Around Mid-Iowa

I am nervous. Incredibly, incredibly nervous. Today, I shoot the Iowa State women's basketball game. Tip-off is soon; just a few hours. I hope I am able to catch some good shots and appease the basketball gods, for it is also senior night. Wish me luck; I'll need it, especially with all of the extra pressure I have put on myself.

In the meantime, my life is a shambles, a mix of central and southwest Iowa, a race between deadlines for my job and demands for a pastime. I fall asleep at 5:00 a.m., wake to the whistling, shrieking winds that seep through the cracks of my ancient windows. I am always confused, always wandering, always looking for answers.

And, as delicious as it may look, this cupcake (from Ames Cupcake Emporium, which actually received a call from "Cupcake Wars,") did not have any answers.

A chair left in my neighbor's yard.

Stalag-ticicles. Death-cicles.

Remember the staircase from this post? Well, it has now been turned into an icy death staircase.

Okay, this is actually a leftover photo from Omaha. ... but I don't care.

On Valentine's Day, I was sent out to take pictures of happenings around the city. I traversed campus, nearly got kicked out of a flower shop and was almost utterly ignored in a chocolate store. Alas, I did mange to get one photo that was worth publishing.

Of course, the week after Valentine's Day, I was spontaneously sent to the local high school to snag a photo of a band concert. I was quite rushed, so I was unable to even catch the names of these students.

And, since I started with sweets, I'll end with sweets. These were part of a box of chocolates that actually came inside of an even larger box Hans sent me for Valentine's Day. (Our Valentine's Day consisted of a Skype date during which we opened the packages we had sent each other.)

Off to Ames ...

The Fourth Time

Someday, when I'm not enveloped in redesigns and new designs, when I'm not returning to my apartment at 3:00 a.m., I will tell you everything.

I will tell you of my broken skin, of my red eyes and blurred face. I will tell you of my uncombed hair, my stack of unwashed jeans. I will tell you of my irrational hatred for Ames, and my inability to forget the past.

I will tell you my past; share with you the intimacies that have destroyed my perception of this city. I will tell you of my work, of how busy it keeps me. Of how it doesn't seem to give me enough time to myself. Of how it has mangled my sleep; of how, first thing in the morning, I remember the headline I wrote incorrectly, the word I spelled wrong, the scores I forgot to update, the page I labeled incorrectly. I will tell you that the subconscious is a bitch.

I will tell you that I was a good student. Tell you that I was good at school, but not so good at real life. I will tell you of my loneliness, of my aching, burning, hurting, constant throbbing for family. For friends. For Purdue. For campus. For sleep. For myself.

I will tell you that I am no longer myself; that I am now bitter, ever so much more than before. Pessimism has been replaced by endless anger, which, at work, is passivity, at the apartment, is endless moaning and, by myself, in my car, as I leave work, is a stream of hot tears. I yell. I scream. I shake my head. I pound fists onto my chest, attempting to beat anxiety from my heart.

I will tell you that I do not enjoy these emotions. I will tell you that depression has reared its ugly head and made me prostrate. I will tell you that I have, once again, fallen victim to it. Again. Not once, not twice, not thrice. I will tell you that, in my short life, that this is the fourth time I wrapped myself in slumber-less sheets, the fourth time that my waking hours are spent either in tears or in empty numbness. I will tell you that this is the first time I've ever had to face it alone.

I do not rely on drugs foreign to my body; though they would be of assistance, I know that they will only mask the problem. The fears. The anxiety. The tiredness. What I want--what I really want--is a friend. A person. A love. Someone. I will tell you that the only thing I want right now is a hug. I want someone to love me; to be here and tell me what I can do, what I shouldn't do, what is possible, and what is meant to be.

I will tell you that my friends, family and boyfriend are aware of my health and unhappiness. I will tell you they are here and there for me. However, I will also tell you that texts, phone calls, emails and Skype sessions cannot replace--or even compare, really--to the intimate, personal human contact that I really, really want.

I will tell you that I do not do well alone.

I will tell you that I am not happy.

I will tell you that this must change.

... I just don't know where to start. And, unsurprisingly, God isn't showing me any neon signs at this moment. I certainly don't expect Him to, though. I just hope that our conversations yield a greater comfort, and soon, because something will need to change, and His guidance is essential.

This is not healthy.

I know now why my brother never wants to visit our hometown.

But that, of course, is just another thing I'll have to tell you.

