PlazaJen: The Blog

Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: good things (page 2 of 3)

Hello, Neighbor…

No, I’m not talking about Crazy Cat Lady, though she had her own personal  festival of lights last week, courtesy of the emergency-service vehicles lined up in front of her house. I’m just feeling very…. Mr. Rogers. Won’t you come in? I should put on a cardigan. (Actually, I really should, I’m kinda cold.)

Starting off 2011 very differently than I started 2010. For one thing, I’m unemployed again, as my part-time employer unceremoniously gave me the boot the day after Christmas weekend. Of course, I could have been surprised, but when you advertise for a junior buyer on internal job boards at a local agency, I’m connected enough to find out within fifteen minutes. (That happened on Dec 1, ironically, my one-year anniversary there.) I was given a nice platter of prevarications.  I tried to accept them at face value, but, frankly, there had been enough lies before that point (nothing like having to keep from the client you’re only part-time and they’ve been told you’re full time) to know that it was time for something new, shiny and distracting to take my place. I got in touch with one of my co-workers, and let him know what was going on – and warned him some of the things I’d seen and heard might mean he was next. Sure enough, he came back from vacation and got axed today. I told him when he called to just keep feeling the relief, of not having to sustain the impossible anymore.

So what does that mean for me? Well, I have some opportunities for freelancing, and I’ll certainly be pursuing them as much as I can. I’ll have unemployment for when that’s not active, and I’ll keep my health insurance current. I think what I learned from the last go-round is that when you feel like you’re losing your integrity, just by walking through a door, you may be losing a salary, but you’re starting the process of regaining so much more. I also learned that as much as I worried and fretted and stressed, it didn’t make one bit of difference. I feel a strange sense of calm, and assuredness, that is really rather surprising. I have great friends in the community, former colleagues, vendors and clients. And as my father said in the worst of times, it will all be ok. I’m glad I don’t own a business that is hemorrhaging money and worrying about if I’ll make payroll and what happens if one client leaves, will it all go under. One of these days, I’m going to write down all the sordid stories, and they will astonish you, children, they really will. The advertising biz tends to look a lot more Gordon Gecko and not so much Melrose Place.  (I remember my father asking me, “This business? Does it have any NICE people in it? It doesn’t seem like it does.” Yes, dad, plenty of nice people. Just not the most honorable, as some are merely glorified con artists.)

I may need to take up violin lessons, though, all my appointments for fiddling when Rome burns and whatnot. Heh.

Well, that’s all for today, kids. I’m going to enjoy my zen, while others chug the Maalox. It’s a new year, and I just have a feeling, it’s going to be one of my best.

xo

jen

Fuchsia Friday

Screw all this “Black Friday” stuff. I get it, it’s all about stores coming out of the red ink and into the black, but good lord, folks, you really NEED to trample your way in? I was thinking about all of this yesterday, as I considered reviving my tradition of going out shopping on Black Friday, wondering when it all turned from a shopping day with more excitement into a fuckin’ piranha tank.  There’s very little I need that would require me getting up at 3 am at this point in my life.  James even reminded me of this adventure (“Remember, you said you weren’t going anymore?”)

Oh yeah. And here I was, contemplating Joann’s AND CostCo. I still was, until I saw that I’d been looking at the wrong day, and that Joann’s didn’t open at 7 am, but instead, at 6 am. One hour was enough to make me really question if it was worth it or not. So I jumped online to calculate just how much I’d save on that damned OTT-Lite, and lo and behold? Joanns.com was having a sale. With a floor OTT lamp for $50, and free shipping if you spent $75. Since I was going to shell out over $100 on the lamp alone (with the extra coupon), I tapped in all my info, got a replacement bulb and one thing I needed to complete a gift. Grand total of $75.97, free shipping, bay-bee!

I did go out later, made a grocery store run and a trip to Westlake Hardware, and let me just say, I don’t know if they have a special training course at Westlake Ace for how to treat women when they come in? But the car industry could learn a LOT from these people.  I needed to get a few nuts and bolts, a new humidifier filter, and what I thought was a thumb screw. Within a minute of entering the store, I was greeted by two people, and the man working the floor asked if I needed help finding anything. Indeed I did, and within five minutes, we had all the nuts, bolts and washers I needed, at the correct size and length. He looked at the part I brought in, pronounced I already had a screw in there, but needed a tiny allen wrench (for thirty-nine cents) and I was on my merry way, with everything I needed and no frustrations.  As I left, I was reflecting on how awesome everything had gone (I had imagined myself digging through compartment after compartment of bolts, probably spilling some) and that my experience is like that every time I go. I don’t work for them, no affiliation, I just have to say, I’m either lucky, look unbelievably pathetic, or they’ve got some really good customer service, and I’m betting on the latter.

