How I’m practicing self care this semester: Massages

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While I don’t love how trendy the idea of “self care” has become (if I see “Treat yoself!” one more time, my eyeroll will get stuck like that), I do adore the concept behind it: Yes, we’re overworked. Yes, we’re over-stressed. Yes, it’s easy to put our own care on the backburner while worrying about everything and everyone else.

True confession: I have an easier time with self care than a lot of people (read: women) seem to. I don’t feel guilty when I make myself a priority. I’m pretty good at listening to my body and recognizing when I need a break. I don’t have an issue telling people “no.”

But this semester, I did something that is at least a year late: I scheduled a massage every two weeks for myself.

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Click image for more.

I have a crappy back. I can tweak it easily, which results in total immobility; I’ll wake up the morning after I turn funny or take too fierce a bit of a blueberry muffin (true story), and I can’t get out of bed. Turning my head results in excruciating pain, so I just lay there and whimper.

I think the issue is, in part, a knot I have in my right shoulder blade. It’s been there for years, and massage therapists always find it and work on it, but they say the same thing after: I didn’t have enough time to get it out. You need a regimen.

It helps that I work for a community college with an on-site massage clinic. They’re students, yes, but they’re great (the clinic is part of their coursework). So I scheduled an appointment every two weeks this semester. I’ve had two thus far. The knot isn’t gone yet, but I’m hoping it is by May.

Spelling it out like this, it seems like such a little thing: that I have a back issue, and I’m taking steps to take care of it. But it’s a huge thing for me, even though I do try my best to take care of myself. It’s a matter of taking a periodic assessment: What is missing from my life? What is making me upset? Even those of us who make this kind of care a priority still need to remind themselves sometimes.

I’ve had two massages thus far, and they have been relaxing and, it seems, good for the back. My next one is next week–let’s see if that damn knot is any smaller.

In addition to these massages, I do treat myself to pedicures every two or three months, depending on the season. I allow myself alone time–solo lunches or movie matinees, the occasional shopping trip. I make time in my week to read. I have a friend who allows herself the luxury of a bath every night. I’m curious: How you take care of yourself.

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‘Between the World and Me’–Read it.

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Last night, in front of the fire, I finished reading the book “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. It affected me in a way most books don’t, where I could actually feel my worldview expanding because I was looking into a world I had not looked into before, understanding it in a way I’d not understood it before.

I looked it up: Pronounce his name ta-nuh-HA-see.

I’d seen glimpses, sure. Hollywood is rife with movies about The Struggle of the Black Man. But I’m not sure a one of them made the impact that Coates’ book did. Before reading this book, I couldn’t identify why that was, but after reading it, I can, and the reason is uncomfortable to say: It’s because so many of those stories created and distributed by Hollywood, even though they were about blackness, were written for me, someone who, to borrow one of Coates’ phrases, was raised to believe herself to be white. And “Between the World and Me” is not for me. It’s for his son, who has a black body.

A lot of this book made me uncomfortable, largely because it states truths anyone who’s part of white America doesn’t really think about because we don’t have to think about it. In the early pages of the book, Coates recalls his son’s reaction to hearing that the killers of Michael Brown would go free, and he excused himself from the room because he didn’t want to cry in front of his father.

I came in five minutes after, and I didn’t hug you, and I didn’t comfort you, because I thought it would be wrong to comfort you. I did not tell you that it would be okay, because I have never believed it would be okay. What I told you is what your grandparents tried to tell me: that this is your country, that this is your world, that this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it. I tell you now that the question of how one should live within a black body, within a country lost in the Dream, is the question of my life, and the pursuit of this question, I have found, ultimately answers itself.

Coates takes the talk of race and racism that’s only glossed over in most other media I have consumed about the topic and cracks it open. He does so simply, without any kind of blinders or big words. Simply: This is life.

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Man, has ‘Chasing Amy’ changed as I’ve grown up

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I first saw “Chasing Amy” as a college student, and during those four years, I probably racked up at least half a dozen viewings. I loved the twist in an otherwise traditional romantic comedy: boy meets girl, girl loves girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl.

While I would never call myself a conservative person, I related to Holden (Ben Affleck). I understood how intimidating another person with a wide array of sexual experiences could be, and I thought his climactic last-ditch effort to save both his relationship and his friendship was kind of funny.

Fast forward a decade-plus … and I’m almost ashamed that I ever related to such a judgmental tool bag. And his last-ditch effort is embarrassing at best and damned insulting at worst.

