroom. I used this precious time to dig out my lunchable. I had been too afraid that he would start another conversation if I had got it out while he was next to me. He returned while I was building my last cracker sandwich.

“I made them turn the air off,” he boasted proudly. “The surest way to get everyone on this plane sick is to blast cold air on them, getting them chilled, and blowing germs around.”

I nodded as though I agreed with him, then I looked back to my book. 10 minutes later he declared that he was hot and turned his air nozzle on full blast. I gritted my teeth and kept reading. The man looked at my lunchables trash.

“Packed yourself a lunchable, huh?”

“Yeah,” I answered. “Sometimes you just have to act like a kid.”

“Wow. I can’t believe you said that, because I carry around this picture of myself at 10 years old to remind myself of that every day.” Sure enough he whipped the picture out of his wallet.

I nodded earnestly and went back to my reading.

Finally we began our descent. The man went through the motions of landing while I thanked God that he was remaining on the plane to go to Orlando and I wouldn’t have to talk to him anymore. As I crawled over him to exit, I wished him luck on his invention. He told me how nice it was to meet me and winked. I ran for the exit.

To enter the bow tie giveaway, leave a comment below to tell us of your strangest travel story. One entry per person, please. Winner will be announced Saturday evening, and will get to choose a custom bow tie from Meagan's vast, original collection!

Photo and bow ties by Meagan Rowell
[edit: Thanks to Danny, Mitch, Karen, and Hannah! You made us laugh so hard that Meagan wants to give you each a bow tie. She'll get in touch with you so you can pick it out. In the meantime, be sure to like Funky Fauna on Facebook!]

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Warby Parker Four-Eyes Showdown

I got my first pair of glasses in 6th grade, when I realized I was the only one who couldn't read the red marker on the board. But it was my sophomore year of high school before I realized that I needed vision correction all the time. This realization came after a particular embarrassing morning, when I climbed the stairs into the hallway and saw someone waving an enthusiastic greeting. I waved back, a huge smile on my face, but having absolutely no idea who the blurry figure was. "Hey!" I shouted. "How's it going?" By that point I was close enough to make out a general sense of confusion, and the realization that I didn't know this person hit me at the exact moment I realized he/she was waving at a person behind me. And they were both cool, good-looking, turning-their-noses-up-at-me seniors.

I never went without my glasses-- and later, contacts-- again.

Picking out a new pair of glasses isn't like picking out any other piece of clothing or accessory. You're essentially picking out a new feature for your face. I try to pick a pair that's cool enough to make me look good when I don't feel good, but that won't detract from the rest of my look.

I've been eyeing (see what I did there?) Warby Parker for a while, and I've decided to take the plunge and get a pair. They have fantastic customer service, as well as a Home Try-on program that allows you to try on five different frames at home fo' free. The only problem is that they have too many great-looking options... so I've had three boxes shipped to my house. The first box was pretty good, and held my current favorites. The second box was a total bust, and the third box, which I got last night, has the best selection yet.

Without further ado, help me pick! Vote for your favorites in the comments below.

#1: The Beckett in Striped Evergreen (the current frontrunner)

#2: The Huxley in Whiskey Tortoise

#3: The Bensen in Olivewood

#4: The Preston in Gimlet Tortoise
#5: The Wiloughby in Tennessee Whiskey

Disclaimer: I'm not getting any kick-back from Warby Parker in return for this post. I'm genuinely excited about their product and business model!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Inauguration 2013

Four years ago, I was in a choir that performed during a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration at William Jewell College. It was Inauguration Eve, and I remember the thick anticipation that hovered above the congregation. I remember getting chills over and over as the largely African-American crowd sang, "We Shall Overcome," changing the shall to have. I remember thinking, This is huge.

Months earlier I had shaken Joe Biden's hand at a rally at Jewell, while I was still undecided in my first election as a legal, registered voter. Since then, I had been in heated debates, I had been accused of holding beliefs I didn't, I had spent hours researching my choices, and I had felt dizzy with excitement as I marked my ballot and mailed it in.

In 2009, I watched the Inaugural Ceremonies from a couch on the third floor in Melrose Hall. I marveled at Aretha's hat, and I felt a lump rise in my throat as Barack Obama gave his inaugural address.

In 2013, I was privileged with a seat. I felt drunk off the heady atmosphere, giddy to be witnessing the best pomp and circumstance our country has to offer. It's rare to feel as though you've witnessed history happen. Someday, my children will learn about President Obama, and I'll tell them I saw him once. They will think I'm a dinosaur, but a really cool dinosaur who once did cool things.

I'll also mention that I saw Beyonce, only after I sprinted to and from the port-a-potties during the poet and the last guy who prayed. I'm probably less cultured and less spiritual for it, but I saw Beyonce. I crouched on a riser in front of another spectator, snapping pictures and crying. 

