Filed under: amazing, anxiety, awesome!, awkward, Boss Lady, Boss Man, business is business, disapproving boss, doubts, first world problems, fresh ideas!, gratitude, ideas, interviews, learning, life, luck, make it work, meeting hell, monkey mind, Opinions, optimism, overwhelmed, performance reviews, play through, pondering, show and tell, stress, stubborn, why, woo hoo!, work, worried, yes boss, zen
You wanna cheat a little? I’ll help you. C’mon, over here.
You didn’t get this from me but…
Yesterday in the SFGate I read an article that gave examples of “oddball” interview questions asked by Silicon Valley companies.
As I read through them, I found them quirky (like most Silicon Valley companies) but not really that all that odd.
Given that I’ve got twenty years of being a manger under my belt and for most of the twenty years I have been recruiting in one form or another, I actually was pretty on board with many of these questions.
For the past two years at my current employer I have consistently either been interviewing for myself or sitting on interview panels. I’ve thought a lot about the all truly terrible candidates I’ve seen and how I wanted to take each of them aside for some coaching.
So many good people just can’t find their way around a curveball interview question and that can really hinder their chances at getting hired.
When I started reading these so called “oddball” questions in the article, I thought about how I would answer them (or I would want a candidate to answer).
From there I decided to make a cheat sheet. Think of this as my free interview coaching and mentoring for the people out there hustling and trying to get a job. We all deserve to earn a paycheck and sometimes that barrier seems unreasonably high.
I have shown the question exactly as stated in the article and in parenthesis is the job role that this question applied to.
Here we go:
1) Describe the color yellow to somebody who is blind? (flight attendant)
First off, as a longtime interviewer, I think this is a genuinely lame question. You are just trying to throw the candidate off their game. Perhaps that is the goal.
However, since this applies to a flight attendant, I believe the interviewer is trying to see how you can apply complex concepts (such as, oh I don’t know, FAA regulations) to someone with no frame of reference for those concepts (such as any clueless airline passenger).
Here’s how I would answer it:
Since a blind person does not have visual cues to reference I would want to reference their other senses. When I think of yellow in other sensory terms, I might, for example, ask the person how it feels when they are outdoors and feel the sun on their face, because that is how yellow feels to me. Or ask them to think of how a freshly cut lemon smells because that also invokes the color yellow for me.
2) What is your favorite 90’s jam? (customer care)
As this is a customer care role, they are looking to see how relatable you are. Instead of trying to impress the interview panel with your knowledge of obscure indie rock, I suggest going a bit mainstream with an edge to show you have some verve but you can also relate to the common person.
Here’s how I would answer it:
There are so many groundbreaking artists from the 90’s but I have to go back to the band that for me really defines the 90’s music, and that is Nirvana. Kurt Cobain’s complex musical genius stands up today. I can’t help but crank up “Smells Like Teen Spirit” every time I hear it, even if it’s just playing in Muzak form on the elevator.
3) If you were asked to unload a 747 full of jellybeans, what would you do? (IT support manager)
The interviewer is trying to get at the candidate’s thought process for solving big problems. I suggest giving them a pretty detailed answer to show how you assess the root cause of the issue and put a plan in place to resolve the problem.
This is one area where A LOT of candidates fail, in my opinion. Almost all interviewers ask some form of this question, i.e. show me how you solve a problem. Most candidates are unable to show me how they get from point A to point B to final completion. It drives me batty.
Here’s how I would answer:
First I would need to assess in what form the jellybeans were loaded onto the 747. Are they neatly wrapped in boxes? Then I would assess how many and what size boxes and then form the appropriate team to efficiently load the boxes onto pallets and schedule forklifts to quickly remove them from the plane then work with logistics to get them delivered to their proper location or locations.
If the jellybeans are loose on the plane, that is a much bigger problem. First I’d have to assess if they are piled up to the doors and how I can crack open that door without losing a lot of the cargo. I’d consult with experts in the jellybean packaging field to understand how to load out the jellybeans into boxes or other appropriate packaging and then obtain that packaging and other equipment that might be needed. I would then form the work team to first package the jelly beans then find the right crew to offload the packaging onto pallets and then forklifts to allow logistics to them move them their final destination.
4) What did you have for breakfast? (retail clothing sales associate)
This question is just intended to get a candidate out of the rote answer and response mode. Fine. Kind of a lame way to get there if you ask me, but okay.
How I would answer:
This morning I had a homemade breakfast burrito that included eggs, non-dairy cheese since I am lactose intolerant, green chile and some pinto beans. I like a nice mix of protein and carbs to start my day. And I washed all of that down with a nice soy latte. Gives me a good base for the day’s energy requirements without pesky drops in blood sugar.
5) What would you do if you were the one survivor in a plane crash? (Trust and Safety investigator)
Okay, given the job role being considered as a safety investigator, I don’t really consider this one an “oddball” question at all. This is right in their wheelhouse and I think anyone with these skills applying for this job would have a solid answer.
Here’s how I would answer it but I may be off base given the job function where I have no experience in this function:
Immediately following the incident I would quickly determine that I truly was the only survivor and would make sure I gave aid to any other passengers who may still be alive. If I am genuinely the only person alive, then I would stop and assess the situation. First I would look to see if the communication system of the plane still works. Am I able to contact someone for assistance? Then I’d also look for flares or other ways to flag down help.
From there I would study the surroundings. Where am I? What are the prevailing conditions, i.e. am I in the water? Am I in the snow? Is it very hot or cold? I would begin by constructing some form of shelter against the elements. Then I would search the plane’s remnants for food and water and collect those together in a single location. I would also begin looking for a source of heat. Then I would need to consider the potential dangers and find ways to prepare. For example, am I in the woods and is there potential for bears or wolves to attack? Then I must take proper precautions with my food and water and maybe a means of defense if needed.
(this response could really go on and on in my opinion, but you get the idea where I’m going)
6) If you woke up and had 2,000 emails and could only answer 300 of them, how would you choose which ones to answer? (Rotation program candidate)
This is just another form of “here’s a problem, show me how you would resolve it”
Here’s how I would answer:
I’d take a first run through the email to see if any of the subject lines list “RUSH” or “URGENT” and attend to those first looking to be sure there was not a long chain of conversation on the issue and if it was already solved.
Then I would sort the email to look for groups of long chains of email conversations and then review them based on subject line to determine which take priority then only open the very last item in the conversation chain, as that will contain all of the prior information. If that last email resolves the problem then I’d move on to the next chain of email.
7) What’s your favorite Disney princess? (fast food crew member)
I personally balked hard at this question, I think it’s not really a suitable question, but again, designed to throw the candidate off their game to see how they think on their feet.
Here’s how I would answer:
While every Disney princess has their merits and detractions, I think I would say my favorite is Ariel from the Little Mermaid. Why? Because for better or worse, she had a clearly defined goal and a clearly defined methodology for obtaining that goal. While I may or may not completely agree with how she went about it, I respect that she got results, i.e. marrying the Prince.
8) Who would win a fight between Spiderman and Batman? (medical simulationist)
This is another of those not really oddball questions given the job role. In this scenario they are genuinely looking for the candidate to create a simulation and then run it through.
I have to admit, this one is going to be a bit hard for me as I’m not that well versed in the superheroes, but here’s my shot at it.