At CVS, I couldn’t help but stare at the woman who was checking out in front of me, and she looked back at me with some glimmer of recognition, but didn’t say anything. I pondered how Kansas City gets smaller and smaller each year, and sometimes people who work in other places I frequent will pop up (say, at the grocery store, and your mind struggles to place them.) I didn’t think much of it, but she returned, because they’d overcharged her for photos, and she had no photos. She looked at me again, and I finally had to say, “Do we know each other? You look really familiar.” And she said, yes, we did, and told me who her husband was, who is someone my husband got into it with during his last months with a local waterfowl organization, and so there we had it, not only did we have a connection but it was utterly fractured and stupid.  I was instantly regretting asking her who she was and realizing exactly why she didn’t greet me in the first place, and so we stood there at the pharmacy counter, awkwardly, like Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant and Mrs. Robert E. Lee somehow got stuck at the same tea table  (I’m playing the role of Mrs. Grant, btw, I don’t care what side Missouri fought on.)  I graciously told the cashier to handle her refund first, and we both stood there staring at her while attempt after attempt to credit her back failed. Then she had to call a manager, who didn’t show up, and she finally asked Mrs. Lee if she could take care of me real quick while they waited for the manager. I scrawled my name on the line and escaped as quickly as I could, wondering how in the hell they were now in our neighborhood. Like I said, small town, big city.

So it was a good day, no crazy shopping, though I’ve lived vicariously through others, as people post pictures of their giant tv’s and exhaustion from having to either work the sales or from still dealing with family. Me, I’m having a British crime procedural marathon, watching episodes of MI:5 (Spooks) and nibbling on cheese. If I were to paint the day a color, it would be the shockingly bright, happy magenta I love so dearly, making it a very fuchsia Friday indeed.

StoryCorps

Or, as the lady who strolled up with her kids while we were waiting called it, “Story Corpse.” The Wo and I both laughed about that one later.
StoryCorps 2010
This was parked in Brookside for the past few weeks – part of a journey two Airstream trailers make on each side of the Mississippi, gathering stories and memories shared between two people. On Wednesday evening, we got to be part of that really cool, special opportunity: to record ourselves and be a permanent part of the collection in the Library of Congress. One person is the interviewer (me) and the other person tells their story (the Wo.) When reservations were first open, I logged on about 10 minutes after they’d begun, only to find nothing was open. That’s how fast it filled up. I added myself to the waiting list, not thinking it would actually happen. Then, I happened to be on the computer when the email came out to all of us wait listers, and there was only one time slot that could work – I crossed my fingers and replied. Thirty minutes later, I got confirmation that we had the 5:30 slot!

Because I’ve been listening to NPR for so long (I answered, “My entire life,” which is pretty much true, apart from some breaks here and there), I knew what we were doing, but the Wo got a bit panicked the night before as he read some of the sample questions. As he put it, “Nobody expects the Jenquisition!” Of course I wasn’t going to ask him unnerving, awkward questions, and I knew how he’d answer most of the questions, anyway. Eleven years and change of togetherness combined with a pretty good memory (sometimes too good) and I figured it would go pretty smoothly.

It did, there were lots of laughs, some tears/watering eyes, as we touched on the highs and lows of our combined lives. We exited with our own CD of the 40-minute conversation, and we’ll have a certificate and our own little place in the gigantic library someday. Who knows, maybe we’ll be one of those Friday morning voices I hear on Morning Edition. (I’m not counting on that.) I did fall completely in love with the microphone and noticed I totally dropped my voice when I asked the questions. Made me think, hmmm, maybe podcasting isn’t such a goofy idea after all. Heh. But what I really took away was a reminder of how much I love this man, how much he loves me, and how much I cherish our life together.

StoryCorps 2010

Nommy Sunday

One of the wonderful things that hobbies bring you includes new friends. Between knitting (that would be me) and duck hunting and tomato growing (that would be James), we have an eclectic, delightful group of friends.  Last week, we had the Bhut Jolokia tasting, and we were gifted a jar of homemade mustard from Tomato Town’s Todd & Julie (Farmer T and Farmer J, respectively). Made with whiskey. It looked stupendous:

Homemade Pretzels and Mustard

The first thing James said (after thank you!) was that we needed to get some good bratwurst from Fritz’s. I said, “Homemade pretzels.” Now that we’ve got the pretzels done and covered, I’m all for bratwurst next. This mustard was heavenly! While my pretzels turned out beautifully and delicious, the mustard was really the star of the show.

