Sweet Music

When it comes to work–my job, chores, writing, etc.–I’m better and more focused when there’s a TV on in the background. Yes, I am an over-stimulated, easily distracted, child of television. Silence drives me crazy, but the drone of an open floor office–the mish-mash of typing, too loud conversations, kitchen clanging, phones ringing, printers going, etc., drives me more crazy. What to do?

Music. The first and most obvious solution: music and head phones. Unfortunately, I’m working in an office where our internet usage is strictly monitored. So strict that I checked The Weather Channel two days in a row, and on the third day, it was blocked. With Youtube, Pandora, and Spotify definitely out of the question, and since I don’t want to eat up data on my phone, I was left wondering what I’d do for entertainment. Just anything to make the time go faster. Because anyone who’s worked in an office knows that the minutes drag by like hours when you don’t have something to keep you occupied, and office work isn’t always the most captivating. And that’s when I remembered I packed my ancient iPod with me.

It hadn’t been played or updated since 2007, and I’m not sure why I brought it with me. I hadn’t intended on using it, and I wasn’t even sure it would work. The ravages of time had taken their toll: the screen was almost entirely blacked out, and it struggled to stay on. But, after charging for 24 hours, it finally started to play. And it was like opening a time capsule.

I grew up in a very music friendly house. My mom sang and toured with her church choir, and my dad was a piano prodigy. All my siblings and I sang or played instruments, and we all had our own stereos before we had our own TVs. There was always music playing in our house and in our cars. And when I was a teenager, music became my life. I loved movies more, but music got me. After all, when you’re a teenager, no one understands you — except drug addicted rock stars. Naturally.

Music was always a great comforter, helping me gain perspective on whatever was making me sad that week. It was also a great social binder. I’m pretty sure that 90% of the friendships and relationships I’ve made have started off with shared music interests. I also love the history that music creates. My mom has mix tapes from when she was young, and when we listened to them on car trips, she would tell us the stories behind each song and why it was important to her. I remember snooping through the crawl space in my grand parent’s house and finding crates of “devil music” like Led Zeppelin and The Doors that my uncles had hidden away. I like hearing about how couples find “their” song. I was always thrilled to get a mix as a present, because it was like a little story made just for me. And conversely, I loved to make mixes for other people, and I took the task very serious. Yes, I loved High Fidelity. Nick Hornby is the man.

As I got older, though, music started to carry too much baggage. Lyrics, albums, mix CDs, everything had significant backgrounds and associations with people and places that, eventually, I was trying to move on from. The music that used to give me comfort and commiseration became a landslide of memories and too many feelings. And I felt all of it, all at once, all the time. It began to cut me to my core. Even an inspirational song could turn me into a mess. Shit. I can’t count how many times a song reduced me to tears, giving me goose bumps and heart palpitations. It was exhausting, and really counter to what I was struggling to do in my 20’s, which was “be happy.” So, a few years ago, I gave up on music. I liked a song here and there, but I stopped searching for it, and I stopped investing my energy in it. I downloaded all my old music to iTunes and gave away my CDs. I used my iPod for TV shows and movies, until someone broke into my car and stole it out of the glove box–savages.

So I was half excited, half dreading to open this little Nano and listen to all its treasures. It was definitely like opening a time capsule. The first song that played launched me back to 2001, and then year after year, until I was engulfed. There I was, driving home from college in New York, crying to A Perfect Circle. Singing Tool at the top of my lungs with Leah. Driving around in the rain with Holly, listening to The Killers. Writing a story against a deadline and getting stopped dead in my tracks by Modest Mouse’s Spitting Venom. The Whiskey pool party to the tune of Journey’s Greatest Hits. Every sad or weird moment in my life was documented. Since the screen was blacked out, I couldn’t see what song was playing. Every new track was like Time Warp Music Roulette, and I was hooked. I had my ear buds in from the moment I left our building until the moment I got home from work.

