On Tenacity

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Earlier this week I received the results of a competition I had entered, and for which I held out great hope. It was related to my writing and even an honorable mention would have been a huge step forward for me.

While entering I knew it was a long shot, but I really believed I had a chance.

Predictably, when the results were announced I was nowhere in the list, and yes, this got me a little down.

That’s the trouble, sometimes, with having hope. A burgeoning flower bud of belief can so easily get ravaged by insatiable locusts (over dramatic metaphor alert!!!).

When one is a rather sensitive artist type, it’s hard not to feel steamrolled at such times. Then again, what separates the doers from the dilettantes is tenacity.

So after feeling mopey for several days I am starting to rally. In defeat my resolve becomes just that much stronger.

For almost two years I have been using a really wonderful service that forces me to submit writing to literary journals every quarter. They are strict taskmasters and they keep me focused.

Once every three months I send out about thirty submissions, of which most of them are rejected. This means piles and piles of both email and snail mail arrive at my door just to say “you are not a good fit.”

Amazing how something like two hundred rejections can really make a girl immune to the woes. It’s like a pair of ill-fitting shoes. At first it hurts, then it makes a really painful blister, then finally a callus forms. The thin skin has toughened to endure the scraping.

Like that.

This morning I was thinking back to about seven years ago, back before The Good Man and I had married, and he was living in San Francisco’s North Beach. A really cool new art store had opened on Columbus Ave. near his place and I was just beginning my foray into the visual arts. Visual arts were a big departure from writing, which had dominated my creative juices for so long.

I loved everything about the art store and bought quite a few supplies there. One day they had posters up announcing an auction. Customers were invited to submit art works and the store would display them and then at the end of the month, the store auctioned them off for charity.

Great! I was on board. I created an item to give to the auction and when The Good Man turned in my piece for me, he was asked to put a starting bid. Because he loves me and encourages my work, he put the amount of $50 as a starting price instead of starting at zero as most other artists were doing.

Later, when we walked into the store to see my stuff on display, my piece was at the very, very back of the store among the tools and shelves where they stretch canvas. My work was clearly more amateur than the rest of the offerings and it stood out as the only one using the photographic medium, but ok. It was on display which was a huge rush.

When the auction was finished, they called to ask me to come pick up my work. The rather arrogant and sniffly clerk informed me bluntly that my piece was the ONLY one that hadn’t sold (meanwhile, he gave us a flyer so we could attend his exhibit of butt ugly paintings at a local small gallery).

I was, of course, embarrassed beyond belief, humiliated and totally crushed. Being judged by a more experienced (and in my mind, more talented) artist just about did me in.

Just thinking about it still gives me shudders of embarrassment. This morning in the wake of my recent defeat I thought again about this experience. I recalled today that among all the donated pieces, my work was the only one that listed a starting bid.

All others put in a starting bid of $0, and they all sold. Snotty clerk said they didn’t have a lot of bids and bidders. All of this means that at the end of the auction, someone could have thrown $5 at a piece of artwork and would have won.

Today I understand that instead of being sheepish about that whole thing, I should be proud. I may not have sold my work but I valued my art enough to put a price on it.

Which is stronger? Valuing my own work and not selling it at that auction, or giving it away for free, thus saying the value of my work is nothing?

I know which one I choose. Today I have straightened my spine and I feel a little better.

In defeat, my mettle is being tempered, and that only makes me stronger.









Image from ScienceGuide.nl.




Is That What I Think It Is?

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A few weeks ago I was walking out to my car after another real long day at work, when I smelled something a little sweet, a little nice, and a little out of place for a corporate parking lot.

My head whipped around and I saw a rather large burly man sitting on a parking berm next to his motorcycle and he was smoking.

Yes, I live in the Bay Area, but no, you cheeky monkeys, it wasn’t skunk weed that I was smelling…

The man was smoking a clove cigarette.

My first thought was “What, is he in High School?” and my second thought was “What, is he a girl?” and then the smell of sweet clove smoke wafted over me and I was shoved into the Wayback Machine and transported back in time.

So there I am, a sophomore at Del Norte High School and it’s after a football game and my friends and I have found our way to the McDonald’s at the corner of Academy and San Mateo in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

That McDonald’s belonged to our high school. Every high school had their “home” McDonald’s and going to the other school’s home territory, especially on a Friday night, was a whole scary and political thing.

So I’d already supped on French fries (all that I could afford) and was standing out in the parking lot doing what sixteen year olds do: I was slouching and skulking and just being a lump of teenager.

I was kibitzing with my friend Stacy who was sort of a wild girl. She didn’t start out that way, but she turned that way pretty quick. She was small, dark haired, pretty and did this squinty eyed thing when she laughed which was terribly endearing.

Later, when we both tried out for the high school drill team and she made it and I did not (we had practiced together) and some distance came to our friendship. That and her affinity for drinking a lot of Everclear. I just couldn’t go there.

But on this night we were friends and hanging out and she pulled a cigarette from her purse and lit it up. It smelled funny.

She explained to me that it was a clove cigarette. This particular item was very, very illicit because clove smokes were (and are) illegal in the State of New Mexico. She explained this was due to the fact that clove cigarettes will make your lungs bleed.

She told me this tidbit in that urban legend sort of way that made me wonder if what she said was really true, all the while I believing it 100%. I was (and still am) fairly gullible if told a good story.

So Stacy encouraged me to take a drag. I hesitated, thoughts of bleeding lungs in my head and firmly believing that the second something illegal touched my lips my parents would immediately show up and all hell would break loose.

After waffling, in a rare bit of rebellion I went for it (yes, taking a drag from a cigarette was, at the time, MAJOR rebellion) and she told me to lick my lips after, tasting how sweet it was. And it was.

