Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Liz is a genius

Liz helped me to put things in perspective today. I'm looking at situations around me and getting extremely frustrated about them. Liz threw out something very philosophical at me:

She said life is a poker game. I was raised that if I get a crappy hand, I keep playing. I throw out the crappy cards and keep playing. I'll bluff my way through and make people think I've got an awesome hand. I'm surrounded by others who get a crappy hand, accept it and fold. They don't even try to keep on playing, and that's they way they were raised.

It's a very wise assessment. We all are a product of our raising and some examples drive this home:

My dad was dealt some bitter hands. He quit drinking when he and my mom split. He quit smoking and started working out daily when the doctor told him he was at risk of having a fatal heart attack. He kept working (and working out) when he was going through radiation for thyroid cancer, and only was out of work for the hospital stay. He'd arranged for his days off to be the days he drove into Manhattan for radiation treatments.

Two years later, he did much the same when his voice box was removed. Life went on with minor modifications-he still took us to the beach every Sunday that summer, and wrapped a towel around his neck to protect the 150 stitch scar from the sun, because he sure as heck wasn't going to fold on one of his favorite summer pasttimes.

My mom was made of the same stuff. Polio should have left her crippled, but she fought that hand by walking the sand of Jones Beach daily to build the strength back in her legs when she was 9 years old. She was abandoned with six kids by her first husband, but she kept going. Folding meant losing her family. When she and my dad split, she worked two jobs to keep the house she'd worked so hard to buy. She even fought death, hanging on when the doctors said that by all rights, she should have been gone. She took the cards and made the best hand she could with what she had.

This is the stock I come from. I'm not sitting and wallowing with all the things wrong with my health. Yeah, I complain, but I keep going. I have yet to call in sick for the leg problems-a migraine, yes, the leg, no. Same goes for the job situations-if I'm unhappy, I do something about it. I've spent time working temp jobs while seeing a permanent job. It's not in my nature to just accept what's dealt to me. Call it PMA, call it resilience,whatever your term for it is-it's not accepting the deal you got.

Most of my friends are the same way. Hip problems? Weight watchers and Curves are staving off the inevitable hip surgery(you'd never know that the cutie needs a new hip). Morbidly obese? Gastric bypass surgery (the after pictures are amazing, btw). I could go on and on, but you all know what type of people you are. Do you fold? Or do you play on?

That's probably why I have such a hard time with what goes on elsewhere in my life. I don't accept the cards dealt, and grow increasingly frustrated when I see others folding when they can challenge what's in their hands. I equated it to a lack of personal resolve, because life doesn't have to be the way they're allowing it to be. Liz's explanation is that these people just accept the hand they're dealt. It's the way they were raised.

Those diametrically opposed lifestyles can't coexist peacefully. I'm going to piss someone or several someones off (and already have, in one case), but you know what? I'm going to go down with cards in my hand-not by giving up at the first bad deal.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The complicated friendship

Joyce called to with a question today, one that I've dealt with before. This happens a lot-we ask each other something and the other party usually has first hand experience with it. Or at the very least, has an unbiased and useful point of view even if she hasn't had the same thing happen.

This time, she wanted to know how long she should wait before writing off a friendship. She has a friend from college (sorority sister, I think) whom she's mentioned here and there over the years. They're at different stages in their lives. Joyce is married and has kids. A is single and lives alone. Been there, done that.

What happened with Joyce is that A typically calls when she needs something. Joyce usually complies, though this time, several weeks have elapsed since the request. What would I do? Would I write her off? This is one that I had pondered before and I actually have an answer based on my own experience. I think we can all come up with at least one friend that we've lost along the way because each of you were at different stages in your lives.

I consider it time to cut your losses when the other party doesn't call in the manner that they used to. If the other person has to dig through the cell phone bill to determine when we last spoke, that's MY sign. Now, I know that because I have left over cell minutes nearly every month, I tend to call others more than they call me, so that doesn't bother me. It's the calls back that I notice. Rather, the lack of phone calls.