Homemade Pretzels and Mustard

I made the pretzels from Alton Brown’s recipe; they probably could have been rolled out thinner, but the taste was great. I used Mediterranean Sea Salt instead of pretzel salt, and while I followed the directions to a T with the parchment paper and the oil, I will not go that route again, as the pretzels stuck to the paper and were frustrating to try and remove. Silpats would probably work better.

Homemade Pretzels and Mustard

Utterly delicious! Thanks Julie & Todd!

It Will All Be OK

..Ok, Go.

PensiveGirl tweeted this earlier today. I’ve watched it several times, and it is just one of those fantastic visual-audio combos that makes your brain hum, your toes tap, and your soul soar. They took embedding down, so you can see the video on YouTube here.

The song is called “This Too Shall Pass.” When the words were sung – “Let it go… this too shall pass,” I felt tears in my eyes, because it’s so simple. We burrow and fret and worry and panic and stress and rail at the day and the day..passes. And it felt like advice I got a few years ago, advice I couldn’t believe or accept at the time, from my dying father trying to reassure me that in the end, it would all be ok. I love him every bit today as I did when he was alive. I marvel at that in part because I didn’t think it possible.

And I still marvel at the power in sound and words that can evoke such feeling. With a marching band to boot.

Don’t Let The Door Hit Ya On The Way Out

I know, like many other people, that I will be very glad to see the door close on 2009 tonight. Can’t say that I feel that way about the entire decade, of course, because countless wonderful things have happened in my life over the past ten years. I just see 2009 as a year that brought more challenges and strife than I cared to have. I shut the door on people (some shut the door on me!), I lost my job (but gained another!), and had lots of job stress and a couple really scary health scares (bronchitis, my eyes).

All of that said, though, and some of my negative thoughts about the year, I will say that this has been the year of contradictions. My job (that I lost) depressed me beyond belief – but then I got a new one that renews and energizes me.  Unemployment depressed me, but I reconnected and made new connections and feel more ensconced with fantastic, smart, creative people than any year before. And the mack-daddy depression of them all, the grief that never leaves me, my father’s death, that got better. I no longer feel like I am the lone ox, pulling the yurt with a tribe of nomads trampling it as I strain to put one foot in front of the other. There are days with great sadness, melancholy, and some tears, but there isn’t the sense of toppling over the edge into an abyss. Time truly works wonders.

I know that in time, some of the anger and frustration I absorbed and carried this year will also fade. But now, in the moment? I’ve got a special Fuck You to a few people, and while I don’t think they read my blog, but if they do? They should be bright enough to know it’s meant just for them. Enjoy, motherfuckers. Karma’s a bitch.

As for the rest of you twatweasels I know, love and look forward to laughing with next year? Happy New Year, and I love ya. Thanks for reading and all the comments. 2010 is gonna rock.

A Very Good Day, Indeed.

Yesterday was one of those blue-ribbon, splendiferous days that you thought may have faded into the naivete of youth, when birthdays brought a new bicycle and summers were long unending days of sunshine and grass, an enormous hiatus from school and responsibility. Yesterday was absolutely fantastic. Yesterday, I accepted a job. A job I want, a job I’m looking forward to going to, and I’ll start out part-time in a couple of weeks. A couple months after that, I’ll be full-time. But it wasn’t just the job. It was so many things. Lunch with two dear friends. Then I went to the grocery store, where one woman stopped to compliment me on my wrap (the background image on this blog, in fact), and another woman came over and we had a nice chat about yarn, knitting, local yarn stores, and Ravelry. She wasn’t familiar with a lot of the things I was talking about and scribbled notes on the back of her shopping list. My husband coming home and telling me he’s proud of me, reflecting on the life we’ve built together, and how we navigate the waters well together, because there have been dark, bad seas for both of us in our years together, and even in the bleakest hour, there is comfort in knowing you are not there alone. Later that night, we went out to dinner for crab legs, and while James was up getting dessert, the woman seated behind me started complimenting me on my shoes. (Dansko clogs, patent black leather) Random kind friendliness, piling onto the day. We decided to give the slots a shot, and the wheels spun and the bells rang and then my $20 became $40 (being the nervous nelly gambler, I immediately cashed out). It was a day that felt like it glowed, with no nicks or dings or scratches, one that had only improved each hour it was here, and it was so very good.

Many blessings to count. Happy Thanksgiving.

Happy Ten Years!

Ten years ago I met this guy named James for coffee at Broadway Cafe – my standard internet-dating vetting venue – and I think it’s working out. Since today’s our six-year wedding anniversary! Wahoo!

Since then, we’ve amassed a lot of memories and references that only best friends can have with each other.  Laughter and music are the core threads that glide us through, and when all else fails, we have three goofy ass dogs who are always good for comic relief.  I love the family we’ve become.

