Tuesday, July 21, 2009
I finished my degree -- I can now add Bachelor of Science to my list of accomplishments. I am tickled to say I have a BS degree in communication. How ironic is that?
The degree was 10 years in the making. By the end of it, by my capstone class, I was sick of sitting in my room writing papers on crap I didn't care about for teachers I would never really see again. It's not that I didn't enjoy school. I did. I was just ... so tired of schoolwork. I had senioritis, bad.
Though it was hard to think because my brain was in overtaxed mode from all that work, I did wonder what I'd do with myself once school was over. I have applied for grad school, but I'm rethinking that option. I want more than a month off from school work. I'd like a semester off, at least. It's silly, really, for me to wonder what I'd do with all my "free time," though, considering my new path has already been paved with to-do Post-It notes.
Last month, I started a new business that has done so well it began paying for itself after the first month. My partner, Wife, and I opened a children's consignment boutique. It was a good idea. Our town didn't have one -- until another one opened up across town two weeks after we opened our doors-- thank you Murphy's Law. Still, we've had customers pour in, and most of them tell us how happy they are that we're there and how cool our store is. I think, competition or no, we'll do just fine.
My next project is to develop a non-profit parent resource association with Wife and one other partner. The three of us thought long and hard about this, and the commitment it would require. None of us have time to do it really, so everything we do for the non-profit has to be done on stolen time and scrounged dimes and whatever passion we have in our hearts for it. Though Wife and I seem to be doing well in our new business, we both still kept our day jobs for security reasons and have no intention of quitting any time soon. Still, given those limitations, we couldn't help but notice the lack of support for families in our area, and once we realized the opportunity we have to turn our store in to a "community" hub by having a non-profit side, we jumped. Over the next few months we'll be developing a parent magazine for our area, as well as a community resource database and information exchange system, and finding and writing grants to fund these and other projects we have in mind. It's not like I am doing anything else at the moment, right?
Anyway, this explains my absence on this blog, and now that my degree is complete and I have all this "free time" again, I should be able to get back to blogging. Here's to positive thinking!
Monday, April 06, 2009
All that is beside the point. The point is, that orangutan was damn funny. And his name was Clyde.
We have a Clyde in our family, too. He's a little smaller than the red-haired beast in the movie, but he moves the same way, in that bowl-legged cowboy monkey swagger, throwing his hands up in the air and pumping them this way and that. He grins the same too, wide lipped and cheesy, eyes squinty and nose crinkled, a face throwing joy into the world.
And it occurred to me, as it has before when my own children were toddlers, how much children resemble monkeys.
I've been told that having a pet monkey is much like having a toddler. They must wear a diaper if you care at all for the cleanliness of your carpet, they get into everything, they throw food, they scream and chatter, they play practical jokes, they give you great big sloppy kisses and they communicate through gestures and exaggerated movements of their eyeballs. The only difference is monkeys never grow up.
I miss my little monkeys. They're big as apes now, strong, broad-backed and intimidating. But they'll still throw their arms around me and lift me off the ground in their great big bonobo hugs. It's one of the great joys of motherhood, watching the evolution of life as it occurs before you.
Disclaimer: Now I understand such a base comparison might offend some mothers who prefer to think their little ones are much too classy, refined and evolved to be compared to monkeys (I can hear the clamor now). Bottom line is, I come from a long line of bonobos, and I'm damn proud of it. It's too bad more of us weren't proud of our humble beginnings -- we'd all be much more forgiving of others.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
One of those funny-the-things-you-remember memories of my girlhood is my mom's bottle of Oil of Olay sitting on the bathroom sink. It sat there throughout all the years I grew up. In my head, that bottle was the secret to my mom's beauty. All of the other girls' moms wore makeup. By sixth grade most of my friends wore makeup. But people commented on how beautiful my mother was, and she needed none of the equipment or supplies the other mothers used, so I assumed her secret was that bottle of Oil of Olay.