I’d been so naughty! So *bad*! It was terrifying and exhilarating all at once!

Fast forward just over a decade later and I found myself living in California and oh my! Clove cigarettes are perfectly legal here! So I did some cool slouch thing into the corner store and bought a pack and felt very sophisticated and rebellious and adult and on-my-own and Mary Tyler Moore hat in the air “you’re gonna make it after all!”

That pack lasted me several months until they dried out, and then I bought another just because I could. Every now and again on a lonely evening I’d pour an amber liquid over ice and sit on my front porch and smoke a clove and think about things.

Then, of course, a few years later my dad died from pulmonary fibrosis and smoking something that might make my lungs bleed seemed like a really bad idea.

Ok, meandering along the Wayback trail and getting to that train of thought quickly brought me right back to the here and now.

I sort of smiled at the big dude smoking a clove and inhaled deeply. It smelled so nice.

Such an unexpected scent to end my day.








With all thanks to a Random Word Generator for giving me a wayback prompt, in the form of the word clove, on this sunny Monday.


Image by Kriss Szkurlatowski and used royalty free from stock.xchng.




It’s Just One Of Those Things

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Being a grownup is weird. Sure, in some ways it has its advantages, cookies for dinner, disposable income, no term papers. But mostly I find it’s weird. In theory I’ve been an adult for a really long time, but I don’t seem to be getting any better at it. And it doesn’t seem to be getting any less uncomfortable.

Take for example, having a job. Every day I come to an office building full of fabric-covered six foot high partial walls. I’m actually lucky to have the six foot high walls. New companies are doing away with walls all together in favor of a collaborative environment. But here are these gray fabric walls and I sit at a pressboard desk and I do tasks that matter very much inside these fabric walls but to the rest of the world are mostly meaningless.

For example, on the very top of my to do list today is the urgent need to call a counterpart at another company and ask her how they structured a contract. Do you care if I make that call or not? Will it impact your life in any way?

Nope. Yet it’s of the utmost and highest importance for me to accomplish today.

That seems so odd.

I sit in my little cubicle farm moo’ing alongside people who are, for the most part, strangers. Oh sure, I have great relationships with my coworkers, we all get along really well, but do I really call them my friends? Not really. I care about their well-being (sort of) for about eight to ten (or twelve) hours a day and then I go home and give them nary a thought.

We eat alongside each other, use the facilities alongside each other, spend a third or more of our days together but these people don’t really factor into my life.

Today I’m in kind of a weird place. The person (I’m intentionally leaving this vague) who occupied the barn stall directly across from me was politely asked to leave the company early this morning. They were not on my team and I didn’t have to be the one to have “the conversation.”

I’m just a by stander.

I didn’t know the person all that well, personally I mean, but we got along great. They got my sense of humor and they always kept a drawer full of snacks and when I started on my first day, they helped me get up and running.

I liked the person in that “hey you are my office pal” kind of way.

Despite knowing that there was trouble brewing, I’m still sort of boggled by the empty desk that now is across the aisle. When I stand up and leave my cube, I look right into that cube and where once there was life and a laugh and some awesome cookies, there is an empty chair.

Not knowing all of the circumstances I can’t say whether this was deserved or not, but knowing the manager and knowing that manager is rock solid, I have to believe it was for the right reasons.

These are weird days. The media might say that the recession is over but I don’t think it is. It’s a tenacious little beast. In the first ninety days of this year, five of my dear friends were laid off from their jobs. And all five are struggling to find new employment.

The person across the hall wasn’t laid off, but still I think about what they will be going through over the next weeks and months to land a new gig. It makes me a bit sad.

But honestly, can I dwell on it? Should I even dwell on it? The answer is no. I cannot get too bogged down in the whys and the hows and the what ifs. I can only sit in my barn stall and look at my screens and make damn sure I call that lady at that other company today because in about an hour someone is going to ask me what they said, and I should have an answer.

Because being a grown up is pretty weird that way.









Image from here.




One Arrow, One Potential Fire, One Odd Day

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So there I was on Tuesday last week minding my own business, doing that tippy-tappy computer thang that office drones do, when suddenly a message came across my email. It was one of those emails from the company PR group that goes out to every single dingle employee on the roster.

It was a short, clipped note that said something like: “…at 10 a.m. this morning, a juvenile was shot with an arrow at the [place that is really near where I work]. The shooter of the arrow has not been found. Local police are investigating and helicopters have been brought in to help locate the shooter.”

Well now there is something you don’t see every day at work. Um, a kid was shot with an arrow and that’s the reason why all the low flying helicopters overhead.

Weird! Thankfully the child wasn’t killed, it went through her leg.

I tried put it out of my mind. I mean, everyone was chattering about it in the halls and break room, speculating what may have happened and why. It’s just not normal.

Then, later in the afternoon, I was in the management staff meeting and strangely enough, the fire alarm went off. We all looked at each other for several beats and then went “ok, well…let’s go” and we all trooped outside.

A local fire engine was on scene quickly and we were standing around outside for about a half an hour. Which says this wasn’t a drill, it was the real thing.

Come to find out that the rooftop air conditioner had shorted out and tripped the alarm. So there is that.

Police, low flying helicopters, ladder truck. All in one day.

This is not another normal Tuesday at anyone’s job, right?

Oh, and I almost hit a wild turkey on my way down from the local hills where our main site is located. Stubborn turkey in the middle of the road was actually the most normal part of my day.

So far today, another Tuesday, seems to be shaping up normally, but I’m wary.

I got my eye on you, Wacky Tuesday!









Image from itslacedinsick, found on DeviantArt.com and used under a creative commons.