Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: What Matters (Page 2 of 2)

Hook, Line & Sinker

The Wo and I went to Red Snapper for dinner the other night, before heading over to Starlight to see the Night Ranger, Foreigner & Journey concert. It was more of a “listen”, since most of the original band members are long gone, but they’ve gotten good replacements and all the songs sounded just like they did on the radio, 20+ years ago. Journey, of course, was the most fun – lots of tunes that take you back to being young and clueless, though I think “Don’t Stop Believin’” is now associated more with the Sopranos than anything else. It was bittersweet, because I listened to Journey’s Greatest Hits album a ton after my dad died, so even though I had the association of songs with being in high school, I also had the correlation to driving around and crying. Anyhoo, it was nice to have my husband’s arm around me as the crowd swayed, real lighters were held up to the sky, and we all sang along to those familiar songs.

But back to dinner. I opened my fortune cookie first, and it said “Happy news is on its way to you.” I read it aloud, said something to the effect of “That’s good,” and waited to hear what the Wo’s was. He opened his, read it, and then said, “You will be the bearer of happy news.” I was like, ZOMG! That is SO AWESOME! And he studied his for a little while longer, and then tossed it down.

I eagerly snatched it up, because if that was not a picture opportunity waiting to happen, I don’t know what is, and immediately my brow furrowed, because I could see his fortune had a LOT more words than what he’d spoken. “Dude. What the hell. That’s not what your fortune says.”

He didn’t even realize I’d fallen for it! But I had. While he laughed, I explained, earnestly, why I thought it was SO EPIC, and yes, I was disappointed because, DUDE, the universe was saying HAPPY NEWS IS COMING, and while I don’t put much stock in fortunes or horoscopes, I was entertained that we would manage to get such symbiotic messages.

Alas, it was not to be. But, I’m ultimately an optimist, and I’m also pretty confident – so I actually know some good news will be coming my way really soon, and if a slip of paper wants to echo that sentiment, excellent.

I realize I’m a slacker with my blog. I think part of me was surprised to discover people read it? I mean, I know my friends sometimes read it, my husband keeps up, family does here & there, but after several people told me randomly they follow my blog, I realized I started writing (and not writing) with the audience in mind, deciding how much I did (and usually didn’t) want to share. I guess that’s the thing about blogging, huh? You go out on the front porch & play your banjo, and you just don’t know who-all is listening. Most of me doesn’t really give a shit, but the part of me that’s been stepped on, blindsided and where the memories of the personal hurts reside? That part has held me back. It’s not about work, really, it’s not about politics – it’s just…. finding the balance of giving, taking the time to find the words, deciding if something’s REALLY that funny, or did you just have to be there?

But then I look over my shoulder, at even just the past few weeks, and I think, ok, haven’t blogged about the Caffeine Crawl. Haven’t told you about how I went to prison this summer (just visiting!), haven’t chortled at the misfortune of those who deserve it (well, ok, maybe that’s one of those things I shouldn’t share…too often.) Sometimes I want to use my blog to twist the knife, because if you’re really still reading it, I want you to know I think [your baby is ugly] [your husband thinks you’re nuts] [you’re the reason you’re unhappy] [man I can be a bitch]…. ha! So I edit myself. It’s the long pauses in my head, the ones that took me so long to recognize and hear, that say “Don’t say that out loud.” or “Maybe just let that go.” But typing those things out sure did make me laugh.

Maybe that’s all part of it, too. The Wo and I have been together over 11 years. We have thousands of inside jokes accumulated, and it’s one of the elements of our marriage that I treasure – we know how to make each other laugh, we know how to prank each other, and it’s never done with malice.

And it’s why, as we were standing side-by-side under the stars, singing “Faithfully” in a sea of 8,000 people, that when we got to the part in the song where he sings, “I get the joy of re-discovering you…” I started to shake. Wo was alarmed a bit, at first, thinking perhaps I was having an Emotional Outburst. But instead, I was shaking with laughter, thinking of our dog Tripper, who, whenever we pull out the couches and chairs and unearth the bones of days gone by, seizes on one with great gusto, and as only this dog can do, rockets it all the way to the back of his jaw and rolls it while biting at it, resulting in the stupidest dogface ever, combined with a crazy rattling sound of bone-hitting-teeth repeatedly. The first time it happened, James said something about them rediscovering the bones, and I immediately started singing, “I get the joy of rediscovering bone,” to that very Journey song. Because that’s what we do, song-association, all the time.

The girl can’t help it.