As a teen I came to love heavy eyeliner and mascara, but as an adult, I am a makeup minimalist. From my grandmother I learned to always carry a tube of lipstick in my purse -- to her, the tube is necessary to refresh the face of a lovely lady. To me, it reminds me that I'm a woman and I haul around all the crap a woman should haul around in her bag. Of course, since I never remember to wear lipstick, I've managed to haul around the same tube for the last decade or so.
And because my mother did it, I bought a bottle of Olay and put it on my bathroom counter. I used it religiously, believing that the moisturizer was helping my face to keep a youthful glow and a beautiful countenance, just like my mother's.
My mom came to visit me a few months ago. At one point she disappeared, and after a while I found her giggling in my bathroom. She was holding the bottle of Olay. "Do you use this?" she asked.
I nodded. "Sure. I use it because it's what you used."
She gave me a quizzical look. "Me? I would never buy something bourgeois like this! I was laughing at the fact that you would."
"Yeah, huh!" I countered. "You always had a bottle of Olay in the bathroom! I distinctly remember that!"
Mom giggled harder. "Oh that!" she said. "That was a free bottle they sent me in the mail. I never used it. That's why it sat there!"
I was tempted to toss that bottle of Olay after that. But something compelled me to keep it. All these years I thought the secret to my mother's beauty was in that bottle, and if I would just use it, I might be beautiful too. It was tough to learn that bottle was empty, a shell of beauty, but really, it's quite funny if you think about it. The secret was in the bottle after all: Like hers, my bottle now sits on the counter unused, a reminder that I don't need expensive creams and fragrances and formulas to be beautiful. I am my mother's daughter, after all.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Husband acquired a new puppy last November. Squambolina (don't ask), is a quirky, intelligent Olde English Bulldogge, a squat little gargoyle with a remarkably advanced sense of humor. She talks like a human: If you aren't paying attention, she'll yell at you. If you don't give her what she wants, she'll whine or cry like a dolphin. And if everyone else in the room is talking, she'll start gabbing with the rest of us.
Her smarts are what get me. She knows how hard she can play with each of us -- she's delicate with the toddler, a little rougher with Son#3, and she doesn't play with me hardly at all. She knows my lap is only allowed on special occasions (I'm just not an animal person, unfortunately).
She also knows she's Husband's dog. She sleeps at the foot of his bed. She follows him around from the moment he walks in the door. And she watches how Wife and I treat him, and remarkably tries to mimic us. Case in point: A few days ago, Husband complained about his aching feet. He was sitting in his recliner with his legs up, Squambo on his lap. I was standing over him, and in a rare moment of compassion on my part, I reached down and started massaging his feet (Husband will say or do just about anything to get someone to rub his feet -- doesn't matter who you are, either). I was allowed to do this for about 10 seconds before Squambo laid her 40 pounds of squatty dogness on the foot of the chair, pushing Husband's feet out of my reach. Then she started licking and petting his feet, herself. "Looks like Squambo showed me who gets to rub your feet," I said, and we laughed at her brazenness.
A couple nights later, Husband was laying on the floor and wrestling with the toddler. Baby Frog kept tilting Daddy's head back with his hand and planting big wet kisses on his face. After Baby Frog moved away, Squambo came over, tilted Husband's head back with her paw and licked his face. It was cute, of course, if not a little creepy at how quickly she learned the behavior just by watching the toddler do it a few times.
Yesterday, we realized that Squambo isn't just an innocent puppy dog with quick learning skills and territory issues with Husband. She's a gen-u-wine usurper. A couple of days ago, Wife became upset when she realized she had lost her wedding ring. At some point during the day, it had slipped off her finger. She spent a few hours searching for it, and went to bed dejected.
The next day, as Wife and I were getting ready for work, I heard yelling in their bedroom and rushed to see what had happened. Husband and Wife were laughing, yelling, almost in tears, and there sat Squambo on the bed, looking as smug as any mistress. "What happened?" I asked breathlessly.
Wife showed me her wedding ring.
"Where'd you find it?" I asked?
"On squambo's toe!" Hubby exclaimed.
At some point, our innocent, precious little bulldog found Wife's ring, and managed to fit it onto one of her toes. It was somewhat scuffed -- from being walked around on by the dog, we assume. We have no idea how long she'd had it, how long she'd been wearing it, or even how she got it on her foot.
