Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Father, The Hero

We are all familiar with the awkward cadence and tedious nature of reading a comic strip aloud to someone. They can't see the illustrations, or from whence the speech bubbles came, and thus, you are forced to not only read the text, but then supplement it with cumbersome commentary ("...and as LuAnn is saying this, she is cuddling their small dog, Puddles. And then she says...") It takes three times as long to read, and often, the punch line is so mired in detail by the time of delivery, you rarely get a chuckle from your audience.

I woke up to this horrendous performance-art this morning, as my father insists on doing this when he finds a comic funny. And now he actually has an excuse, as not one, nor two, but ALL THREE of my grandparents are staying with us for the week due to power outages at their homes. His mother, my grandmother, cannot see because of the progression of her Macular Degeneration, and likes to be read aloud to from generally all sources of material. My Papa gets impatient with her, and doesn't like to, so naturally, my father, The Good Son, will do it.

My dad is loving this weather. Portland has gotten an unheard-of amount of snow and ice, for a week-and-a-half now, which is longer than it ever sticks around. Not only does it remind him of his college days in New Hampshire, and when he worked on the ski patrol at Grand Targhee for a few winters, but increases the likelihood of opportunities to be a hero.

On Saturday, he looked at my mother as the snow began to fall heavily and said, "I need to get out to the property to get the chainsaw."
"What do you need a chainsaw for?" my mother wanted to know.
"In case people need rescuing!" Dad said jubilantly.
"Make sure you swing by the dry-cleaner on the way there to pick up your cape and tights," she said.

This is no new development: it is just the fall-out of a man having chosen the wrong career entirely. A few years ago, after he tried sky-diving for the first time, we were driving to a lunch spot to celebrate his successful jump. We were in two separate cars as Dad had gotten out to the jump site early that morning and we just wanted to see the action.
We were on the winding backroads of rural Oregon, and passed a crowd of people who had gotten out of their cars and were clustered around a man on the ground. We had to pull over while Dad got out of his car to see what was going on, and if he could offer his help.
Not more than five minutes later on the same road, we witnessed a car careen around a turn, and apparently, as Dad was behind us, he saw it flip off the road into someone's front yard. He was the first person at the scene and called the police and calmed the passengers and did his best to administer first-aid.
It was his ideal day, as once he finally got to lunch, he had a beer, too.

Last Christmas, we were visiting my Aunt and Uncle in Dallas, Texas. My uncle works for a government agency, which my dad thinks is "SO. COOL." and offered to take us to a shooting range to try our skills at shooting handguns.
I did okay.
My dad was awesome.

So being snowed-in in the suburbs is not exactly his ideal version of being a hero, but the patience with which he attends to his mother, pacifies Papa (Dad's gotten really good at making Old Fashioneds), and puts up with his mother-in-law is just as admirable as any act in the line of fire.

"How about this one, Mom. The little girl comes into her little brother's room and says.."

And me? I gotta get outta here.
All I want for Christmas is the snow to melt.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Newsflash: 2008 Wasn't So Bad

With the new year right around the bend, I have been really looking forward to making some resolutions. I really like the idea of starting fresh, of tackling more, and of leaving behind. Looking at time in a linear way really allows us to do this.

However, the more I think about it, it's just as important to do a "year in review" of sorts. Just as Rolling Stone releases their comprehensive "50 Best Albums of the Year" issue, and People magazine declares the best and worst dressed celebrities, I think it's good to reflect and do the same in my own life- to evaluate how I did on my resolutions to make sure they meant something.

And you know what? I did ok. As much as I wanted to make The Weepies' "This is Not Your Year" my 2008 anthem, I am proud to announce that I had a fairly kick ass year.

(I want to hear about yours, too, but, let me pat myself on the back for a second)

2008: A Year of Accomplishments, After All

1. I wrote a 58 page thesis on "The Role and Identity of Women in Violent Political Extremist Acts in the Middle East" and defended it in front of my committee. I passed with honors.

2. I went to Puerto Rico for Spring Break.

3. I graduated from an accredited public university with a double major and a minor.

4. I got a job immediately upon graduation.

5. I survived a breakup and came out the other side stronger and better for it.

6. I bought a car.

7. I moved out of my parents' house into an apartment.

8. I had the honor of being in one of my best friends' weddings.

9. I bought myself a handbag. A very lovely, expensive, silly thing that I wanted and could afford for the first time ever.

10. I saw the following bands' live shows for the first time (some of which were at The Gorge Amphitheater, which I had never been to and will now visit once a year): Minus the Bear, The Big Sleep, Todd Snider, REM, The Cure, The Mars Volta, Flight of the Conchords, The Flaming Lips, Roderigo y Gabriela, The Little Ones, Mates of State, Ratatat, Ghostland Observatory, DJ Tiesto, Fleet Foxes, Back Door Slam, The Blakes, Band of Horses, The Black Keys, !!!, Estelle, Ingrid Michaelson, and Portugal the Man

11. I remained a good and loyal friend to the people I respect, trust, and admire.

As much as I struggled through certain months, as much as I thought I knew what was best for me other months... I was convinved that 2008 was just not my year. And it may not have been, but I made it my bitch.

2008? You got owned.

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Drastically Different December

There is no "Winter Break" for me this year.

I am not living at home.

I am single.

I did not just finish finals and come home with a bunch of laundry.

Other than my decision every morning to put on one of my many pairs of Christmas socks I seem to have collected over the years, and the unmistakable red of Starbucks cups everywhere, it's not feeling so Decembery.

To combat this, I'm partying extra hard for Santa and Baby Jesus this year. Maybe not extra hard, just more often. The holiday season is just the best time of year to catch up with people you love, miss, and care about. What better way to do this than clad in crusty Christmas sweaters, Christmas cocktail attire, and looking forward to a New Year together?

It also keeps me occupied at work if I have a social function to plan, which is why I am so looking forward to the holiday dinner I'm hosting at The Paragon! (By hosting, I mainly mean that I will be inviting everyone, and paying for the difference in our bill and the restaurant minimum when we inevitably don't hit it). More details to come as this develops... key words include: classy, Nat King Cole, and steak.

This week alone, I've gotten to see a lot of old friends, some of whom I haven't caught up with in years. Literally, two years. That is a lot of time when you've only known somone for nine years and you're only twenty-two.

Since my friends are awesome, these little reunions have also created some New Things For My Days!

Monday: I finally went to dinner with an old friend I've known since leadership camp days, when I was 15. Over the years we've seen each other at plenty of social scenes, but have never made the effort to actually enjoy catching up over a meal until this week, and I am really glad we did. He chose the restaurant- Marrakech - which was great since I've been to the city, but never the restaurant. We talked business, and college, and trips, and future plans and family while we ate with our hands. I couldn't have been more pleased with the bastilla, or the Moroccan mint tea. Or the company. I had misjudged him, and am glad he had an opportunity to change my mind. I look forward to future dinners and a stronger friendship with him.

Tuesday: I did spin class at the gym with another friend. I am still sore.
I also met up with some wonderful friends at the Blue Moon brewery just down the street from my apartment to eat french friends and play Trivial Pursuit. (My team won).

Wednesday: I drove home just to watch a movie with my parents. In a now-traditional Holiday Season move, we watched Elf. I never EVER get tired of this movie.

Thursday: Other than the kids I grew up with in the neighborhood or elementary school or church, one of my oldest friends came and picked me up on our semi-annual-when-we're-both-single-"date". He chose Ten01, which I was thrilled about as Mom and I have been wanting to try it for a while after reading rave reviews in recent dining guides about Portland.

I had the Roasted Duck with pureed parsnip, steamed brussel sprouts, and chantarelles with a fantastic glass of Sauvignon Blanc. He got the Pan Roasted Skate and was not pleased with it. So I ate part of that, too. Decaf coffee for me, and House-made Vanilla bean ice-cream with regular coffee for him, then an array of gelee candies, a lemon butter cookie and a caramel-chocolate truffle before we left.

It is wonderful, I think, that through relationships, through new experiences, and school and breakups and travel all these things that change us, we can still see people from our past and manage to enjoy each other's company. It is a simple pleasure of life, for me.

Today, I think I am going to leave work a little early to hit some antique stores to find some CellarDoor24 goodies. And then I'm going to my first office Christmas party as a friend's date.

All together, this is my new December.

Last year I was finishing up finals and frantically packing up ball gowns and stockings and jewelry and new coats for a cousin's wedding in Jordan, working at Nordstrom, dealing with having to put down our beloved Springer Spaniel on Christmas Eve, and traveling to Texas to see family and my man. A lot can change in a year.
Everything changed in a year.