Here’s how I would answer:
What we’re looking at here are people with different sets of skills and tools at their disposal. Spiderman’s talents are a bit more organic, he’s strong, he moves well and he’s got that webbing that he can use very well to his advantage.
Batman comes fully loaded with a lot of sophisticated gadgets that he can employ at his disposal.
So who would win the fight? Well, that’s tough to say, but given the backstory and maturity of the superheroes, I tend to lean toward Batman. He’s older and more experienced and very savvy about the world. Spiderman is a bit younger and more impetuous. He has moments of brilliance but also has made some big mistakes.
Also, Batman has very little to lose while Spiderman has more family and a girlfriend to fight for. Given the battles, usually the one that has nothing to lose will fight the hardest.
9) How many people flew out of Chicago last year? (software engineer)
Ugh. What a question. What the interviewer is looking for is not that you can quote the number off of the top of your head but how you will go about getting to the number. Again, solve a problem and show me how you’ll do it.
Here’s how I would answer:
Well, since I don’t retain this sort of data off the top of my head I cannot give you an exact answer, but let me tell you how I would go about gathering that information. It could be as simple as a Google search of the question, but I’d want to be sure that in addition to O’Hare and Midway that I am accounting for all small regional airports and airlines.
If a simple Google search could not net me the answer then I’d expand my search. I am sure that there are many statistical bureaus (often used by marketing agencies) that have this kind of information readily available either for free or at low cost.
If that doesn’t work I would then try contacting FAA personnel to find the answer. I suspect that the FAA would be curious as to why I’m asking the question, so I’d want to be able to define the use of this data and make any assurance that I’d keep data confidential if needed.
As a last resort, I would compile a list of every airport in Chicago and then call each airport directly to request the information.
10) If you had a machine that produced $100 a day for life, what would you be willing to pay for it today? (research analyst)
Another question that doesn’t seem so oddball when you look at what job role is being recruited. This one is pretty hard to answer off the top of my head. And another example of here’s a problem, show me how you’d solve it.
Here’s how I would answer:
This machine would provide me an extra $36,500 a year. I would then want to consult actuarial tables to understand my personal life expectancy and then run a value analysis of that $36,000 over the remaining years of my life to understand the total present value in today’s dollars.
Then because I am a negotiator I would set a range of 15% to 30% off of that number because I think that while the machine has value, there is also upkeep and maintenance to consider and also I just like to get a deal. I’d also investigate why the person selling the machine would get want to get rid of it and bake that into my negotiation plan.
(Probably not the right answer for the job role but that’s how I’d play it. If they wanted me to actually quote a number I’d ask for a few moments and some scratch paper to work it out.)
11) If you were a Muppet, which would you be? (Executive support)
This is kind of a cute and fun question. I like it and wonder if I can add it to our list of questions for candidates. This gives a moment of lightness and shows how the candidate thinks on their feet.
Here’s how I would answer:
This is a tough question because each Muppet has their advantages. I like Fozzie Bear because he’s funny and very kind and incredibly supportive of Kermit through trials and tribulations. I like Gonzo because he’s a risk taker and doesn’t get discouraged when he fails. But ultimately I’d like to be Kermit, he’s talented, smart, kind and he knows how to keep that show running show even when chickens are flying out of cannons and monsters are eating the guest host.
12) Why is the earth round? (software engineer)
This must be an engineering question because this one stopped me in my tracks. That will really throw a candidate off their game.
Here’s how I’d answer.
The earth isn’t actually round, it’s more of an elliptical shape.
If they follow up with why is the earth an elliptical shape I’d take what tiny bit of knowledge I have and say it’s because of gravity. For example, when I put a magnet in a pile of iron shavings it will pull them into a circular shape. The oval shape is easiest to form for nature to build and highly aerodynamic as earth hurtles through space.
(starting to drift into making things up at this point! Time to wrap up this answer.)
13) How many gas stations are there in America? (Senior financial analyst)
This one again seems to fit the job role they are recruiting for. They don’t expect you to know the number but to explain how you’d get there.
My answer is going to be very similar to the number of people flying out of Chicago question.
Here’s how I would answer:
Well, since I don’t retain this sort of data off the top of my head I cannot give you an exact answer, but let me tell you how I would go about gathering that information. It could be as simple as a Google search of the question, but I would want to be sure that I understand that all gas stations are included in the data set. Do we include Hawaii and Alaska or just continental America? Do we include the US territories?
If a simple Google search could not net me the answer then I’d expand my search. I am sure that there are many statistical bureaus (often used by marketing agencies) that have this kind of information readily available either for free or at low cost.
If that doesn’t work I would then determine if there is a government oversight agencies for all gas stations that may have this information available.
I would also want to ask the person requesting this information if they need a precise answer or a ballpark. That makes a significant difference in the level of effort to get this data.
14) You have a 1 mile long x 1 mile wide private island you wish to turn into a resort. A plane requires a 2 mile long runway to take off. What do you do? (QA analyst for a gaming company)
Another question that seems oddball until you see the job function. A good QA person should know how to look at a problem and look at a lot of possible solutions. I am not a QA person but I can take a good run at this question.
Here’s how I would answer:
Simple, I’d see about getting a seaplane to transport guests to and from the island. No terrestrial runway is necessary.
If the seaplane is not feasible, then I’d consult with the proper experts in building sturdy runways over water (many exist, the San Francisco airport is but one example). I’d need engineers to assess the ground under the water to see if it can support the pylons. And I’d need to understand the cost to build such a runway and run through my business plan to see if the expected income from the resort could cover the enormous debt outlay to build the runway. I’d also check with the airlines to see if they would help subsidize some of the costs to build the runway.
15) Given 25 swimmers and a pool with five lanes, what is the minimum number of heats needed to determine the three fastest swimmers in the group? (data scientist candidate)
I’d suspect a data scientist would rattle the answer off the top of their head. I’m just a lowly MBA so I would ask if they want the exact answer or understand my thought process on how I’d get to the answer. Assuming they want a number I’d ask for a few moments and some scratch paper to figure it out.
Here’s my answer and I’m pretty sure it’s wrong:
5. I’d run each heat with a swimmer in every lane, which would take five heats to get all 25 through. I’d time the heats and then I’d know who was fastest. If I’m not timing the heats then I’d need a sixth heat for all of the first finishers from the beginning five heats.
16) How much do you charge to wash every window in Seattle? (sales operations candidate)
Okay, this is a really long list of questions and I’m getting tired and a little cheeky at this point. I’d probably snap off something like “enough to cover costs and make a reasonable profit” but what I do know is that, like many of these questions, they are looking at how the candidates will show how they get the information.
Here’s how I would answer:
First I would need to do some data mining. How many windows are there, how much is my cost per window, how many windows can be washed in a day, how many crew members do I need per buildings and how fast does the window washing need to be completed? Then I would run some data modeling to understand my costs and establish my projected profit margin on top of costs.
Then knowing that any customer wants to negotiate, I would work to understand where my gives and takes are. Can I cut costs back in some area (i.e. smaller crews that would take longer to complete)? I would pad my profit margin going in with the original quote knowing I will give some of that up.
I’d also look to see if any or all of the work can be subcontracted out if window washing is not my firm’s core competency.
Okay, I can’t believe I was actually inspired to answer all sixteen of these questions, but I was. Mild OCD can be a beautiful thing sometimes.
But to be honest, if this even helps one person get their thinking straight so they can go in and knock out an interview, than I have done a good thing.
