categorization

After a yard sale last week, I found myself sifting through a large pile of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. My brain slid into sorting mode, easily identifying each coin while stacking it in the right pile. A few were too dirty or covered in paint to instantly identify, but a little observation and my brain was able to settle on a category.

pennies, nickels, dimes & quarters!

This was what my mind was good at – identifying, categorizing and sorting the mess into neat, tidy, piles. Then I came upon a coin from Australia bearing the Queen’s profile, and my mind halted. I didn’t have a category to put it in. It didn’t already have a value assessed to it – at least not in my mind, and so I poured over it, reading the words, looking at the engravings, and feeling the surface. Despite the fact that I knew in Australia there were perhaps millions more just like it, I treated it as something unique and put it in its own pile – all by itself.

an australian oddity

In the past three weeks I have had over five people say fairly biased things to me based solely on my religion. None of these people intended to offend, and several are my close friends. What bothers me is that in someone else’s mind I might be so easily identified, categorized and sorted entirely by my religion.

Megan = Mormon = pre-conceived (and often false) notions

Leaving any beliefs about my church aside, can anyone be entirely categorized by any organization that they belong to?

All organizations are filled with many people: all different, all working together for a common cause or belief. If someone is a part of an organization, that makes up a part of their personality and beliefs, but it doesn’t determine the entirety of their person.

Which is why I often don’t tell people what religion I belong to until the subject comes up – hoping that if I am a little too covered in dirt or paint it might make them consider me a few moments longer before finally deciding that I am just a penny like the rest of the pennies they know.

Our minds, however, are best at sorting. Putting people in neat, tidy piles is so much easier (and neater) than putting each person in their own separate pile, and does the human brain really have enough space to do that? Could a person ever truly store each and every person they meet into their brain without putting him or her into at least one category?

Perhaps the problem isn’t that brain categorizes — it’s that so many people stop categorizing after only one or two categories have been found. Or perhaps it’s that the people around me aren’t willing or interested enough to look for more categories.

In my mind, I feel like that Australian coin: different, unique, and worth inspection, when perhaps to others I am just a simple penny, worth tucking in your pocket, but not intense scrutiny… and that is what stings most of all.

13 January 2010 at 2:54 pm 4 comments

mall madness

During all the hustle of Christmas shopping, I happened to get snagged by one of the Israeli cosmetic counter salespeople. These small island kiosks are found in malls all over the western United States and they feature overpriced bath salts, facial creams and skin treatments along youthful sales personnel that all hail from Israel and the dead sea.

So, I was stuck listening while this young, attractive foreigner tried to to sell me a product he would get commission on. I don’t know if something was lost in translation, but the conversation went a little like this:

Him: So, how old are you?
Me: uhm…. how do old you think I am?
Him: 28…
(headshake from me)
Him: 25?…
(headshake from me)
Him: 23?…
(headshake from me)
Him: 21?!…
(headshake from me)
Him: You are younger than 21?!
Me: Nope.
Him: So, how old are you?
Me: I’m 30.
Him: 30? No! You do not look that old. Your skin looks very good for your age.
Me: Thank-you.
Him: I am surprised you are that many years. You must drink a lot of water and keep yourself very healthy.
Me: Thanks. I try.
Him: You probably have a very young boyfriend.
Me: eh…? well, I don’t really have a boyfriend.
Him: This I cannot believe! You look so young and pretty.
Me: (blushing) Thank-you.
Him: (pause) So, have you ever thought about the… eh… the wrinkles? We have a cream that will get rid of them right away!

Can’t have it both ways, son!

Needless to say, I didn’t purchase anything.

8 January 2010 at 2:12 pm 4 comments

free car shopping

Because I am now in car limbo, I have been researching all the possible ways to get a car for free, because that is all I can afford:

1. Steal a car — would work, but then I would be on the run!

2. Find an old neighbor like Clint Eastwood and wait for him to die to leave me his Gran TorinoOnce again, this would first involve trying to steal the car first…

3. Follow car shipments until one falls off like on all the moviesviable, but then I would have to take whatever car just happened to fall off, and the condition would be questionable, to say the least…

4. Do something really creative like trade-up to a car from a paper clipIt’s been done & I hate copycats.

5. Receive a free car with advertisements all over it — unfortunately, don’t live in enough of a metro area.

6. Get lucky at a government auction & win a car for a penny — well, its close to free, but unlikely.

7. Win a Free Car!!! — This seems to be the most viable option, but I can’t seem to find all the contests available…

Any other ways to get a free car that you know about? Let me know! I am definitely interested!

10 November 2009 at 11:06 am Leave a comment

car limbo

At approximately 8:13am on the morning of October 27, 2009 I turned a corner… and my Kia Rio stopped. There was no brilliant flash of light, no horrible explosion, no smoke exiting the engine in billowing waves… no, just a sudden end, an emptiness, a void where once there had been sound and life. My engine stopped and my car stopped.

Fortunately for me, the street I was on was not a busy one, and I managed to stop right next to an empty lot, so I got out of the car, pushed it off the road and walked back to my parents house, which was a brisk 10 minutes away.

It made me late for work, and was an initial inconvenience that any break down is, but after getting the poor car was towed to the mechanic shop, I was told that the timing belt had gone, and because of the set-up of the car, the engine was toast.

I did some research. These were the numbers I was looking at:

$3,136.50 still owed on the car

$2,521.50 to fix the car

$1,325.00-$2,890.00 Blue Book Value of the car, if fixed.

I determined that I didn’t want to invest any more money into a car that would be worth less than the repair bill once I fixed it. Simple solution, right?

WRONG!