"It's been a long December
but there's reason to believe
that maybe this year will be better
than the last."


It doesn't have to be better- I just have to be ok with it being different, because nothing ever stays the same.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Adventures in City Driving and The Joys of Les Schwab Tire Center

I love city living so far. On Monday morning I woke up to an absolutely gorgeous sunrise of hot pink and orangeburst that glowed around the city's silhouette. I sleep with my blinds open now because I have a huge panoramic window that looks east, and when it's a nice morning, the light reflects off of the floor-to-ceiling mirrored closets in my room and my whole room wakes up nicely.

I woke up to another color that morning too: the unmistakable yellow of the little envelope into which they slip parking tickets.

As an offical resident of the city of Portland, I've run into a few driving related issues.

The ticket was admittedly totally my fault- a stupid error.

Then, this morning, I was leaving for work, and in an attempt to skip the long light at the botton of the hill on 19th, I tried to pull a U-turn. I was trying to get a big area to turn into, so I pulled towards the right, into a driveway of a parking lot. I apparently misjudged the length of the curb though, and ended up ramming my front right tire into the curb. I am used to driving an Explorer, and so this did not phase me... until I saw a man across the street look at my car curiously as I drove up the hill.

At this point, I was right in front of my building and thought it wise to step out and take a look at the damage: flat tire, scraped wheel. Dixie, I love you, but you're kind of a wimp.

I was a little excited to tackle changing a tire by myself, and started to get out all the necessary pieces from my trunk. The jack, the bar thing that takes off the lug nuts, and my driver's manual sat with me on the curb as my hazards flashed, indicating my state of semi-emergency and illuminating my cluelessness as I tried to jam the wrench thing onto the lug nuts. Totally wrong size. I sat there for a second, thinking I would run into my building and ask my manager for a tool when a man in a blue workman's jumpsuit walked by and asked if I would like some help.

My city-girl confidence gave way immediately to my innate damsel-in-distress gene and I smiled gratefully and accepted his help. Within seconds, he'd eliminated my first problem (those were not lug nuts I was trying to take off... it was a decorative plastic cover over my wheel. I just think that's mean) and then set to work loosening the nuts and jacking up the car while I stood there looking on intently- this was my contribution: watching with an interested expression.

Turns out Rick works in my building and was the guy who fixed my shower earlier this week. As much as I like the guy, you can only hope to get to know your maintenance man so much, else it speaks to the volume of mishaps in your life, right?

Spare tire on, I did the honor of lugging the old dirty one to my trunk, and then arrived late at work.

At lunch, I went to Les Schwab to get it replaced. Let me just say, that I looked forward to this all day, because I love Les Schwab. I love it. Les Schwab is the Nordstrom of the service industry. They are speedy, they are polite, they are efficient, and confident, and professional, and I love them. AND THE POPCORN! I LOVE the popcorn. Not to mention the FREE COFFEE! And the old magazines!
I could not have spent a happier hour and fifteen minutes anywhere, I don't think.



I was just licking my fingers after my third bag of popcorn and second cup of coffee when the nice guy (whom I recognized as a graduate of my high school) summoned me to the front to explain the diagnosis and run my card.

I would just like to extend my gratitude to all the tire-changers of the world who are willing to scrape their knuckles and get their hands dirty to help other people out. I think knowing I could have changed that tire if I wanted to was enough for me- I didn't need to prove it, so thanks, Rick, for being there. And thanks Les Schwab for turning such an inconvenience into the bright spot in my day.

Whoever runs into me for the rest of the day is in for a treat, as I'm in a pay-it-forward kind of mood.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"What'd you do at work today? Oh really, because I got to play God."

A large part of my job involves messing around with the software application that we've developed. I suppose that's where the "Analyst" part comes in.

We are scheduled to begin training the client on how to use the latest release of the application tomorrow, and I've been helping Roger set up the system for his training sessions. He will be training on functionality that requires a member account in the system to have certain conditions, like that the person is ready to retire, or that they are divorced, or dead.

This is where things get weird.
All the data is in a test environment- a website that is a mockup of what our real website will be, with all of the actual members in it (which for me includes people I've known my whole life, including teachers, family members, and friends' parents) but for some reason I cannot get it through my head that whatever I change in the system doesn't actually happen in real life.

For instance:

Roger had me go through and perform divorces on like, 33 accounts the other day. I felt bad THE ENTIRE TIME. I had to add Alternate Payees to another 26 accounts, and since it's all just to get the account in order, it doesn't MATTER who you choose to add as the member's spouse, or ex-spouse (you can click buttons in the system and associate a woman with a woman, a man with a man, whatever) but I could not shake the feeling that I HAD to pair up people who are about the same age. I tried to make sure the woman's name sounded nice with the guy's last name, and that they didn't live too far away from each other. This added on a fairly large amount of unnecessary time to my day.


I felt like I was playing that horrible computer game "The Sims" all week. My greatest work-related fear (other than the client discovering my temporary internet files and wondering what the F it is I do all day) is that somehow the training data will go live, without me knowing it, and I will just be sitting at my desk, divorcing and killing people all the live-long day. Just ruining lives.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We've got the vision- Now let's have some fun

The apartment is ours.

I got the news last Friday. The combination of this, my latte, and no food all day, plus the decision to go see Tiesto on December 17th had me shaking like a small dog in the bath.

I have done a good amount of new things recently. That new Jim Carrey movie is coming out, and I feel like that character and I will have a lot in common with the experience of learning to say "Yes" to new experiences.


Thursday: I met up with an old friend at Bay 13 in the Pearl, and I actually ate a meal of sushi. Yellowtail, Ahi, and eel in all their slippery, chewy goodness. I really like when you meet up with an old friend, and part of your conversation really affirms why you became friends in the first place- in this case, it was a lively discussion about our aversion to ending sentences with a preposition, and the awkward pauses we take to correct ourselves.

Friday: I was approved for my first apartment in the big city! I also got (unfairly) chased out of a restaurant (Montage) at 2:00 AM and swore at the waitress. This was not my finest moment, made even less cool by the fact that we had to wait for a cab for 15 minutes under the Morrison Bridge after being escorted out forcefully. RIP best macaroni and cheese in the city... I don't believe I will be welcome there again.




Saturday: I painted the bonus room for my mother. It's a lovely shade of blue-green and not only did I paint the wall, but I cleaned up after myself, too.
I also managed to make it to Dixie in Portland, for the second time in a weekend, which is a new thing, but not one of which I'm necessarily proud. Yikes.

Sunday: I finally started watching Arrested Development. The Dance Fighter has been hounding me to do this for about a year now, and I guess I never felt like I had the time. But I have it now, and wow, have I wasted a LOT of it on the Bluth family. I may or may not have watched 11 episodes on Sunday, alone. Stop judging me.

Monday: For the first time since I can remember, I went to bed before 10:30 without the excuse of being sick, having to wake up really early, or being drunk and passing out.

In addition to the things mentioned above, I have a newfound appreciation for the following:
- Honeycrisp apples. For a girl who has never loved apples, these things are freakin' gold.


- Parking in the garage. How did I ever live in a world where I parked on the street? I have pilfered my mother's garage door opener, since she was out of town last week, and I don't think I'm going to give it back.

-MGMT. Listen. Listen. Listen.

"Yeah, this is our decision to live fast and die young/ We've got the vision- now let's have some fun. Yeah it's overwhelming but what else can we do? Get jobs in offices and wake up for the morning commute?"

I understand the meaning of "living for the weekends" these days.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Something to Sleep On

If Little Roomie and I EVER hear back from this rental management guy, I am going to a) freak out with joy
b) need a new room

I have to admit, that few things terrify me as much as decorating a whole room. It is an overwhelming task to me, and it's seriously something I need to get over. As much as I thought about being an Interior Designer as a kid, and as much as I l.o.v.e. home decor mags, stores, paint swatches etc. it all gives me the heebie jeebies.
So I found these to help me out. I want a bedroom like this:
In stark contrast to what my spaces actually look like, I don't like a lot IN them, furniture wise. My room will be carpeted, so it won't have this super clean and fresh look like the floors in this room, but I like the abundance of white, and light.
Again, I might be drawn to the wood floors, but the pillows are extravagant, which is a must for me. I love the prominently placed books, the dramatic curtains, and again, the light.
Must have a white bed, and I'm scheming to do something not quite as dramatic with framed pictures, but inspired by this.
Chandelier. Adore. White and light? Yes. I envy the splash of color in here- making that kind of decision makes me sweat. I choose white dishes at IKEA, the most simple glass and silverware, and leave walls white so I don't have to make a decision. Yikes. (This bed needs a napper in it. Don't worry- I'll get right on that).
I mean, doesn't everyone want a tree growing out of their floor and through their roof? Permanent tree house!
I could die in this room. I could also wake up in it every day and be perfectly pleased, probably mainly in part to those pink peonies! I won't be having a dramatic headboard like that, but I like a lot of the small touches in this room.

