July, 2007

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The tedious act of occupation

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

My blogging idol, Dooce, used to blog about her workplace. However, she has also warned, “BE YE NOT SO STUPID,” as this fatal move was the kiss of death for her career, careening her down the path of being fired, having her name slandered, and creating many enemies.

I guess I’ll take my chances.

I will take my chances because, for the most part, my job is great. I have no need to cut down my co-workers or blaspheme my boss, I enjoy many parts of what I do, and ultimately, I am quitting in less than 6 weeks. It’s just that today… today, oh people, today, I am sooooooooo bored.

Everyone is out of the office on vacation – everyone in this great, wide church of 180 employees. I sit in my cubicle, to-do list fulfilled, no emails rolling in, nothing of note happening on the Facebook, every article on The Onion read, the assurance that I am no one’s Missed Connection on Craigslist, and the sun shining away outside. My brain is filled with nothing, and yet all sorts of everything.

When the brain is not stimulated, it is amazing what sorts of imaginary scenarios come into play. For example, while sealing an envelope today, I thought, “I shouldn’t lick the seal – they’ll be able to trace my saliva.” Or when the paper was jammed in the copy machine, my experience as the Xerox Whisperer led me to send all sorts of soothing thoughts to the mammoth machine until it cooperated. As I began filing away an entire month’s worth of music, I imagined that I was in a Presbyterian Concentration Camp and my very life depended on the expedience of my filing abilities.

This, too, shall pass. Until then, I will try to keep from chopping my own hand off with the paper-cutter.

Mall hell

Friday, July 27th, 2007

The American shopping mall is my own personal version of a gauntlet, a house of horrors, a labyrinth of doom. How exactly one is supposed to successfully navigate her way from one end to the other is a concept that eludes me.

It is hard to believe that when I was a child, “going to the mall” was an idea that evoked such frenzied ecstasy that I would not be able to sleep the night before. Mesa Mall was in Grand Junction, CO, about an hour from my mall-less hometown of Montrose, and my I spent my elementary school years living from one “big city” trip to the next. I would scrape together my nickels and dimes to buy giant jawbreakers at Gumballs Candy Store, and The Baby-Sitter’s Club books at B. Dalton, and naturally, neon-haired trolls at KB Toys. I was convinced that Sbarro translated to “gourmet meal,” and that Orange Julius was the very elixir of life itself. Mesa Mall was one place that I was allowed to roam free, and then meet back up with my parents at the clock tower in the center at a certain time.

My, how things have changed.

I avoid the mall at all costs. To some of my friends, shopping is a sport, a recreational activity. For me, shopping is an irritating inconvenience, a necessary nuisance on par with pap smears. I find myself at Northgate Mall fairly frequently for various essentials, and each time, I am filled with more and more disdain.

Aside from the fact that Express has recently changed its target market from “professional” to “ho-bag,” I have a major annoyance with the American mall. Is it the fact that a single Cinnabon is 730 calories? The 12-year old boys gawking at the posters in Victoria’s Secret? The store Papaya… just in general?

No. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the number one reason that I hate the American mall: the vendors in the center.

These people are tenacious, despicable predators who refuse to let shoppers go about their business – oh no. They interfere with seemingly innocuous questions such as, “How are you doing today?” DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT. Once acknowledged with a smile or a “Fine, thanks,” they have already ensnared their prey, and will follow up with a “Would you like to switch to Sprint / try a Dell / have your hair straightened / subscribe to a magazine / have your child’s face airbrushed onto a throw pillow?” IF I DON’T LOOK AT THEM THEY DON’T EXIST IF I DON’T LOOK AT THEM THEY DON’T EXIST. Even when I pretend to talk on the phone while walking from one store to the next, they talk to me anyway.

Really, sir? You are really going to interrupt my incredibly important (fake) phone conversation to try to convince me that I should pierce my cartilage? Because I would rather rip my already existing earrings straight from the lobes.

Speaking from personal experience…

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

Let’s just say that you have not lived until Walt Wagner has dedicated “Lady in Red” to you from the Steinway grand at Canlis. I would know. :)

Paying up

Saturday, July 21st, 2007

Some mornings, we are greeted with sunshine and daisies and sugar and love. Other days, it’s – ding dong – flaming bag of crap on your doorstep.

For me, the latter comes most frequently in the form of unexpected bills… or in some cases, bills that I was perfectly aware of, thank you very much – I have just chosen to ignore you. Word to the wise: never park in a handicapped parking place overnight. And when you are surprised with a $190 ticket the next morning, never disregard it, surmising that since it happened in a different state, they will never find you.

THEY ALWAYS FIND YOU. And they double the fine.