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

Faith

As I’ve noted, December isn’t the easiest of months to sail through. Between the busy-ness of work, the pressure of holidays, the sorrows and reminders of family and loss, on its own, the month is taxing. (Oh yeah – gotta pay property taxes and estimated taxes by the end of the month, too. Fun!)  Throw in a couple other unexpected experiences, and I’ve felt of late that my faith has been shaken.

Which is interesting. I don’t worship a conventional god, deity, in any sense of organized religion. So when my reflective mind tells me, “Our faith has been shaken,” and I know it’s referring to the trust and confidence in people and situations, sardonic self replies with, “What faith?” Of course, faith isn’t simply faith to God or god or whatever you want to call it. My faith is rooted in a set of behaviors and values, and when things run perpendicular to those holdings, I question not only myself, but the world around me. I think that in times of struggle, our faith rolls like the tides.  Betrayals of trust, seeing what was hidden before, whatever the provocation, you see the water recede from your feet, exposing the flotsam and the sand pulls away from under your feet. And as you stand there pondering all that is strewn before you, and wondering when your faith is ever going to return, it’s easy to think it might not come back. Or that it will take a long time to return, at the very least.

But in my solitude today, I realized something. Something that I hadn’t allowed myself to see. Because I spent the first 30 years of my life viewing every problem as something that was mine, and mine alone to solve and resolve. To some extent, that’s still true. In the end, we have to live with ourselves, the choices we make, and that sometimes there is no resolution or clear path. But. I forget to see the faith others have in me.  And while they want to take away my pain (and can’t) or want to resolve my own internal struggle (again, they can’t), that support and desire to make it better remains.  It surrounds me, like the faces of my friends last night, or the arms of my husband, or the emails from people across the expanse, checking in, valuing me, saying hello.

And when I realized the massive volume of that love and support today, I felt my own tightly-wound spool spin unfettered.  Air went deeper into my lungs. The path before me no longer strewn with pitfalls and hurdles, but just a path. One that I must walk, with my own feet, on my own – yet not alone.  Faith, restored.

My December

My december

While Thanksgiving was easier….. December has been harder.

I will get through it,
and it will be different,
Each season will leave a different blueprint image behind,
Like a monoprint
On the same piece of glass
All in shades of blue.
Overlapping.

The Zen of Homebuilding

The holidays have really never been my thing, over the years. Most of my adult memories of them are associated with either steeling myself to going home and battling it out with my parents, or figuring out a way not to go home, and feeling guilty about it. I remember one year, an impending snowstorm made the decision for me, and genuinely crying on the phone to my parents about having to spend Christmas alone, but secretly, inside and under the fountain of tears, I was relieved.  My return visits home made me the centerpiece of attention, something I normally enjoy, I’ll admit, but this was never in a charmed or charming way.

I shan’t relive those visits here, of course, moments from over the years still rise up and remind me of their sting. It’s taken a long, long time to feel at peace with my history, the family traditions that so many of us have.  Then, my father’s death became a new albatross this time of year, in part because it echoed his own history around the holidays: his mother’s own death before Christmas turned him into a very depressed, withdrawn person as that holiday approached. The family compromise was to decorate every-other year, as he hated everything about the holiday, arguing the ritual was idiotic, given our lack of religious faith. But really, inside, he was just trying to keep afloat in the Pit. The Pit of sadness and despair, where our grief and our pain pools and resides, ebbing and flowing, sometimes threatening to drown us completely. In the years following his death, I barely recall those gatherings myself, apart from the ones we hosted. In some ways, I replicated his own behavior; survival in the grips of absolute despair.

I’m not sure why this year feels different. Not quite as blue, not quite as shiny, either, just another day with fewer stores open, no mail. A day spent with a good friend watching Harry Potter on the big screen, in a theater not nearly as crowded as Christmas is, where I have sought company among my Jewish friends in the past. Traditions are hard to shake, especially the feeling that you are missing out somehow, that a piece of you is off-kilter, adrift, not in sync as Facebook status after Facebook status rolls by with reports of over-indulgence, new recipes, scrubbed shiny faces of children. Odd, how social media can unite and isolate all at the same time. But that history is not my history, your recipe for stuffing is far different than my own.

They say when you leave home, that you can never go home again. My father said those words to me after they moved me into the dorms to begin my freshman year of college. Stung, I felt like I had been set adrift somehow, the proverbial thump of landing after being kicked out of the nest. He then explained that while it was always my home, it would never be the same. My struggle to define myself, to grow up, to be independent, would all prevent my childhood home from feeling the same to me, and that I would have to find and establish a new home for myself. At that time, all of 17 years old, I thought I understood. But I can tell you now, from the wisdom of 25 more years, that I had no idea what home was or needed to be at that point in my life.

