Sunday, March 24, 2013

Five things you wished I never told you about myself

Well.  Kate has tagged me in her blog for some chain mail-esque list of five things about yourself.  And since this is the second time that she has done something like this (and I prominently ignored the first), I feel that it’s only good sportsmanship to not disregard it this time around.  Plus, I’ve been meaning to post something recently and this provides a nice formula.  Unlike Kate, however, I have no blogger friends except for her, so I will not be tagging anyone in return.  You’re welcome blogging world, although you probably don’t deserve it.

Five Things You May but Probably Don't Know about this Blogger:

1.  I’ve spent most of my adult life hiding my hobbies.  I’m not entirely sure why, I just feel uncomfortable telling people things like: I’m a poet or I’m a singer-songwriter or I'm a guitar player because it makes me feel like I’m…well, twelve and it should be bookended by comments like: my favorite color is purple and my favorite books are the Baby Sitters Club series.

Incidentally, I once tried to form a Baby Sitters Club.  It failed miserably.  We were eight.

If you care to hear one of my songs written and recorded in the fall of 2008, take a listen, or don't and keep scrolling...


Sorry about the sound quality but I don't really know how to work a computer...

2. I'm afraid of everything.  Driving to a place I've never been before: scared.  Literally doing ANYTHING that I haven't done before: scared.  Doing things I have done before but had a less than pleasant experience doing (like going to the dentist): scared.  Being up close to an actual horse: shaking in my boots.  Any sort of paranormal exorcist ghost demon movie: scared enough that I might need to sleep with the lights on for a week or so.  Hiking in the canyons: scared.  (Rattlesnakes.)  Heights: scared.  Clowns: scared.  Strangers speaking to me: petrified. Because I am so frightened of everything, I purposefully try to do things that terrify me because I don't want to live a life governed by fear.  So you'll often catch me offering to hold the boa constrictor at the science center or chatting up the stranger next to me in line or hiking high cliffs chalk full (maybe) of little rattlers or going on the no safety harness check upside down ride at the fair.  Sure I maybe freak out internally but I'm doing that all the time anyways, so why not be brave and experience everything?  Except for when it comes to clowns.  I still steer as far away as possible from them.

3. I have played some of the all time best characters: Indiana Jones, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, The Rocketeer.  I played all these characters because they are male and my sister would always make me be the boy while she got to play the cool kick ass Princess Leia characters.  Bitter much?  Why, no.

4. I am the meanest kindest person you will ever meet. For those of you who watch Parks and Recreation, think of me as a strange hybrid of Leslie Knope and April Ludgate: I'm equal parts cynic and overachieving optimist.  The cynic, however, is definitely much closer to the surface and often emerges in the form of pure unadulterated sass.  I can't help it.  I've inherited this spunk from both sides of my family, so I didn't really stand a chance at having a dull personality.  

The unfortunate thing about my particular brand of sass is that it often gives people the wrong idea about me.  People think I'm mean, that I am constantly criticizing and berating everyone, that my sarcasm is actual earnest cruelty.  To be fair to the people that think this, my face doesn't help. I've been gifted with the type of face that when not smiling looks angry.  I call it the bitch face.  I also happen to have a good poker face so when I am saying these utterly ridiculous things I look serious. 

But what these people don't realize is that I am actually a big softly.  I cry at everything including (but not limited to) Geiko commercials; I am sympathetic to everyone, to the point that when I was watching Batman cartoons as a child, I would often feel bad for the villains that Batman was beating up because they probably had families and stresses and reasons for being bag guys; if you are my friend, I am fiercely loyal and will do anything I can to help you; if you are not my friend and you are in trouble, I will still do anything I can to help you; and although I don't always succeed, I try my hardest never to say anything mean about someone behind their back.  

So why am I like this?  Good question.  It does seem sort of oxymoronic doesn't it?  But I think everyone's a mess of contradictions and I'm no different.  Sure I maybe slightly judgmental and smug like my polish side and I do a fair amount of teasing, like my father, to show affection, but I am also understanding, patient, and self-sacrificing, like my mother.

I guess this could also be symptomatic of something that I was taught as a child: you don't have to like everyone but you do have to love them.  And I do.  How's that for sappy?  Now go away.

