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.
Filed under: angry, anxiety, audit, awkward, Boss Lady, business is business, charming, cranky, cursing, disapproving boss, doooooom!, drama, first world problems, gratitude, growing up, I ain't as good as I once was, indignant, irritated, kerfuffle, learning, life, love and marriage, make it work, mean people, meeting hell, Opinions, overwhelmed, people are people, play through, polite, politics, pondering, powerful woman, relax, sigh, silly, stubborn, The Good Man, truth is stranger than..., work, worried, yes boss, yucky
This morning I geared up my mind and girded my loins for an important meeting. The event was a compliance review on a big project that I am working through. This project is the cause of many long hours, at least three migraine headaches and a lack of sleep. This compliance review is the last bit of internal check boxes required before we can implement this project fully and completely.
That I was even sitting in the room having the meeting is a gigantic achievement for this challenging project.
That said, I don’t necessarily have the cleanest track record in these compliance review meetings. About a month ago in a similar meeting for a different project, I lost my cool and let the chairperson have a bushel full of how I really feel.
After which I was “spoken to” by my manager who mostly empathized with me. I stand by what I said, and told my manager as much. I was simply asked to “try a little harder” next time.
Because there is always a next time.
Today I had to go back in there and keep the end in mind. I knew if I was able to get through the compliance meeting, and get approvals, that I would be able to finish this project that has me burning out quickly, turning into a crispy little Karen.
The order of the day was calm. Serene. Peace.
Now, I realize that not all of my fair and wonderful readers know me in person. If you do know me in person, you could know that calm, serene and peaceful are not adjectives often used to describe yours truly.
But I had to “try a little harder.” So I did deep breathing and a few deep knee bends before the event. I got to the meeting room early and got situated. I planted my feet on the ground and made a promise to myself that I would stay calm.
As the meeting progressed there were times where I wanted to say what was really on my mind, but somehow I magically refrained.
“Okay. What would you like to see in the documentation?” I said calmly and not at all snarkily. I felt the inner snark but I kept it tucked away under a beatific smile.
When all was done and I had the full list of changes and corrections, I walked out of the conference room and back to my desk.
Where I texted The Good Man the following:
“You oughta f—–g nickname me Buddha after that last hour of my life….”
You see, he knows me all too well and he knows I had this important meeting today. Then I followed it up with:
“I ohm’ed the sh*t out of that meeting.”
And then I took to Google where a short image search netted me the perfect image, which I also sent to The Good Man to further emphasize my point.
And that about sums it up.
Just call me Buddha, bitches.
Image found here.
Filed under: addictions, amazing, anxiety, awesome!, awkward, Be Better!, brain, business is business, crazy, daydreaming, first world problems, gratitude, iPhone, iPhoneography, latent childhood, lazy, learning, life, make it work, office supplies, Opinions, play through, pondering, show and tell, silly, woo hoo!, words, work, yes boss
In those heady days of youth when skin was firm, recovery time was fast and the brain still spongy, I remember thinking “pfft, I don’t need to use lists to remember things. That’s so lame.”
Then somewhere in my late twenties I had to make the hard admission that my memory was just never going to be what I wanted it to be. I thought it would always be easy to remember things, and then suddenly it wasn’t so easy. Too many seemingly obvious missed items at the grocery store and dammnit, you start to love a real honest to goodness list.
So I started, grudgingly, making lists. Usually only a couple items on a sticky note, words to jog the brain. Over time that just wasn’t enough. The random words were no longer enough to evoke memory. I had to put down multiple and specific words. No longer could I trust my brain at ALL. These were dark days, indeed.
Years passed and my eyes got worse and my hair more gray and the little lines at the corners of my eyes were no longer laughs but crows, and I learned to love my Swiss cheese memory.
These days I am all about my to do lists. I write one up, by hand, every few days at work. Hand writing the tasks helps me to have SOME potential for a wispy memory of them.
I get out a shiny orange Sharpie and then I get all of those pesky things I am supposed to remember down onto a big sticky note. Once written, it feels good to let them go. No longer does my brain have to work to keep important tasks retained, nope. I can fill the brain holes with mental cotton candy like the score of last night’s Giant’s game (don’t ask) and the fact that there is going to be a Sharknado 2 (not that I saw the first one).