What we do know is that we need to watch out for that little hussie. Who knows what she'll do next!?!
PS. The picture is not Squambo, but it looks remarkably a lot like her! I pulled the pic off of a "dogs for sale" site here.
Friday, February 27, 2009
Lesson #29: If you haven't found something strange during the day, it hasn't been much of a day. (John Wheeler)
This doesn't seem like a very big deal, except that it got me to thinking philosophically as I sat at a light on my normal route to my 9-to-5 job, something that honestly rarely ever happens anymore. I take this route every day: It winds through the little bit of pretty that exists in the city in which I live; I like this route better than any other, because I can watch the seasons turn in the colors of the leaves of the trees that line the street and in the blooming of the flowers in people's yards. I usually think about what my nine work hours will bring me, what tasks need to be done, what fires I will need to put out that day. I think about my home life and my children and who needs what medical appointment or chauffeuring service or shopping trip. I think about school and what assignments are due, what applications are still waiting to be filled out, what professor requires massaging.
But these aren't thoughts, they're task lists guiding the everyday grind that is my life. I mentally prepare my task list for the day and week ahead on my way to a workaday job that, unfortunately, has become burdensome and, well, normal.
So, when I saw that line of black and white Geek Squad cars, unlike any string of vehicles I have seen in a while, sitting at the intersection ahead of me, I smiled. And it got me to thinking.
I started thinking about patterns. We, humans, create patterns for ourselves. It's a sort of comfort mechanism, in that we recognize patterns and naturally gravitate toward them. I think this is why so many people are content to dedicate their lives and souls to 9-to-5 jobs. Those jobs allow us to wake up at the same time every morning, complete our morning preparation ritual (our patterned morning behavior), drive to work along the same route every day (or on one of two or three patterned routes we have established), work tasks all day that are the same tasks we've completed many times before in the same way, drive home along our same route, and complete our evening "wind-down" rituals, whatever those may be. Without variation, or with very minor variation, this is the way very many of us in America live. By a set and reliable pattern.
The thing is, we don't notice this pattern when we're caught up in it. It's just what we do. We wake up, go to work, come home, and that's that. But that's the nature of patterns.
Once we are familiar with a pattern, it's hard to notice it, or more importantly, the individual bits and pieces that make up the pattern, until and unless something breaks the pattern. Think about it. Imagine a herd of zebras in the savanna. How can you tell one zebra from another? If you stare at them long enough, they all blend into one striped, black and white pattern. Until you introduce an anomaly into the mix. Throw a solid golden lioness into the middle of that black and white herd, and suddenly the pattern becomes a flurry of individual zebras fleeing for their lives.
So, it was good for me to see the parade of Geek Squad cars. Though it might seem anticlimactic after all this philosophizing, that small anomaly on my way to work reminded me to take a look at the pattern of my life. It inspired me to consider whether I still find the pattern of my life beautiful or interesting.
Those answers I'll leave for another blog. But let's just say, I liked the change.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Merced is an often overlooked and underrated small city in the middle of the Central Valley, sometimes called "the other California." We're known for high crime rates, excessive gang violence, and some of the most overpriced housing and the highest unemployment rates in the country.
But there are things to love about this town. It's an hour's drive from arguably the most beautiful high country in the world. It has a colorful history dating back to the gold rush. The courthouse is one of the oldest historical buildings in the state. Majestic King palms line the streets of a quaint downtown where I hope to open a boutique this year. And the newest research university in the world opened its doors here a couple of years ago, which has flooded the area with much-needed intellectual stimulation and economic hope.
And today, Merced hosted the starting ceremony of the fourth leg of the AMGEN Tour of California, featuring Lance Armstrong. The racers circled our downtown twice this morning before heading down Bear Creek Drive (I live a couple blocks off this road), and up Highway 140, through my old hometown of Mariposa in the foothills, and on through the mountains and back down into the valley to end a little east of Fresno in a town called Clovis.