1. Can’t stop making payments, because they repossess the car and it hurts my financial record.

2. Can roll it over to new car loan, but the only cars they will finance me are their “worst on the lot” cars. Not a great option in this economy.

3. Could try and pay off with a signature loan and sell the car for parts, but my father wants to try and “repair it someday”.

So, we come to an agreement: my dad will let me borrow their Ford Aveo until I am able to finish paying off the car I’m not using and can afford a car payment again.

So then comes insurance… I call and discover:

1. I can’t completely get rid of the insurance on the Kia Rio, because the state and the lender require it.

2. I have to transfer the insurance on the Aveo over to my name, which is about the same as my previous payment.

SO I WILL END UP PAYING MORE FOR A CAR THAT IS JUST SITTING THERE, THAN FOR A CAR THAT WAS ONCE MOVING!!!

When you find yourself thinking, “Totally wrecking my car in a horrible accident would’ve been so much easier to deal with…” you know you are in car limbo.

 

 

9 November 2009 at 5:22 pm 3 comments

grey world

I grew up thinking in black and white — all line art with defined lines and spaces. Everything was clear and straight forward, although it lacked definition and clarity.

my world in black & white: distorted and slightly scary.

my world in black & white: distorted and slightly scary.

The older I get, the more I realize this isn’t so, and dealing with people becomes thousands of times more complicated than a piece of line art — rather, it’s a photograph, filled with thousands of tones of grey that only illuminates things more brilliantly.

my world in grey: infinitely more beautiful & complicated.

my world in grey: infinitely more beautiful & complicated.

One of the things I thought was solid and unmoving was marriage. Either you were happily in love and married, or you were alone and unmarried. Black and white. Simple. Any couples I met were categorized in my brain as not two people, but as one unit.

But couples, even married ones, are not solid units.

This was brought forcibly to my attention as I watched  500 Days of Summer and The Time Traveler’s Wife recently at the theater. (They were offering $1.00 entrance fees! How could I resist?)

In “500 Days of Summer” Tom Hansen, romantic would-be architect turned greeting card writer falls for Summer Finn, love-realist and wanderer currently working as an office assistant.  They hit it off, and despite Summer’s claims that she wants no boyfriends or “serious entanglements”, she encourages a relationship that leaves Tom wanting more and more of what she cannot give.

Interestingly enough, although this was a film about couples, it made great efforts to show everyone in the film as a single unit. Tom’s friend, Paul, who has a longtime girlfriend is shown alone, she never enters the film’s reality.  All the office workers are never seen with their partners, and even Summer’s eventual fiance is only seen as ring on her finger, never as an actual person.

I wondered at this treatment, but it became clear that the movie was not about how to be a couple, but rather how to be an optomistic, love-filled person, even if that means that you don’t become part of a couple for a long time.

The end is bittersweet, but hopeful, and if you learn anything it is that love exists, just not always where you expect to find it. The evolution from interest, to like, to love, to marriage is a stormy and rocky road where most everyone gets a scrape or two, but that doesn’t mean the view from the top isn’t magnificent.

In “The Time Traveler’s Wife”  the story of one couple’s marital relationship forms the core of the movie. Henry DeTamble is a seemingly jobless time traveler, while Clare Abshire is an insightful artist out of place in a republican family where the father spends his time hunting defenseless creatures in the forest behind their mansion. Long before Henry has actually met Clare, she has gotten to know and love him through his jumps back in time to her childhood and teenage years, when she retreated to the forest to get away.

His understanding and companionship through her tumultuous growing years leads her to love him, and her exuberance  and infatuation with his time traveling leads him to love her,  so that we are left wondering if either of them ever really had a choice in their fated relationship.

“Good fiction makes the normal seem bizarre, and the bizarre seem normal.” And in this film, the bizarre is normal. Although his problem is time traveling, it could just as easily be an addiction, a job, or a personality trait, because it gets in the way of their happy, solid life. He has no control over it, but it often means that through no fault of his own he is not there when she needs or wants him to be. The funny thing is that Clare knew about this trait of his from the moment she met him. It was originally what brought them together, and eventually it becomes the thing that will perhaps tear them apart.

The theme of waiting is constant throughout this film as well. She waits for the dates he will appear, she is always waiting for him to come back and in the end he disappears as he says, “I don’t want you to spend the rest of your life waiting.”

At their core, both films are asking what love is. What does it mean to love, and what does it mean to attach yourself to someone else, to let them have control over a part of your life?

The thing is, neither one offers a decisive answer — at least not a black and white one, but perhaps they have opened the spectrum to a little more grey.

18 September 2009 at 4:50 pm 1 comment

back & forth

How strange it would be
To read a novel on your skin
With words appearing like tattoos
Where only hair had been.

But to future readers
It would be no stranger than
Trading ink quills and nubs
For the blessed pen!

(This is another of the submissions I sent to the Google Books Contest — there are still 5 days left, so go and have some fun learning and reading and writing!)

1 August 2009 at 10:03 am Leave a comment

future books

Today on Google, I found out about a wonderful little contest as part of the launch of Google’s newest addition: Google books! It’s a wonderful search engine and archive of great literary classics, informational texts, and modern novels — all searchable and cross referenced!

As part of the launch Google has created a contest in which you can win great prizes with your most creative entry (50 words or less) about what reading will be like in 100 years — here’s mine:

Future Books

While I anticipate
The modern advance
Of thousands of books
In the palm of your hand…

In 100 years I hope
There will still be
Those who find
A simple beauty

In the smell of ink,
The feel of paper
And a corner turned
To save the end for later.

27 July 2009 at 5:50 pm 1 comment

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