I love my lists so much that I actually keep some of lists that have all of the tasks marked off. It’s a keepsake to show me that busting my butt at work really does matter. A visual and handwritten progress bar that keeps me motivated.
There is a little dopamine blast I get when I check several items off the list. Yeah baby, that is the stuff. Gimme some more.
I even like to use the British colloquialism “tick the box” instead of check mark because “tick the box” is fun to say. It makes things feel official and proper and oh yeah, there’s that dopamine rush again. Gimme, gimme, gimme.
Seeing an unticked list doesn’t demoralize me, it peps me up. If I work a little harder, stay a little more focused, I can get out the black Sharpie and POW! Mark off the list. That little huff of Sharpie ink. The sound of the pen across the words. The tingles in my spine. The smug satisfaction I feel. Yeah. Love it. Love everything about it.
Even making the little fake list for the end of this post was utterly satisfying…
I should probably get help.
Photo and To Do List © 2014, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons License in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.
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The other day at the ol’ place of employment, I had an early meeting at another site and then came back to my particular office building, which meant parking on the top level of the parking garage. Ugh.
Early on with this parking garage, I made myself promise that no matter where I parked, I would take the stairs to get to my car. No elevators. Just a little extra exercise in the day. So when I get here early, I have one flight of stairs. When I get here late, I have five. That’s how the ol’ cookie crumbles.
So after starting really early in the day at an off site meeting and then running like my hair was on fire in the office all day long (gigantic project brewing with very hard deadlines and a press conference to announce it coming up too!) I was pretty dead tired at the end of the day.
I stood at the bottom up the steps looking up mournfully. Five flights? After the day I had? I was determined to keep my promise to myself and I lifted heavy legs up and up and up the stairs.
Around the fourth floor I started feeling gassed. Each step felt harder than the last. It felt like gravity was actively defying me with every lift of my knees. Finally, exhausted and sucking oxygen I made it to the top floor, stumbled to my car and flopped inside.
That last flight really got to me. As I stepped, I had the kind of pondering thoughts that my brain often makes to keep me entertained. Were those last steps so difficult because my leg muscles were wearing out over the sum total of steps? Or does it become harder to slip the surly bonds of gravity with each flight? Or some combination of both?
And that struggle, that last mile difficulty, well, it started to feel like a metaphor. For my job. I am (to use yet another metaphor) rounding third base on this gigantic project and certainly headed for home plate, but this last leg of the journey is proving to be the most difficult.
Here’s another metaphor. I can see the summit of this mountain, but the last 1,000 steps are straight uphill with no room or time to rest. Each day feels a little harder. Each moment is fraught with worry.
In about two weeks I will summit this sumnabitch and I will be glad I did. In a few months I will look back and it won’t seem all that bad. But right now, looking up, knowing I am so close but knowing all that I have to endure to get to the other side, it feels daunting.
It feels like gravity actively puling me down, down, further toward the ground. Yeah, climbing five flights of steps feels like a metaphor, and not a bad metaphor at that.
But what good is the metaphor? I still have to climb the steps. I still have to complete the journey. And I have not get so focused on the pain and agony and effort of each step that I forget to remember home and the loving arms of The Good Man wait on the other side.
It’s worth climbing those steps if only because it means I’m one step closer to him. What is a difficult journey without a meaningful destination?
Image found here.
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Oh boy is it gone. I have, for years, gone on and on in the pages of this blog about my personal anglophilia, a love of all things British.
Perhaps it’s time to invoke the saying “familiarity breeds contempt” as it applies to my waning interest in the sovereign subjects of the Queen.
Oh, I suppose those oddball Brits will find their way back into my good graces, but it may take a while. The reason you haven’t seen a lot of my words around these pages and the reason I had the great fortune to travel to Dublin and then to Amsterdam over the past months was due to a very large project that is rapidly boiling along at my place of employment.
One of the main reasons I was hired to work for this joint was my previous international experience. My current employers don’t do a lot of that and what it takes to become a world player is quite substantial, so this project is been groundbreaking in many ways.
We’re far from over, but we’re getting there. I have been cooped up in conference rooms in three countries and participated in many video conferences with a group of very standard issue British citizens. And they are starting to wear me quite thin.
That fun little lilting British accent starts to grate the nerves after ten hours of intense negotiations.
That cheeky sense of humor makes you want to punch a wall.