The major thing that’s changed is my understanding of LGBTQ+. In college, gay people made me uncomfortable. I had never known anyone who was out, and I just felt sweaty and uncomfortable when people talked about it. It was 100 percent due to a lack in any experience with anyone who out.

Today, I’m just … not that girl. I no longer feel any differently around someone based on who he or she sleeps with (and am puzzled by those who do, even baby Jac), and I’ve made it an effort to not just feel comfortable, but to be helpful; I work in a community college, and I’ve gone through Safe Space and Safe Zone training. It’s not to say I’m an expert in any kind of non hetero-normative people or relationships, but I make an effort because

  1. I am interested in relationships.
  2. I understand why I used to think how I did and why I no longer think that way.
  3. I think it’s important that we do our best to not be assholes.

As such, I look at Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams) and find her transformation as a character to be wild and beautiful and honest and lovely. In college, she was just a funny girl.Similarly, I see Hooper in a completely new light. I’m not sure I gave the black, gay character a second thought the first half a dozen times I saw this movie. Today, I feel like there could be entire theses written about Hooper and race and machismo in both the black community and the comic book community, where men are men when they like women with giant breasts and tiny waists.

One of my favorite scenes–Hooper & the kid in the record store

In my recent viewing, I’m left with a major question I’ve not had before: Is Banky gay? I ignored all the direct and indirect references to the possibility in earlier viewings, but now, I can’t decide if I think the movie is pointing to the fact that he’s closeted or if it’s instead rolling its eyes at the idea that anyone who is a homophobe must just be unaccepting of his own sexuality.

I find it fascinating to rewatch or reread favorite stories from my youth or my 20s and see how experience has caused me to view them so differently. The same thing happened with “Forever …” and I’m dying to reread a teen favorite, “Inherit the Wind,” for the same reason. I should probably give Dogma a re-watch, too (they’re the only two Jay and Silent Bob movies I liked, and I really liked them).

What media has changed for you over the year?

I really hate it when people have their phones out around people

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It’s something of a joke among my coworkers: Jaclyn hates her phone. I don’t like the idea of people reaching me any old time they like. I value my free time way too much to want anyone to have that kind access to me.

As a result, I tend to judge people whose phones grow as an extension of their wrists. Earlier this week, I went to a work lunch. I was the first one there, and I noticed I had a text message from my aunt. As I replied, the next two attendees arrived, and I apologizes profusely for my phone, which I promptly put away and did not touch for the rest of the lunch.

During lunch, one young man rarely made eye contact with anyone else at the table because he was too busy on his phone. A woman he is working with at one point told him, “I don’t even need your cell phone number. You respond faster than anyone I know when I email you!”

Put it awaaaaay.

He beamed and said “thank you.” I judged him like the meanie I am. WHY was he proud of this?? How many people has he snubbed over the years while he’s been so concerned to hit “reply” to an email he received 32 seconds ago? Yes, it can make the email sender feel good to feel so important, but if it had taken him 2 1/2 hours, would the sender have felt badly? Never mind the people he’s had to ignore to be so “on it” all the time–what about the precedent he’s setting for himself? Isn’t he creating an expectation that he will drop whatever he’s doing to reply to an email?

What aggravates me most about this sort of thing–and the reason I apologized when I was caught on my phone–is that keeping your face toward a screen when you are with actual people in actual life tells those people, “You are unimportant to me.” It’s disrespectful, and it’s rude.

I notice it so much, I comment on it so much, that my husband and I have taken to pointing it out to each other when we go out. Look around the next time you’re in a restaurant: You’ll likely see multiple tables where no one is talking because everyone is ignoring their actual company in favor of virtual company.

Folks who heart their phones so hard seem to have plenty of excuses: “I’m worried about my kid” or “It’s something important for work.” I don’t buy it. Unless you’re waiting for word that a loved one’s surgery went well, or something akin to that, no one’s that important.

Redaction: Presidents and prime ministers and kings are that important. Are you a president, prime minister, or king? You are??? Then welcome to my blog! You’re not? Well … then might I challenge you to put your phone away the next time you’re at a social outing? Your friends and colleagues will appreciate it.

I want to stop ‘snoozing’!

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Everybody talks about wanting to change things and help and fix, but ultimately all you can do is fix yourself. And that’s a lot. Because if you can fix yourself, it has a ripple effect.” ~Rob Reiner

I’ve been in a rut lately. I’ve felt bored a lot–personally, at work, in general–which isn’t something I often feel in any of those places.