I would credit the photos but I can't remember where I got them. Oops. Any ideas from you??

Winning Them Over at Work

If you know me, you know winning is kind of important to me.

I have been trying to win at work in a few ways recently, and I have been met with mixed success.

The first thing I've been trying to win at is being sneaky enough to check Facebook, Gmail, this blog, my friends' blogs, wedding planning sites, Pandora, Gofugyourself.com, blogs of random people, YouTube, Wikipedia, CNN, Craig's List, and Google Image Searches of things I want to look at (lately: peonies, room decor inspiration, America's Next Top Model Cycle 11) WITHOUT getting caught by my manager Alan.
Alan is a quiet walker, and often times I don't notice him in my personal space if my headphones are on until he is literally dropping a document in front of my face. This has happened and it is slightly embarassing. Especially because the first time, I was taking an IQ test. Lately though, I've been kicking ass at this game (although I'm sure the joke will eventually be on me, and someone in the basement is monitoring my every key stroke, and is probably wondering why I REALLY NEEDED to look up that CNN link on People Mag's 2008 Sexiest Man Alive (Hugh Jackman, in case you were wondering) and I am going to lose my job).

Another thing I've been trying to beat is the actual software application my company has built. See, from the beginning, we've been mortal enemies, and it never wants me to succeed, so I've honestly spent the last few days trying to use it to withdraw someone's account and process the batch job successfully, so that the account status turns to withdrawn and- oh. Oh, no. I am NOT going to start talking about work like that! Job-1, Me- 0. You win this time...

The most important thing I've been trying to win here at the office is everyone else's affection.
I hate being The New Kid, and I hate being a drag on everyone's time when they have to train me and answer questions. So it is important to me to at least reward them with good company, and muffins every once in a while. That, paired with a few extra smiles, corny jokes, "thank yous", and doing their grunt work, I think they finally like me.
It's a win-win situation.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

To Grandmother's House

I slept in The Pink Room. The queen sized bed of floral would swallow me whole as a kid, a little girl swaddled in her grandmother's silken nighties ("They're just rayon, Dear").
In a morning ritual we developed, I would slink down the interminably long hallway, over the black slate entry way, across the oriental rug in the dining room, and I would notch my tiny fingers into the shuttered doors between the kitchen and the dining room, and I would be still. I would let the air around me stop moving, and let there be no movement, save for the rustle of the newspaper my grandmother was holding as she read it and drank her coffee in the rust-red rocking chair, always with her back to me. I was a fierce thing, a hunter (for attention), and when the moment was right, I would leap from the dining room practically into the newspaper and scare the beejeezus out of my poor darling Grandma, who would never shriek, but let out a satisfying holler as I rolled into a giggle on her lap. She was never angry in those moments, but full of love and understanding.

Other times, when I was older and my brother spent the night too (more rarely than I), I would sleep in one of the twin beds in The Blue Room, he in the other. The smell is different in there- not of Grandma's fur coats in The Pink Room closet, but of Papa's Pendleton shirts- and I swear I could always detect the scent of a box of See's Candies on the top shelf. It wasn't wishful thinking, as I would often drag a chair to the closet and swat the box down, nibbling the edges of the smooth milk chocolate treasures: devour the raspberry and maple. Leave the coconut, always.
When I slept in The Blue Room, Papa would make a deal with me. If I was asleep by the time he checked on me after his evening shower, he would give me fifty cents, and would place it right on the corner of the dresser, which is between the two beds.
I always got the fifty cents (but I was never actually asleep).

For being such a brat, it is remarkable how much time they let me spend over there.
I'm very fortunate, as both of my fathers' parents and my mother's mother all live in a nearby suburb, and have for my whole life. What's more, is that they live within two blocks of each other, and I, being the first grandchild on either side, was doted upon heavily. I think it explains a lot.

My mother's mother is more of an acquired taste: she and I have bonded in recent years over similar interests in luxury retail and foreign travel. But as a little kid, I only had eyes for Grandma.

She talks often, even now, of her childhood in Colombia and New York City. We would bake cakes "from el-scratch-o" (her words, now mine) and make taffy in cinnamon, and peppermint. The splattered pages of her Betty Crocker were my Bible- my ambition and guide to being a woman. A woman who makes a damn good apple pie, a Baked Alaska for dinner parties, a woman who can wear an apron well. We built a doll house together, and furnished it fully. We rode the bus when her eyesight got too poor to drive. We went to the park. We played Bingo. I turned the exercise band they had tied to their couch in the downstairs living room into my own personal bungee-jump (when you weigh 40 pounds and affix a giant rubber band around your middle, and run across the length of the room and let the force of the band bring you flying back to the sofa, you can be entertained for hours. Days) and she would let me. Grandma and Papa had cable before we did, so I got to watch all the good Nickelodeon shows there in the gray recliner. She attempted to teach me to crochet. She taught me to use a typewriter and a sewing machine. She let me decorate her house for Christmas..when I was five. Being Catholic, her Nativity Scene and Creche were way more complicated than my own at home, and I could never figure out why there were so many baby Jesuses (Jeesi? What is the plural?) at varying stages of life. But she let me cram them all into the manger, whereas my own mother liked them spaced out. "They came all the way to see him, and you're going to make them wait in the COLD, MOM?"
"Honey, the cow does NOT need to be the closest figure to Jesus."
Grandma and I always had fun.

It turns out, we still do.
Due to some health complications for Papa following his hip replacement surgery this week, he had to go back into the hospital. My parents were fielding phone calls about it last night and the only thing I could think of was that I didn't want Grandma to be home by herself. My mother's mother lives alone, and I never go spend the night with her, but she's been a widow for fifty-something years, so I don't think about it. Grandma isn't used to it, and what's more, she can't see anything anymore (Thanks, Macular Degeneration- looking forward to meeting you) and plus, she used to be a Stanford educated nurse, and is rather upset she can't properly care for her ailing husband.

So last night, in the rain, I drove the drive to Grandma's. I called her and confirmed that yes, she would like the company, and gathered up my work things and drove over right way.

We didn't bake, and I brought my own nightgown this time, and I didn't scare the hell out of her this morning. Instead, I helped her be the independent adult she always raised me to be by helping her with little things around the house. We transferred scrawled phone numbers ("In my inimitable hand writing" she joked) on scraps of paper to blocky, printed text on card stock, to be placed in plastic sheets in her hand-made phone book. We sorted the mail (I reading aloud, she dictating which bag to drop it into), and I gathered the bath mats to be washed, and I made Papa's bed, and I gleaned all the dead flowers from the arrangement and left the lush ones.

I slept in The Blue Room.
"I will die without that house, I will die without them," something inside me whispers. I know I won't. I know the day will come. I know I will never be ready for it.
Until then, I know I will do my best to take care of them, and to read aloud to them, and to put them to bed, and to allow this Thing to come full circle, as it is bound to do.

I need to start thinking about these things, or before I know it, the news of their passing will sneak up on me in the morning while I am drinking my coffee and it will scare the sense out of me and I will shriek and cry instead of taking it in stride, with understanding and with love.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Food For My Thoughts

There is a little cafe in my building. It isn't much of a cafe, just a hole in the wall - literally - where you can order any number of breakfasty or lunchy food items. It's a little expensive, but for the convenience of not having to go out to my car and drag my unhemmed pants through the wet parking lot to drive somewhere and pay a little less, it's totally worth it.

Besides great tuna melts and perfectly toasted bagels with a luxurious amount of cream cheese, the best thing about the UC Cafe is David.
David comes in every morning and prints up the Daily Specials, and tacks it to the board near the menu. The whole set up is very professional, and the specials are usually unique and tasty.

David is Asian, and has a thick accent, though I have not asked him where he was born, yet. He ususally does the asking. And the teasing. And the political ranting. And the interrogating.
He is great.

My first encounter with him was slightly embarassing, since I didn't know at the time that he took debit cards, and assumed I could only pay with cash. Since I typically carry about 45 cents, some lint, and a button or two, this posed a problem. I somehow scraped together a 1.75 that first day and he teased me saying, "I know how budget tight. You wait for first paycheck, and you come back!"