That squishy style of confrontation makes you long for a Clint Eastwood style smack across the chops.
When I went to Britain two years ago, I delighted in every moment I was there. The food, the sights, the people, the everything! Even inspecting all of the coins and bills felt so dear to me.
Well, that was fun, but the fun’s worn off.
I now see the good people of Britain in a much different light. I once heard that “moaning (the British term for complaining) is the national pastime.” And that wasn’t even a joke. The ability to complain about everything from the idiosyncrasies of residents of other countries (a much beloved pastime) to the temperature of the water from a water cooler (not making that up) is an art, a sport and a hobby. All the whining gets to an American soul after a while.
I know Americans are often viewed as being far too friendly and upbeat, and I’ve been known to gripe with the best of them, but sometimes you just want to have a moment where every little thing is simply going to be all right.
You know who really ruined the Brits for me? The Irish. At this moment I can hear the screams and howls of my UK colleagues. They have told me, repeatedly, that the Irish are boring. Pretty standard opinion.
The Irish are anything but boring. They are the most cheerful, upbeat, hilarious people. Take a long gander at Irish history, look at the waves and waves of hellfire and damnation they have endured. Including the most recent thirty years!
Look at the strife, the upset, the horrors they have baked into their DNA. And then tip a pint and laugh your ass off, because the good people of Ireland won’t complain. They’ll laugh about their own misery, joke about their pain.
So maybe my Anglophilia is now Irishphilia? Yes, I did just make up that word, why do you ask?
In the time I spent in Dublin I found all of the things I liked about England with none of the complaining. And a cracking good sense of humor.
Maybe what happened is the Irish stole my love for the Brits and did so with charm and a gleam in the eye. The reserved, closed in, afraid to be embarrassed, must complain even when having fun British suddenly look, well, dare I say? Boring.
Take me back to Ireland, I still have some fun to attend to there!
Or, perhaps, let me finish my big project and back away from these fine British citizens for a while. Time and distance may make my heart grow fonder.
(The irony is not lost on me that I spent almost 700 words complaining about people who complain.)
Image found here
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Over past few years of my life I have been fortunate enough to engage in some international travel. I have truly visited some of the great cities of the world.
Traveling outside of the borders of the United States has made me a better person in many ways, not the least of which is that I have come to appreciate my own country more by not being in it for a few days at a time.
I recall spending Fourth of July in England, gazing over the Thames while pondering that the Fourth of July is about so much more than hot dogs and sparklers. It really made the summer holiday mean something to me.
The other thing that international travel has done is give me a front row seat on gaining perspective of just how large this big blue marble really is. Gigantic. And how people are different and yet people are the same.
One aspect that I have experienced on each of my overseas trips has been a small moment of humanity, a connection, finding a shared place with another person even as I feel the dislocation of being in another country.
It happened in Dublin, and is such a fond memory. It also happened in Amsterdam, and I guess it’s taken a little while for the beauty of the interaction to sink in.
Let me tell the tale:
I arrived in Amsterdam on Sunday at about 7:30am. Schiphol airport was quiet and calm in the early morning hours.
My fellow passengers and I came off our flight from Newark and walked into the airport, quickly cleared customs and stood by the baggage return waiting.
You see, in Europe, things don’t always move on the timescale that Americans are used to. It’s just how it is.
I hadn’t slept in something like eighteen hours and I was wobbly on my pins, but resolved. Finally after the eternity of a half hour, the bags started rolling through the baggage return. Hooray!
People scurried to get their luggage and wandered off into the Amsterdam day. I kept watching bags go by that were not mine.
Finally the flow of luggage slowed to a trickle and I knew, I just knew. My bag didn’t make it.
I had a very tight transfer time in Newark, less than an hour, and I had flat out ran to get between gates and onto the plane, so I was just certain my bag didn’t make it as fast as I had.
Shoot. That was the word foremost in my mind. Only not the word with the two o’s in the middle. The other word. I just kept saying that word over and over and over.
I looked around and saw I wasn’t alone. There were about eight of us standing there with no luggage.
We all looked at each other, shrugged and walked in unison over to the United Baggage customer service desk.
I was toward the back of the line so I struck up a conversation with a dude standing in line with a guitar slung over his shoulder.
He told me that he and his wife had come from Cleveland and that they were in Amsterdam to see their son, who is in a band, play a show. They were going to follow him on a couple tour stops.