Last week, I went to dinner with a friend, and we discussed our respective ruts. I told him that, as new age’y and cheesy as it sounds, I fully believe that simply being positive can help a lot. And I’ve recently read something about why hitting the snooze button can completely ruin your day. So I figured I’d start mornings this week with that teeny, positive step.

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The idea behind not snoozing is pretty simple: By getting up when you originally intend, you’re starting your day by taking control of it. (This doesn’t even begin to touch on all the health reasons behind ditchingsnooze.”) I mentioned it in a staff meeting last week, and the response was unanimous: We all had generally better days when we got up on-time instead of inching our ways into lateness, nine minutes at a time. (Aside: Why on earth are snoozes nine minutes? How arbitrary.)

The ideal appeals to me, especially because I never actually fall back asleep when I hit “snooze.” So I went with it, unwittingly bringing along a little bit of positivity to my mornings, which is never a bad thing.

So yesterday, not 10 seconds after I hit “snooze,” I said, “NOPE.” I shut off my alarm and I got up. Just that tiny “I’M THE BOSS OF ME” moment made my morning a little happier. Did it have a huge impact on the rest of my day? Eh, not so much. But it was a good start.

Today, I woke up a few minutes before my alarm (which I really hate) and snuggled in until the alarm sounded. It wasn’t hard to shut it off and get up immediately. I suspect it’ll just get easier as the week goes on.

Snoozing is new business for me. I NEVER hit it before I got married. But my husband loves his snooze button, and his bad habit rubbed off. This week, though, I’m noticing that MY new habit is starting to rub off–he got up WAY earlier today. Heeeyyyy, look at me, being a good influence!

Is ‘Eternal Sunshine’ hopeful or depressing? Or both?

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Spoilers follow. But the movie’s 12 years old so … come on.

I am not lukewarm on much. In general, something is the greatest thing on the planet, or it is the very worst thing I’ve ever encountered.

This is especially true with movies. Up until Sunday afternoon, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” was on my Worst Movie Ever list.

Which has always been strange to me. People seem to love that movie. I’m not sure I’d ever know someone else to dislike it.

But it did nothing for me. My major issue was, I felt, the lack of character development. I simply did not care about Joel and Clementine’s relationship; and by not caring about it, I didn’t root for them; and by not rooting for them, I had absolutely no stake in the end of the movie.

Sunday, I gave it another try. Sunday, I realized I was an idiot.

Because “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” is a damn incredible flick. (Welcome to the party, Jaclyn. You’re late.)

I love that Joel and Clem are flawed, and I root for them to figure it out. I root for them to outrun the memory wiping. I root for them to ignore the obvious signs that they have no business dating. I cheer when they decide, in fact, to ignore the forgotten audio tapings that list the other’s fatal flaws and massive deal breakers.

The movie has been on the back of my mind for the last day or so, and I can’t figure something out: Is the ending hopeful? On the surface, it is, absolutely. They’re going to try again. They may very well fail. But that inexplicable something that draws us to another is so strong, they decide to follow that instead of listening to reason.

It’s rosy, and it’s romantic. And it’d have never been possible without Dr. M’s magic memory machine.

So the machine that helps the lovers forget is also responsible for those lovers’ eventual heart re-break. Because you know: These two cannot be together. So they’re going to go through all the bad stuff again.

Which is dire, and depressing.

My brain hurts.

(Any Eternal Sunshine lovers out there, please weigh in: What do you love about it? Is the ending hopefully depressing or depressingly hopeful?)

Some Neil Gaiman ‘Neverwhere’ love

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So the day became one of waiting, which was, he knew, a sin: moments were to be experienced; waiting was a sin against both the time that was still to come and the moments one was currently disregarding.” ~Neil Gaiman, “Neverwhere

This is my fourth foray into a Gaiman book, and each time, I am amazed at the man’s creativity and storytelling ability. I stayed up way too late last night because of one of those can’t-put-the-book-down-right-now scenes, which, honestly, hasn’t happened to me in ages.

The scene started with the above quote, one I read three or four times because of its perfect sentiment. I try my best to live in the moment, and mostly, I succeed. But it’s so easy to look forward to exciting weekends or fun trips and lose the day-in and day-out’edness. Just because it doesn’t look like a weekday has anything special in it doesn’t mean there is nothing special about it.

I’ll end this short ponderance with a similar reference from one of my favorite movies, “About Time.”