To quote Freddy Mercury (and what good marriage doesn’t include a dead gay rock-n-roll idol’s wisdom? NONE I tell you. ),

Ooh you’re the best friend that I ever had
I’ve been with you such a long time
You’re my sunshine and I want you to know
That my feelings are true
I really love you
Oh you’re my best friend

Here’s to the next ten, my friend. Love you to the moon and back.

New Ways To Piss Me Off

Boy, I’ve been having a doozy of it. Between workload & being sick (hey! I think I’ve recovered – last night was the first night of sleeping all the way through the night without coughing!) – I’ve just been an extra bit stressy. Which makes my temper a bit shorter, and it makes me move into blunt whack-a-mole mode.  When there’s a ton to do, and other people are dilly-dallying or unclear about their direction, I find myself leaning more towards R. Lee Ermey. So far, nobody’s decided to off themselves in the latrine, so that’s good.  (this would be me making a reference to Full Metal Jacket, btw. I’m sure my husband will chuckle, knowing I just finally saw that movie in the past year.  And he did just remind me this week that I am no Stanley Kubrick.)

SO, even though there are plenty of things that stress me out & piss me off, let’s talk about the latest new thing that happened today. Some douchebag decided to put THEIR extra trash bag in OUR driveway. We already had two bags out, and since we didn’t plan for Douchebag Drop-Off Day, we didn’t put a trash sticker on the third bag because IT WASN’T THERE. But now we had to haul it back from the curb and wait until next week.

Oh. Yeah. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  I looked at the bag. If there was any indication that there was something in that trash bag to indicate who tossed it there, I would have been in it in two seconds flat.  Not sure what would have happened after that, if I’d have actually taken my R. Lee Ermey act all the way up to someone’s front door, but I sure enjoyed thinking about it.  At the very least, I’d have returned it to them. The nerve!

Tomorrow is a big meeting-day, and then I should get a bit of a reprieve. There’s still plenty of work, but we should get a little breathing room on these high-pressure, hulking huge deadlines. It’s nice to be busy, as long as it stays below the panic line. Spring Break is next week, we’ll be getting some fishing in, I’ll still be working, but there are all sorts of demarcations in time that remind me things are shifting – the time change, the daffodils in the front yard, just waiting to explode, the seedlings under the grow lights winding and waving in nature’s destined journey towards the light, roots expanding and threading into the soil below.

Oh, and if you want to weep from laughter, and you didn’t see Letterman’s Stupid Pet Tricks last night, it was utterly priceless. Bailey, Play Dead. (I hope this works – couldn’t get it to embed.)

I could hardly catch my breath, I was laughing so hard. (I think it was the :second: playing dead that was so funny, like, OH!oh, hell, no treat yet? OK, I’ll play dead again real quick, mister.) I also really like it when it’s apparent that Dave is genuinely amused. Almost as much as I love  hearing my husband and I laughing uproariously, together. By golly, I almost forgot about that damned bag of trash. 😉

Hacking Starbucks

A couple weeks ago, I found myself at a Starbucks, around 8 o’clock in the evening, and as much as I love my lattes, that’s just too late for me to consume caffeine. (Yes, I know, I can get decaf, but where’s the fun in that? Plus, I wanted to try something new.)

So I ordered the Berry Chai Infusion.

Oh. Mah. God. Tart but sweet, spicy and smooth. Love at first sip.

I decided I had to figure out a way to recreate this at home. My first attempt was so-so, but my second attempt is pretty darned good. And a lot fewer calories, to boot! I’m slurping one right now, and it’s de-lish.

You can make your own, too! I’m not much on exacting specifics, but here’s what I did:

8-10 cups hot water

3 Tazo Black Chai tea bags

3 Celestial Seasonings Wild Berry Zinger tea bags

8 single-serve packets of Splenda

Pomegranate-Black Currant Juice (We had some Old Orchard juice I’d scored on clearance at Target, seemingly because they’re not making it anymore. Their Healthy Balance line looks like they’ve got some great blends that would work just as well. You want something with a tart base, and a blended juice tempers one flavor from dominating. And, bonus, 1/3 the calories! I’ll probably try the Pom-Blueberry-Acai next.)

Place the tea bags in a teapot, cover with hot water. Add the Splenda packets (or wait & do this after you taste-test), and allow to steep. When the tea is sufficiently strong, pour about 1/3-cup to 1/2-cup of juice into your mug, fill to the top with tea, and then microwave 30-60 seconds so the whole drink is piping hot.

Bravo Tazo, baby! You just hacked in. Let me know how yours goes! I think you could try all kinds of variations, with the constant being the black chai, and a tart juice.

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