Factors are different for each situation. I know what the triggers are/were in my case. The phone calls slowed down , then eventually stopped when I no longer had free and unlimited access to WDW. For this reason, I've become Persona Non Grata. Apparently, I'm only worth having as a friend if I spend time with a person on Disney property. Whatever. Does it hurt? Not now, but it did when I came to this realization. Does this person even realize it? Maybe, maybe not. At this point, I'm really beyond caring about what the person thinks or feels. Heartless? Yeah, and that's a rare place for me to be, don't you think?

I think what it all boils down to for me is if the relationship is one sided, as what Joyce relates, then I'd throw in the towel. It really sucks when you have to make that kind of decision, but several months down the road, it really is a relief not wondering why you're not getting the phone calls and what you must have done to upset this other person. There isn't the worry of looking at the cell phone, seeing the caller ID and wondering what favor you're being called upon to do now or why all of a sudden, after months of no contact, you're getting called.

Cutting your losses frees you up to worry about more pressing issues, like the kids, and your health, the husband's job, the sick relatives, who's going to take your mom grocery shopping this week and did your sister...you get the picture.

PS- If the nature of our friendship for the past 7 or 8 years has just to been to IM, I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT YOU!!!! :) (Did I make you laugh, Jeff?) Conversely, if you're reading this and wondering if I'm talking about you, that should be YOUR sign.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Stupid human trick


I did a stupid human trick this week. For months, I planned to meet up with one of my internet friends. We're part of a small, close knit group of about a dozen that is part of a large group in the upper thousands.

She's had a rough year (I can relate) and decided to take a Disney cruise. Sweet-we can meet at Port Canaveral. So we planned for a few months that we'd hang out for an hour or so. It'd be worth the two odd hour drive to meet face to face after the countless IMs and several phone calls.

Wednesday night, I went and got goodies for her and her daughter. Sand pails to use at Castaway Cay. Some Barnie's coffee, because hey, if it can get me to drink coffee, ya gotta try it. Florida flip flop keychains, Disney flip flops and some snacks.

Thursday dawns with blue skies and poofy clouds-perfect cruise weather. I hop in the car and head east. I pass by Orlando International Airport (MCO) about 20 minutes after her flight lands. I call her cell phone and it rings 4 times and goes to voice mail. Okay, no biggie. For the first time, I am heading east past the airport-there's a whole lot of nothing going on. Apparently, we've got a nuclear power plant between MCO and the coast-passed that, too.

The closer I get to the port, the more DCL charter buses I see. The newer ones have portholes for windows-cute. The thought passes my mind that friend and her daughter *might* be on one of the buses I'm passing.

When I cross over I95, I know I'm close. Then I'm over the Indian River bridge and I can smell the ocean. Then I see it-the ship that has been torturing me for many years. Someday, when I win the lottery, I'll get my turn. It's yet again one of those Disney things that some people don't understand. The ship is more impressive when you see it in person. The picture above gives you a scope of its size.

I turn off at Cruise terminal A and soon I'm passing right behind the stern of the ship. I come up on the day parking, where I'm stopped by a Cast Member. He delivers crushing news-I won't be allowed in the terminal if I'm not sailing. Oh noooooo. Can I at least meet up with my party? He tells me yes, if they come out of the building. I'm directed to day parking.

Okay, I park the car and call her cell phone. Four rings again. This means her phone is on, but is not being answered. Uh oh. Her 18 year old son, the source of all her worries this year, has been known to pilfer mom's cell phone. Is this one of those times? Is her phone back in Rhode Island?

I go up to the gate where a cast member checks IDs against the manifest. I wait in line, hoping that my request isn't too extreme. It's my turn-I ask if I can have someone who is sailing paged, as I didn't know we couldn't meet in the terminal. The cast member radios to her manager and I wait while she assists others. A few minutes later, the answer comes back-if we have a stateroom number, they'll call the stateroom. Otherwise, they won't do it.