Normally, bicycle racing doesn't interest me. I ride a bike myself, and I know who Lance Armstrong is (who doesn't?), but other than that, I don't really follow the sport. Still, I was compelled to watch the race this morning since the street in front of my office is completely blocked off to traffic due to this race. So, at about a quarter to 11, I followed the crowd a couple blocks down the street to where the festivities were.
And I snapped a couple of pictures. The bikers whizzed by so quickly, there was no way to catch Armstrong on camera -- though, to be honest, I didn't care to pick him out of the crowd of racers anyway. On a bike, he's just another man racing a bunch of other men on bikes. As of this morning, he wasn't even winning the race. :) That didn't stop the crowd from cheering wildly when his name was announced on the loud speakers, though.
Participating in the event was more interesting than I thought it would be. Crowds have a vibe that you don't feel anywhere else. Excitement is palpable when there are thousands of people sharing it. When you get to feel that thrill and share something special with so many people, who cares what the event is anyway?
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
My youngest son had his first wrestling tournament last night; it was his first competition of any sort ever, which is somewhat strange considering he has been training in martial arts for three years. Husband and Brother in Law attended, along with Baby Frog. Frog, who has recently learned to wave bye-bye and high five, gave Son one of his new high fives before the match. Son seemed pumped and ready to go.
There were a few team members who went before him, and by few, I mean about 20. So we sat through an hour of matches, wondering when Son's turn would come, watching his poor Huskies team get slammed and pinned again and again and again.
When it was Son's turn -- finally -- on the mat, we all stood up and moved to the side of the room to get a better view. I pulled out the camera phone and snapped a quick picture. I almost hate taking pictures anymore because in the time it takes to snap one, you've missed what was going on. And that's exactly what happened here. In the time it took me to flip open the phone, press the button, and flip the phone closed, Son had been taken down, rolled onto his back and pinned.
It didn't seem to matter to him, though. He jumped up and got in the ready stance, anxious for more. Sadly, the ref shook his head and shooed him off the mat.
So, he got pinned in the first round. But that's all right. It was his first competition, like I said, his first time competing, his first time getting worked up and locking fists with his team before the big fight. He was amped when he came off the mat. His eyes were burning with leashed spirit, spirit that never got a chance to go anywhere.
That's all right though. That spirit will have a chance to unleash next time.
Um, about the pic, I was going to re-focus and zoom for another one, but I didn't have time. That old saying about blinking and missing things? Take it from me. It's true.
Thursday, February 05, 2009
I never dyed my hair, though I did cut it short. It was too curly for spikes so it just looked like a failed attempt to mimic Ronald McDonald's style. But I was a combat boot and short skirts kinda girl as a teen. And I did love thick, dark, messy eyeliner.
I was attracted to punk because of the anarchist message, the idea that you could be whoever you wanted, do whatever you wanted, despite the millions of messages we received each day through social pressures and mass media about what we should be like, what we should look like, what we should do in order to be "normal." Punk taught us that in reality there is no such thing as normal.
That is, until punk became normal.
At one point in the movie, Johnny Rotten sneers at the "rich kids" who started coming to his shows and says something like, "They started dressing alike, and we knew that was the end of punk." And sure enough, there were the clips of show-goers all gussied up in their spiked leather jackets and ripped jeans and safety pin collages.
I have made this same observation, though I attributed it to modern music. (I should have known Johnny Rotten thought of it first.) My kids listen to horrorcore, rap and punk, and when asked, will tell you it's because the music is anti-establishment, anti-normal, anti-group think. They say they like being "different" than the crowd. Then they will don their hatchetman necklaces and requisite Psychopathic Records clothing and Chucks so that other people on the street can be sure to recognize that they are a "Juggalo" too.
Some people fear that the Juggalos are a new gang. Well, they said that about punk, too, back in the '70s. The media called the Sex Pistols a new "cult." But those people who miscategorize kids who listen to unsavory music as cult members or gang members fail to understand. The kids are looking for a way to express their dissatisfaction with the adults in power. And since they feel powerless to make change on their own, the only way they can gain power is to do so through numbers. So they join a group, that in their minds, expresses and represents anti-power.
When you're young, you often fail to identify irony. And that's why my kids roll their eyes when I laugh at their silly clown get-ups and tell them to pull their pants up.