Sometimes he asks me about myself. He knows where I went to school and what I majored in, and has used this against me many times when I can't come up with anything intelligent to say to his NPR-driven questions about Prop 8 and Sarah Palin. "You Political Science expert. I expected more from you!"

He's a tough sell, David. "You really think that? So uncreative. Same as everyone says."
"You still hate your job? What do you really want to do?"

Now I get a little nervous when I go get a sandwich. I have to be on my A-Game, or David will get upset. I'm always worried he will some day just have had enough of me and my coy side-stepping of tough questions and just refuse to serve me. That my lunch hangs in the balance, on the condition that I answer his latest query sufficiently, and that since he is bored, my insights or opinions are currency I barter for food with. "Come on, what do you really think? Don't ask me that, I just asked you. You know, forget it. You don't deserve this soup. No soup for you."

That last scene may have been borrowed from a Seinfeld episode, but sometimes I am pretty sure it's on the verge of happening.

I like that David expects a lot from me. I like that he is intelligent, and engaging, and probably would be doing something else for a career if he could afford to. I like that he puts sweet pickles in my tuna melts, and I like that he is generally the only person I look forward to seeing at work every day.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thanks for Giving

How fantastic is it that there is a holiday in our culture where you get to celebrate being THANKFUL?
I know it's a few weeks away, but I am so overwhelmed with things I'm thankful for, even as I've struggled through these past few months, that I want to make this whole month about being grateful and humbled by all the gifts in my life.

First and foremost, I am beyond thankful for my American citizenship and heritage. Last night, I assembled with some friends and watched the election coverage, and even though I may not have voted for him, I will earnestly and sincerely accept Barack Obama as my president. The passion that my fellow countrymen showed in the months leading up to this election, the interest that my peers exhibited, and the promises of the politicians campaigning all highlight what a gift it is to be able to choose, to be heard, to have a say.
Though I am not thankful for war, I am grateful for every man and woman who has ever fought to preserve my freedom and this way of life. I have traveled, I have fallen in love with foreign cities, but this is my home, and these are my ideals, too. We are the lucky ones.
Through our fair share of ugly mistakes, the people of our country have chosen to progress, and not simply for the sake of change, but for positive change- to become more humane and more just. We proved this last night, and I am proud.

On a smaller scale, I am thankful for my family, especially for the person my brother is becoming. I am thankful for our home, and for our security, and for the health and wellness of our extended family. I am thankful for my job and the income it provides, though I hate the job itself and what I'm letting it do to me, and am thankful for my paid vacation time.

Which means I am also thankful for the weekend I got to spend in California with my Beautiful Ba, and the relaxation and relief it brought me. I am grateful for my friends, and for their support and humor and sincerity and goodness. I am grateful for the love I know and have known- and that even though I realized today I have not seen You in three months, I am grateful for the best of things we shared, and that you are not holding me back.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Screaming Good Time

One Halloween in high school, I went to a movie with a boy and some friends. We saw that terrifying movie The Ring, which I only recently recovered from, but the scariest part was that I was still in full ghoul makeup. I worked at a haunted house for three years around Halloween, and I think it was then then I really started to love the season.

It is a holiday that has turned into fun for the sake of fun, and though our government doesn't think it merits a day off from school and work, it's still on the calendar every year - which is an accomplishment in itself- and a sign that people love candy, kids in funny costumes, and getting the crap scared out of them for fun. I think that's a wonderful set of things for a society to admit to liking.

The haunted house endeavor in high school was always an exhausting one, as there were like twenty of us running it with one advisor for a full weekend, a matinee showing, and then Halloween itself, which was generally on a school night through high school. By the time I was a senior, we'd moved the show from the old Grange to a creepy little church with a creepy giant basement and really perfected our art.

Starting in about July of that year, one of my best guy friends, who was my co-chair on the Haunted House committee with me, made it his one goal senior year to construct an elaborate maze in the basement of that year's house.
"Dude, it's never going to work," our advisor warned.

So Co-Chair recruited his friends, one of whom went on to major in engineering, and they did the damn thing. A bunch of 17 year old boys crafted the single most terrifying haunted house I've ever been through. It was just a bunch of plywood covered in black fabric, with one of them dressed up in a black gorilla suit wandering the maze. I am sure there was some other stuff, but really, those were the key elements. When it's dark enough, anything is scary.

Co-Chair and I decided to see what Portland had to offer in the way of haunted houses this year, so we ventured out to Jantzen Beach for "Scream at the Beach," currently rated #3 in the nation for best haunts.

And what a scream it was, thanks to me.

I could not SHUT UP. I giggled and squealed my way through each of the FIVE haunted houses they had set up (a zombie mansion, a jungle swamped with tribal ritual, a mental hospital, a killer carnival, and for me, the most terrifying: a Deliverence-esque mining camp. Sweet sassafrass, take me home).
I didn't realize I'd developed such a ridiculous defense mechanism- I wonder what kind of squealing and hysterical laughing I do during the day on a regular basis, just to make it through the day alive and in one piece?

Or like this one sort of snuck up on me, if in a few years something will happen and my reaction will surprise me- that I will exhibit a strength I didn't know had grown.

Or maybe I will just giggle my way through the next Hard Part.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

jOCkTOBER

Vancouver, Washington: home of the mullet.
I spent many a memorable Fourth of July at The Fort mullet-hunting with friends, playing card games on blankets, roasting in the summer sun, and listening to bad cover bands with inexplicably large brass sections.

Vancouver is largely similar in October, when it hosts a multitude of softball tournaments for adults who:
-simply cannot let their glory days go
-would rather be outside than in on a clear and bright autumn weekend (and their football team is away/they don't enjoy hunting)
-want to have somewhere fun to wear a Halloween costume
-enjoy kicking off an 8 AM Sunday slow-pitch game with a Jaegerbomb

Which brings me to my Recent New Thing of The Day:
My coed slow-pitch softball team ended our fall season with a Halloween Tournament this past weekend. It took me an hour to get out there, sustained only by my #3 McDonald's breakfast and some soothing morning tunes, and I was still late for our 9:10 AM game.

I knew it was going to be an awesome day when I noticed the umpire wearing a spangled harlequin clown jumpsuit, covered in black and silver sequins. My own team's costumes consisted of a bum, a hula dancer, two members of The Incredibles, and a pirate (of the Johnny Depp persuasion). I, too, was a pirate, but more of the gypsy variety. Another tip-off to the day's fun was that everyone in my dugout was holding either a can of PBR or a mixed drink.

We played three games that day, mostly back-to-back, and won the only game we probably should have lost. I batted around .444 that day and had a healthy helping of good plays at 3rd base including catching a hard line drive, and executing an inning-ending double play by stopping a hard-hit ground ball, tagging the bag and throwing home.

By the time the third game was over, I'm pretty sure I was the only one on the team who could legally drive. Somehow everyone made it safely to the nearby bar and I scarfed down a quesadilla before going home, but not in time to hear a girl on my team admit that the last time she made the mistake of hitting a guy, he hit her back in the stomach so hard she ended up "doubled over on the ground" clutching her stomach.
"I never made that mistake again," she said resolutely.
I'm pretty sure my jaw was resting lightly on the table at this point.
I was going to say something, but our first basewoman drunkenly started yelling about someone being a "f*cking p*ssy" for not drinking more.
It was at this point I made my exit.

I did however return to play the final day of the tournament.
Our first game was at 8 AM and there was still frost on the ground. We lost.
I hit about .775 for the day, so retired from my first coed season feeling pretty proud of myself.
We won the following 3 games and secured our place as the winners of the "Not Last" bracket.

I think that accurately sums up my team: The winners of the "Not Last" bracket of life.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Epic

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
Shasta weekends.
Family weddings.
Harry Potter books.

It came to my attention some time last year that many of the things I hold dear to me in life are overwhelmingly grand, complex, not wussy, balls-to-the-wall things.
I don't even have to particularly relate to the event or feel emotionally drawn to its intrinsic characteristics: it just has to be epic.

I love taking the mundane and making it a big deal (a night of games with friends you say? Make it a Trivial Pursuit Marathon Tourament, replete with multiple editions and prizes for the winners. You want to watch a movie, huh? I believe it's part of a trilogy- let's watch them ALL. In a ROW.)
I know I am not the only person who is drawn to such things with a tendency to aggrandize plans, but I embrace it about myself.