As silly as it sounds, putting music away was one of the few times in my life where I’ve felt actual closure. Compartmentalizing is definitely not something I’m good at, whereas re-hashing and beating the dead horse that is my feelings is something I excel at. So at first, I couldn’t get enough of the time warp. I remembered all the good associations, all the fun and happiness that happened with the music. I liked thinking of those memories, and I re-living the feelings that came with them was like riding the sweetest wave of nostalgia.

A week or so into my music mania, I started feeling sad. It was that indeterminate sad that doesn’t leave, isn’t triggered by anything, and makes your days shitty and worthless. I chalked it up to the crazy homesickness that came with the approaching holidays, and tried to move on, thinking it would be better once the summer was over. But the holidays passed, and it just got worse. I was stuck, dwelling on the past and shit that doesn’t even matter, but becomes all consuming when you’re sad. Everything I wanted to do was coated in layers of apathy, especially the small things I normally do to cheer myself up. Even my exciting rekindling with music was more of drag. I was worried that my depression might be coming back — which was a suuuuper exciting prospect.

I was at work, over-thinking things as usual, when I figured it out. It was a Monday, and I surprisingly woke up that morning feeling a bit more ok than I had been waking up. And I noticed that I had gotten progressively more sad after I started my iPod. And I thought back and realized I would be better at home after work, and over the weekends, but I was worse at work. And it dawned on me. That sweet wave of nostalgia I was riding had crashed and drowned me: music is making me sad. I had gone from a happy nostalgia to a sad nostalgia without even realizing it. It all made sense when I put the two and two together.

So I put the iPod away. That night, I talked to Joel about what was going on, charged my Kindle Fire, and downloaded all the TV shows and movies from our cloud. And that’s how I get through my days at work now, with the Kindle face down, and me listening to it. I’ve seen a drastic improvement to my moods. And my productivity!

Thinking in depressive patterns is a really hard habit to break. I became so accustomed to it, that it felt like normal. Depression is stealthy, and will use any avenue it can to sneak back into your life. I have to work at my perspective and reactions everyday to stay on top of it. I thought I was just feeling homesick for the holidays. But I was actually getting mired in the shittiest parts of my past, thanks to daily reminders coming out of my iPod. I might have missed my family and friends, but I was more focused on hating myself for reasons beyond my control. The music itself isn’t to blame for my sadness, it’s me and the associations I have with it, and how I have a hard time handling those associations. Music still carries the same baggage. And even though I’m in a completely different place in life than I was years ago, some of that baggage is still hard to handle. And that’s okay. It won’t get better with time alone. It’ll get better with the hard work that I put into myself. And that’s also okay.

I’ll be better with music one day. Until then, I have my kindle.

My Australian Alphabet

Before I moved to Sydney, I had pretty hard held beliefs that I wouldn’t change my language style. I remember making fun of Odie while I was visiting him here, when he said “to-ma-to” and “How ya going?” and “transport”, etc. He told me he couldn’t help it, that it just happens to you when you’re immersed in another culture. I thought it was pretty douchey* to adopt speech and colloquialisms from another country and use them as your own. Like when Madonna when she married Guy Ritchie and called herself Madge and put on that weird British accent. Or when Gretchen Weiners tried to make Fetch happen.

Oh, but how all of that has changed. I’m using a whole slew of different words, and eating the words I spoke previously. It does happen.

A – Aluminium (a-loo-min-i-um), not Aluminum (a-loo-min-um). Turns out, Canada and the US are the only countries that use the Aluminum spelling. It’s also called “al-foil” or “tin foil.” I’ll keep calling it Reynolds Wrap because I’m trained on brand recognition.

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Unrelated, but starts with A: It’s spelled Aussie, but pronounced Ozzie. I always thought saying Ozzie was wrong. Whoops.

B – Bogan. A Bogan is an Australian Redneck. Rednecks, but with a better accent.

Put an American flag on that shirt and he'd be equally at home in the States.
Put an American flag on that shirt and he’d be equally terrible and at home in the States.