5.  I am dreadfully untraveled and uncultured.  Aside from a few jaunts to Canada, I have never been out of the country.  I do have a passport because in the winter of 2007, Moses won a cruise to the Caribbean.  It turned out that the cruise date just happened to be during finals week, so it was all for nothing and I debated writing many a strongly worded letter to the cruise company for dashing all my dreams.

I actually had never even been on an airplane until I was twenty-one, when I flew down to Madison Wisconsin to visit my sister.  Shocked?  I would think so.

Obviously these aren't things I typically advertise about myself because I feel quite shameful about it--it is yet one more thing for me to add to the list of things to feel self-loathing about.  I assume, however, that I will someday remedy this and then you can start talking to me again.

[Bonus] 6.  Okay, so I didn't really want to end on a downer confession, so I will give you one more factoid about myself that will hopefully be a little less bummer and a little more saccharine and frivolous (just how we like things here at Adventures...)  

There is one feature on my face that I am pretty vain about: my eyes.  They are big and green and, I think, probably the most stunning part of me.  Of course, I can't actually see for shit with them, but that is besides the point.  When I was little, they would change color all the time; now they mostly fluctuate between green and a sometimes bluish green depending on the light and what I'm wearing.

And when my eyes look particularly piercing, I sometimes fancy that I resemble one of the following people:

But in reality, I probably more closely resemble one of these people:

There you have it.  Five things that you probably already knew or didn't want to know about me.  Happy Sunday!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Beer and skittles

It's taken me awhile but I think I'm finally getting the hang of this whole weekend thing.

For the longest time I didn't have them. Well, not in any traditional sense; they were typically spent up to my elbows in fish sauce (but not literally--gross) or researching or writing term papers or grading term papers or generally catching up on work that I had so delinquently fallen behind on during the week.

And while it wasn't exactly ideal, this arrangement was quite befitting for my personality.  Similar to how some people only need five hours of sleep a night and others can't function without eight (guilty), I've never really needed much leisure time and oftentimes, when I receive more than I am accustomed to, I get flighty and crestfallen.

Now of course, things are different. On Fridays, I stand at a vast precipice of nothingness, which is both wondrous and terrifying to behold.

But I've made progress.  I've finally managed to shuffle off most of the pangs of anxiety and shame that so often accompany such moments of remiss and even begun to (slightly) embrace the lack of productivity, if not solely for its restorative powers.  (Although, I mostly just pretend that it makes me nicer.)

This past weekend in particular was blissfully uneventful.

Moses has been busy what the whole finishing his PhD thing, so I was mostly left to my own devices.

On Saturday, I woke up early, puttered around the apartment, drank some french press coffee (only the best at chez Kozak et Wilks), tinkered around the design tab on my blog home page for no less than two whole totally not wasted hours, rewatched the same episodes of my favorite Bravo T.V. shows for the third, fourth, and fifth times, huffed and puffed my way through Jillian Michaels' Banish Fat and Boost Metabolism, and got a manicure.  I even was asked by a nice young homeless man on bicycle, if I would like to ride on his handle bars.  He did have all his teeth (plus!) but that was about the only thing going for him (minus!).

It was a charming day.

Sunday was even sunnier and lazier.  I watched the trashiest of trashy chick flicks (and loved every Jennifer Anistoned minute of it), suffered through some more Jillian Michaels, and maybe didn't wait until 5PM rolled around to pour my first glass of wine.  You can't judge me too harshly.  Daylights savings and all...

I also spent a shameful amount of time perusing this site:  It's crystal meth to the materialistic and shopaholic inclined (I am both).  And while I think it boasts far too much Disney Princess paraphernalia (what am I like twelve and at my boyfriend's frat party?), I simply adore it otherwise.  You can browse, save, and buy all sorts of cute, fashionable, and kitschy items that--and here is the best part--are all assembled for your viewing/purchasing pleasure by other people.  Other people more devoted and stylish than you.  Other people with more patience.

I am no brand of savvy bargain hunter.  I don't take anything resembling pleasure from scouring through cluttered racks of clothing for that one perfect jumper or that absolute steal.  Oftentimes, when I walk into places like TJ Maxx or Goodwill, I feel overwhelmed and exasperated   Who has the time to shift through all this crap?  I just want one store that is spacious and well lit and contains precisely one outfit that is exactly what I want, in exactly my size.  It's called a personal stylist.