Sometimes, things become epic on their own, and then go down in (personal) history as The Best Night Ever, The Coolest Game Ever, The Funniest Thing He Ever Said, etc.

Saturday night was a day of two such incidences, namely, The Time I Ate More Chili Than Anyone Ever and Wanted to Die, followed hours later by The Most Dancing I Have Ever Done in Portland.

Part I:
I accompanied my mom and dad to a late afternoon Chili Cook-off on Saturday. The sky was October blue, the air was cold, the leaves a bursting bouquet of amber and fire. The chili? Fourteen varieties of white bean, read bean, barbeque, corn, smokey, spicy, meaty, hot, luke warm, beer-y, chunky, soupy, chickeny, accompanied by a table of cornbread entries all honeyed, jalapenoed, cheesed, buttered, and muffined.

I would like to announce that I tried all fourteen types of chili.
Not only did I try them, but ranked them, one through fourteen, and then voted for the best: "Oh My Guinness," a version slightly soupier with some bite, small chunks of sirloin, all cooked in Guinness beer.

The second runner up, in the contest and in my heart, was a smokey barbeque and tomate sauce based, thicker chili. In my opinion, three and four were the white bean and chicken varieties, followed closely by last year's champ, a traditional ground beef and bean, thicker chili. The family hosting had recently built this beautiful wooden structure over their patio, with a stone fireplace and a swing, and so we all stood around in jackets and scarves, jockeying for position in the patches of autumn sun that splayed the patio from under the eaves of the roof.

After the voting and the crowning of the winners, we left immediately. I beelined for the car and forced myself to burp out air pockets all the way home, pants unbuttoned, plastic bag on standby. My stomach was expanding with every passing minute and I felt like I was going to Violet Beauregard myself into the atmosphere.


By the time we got home, the chili was seducing us all into coma-like states, so the four of us curled up, each under his separate blanket, all in the family room, and watched Texas womp on Missouri.

Part II:

I think it was my dedication to dressing like an 80s vixen that really revved up my expectations for the night: my pants screamed FUN so I was bound to have some. I picked up the Dance Fighter and we drove downtown to the Ghostland Observatory concert at my favorite venue, The Crystal Ballroom. The line was tragically long, so we opted for jello shots at Scooter's instead. We ran into Karen Cody and Friend, downed drinks and gossiped, and then when there was no line in our way, went to the show.

Talk about epic:



I probably say this about a lot of shows, but one of THE MOST fun concerts I have ever been to. And by now, I've been to a lot! We danced our brains out after another cocktail, and I couldn't believe how good it was.
After an electrifying encore, the lights came on, we left, and took our dance party to the streets. We couldn't figure out where to go, so we killed some time just dancing outside of Ringler's and made a friend in Zane Sparkleface, a flamboyant guy who screamed, "OmiGOD I LOVE YOU BITCHES!" People inside the club saw us, cheered for us, and loved us. When we wanted more booze, we took a cab to Berbati's and The Dance Fighter DID NOT STOP DANCING until the lights came on.
The best part was yet to come: 4th meal at Taco Bell.

Epic.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cellar Door 24: Wearable Love

Introducing Cellar Door 24: my line of vintage-made-new jewelry.


Ruby Bird bracelet: $45


Gold Owl bracelet: $45


Each piece is hand-selected from flea-markets, vintage stock, and antique malls.


Cloisonne B necklace: SOLD



Add the next layer to their already seasoned patina by wearing these pieces to eat, dance, drink, and adventure.






Copper Cherub necklace: $35 Silver Monogrammed E necklace: SOLD

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It's not "what's not to love?" but, "what won't be loved?"

The Dance Fighter brings up a good point.

"I think part of it was that I was afraid no one would ever love me again as much as he did. And that's wrong! I mean, what does that say about my self esteem?"

And she's right. But I realized as I was kind of fighting her on this that I am not in a good enough place to say anything, and should just be supportive. I honestly recognize that I will be loved again, and that the man I end up being with will love me more and better than anyone before him- he would have to for it to be worth my time and energy.
I think my fear is that certain things will forever go unloved or unnoticed, not me as a whole, but the details that You loved so well.

You refused to call me by the nickname I used to be proud of. Anyone who I call a friend refers to me by this familiarity and for you, it was an insult. A shortening of the name given to me by my parents and a disservice to them, and to me. You called me by my full name, each of the distinct three syllables pronounced.

You gave me your own special name for me, and I think within it, a new identity to be a woman I wanted to be: graceful, flawless, beautiful, talented, with a future of good cooking and polite children, smart, and beguiling. Decca. It's got a history in your family and it held a future for us. It is better than baby, more personal than sweetheart, more meaningful than any other name I've had thus far, other than my own. You and I have the same Idea about what a woman is, about her power. "A man needs somethin he can hold onto...a nine pound hammer or a woman like you. Either one of them things will do." I think I felt all that in Decca.

I am not afraid another man won't find me pretty. I'm not afraid he won't find me smart. Funny? I am afraid of that. It is is a gift to make someone laugh with you, not at you, and we had that.

I like that you always took my flaws and turned them into something you adored. That if I were about to get embarassed about something you would wrap me up and declare the offending characteristic your new favorite thing about me. And I'm pretty positive you meant it.

You diffuse me. I get sassy for no reason, just to pick fights, and no one else has ever dealt with me the way you do. I really need that.

You made me feel like royalty. Not superficially with gifts and compliments, though those were abundant, but with your time, your devotion, the trust you had in me. In your eyes, I could do no wrong. Usually. When I did, you were direct, and it was fixed, and there were no games.

I spent a lot of time with a lot of different people this weekend. I had fun, I enjoyed it. It is hard though, when you have a standard of good company like I do, now. I am not as comfortable, not as real, and not as enchanted around anyone else.

I will get there. I will get there when I let myself get there, and when I am finally honest with Decca that I am still refusing to acknowledge a lot of the things you are not.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Majoring in Jealousy

It is the end of September, and there is nowhere on the planet I would rather be than a college campus somewhere in the continental United States.
I have been enamored with the pomp and dignity of college since I was old enough to appreciate my father's affinity for Dartmouth green. There was an undeniable pride and a claim laid on that simple color, and I knew it carried more than aesthetic preference. Our cars, and his polo shirts, were not that noble forest green for naught: it represented frigid winter walks to class, successes, failures, and a shared experience with his father, brother, and thousands of other alumni who had ever played frisbee on the Big Green, or eaten at Thayer Hall.


I always knew I was going to go to college, someday, and wanted it to be somewhere far away where I could settle into that storybook place of stoic libraries, leafy walkways, and brick history.


I understood from an early age the magic and privilege of a college education- that it separated you from other people in a subtle way- and that the four years of a person's undergraduate study tends to be remembered with a wistful look in the eye and always the trace of a youthful smile, if not a blatant grin.

I expected a lot from college. I wanted to revel in block letter sweatshirts, in frosty air at football games, in late night study sessions with friends, in rivalries. I wanted to learn and learn and learn. I wanted to become a lady. I wanted to find a College Boyfriend, and wear his block letter sweatshirts, and walk hand in hand to the dining hall, to brilliant guest speakers in sloping lecture halls, to grow up.
I expected prestige, and the impressed look of recognition my future employers and friends would have when I humbly stated my alma mater. I expected competition, and success, and rich textbooks that would sit in my garage for decades after graduation, that I would fondly thumb through when it was time to pack up and move, which I could not bear to part with.


I will not go into my disappointments (namely that I wanted more than anything to attend a noble institute of higher learning out of this great state of Oregon) but want to express that my jealousy of students who got to attend the unversities and colleges of my dreams faded when I had four brilliant years of my own at the perfectly reputable University of Oregon, and now is churning into a new kind of envy: anyone who still gets to walk to class over the crunch of autumn leaves. Anyone who lives in a big old house with friends, and who has the absolute privilege of exploring the works and theories of the world's greatest geniuses for nothing more than the act of learning and processing it; anyone who will get to celebrate passing a test with a pint of beer at the campus bar. Anyone who gets to take advantage of the safe haven of youth, and revel in irresponsibility and privilege... may the good Lord above strike you dead if you take it for granted.

I was struck most heavily by this while studying abroad last year: that there is not a single demographic of people I know of who are more luxuriously cared for and privileged than American college students. We travel and live in relative squalor of other cultures and countries for FUN. We go into debt, or our parents do, to pay for us to live at a glorified summer camp for FOUR YEARS (though it's usually five these days). We are the lucky ones.