C – Capsicum. It’s not a green or red or yellow pepper, it’s a capsicum. Makes me feel fancy.

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a steal at $8.98/kg.

D – Doona. When Joel and I were first emailing each other, he at one point said something about how good it is to “wrap up in a feather doona.” After a confused Google search, I found out that doona is a word for comforter, or in his case, a feather comforter.

Hello, Doona Doggie
Hello, Doona Doggie

E – Expiry (ex-pie-ry). It’s not “Expiration date?” it’s “Expiry?” and when you hear it over the phone, it sounds like someone asking you if you’re an ex-pirate. I never know how to answer.

F – Footpath. Otherwise known as a sidewalk. And everyone walks on the left. Same with escalators, where people walk to the left and stand to the right. It’s taken a long time to relax my Washington DC instincts when I’m on the escalator, where you will be mowed down by commuters if you’re standing on the right.

Footpath dog!
Footpath dog!

G – Garden. It’s not a yard, it’s a garden. Even when it’s completely trashed and whacked out.

A garden full of trashy treasures.
A garden full of trashy treasures.

H – Holiday. People don’t go on vacation, they go on holiday. Which makes going away sound so much better. Vacation kinda implies tourists and sun burns and shitty hotels. Holiday sounds indulgent and exciting. From now on, I’m going Holiday. Even if it’s just a holiday to my couch.

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A photo from our recent family couch getaway.

I – Ice block. You won’t hear many people say “popsicle”, because it’s an “ice block” here. Australians aren’t trained on brand recognition, apparently. There’s also an ice block called “Splice” that makes me think of a popsicle infected with alien parasites that will eventually take over your body and kill you after you eat it.

Now in Pine Lime Parasitic Alien Invasion flavour!
Now in Pine Lime Parasitic Alien Invasion flavour!

J – Jumper. I’ve adopted this one pretty quick. I’ve always known jumpers to be shift dresses for little girls, but in Australia/UK, it’s a sweatshirt or a sweater. I like it.

Jumpers 4eva
Jumpers 4eva

also, Jam. People here get confused when you say jelly. It’s like they picture a peanut butter and petroleum jelly sandwich. Which is gross.

K – Kilometer.
“What the fuck is a mile?”
“I don’t know, what the fuck is a kilometer?”
“It’s one thousand meters.”
“Shut up.”

The metric system makes way more sense, everyone. But I still can’t measure in it.

Yep.
Yep.

L – Lift. I take a lift to the 19th floor. It makes me miss my futuristic elevator.

M – Mince. Ground meat is called “mince.” I grew up hearing “mince pie” in British context, and I always assumed it was something weird and British, like ground intestines with jam. But it’s just ground beef and gravy in a pastry shell. And it’s delicious.

I still call ground beef hamburger every now and then, and it confuses Joel. He’s decided that Americans have two categories for cow meat. For example, I asked him if he wanted to have steak fajitas for supper.
“Steak?”
“Like strip steak.”
“Strips of beef, like stir fry?”
“Yes.”
“Everything that comes off a cow to you Americans is steak. Unless it’s hamburger.”
“Basically.”

Also, you can get a lamb+pork mince that makes bolognese 800% tastier. Sorry, vegetarians. But, on another fun note, the grass fed, humane slaughtered meat here is actually affordable, like only $2-3 more, unlike in the US, where it’s $10-12 more. So that’s cool.

N – “No worries.” I thought this was a phrase Outback Steakhouse made popular, but it’s pretty accurate for Australian people. From what I’ve experienced, they’re much more laid back and living for the moment than Americans. Less striving for status and social climbing, and more enjoying what you already have. It’s been an adjustment for me, but one I really needed.

noworries

O – Op Shop – Thrift stores are called Op Shops. Funny enough, they all smell the same as they do in the States. I guess old clothes and failed dreams smell the same no matter where you go.

