Earring-Carrying member of the Rebel Alliance

How many people have one geeky t-shirt is their arsenal? How many of us have 20 or more geeky graphic, pop culture, movie, or puny t-shirts in their arsenal? I fall into the later category, and anyone who knows me would say I’m an established nerdette. I do not feel the need to prove my love for fandoms, films, and books, but I do enjoy showcasing my passions through the medium of clothing and accessories. Oddly enough, I seldom cosplay for Comic Con despite my training as a costume designer (probably because I spend the weeks prior working on costuming a full theatrical show and thus lack the time to pull something together for myself). Instead I express my love through casual wear, mostly t-shirts and tanks. A year ago at said convention, I was in search of something different to my usual trappings: I wanted something I could wear at work.

Many geeks I am sure suffer from the same problem: you cannot wear that to work. Whether you’re a business professional or a retail wage slave, chances are you’re not permitted to wear certain colors, prints, or styles of clothes to work. Beyond “not permitted,” there is also the “advise strongly against wearing that as a career choice”; my TARDIS dress will clearly sabotage my future (even if it is from the future). The argument of professional integrity and uniformity are not lost on me, but even if I wasn’t a geek I would still feel calcitrant about the strictness of work attire. Would it truly cause a rip in the time space continuum if I wear a colorful printed shirt?! Would polka dots will be the ruin of us all!?  I’m not trying to lead a rebellion and claim we should all be allowed Ren-Fair attire and accoutrements on the job (although swords would be amazing), but I still look for little subterfuges despite my years of conformity.

On the last day of Comic-Con 2017 I found the accessory I wanted. I was buying a couple of marvel tie-clips for my husband (because I believe geek chic is equal gender opportunity) when I saw them lying on a black velvet cushion. They were not silver (that would be gloriously out of my price range) but they fairly well made silver-esque disc earrings of the Rebel-Alliance insignia of Star Wars. Beside them were Captain America shield earrings (also sorely tempting, but not my gut choice), thus I made the Force(d) choice.

Full disclosure: as a member of the Rebel Alliance you’d find me tucked away in the kitchen or medical bay; the red-shirt, if you will forgive mixed fandoms, of the bunch. My father loved it and my mother claimed she loved it first, thus Star Wars was my first foray into the Sci-Fi Fantasy genre. I grew up idolizing Skywalker and Solo and thinking that Princess Leia was my kind of princess (the closest Disney Princess of my ilk was Belle because: books!). My mother gave me a set of tiny bendable action figures: the epic struggle played out in plastic on the coffee table. Mostly ignored Episodes 1-3, and totally missed the Clone Wars series. After that, other interests overtook me: I was a proud Hufflepuff; a Time Lord’s companion; and empathized with “I could do this all day” Steve Rogers. Star Wars filled the need for my first fandom, and always nostalgically recalled this love from my childhood. The classic fight for “good” epitomized by the symbol of the Rebellion: the hardest fight to win is the one most worth winning.

I must admit I was pleasantly surprised by the responses, both initial and ongoing, I have received by this simple accessory. Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t compliment me on my choice of jewelry when I “Go Rebel”. Even on their first outing I sparked a Rebel vs. Empire debate with three Target employees at the returns counter. A little girl the other day with a very chipper voice said “She’s wearing the Star Wars symbol”, inaccurately but ever so cutely. Over the past year I have enjoyed wearing these frequently at work, subverting the dictates of my corporate overlords and bringing a smile to my customers’ faces. A feeling of “New Hope” arises in me when people acknowledge things they like, even if it puts their perceived image on the line. My point is the “being a rebel” is about being willing to stand out (even in the smallest ways you can) to be true to yourself and the things you believe in. If you’re like me in that you labor under the dictates of a questionable policy or expectation, if you disagree with  a seemingly imperial dictate, and you think the war is too great for one person to triumph: see if you can find that little battle you can win.  Remember, the force is with you.

 

Listening to NPR

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When I was starting to take the bus to school to reach my Creative Art’s magnet, my mother would put on National Public Radio. I remember listening and feeling that I was more aware of the world around me, if only for 10 minutes waiting in a car. In my college household, NPR was a staple for early morning listening in the bathroom- yes the bathroom. There was a radio perched behind the toilet where you could hear it through out the small three bedroom house. I began to realize that there was more than news involved: A Prairie Home Companion, A Way With Words, Travel with Rick Steves,Snap Judgement and many other programs made me realize that more than just news, NPR was giving me more to appreciate about life.