My younger brother is a senior in high school somehow, and is starting to look at where he will go spend these highly formative and important next four years. The best part? I can tell he's actually getting a little excited about it, a little invested in it.

So here's to you, College. Here's to being spoiled, and pompous, and self-important, and young, and full of potential, and smart. May we never, really, graduate.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Sneak Peek into the Cellar...

I won't explain fully, yet, but here is a preview of my next solo adventure:

Hairline Fracture 1







This is an experiment with the fluidity of natural lines, and the joy of organic composition.
(In other words, it's my hair. Call me crazy, but I think these could make excellent prints).

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Run

I always loved how many definitions follow the word "run" in the dictionary. It is a testament to the ability of the human brain, and the magic of words, that we ever understand "run" at all.

A few manifestations of "run" in my own life:

I have a manager who literally runs around the office. You can hear him coming, which is great, because the other two managers sneak up on you, and all of a sudden, they know you like flat black boots from Nordstrom, read wedding planning blogs religiously, and that you chat with your best friends on Gmail pretty much all the live long day. But not Jagadees. He kind of goes sprinting off between the aisles of cubicles haphazardly, and not in great form either. He is noisy because the tops of his feet drag, and I think he sometimes runs into corners. It is one of the few joys of my day, and I hope he never slows down. He also just got a haircut, and it looks like someone sharpened his head with an Exacto knife, the way we used to do it in art class: all angular and uneven.

"Run" by the electronic band Air is one of the sexiest songs ever. I have not been able to listen to it since the split as it recalls the sensation of a smile, of candle smoke, of "stay like this," and of snow.

Last night, I plotted my escape. Again. I don't know if I am actually going to run away anywhere, or what it would solve, but I think I am finally understanding the nature of a "late rebellious streak." People rebel and push against norms when they feel trapped, suffocated, bored, and unchallenged. Check. Check. Check. Check.
Plus, watching Anthony Bourdain galavanting around Uruguay on his fantastic show "No Reservations" only increased my need for travel.

Is it travel? Or is it living in another place that I want? I think the latter. One can always make the argument that once you live there, wherever that may be, then it's just like anywhere. Yeah, you try living in a suburb of Portland and then living in an apartment in Paris and then tell me it's the same. Or with your friends in Hawaii. Maybe it is, I don't know yet. I think I like the idea of being somewhere where you make your own norms.
I'm not pulling that "oh, society is restricting me!" bullshit, but, there are neighborhoods and environments that are more conducive to learning and growing than others. I would like to find one, and carefully plot a move, as I won't allow myself to run there.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I Care About Imaginary People

I wonder if you know how important the people in your life became to me. Not important in the sense that I revere and love them, but important to my daily musings and activities. These people are inexplicably linked to my preferences and opinions.
It is frightening, as I've never met them, which maybe explains my fascination with these characters you have illustrated for me.

I think this is creepy. I don't think you operate like this. I wish that I didn't- that I did not care and that I could separate myself, if not from you, but from all these other forces in your life that should not have any impact on my own. I should not CARE what your best girl friends are wearing or listening to or driving, and I should definitely not compare my own tastes to theirs.
Primarily and most importantly because I do not know them, and then because they have all let you down at one point or another, and I have not.
They should be measuring themselves against me, if anything.
But then, there should be no measuring at all, because, like I said: it's creepy.
It's like I can't get it in my head that this time, these months, are an opportunity to think about myself. It's become a futile task and that is so disheartening.

I think it's something that people strive for- to put others first, and to love and care for other people and to sacrifice your own wants and desires to help and support others... but good God, there is a limit! There is a difference between selfish and self-interested and I need to cultivate the latter immediately. It was a characteristic and a skill I used to possess instinctively and I think I lost it somewhere along the line of relationships I empty myself into.

Maybe instead of trying something new every day, I should try to do something for MYSELF every day.
On Saturday, I tried to sneak into the student section at the football game for myself, and ended up not only pissing off the security guard, but actually hurting her feelings. You have no idea what this was like. When I did succeed in sneaking past her, I watched the first half of the game in a drunk panic, with two sweatshirts draped over my head as a disguise. I even made The Good Bitch switch sunglasses with me, lest the security guard (who lamented that she was ONLY working this job because her husband decided to have an affair and she was just trying to keep her kids, dammit, and would I please just have fun, but stay out of trouble and her way) recognize me, divulge her ENTIRE life story, and arrest me, in that order. See what happens when I try to do something for myself?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Habitat for My Sanity

Volunteering certainly has it perks. I know the point is to do it for the benefit of other people, but sometimes it can work out beneficially for everyone.
For instance: our office was supposed to come in and work on Saturday, but because I had signed up weeks and weeks ago to do a Habitat for Humanity build that day, I was excused. (I also pointed out that I might be more hindrance than help if I were to come in to work on this project that I don't actually know anything about).

Past volunteer experiences of mine have generally been coupled with some greater cause or notion (i.e. Jesus) or have been compulsory for my involvement in an organization (the National Honor Society, my sorority) and have always been an activity I shared with at least one other friend. I have never just up and decided to volunteer simply for the reason that I am willing, and able.

Notable volunteering opportunities that I remember, despite me doing them for credit:

-KLOV radio station "Hunger 2 Hope Telathon." The station set up a dozen phones in our youth group room, and I signed up for a few hours to come in and answer phones. I was really surprised by some of the conversations I had with people. One woman spoke in a hurried whisper, because she didn't want her husband to know she was calling and wanted to donate $10.

- Oregon Ballet something something. Melanie and I manned the merch table at The Nutcracker, I think.

- Sorority 5-K run/walk for EC Cares. I generally didn't run, or walk, but cheered people on from street corners with poorly painted signs.

- Sorority golf tournament for WomenSpace: I had to caddy for my dad the day after the only fist-fight I've ever been in. The bald spot where the bitch had stolen some hair from my skull ached all day. I was also livid at everyone who got to have fun, and ride around wasted on the golf carts, crashing into trees and harassing the beercart lady.

- 30 Hour Famine. I did this one twice, and was terrible at raising money for it, so I don't think it counts as a philanthropic effort, either. The first time I did it as a high schooler, and the second time I was also in high school, but was working with the middle school group. This was not fun at all, and was actually horrendously exhausting. We were not to eat anything for 30 hours, and in the midst of our hunger pains and cranky dealings with crankier middle schoolers, idly shoved boxes of food around a warehouse for a few hours. It was dusty, the boxes were heavy, and I was fucking starving. As soon as I left, I drove to the Giant Burger and got a double bacon- cheeseburger, a blackberry milkshake, and a large order of cajun fries. (Then I died and had to be resusscitated by removing large chunks of lard from my capillaries).

- Various mission trips which included putting in time at:
* A day-care/Vacation Bible School on an Indian Reservation in Montana (the memorable part of this was that we had to go around the rundown neighborhoods in the morning, knocking on people's doors to collect their children for the day. These adults, some already swaying into the doorjamb and reeking of grain alcohol, would shuffle their half-dressed, sticky children out the door into our care. At the end of the day, after dealing with some kids who kicked, spit, bit, escaped, cried, and sulked, we walked them home. Sometimes, this would take hours, as some of this children were too young to know how to get home). For those of us who were not built for such emotional trauma, we could paint dilapidated houses around town.

* An orphanage in Ensenada, Mexico. I really bonded with a little guy, until someone told me it was the cook's son. I felt cheated.

* An overnight camp for the residents of that same orphanage, two years later, in Ensenada. We basically continued construction on the camp, and got to act as camp counselors. On a day-trip to the beach, our old bus careened around the cliffside on a windy stretch of road. One of the orphanage workers pointed out the valley on our right, separated from us only by blue Mexican sky. Blanketing the bottom of the valley hundreds of feet below us were the remnants of rusted cars that had gone flying around these roads, and had hurtled to certain death in drunken, fiery blazes and high-impact crashes. We rode in stupified silence, wondering if for every upside down car in that valley was one corresponding child at the orphanage.

* Habitat for Humanity in Oakland, California. Not only did we have to worry about construction materials falling on us, we were concerned about getting shot. I somehow contracted strep throat, was prescribed Vicodin, still primed/painted the ceilings of a house all day long, and ended up picking paint flecks out of my scalp for two weeks.