Two Weeks Ago

Two weekends ago, I drove back to my hometown to visit my mom. I had had a day off, which had given my a lovely, three-day weekend to enjoy at home. The days, however, went by far too quickly, and my time at home made it twice, four, a dozen, a hundred, a thousand times harder to return to work. I barely thought of my job as I put together rings, made necklaces and organized puzzle pieces. InDesign and column-width and headlines and bylines were not on my mind as we watched "Cupcake Wars," "Chopped," "Four Weddings." I touched newspapers for only an hour, for only a moment of one day, during which I considered design elements.

It was wonderful.

The highlight of the weekend was a trip to Omaha, where mom and I visited the Durham Museum. It's a landmark of Omaha, the Durham, and--along with the Joslyn Art Museum--is a fine example of art deco architecture. The Durham was once Omaha's main station for the Union Pacific (whose headquarters are in Omaha), and was opened to the public in 1931. However, as other forms of travel become more popular, the station lost money ... and traffic. Now, what was once the Union Station, is now a museum dedicated to preserving the history of Omaha, as well as its surrounding regions.

The museum, which used to usher in the most lavish of railroad travel, still exudes some of its vintage glory. Each year, for example, the museum displays an over-sized tree in the passenger area; Omaha's own Rockefeller Center.

In addition to its outstanding and interesting locomotive displays (and, yes, you can stroll through all of the cars), there are many traveling exhibits.

The current visiting exhibit is a costume collection called Cut! Costume and the Cinema. The exhibit features 43 period costumes from 27 movies, including Pirates of the Caribbean, The Duchess, Ever After, Finding Neverland and The Prestige. It was interesting to see that I am taller than Johnny Depp, and that his captain's hat appeared to be made from a thick felt, rather than a crisp leather I had always imagined it to be. I was stunned by the thin hips and narrow waist of nearly every actress, Scarlett Johansson, Kate Winslet and Uma Thurman included. I saw that, yes, Nicole Kidman is that tall. I admired heavy, unbelievably detailed gowns from The Duchess, smiled at the small seams around the busts.

"Hey, mom," I whispered, pointing at a dress. "Keira Knightley wore this. Ha! Remember that, for Pirates, she had to have to cleavage painted on?"

We continued about the costumes, admiring stitches, seams, beading. Maggie Smith. Daniel Craig. Phantom of the Opera. Sherlock Holmes. Sandra Bullock. Casanova.

"Mom," I said quietly, pointing at one. "This was Heath Ledger's." We looked at it a bit more carefully, took in the shapely calves and broad shoulders. A moderate height; a bit taller than me.

Mom shook her head. "Too soon," she said.

I nodded. "I just want to give this mannequin a hug."

Overall, I can tell you that Daniel Craig is actually quite small, and that my shoulders may actually be wider than his. I can tell you that actresses really are freakishly skinny, and that even the more "normal" ones (read: Winslet) seem a hundred times smaller than the average woman. I can tell you that things will surprise you--that a person's height (or lack thereof) will make you realize that a celebrity is no larger than life than you are. I can tell you that some are made with intricate detail and that others (including Captain Jack Sparrow's outfit) is not as intriguing as you believed it would be. I can tell that I am roughly the same size as Angelica Houston was in 1998 (a compliment? a bad thing? You tell me).

Back at home, we puzzled. We walked in the snow. We laughed. We joked about opening a vintage store, an ice cream store, a piano store, a cat store. We discussed names for each of the venues, threw out words and ideas and thoughts in a melee of sarcasm and seriousness.

Mom made it hard to leave.

She didn't drag me from my car and back into the house. She didn't beg to me stay. She didn't ask me to quit my job and take care of her and keep her company.

She just gave me a hug.

I could hear it in her voice. I could feel it in her fingers, in her hands; hands broken and bent, callused and scarred from years of hard work, hard life. Despite wishing me a safe trip and a good evening at work, I knew she didn't want me to leave. It wasn't because she was lonely, because she was afraid of becoming a desperate empty-nester. It was because she sensed my dread; in her protective nature, she wanted to keep me from unhappiness.

I just hugged her back, kissed her goodbye on the cheek. "I had a wonderful time at home, mom. Thank you for everything. I loved the museum, the puzzle, the television. Very relaxing, very worth it. Thank you. You did everything I could've possibly imagined, and then some. I love you."