I wonder if they would laugh at me if I were to pick them up from school wearing combat boots and my face smeared with eyeliner with Johnny Rotten screaming, "Mommy! I'm not an animal!" or "I am an anti-Christ! I am an anarchist!" through my Chevy's speakers.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Well, this particular post is about neither of those things.
This particular post is a shout out to Mickeys fine malt liquor. It is a tradition in our house to have fried chicken and malt liquor on the third Monday of January. We continued the tradition last Monday. And since Mickeys is cheap and it's sold in the mini-mart around the corner, Mickeys and my house have become fairly well acquainted as of late.
You'd think that a nice girl like me wouldn't stoop to befriending such a base Irishman. But personally, I think Mickeys has a bad rap. He's actually quite a riot.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I gave them this assignment three weeks ago with a deadline of two weeks ago. I pushed the deadline up for them by a week since it seemed they weren't going to put the joint down and get me the numbers I needed. Now, I have a hard deadline of tomorrow by 3 p.m., and it looks like I'm going to have to do the financial research myself.
In the big picture, it's no big deal. If you want a thing, you've got to work for it.
I think this is my first real test. Do I really want to do this? Do I really want to be the one who carries all the business details on my back alone?
Reflecting on those questions, the answer becomes clear. It's a good idea. It'll work. It'll make money. And I want to do it.
I simply need to remember that I can't rely on anyone else to do it for me. That's not such a bad lesson after all.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Unfortunately this is a modern mindset of mine. When I was younger, I blundered through life, breaking hearts and not paying attention. Most days, I try not to think what this has cost me.
This weekend I spent time with my best friend, a man I've known forever, someone I love dearly. When I was 14, I counted red sports cars as a game. I told myself when I reached 50 cars, the next boy I saw would be my true love. This man was the one I saw. He was my true love.
I didn't believe it. We were family friends, we'd basically grown up together, he was older than me and he annoyed me and intimidated me more than anything. By the time I was 20, I'd warmed up to him. We had a brief moment of "what ifs" between us then -- he was between relationships, and I was looking for a way out of the one I had. We entertained the thought that he and I might make it, that we might be lovers and friends and not ruin either. But I didn't trust it could happen. I was still young, still intimidated by the verocity of my emotions, by my distrust that I could ever be happy, by my distrust in myself to do anything right.
And so, the greatest mistake of my life was to break his heart and walk away.
The consequences of that one decision have weighed heavily on me for so many years. It changed my life, set me on a course that propelled me into the far reaches of the cold hard nothingness of empty loneliness, it affected my children in more ways than I can write here, it destroyed my chance of ever having a "normal" relationship with anyone ever again. My heart collapses into itself whenever I think about it.
We remained friends throughout the years. He periodically came into my life, just when I would settle down and start to grow comfortable with whatever compromise I had recently made, and he would shake things up. He would show me what an illusion my current happiness was because he wasn't there with me.
I spoke to him about all this, this weekend. And he told me he did that on purpose, that he thought of me throughout all those years, that he wanted me to regret sending him away and periodically popped up just to remind me what I'd given up.
Though we are best friends now, and this is usually ancient history for us now that we've forged a new relationship that works well for us, the knowledge that I spent so many years miserable because of that one mistake makes me almost sick to think about. Usually I turn off all thoughts of my disappointing past and try to only look toward the future, one I can shape with more forethought and conscientiousness. One that involves no heartbreak for myself or anyone I love.
If only I'd been so thoughtful and so brave all those years ago ...
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
This list was taken from an anonymous forwarded email. I post it here for its anthropological value. Enjoy.
NINE WORDS WOMEN USE
(1) Fine: This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.
(2) Five Minutes: If she is getting dressed, this means a half an hour. Five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given five more minutes to watch the game before helping around the house.
(3) Nothing: This is the calm before the storm. This means something, and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with nothing usually end in fine.
(4) Go Ahead: This is a dare, not permission. Don't Do It!