I actually had fun with these questions. I suppose I like a good (quirky) challenge.
I’m curious if anyone out there has better ideas for some of these questions. I’d love to hear your take!
Filed under: addictions, awesome!, awkward, Boss Lady, business is business, candy, crazy, disapproving boss, first world problems, good eats, iPhone, iPhoneography, kerfuffle, latent childhood, life, make it work, objectophilia, Opinions, play through, polite, pondering, show and tell, silly, sugar, work, yes boss
It’s been said before that I’m a little “different” from your average employee. The streetcar of my brain runs a little off the beaten path. I use words and phrases in unusual ways. Occasionally only words in Spanish can convey my sense of the sentiment and my coworkers don’t always understand that.
With each job I’ve had in my life and each place I work, there always seems to be a breaking in period. A timeframe whereby things evolve from “what did she just say?” to “oh, that’s just Karen.”
I think today was turning point at my current place of employment. I just celebrated two years here and they are finally coming around to my unique way of looking at the world.
This group was a little more resistant than my last few employers, but I finally succeeded in breaking them down.
Here’s how I know. Below is a real and genuine account of events that happened just moments ago:
Scene: The office breakroom. Several of my rock star employees and I are gathered around the new vending machine. The selections are different from what the old machine offered and we are discussing the merits of each.
At the moment where we tune into the scene, my employees and I are quite racously discussing the positives and negatives of sour gummy worms. And we are laughing…a lot (we tend to do that on my team).
A one level up management-type person (not my direct boss, but a bossish kind of person) and a rather serious sort walks into the room. My employees all go still and their eyes drop.
She says, “What are you all doing in here?”
Without missing a heartbeat I match her serious tone and reply, “We’re negotiating with the vending machine.”
She pauses. Says, “Oh.” Then she spins around and walks out. I’m pretty sure she had a reason to come into the breakroom but I derailed her mental train. It was awesome.
Oh yeah, I’m going to be running this place soon. That kind of think of your feet, can-do attitude going to take me far.
Also, it’s important to know that the sour gummy worms were delicious.
That there is my photo, Copyrighted by me in the year of 2015. © Karen Fayeth. Don’t steal, though I don’t know why you’d want to rip off a photo of an empty gummy worm bag. If you do want to appropriate my work, do pay attention to the Creative Commons license in the far right corner of this page. Taken with a iPhone6 and the Camera+ app.
Filed under: amazing, automobiles, awesome!, awkward, Be Better!, beautiful, cackle, California, commuting, crazy, don't want!, doubts, game face, kerfuffle, laffs, latent childhood, life, make it work, miscellany, obviously, Opinions, play through, pondering, scared, show and tell, sunshine, The More You Know..., work, worried, yucky
That moment when you are sitting at stoplight as a pedestrian crosses with the light in front of your headlights and you notice that the morning sun is giving this gentleman a solid backlighting. As he is directly in front of your view, you notice that the hairs that extend well past his nostrils are beautifully set to glowing by the golden California sun.
And you think to yourself, “Oh wow. That’s…well that’s something.” And you laugh alone in your car because why not. You can sing in there so why can’t you cackle like a dyspeptic hen in there?
And as you turn the corner and head into the parking garage you think to yourself. “Don’t laugh, sparky. There but for the grace of a nose hair trimmer go you.”
So then you surreptitiously check both barrels of your own breathing device to see if the protective filtering is tidy and in place.
And you realize that, you know, you could use a little trim yourself.
So you sit in the car and in the morning light of a California sunrise and you use the scissors from your small Swiss Army Knife to give a quick clip, just enough to let your sanity rest during the day that lies ahead. Because no one should have to worry all day long about the nostril streamers that suddenly seem to grow with less control than they once did.
And when done, you feel both satisfied and mildly crazy and kind of blind because why didn’t you notice a trim was in order when you looked at your tired face in the mirror this morning?
But alas, you did not. Then you vow to take care of this problem more fully later tonight. And you should probably put on your reading glasses and give the eyebrows a check too because I bet those are out of control.
And then you get out of your car and walk into the office and enter this crazy day in a crazy way with crazy hair growing in crazy places.
Did you ever have a day like that? Yeah, um, me neither.
Image found here.
Filed under: air, anxiety, art, artist, awesome!, awkward, Be Better!, Boss Lady, business is business, cha-cha-changes, changing seasons, choices, cranky, da blues, daydreaming, disapproving boss, don't want!, doubts, drama, first world problems, game face, hellidays, I ain't as good as I once was, ideas, kerfuffle, latent childhood, lazy, learning, life, love and marriage, make it work, meeting hell, melancholy, metaphorically speaking, Opinions, overwhelmed, play through, sigh, stress, The Good Man, whining, work, worried, yes boss
Welcome to the sixth day of the year 2015 but only my second day back at the ol’ place of work.
While technically the first of January is the first day of the New Year, it doesn’t really feel like the New Year has begun until I go back to work, i.e. get back into the “real world.”
My employer is ever so kind in that they shut down operations from December 24 through January 1. That means with a little planning and a little curation of vacation hours, I can eek out full two glorious weeks away from the office.
I look forward to this two-week break from work all year long.
All. Year. Long.
In my career, I’ve rarely taken two weeks of regular vacation time, so these two weeks at the end of the year feel beautifully indulgent.
My first priority for the break time is to sleep. Nap. Sleep more. Rest and then do nothing too taxing on brain and body. That usually lasts about three days then I’m rested and raring to go.
The rest of the break time is spent with family, exploring the world with The Good Man, cleaning up my home office/studio and working on creative projects.
I find I’m able to fully and completely forget about work and live the dream of a creative life. Sleep until my body is rested, rise and work on creative projects, fill my head with creative inspiration and plan forward for the projects I want to work on in the coming year.
It’s a beautiful place to be, a place I’d live all year round if those darn lottery numbers would just break my way. It feels solid and satisfying and clean and pure.
And then sixteen days of being my own boss pass too quickly and Monday, January 5 arrives. I have to figure out how to get back into the flow of “regular” life. I have to metaphorically merge into speeding traffic with no running room and only two of four cylinders in working order.
Yesterday was that day. Yesterday I woke up with the help of an alarm clock (bleah, sixteen days of no chirping alarm was REALLY nice) and sat up in my comfy bed, bleary eyed and lost.
I tried hard to find the muscle memory to rise, to make some breakfast, to put on some clothes, where is my work badge?, move out the door and get to work on time.
When I arrived at the office it was all too familiar and all too unfamiliar.
It felt like I had changed. I was a different (and better) person as I swiped my badge and entered the office. Then I realized that work had not changed.
I came to my own little gray cubicle and there was all of my same stuff I’d left behind, but it looked alien.
The laptop machine asked me for a password and I had to think very hard about it. Took a couple tries at it and finally remembered.
Have you ever seen baby ducks when they are following their Mama Duck into the water? It often looks like this: Mama slides effortlessly into the water and her eight to ten ducklings slip, slide, belly flop, and unceremoniously plop themselves with a splash behind her.
For a moment, the water crests over the top of their head, then the ducklings one by one pop to the surface like popcorn and start swimming.
It was very much like that yesterday. I fell uncoordinated and perilously off the vacation ledge into the bracingly cold pool of work. I grasped for stability for a little while and then I found my feet and began to paddle. By the afternoon I was moving more or less in a forward manner.
So that’s the New Year. A little bit new, a lotta bit old. I suppose all of the inspirational quotes are true. It’s up to me to make 2015 a really awesome year.