Then he pointed to his guitar and said, “I’m going to try to do a little busking while I am here. The quality of the people I’ve seen busking in Amsterdam is pretty low, so I know I can do better than that.”
I spent too many years in the company of musicians to do anything other than laugh and agree. And I said, “That’s cool. When I get some Euros, if I see you playing, I will throw some your way.” He laughed and said thanks.
About that time the United customer service person said that the baggage handlers had failed to look in the “basement” of the plane, and our bags should be along directly. Lo and behold, my stuff showed up. I whipped it off the baggage return and stumbled my way out into the beautiful Amsterdam morning.
And then I settled into my little Amsterdam life, walking the canals, eating stroopwafels, visiting the Van Gogh museum, and work. Oh yeah, this was not a vacation but a work trip, and the work meetings were two full days (day and night) and massively intense.
On Tuesday evening, I stumbled out of the offices with my brain dead and my body exhausted. We had been through an intense day and were on a short one-hour break before meeting back at the offices to go to dinner.
I strolled along the Singel, which is the center of Amsterdam. I was so tired and concentrating on not turning my ankles on the cobblestones near the flower market. My hotel was only a few blocks from there.
As I walked, feeling out of my mind and brain dead, I heard someone playing guitar and singing. I remembered the guy I had met at the airport and wondered what had become of him.
As I rounded a curve, I saw a man in shorts and a porkpie hat busking at the end of an alleyway and in front of a closed store. He was putting a lot of gusto into the song, “Santeria” and had his backed turned to me.
I walked past and looked. Sure enough, it was my fellow passenger.
I pulled out my wallet and looked to see what I had to give. I found a five Euro bill, then walked up and said, “I promised I’d give you some Euros” and dropped the bill into his guitar case.
He looked puzzled and said, “Thanks. Are you an American?”
He didn’t recognize me, so I said, “We’ve met. Remember at baggage claim in Sunday?”
His eyes went wide, “Heeey! How cool is this?” He pointed out his wife who was shopping one of the stores a bit down the path. He told me he had seen his son play the night before and that he and his wife were off to Brussels in the morning for his son’s next show.
We chatted for a few moments, then I said, “I just had to stop and I’m so sorry for interrupting your song, that is rude of me.”
“No, no! Here, let me give you something! Here, take one of our CDs.”
So I did, and I thanked him and headed off with a smile on my face and a little more bounce in my step.
I get that Amsterdam is a small city and that the flower market is a popular place to be, but that one moment of humanity made this great big gigantic overwhelming world seem just a little bit smaller.
That felt pretty good to a little tired American girl wandering the canals of Amsterdam.
With a cheers from San Francisco to the fine city of Cleveland.
Here’s the band if you are inclined to check them out:
Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth
I took this photo later that same night with a couple of Dutch beers under my belt and a song in my heart. I call this one “Amsterdam Moon” for the The Mavericks song of the same name.
Photo Copyright © 2014, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app. Post processed with Snapseed.
Filed under: anxiety, awkward, business is business, cranky, curious, cursing, disappointed, doooooom!, family, game face, growing up, indignant, kerfuffle, kids these days, life, Love, love and marriage, make it work, mi corazon, New Mexico, Opinions, ouch, overwhelmed, parenting, people are people, play through, pondering, relationships, stress, stubborn, The Good Man, worried, yucky
In the movie Tombstone, there is this scene where the bad guy Johnny Ringo and the bad but good guy Doc Holliday square off. It begins the escalation of their unpleasant association.
Here’s a video clip.
The two are in a bar with their various friends and their mutual hatred begins with a war of the words.
Doc fires the first salvo by saying to his sidekick, “Look, darling, Johnny Ringo. The deadliest pistoleer since Wild Bill, they say. What do you think? Should I hate him?”
This of course isn’t well received. From there Doc Holliday slides smoothly into Latin and Johnny Ringo follows suit without skipping a beat. This exchange goes on for a bit.
As the war of the words is broken up, Doc’s eyes get a little steely and he says, “That’s Latin, darling. Evidently Mr. Ringo’s an educated man. Now I really hate him.”
Bear with me here as I’m about to abruptly change course. I wanted to lay this down as useful context. Let it play in the background of your mind.