Op shops are the best
Op shops are the best

P – Prawn. Shrimp! I thought a prawn was a giant shrimp, but it’s just a regular shrimp. And they’re everywhere here – the advantage of living so close to the ocean.

Mmmm, eyeballs.
Mmmm, eyeballs.

R – Rubbish. Trash is no longer trash, it’s rubbish. Whenever I say it in my mind, I say it with a clipped British accent. I can’t help it. /fancy

And sneakers are called “runners.” Which makes more sense, as I can’t sneak around in my sneakers. They squeak.

S – Scroll. It’s a cinnamon scroll, not a cinnamon bun. And they aren’t limited to just cinnamon. There are endless combinations. I walk past a stand that sells Banana – Nutella and Cookies -n- Cream scrolls. The one time I had money and time to stop for one, they were sold out. I will get there one day. And it’ll be life changing.

nommmmm
nommmmm

Oh, and swim suits are called “swimmers.” I like it.

T – Tomato. Tin. Trolley. Thongs. When my friend Odie was living in Sydney, he started saying to-mah-to, and I made so much fun of him for it. Now I say it regularly. I even say “Tin tomato” which is “can of tomatoes.” Resistance is futile.

Also, people push trolleys through the store. And they wear thongs on their feet, and a G-String as underwear. “My thong broke on the beach!” means your flip flop broke. It doesn’t mean your bottom swimmers broke. Even though Speedos for men are unfortunately popular here.

U – Uni. When you go off to university, you head to “uni.” No one really says college. And from what I’ve heard, the “crazy American college experience” doesn’t happen here. No solo cups? Denied!

Official Sponsor of Bad Decisions
Official Sponsor of Bad Decisions

V – Vegemite. This yeast based spice paste used to make me vomit. The first time I tried it, I spit it out and swore it off for good. Even the smell of it turned me off.

However. Joel made a toasted English muffin with butter and Vegemite, and it was actually the perfect savory breakfast. And it’s a really crucial hangover snack. It’s all in how it’s prepared: 2 parts butter to 1 part vegemite, on any toasted bread. This also supports my principal that butter makes everything better.

vegemite-big-night-small-68721W – Washing. Whether it’s dishes or laundry, we call it “washing” here. For example, I do the washing (laundry) on Sundays. And we do the washing after every meal.

Also, a windshield is called a wind screen, which I don’t get. It’s glass, not a screen. Point – America.

X – XXXX beer. The first time I saw an ad for XXXX beer, I thought it was an ad for a porno. Turns out it’s Queensland’s most popular beer.

Weirdest porno ever.
Weirdest porno ever.

Y – Yobbo (yah-bo). Like we have rednecks and white trash, Australia has Bogans and yobbos. Like a bogan to a lesser degree. Maybe less meth.

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Yep.

Z – Zed. X, Y, Zed, not X, Y, Z. Apparently, Zed is not dead. He’s been living at the end of the alphabet.

Happy Australia Day, everyone!

*for the record, the only word that makes me feel douchey is “mobile.” As in, my “mo-bile phone”. I can’t say it. It comes of like mo-bille or moe-bal every time. Oneathesedays.

catchup.com

It’s been a while – yet again!

I blame it on the heat, and that it’s literally been too hot to use my laptop. Seriously. It feels like my hands sweat when I type. But, that could also be because I don’t have air conditioning* and EVERYTHING makes me sweat. I’m an animal.

an animal, I tell you.
an animal, I tell you.

So, how’s everyone going? We’ve been having a pretty good month, even if it has been sweaty. Here’s a break down.