This week, I was reminded of an outstanding bill from a doctor’s office in Kansas City. The day after Christmas, I was treated for strep throat by a physician who I was told was “in the network”; it turns out he wasn’t. Since that time, the deluge of bills sent to me has been overwhelming – and each reminder has left me feeling more and more discouraged. They aren’t forgetting. And they have even figured out my NEW address.

But last night, I had a radical thought: what if I paid up all of my old debts? Oh, not all of them – the student loan is going to take a decade or three. But the smaller ones? I can handle those. And wouldn’t I feel so free, so unencumbered, so virtuous?

Today, I sent $15 to the doctor in Kansas City, along with a letter explaining that I will continue chipping away at the bill a little bit at a time. I mailed off a check to a friend, paying up for a concert ticket that I used back at the beginning of June. And I paid off my credit card. Totally.

[pause: VICTORY DANCE!]

When the fall hits and I find myself an unemployed vagrant, I will take great comfort in knowing that I am relatively debt-free. Until then, here’s hoping for no more stinky surprises.

Time is ticking away

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

My friend Mark recently forwarded me a link to a fascinating article from the New York Times.

Hold it. Clarification. This article is more than fascinating – it is universe tilting, so insane that my brain feels like it’s been put into a blender and turned to “Frappe.” Read it first. And then continue reading on…

I had never heard of the Copernican formula, but now that I have, I wanted to put it to the test. I am a big fan of things being predictable, of knowing what is going to happen and when. I carry a red leather-bound calendar with me everywhere I go, and in it I keep not only my own schedule, but my friends’ and families’ plans. I am a fan of short-term survival and long-term goals. I keep a watchful eye on my finances, and am largely a very steady, responsible person. I love knowing the plan, and having the necessary data to project ahead into the future.

So I went ahead and shook the Magic 8 Ball that is the Copernican formula, and asked a very unpredictable question: “When am I going to die?”

Now, I am no math wizard, and I will spare you all of the painful mathematical details… mostly because they’re probably incorrect. BUT! According to my calculations, with 95% certainty, I am going to die sometime between this coming year, and 600 years from now.

Thank you, Dr. Gott, for providing me with a sure fate I can count on – at least with 95% accuracy.

Some truths

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

I’ve been learning some things as of late.

Thing #1:
Who someone else is does not increase or decrease my value at all.

The comparison game is brutal, and I have played it for too long, and in too many different areas of my life. By juxtaposing myself with other women, I invariably wind up feeling lame – because EVERYONE has SOMETHING better than me. One woman is more brilliant, and one woman is cuter, and one woman is hotter, and one woman is funnier, and one woman has the most dulcet voice I have ever heard. And I will never have legs like so-and-so, and what’s-her-name is just so mysterious.

My darling friend Greta is in the beginning stages of what is shaping up to be a very important book – a book on self-esteem, self-image, beauty, and the issues therein that face today’s women. She recently posed the question, “What would happen if all of the women in the world woke up every day feeling beautiful and confident and phenomenal?”

I’ll tell you what would happen: the world – the entire world – would change. I honestly believe this. If women were simply at rest with who they are, who they have been made to be, and did not feel the need to frantically try to change or achieve or be skinnier or sexier or more attractive, the world would be turned upside down. I don’t want to steal Greta’s thunder, because her book is going to rock your argyle socks off and you will definitely want to read it, but consider me a sibyl who is saying… it’s time to quit the comparison game.

Thing #2:
It is possible for hard times and heartbreak to result in a soft heart, rather than an embittered one.

I have had some severely sorrowful times in the last 6 months, and I would never wish that sort of pain on anyone. But also, you guys? I would not trade it for anything. It has become a part of me, and it is mine. I have experienced the absolute miracle of God continuing to instill in me a soft heart, even when all signs have pointed to, “Wall off, do not trust, become bitter, just be numb.”

This miracle culminated in the most surprising and welcomed way yesterday morning when I was on a walk. It warmed me from the top of my head to the tips of my toes, and reminded me of the strong heart beating in my chest. “What is this foreign feeling?” I thought.

Oh. Happiness.

Without a boyfriend, without a Mazda 3, without an iPhone, without financial success, without babies, without a puppy, without losing those last 10 lbs, without a shopping spree at Anthropologie, without a kitchen to renovate, hell – without any furniture or possessions AT ALL, I am happy.

And that is a marvelous feeling.

Word nerd

Friday, July 13th, 2007

I love words. I love them, I love them, I love them!!! I love learning new words, and incorporating them into every day language; I read the dictionary more than the Bible. I don’t recommend that to any of you… but it helps during Scrabble, which, by the way, is one of the few possessions I have left after The Great Purge.

So now, a couple of tidbits of joy, straight from me to you…

My latest favorite words:
falter
aplomb
prowess
pilgrim
ameliorate

The world’s greatest palindrome:
Go hang a salami, I’m a lasagna hog.