Forward into battle! *splash*cough*splutter* Okay. Now, here we go.
Image found here.
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Subtitled: An Open and Passive Aggressive Letter To A Jerk
Dear Festering Canker on the Butt Crack of Society,
On the weekend after the American Thanksgiving holiday I see that you managed to find yourself, and maybe a few of your slackjawed mouth breathing friends, in my neighborhood.
I can’t blame you because I live in an awesome neighborhood. Those houses that line the block are old, pristine and outrageously expensive.
It’s a neighborhood so nice I can’t afford to live here. Well, I mean own here. My economic status is evidenced by the nearly fifteen-year-old vehicle that I have to park on the street in front of the building that houses my teeny tiny apartment.
One of my neighbors who also lives in a small but well appointed apartment had parked her nearly decade old Volvo behind me on that fateful day. I know her, she knows me. We park near each other a lot.
So yeah, there are some really rich people who live on my block, but my neighbor and I are not among them. We managed to slip our middle class selves unnoticed into this nice neighborhood and enjoy the benefits of tree lined quiet streets and a walking score of an outrageously high 93.
I can see how you might show up in this neighborhood and see the opulence and think to yourself, “I need to mess some sh– up.”
And so you started with my neighbor’s Volvo. About eight months ago this same very nice person had a different Volvo, but a drunk college brat came careening through our street and bounced of her car and several others (thankfully I had parked across the street from her on that night) thus totaling her beloved old Volvo. That thing was a classic. She was heartbroken.
But her insurance kicked in and she lovingly replaced it with this used but in good shape model. You decided to be “cool” and rip the side mirror off of her new/used car. Ripped it clean off and left it dangling by the electrical cords. Aren’t you so clever?
Then you set your sights on my Jeep. You popped the passenger side mirror out and folded it over. It’s an SUV so it’s okay to do that. It’s a tough offroad vehicle and I’ve moved past bendy Willow branches that were stronger than your weak sauce.
It appears you wrestled with it a little bit because the case is cracked but your underdeveloped arms weren’t strong enough to twist it off of my Jeep.
Pause here, hand to heart in honor of my Jeep people.
So, since you weren’t able to complete your impotent act of vandalism, you then moved to my radio antenna. Yes, my Jeep is so old it still has an old fashioned non-retracting antenna that stands tall, reaching far into the universe to pull down radio waves and send them to the interior of my vehicle.
I have listened to hundreds and maybe thousands of baseball games on that radio using that antenna. Jon Miller’s voice so deep and bassy that it vibrates the cheap factory installed speakers in the doors. Well, speaker and door, singular. The driver’s side speaker hasn’t worked since 2005 and I never bothered to get it fixed.
But that’s not the point.
You got your giggles satisfied by ripping the antenna off my car. I can see from the clean spot in the dirt on my Jeep you had to lean in a little to get that done. I hope my antenna gave you a valiant fight. I hope you tore some skin when you ripped the metal and then carried it off.
You know, I grew up in the kind of place where there was really nothing to do on a weekend when school was out. My friends and I did some seriously stupid shit, too.
The quest to steal lawn ornamentation comes to mind. As young bucks we’d get a little sloshy and then go on the hunt for lawn ornaments. The people and culture of New Mexico tend to lend themselves to neighborhoods littered with plastic and clay items purchased over the border and brought home then proudly displayed on patchy grass and dirt lawns.
So yeah, we took stuff, but we always treated it nicely and often we’d go out on another night to return the things we took. Not always to the same lawns, granted, but the intentions were good.
All that by way of saying that I get it, the need to be young and dumb and act like an idiot.
But for eff’s sakes! There is A LOT to do in this town. We live in a hotbed of unique things to do, and not even all of them cost money.
Nah, you wanted to leave your little limpy mark on the world by destructing the property of some people who value our tired old hoopties the most.
Congratulations. You win. You got me.
I will rebuild. I will eventually have my antenna replaced. For now I listen to either scratchy FM stations or I pop in a CD. Yes, my car is so freaking old it still had a CD player.
And as the Christmas seasons dawns merry and bright, my wish for you, dear vandalist, is that Santa Claus takes a giant squat in your stocking while smashing your favorite ornament to bits.
And that someone takes something that you value very much and vandalizes it.
Image found here.
Filed under: anxiety, automobiles, awkward, Bay Area, Be Better!, big weather, business is business, California, Celebration, changing seasons, cloudy, country music, cranky, da blues, disappointed, disapproving boss, drama, driving, first world problems, gratitude, hellidays, iPhone, iPhoneography, irritated, latent childhood, learning, life, make it work, melancholy, memories, mi corazon, Music, nostalgia, Opinions, overwhelmed, play through, pondering, rain, show and tell, the feline, The Good Man, water, where I come from, whining, work, worried, yes boss
If we make it through December
Everything’s gonna be all right I know
— Merle Haggard
Every year “If We Make It Through December,” a classic Merle Haggard song that was released for the first time all the way back in 1973 becomes the theme for my holiday season. I have been playing it on repeat in my car as I drive back and forth to my job.
I also play it when it’s dark in the morning and when it’s dark in the evening. As the rain comes down. As protestors shut down access to my home and helicopters hover in the sky. As my feet ache and my head hurts and I wonder why, for another year, I’m anxious, depressed and overwrought during the happiest time of year.
Every year I look forward to December and the holiday season, hoping to capture some small bit of that childhood joy and anticipation and magic. I watch movies like “White Christmas” that are filled with optimism and dancing and songs about snow.
Every year I feel crushed by an avalanche of end of year business activities. It’s the nature of the profession I have chosen that December is just always going to be craptastic.
And then current political events put a little exponential anxiety to this year’s festivities.
Now I don’t mean to hate December
It’s meant to be the happy time of year
Happy, yeah. Full of cheer. Ho, ho, ho. Yesterday should have been a really good day. My boss held a breakfast holiday celebration for all of her team. Then one of my main client teams had a holiday luncheon for us too. A day of eating? Hell YES!
But in between those two events, I had a bunch of other meetings. I was late to most of them and got chewed out. I was running hither and thither to get to these “fun” events where my attendance was fully expected.
At the end of the day I had an inbox full of emails and angry voicemails from people expecting me to get my other work done.
So I stayed late at work (again!) and tried to get somewhat caught up. I worked off most of the code red items and left the code orange for another day.
Then I went home exhausted and emotionally shut down. I was not a good spouse to The Good Man or a good human to my Feline.
Hell, I didn’t even plug in our Christmas tree yesterday. Yes, last weekend I managed to get our fake tree put together, but it is not decorated. I usually love to make cookies for the holidays, but not this year.
Instead I made toast for dinner and then went to bed. Feliz Navidad.
If we make it through December we’ll be fine
But as I whine on and complain loudly, I suppose all is not lost. This year I introduced The Good Man to December’s theme song. This happened while we were taking a drive to go see Merle Haggard play a live show at my favorite concert venue in Napa.
How bad can my month be if I get to see one of my all time favorite musicians play live? A musician who has written songs that make up a lot of the soundtrack of my life.
The Good Man is going through his own turmoil this December and so the lyric we most often repeated to each other on our hour long drive was this one, “If we make it through December we’ll be fine.”
And we will. We’ll be fine. This hell and highwater (literally, one of the highway exits in our town was flooded out so we had to seek an alternate route) will recede and we’ll find our way back to level ground.