  • Work: I went back to work after my glorious 2 week Christmas break, and it was a bit slow at first, but I’ve been handed a list of new responsibilities that are slowly coming into play. So now there’s a good chance my contract will be extended, which is amazing. And I was offered some uber long distance tele-work for my old job back in the States, which is uber amazing for our savings account. Immigrating is expensive, guys.
  • Visas: We started the application process for my Partner visa. No big deal. Just 26 pages of questions, 4 essays on aspects of our relationship, 2 Australian witness statements, a medical exam, and possibly an FBI background check. Oh, and a few thousand dollars application fee. And it takes between 12 and 15 months to process. BUT, once it’s approved (fingers crossed!) I can work anywhere for up to 5 years, I get Medicare, and after 2 years, I’m eligible for permanent residency – which means no visa nonsense for me again! So we really, really, need this to happen.
  • Resolutions: I’m doing well! I’ve designed a work out plan (that I’ve only done once so far, ha. baby steps); I’m planning my outfits better and clearing out my closet; I’ve almost read two books; I’m making better food choices and I’m drinking way more water than I usually do.

    The water thing is the most surprising of all. I try to drink at least two liters (or 32 ounces) a day, and I can already see results. I have fewer stomach issues. I’m less fatigued (not totally alert, but I’m not dying for a nap at work). My skin is clearer. I’m satisfied with smaller portions of food. And I burn calories when I walk to the bathroom to pee every 20 minutes. So, yeah, science is right: Water is good stuff.

    I need to get better about fitness, though. I’m not aiming for SKINNY ZOMG, but I’d like to walk up the steps to our apartment without getting winded. And I’d like to lose the 6 pack of chub. And maybe be strong enough to fight a bear. You know, the usual.

    Oh, and writing. I’m need to do that more. Whether it’s blogging or free writing or catching up through email, I need to do it more.

  • Beach: Joel and I have hit the beach almost every Saturday. And I really love it! Now, I can get into the water without a panic attack, and even touch the rocks and grass and things with my feet. I snorkled for about .5 seconds, and I swam from the middle of Clovelley to the shore (well, swam most of it. Joel carried me through the weedy parts). No, I haven’t seen any sharks–although one made the papers a couple weeks ago for being a real dick to a dolphin.

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    Such beach. Such bikini discomfort.
  • Little guests: Skinks! These tiny little guys run into our apartment every now and then. It’s the cutest thing. Way cuter than a huntsman or a giant roach. /shutter
    What I saw as I walked by the balcony door
    For scale, that dark dot above the skink, and to the left of the rail shadow, is a house fly.
    Such a little guy!
    Such a little guy!

    Joel found this little guy in our bedroom. Heeeey, ladies.
    Joel found this little guy in our bedroom. Also, ew, need to vacuum.
  • Camera fun: Joel is teaching me how to use my sweet Tobias Rexington, and soon he’ll help me learn my Grampa’s old film Nikon. I can’t wait to take a roll and process it myself. It’s quite a process and I’m psyched to learn it. Expect some fun photo posts soon!

    ohhh, I fell in love with his 35 mm lens.
    ohhh, I fell in love with his 35 mm lens.
  • Homesick: I have a few friends who are going through some sad and difficult times right now, and it sucks to not be there for them. I’m pretty sure this is the hardest thing about living away from all of them.
  • Clouds and Sunsets: Nature boners all around, people.
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  • Life: Really sweaty, but really sweet. Very happy with it.

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Tomorrow is Australia Day, and it’s a public holiday, so we get the day off! And it’s supposed to be cold and rainy. Considering that I’ve spent the whole day today as clothes-less as possible and sitting between two fans, I’m praying for the cold and rain.

Til next time, friends!

*I promise that one day I’ll have a post that doesn’t mention sweating or my bitching about the lack of air conditioning. I’m traumatized, ok?

On the Subject of Resolutions

I love the “fresh start” feeling that the New Year brings.

I am that person who, in the last week of December, is getting all AW YEAH NEW YEAR LETS DO THIS, standing in line at Target, buying a journal with the new year emblazoned on it, a brand new pair of yoga pants, salad fixins, and even a Nalgene bottle–because damnit, THIS YEAR I am going to exercise and eat better and drink more water and document my journey of self-discovery, consciously ignoring the fact that my journal from the current year is blank and collecting dust, and that I’m wearing this year’s yoga pants that have BBQ stains all over them. And, I am also that person who, by June is all “Wasn’t I supposed to be a better person this year?”

