Monday, October 27, 2014

Not quite a pile of ash

In my last post I said we would talk about how I don't think it's much of a compliment when someone says, "You can NOT be 39." So let's.

I actually get this comment a lot because I spend my days surrounded by the Very Young who have no concept of age. To whom, in fact, 39 is nigh unto death. I remember being young and thinking that 40 would be the end of it all. So I get it.

I absolutely know this is meant at a compliment, but here's the subtext: "I think 39 is old and I'm so impressed with how you're not turning into a pile of ash right before my very eyes like that guy who chose the wrong cup on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." What's behind it all is that there's something wrong with being 39 and for now I've escaped it by looking younger than what they think 39 should look like. Folks, there's nothing wrong with being 39. Just like there's nothing wrong with being 16 or 52 or 78 or 3. Why do we feel like we have to cheer people up by telling them that they don't look their age. What if I want to look my age? I worked hard for this age! Those wrinkles around my eyes mean that I have spent a lifetime laughing.

"But Rachel," you ask, "what if I don't want to look my age?" Then dye you're hair and buy some face cream. I want you to feel good about yourself. But what I don't want is for you to think that there's something wrong with you simply because you've lived to be a certain age. On that note, lately I've seen advertisements for face creams that say what they're really doing is improving you. Which is just a bunch of baloney. Your wrinkles neither add to nor subtract from your value.

Don't think that it's not lost on me that I'm constantly referring to myself as an 80 year old woman, or that I have complained about feeling the effects of age (hello, arthritic shoulder!) But know that I don't think it's the end of the world. Plus, I'm jealous of the 80 year old ways. I'm going to be that sassy old lady, so you have about 10 years before I start saying what I really think.

I kind of want to get a group of people together and ask them exactly what it is about aging that makes them so uncomfortable. Is it the gray hair? Is it the thought of death? Is it that things stop working and their knees are creaking and there are weird bumps showing up in random places? Or is it that we have been conditioned to think that aging is bad? Do they genuinely feel like there is something wrong with getting older? I'm really curious about this. Who wants to be in my focus group? We'll eat cookies afterwards and watch the Golden Girls.

While we're on the subject, doesn't it just bum you out when you get excited for someone's birthday and they're all, "Ugh, yeah. Let's not talk about it." I mean, there is cake and celebrating in their future and all they can think about is the price of burial plots. We've got to stop this madness!

So I'm issuing a challenge. When you learn someone's age, instead of saying, "Wow! You do not look it." I want you to say, "Congratulations! Keep up the good work!" And when mentioning your age, stop looking like such a sad clown about it. Think of how smart you are for always wearing a seat belt and putting on sunscreen. You did it!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My standard of beauty

Does anyone else feel sort of bad for Renee Zellweger and her new face? Like, what is she feeling today now that those pictures are out and she looks drastically different and everyone is all, "Hmmm. Ummm. Whaaaaaat?" Do you think she went to the event hoping that people would just comment on how youthful she looked? And now she's home crying into her scrambled egg whites because that was absolutely not the reaction? It's just awful to think about. I feel doubly bad because I've been guilty of commenting on her old face, thus adding to the obvious problem that these poor women in Hollywood have to care so much about their looks that they end up doing things to themselves that make them nearly unrecognizable. I've repented and won't say mean things about faces anymore. I'm sorry Renee. It was a perfectly lovely face. I hope you really, truly love your new one.

Which brings me to my complicated thoughts on altering our looks. On the one hand I wish that we could all just age with grace and perspective and wisdom, embracing our wrinkles and sun spots and dark circles and love handles and gray hair and still have the Bluebird of Happiness in our hearts to keep us young and fresh. And on the other hand I think that if you're truly unhappy about the way something looks, I mean really down in the dumps, you should have the freedom to change it. I wear mascara, don't I? Because I like the way it makes my eyes open up. Is there a difference between wearing mascara and getting botox injected into your forehead (other than botulism)?

I suppose the difference is that I can leave the house without mascara on. While I almost always wear it I don't think I'm a deformed short-lashed freak without it. It doesn't alter who I know I really am, is what I'm saying. The other day I slept through my alarm and woke up 10 minutes before seminary started (heart attack!!!). I had 5 minutes total to get ready which means that I had to cut it down to the bare essentials: clean clothes and brushed teeth.  I didn't even consider putting make-up on. But that's my standard. Other people's standards could be a lot higher. Higher as in cutting yourself up and putting a brand new face on because you don't like the face you've had your whole life.

Personally, I think it's all in our heads. You know how you feel when you're having a really gross hair day and all you can think is that the world will finally know what kind of hideous monster you are and they'll shun you and you'll spend the rest of your days in a cave. And then you walk into work and someone says, "Hey, you look super cute today." We have no idea what the world sees in us. It's usually a lot better than what we see.