As I have noted I am the proud godmother (called Nina in the Hispanic tradition) to my best friend’s two daughters. They are my light and my life and I love them enormously. I may not have kids of my own, but these girls are my kids.
However, Nina Karen is struggling a bit as these beautiful girls grow up. The oldest will be fifteen this year and the youngest will be thirteen.
Yeah. Teen. It’s a whole thing I can’t get into, and can’t quite handle.
So my girls go about their lives back home in New Mexico and I follow them on Instagram so I can keep up with what is going on.
Several months ago, the younger of the two girls changed her Instagram profile to note that she was “taken” and put hearts around a boy’s name.
Nina Karen lost her mind. Really, I was not ready to handle this. I got in touch with my best friend and grilled her. Did she know? Did she mind? Should I be worried? Can she come get me at the airport because I am flying out to New Mexico right this instant?
She assured me that it was fine. That she knew and was keeping an eye. My best friend is a wonderful mother so of course I had no reason to worry. But still, I did.
And I died a little inside when my girl would post photos of the boy and changed her username to reflect that she belonged to him by using his name and calling herself “hisname’s girl” — Ugh. That one really got me.
I went on a long rant about how this burgeoning woman needs to learn to identify herself by her own name and stand on her own reputation and not identify herself simply by her association with a man.
As I stomped and ranted, The Good Man arched an eyebrow at me and said, “She’s thirteen. Give it time. This will end.”
And I stomped harder and said, “You don’t understand! My girl! She’s so loyal and true. What if she ends up marrying this guy?”
He arched his eyebrow harder and said, “She’s thirteen.”
So I did what any good Nina would do, I mildly stalked the kid by perusing his public Instagram feed. Photos of his family. Photos of his pets. Seems the kid likes to play sports.
I had a hard time deciding if I should hate him on principle, or learn to at least tolerate him because he was important to my beautiful, intelligent and amazing goddaughter.
After spending some time with my best friend and her girls over Spring Break, and getting some of my thoughts out, I realized that my girl has got to find her own way in this life, as much as this may pain me.
She really is a good person and growing up fast. Her parents have instilled good values and decent common sense and now is the time for her to put that to good use.
I still snarled when she would post a photo of this guy as her “Man Crush Monday,” but kept all of my unkind comments tucked away inside. I had to just let this thing ride. Even if it meant heading in directions I didn’t like.
I had reconciled myself to it. It was a burr in my saddle but not bad enough to stop the ride. Fine.
Until just this past week.
When I found out that this young man broke up with my girl.
Via text message.
Now I really hate him.
Okay, okay, fine. The Good Man was right. And I don’t really hate the young man. He’s doing what you do when you are thirteen and figuring it all out. He’ll learn and my girl will learn and I will learn and maybe we’ll all be better for it.
My heart breaks for my goddaughter because her heart breaks. I guess that’s just how the game of life is played.
I can’t spare her, I can only be there to catch her when she falls.
Image found here.
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Now that I have been a member of the photography club at my place of employment for just over a year, and have been attending meetings and listening hard, I think I maybe kind of sort of have earned a teeny tiny bit of respect.
Because this month, both of my submissions for the monthly photo contest made the cut. BOTH!
The rules each month are that you get to submit two photos. We review and critique all the photos in our monthly meetings and then there is an anonymous voting app we use. When votes are tallied, the top four vote getters are published internally at the company.
So yeah baby! I have had one of my photos make the cut before, but never both. It is a little unprecedented. Woo hoo!
The theme this month was double exposure and my two prize winning photos are below for your perusal.
The first one feels really special to me. I took both of the photos in the image while I was in Dublin. It was at the end of my one lone day of tourist time after an intense week of work, and I had walked for miles. I was exhausted and it was raining like it only can in Ireland.
Tired and soaked to the bone, I was bound and determined to find this sculpture of Oscar Wilde. This was after I had stood in a very long line (in the pouring rain, a nice lady shared her umbrella) at Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. That exhibit was exhausting in itself. Way too many people jostling around.
The park where Oscar resides is about half a mile from Trinity college and I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. It was driving rain and windy and I was so tired that a nice warm cab looked like a good idea. I stopped to rest twice on the short journey, but forced myself to keep going and once I arrived at the park I was glad I did.
The small, lush, green Merrion Square park was silent as I stood there getting drenched looking at this remarkable statue of Oscar Wilde. A small tour group came by and the tour guide said the artist sourced these incredible and colorful stones from all around the world. It is a beautiful statue and so unique as it reclines on a rock.