I don’t mean to hate December. It’s just sometimes it feels like December hates me.
Photo copyright ©Karen Fayeth, 2014
Photo copyright ©Karen Fayeth, 2014. Taken with an iPhone 6 and run through Instagram. Photo subject to the Creative Commons license found in the far right column of this page.
Filed under: Albuquerque, amazing, anxiety, awesome!, awkward, bragging, business is business, celebrity, gratitude, growing up, grumptacular, home, homesick, latent childhood, learning, life, make it work, map, media, movies, New Mexico, nostalgia, Opinions, overwhelmed, peculiar, people are people, play through, pondering, sigh, tradition, truth is stranger than..., where I come from, woo hoo!, worried
I was out and about recently and ran into some friends who were with some other of their friends that I didn’t know. We all got to talking, cussing and discussing over beers and a bit of wine, and the conversation drifted over to the show “Breaking Bad.”
As a matter of fact, this happens to me a lot. Even though the show is no longer producing new episodes, it lives on in the world of Netflix. This show seemed to touch a nerve in people and it still relevant. People like to talk about it.
So I told one of my new friends that, “yeah, I’m finally watching it. I just started Season 2. It’s kind of weird to watch, though, because Albuquerque is my hometown. It’s where I grew up.”
The person responded, “Really? That is so cool! I mean, really cool. Tell me about it! Tell me about Albuquerque.”
This literally took the speech right out of me. “Uh, brr, eeeh, aauuugg” was about all I could manage.
Albuquerque? Cool? What?
Albuquerque is not cool!
Well, hell, maybe it really has become cool and it’s time to admit it.
The Albuquerque I know was the place that either no one had heard of or said “Oh yeah, you mean like Bugs Bunny?”
Albuquerque is the place that Southwest Airlines used to fly planes that were only one third full because NO ONE went to Albuquerque. (side note: I used to really like that. Now on Southwest flights people are squeezed in so tight you can hardly sneeze.)
Albuquerque wasn’t on anybody’s radar and now it’s in the zeitgeist. Just last night I saw an AT&T commercial that name checked Albuquerque. And it’s not the only recent commercial I’ve seen that gave the ‘Burque a shout out. Back in May I wrote this post about New Mexico being a part of not one but two popular movies.
When did this happen? I know, I know, this happened when “Breaking Bad” started airing.
I appreciate I haven’t seen all of the episodes but so far, but I’m not sure that show portrays my hometown in the best light.
So far in Season 1 and the first part of Season 2 I can see it’s mostly filmed in downtown. I think Jesse Pinkman lives somewhere off of Silver street. It’s a pretty cool house, old style.
I lived around downtown ABQ for a while when I was doing a co-op job out of college with Sunwest Bank. I liked living there, but to be honest, that part of ABQ that doesn’t always match my experience. I was more of a northeast heights kind of girl.
I often wince at the Jesse Pinkman character because he’s so not anyone I would recognize from Albuquerque. Then I wince again because the bad guy character Tuco is pretty much an amalgamation of a lot of guys I went to school with.
Anyhow, I suppose I should be glad that Albuquerque is getting the love. Then again, the spirit of New Mexico runs deep within me. We often have been pretty damn happy when no one knows about our beautiful state. The less outsiders the better.
But alas, Albuquerque is on the map. I even saw a Twitter profile the other day saying, “Proudly living in the land of Walter White,” and I just shook my head.
There’s so much more to ABQ. But ya’ll don’t need to know any of that. When the glow of Breaking Bad fades off, we can reclaim our “not cool” town, and going on doing what we do and knowing what we know.
Image from Wikipedia and used here under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Filed under: amazing, animals, Autumn, awesome!, awkward, backyard, Bay Area, business is business, California, curious, Dad, doooooom!, I ain't as good as I once was, kerfuffle, latent childhood, life, love and marriage, make it work, Mother Nature, open a can o' whup-ass, Opinions, our happy home, play through, San Francisco, show and tell, sigh, The Good Man, where I come from, worried, yucky, zorillo
Turns out I have a new neighbor. I had no idea the new tenant was moving in, but then *boop*, there was someone new trooping around the ol’ neighborhood.
Not sure what unit this one lives in. In fact, I’ve never even set eyes on my new neighbor, but I know they live nearby.
You see, October in Northern California is gorgeous. Really, it’s the best time of the year, bar none, to be here. The days are warm and pretty, and the evenings clear and cool. Indian summer lasts a real long time here and it’s a wonderful thing.
Every evening after a long day of work, The Good Man and I throw open the windows and the back door and let the stuffy apartment drink in all of that cool, clean air. Perfect for a good night’s sleep.
Over the past couple weeks, right around 7:30pm or so, the rancid odor of burning plastic and gasoline and the hinges of hell begins to seep into every room of the house. It hits one of us (usually me) first.
“Arrwhagggh!” is the approximation of the sound I make.
“What?” says The Good Man, alarmed, and then “Oh bleah!”
Yes, it’s true. My new neighbor is…Dun dun duuuuuuuun
Pinche zorillo. I haven’t been able to lay eyes on the beast, probably because by the time I get the eye watering jet wash it’s moved on to the next yard.
I fear this cabrón lives under my front stoop but I can’t be sure.
And every time this happens, like watching reruns of Lucy and Ricky, The Good Man and I have a conversation that goes a lot like this:
Me: “I just need a .22 and I can take care of this problem.”
Then The Good Man reminds me that we live in California and this state takes a dim view of shooting varmits in its urban neighborhoods.
“A bb gun?” I ask, like that kid from the Christmas movie. “The pump action kind.”
The Good Man says, “You really think you can hit a [insert rodent name here, we have this conversation a lot] from here?”
“Try me,” I say, standing up straighter. “I’ve been shooting since I was a kid, my dad saw to that. I’ve shot everything from a cap gun to a Browning over and under and my aim is pretty damn good.”
“No,” he says.
“Pellet gun?” I plead.
“What the hell state do you think you live in? We don’t shoot old hot water heaters out behind the Snappy Mart around here!” (I may or may not have introduced him to the rasquache joy of my home state.)
Then he tacks on, “We live in one of the most densely populated areas of the United States and the police, they have no sense of humor in this city!”
And then I sigh, and quickly cover my nose and cough because I took in too much skunk air when I started the sighing process.
Of course he’s right. So I went online and did some reading and discovered that if I can figure out where my new neighbor lives, animal control might help.
Problem is, when I get the aroma, I kinda don’t want to dash out there to get a good look at where the beast is going.
I think I’m going to need a trail camera. And camouflage. And maybe some other cool things like a Buck knife and a camp stove and a new tent! Oooh yeah…
And don’t anybody tell me that it’s a cute fluffy creature worthy of love and affection. When the original engineer designed the zorillo, it wasn’t with a love of humans in mind.
Or dogs, I think our awesome next door neighbor dog got hit last night. Poor growly bear of an adorable dog.
(This just in: I was texting with The Good Man telling him I was writing this post and he said, “I trapped some skunk stink in my closet last night. Kind of surprised myself this morning.”)
“Whatever. Haters gonna hate.”
Image found here.