Later, I will discuss how I think, "You can't possibly be 39," is not a compliment.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book the Old Lady Cruise!

I've had this shoulder pain for about 3 months now and I finally went in to have it checked out. You know how I am about going into the doctors. I don't go unless limbs are falling off. Or worse, I'm losing sleep. And I was losing sleep because of the pain. Unacceptable. So I went in and the doctor checked me out and we had the following conversation:

"So you didn't have an accident where you hurt it?"


"You didn't fall and land on it?"


"Did anyone or anything hit you there?"


"And it just started hurting one day."


"Well, it sounds like just regular wear and tear. You may even have a bit of arthritis. That's pretty common for your age."

FOR MY AGE?! She means 80, right? Which is terrific because that means I can retire and move onto one of those residential cruise ships that sail around the world year round. I can play bingo with all the other senior citizens who have arthritic shoulders.

She gave me a pamphlet that had some cartoonish pictures of activities that could cause this sort of pain. And with the exception of pitching in a local softball league, I do every single one of them. Reaching for my purse in the back seat while sitting in the drivers seat, yes. Carrying a heavy purse on one shoulder exclusively (and before that a back pack), my whole life. Carrying enormous loads of groceries all at once, of course, because if I don't do it in one trip then I have failed. Reaching up for and retrieving heavy objects, all the time, because I'm short and have to reach for everything. She also said I have the tensest shoulder muscles she's ever felt, which could be a contributing factor, and that I must have a really stressful job. Sure, if sitting around eating tootsie rolls and talking to college kids about super hero movies is stressful, then okay,

She took some x-rays to rule out a tumor or anything torn and sent me home with exercises and drugs and a suggestion to stop using my right arm for repetitive motions. Easier said then done, Doc. Have you tried using your mouse on the left side of your key board? Hard. Although my shoulder does feel slightly better today since switching over.

The ray of sunshine in all of this is that I have to go to physical therapy, which means I get to hang out with senior citizens in stretchy pants. I'm going to scout out a good roommate for my cruising years.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Art Society Field Trip

Heather sent me an email saying that Jarron mentioned what he would like the next Art Society to be. He said, "Either we go with Rachel to LACMA or antique shopping." Can you believe this kid? I mean, seriously.

So Kaiya, Jarron, and I had an LA adventure on Friday night.

First we got dinner at the Original Pantry, this old diner in downtown, where I had the best omelette of my life. It got middling reviews on Yelp, but that omelette may be worth paying for parking. The kids were properly impressed with the downtown vibe.

Then onto LACMA, where we:
messed around in this is cool installation that was just a bunch of hanging yellow tubes and pretended we were swimming in a pond,

sketched Picasso,

posed with sculptures,

and mirrored paintings,

and took the requisite picture in the lamp installation. I mean, anyone who has ever gone to LACMA has a picture with the lamps, right?

Lest you think these are serious, high-class kids I should mention that before I could stop them they both spit off the forth floor balcony of the contemporary building. Fortunately, it was onto a walkway cover so no people were harmed in the antics. Also they would get very close to the art. Now, I have this issue too. I just love the texture. I want to touch every painting I see. But I would remind them that getting kicked out of museums is not what the Art Society is all about.
Naturally, there was Neveux ice cream at the end of the night. Which means that they also got to see Hollywood at night, which is an adventure. But this is what I love about these kids. They're always up for it.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Punch Bowl Set

1. Lydia had some time to kill between our song practice and a girls night so we went over to the Upland farmers market and looked at antiques and ate empanadas and got a demonstration of some stun guns. The antique shopping made me recommit myself to finding the perfect punch bowl set. You know what I'm talking about right? The glass punch bowl with the little matching cups and the ladle. I firmly believe I cannot become a full-fledged Lady of Elegant Leisure without one. Naturally, Grandma Knecht had at least half a dozen complete sets and I could just kick myself for not snagging one when they were offered. But I was going off to college at the time. How could I possibly have known the significance of a good punch bowl set at that age?

2. Remember how I've told you before that you wear too much perfume? I stand by that. I love you, but you're making the deep recesses of my ears tingle. It is not a good feeling. Anyway, I have a bit of sympathy for you now because, if you can believe it, I have found a perfume that doesn't make me gag. This. While putting it on this afternoon I liked it so much that I wanted to wear more. I refrained, of course, but I get it now. You have my permission to slightly resent me when you're applying your scent and you stop at just one spritz even though you're tempted to do more. Don't do more!!!