And because I am so poor right now--not that you asked or anything--I've mostly been cultivating and pruning an epic wishlist, which is currently comprised of one too many Aztec printed sweaters.

Wanelo also lead me here:, which is just about the best novelty/gift store a girl can comfortably access from the confines of her own living room.  Where else can you get prints of Royal Tenenbaumn characters and throw pillows with David Bowie's face on them?  Oh, Zazzle?  Well, whatever.  Society6 still warrants exploration, not that you come to me for advice on anything...ever.

And since I've officially devolved into prattling on about websites and internet shopping and am now using this post to dodge my Jillian Michaels work out and shirk my dinner making duties, this seems like an organic place to stop.  I leave you here.

I swear I'm not shallow.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


Perhaps it's the slightly depressing shade of overcast gray this morning/afternoon or the cooler weather or the fact that it's Tuesday or some perfect cocktail of the lack of clothing purchases over the past three weeks and hormones, but readers, I am feeling quite listless.

And now my coffee has gone cold and I officially hate everything.

But seriously.  I loathe funks like this one because it feels like such a waste of drama-free existence.  I don't have mounds of grading to do, no disgruntled students complaining about their B that should have really been a C (but I'm kind), no mounds of paperwork to sort through, I don't even have to wait years for the new season of Real Housewives of Orange County to start.  Nothing really bad is currently happening to me and nothing really out of the ordinary good is happening to me either.  (Ugh, did that sound as white people problemish as I think it did?)  I should be counting my blessings Bing Crosby style and yet here I am, complaining on my blog about feeling ever so slightly less than marvelous.

Some days though, I just wish that my life was more than it is--that I was more than I am--that I had accomplished more, that I was cleverer and more ambitious, that I was more organized and more financially responsible, that my job was more glamorous, that I was generally more glamorous instead of introverted and wry and pessimistic with coffee stains on my clothes, dry skin, and weird hair (and before you say anything, yes, it has been weirder than usual).

I'm not really sure why I am posting about this (although I am sure that none of you are screwing up your eyes and questioning whether you've clicked on the right link when you come here to discover I am yet again blogging about something negative.)  I think that some of it has to do with catharsis, some of it candor, and some of it commiseration.   I know that whenever I am feeling even the least bit surly, I find these types of admissions to be insanely comforting.  Probably because I am often delusional enough to believe that everyone else around me is perpetually cheery and on top of things and that I'm the only poor dope who avoids the dentist until her fillings fall out and whose boyfriend has had to make a rule about her having beverages in the bedroom because she spills anything and everything everywhere and who always always buys basil, forgets about, and then has to throw it all out.

So hopefully me candling the cake for this little pity party for myself has left you feeling comforted or better about your lives because YOU always remember to use up all your basil. Glad I could help.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

An attempt to master

I am sick of trying to conjure a snappy opening from the depths of my uninspiredness, so I've decided to begin this one in medias res.

I had a draft of a Valentine's day post in the works but considering that Valentine's day was three weeks ago,  I think I may have missed the boat on that one.  On the plus side, I did clean my bathroom twice more than usual last month.  So there you go.  That's what I've been up to.  You're officially caught up.

I recently read an article in the New York Times on a new study that claims that women are heavier these days than in previous eras (like the 1960's) because they are less active in the workplace and at home, specifically when it comes to doing household chores.  Or something like that.  Everyone's outraged about it of course.   I'm not really.  Partly because science says less activity=less calories/fat burned but mostly because I am comforted by the fact that I expend much more energy avoiding housework than I do actually doing housework.  I would much much rather do three Jillian Michaels exercise DVDs than wash a single dish.

But I'm rambling.

My real reason for writing today is--spoiler alert--not to discuss alleged sexist New York Times articles or my shameful avoidance of anything remotely resembling housework, I am writing because I learned something today.  Something sad.  Something that made me inexplicably break down in tears.  Today I learned that Thai Cuisine, the family-owned restaurant in Ithaca where I worked for nearly six years--that has been in business for almost twenty-five--has closed for good.