The Habitat for Humanity experience couldn't have been all bad, as I signed up to work with them this last weekend. This time, there was no credit, no greater purpose that was spoken of. The work spoke for itself, as a dozen women shingled, put up siding, and installed skylights on a home for a single mother with three little boys. The best part is that it's a Women Build- meaning that only women have built this house (other than contracting for the foundation, and specialty electrical stuff). The women I met came from years of Air Force experience, mothering, wifeing, working, brokenness, boring jobs, failed careers, successful expressions of selflessness, adventure. We hammered and sawed alongside each other, and took pride in the placement of a single nail, of a centered bubble in a level.
We didn't have to talk about why we were there or who we were helping, it was clear that each woman was gaining as much from the sweat and the satisfaction of a job well done as she would have from acknowledging that she was building a safe place for another woman and her children.
It was good just to work.

Friday, September 12, 2008

My mom argued that if he'd been hot, I wouldn't have cared:

From a Gmail chat with the Dance Fighter this morning...

10:38 AM
Dance Fighter: I am watching that movie where the kids talk
me: look who's talking?
Dance Fighter: yeah! haha
me: hahaha- i want to come get in bed with you! oh, i told you i got asked out at work, right? by John?
Dance Fighter: NO!
me: omg.
Dance Fighter: Who is John
who would he look like?
10:40 AM me: oh good... let me thinkkkkk
one of those creepily thin and pale guys who you think is 22 but is really 30
i can't think of any. shoot.
i mean, he's really nice. but, he is one of the IT guys here, and we went to lunch last week, because, why not and i wanted thai food
Dance Fighter: haha
10:41 AM what did he say
did he have any game?
me: and then we fuckin get back here, and our cubes are near each other and he comes over and says, in a low voice, "hey uh, _____? can i talk to you in the hall for a sec?"
and i wanted to throw up
Dance Fighter: oh, GROSS
me: so we get out in the hall and i look at him bitchily like, get on with it. and he says in that low, serious voice again, "would you want to go out sometime?”
10:42 AM Dance Fighter: this is the best
this is like better than the office

Dance Fighter: or maybe that is because there are still two more weeks until the office starts

me: at which point i squinched up my face and alluded to my recent traumatic and devastating breakup, and also mentioned how uncomfortable i am with us being at work together
oh, it gets better
me: so THEN we come back inside, and then i get an email on monday or something that is apologizing profusely for his actions
Dance Fighter: oh no
you need to secretly snap photos of these people
me: i say, basically, "yes, it did make me uncomfortable, and yes it was totally off base. don't do it again, apology accepted."
10:44 AM Dance Fighter: omg you like owned him
me: so THEN YESTERDAY he came up to my desk AGAIN and wanted to go out in the hall and talk
Dance Fighter: DOn't do it again!
me: and i was ssoooo ruude
i was like, "uh, i'm kind of busy?"
Dance Fighter: oh what did he talk about?
me: he apologized, again!
Dance Fighter: wow
he really likes you
me: and i was so short with him, i was like, "seriously. you are making this really awkward. don't bring it up again. ever."
10:45 AM Dance Fighter: omg
haha
me: he was like, "so you aren't going to like, quit your job over this?" and i almost snapped, but i did say, "if i quit my job it would be for a plethora of other reasons, NAMELY THAT I HATE IT"
so i told him to drop it, and then strutted back into the office.
THEN
10:46 AM Dance Fighter: he wanted you to quit your job so he can frequently ask you out
me: hahahaha
Dance Fighter: THEN?!
me: he came up to my desk AGAIN
and wanted to talk in the motherfucking hall, AGAIN
Dance Fighter: WHAT WHY
this is bordering harassment
me: and i said, literally, "John. i swear to God..." and he goes " no no it's about something else"
10:47 AM Dance Fighter: this is so so funny
me: and he wanted to get flowers for some secretary who was sick and wanted it to be a surprise and didn't know where to order flowers because he just moved here from ohio
and i was like, fucking email me!
Dance Fighter: oh he is SOOOO LONELY!
me: yeah well so am i! i just text my ex like every other normal person!
Dance Fighter: umm, _____, can we talk in the hall?
10:49 AM me: i will throw up on your face if you say that to me in person
even before he asked me out he gave me the willies. like, just his voice, poor guy.
Dance Fighter: I probably will
me: i shudder
Dance Fighter: hahahah
10:50 AM John, I SWEAR TO GOD
me: yeah laugh it up.
i seriously do want to quit
haha

Also, I don't know WHAT they think I do around here all day... I told them this morning I had No.THING. to work on today and they said they'd find something... that was HOURS ago. If they come over here and I'm blogging, it's not my fault, man.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Plot to Save My Life

The way I see it, today, is that I have three options:
Rotting in this cubicle is not one of them.
(You can tell this job sucks as 2 posts now have been in outline format).

1. Take a few months in Hawaii to figure out what my next move is.


Pros:
a. It's freakin' Hawaii.
b. I get to delay important decisions until later.
c. I have a free place to stay, with people who will be constructive
and beneficial to me at this time of my life.

Cons:
a. I will not be making much money, and I just bought a car that needs some
payment attention.
b. I sunburn easily.
c. This might not help me feel any more fulfilled or excited about tackling
life in the real world.

2. Take a few months to volunteer in a part of the world I have never been to (i.e. there is a great opportunity in India to work with women who have left prostitution behind to pursue a safer livelihood).


Pros:
a. By helping people, I take the focus off of me.
b. I get to delay important decisions until later- they may also seem
less important by the time I have to make them.
c. I think I could benefit from being in a totally different
environment. (So like last summer in Morocco, take II. With no boy
to email every day and run home to.
d. I really want to go to India.

Cons:
a. Expensive.
b. By helping people, I take the focus off of me. I am not willing to
accept that I am such a loving person I can't take care of my own ideas
and goals and feelings and future.

3. Find a more suitable job here in Portland, get my own place, deal with it.



Pros:
a. I face reality.
b. I am responsible.
c. I get to pay off my car.
d. I get to live alone.

Cons:
a. I face reality.
b. I am responsible.
c. I get to pay off my car.
d. I get to live alone.



(Photo Credits: All images from Flickr- users Kaldon, EB Sylvester, Meredith Farmer)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Expensive Ways to Stay Distracted

I have some news.

I have actually been BUSY at work. I got the nerve to ask for more stuff to do, and they said, "Yup. Here's a ton of stuff."
It's better for my sanity to delete tab stops out of training documents all day than it is to stalk people on Facebook. Who would have thought? Huh.

Other news:

1. The Redhead and I do MusicFestNW, success ensued.

a. If you have not seen Ratatat live, your life is not as rad or sweaty as it could be.

b. When a man in an ice cream truck gives you a free ice cream sandwich before you see the band Battles, eat it. Num num num.

c. If you're going to see The Blakes
i. Don't get there late or you'll miss your favorite song.
ii. Don't expect the lead singer to have a sweat gland deficiency. He doesn't. He will shake your hand and you will wish he hadn't.

d. Minor failing: If you are trying to go to TV on the Radio with The Redhead, you should make sure that the guy she recently made out with and her long-time-lovaaah are not also planning on going. This will make you miss the show in an effort to avoid them both.

2. I got to go exploring on Saturday in SE Portland at the Stars and Splendid antique mall. They were having a delightful sale and I acquired a lot of fun old pieces that gleam of quirk and charm.
They'll be new again soon, when I infuse a little of me into them. And then Ima sell 'em. Becaaaaause....

3. I definitely got a new car. Her name is Dixie, and we've been bonding. She must have recently been cast off by someone who maybe didn't love her like she loved, or maybe she's a sassy bitch who left of her own accord, so either way, we're getting to know each other. Dixie's interests: keeping her nose clean, gold, zipping, loud music, knowing all the names of all the songs on the radio, letting people put things in her big-ass trunk.

4. The Dance Fighter and I had lunch.. I think we thought if we both ate enough Mexican food we could drown ourselves in a sorrowful black bean catastrophe and not have to stick around for the depressing dessert course that is the next phase of our lives (who likes Mexican dessert anyway? Fried ice cream is the shittiest excuse for a dessert ever). Basically, I'm not the only one having trouble with the men-folk these days. (Yes, I named you. It's perfect because you're such a fighter, and you've got this gleeful dancing spirit to you... that is also sometimes expressed in the artful form of Dance Fighting).

Recent New Things for the Day include:
- Playing in a co-ed softball league double-header game on Friday.

- Seeing The Blakes, Ratatat, Menomena, Battles, The Mommyheads, Langhorne Slim, and Fleet Foxes (I actually may have seen FF at Sasquatch this past year... but I was so full of bad gyro, good love, and great company that I may have been distracted. Also, booze).