Tonight, I will enjoy some pasta with mushrooms and asparagus. Asparagus my husband bought me because he knows how much I love it. Asparagus he bought when he went to the grocery store for me, taking the list I’d written for myself, taking one thing off my list in a week that’s been so busy for being so short. In so many ways, he is my refuge, my comfort and strength. But I finally see that my home is within me. It is not defined by a day or a meal. And for this wisdom and perspective, I’m thankful, indeed.

Reflection…

Standing in line

People crowding around me.

We line up by letter of last name.

I wonder when they’ll figure out “I-O” always has the most people.

I wonder how long I’ll have to wait.

My feet hurt.

It’s been a long day.

Then.

I think of the photo.

Of the Iraqi woman.

Raising her ink-stained finger.

A rush of emotion fills me

And I realize.

Remember.

Remind myself.

Of all the people who went before me.

Who dared to raise their voices.

Who sat in protest.

Who died because they fought to change the system.

Who died to protect the basic tenets of our country.

And suddenly it didn’t seem so bad.

To wait in line.

To exercise my right.

To vote.

iraq-vote

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

Just Breathe

So, fair warning. Yes, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted, and yes, I’ve written about 30 different blog posts in my head. So many things I’m thinking about, so many things I’d like to say, some of which I shouldn’t, some of which I won’t. I had been thinking, OK, let’s get back in the swing of it, put the thoughts to keyboard, and had planned on writing something today.
Just not about this.
Fair warning again. It’s so gross.
I got some things done this morning, met a rep for lunch, and went to the grocery store. Got my car washed, filled up Mimi with gas, and headed home. I’ve got a lot of work to do this weekend, but I’m also looking forward to my evening out with knitting peeps and having some laughs. I decide to leave Mimi in the drive, as that will make it easier to get the groceries in, and after all, I’m heading back out later.

None of this is interesting, or of note, or even that different. I push open the door, the alarm warning goes off, the dogs greet me, and I walk through the breezeway and into the dining room. I am carrying as much as I can, and it’s funny how your brain multi-tasks: Make sure dogs don’t go out into the garage (as they could get out of the house or, more likely, attempt to eat all the dog food out of its bin.) Have a very short amount of time to get to the alarm, which we don’t have right by the door on purpose, so don’t dilly dally. Note that answering machine is blinking. And through all of this, Olfactory Gnome wakes up and starts sending up red flags. Alert! Alert! Something smells…… and something smells …… BAD.
Then I see it. Because now I’m across the dining room and about to enter the kitchen, only it is a mine field of dog diarrhea. One main source, but there was some travelling and then some tracking to boot. The smell is overwhelming and the alarm is still going. I think, “Do I tell the alarm company when they call that I just couldn’t cross a river of dog shit to turn it off? Would they accept that?” I think, no, I have to turn this off and so I do my own version of a Highland jig through our kitchen, screaming “BACK! BACK!” because Tripper is now eagerly following behind me and I all can think is we’re both expanding the cleaning area exponentially. I get the alarm turned off, the dog has retreated, and I repeat my jig back across the tile, breathing through my mouth.

Somewhere, in the recesses of my mind, Philosophical Gnome asks the question, “Which would you rather clean up? Dog vomit, or shit?” Well, duh, the answer is neither, but I’m going with vomit. Unless it’s just hardened overnight poop, which is unpleasant but nothing compared to the chore ahead of me. I get the rest of the groceries in the house, shut the garage door, and strip down to skivvies to handle the worst of it. (After all, nobody needs their clothing dragging through it to boot.) Paper towels everywhere, and copious amounts of plastic grocery bags. Yes, they may be evil but lord help me, this is why they’re on earth. I get out two trash bags. The Swiffer Wet Jet, a huge stack of mop pads, and I tackle it.

Partway through, I realized I sounded like Darth Vader trying to say the word “Halal.” (Hey, we don’t know if Darth needs his meats butchered according to Muslim law.) For to just breathe through one’s mouth is not enough – the stench was so horrific. I was trying to block my sinus passages with my tongue, which leads to very raspy, labored-sounding breathing. hhhhhhhaaaaaaaa….lllllaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllhhhhhhhhh. The anal-retentive chef from SNL has nothing on me. Everything is multiple-bagged, and then I mopped. And then everything went into another trash bag, while I still hhhhhhhhaaaaaaalllllaallllllllhhhh’ed around and took the trash to the garage. I’m dripping with sweat, I shoo the dogs outside while holding back dry heaves, and get the rest of the groceries put away. My phone’s ringing, I’m having a Silkwood Shower in the sink, I get a candle lit to put on the stove, and finally sit down in front of the fan to cool off.
Only to hear a huge clap of thunder roll overhead.
Dogs are hurried back into the house, and I throw my top back on, because remember? Freshly washed car sitting in the driveway. At this point? I can’t be bothered with pants. Yep. I did a SWAT-team-esque run to my car (only potentially being in-sight of someone driving by for all of 3 seconds) to get it put back into the garage before the heavens opened up.