Now before you get all there-are-starving-orphan-refugees-in-Somalia on me, just know that my inner catholic has already listed off enough atrocious things (far worse than this) to give me guilt complexes for a century. And while I am perfectly aware that I should instead lament the state of the abused one-eyed puppy on the Wendi Malick Humane Society of the United States commercial, I can't help but dwell on this.  I can't help but feel somewhat heartbroken by this news.

So much of my time and effort was put into that place.

So many many holidays and weekends spent hustling tray fulls of curry between tables and baking over the steamer while shaping perfectly domed bowls of rice.

So many carpet stains scrubbed out and bathroom floors mopped and all purpose cleaner fumes inhaled.

So many cappuccinos made with a busted espresso machine.

So many tamarind stained linen sorted and sticky menus wiped cleaned.

So many bottles of bad white wine that had turned to vinegar returned by disgruntled customers (note: not my fault, I warned them that our cases had gone bad).

So many untouched shrimp fritters pilfered from plates (before they made it into the bus bin...and sometimes after).

So many broken or lost tea strainers and missing and mismatched saucers.

So many stories of crazy cake customers like that one girl who asked my friend Amy to choose a protein for her and when Amy chose chicken the girl, disappointed, replied "Oh.  That's not the one I wanted."  Or that guy who once said that he wished he could smear prig pow sauce in his mustache so that he could smell it all day and I couldn't help but think: ew, you know that's primarily shrimp paste, right?  Or the infamous pad thai girls: pretty, thin, blonde usually (sorry, I hate to stereotype), good complexion, cute outfits.  They usually come in groups of four and speak with that accent--you know the one--the ditzy rich girl accent.  They all order a variation of pad thai: pad thai no bean sprouts, pad thai no tofu, pad thai no peanuts, pad thai with extra beansprouts and extra chicken, etc, etc.  Even now, I'll see a girl walking on the street in LA and I can just tell immediately that she's a pad thai girl.

Naturally, one of the things that I think I will miss most about Thai cuisine is the food. Anyone who has ever met me, nay had a ten minute conversation with me, has probably heard me rave about the food at the place where I used to work.  I am obsessed with it.  It's the standard that I hold all Thai food to and only one place here in LA has even come close.  Of course, I'm becoming more and more convinced that the reason I feel this way is because Thai Cuisine is like my mother's cooking or my grandmother's cooking; I'm biased towards it because I grew up on it and nothing else will ever taste quite like it to me. I've probably mentioned this before, but when my Polish grandmother died, almost all her recipes died with her.  She was an amazing cook and I find myself craving her food all the time now.  Thai Cuisine will be like that and it's just so utterly depressing because I love food almost more than anything (Moses wins by a very thin margin).

But perhaps what I will miss most about the restaurant is what it represented--this vague yet immutable thing which even now I'm struggling to phrase.  The owners were like my family.  I spent nearly six years of my life working with them, helping them.  Some of my best friends worked there.  My brother Scott worked there, his best friend and our next door neighbor Mason worked there.  I spent a significant part of my early adulthood there.  And even with all of it's frustrations, it is the setting to some of my fondest memories.

Not to wax too philosophical on you, but a little while ago, I was interviewing for a job and one of the questions they asked me was how I dealt with change.  I remember thinking that it was a bit of an odd thing to ask but said something to the effect that I have become very adaptable because of all the change I've had to face over the past five years: moving across the country, graduate school, career shifts, etc. 

But just because I've seen a lot of change over the past few years doesn't necessarily make me an expert at dealing with it, especially when I'm partial to habit and when my hobbies include feeling nostalgic about things that happened only thirty minutes before.

I've been thinking a lot about that question recently. I've always prided myself on being someone who embraces change, especially because it seemed like so many people fear it, but more and more I am realizing that I can only embrace change when I have control over it.  Redecorating--sure thing!  Let me find some new prints and bust out the the paint swatches.  Moving? Really?  Just give me a few minutes to hug it out with myself in the fetal position...

I think this need for control is pretty common, which in turn makes me feel generic and because I hate feeling generic, I am trying to let go of it.  After all, I suspect my life will change a lot over the coming years and I really doubt I'll be calling the shots in any or all of those instances.

So in an effort to master the loss that so often accompanies change, I will do my best not to feel fitful or sullen and I will be grateful for what remains.

I'm sorry. This post probably should have ended two years ago.  Oh well.  You'll live.