Do I have the stateroom number? Nope, sure don't. My trip to the other side of the state was for naught.

We had talked of meeting at MCO on Sunday since they debark the ship around 9am and her flight doesn't leave for home until 1:10pm. However, no plans were made for meeting at MCO and after a 300 mile round trip on Thursday, I'm a little skittish about driving 150 miles round trip to have the same thing happen again.

So, that's my stupid human trick. I don't do them very often, but when I do, it's a big one.

Sorry, Paula, I'm an idiot. This just means you have to come back to Florida for us to meet.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Thank you, to those here and in the afterlife

Thanks to all who called and emailed after yesterday's entry. I have to apologize that I 'lost it', but things have been brewing for a while. In addition to the printed words, some conversations that needed to happen have taken place. Am I okay? Not really sure. Will I be? Probably-resilience is an attribute both parents bestowed on me. These dark days never seem to last too long, but when you all hear talk like that from me, it's a shock.

That said, listening to me vent were Joyce and Donna. Thank you for letting me air my problems without judging.

Now, for the afterlife part. My phone rang at 2:30 this morning. Phone calls at that hour are never good news. Jane was en route to the hospital for a possible heart attack. Ed's mom called me with this news, and to ask to be taken to the hospital. This means getting the kids up and schlepping the 30 miles, but I put myself in her shoes. I tell her I'll get there as soon as I can.

Something told me that I should not hurry. Really. I posted to my home on the 'net the news and asked for good thoughts for Jane, before shutting off the computer. I went and told one son (who wasn't sleeping, or was awakened by the phone-not sure which) to get dressed and bring his pillow. I took my time getting dressed, brushing teeth and gathering clothes for sleeping younger son. All told, 15 minutes pass from when I *could* have gone out the door and when we actually do.

Once on I-4, I notice that there are lots of headlights that don't appear to be moving all that fast. Then, the plume of smoke that appears to be coming from just to the right of the roadway about a mile ahead. Finally, I notice that the tailights in front of me are not moving, either.

We come upon an accident that happened fairly recently. A larger vehicle is fully engulfed, and two other vehicles are smashed up and turned 90 degrees from the roadway. I'm about 100 yards and 5 vehicles back from the wreckage and call 911 and was informed that they were already en route. The police and rescue apparatus arrive about 3 or 4 minutes later.

The roadway is blocked, and we sit for about 45 minutes, until such time that a few cars are able to move. We turn around in the median and head back the two miles to the exit that I'd come from. Now, though, traffic is diverted off the Interstate and onto Highway 92, which runs parallel to the interstate.

The accident was the result of a man driving a rental car the wrong way down I4 at a high rate of speed. Several people had called 911, but they couldn't get out there before he hit a dump truck head on. The opinion is that this was a suicide by motor vehicle and that the driver was seeking out something big to hit. So, while if I'd happened upon him driving the wrong way, he wouldn't have hit me. I am left with the very strong feeling that I would have been caught up in it somehow. I'm convinced I had an angel on my shoulder that kept me from my usual M.O. of rushing out the door.

When I delivered Mom to her room in the ER, the first thing out of Jane's mouth was that it wasn't her fault. She's been diligent about following the low sodium and limited fluid directive issued after the congestive heart failure.

Once she'd been told she was staying as a guest of the hospital (ha), we headed back to Mom's. I called work and the school and caught a few hour's sleep. After Mom woke me a few times to see if I wanted to sleep some more (really), I returned to the hospital with some things for Jane.

Now, onto the inevitable questions about Jane. She did not have a heart attack, but they're not sure what happened. Initial tests didn't show elevated enzyme levels (indicative of an MI), but numbers were wonky enough that they decided to keep Jane for observation. Later tests showed she's throwing enzymes. Somehow, I suspect she'll be in for more than 24 hours. She got a PICC line, as the one arm they can use for IVs is not a 'good stick'.