When it came time to figure out something to use for double exposure, I thought of this statue and of the very old books I had seen at the Trinity College library (I had watched a video about the method used to bound the tomes and was endlessly fascinated).
Using some tools I had learned in a recent photography class about overlay for textures, I fiddled around in Photoshop and came up with this:
Photograph Copyright © 2014, Karen Fayeth
I was unsure if the photographers in the club would find the image too discordant. It’s almost jarring, but I love it. It’s hard to photograph a statue and have it be anything more interesting than a photograph of a statue. This to me brings depth and texture to the photo and I am so happy with the results.
The other photo I submitted was something I had been visualizing for quite some time.
As I continue to hear all of the news reports about the drought here in California, I was pleasantly surprised that the lack of rain didn’t halt the springtime explosion of California wildflowers. I am mildly obsessed with California Poppies (the state flower) and I love the yellows, reds and purples of other flowers growing in medians, between sidewalk cracks and at the edges of yards.
I picked several of the flowers and shot them using a technique I learned from photography master Harold Davis. Then I took a free stock image of textural dry and cracked ground and combined it with my flower photo. When I look at it, I think of many things I could (and should) go back and tweak, but so far this photo is garnering nice attention.
Photograph Copyright © 2014, Karen Fayeth
When submitting both of these photos, I wasn’t sure how my surly team of scientists would respond. Both of these photos are kind of arty, but they also show I have some Photoshop chops, and I think they liked that. They had a lot of questions for me on technique since I used a different approach for each photo.
Also, I think the club as a whole struggled with the idea of double exposure. It’s too messy for their orderly minds. I had a film camera in high school that I liked for making double exposures. It can either look weird or really cool. Doing a double exposure in Photoshop gives me more control over how the two photos overlap and how the double exposure looks, and I like it.
Anyhow, thought I’d share my winning photos with you.
Next up, travel to Amsterdam. Wonder what treasures I can find to photograph there?
Both images, Copyright © 2014, Karen Fayeth. Shot with a Canon G10 and combined in Photoshop. Stock image of dry ground from Free Stock Textures.
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Back in the yesteryear of 2012 I found myself constantly at various airports around the world, passport in hand. I was constantly aware of timezones and dial in numbers and etiquette in different cultures.
I worked a truly global job and had direct reports in five different countries. My days would begin at seven in the morning and end at ten o’clock at night.
That was a really good job and I liked my boss, himself a product of Sweden living in the UK. The gig worked my mind and my skills and my ability to work with different people in different countries with different rules.
It also worked me over pretty good. After almost three years in that role, I knew my mental health was suffering, my doctor told me my physical health was suffering and my husband asked nicely if we could spend a little more time together in person.
So I began a job hunt for a company I would like, a job that challenged me, and the travel and timezones would be kept to a minimum.
Then I found that job. A really wonderful gig, a perfect fit. This is one of the rare times in my life when I can say I love my job, and I do. It’s awesome! Part of the reason I was hired was because I had that international background and could assist on a huge project with a European entity. My current employer is very small and they don’t have a ton of background with international dealings. Great! Happy to help.
I was told I would work on this big project but it was highly unlikely I would travel. Nice! All of the fun challenges and none of the zombie jet lag shuffle through airports.
Until last month when I was asked, on very short notice, to take a trip to Ireland. Fun! That was my first thought. I kind of missed traveling and looked forward to getting back in the game. I loved every minute of Ireland and the work was very productive. Good stuff!
Came home exhausted but satisfied. Happy to have had a nice international trip and ready to settle back into my life.
Then came news that I now am needed in Amsterdam next week. Now, I’ve always wanted to go to Amsterdam, but you know what? There are few things I want to do less than get on another airplane right now.
But board a plane I will, passport in hand, zombie shuffle at my feet.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining even though it sounds very much like I am.
I love to travel. I love to see things I have never seen before. I love learning new cultures and customs and doing business across the boundaries of language and culture.
But damn oh damn. I haven’t even caught up on sleep and it is time to go again.
And so, here we go! Amsterdam here I come. Please be nice to me.
I won’t have much free time while I am there so I have to do up my “must do” list. For those who have gone, what do you recommend?
Image found here.