Filed under: anxiety, Autumn, awkward, Be Better!, business is business, cranky, curious, Dad, disappointed, don't want!, doooooom!, doubts, friends, gallows humor, gratitude, growing up, hey kids get off my lawn, I ain't as good as I once was, irritated, kerfuffle, kids these days, lactose intolerance, latent childhood, lazy, learning, life, make it work, melancholy, memories, miscellany, nostalgia, Opinions, overwhelmed, parenting, peculiar, people are people, play through, pondering, scared, self esteem issues, sensitive girl, sigh, signs, sports, truth is stranger than..., weirdity, worried, yucky
“Practice makes perfect,” they say and, “If you do something for 10,000 hours then you will be a master.”
Well, horse hockey is my answer to that.
If the delineator for adulthood is the age of 18, then I have put in a solid 236,682 hours at this craft, and I still haven’t figure out how to be a master.
In fact, I may be worse at it than ever.
Sure, I get up in the morning and I go to work and I make a paycheck and I pay my taxes and I usually vote and I have insurance and a 401k and even a will. All the trappings of being a grown up.
But I still would rather have cookies for dinner and silly cereal for breakfast. I still throw little tantrums when things don’t go my way. I still need naps and need to believe in Santa and I still want to play with toys and fly kites and occasionally I just need to melt down.
I can pay my taxes but the very thought of buying a house terrifies me. I can make decisions that impact millions of dollars at my job and then sometimes can’t decide if I want orange or lime flavored candy at the store. Then I buy and eat both and cry because my tummy hurts.
This thing, this adulthood, it doesn’t get easier.
And hell, I don’t even know where the border lies, the place I can cross safely and know for sure I have arrived into adulthood.
Some might say it happens when you have kids. Fair play, I guess. But I have a lot of friends with kids that I wouldn’t call the model citizens for grownup-itude.
When my dad died, that probably was the closest for me in knowing what it means to be an adult. I grew up pretty fast when, for better or worse, that was thrust upon me.
But even that wasn’t enough to be the final frontier for me. (mmm, Frontier. I could go for a cinnamon roll right about now)
This past month some things happened with my “lady guts” that signaled the beginning of a long journey. When a woman’s life turns from the dog days of summer into Autumn.
Discretion keeps me from going through all of the gory details, no one needs all of that. While I’m far too young for the “main event,” my body has let me know that the pre-game show has started and the players are starting to take the field. (nothing like a sports metaphor to describe a lady issue….)
I’m not ready for this. I’m not grown up enough for this. I’m not an adult! I have put in the hours, many hours of long grueling practice and still…still I find myself at this age and at this earthly turning of a season far from being an expert at adulthood. I am jack of many aspects and master of none.
Maybe that is okay. Maybe that is what being an adult is about, the continually wondering if you are “grown upping” correctly. Paying taxes and eating ice cream sundaes with reckless abandon (while popping Lactaid, because that’s a mature thing to do).
And on my next bubblegum ice cream sundae, I will be decisive enough to get both nuts AND sprinkles on top.
Because I’m young enough to want them both and old enough to pay for it.
So there. Take that! This is how I’m doing grown up and no one can make me do it differently!
Nanny nanny boo boo on you!
Adults are always asking kids what they want to be when they grow up because they are looking for ideas.
— Paula Poundstone
Image found here.
Filed under: air, anxiety, Autumn, awesome!, awkward, bailar, Bay Area, beautiful, California, Celebration, cha-cha-changes, chasing cowboys, country music, dancing, daydreaming, edjumacation, fall, family, fancy duds, Fat Babies, friends, fun, gratitude, green chile, growing up, history, homesick, I ain't as good as I once was, Las Cruces, latent childhood, learning, life, light, Love, make it work, melancholy, memories, mi corazon, Music, New Mexico, NMSU, Oakland, Opinions, overwhelmed, play through, pondering, ranching, relationships, sangre de karen, show and tell, sigh, stories, sunshine, wayback machine, where I come from, woo hoo!, worried, zia
I miss my best friend today. Autumnal Equinox makes me think of harvesting hay and Dickerson’s dances.
That was a text message I sent to my best friend yesterday afternoon. I was at work and found myself with a few moments of pause. What I felt in that silence was an aching sense of melancholy.
The angle of light has been changing for a while and yesterday the world looked a little different bathed in early Autumn sun.
A beautiful sunny yet hazy day as I found myself at a high elevation gazing across the amazing view, Oakland to my left, Golden Gate center, Albany to my right.
It’s hardly original to feel melancholy in the Fall. I will follow the old poetic trope and go there anyway.
Since I know I have a “thing” about Autumn, I started looking back in the archives of my blog and found something that perfectly captures how I feel today. I’m nothing if not consistent.
Autumn is, after all, my favorite season in Oh Fair New Mexico.
So here’s a repost to get me through the day. The words still ring true, even as time goes by.
Originally posted April 15, 2009
It was Fall, had to be. Slight crispness to the evening air. Anticipation thick as the fog of Aqua Net in the sorority house where I lived.
It was 1989, probably. Or somewhere close to that. The campus of New Mexico State University. I was a sophomore, maybe a junior, I can’t remember. Doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that I was getting ready to go to a dance at Corbett Center on the NMSU campus.
The woman who would become my best friend for what is now over twenty years was the driving force that night, and many just like it. Her parents had met at a Corbett Center dance, so she was especially incentivized to go scoot a boot and see what’s doing. Family history.
I nervously pulled on my too shiny, too new, gray goatskin round toe ropers and jeans that didn’t really go with the boots, but were at least long enough to be acceptable. “You should buy some Rockies,” I was told, and they were right. I would, later, in quantity. But then I had neither the money nor the courage. I wasn’t sure what I was going to get into, I just knew I was going to be there come hell or high water.
It wasn’t my first Corbett dance. It wouldn’t be my last. This story isn’t about one actual night, more an amalgam of a lot of great nights.
The gaggle of high-haired women walked out the back door of our home, a sorority house containing twenty-eight women of different backgrounds, and one understanding house mom. What bound us together was our choice of educational institution. A land grant institution. To the uninformed, that means an agricultural college.
It was a short shuffle over to Corbett, up the stairs to the third floor where they had the ballrooms. Pay the entrance fee. Five dollars I think? Maybe less back then. Get a stamp on your hand. Look around, see who is there already. Talk about who you hope shows up.
Hear the opening strains of music. Usually The Delk Band. A group of musicians, brothers, and their dad on fiddle. I went to school with most of the boys. I remember I thought one of the Delks was cute. I remember one of the Delks was the drummer and back then had a tendency to speed up the tempo as a song wore on. Hard to dance to a wildly varying tempo. But we did it. (note of update: Saw the band not that long ago and that is no longer a problem.)
They were our people, and we embraced them. And we danced. Oh did we dance.
The two-step. Not the Texas double up kind, no. The slow kind, keeping time to the music.
And a waltz. My favorite, how I love to waltz. The rhythm of a song set to the beat of a waltz still paces my heart a little differently.
The polka. If done right with the right boy (he had to be tall because I’m tall and otherwise we’d just bump knees) you felt like you were flying, feet hardly touching the ground.
The ladies, my friends and I, would stand on the sidelines and take a look at the scene. My best friend would always get asked to dance first. She’s beautiful and a great dancer. Who could blame the boys for flocking to her blue-eyed, dark haired gorgeousness? Not me, certainly.
As I got better at dancing, I got asked often enough, too. The boys liked the girls who could dance, who liked to dance, who didn’t turn up their nose at dirty fingernails and cow sh*t on their boots.