I think I can relate to Jane's current frustration level. Some things are preventable through diligent attention to one's own body. Others, despite your best efforts, land you in the one place you fight to stay away from. This is one of those times.

If I knew she'd enjoy them, I'd bring her over the pile of books from the 'chick lit' authors that a former coworker turned me on to. They're light reads, funny and entertaining. Maybe I should send Ed with a few anyway. Anyone who has spent even one night in the hospital will tell you how darn exhausting it can be, so she'll need to relax once home.

Yes, it really seems like life is too overwhelming lately and we can't catch a break. Are we done paying the damn Karma bill yet?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Tired

I'm just annoyed today, and in a pissy mood.

Tired of waiting for this leg to heal. I'm tired of not being able to take any time off to let it heal properly. Tired of holding everything together. Tired of having to tell others to do things that they should know enough to do themselves.

I have to find energy to pack, to find a place to live and then move. Moving sucks. I hate it and I thought I'd never do it ever again. However, things being what they are, my efforts aren't enough to keep this house we live in. We can't afford it on my salary.

Hope I can find a place to rent somewhere in the attendance area of the school the boys currently attend.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Suckered back into Classmates

Late last month, Classmates sent me one of their dozen emails "please come back. We'll give you a really good deal". Remember, this is the company that I signed up for three months, then they automatically deducted another 15 bucks for another three months.

This time, they offered for me to rejoin for 15 bucks for the year. What prompted me to do it? The little thing they added where you can 'sign the guestbook' to let someone know you visited your profile. I could see people signed it, but not who-unless I was a member.

I am a sucker. That number kept going up and I couldn't see WHO was signing that guest book, saying hello twenty plus years after leaving high school. :) It was teasing me, and finally I couldn't take it anymore. Now I know who has signed the guest book! It seems like a lot of people I have good memories of but didn't socialize with have popped by to say hello. Several have sent some really nice emails, which I find pretty cool.

So, I'm paying it forward. Looking for people that were nice in the sea of hormones and hostility that is any high school and signing their guestbook. If I get an email back, then I share what I liked about them back then. Twenty years later, I think we've all found that life isn't as easy as we thought it would be-why not do something to spread some sunshine?

PS to Ed -Yes, honey. My mom should have named me Pollyanna.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Further proof that I'm fashion challenged, or Sears is getting hipper?

My regional director is visiting my store this week. She visits once per quarter and the visit to our district was planned for a while. However, now that we're losing two of our managers, and the store across town recently lost their GM, these two stores will be graced with her presence.

It's a given that all the managers NOT departing for this new retailer will sit down with her for a climate survey. It doesn't look good for a district manager to lose this many managers at once-they want to ensure that we're happy with her leadership. Good retailers do this-I've been through climate surveys before.

This means new clothes to ensure I look crisp, polished and professional. I am picky about my clothing-always have been. I prefer solids, simple tailoring and try to avoid trendy pieces in purchasing work clothes. Until I moved to Florida, I lived in white, tan, khaki and black. Other than the various Disney apparel pieces, there was very little color in the closet. There weren't any prints.

There has been quite a change since moving, but I still gravitate towards solids and 'classic' lines. I admit this-if I'm given a gift of clothing, with rare exception, its so far from my comfort zone and clothing 'rules' that it doesn't get worn. (Giggles gets it, but I think she's the only one)

Ed and I ventured off to the mall this morning. We haven't spent much time together lately with his crazy work schedule and I needed his opinion. Granted, he's more interested in the 'sexy' factor, but he'll tell me if I look like crap in an outfit.

We started at Lane Bryant. The reason for this is that my chest is not getting any smaller, even though the waist is. I need button down shirts that aren't going to pull across the boobs! Since they sell larger women clothes, I thought they would have some shirts that would fit the bill.
Alas, I only found one shirt that met my specifications. They don't seem to devote too much of their store to career basics, and what they have is more of the colorful blouses that I already have and can't wear to work. We strike out, as the things that would work don't come in my size. It's lunacy to try to find a 14 in the store when it's the smallest size they carry.