Important note: I am not a Neo-Luddite. The soap box I’m standing on is constructed perfectly sound plastic/metal (with the nice safety label sticker we all take for granted). However, there are nuances with every method of media delivery. There are things that can be accomplished in Radio that cannot be appreciated with television. In this highly digital-visual world, radio is the in between medium that focuses on the facts(okay maybe not Rush Limbaugh, but you get what I’m saying?). Radio gives us words and inflection as the means of imparting information, and allows our imaginations to fill in some of the blanks. Imagination is a commodity we can use more of in my humble opinion. Staring at a screen can be passive, less stimulating.  It’s not that pictures lack meaning: photo journalism is a beautiful art and vital to understanding physical realities. Movies and shows tell stories that cannot be told strictly with words. That said, staring at faces during a senate hearing is often boring, fill in commentaries are intense, excessive, and at the end certainty of what’s going on is the last thing you get.

In a age of Game of Thrones and Netflix, the news has stiff competition. Most Americans aren’t interested in the long summary. Bombarded by images of the latest school shooting or the most recent tidbit from the Muller investigation, we shut off the TV. Most NPR stories take three to fifteen minutes. Enough time to give facts, a little expert opinion, and time for to digest and form conclusions. Granted, some radio seeks to change our opinions, because every entity has an agenda to some degree, but if the focus is on words and their meaning we can form our own opinions based on what we hear without static information and visuals.

Nowadays, I don’t spend time by a plastic radio, but I am still listening to NPR. First thing in the morning I get a ten minute recap of major news. There’s something for everyone’s interest. Between Stuff You Missed in History Class and Modern Love I get to listen to storytelling and information that tailors to my personal inclinations. If you haven’t tried getting a little of your news or interests fixes via radio, you might want to give it a try. It’s free,fun, and informative: can you get better than that?

Listen to NPR One

Overcoming the Mountain

Today I climbed to the top of Cowles Mountain and back down again.

Top of the Mountain

It’s not the first time I have achieved this goal, but it’s been over fifteen years since I attempted it. It’s not a very big climb compared to most: a coastal desert mountain rising a little under 1500 feet. As a child, I climbed it with my mother and sister a few times. One harrowing trip with my elementary school put me off this climb altogether. My adult PE teacher had us walk from the school to the mountain, up the mountain, down the mountain, and back to school again. Let’s just say that a classroom of comparisons and a steep incline do not make for a happy camper. I was not in great physical shape at that age. I was artsy and creative, not active and competitive. All the other kids seemed to be fine with this enterprise, some running ahead of one another to see who’d get to the top first, while I struggled with breathing and my legs felt like lead weights. The feeling of defeat and dread of that day stuck with my for a long while after. I told my mom I was sick the next time this field trip came up. For years to come I would abstain from climbing. When we drove past the mountain I would glare at it, recalling the sensation of lungs on fire,  being defeated by a hunk of rocks.

As an adult I can see metaphor in this. Childhood obstacles are part of our lives; yet so often the things that should be our great achievements are lost in the measurements. Children often compare themselves to peers, and lose their sense of self in the process. I never felt graceful or athletic. While other kids made great strides, I felt trapped in an awkward place. No one ever said “Everyone did their best” it was all about accolades for the greatest athletes; that competitiveness killed my desire to participate in P.E. Team effort wasn’t the focus: it was win it or lose it. If I could go back and tell my younger self that pushing yourself and doing your best is what matters, to hell with first place, I would. For years I struggled with body image. I was always a little overweight, always a little less able than the people around me. It didn’t matter that it’s ridiculous to compare yourself with everyone else; the invisible measuring stick is still stuck in the ground where you stand next to your classmates. Rather than embracing what I could do, I gave up on myself. I made excuses for my lack of motion; If I couldn’t run with the best, why run at all? There was no reward in it that I could see. Where I excelled was intelligence; I made it through high school and University by sticking to my smarts and ignored a big chunk of my life that would eventually catch up with me.