And so he told me his secret formula for happiness: Part one of the two-part plan was that I should just get on with ordinary life, living it day by day, like anyone else. But then came part two of Dad’s plan. He told me to live every day again almost exactly the same. The first time with all the tensions and worries that stop us noticing how sweet the world can be, but the second time noticing. Okay, Dad. Let’s give it a go.” ~Richard Curtis, “About Time

Some sweet time with a niece, the little model

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(If you don’t read the snippet of words, go ahead and scroll down to the photos–that’s the real point!)

I had a really spectacular weekend this past weekend. So, so many highlights.

One of them occurred Sunday morning. My parents-in-law had a full house, and I was the first one awake. I took my book and sat on the porch.

Fifteen minutes later, my niece Kate, the second person awake, tiptoed outside and joined me. We said good morning, and she got really quiet and just looked around the backyard (it’s a gorgeous backyard–huge deck, pool, a ton of trees behind which flows the St. Joe River). I kept reading and kept peeking at her, surprised she was so completely content to sit in silence.

Another 15 minutes later, we both started giggling: Somewhere in the trees, someone was playing a trumpet. Not a song–just odd bursts of notes. The strangest wake-up call I’ve ever heard and not what you expect to come out of the woods at 10 a.m.

We spent the next 20 minutes talking about her school, music class, how excited she is to learn to play the recorder, how neat it was to see the group of turkeys moseying about in the field on the side of the house.

When Jeff and I left later that day, in the car, Jeff commented on the long hug Kate gave me when we left.

In short: I adore this girl. And then I get on Facebook this morning and see that she posed for a local photog’s business. LOOK AT THIS LITTLE GEM.

That is all.

For anyone based around Indianapolis, the brilliant photog behind these images is Amanda Matthews. Check her out on Facebook.

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Kate the Great. By Amanda Matthews Photography

It’s time to bitch about jeans

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I am of the impression that there is no such thing has a closet with too many jeans. That’s why I find it to be an atrocity that I have exactly three pairs of jeans right now that fit me.

The reasoning is not a bad one. It’s, in fact, a very good one: Over the summer, I have lost just shy of 20 pounds, and now, I can gently tug on all of my favorite jeans and pull them off without unbuttoning them. This is not good.

So I took my slimmer ass to Marshall’s yesterday to find some new jeans. I tried on 21 pairs of jeans. (Seriously, I counted.) And I wanted to throw each and every pair of them in the mud and throw a toddler-sized tantrum.

As if you didn’t know: This is why jeans shopping in 2016 sucks the big one:

  1. Stretchy jeans. I don’t want them anymore. I have two pairs (in fact, they’re two of the three that still fit), and they wear like leggings. Fine. But I want real jeans. Made of denim. That are thick, and soft, and boot cut. Because, for the love of god, enough with …
  2. Skinny jeans. I’m over them. I miss that don’t hug my ankle like a koala. Straight leg is fine, but give me a flare already, would you.
  3. Gapping. Ah, the bane of my existence. I forgot this used to be a problem–when I gained my weight, this issue went away, and it was magical. But now, I’m back to the proportions I’ve lived with most of my life: Bigger thighs, smaller waist, bubble butt. Which is to say: My thighs and heinie are about a size 10. My waist is about a size 6. I compromise with an 8, but sometimes, the legs are too damn tight and the waist gaps open in the back enough that I can shove two fists down the back. This is never flattering. Ever.
  4. “Curvy” jeans that are not curvy. The solution to point No. 3 is to buy curvy jeans. They are (supposedly) made for women with, yes, curves. They are supposed to enhance a bubble butt and hug a smaller waist. A few weeks back, Target had a 40 percent off all jeans sale, so I got a measuring tape, figured out my waist is about 30 inches, matched that to Target’s online size guide, and bought three pairs of size 10 curvy jeans. Those bastards are lying liars who tell lies. Each of those three “curvy” jeans listed a waist measurement that should have fit me like a glove. Instead, it was problem No. 3 over and over again. Which is all to say that …
  5. Jean companies that lie. I tried on one pair of 28-inch waist jeans yesterday that gave me some gapping … despite the fact that my waist is two inches larger than this measurement. WHO IS MAKING THESE PANTS? I also tried on at least one pair of size 10s that could barely fit over my thighs.

These complaints are not new, I know. I don’t know a single woman who enjoys shopping for jeans, who doesn’t take some umbrage with the ridiculous sizing.

But damn, man. #CanIJustWearNightgownsEverywhere?