I think I really tick Ed off when he shops with me. He'll show me what he thinks is a worthy selection and I extoll all the things wrong with the item. In twelve years together, he is still confused by my clothing rules and probably thinks I'm too picky. He's right.

Ed mentions Sears as our next stop. Yep, Sears. They carry Lands' End, that bastion of simple, classic clothes. I can spend thirty bucks on a shirt and know that it won't be out of style next week. I have some Lands' End shirts purchased three years ago and they are part of the current work rotation.

I find several shirts that fit my criteria (button down, neutral colors, somewhat tailored, simple lines) and venture off to the fitting room. They also carry a line of Liz Claiborne, another brand I gravitate towards for the simple look and solid colors. In looking through the racks, we find a brand I haven't seen in years. Rena Rowan. It's a subsidiary of Jones New York, yet another line of classic styles. Back in the day, my closet was peppered with many Rena Rowan or JNY pieces.

Ed helps me select the shirts, but we'd only found a few Rena Rowan pieces among the clearance racks, so none were purchased. On the way out, though, we find the racks of them. A half dozen four ways full of basic, quality clothes. I found a skirt and two pairs of pants on clearance, and twenty years from now, they'll still look good (though my goal is to be two sizes smaller.)

So, I found three name brands that used to only direct market or were found in the high end department stores. Three companies that I would seek out to purchase. Has Sears gone hip, or do I fall squarely into the "over the hill Sears shopper" demographic?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

cooking school

I've got to come up with nicknames for the kids-as it's getting old writing 'older son' and 'younger son'. Any ideas?

In any event, younger son has been attending cooking school since September. We're fueling his passion for food, which has been a good thing. The child definitely won't be eating Ramen noodles in college. Noooo, he'll probably be charming someone into cutting him a break on cans of crabmeat and making crabcakes for all his roommates. Can you really say the same of paying for a sports activity?

About a month ago, a reporter was at the cooking school asking questions for an article about the proliferation of these cooking programs for kids. He wondered if it was thanks to Food Network, which I'd have to say yes. Back when I was a kid, you had Graham Kerr (too flamboyant), Julia Child (pretty neat, when I got to see it) and Earl Peyroux. They were shown once a week or during the day while we kiddos were in school. Now, kids can watch at any time and these shows cover just about anything you can think of that involves food and cooking.

The reporter asked the owner several questions. Are the kids really into it? (YEAH. It's fun to sit in and watch them in action.) Do they pick up skills? (Yes, in addition to reinforcing math, science and reading without them realizing that additional element.) Are there any kids who have parents in the food business?

This is where my son came in. The director immediately thought of my son's excitement in the classes each week. He dressed as a chef for career day at school. She mentioned that I'd managed a food business and Ed had worked as a butcher. His sophistiated palate was also discussed, and the reporter was intrieged. She called me on the spot.

I ended up speaking with the reporter for about twenty minutes, telling him about son's passion for crabcakes and the photo essay of us making a batch, the nickname he's earned (crustacean kid) and his pride in developing his "Strawberry Heaven" cake for the Cub Scout Blue and Gold. We talked about the family history of working in restaurants. He asked if that was a career I'd encourage, knowing what I know. If he wants to, I'd be all for it, because work isn't work if you love it.

It ends up that the reporter was a freelancer and he shopped the article around, beyond the trade papers that he originally thought would be likely to run it. One of the local papers liked the article and bought it-and wanted to take pictures of the school and of our budding chef. The owner called us last week and invited him to attend cooking camp Monday morning, so the photographer could get some pictures. Cool deal.

We set off on Monday morning to cooking camp. We were under the impression it was a very generous invite to the one class. However, the owner told us that he was a guest all week. Wow. She explained that his enthusiasm is a joy for her to watch each week. It was her pleasure to have him in the classroom.