And very appropriate for today:
triskaidekaphobia \tris-ky-dek-uh-FOH-bee-uh\, noun:
A morbid fear of the number 13 or the date Friday the 13th.

Happy weekend!

Merry Christmas from the Clampetts

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

Bringing sexy back?

Wednesday, July 11th, 2007

In my last post, I used the word “sexy.” In reference to my laptop – really, people, there’s no denying it – but still. It got me thinking about the word, and what it means in our culture. I have a confession: I have never, ever heard the song “SexyBack” by Justin Timberlake. I’m so uncool; I wouldn’t know it if I heard it. Oh, I’ve heard references to it, I’ve followed the cultural tidal wave, but largely, I am outside the whole young and sexy scene.

“Sexy.” What an odd concept. Where do we learn what “sexy” means?

For me, I learned from television. First of all, there was that lady on “Miami Vice” who oh-so-cooly tipped her sunglasses during the opening credits. The last time I tried that move, I may or may not have poked myself in the eye. And that may or may not have been just this morning.

Secondly, there was Kelly Kapowski. I distinctly remember an episode of “Saved By the Bell” where she coyly held the tip of a pen between her teeth, flirting with Zack Morris. I, for one, never tried to emulate that move. On a plane. Next to a cute boy. When the pen broke open. Filling my mouth with ink. Causing me to panic. And swallow the ink. And – tada! – staining my teeth black.

No. That never happened.

See, “sexy” isn’t my forte. At Nordstrom, I have occasionally heard the booming voice of God: “Step away from the Karen Kane.” I don’t know why – I just somehow naturally find myself surrounded by… mom clothes. I found a very functional black bag at a yard sale, and one night, a friend said, “Even my mom hates Liz Claiborne.” Oh. So that’s not cool? Okay – I didn’t know.

Yesterday, I gave myself a pep talk and decided to give the juniors’ section at Nordstrom a try. Despite the awful music that plays there (“Lips of an Angel”? Whose idea was that? No, really – whose?), I triumphantly came away with FIVE NEW TOPS! I am so cool. And young. And hip.

But sexy? I don’t think I will ever feel comfortable attributing that label to myself. That term will forever be reserved for the computer, who will always deserve it more than me.

Clogged and poisoned

Saturday, July 7th, 2007

Ah, Maryland. Although I leave you today, I will forever carry you with me – in my arteries and in my bloodstream.

The eastern shore of Maryland is full of more fried food than I have ever seen. You can fry anything – fish! cheese! alligator! – and Marylandites do. At the quintessential potluck dinner after my grandmother’s funeral service yesterday, we dined on a steady stream of food, consisting primarily of lard and carbohydrates. After a mere 2 ½ days on the narrow peninsula, I cannot tell you how much I am craving some protein and vegetables. In a desperate attempt for some normalcy this morning, I ordered an Egg McMuffin and a fruit & yogurt parfait at McDonald’s… a place that I refuse to ever, ever eat. But when one is ripped out of her morning routine of “egg on toast, half a cup of yogurt with half a banana sliced into it, 2 cups of coffee,” desperate times call for desperate measures.

In addition to the limited food options, I could never live in Maryland for the bugs: huge, 2 inch flying creatures, humming in the trees at night. Last night, onboard a flat-bottomed boat in the swampy canals adjacent to the Chincoteague Bay, I was eaten alive. I have huge welts on every joint or crease (knees, elbows, ankles, Achilles tendon), streams of toxins spidering their way up my limbs in bright red curlicues.

The air was humid, the sun relentless, the speed traps plentiful, the customer service atrocious, the Wi-Fi nonexistent, the coffee revolting. Even the drinking water came from a place I am sure is called “The Bog of Eternal Stench.” I just wanted to shave my legs, but 7 adults and 2 kids were sharing one bathroom. I just wanted to go walk 10 miles, but the time was too short and the air too thick. I was struck with my own city snobbery, and I could not help but feel claustrophobic: trapped on this skinny strip of land with water on both sides, and tiny towns that just made me feel a little bit sad.

But my entire family was there, and since times like this are few and far between, we can be a little bit obsessed with each other. Amongst the beautiful fields and surrounded by the ocean, we honored the life of my Grandmom with a wonderful service, story-telling, laughing, singing, and celebrating. We are related to basically everyone in Snow Hill, Maryland, in some way or another, and I met cousins, aunts, and uncles that I never knew I had – good, kind, salt of the earth people. Through conversations with these distant relatives, I gained a deeper appreciation for the woman that Grandmom was, and the life that she lived not only as an old woman, but as a young girl. I think that she would have loved to be there for the celebration of her life, and to see her 4 great-grandsons playing together. Her sweet smile will be missed, but as the 4 Parsons girls sang at the service yesterday, “In the sweet by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore.”

I just hope it’s not the eastern shore of Maryland.