(5) Loud Sigh: This is actually a word, but is a non-verbal statement often misunderstood by men. A loud sigh means she thinks you are an idiot and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing with you about nothing. (Refer back to # 3 for the meaning of nothing.)
(6) That's Okay: This is one of the most dangerous statements a women can make to a man. That's okay means she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.
(7) Thanks: A woman is thanking you, do not question, or faint. Just say you're welcome. (I want to add in a clause here - This is true, unless she says 'Thanks a lot' - that is PURE sarcasm and she is not thanking you at all. DO NOT say 'you're welcome’. That will bring on a 'whatever').
(8) Whatever: Is a woman's way of saying F-- YOU!
(9) Don't worry about it, I got it: Another dangerous statement, meaning this is something that a woman has told a man to do several times, but is now doing it herself. This will later result in a man asking 'What's wrong?' For the woman's response refer to # 3.
Friday, January 09, 2009
Caller ID: HOME
My 11-year-old son: Hello. Can I please speak to Steve?
Me: Steve? My boss?
Me: Why do you want to talk to Steve?
Son: Because I want to ask him if he has any work for me.
Me: Work? You want to work for my boss?
Son: Yeah. I want to earn some money.
Me: You want a job? You mean like how you stacked wood for our neighbor and she gave you money?
Son: Yeah. So, can I talk to Steve?
Me: No, Steve's not here, but I'll talk to him for you on Monday. You know you could do some chores and I'll pay you. Like, you could vacuum and pick up the dog poop in the yard.
Son: Can I go ask the neighbors if they have any work for me?
Me: No, I don't think you should be out there banging on neighbors' doors alone.
Son: Well, I got to earn some money. I'm broke.
Me: Well, how about you do some chores. I'll pay you a dollar a chore.
Son: Isn't there any other way I can earn some money besides doing chores?
Son: Well, then can I have a raise?
Thursday, January 08, 2009
I could say it wasn't my idea, and at the inception, it wasn't, but I just happened to have experience in this sort of thing. My two bosses happened to be talking about needing to lose weight and I happened to hear them and I happened to butt in and say, "Hey, we should have a Biggest Loser contest!"
I got the idea from a cool little paper I used to write for. Three years ago we had an eerily similar contest there, about which I wrote a little blog. It was great fun. I lost around 12 pounds in the contest as I recall.
So, in my new office, we set up the rules in the same vein as the last contest. We weigh in during staff meetings. We track each other's progress (gains and losses) on a white board in a public room. We try to undermine one another with mockery and temptation (one of my bosses' birthday cake sits mostly uneaten in the fridge as I write this).
I can't believe I'm blogging about this again!
Three years ago, I weighed 172 in January, the most I'd ever weighed and the same weight I'd clocked in the hospital before I gave birth to one of my sons. After the contest I was down to around 160, and a stressful divorce and move cross country with the kids helped me to pare down some more. I took a summer off and spent two or three hours a day at the gym, until I reached my lowest weight -- 145 -- around December of that year. Though that might still sound heavy to some people, at 145 I wear a size 6, have cleavers for cheek bones and look sickly. 150 is actually my ideal weight.
A year and a half ago I began a full-time load to finish my undergrad degree, and in that time I have put on 25 pounds. You tack on the fact that I adopted an unnatural love of cheap and easy fast food and it's no wonder I am not my blithe self anymore.
It is truly unfortunate. I literally worked my ass off to lose that weight. I turn my back for one second and it all comes piling back on.
So, it's a Biggest Loser contest for me once again. I didn't win the money pot last time, and I might not win again, but it certainly helped get me started.
So here's to another good beginning.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
And before you know it, the depression is lifted.
Unfortunately it usually takes a few days ... ahem ... sometimes, a couple of weeks ... to remember this simple trick.
Lately one of my roommates, who is usually one of my emotional rocks, the one who taught me how to chortle, has become morosely depressed. At first, I spent days catering to his whims and needs, alternating play between clown and nurse, in an attempt to cheer him up.
The end result?
He's still depressed.
He's not talking to me.
I got mad.
Now I'm depressed.
Luckily, this all happened in the space of the last 24 hours and I've recognized it early enough to start smiling ... now.
One more time.