3. The classical station is holding their membership drive and today's give away was a CD of 100 Christmas carols which means that they played a lot of them on my drive to and from work. Thus making it the first carols I've heard in the pre-Halloween/Thanksgiving/Christmas season. And for once I wasn't cranky about it. Normally when I see decorations or hear carols in October I get a little feisty. But this filled me with good cheer and made me rethink my no-carols-til-after-Thanksgiving rule. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Space Lip Balm

You really should have been watching the space walk this morning. It was so fascinating! Two guys aboard the ISS stepped out into space and replaced some doo-dad on the outside and you could watch the live-feed on NASA TV. Which I did, naturally. Well, I mean, I had it on. Because it was 6 hours long. If you saw how cumbersome their gloves are you would not question the length of time it takes to change shape ship doo-dads.

Camille and I were messaging each other periodically with questions. What will they do when they get to the dark side of the earth? They keep working. What is the "booty tether point" or the "burrito" they keep talking about? We never figured it out. Of course, we discussed the obvious thing, what about the bathroom. But we learned from our best friend Col. Chris Hadfield that they wear diapers. For such an exciting job there has to be some indignities, right?

Then Camille posed this very important question, "What about Chapstick?" You can't apply lip balm on a space walk. You guys, 6 hours without lip balm is a total nightmare! Remember, I took 12 tubes of Burt's with me for 3 months in Tunisia. I certainly don't go through a tube a week but you can never be too prepared. I start to panic when I don't have any on me. I know it takes the astronauts years to prepare to go into space. There has to be some sort of chapped-lip survival course for them to take in between spinning in centrifuges and practicing doo-dad replacements underwater.

When I get the call from NASA that they've come across this blog and have realized that I'm the perfect candidate for their moderately-humorous-blogger-in-residence program I'm going to have to have a serious talk with them about their lip balm technology. There are always questions about why we spend money on sending people up into space. And the obvious answer to that is, "Why wouldn't we, dummy? It's space!" But the not so obvious answer is that some of the technology out there today was first developed for or because of space exploration, such as an artificial heart pump that was modeled after the space shuttle's fuel pump, if you can believe it. But I think people would stop asking that question if the bearded space nerds of NASA could come up with a lip balm that lasted 6+ hours. Let's get on this, team!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Bearded Space Nerds

Continuing our quest to become even bigger space nerds, Camille, Lindsay, and I toured the Jet Propulsion Laboratory yesterday. It's a NASA facility that is in charge of unmanned missions into space. So the Mars Curiosity rover? That was them. Cassini out at Saturn, Galileo at Jupiter, and Voyager 1 that is now well beyond our solar system, all built and controlled by JPL. We were with a pretty large group but this is how we knew we were amongst friends, everyone asked if we could keep the tour lanyards. You know you can comfortably spend several hours with strangers when they see the importance of a lanyard.

Some highlights:

1.  The place is teeming with bearded space nerds. This is just a slice of heaven for me.

2.  We got to see the BSNs working on a satellite that will be launched into Earth's orbit in January. It's called SMAP (Soil Moisture Active-Passive) and, in a nut shell, it will monitor weather. While we were checking it out the project manager wandered by and we were able to get the details of it. Like where the parts were manufactured. Let's hope the Russians don't find out I know this information. The PM didn't have a beard but he did have a speech impediment, which may be just as great.

3. Here's a fun fact about Voyager 1:  it is one of the fastest moving man-made objects in space. It goes just under 1 million miles A DAY. That's a lot of miles. And yet it will still take 40,000 years for it to be closer to the closest star than it is to our sun. We have got to get moving on this warp drive business. We are never going to be prepared to fight the Klingons at this rate.

4. Another fun fact about Voyager 1: it has a gold record on it that contains a collection of sights and sounds from Earth. Jazz, thunder, Beethoven, some kind of ethnic drumming, what sounds like someone opening a candy bar wrapper. And then a bunch of scientists talking about space stuff. You can actually listen to all 5+ hours here.  It was put on there on the off chance an alien comes across it in the vastness of space. Isn't that just the dreamiest thing you've ever heard of? But I will say for something that was created in the 70s, there is a shocking lack of Abba on it.

5.  We had the absolute worst tour guide. Curtis. I wanted to shoot my foot off every time he opened his mouth. First, he sounded like he had marbles in his mouth but talked at hyper-speed. And second he repeated everything he said at least 5 times. Here's some classic Curtis:  "This is a 1/3 model, which means it's 3 times smaller than the actual satellite. And the actual satellite is 3 times larger than what you see here. Because it's a 1/3 model." He would then say this again just to make sure we got it. And then a third time to make sure we had lost our will to live. He was the Voyager 1 of tour guides, he went really fast without getting anywhere. My absolute favorite moment was when Camille asked a question about a counter we saw in Mission Control that turned out to be Greenwich Mean Time and Curtis spent a few minutes explaining how clocks work, "Do you see these numbers that are showing 51, then 52, then 53, then 54? Those are seconds. Right next to them are the minutes. And then the hours." Did you get that? Don't worry, he'll cover it again. Fortunately, we were just happy to be there and were excited to see everything, so Curtis didn't ruin it for us. But sweet land of liberty!