Which, fifteen minutes later, they have yet to do. I didn’t need to crouchingly shuffle to my car half-dressed, but I did. And I didn’t really care if someone happened to drive by at that exact moment.

Basically? This is my life. I have a lot of good things in my life, and I’ve reflected a lot on the past year, over these past few weeks. Losing my job, almost a year ago, was really shitty. It was also really good. I haven’t done all the things I thought I’d do in that time, but I also haven’t gotten sick, had stupid office politics/turmoil with people clawing to climb over you or tear you down. Did you notice that first one? I haven’t gotten sick. No cold. No bronchitis. No walking pneumonia, for the first time in many, many years. I miss a couple of my clients, and I miss not worrying about money as much, but there’s really very little to miss about my former job except a couple of friends. The limbo, sometimes, gets to me. But I’m not all that different from most of the people out there. I noticed there’s a Facebook group making the rounds, “Be kinder than necessary, because everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle.” and it’s really true. These aren’t easy times. When stressed and/or depressed, it’s even easier to feel overwhelmed and hopeless. And alone. But we’re not. So many people are riding this same current, and so it’s those moments of connection, we need to make them and find them and enjoy them. Because when I was at the grocery store, the checker asked me to put the big sign on the end of her checkout stand, that said “THIS LANE CLOSED”. I did, making sure I put it right on the spot where the belt wouldn’t grab it. Helping someone out. So imagine my surprise, as I’m finishing up paying, I see this very old lady in my peripheral vision, standing next to me. I look down, and she’s got items on the belt. I actually did a double-take, like, WHa? I swear I put that sign there, nobody’s supposed to be behind me, and I look at the checker, who’s looking at me and has seen my whole WTF reaction. I raise one eyebrow at her. She starts giggling. My eyes shift over towards granny, then back to her. Oh yes, the sign was there. Granny just decided to say “Fuck it” to the sign and what was anyone going to do? I don’t have to say a word, my face says it all. The checker is shaking her head, she gets it too, and is shaking with laughter. I’m chuckling, still with an eyebrow hitting my hairline, and we went on from that moment. That moment, those are the moments I seek in life. When we can look at each other and just laugh because there’s no point in getting mad, there’s no issue of race, or religion, or age, or income, or anything, it’s just fucking funny.

And when the shit gets too high, just take off your pants, light a candle and breathe: Hhhhhhhaaaaaaaa….lllllaaaaaaaaaallllllllllllhhhhhhhhh.

It’s Painful, But So Is Inequality: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

You may or may not have heard about Target’s latest kerfuffle; basically they’ve donated $150k to a local PAC group that is promoting the election of an individual who doesn’t support equal rights/gay marriage.

I don’t like this. Not one bit.

I heard the report on NPR yesterday and was pissed at the lack of logic in their CEO’s statement (we support teh Gayz! we also support teh Crazy who doesn’t!). And, as much as it pains me, I’m not shopping there until they fix this. The beauty of the internet is that the more people who voice their anger and concerns, along with their boycott, the faster it can be resolved. There’s a Facebook group, and you can sign a pre-written petition at Change.org. I chose to write my own letter, because I love Target and I don’t want to have to shop somewhere else.  I hope that if enough people do this, Target can undo the damage they’ve done to their brand.

Email to Mark Schindele (Senior Vice President), Denise May (CEO Assistant) and Gregg Steinhafel (Chairman, President and CEO):

I have shopped at Target my entire adult life. It has always been my store of preference. I have a Target Visa. I purchase household items, makeup, food, entertainment and Target has always been my number-one destination to purchase those items. I lived in Minneapolis after college for over 5 years, and still carry with me the desire to read the sale flyer before all other things on Sunday. My loyalty to your brand, your store and your products has always been unwavering.
So it is with great regret that I must suspend shopping at Target until your position on the current support for Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Emmer is reversed. Your logic is flawed, and I quote from your statement on Monday: “Let me be very clear, Target’s support of the GLBT community is unwavering, and inclusiveness remains a core value of our company.” Mr. Steinhafel, when you support a candidate who does not support equal rights for the gay community, you do not support the GLBT community. Your money is working in direct opposition of that community.  You may be comfortable with that inconsistency, but I am not. Therefore, my money is not going to your company until you issue a retraction of your support for this candidate, and donate an equal sum ($150,000) to a local or national organization that seeks to further the fight for equality and civil rights for my gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered peers.

Regretfully,

Jennifer

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