Basically, I’m just like you and every other First World New Year Resolution.

I know all too well that making a List of Things I Want to Change is essentially making a List of Things I’ll Keep Doing. Mostly because I have a tendency to make multiple step goals that involve changing way too much, way too soon, and way too often, and when I get overwhelmed and thrown off track by the 3rd week of January, I lose interest. And then I’m profoundly disappointed with myself by November. That doesn’t stop me from writing it all up in a big list, though. I love lists. I love the idea of one day crossing off every item. You know, one day when I develop a dedicated Type A personality.

Making endless lists is as Type A as I get.
Making endless lists is as Type A as I get.

This year’s list culminated in 31 resolutions/goals. 31! What the hell am I thinking? I am not Beyoncé.

whatever, internet.

But I was getting real serious with these goals. I started to break them down to realistically achievable goals, and categorize them and make time lines and give them Action/Completion dates (I’m really into Excel). I mean, I was making my old therapist proud. And then I checked Facebook (where dreams go to die), and my friend Anita posted an article about resolution making, and she said along with it, “Don’t make resolutions. Make better choices.” And I was all

well… obviously.

It’s one of those revelations that is so completely obvious that it makes you feel a bit like a turd that you didn’t come to it before. But really, that’s all it takes. I look at my New Year Shit list, and almost every single one of the 31 goals are about taking better care of myself and paying more attention to my life and hustling toward life goals. They’re about Making Better Choices. Thinking things out instead of acting impulsively. Considering before reacting. Being active, not lazy. Saving instead of spending. Chewing all my food before taking another bite. Etc.

So, my new list for the year has just one item: Make Better Choices. Even when every inch of me is straining for me to do the opposite, like today, when I wanted to push off blogging until tomorrow, but I’m doing it now. Or this morning, when I ordered eggs without cheese. Or last night, when I washed and moisturized my face when all I wanted to do was go to bed. Let’s not even talk about how I’m substituting olive oil for butter even though it makes my soul cry tears of infinite sadness.

I’m making 2015 a year of just being better and proactive. And for focusing on the little battles I’m winning, instead of dwelling on what I feel like I’m doing wrong–which in itself is making a better choice! So I’m gearing up for greatness, but accepting that sometimes greatness is small and personal. Like substituting olive oil for butter (this is serious).

So come on, 2015 LET’S DO THIS. LET’S BE BETTER.

I’ll report back in June. haha

New Year’s Day

It’s a New Year! Huzzah!

We welcomed in 2015 with a low key party for two. Three if you count the creepy raccoon pillow, Billy Ray. Due to the craziness of Joel’s work schedule and the expense/logistical difficulties of planning a 30 hour getaway, we just opted to stay at home. We had booze and salty snacks, a champagne toast, Indian dinner, fireworks, pointy hats, and even an encounter with the biggest Huntsman I’ve seen to date.

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Getting distracted by reflective surfaces time
Getting distracted by reflective surfaces time
Cocktail time
Cocktail time
Butter Chicken dinner
Butter Chicken dinner
We caught a smidge of fireworks from our balcony
We caught a smidge of fireworks from our balcony
whoa!
whoa!
WHHOAAAAA
WHHOAAAAA
party animals
party animals

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Youtube black hole
Youtube black hole
The Huntsman I saw crawling above us on the gutter! he had to be about 3" wide.
The Huntsman I saw crawling above us on the gutter! he had to be about 3″ wide. My third Huntsmen experience in 3 days. I know they’re harmless and more scared of me, but FUCK IT WAS HUGE. 
eeeughhhhh
eeeughhhhh
Happy New Year!
Happy New Year!

2015 so far has been lazy, hot, full of couch hangs, *knock on wood* Huntsman free. Bodes well for the rest of the year, I’d say.

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Happy New Year, everyone!