On Tuesday, she topped the already generous gift by giving us a gift certificate for older son to attend two of the summer classes. He gets to pick which weeks he wants to attend with his brother. He looked the summer agenda over and has chosen the two.

How do you thank someone for such a gift? She's helping to inspire my child by providing these classes, and she's giving US the gift? I'm blown away at the kindness. It all started with a simple desire to make his favorite food. We found out about this school, mentioned to him that it was opening and that was all she wrote. I'm pretty sure the child would have badgered us for a long time if we hadn't signed him up.

I can't think of the proper thank you. The kids will be making cards. When asked, budding chef said "I'll make them my Strawberry Heaven." I think that's a good start.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Broadway, Baby!

I will always have a soft spot for theatre. If I was so inclined, I could switch my major and be a second semester junior in college (depending on the major), however, I really want my degree to say technical theatre. So there's the history.

One of the hot links at the top of my firefox browser is IMDB, because movies also tweak my interest. It is always good, when having a disagreement about someone's role in a film, to bring up their page and settle the argument once and for all.

Broadway shows? I don't think I'll ever have a dispute over where a show played, how long it played, who was in the cast and what they moved on to. It's just not interesting to anyone else I know.

Apparently, there are others who share that bug for theatre, because there is a counterpart to IMDB. It's IBDB, the Internet Broadway Database.

I've learned some cool stuff...

*the first Broadway show I saw (The Magic Show, Cort Theatre, July 28, 1976-yes, I know the date) had David Ogden Stiers in a very minor role

*the cheapest ticket (2bucks for House of Blue Leaves, Vivian Beaumont, May 2, 1986*) worked out to pennies per name star in it-Danny Aiello, John Spencer, Stockard Channing, Swoozie Kurtz, Ben Stiller, and Julie Haggerty. The reason why it was so cheap was that the theatre department chair was a college buddy of one of the producers.

*the most compelling storyline (Angel's Fall, March 1983) was a show that only ran for 57 performances

Off to find more facts about the various shows I've seen...

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Blast from the past....

Tonight, Donna, the boys and I climbed aboard the wayback machine and took in a B52s concert at Busch Gardens.

Enjoyed is a more accurate word to describe the event. Fred, Kate, Cindy and Keith put on a great show (Fred is charming and witty) and the new songs off the new album definitely make me want to go pick up the CD. The tour memorabilia was nice, but not 30 dollars nice, so we skipped the T shirts that we'd have bought back in the 80's.

One thing that really bothered us was the quantity of people who were probably there because it was free with park admission. Dead crowd, except for perhaps 100 of us out of the 2000 in attendance. They recognized "Roam" and "Rock Lobster", but not much else got more than polite applause (save the 100 or so previously mentioned-I believe all of us are hoarse right now.) Meanwhile, Donna was dancing, and I was doing my best to keep up-at one point, younger son complained that we were making the benches shake!

The concert was out in a grassy field that was flanked by two of the parks coasters(Gwazi and SheiKra), and the clouds threatened to let loose. Some of the clueless left when the drizzle began about halfway through the show. Losers. At one point, older son asked if we'd leave if it rained. My answer was "Only if the band does." I was NOT missing this, my first concert in about eight years.

Donna got to hear her two favorites from "Wild Planet" and I was very happy to hear "Rock Lobster" and "Planet Claire". I think we both would have loved to hear more. Alas, they're not scheduled to play anywhere nearby for a while. If they were, I'd gladly pay to see them again.

If you have the occasion to see the band, and you're even a casual fan, GO. You won't be disappointed. Cindy and Kate still harmonize well (OMG, Kate's still able to do "Planet Claire" as if you were listening to a Moog), and they still write witty songs. Donna needs to email me the pics from her camera phone-I'll add them later.

Twenty years from now, it'll probably be cool for the boys to say their first concert was the B's.