Funny things can happen if you reach a certain point of a summit. A quarter of the way through my life, some realizations made me change a lot of things. I was reaching some dangerous weight extremes, not diabetic, but on the way. My husband, who was a medical student at the time, took me on a walk and told me he was “worried” about me. I thought he was being paranoid; denial is the first stage of most arguments after all. He asked me if I had ever tried calorie-counting, I responded that I didn’t think I ate that much. I wanted to shoo his concerns away. I made excuses, forgetting that my husband was a better debater than I was (and nearly a medical professional), but his facts were undeniably true. I stuck to my guns, feeling my pride sting. Hadn’t I made it this far doing things my way? So what if I was still a little unhappy with my figure, I managed.  Anecdotes would not deter him from the truth. I love this man because he said something I couldn’t ignore, “I love you, I don’t care how you look, but I’m concerned about your health.” This statement made me stop and take a moment to reflect, even though I felt indignant about the whole thing. My health was something I counted on, but I was dealing with mounting minor health complications, and there were things that I missed about being in better health. I chose to listen to my better half, albeit grudgingly.

I tried calorie counting for a week, a little out of spite, but discovered I really wasn’t eating well. Average diet is about 2000 calories; I was anywhere from 2500 to 3000 on a given day. If I didn’t change what I was doing, I would eat my way into depression and obesity. I wasn’t in school anymore, there was no competition standing next to me, only the roadblocks in my own mind. No one could change that except me. I gradually started to change my daily diet and became more active. It didn’t happen overnight, but within six months I started noticing things that I took for granted were changing to my benefit. Suddenly physical activities that were hard became easier. I could move faster. My back injury didn’t flare up very often. I wasn’t getting colds, flu, or stomach bugs as often. My dress size was shrinking. Over two years I lost 35 pounds and reached a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI). Today I think back to that moment when my husband and I had our talk, and I’m grateful that I stopped covering up my longtime insecurities. There is no first place when it comes to taking care of your body, just a good place, and if everyone can be reach a good place then it doesn’t matter how quickly you get there.

This year has been about discovery for me. I seek adventure where I didn’t before. My feet are traversing paths and trails that they haven’t touched since I was a child, along with some I’ve never tread. A sense of wonderment and joy for the beautiful place I was born has been rekindled.  Today I climbed the mountain I hated, and while I saw people running past me, it didn’t make me feel inadequate. I took my time, enjoyed looking at the landscape and admired the view. When I reached the top I could see my world laid out around me. As I went down the mountain, I stretched out my arms and at times I pattered along the path like I was flying, free and without limits.

Today I conquered the Mountain.

How do I start?

Don’t count the days, make the days count. – Muhammad Ali

Recently my husband discovered that he’d gotten into his first choice for family medicine residency in sunny San Diego. This meant we would be able to stay in my hometown: a beautiful place where paradise and suburban life are (mostly) happily married and everyone (well, almost everyone) wants to live. I was incredibly happy, because truly there’s no where else I’d rather call home, and that lead me to a few realizations about my life thus far:

1) I am fortunate to be as I am

Having been a child from a single- parent family, with an autistic sibling, and an alcholic absentee father my life has been pretty good. My mother stressed education and culture throughout my childhood, giving my imagination and desire to learn fuel. My sister taught me love is many things: most of all it is patient and enduring despite hardships. My father may never know what he taught me, but was perhaps more important than anything: he taught me what I didn’t want to become (sad but true). These basic lessons led me through puberty, the awkward teen years, to higher education and ultimately happiness in my work, personal, and love life. My obstacles have not been as great as some success stories I have heard, but I owe a lot to those three formative forces for keeping me on the forward track.

2) I have a wonderful husband

Call me a sap but I adore my hubby. We bring out the best in one another, and I could write volumes about him and our relationship (and maybe I’ll do that eventually, but introductions should be brief!)

3) I’m healthier now than I’ve ever been

Between bad childhood habits and image issues, it hasn’t been easy to say “I’m happy with my body and I’m healthy”. However, after a few years of becoming conscious of what I eat, drink, and accomplish daily I really do love the way I look.

All in all, life has been very good to me. I can only say that being born a “Summerday” has its perks (perkiness and an upbeat personality being inherent when you’re born with that last name) This may lead to the obvious question: what am I planning to write about?

I like writing. I like reading. I like: theatre, costumes, dance, music, art, painting, drawing, long walks by the beach, going new places, classic movies, new movies, comics, superheroes, mythology… this could go on for a while so let me put it simply: I like a lot of things, but mostly I love life. Without too much self -aggrandizement, I want to share what I love about life in the spirit of that wonderful gesture we learned as children: giving is receiving (even if all you receive is a warm feeling when you read this…did i mention I’m sappy?)

-a Scottish Summerday