My last glimpse of her was after I had backed the car out of the driveway. I paused in the street, shifted into overdrive. I glanced at mom, who, clad in her blue, puffy winter coat, had walked to the front sidewalk. "I love you," she signed with her right hand. I held my left up the window in a matching gesture. "Goodbye," I mouthed, putting my hand back on the wheel on preparing myself for a long drive. A drive to another city, another place known for its trains.

Iowa State vs. Oklahoma

Last Saturday, I attended my second NCAA college basketball game. The first had been years ago, back when I was 11 and Cary Cochran was a star for the Nebraska Huskers. I was spending the weekend with my dad, who drove us, along with my grandmother, to Lincoln. I don't remember much of the trip, or much the game, either, for that matter. I do remember the size of the stadium and, since we were there so early, I spent a good 15 or 20 minutes walking around the entire length of the top row. I would stop at times, glance across the floor and the thousands of seats to where my grandmother, a dot, sat and watched. Besides my jaunt past rows and seats and aisles, I do remember engaging in some of the cheers. Standing up, excited; Nebraska fans were enthusiastically contagious. It was exciting, thrilling, entertaining.

A week ago, I went to an Iowa State game. I had won a ticket through work. That morning had been fine; I had put in a half hour at the office, struggled with parking, and had made it to my seat in time for the tip-off. Come a timeout during the second half, however, I was scolded by the man on my right.

"You need to stop texting," he said forcefully.

I looked over at him, confused. "I'm ... I'm sorry?"

"You need to stop texting. I can see what you're saying there, on your message, and I can see that you're saying bad things about me. That's not necessary."

Stunned, I was frozen for a moment, but laughed a small laugh, awkwardly at best. I was angered by my invasion of privacy, upset that he had thought it important to read my thoughts. I hadn't spoken to him when he had pulled out his iPhone, and I certainly hadn't read over his shoulder.

The message he had misunderstood was the beginning of a note to Hans, a message that would have stated, "This just makes me miss Purdue. I realize that I don't really care about either one of these schools, and that my pride lies in the one I can't be at right now. I wish I wasn't by myself here, either. The two guys next to me are strangers, so I feel lost."

He, of course, had interrupted me right when I had typed "The two guys next to me..." I had never finished my sentence, my thought. When I explained my feelings, he disregarded them, obviously under the belief that I was lying.

"Yeah. Uh huh. SURE."

I nearly scoffed, I was so offended.

I had barely opened my mouth to respond when he opened his, this time more aggressively. "I mean, you're already in my seat. I mean, I didn't ask you to move, but you're already there. You know, that's ... that's one thing. But this talking about me? Saying bad things about me and the other guy? No, that's unnecessary. You don't do that. You just need to SIT DOWN, stop TEXTING and CHEER. That's what you're here for. So stop."

Heart racing and emotions bubbling, I nearly burst into tears on the spot.

I was so frustrated, so hurt. I understood his passion for his team, his interest in the game. However, I didn't think it was necessary for me--a person indifferent to both the home and visiting teams--to clap and cheer and yell and gasp and shout and boo and throw my hands up with each play, with each call, with each shot. I was there to experience the game; to observe; to photograph; to watch others and ... see.

The rest of the second half was awkward; I barely moved from my seat, and, yes, it was my seat. I didn't know what to do, other than forlornly watch the players galumph up and down the court. His words had hurt; I was already tired, burned-out, overwhelmed and depressed. The conversation had left me even more upset and beaten-down. In a stadium of thousands, I had never felt more alone. The encounter dampened my mood, clouded my happiness for the remainder of the day. It was difficult for me to brush off the confrontation.

I am rational enough to know not all Iowa State fans are as intrusive and rude as the one I had the unpleasant opportunity to meet. However, it did increase my (yes, I have it) irrational hatred for the school.

Today, however, I rejoice in irony. For, as an employee in the newspaper industry, I've been granted another photography opportunity: on Wednesday, at only my third NCAA college basketball game, I will be shooting the Cyclones.

Candy Hearts & Cupids

Because nothing says Valentine like a Valentine Narwhal. Or a Valentine Octopus.

This is creepy. ... no, funny. Wait ... no, I'm going to revert back to creepy. I mean, her baggy socks look like pants, which means it looks like her pants are down. Also, the valentines here all come from a woman on Flickr, who posted photos of her mother's valentines from 1939.

If you like this type of art or decoration, you should look at Jane Foster's shop. She also has a blog that features all of the designs she makes (and subsequently samples on her daughter). She's really into vintage fabrics, and there are some pretty cool Scandinavian ones she finds.

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