There is something special about dancing with a boy who knows how to dance, a strong lead, who looks you in the eyes. The boys who had the right fold in their hat and smelled faintly of Copenhagen and beer and Polo cologne.
I got to know those folks. All of them, the boys, the girls, the dancers, the musicians, the laughers, the people who liked to swing each other around the dance floor.
They became my family. We traveled in packs, dancing until we were sweaty, then heading outside into the cool air to take a breath, drink a beer, laugh a lot and occasionally find someone to spend a little time with.
Well not me, not then. I was still too awkward and mixed up to attract much in the way of boys at that point. I was more “one of the guys” than one of the girls the guys would chase. Don’t feel bad for me though, I eventually figured it out. (cover your eyes, mom)
Over time, we all aged a little, got to be over 21 and started to migrate from dancing at Corbett center to dancing at the local country bar. It was fun but seemed a little more complicated. Add more than a couple beers to the night and weird things happen.
But still we danced. By that time, I’d moved off campus and lived with my friend from TorC. She was crazy and fun and taught me a lot (cover your eyes, mom), and she loved to dance as much as I did. She coined the phrase “big bar hair” and gave me an education on how to get it, and keep it, despite dancing so hard sweat ran down your face.
Then we all aged a bit more, and we graduated and found respectable jobs. My best friend, her husband (a fine dancer, I must say) and I are all actually employed in the same area that’s listed on our diplomas. One might scoff at country folks, but all three of us hold a Master’s degree in our chosen fields.
on the verge of turning forty well past forty, I find I still miss those days, mightily. I wished I’d enjoyed them more at the time. The stress of school and classes and “what do I want to be when I grow up” cast a pall on my days.
My own fault. A worrier by nature, a tendency that I fight tooth and nail every single day I take a breath.
When I’m having a bad day, when I doubt myself, when I realize I don’t fit in at my new place of employment, when I don’t feel heard or understood or very well liked, I can always go back to those days in my mind and smile.
I can’t get together with my best friend and her husband and NOT talk about those days. Magical. I’m blessed to have been able to have them. Once upon a time, I knew where I belonged.
Photo of The Delk Band in action
Filed under: anxiety, automobiles, awkward, backyard, Bay Area, Be Better!, big weather, blue sky, California, disappointed, doooooom!, driving, environment, fail, fall, fire, life, make it work, Mother Nature, Opinions, play through, rain, show and tell, sigh, water, worried, yucky
Oh Mother Nature, how you vex me. I mean, you and me are usually good. Real good. I mean, you do you in your own way, and that’s fine. Of course it’s fine.
Musically riffing, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end.
I’ve also seen tornadoes, lightning I thought would crack the sky in two and 120 degrees with nary a cloud.
You gotta do what you gotta do, sister, and usually I’m okay with that.
This morning I stepped out of my house and felt a little rain dripping down. Yes! Rain! Good.
Only, Mom Nature, you are a real fickle beast. Was it a good deep soaking rain? A nice drink of water for the poor parched state of California?
It was like this:
Just enough to knock dust and schmutz from a nearby tree onto my car. You just created a rolling mud bog.
Just enough to moisten the roads so people could slide real good into each other.
Just enough rain to REALLY piss me off and not enough to make a difference.
Look lady, do more than spit at us, all right?
Be better, Mother Nature!
Filed under: Amsterdam, anxiety, awesome!, awkward, Be Better!, business is business, curious, deadlines, dinero, doooooom!, doubts, drama, first world problems, gratitude, I ain't as good as I once was, indignant, irony, irritated, jet lag, kerfuffle, lazy, learning, life, love and marriage, luck, make it work, meeting hell, money, money woes, moolah, obviously, Opinions, overwhelmed, play through, pondering, road trip, sigh, sleep deprived, the globe, The Good Man, travel, truth is stranger than..., weirdity, work, worried, yes boss
Back there in June, which seems like a lifetime ago, recall I had the fun chance to visit Amsterdam on a work trip? Yay!
While there, I made use of my company credit card because that’s the best way to go when it comes to pesky expense reports.
However, there are a few things that the company says no-no to on expense reports. For example, booze. I mean, how can one have a nice dinner in Amsterdam and not sample the local beer?
One doesn’t and this one didn’t. I sampled. Oh did I sample. No, I didn’t sample Amsterdam’s other claims to fame. I was on a work trip ferchrissakes! But light brown beer was a delightful dinner companion.
So what I did was expense the expensable parts and the not expensable parts I would pay personally to the credit card company. No problem, right?
Upon my return to the States, in the midst of chaos and twelve to fourteen hour days and working nights and weekends on this massive project (the whole reason I went to Amsterdam and Ireland) I managed to knock out my expense report.
Then I knew I would get a bill for about $110 US dollars for the “not allowable” stuff. The beer, mostly. Not gonna lie.
About a week and a half ago, I got a snippy notice from the credit card company. “Second notice”, they said and “we’ll shut off your card in five days unless payment is received.”
I also noticed that they had transposed two numbers in my mailing address.
Well, I got a bit high handed about this. First of all, I didn’t receive a first notice! Second of all, my address is wrong. Third of all, pfft! Or something like that.
I’m still working a lot of hours and so I dashed off a check but didn’t send it. I wanted to talk to my friend who runs the travel program. I needed to know if I could change my mailing address for the card or if she had to. She said I could do it or she could. No matter.
Great! Then life and my insane job intervened and quite a few more than five days passed. Ugh. Over the weekend when I had a few minutes to breathe, I picked up the ol’ phone and called the credit card folks. I knew I needed to take care of this problem like a grownup.
Imagine my surprise when I got a recorded message saying that a payment had been received and my balance was zero.
“Uh oh,” I told the Good Man. “The company paid my bill. Crap. Now I have to figure out how to pay them back. Or will they take it out of my paycheck? Gah. What a mess.”
The next day, I went back to my friend in Travel to figure this out.
“Honey, we don’t pay people’s credit cards. And if we did, just keep quiet about it.” She laughed.
But she looked up my account. “Hmm…” she said, rolling her mouse over the screen. “I can’t tell where this payment came from. Did you do another expense report?”
“Hmm. Are you sure you didn’t pay it?”
I thought back to the dates from May 1 through August 15, my head down working this project. The lack of sleep. The stress. The long days and working weekends and not having a single day off in all of that time. The disconnected feeling. The lack of awareness about pretty much everything around me.
“Well. I’ll check my bank account but I really don’t think so.”
I walked back to my desk, logged into my bank and searched for the amount. By golly, there was a payment.
That means that 1) I had indeed received a “first notice” from the credit card company and didn’t remember it and 2) had set up the credit card company as an auto pay from my account and didn’t remember it and 3) actually paid the bill and didn’t remember it.
So that means that when I was wandering around in a zombie-like intense work state, forgetting to eat meals and forgetting to sleep and often forgetting to change clothes and frequently forgetting to even brush my teeth in the morning, I managed to be fiscally responsible enough to pay my credit card bill?
I’m certainly glad that zombie Karen cares enough to pay normal Karen’s bills. I wonder what else I did when I wasn’t even on the planet.
I can hardly wait to find out.
Image found here.
Filed under: art, artist, awesome!, awkward, celebrity, charming, dia de los muertos, Frida, Frida Kahlo, gratitude, history, laffs, learning, life, love and marriage, make it work, melancholy, Mexico, mi corazon, Opinions, painting, peculiar, play through, pondering, self esteem issues, show and tell, simpatico, The Good Man, The Muse, words, writing
Over the weekend, after another rough week at work, The Good Man and I found our way to the big main branch of our city’s library. It was like an awesome haven from the mean old world.