-What else do you want from me? I bought my first car!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

_____ is.... (fill in the blank)

On Facebook you can update your status so that everyone in the free world knows what you're up to/thinking/hating/missing/loving. It is the modern day equivalent of the AOL Instant Messenger "Away Message," the medium by which one could always know the emotional state of their peers when I was in middle and high school.

I think I went like, a year and a half before even accessing this particular function of Facebook, because I didn't like people knowing my business, or being passive-aggressive and dramatic about sending a vague message to someone with a poignant song lyric or some airy statement about how mad I am. I also don't like thinking I'm a person who needs that kind of public validation.

Well guess what. I'm blogging, and additionally, I am smitten with the Facebook Status thing now. We all need a little validation.
But I still run into moments when I gotta restrain myself, you know? It is tempting to want to tell everyone at your university (plus your elementary school buddies, your distant cousins, your parents' friends who decided they needed to see what that FB business was all about, kids who were in your cabin at camp, ex-co-workers and high school best friends) EXACTLY what kind of UNIQUE PAIN you are experiencing, through the medium of that perfect song lyric or coy Marilyn Monroe quote (you know, the one about the wise woman leaving before she is left) but there is a line that can be crossed. It is embarassing to cross it. And I will not do it.

People get talked about for putting up shit like,
"Becky Smith... didn't know this would hurt so much :("
"Jane Wallace... is slow dancing in a burning room"
"David Wu... won't ever be understood by anyone."


Mostly because for the rest of the day a flurry of concerned messages lets you know just how melodramatic you were being: "What are you so mad about?" "What did he do this time?" "Did that happen to you..? Or is that a Coldplay song?"

So I'll do it here, because I think I know the only person who reads this (it's better that way). If I were shameless, or drunk and unconcerned, my Facebook status today would read:

"______ is really fucking furious."
"_______ wants the last year of her life back."
"_______ would kick you in the face if you were in the same state."
"_______ doesn't understand and probably never will."
"_______ is at a therapy appointment, which her own mother recommended she attend."
"_______ doesn't know how to do this and would like to take the day off with a handle of 151 and sit by a body of water somewhere, forgetting."

I feel better already.

New Things I've Done In The Last Week:
- Spent $170 on a pair of jeans last night. Oops. (Whatever, if you could buy sex, and wear it, it would be these jeans).

- Worked at the Bumbershoot music festival all weekend and saw the following bands live for the first time: !!!, Band of Horses, The Black Keys, Ingrid Michaelson, T.I., Estelle

-Finally went and supported Justin Klump at the Aladdin last night. I am so excited for him and proud of how far he's come, and the passion with which he's pursuing his dream. Mostly, I'm impressed he has a dream.

- Left work early and went to a job interview. (!)

I saw some old friends at the show last night who invited me to escape this quarter-life-crisis (thx John Mayer) at their place in Hawaii for as long as it takes to clear my head.
"_________ is totally considering running away to Hawaii."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Renaissance Woman

In line with my re-birth as an independent woman who kicks ass, and freshly inspired by a conversation with an old friend who is dedicating this time of his life to making himself more kickass, I am going to try to do something new every day.
I think this can only make me a better person, and will help me to only worry about myself, rather than focusing on the failures and messes behind me.

This "something new" can be something I create, or eat, or perform, or investigate, or try, or read... anything. It is a life-long exploration of the "Kickin' it" philosophy, which I am reclaiming as my own.

Today I created this:

It's an inspiration board for an online contest sponsored by the effervescent Coco+Kelley .

Go make one- these inspiration boards are more inspiring than I'd have thought...

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I need a personal assistant

I have a phone at my temporary cubicle.

I am convinced it is in case my supervisors forget where I am, and they can just call the extension and follow the sound of the ring through the cube maze. Like office Marco-Polo.

It rang today, twice. Well, thrice if you count my first attempt to answer it.

It is one of those complicated sorts of office telephones, with 44 individual pressable buttons on it (I counted). Only some of them are labeled. It also has one of those shoulder-rester attachments on the receiver (it's practically a "hands-free" set!) which I think I am going to purchase for my cell phone. I will just also need to purchase a larger handbag.

Anyway, around 11:00 it rings. Loud. This is a quiet office, and my phone is blaring. It's like it's an alarm announcing that I am new, and I don't know how to answer the phone.

You know there is a problem with the way you are answering a phone when it is pressed up against your ear and it's still ringing. I try to take the little-kid-in-an-elevator approach and just mash my flat palm against as many buttons as I can, but, the caller has hung up by now.
I am mildly disappointed until I realize no one I want to talk to has this number, anyway. I don't even have this number.

It rings again about fifteen minutes later. I panic.
If it really is for me, how am I to answer? I need to sound professional, but somehow also manage not to sound like I know what I'm talking about or they might ask hard questions. Not to mention this isn't even usually my desk....
"Good morning. How can I help you?"
"Hello...yes, I work here."
"Super Software Company how may I direct your call?" No no, I can't sound like a secretary!

I sense I am running out of time, and the frantic ringing isn't getting any quieter, so I just pick it up and press a button that looks promising.
This is around 11:00 in the morning, and I don't realize until I try to say "Hello" that I haven't actually spoken to anyone since waking. It is an embarrassing rendition of the word, with a little whisper at the beginning and a dollop of phlegm round about the second syllable.

"Oh. Hello.." A woman's voice.
"Hi."
"Who's this?"
"Oh, I- I'm Jessica." I am a little kid intercepting a phone call for her mother.
"This is my desk now," I attempt to assert.
"I'm sorry, I'll try again."
"Not a problem."
-Click-

Another minute passes, and it's ringing again.

"Hello, this is Jessica." Good one.
"Oh I'm sorry..." Same lady.
"Who are you looking for?" (Yeah right, as if I would know or could find them...)
"Dave Smith."
"Oh! Oh, I know where sits!!" I really do! "I think he's in the next cube over. Hold on."
"Oh, just tell him to call his wife."

So much for not sounding like a secretary.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Top 5 List of Best Lists

When you work an eight hour day, I am learning, generally, you have about four hours of work to actually complete.
I am sure this is not the case everywhere, but here, it is.
So part of my job is coming up with things to do in between my work.

I make lists.

Here is my "Top 5 List of Lists I Have Made":


1. All of my new passwords, user IDs, account numbers, etc. (There are A LOT).

2. Cool new songs I hear on Pandora Radio (http://www.pandora.com)

3. People/organizations to which I owe money (There are A LOT. Even more than my number of passwords)

4. Questions I have for people around here (There are A LOT. Somewhere between the amount of people that want my money and the number of new passwords I have).

5. Other jobs I want

Monday, June 30, 2008

9:21

9:21 is not the time most workdays start. I mean, I know they can start at any old time depending on the job. Most people in my office come in between 7:30 and 9:00, and when I'm at the client's office (AHA! I DO have clients!), they're here between 7:00 and 8:00 because they're state employees.

So of course I come strolling in at 9:21. Makes sense to me.

Actually, part of the reason for this lazy start was really very well thought out on my end: when I'm at the client's office, where I am being trained, you have to walk out of the office, down the hall, to the eternally depressing "Vending Room" if you want coffee. Then, you have to fish around in your purse for $1.25 and inevitiably fumble with it like I always do, so that you end up on the "Vending Room" carpet in your dress slacks, one cheek pressed up against the machine of your vending choice, while your hand extends each metatarsal to its full capability (which still, somehow, is never quite long enough to reach the fugitive coin).
And then you pull a styrofoam cup off the stack and place it approximately where you estimate the coffee will disburse from, and close the little plastic window without it slamming your hand.
You insert the money, you punch the button, and voila! Your coffee spits out of the machine...next to your cup.

See, you have to do all of this for coffee. The idea behind coffee is that it wakes you up out of a morning stupor. When I am in my morning stupor, I prefer not to wrestle with machines and coins and wasted coffee: I want the beverage in my belly.

Which is why, this morning, I stopped at the other office. We have free coffee there.

I picked up my laptop, too, since I couldn't keep it in my car for the weekend (company policy denotes that actually, I can, if my car locks. Well, listen, company- I'm sorry, but you're not paying me enough to get a car that locks. That is a luxury I simply cannot afford. The laptop stays with you guys this weekend).

I am feeling quite proud of myself for executing this brilliant plan as I'm pulling in to the client's parking lot. I figure, if one of my fellow employees asks me why I'm late, I can just say something casual like, "Oh, I had to take care of a few things at the other office. You know, work stuff." And they will nod and smile knowingly.

Then, as I am getting out of my unlocking car, I spill my coffee on my pants.

Happy Monday.