Just as it's rare to feel as though you've witnessed history, it's rare to feel an acute sense of identity and belonging that compares to the intense patriotism that surges at such a moment. I did my fair share of crying during the Olympics last summer, but these Beyonce-inspired tears seemed to come from my gut. From the place that harbors my nationality, my sense of home, my ever-increasing love for my country-- regardless of the politics, corruption, and malaise that has overshadowed the hope so many continue to find within her borders.

Call it idealism, naiveté, or ignorance, but Monday's ceremonies (and even the protester in the tree) provided example after poignant example of the beautiful freedom we enjoy, and it's a day I'll keep in my memory for the rest of my life.

All photos taken by me with a Nikon D90 on January 21, 2013.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Two Kinds of Anxiety

I’ve written (whined) quite a bit about my creative struggles on this blog.

The fact that I just referred to my chronic procrastination/perfectionism as “creative struggles” makes me want to X out of this window and stop being friends with myself.

I read somewhere that there are two kinds of anxiety (not including the misfiring-neurotransmitters kind; that's a post for another day). There’s the one that paralyzes you. The fear of what might be keeps you from even trying. I’ve told this story before, but when I was in second grade, my teacher had to have a chat with my mom. I was a well-behaved, smart kid, but there was a problem with my spelling tests.

They were all blank.

One showed a bit of hope—I’d written in a correctly-spelled word, but erased it. When my mom confronted me, I told her I wasn’t going to write down the word unless I was 100% sure I was spelling it right. The anxiety of being wrong, of embarrassing myself in print, paralyzed me even at age 7.

Stephen Pressman calls this Resistance. I’ve been reading his incredible book The War of Art as a sort of inspirational procrastination, and his words are getting under my skin. If you’ve ever struggled to do anything worthwhile, you’ve encountered Resistance, and you should read this book. Pressman writes, “If you believe in God (and I do) you must declare Resistance evil, for it prevents us from achieving the life God intended when He endowed each of us with our own unique genius.”


And then, skating on the edges of Godwin's Law, he offers this zinger:

You know, Hitler wanted to be an artist. […] Ever see one of his paintings? Neither have I. Resistance beat him. Call it overstatement but I’ll say it anyway: it was easier for Hitler to start World War II than it was for him to face a blank square of canvas.

The other kind of anxiety is the one that propels you forward. It comes from the fear of what might not be. It comes from thinking in reverse, of imagining what your 85-year-old self will want to have accomplished.

I met with a writer last spring, who spent a good couple of hours destroying my confidence and scaring the living daylights out of me. “If there’s anything else you can do other than write,” he told me, “do that.” That’s the kind of anxiety the drives you—if I can’t do this I won’t survive.

These two anxieties have been duking it out in my exhausted brain for months. I scribble ideas for blogs, short stories, essays, and even books all over my planner. I’m terrified of forgetting a great idea, but I’m conquered by the fear of putting it on paper. This fear is the very thing that assures me of my calling. I have never had more free time on my hands, and I’ve never worked harder to not do what I must be called to do. Pressman writes,

We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others. Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.

Resistance is a new enemy every day. But as in every difficult effort, you’ve got to push through the pain. It gets harder before it gets easier, right?

And before I start to feel too anxious about this wilting conclusion, here’s a darling letter F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote his 11-year-old daughter, on what not to worry about.

Photo taken by me, with an iPhone, outside a Vietnamese restaurant in Wichita, Kansas.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Five Reasons Why Today Was A Good Day

1. Dropping off my dry cleaning at 8am made me feel as though I'm successfully navigating the waters of adulthood.

2. As did still having time to get Starbucks before arriving at work early.

3. I took my lunch to a bench outside the Capitol and spent roughly 48 minutes facing the welcome, blazing glory of the sun.

4. That squirrel at the top? I fed him out of my hand. Twice. I couldn't help it! He hopped up to my bench and stood on his back legs, holding his front paws close to his chest. He stared deep into my eyes. Please? he said. Might I have I have a crumb of bread? Who am I to deny his boldness? I gave him a good chunk of the crust off my sandwich. He scampered to the nearest tree and ate the treat in the crook of a branch; I felt an enormous amount of pleasure.

5. The afternoon brought an out-of-the-office errand, chauffeured by a friend. He told me I'm over-thinking the whole writing thing, which I am. He told me to start again, and to start small, and to include pictures. So I did.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012: A Year in Photos

I have such a mixed set of emotions when I reflect on this past year, and when I think about what 2013 may bring. Relief that 2012 is over, trepidation over the challenges of 2013, wistfulness at the beautiful memories, and hope for fresh adventures. But rather than blubbering on, here's the year as it appeared through my camera lenses.