I immediately found my way to the fifth floor where they keep the art books. I needed an infusion of art and creation in my life to erase the financial and business blues of my workweek. I decided I wanted to look at some Frida Kahlo prints. I am a huge fan of Frida.
As I plucked a slim book of her paintings off the shelf, I found another small book hiding behind it. It was a book of letters written by Frida to her friends and family.
I love reading old letters. You learn a lot about who a person was (or is) by reading their handwritten letters.
I had always thought that Frida was so strong, powerful, fierce and uncompromising.
Boy was I wrong. Through her letters, I found her to be very sweet, quite insecure, and almost childlike.
She often would write letters to friends and ask their advice on big life decisions. For example, at one point her husband, Diego Rivera, had a terrible infection in his eye that had spread to the side of his face. She asked a friend, a fellow painter, if he though she should take Diego to New York to see American doctors or stay in Mexico and take the guidance of Mexican doctors.
Now that seems like a pretty big life crisis, something you would want to decide along with your husband and instead she was soliciting, nay begging for, the advice of a friend. She actually did this quite a lot, begged her dear friends to tell her what to do.
I found that so counter to the fierce woman I see through her paintings.
And then, over time, as she got older she did seem to become a lot harder edged. A lot more sarcastic and passive aggressive.
Clearly the philandering ways of her husband and his over bearing need to be controlling had taken a toll on her psyche.
That and years and years of immense pain in her spine, leg, and foot, all massively unresolved injuries from an accident in her teens.
Her physical and mental anguish become so forceful, it drove a little bit of the lightness out of her words. She became more bitter. And so maybe that is the Frida I came to know, the rough around the edges and hard woman who had been hurt too much.
But even then, as I understood how she could come to be that way, I was a bit shocked to read (in the book) a quite long essay that was to accompany an exhibition meant to honor Diego Rivera.
I came across this section and burst out laughing. I mean, wow.
Here, read it and see what you think. She is describing Diego’s physical form from many angles. In this section she refers to his chest:
“Diego’s chest — of it we have to say, that had he landed on an island governed by Sappho, where male invaders were apt to be executed, Diego would never have been in danger. The sensitivity of his marvelous breasts would have insured his welcome, although his masculine virility, specific and strange, would have made him equally desired in the lands of these queens avidly hungering for masculine love.”
Um. Did she just say her husband had moobs? Cuz I think she did.
In another section she describes seeing him naked as looking something like a child frog. Paraphrasing here, she said that his skin takes on a greenish tone and is pale under his clothes and only tan in his face and hands.
Yeah. Green moob guy. Awesome.
This was, I’m sure, taking a bit of her own pound of flesh from him for the years of unkindness. And also a bit of the ol’ anti-bourgeoisie taking the piss out of what might have been a flowery ode to her husband.
I’ll tell you what, that image is sure going to stick with me for a while.
Actually, the whole book will stick with me for a while. The letters so quaint, so childlike and such a deep glimpse into one of my creative heroes. Quite something.
Oh, and she liked to invent words of her own. My favorite was when she would refer to her life or other things that were not working out as expected as fuc-bulous. Oh yes. I can use that. I may have to adopt it myself.
Next up, I have on my bedside table a book of letters by Vincent Van Gogh. He was quite prolific in his letters to his brother, and it is a thick tome. I am both wary and excited to dip in.
Photograph by Martin Munkácsi
Image found here.
Filed under: aeroplanes, Amsterdam, art, artist, awesome!, awkward, bragging, curious, dinero, fun, gratitude, jet lag, lazy, learning, life, make it work, memories, mi corazon, miscellany, monkey mind, nostalgia, objectophilia, Opinions, our happy home, play through, show and tell, silly, the globe, The Good Man, travel, woo hoo!, zen
Ya know, the ol’ brain, she ain’t what she used to be. Let’s be honest, my memory always was more of an old gray mare than a fast running thoroughbred.
Over the weekend The Good Man was going through our bag of bags (I’m pretty sure everyone has a bag of bags, right? The place you store plastic and paper grocery bags for reuse) looking for just the right fit for the job he had in mind.
He pulled out a plastic bag that had travelled its way from Amsterdam to California that was just the perfect size. He said, “Oh? Are you okay with me using this bag or do you want to keep it?”
I said, “Nah, no need to keep it, go ahead.”
He opened it up and in the bottom found a paper receipt that he handed to me. “You probably want this,” he said.
The receipt looked a lot like this:
Hmm. One Euro. What the hell did I pay one Euro for in Amsterdam? I found that country to be pretty darn expensive and don’t recall anything costing just one single Euro.
It’s from the Van Gogh museum, so that’s a clue.
I was really stumped. My mind slipped into the Swiss cheese hole full of nuthin’. I had zero recollection. For a moment I thought it wasn’t even my receipt, that maybe I had inadvertently picked up someone else’s.
And then…dull like the backside of a piece of foil, a light came on.
I saw the description “kids juggling Van Gogh” which brought many hilarious fictional images to mind, but then that confused me even more.
I had to work at it. Sweat it a little bit. Strain the brain tendons.
Ah! Yes! I remembered! A forgotten moment. The synapses reattached and the focus ring turned and I could see it clearly.
Me, in Amsterdam, on a rainy Monday. It was late afternoon and the Van Gogh museum was closing. I had prowled all four floors, hungry to see everything. I actually toured it twice. Bottom to top and then top to bottom. In the last thirty minutes of museum hours, I went to visit all of my favorite canvases one last time, like saying goodbye to cherished friends.
On the way out, visitors are forced through the gift shop and as doors were locking, I made a hasty and impulse purchase. A funny card made for kids picturing a stylized Vincent Van Gogh juggling paint blobs. It made me laugh, so I took it to the register.
Image copyright belongs to the Van Gogh Museum Shop
The cashier said “That will be one Euro.” Through bleary jet lagged eyes, and too lazy to put on my reading glasses, I held up a coin. “Is this one Euro?” I asked.
He smiled as he might to a precocious child. “Yes. That’s a Euro.”
I held up another coin, “That’s a two Euro, right?”
He smiled again, “Yes, ma’am. The larger coin is two Euros.”
“Okay, thanks. Here you go,” I said and dropped the one Euro coin into his hand.
Then I reluctantly left the museum, a place I could live, and walked out into the Amsterdam evening. I was overwhelmed with all I had just seen in the museum, hungry, tired, lost and pretty calm. I was filled to blissful capacity with art and creativity and color and joy.
I found a bench on the edges of the Museumplein, a gigantic green park in the heart of Amsterdam, and sat. And watched. And listened. And did what became my most favorite thing to do in Holland: people watch.
On this most recent sunny and muggy Sunday in California, I remembered the noisy but pleasant park, watching the funny multicolored crows hop around, feeling my own bones weary from jet lag, and the unmistakable sense of peace.
It was a nice memory. One that had slopped over the side of the brain bucket and almost got away. Now retrieved, embedded, made solid.
That’s the funny thing about memory, it runs like quicksilver, but catch it, hold it in your hand long enough to let the synapses meet up, and you have something tangible.
I had forgotten my one Euro moment. Thanks to a paper receipt at the bottom of a plastic bag, now I’ll remember it forever.