About Me

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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Learning from Home Dudes

We've transitioned from monsoonal and mild to mixed monsoonal and blazing. Soon we will be simply blazing, but only for 60-75 days. The intense heat hit suddenly and it is hard on home dudes. They are in and out of hot vans every day, doing hard physical work, sometimes for 12 hours. I see them drag up the stairs at the end of their workdays and my heart hurts. I don't know how they do it. To their credit, they always manage to look pretty presentable, too! I know Cesar always has a man-purse tucked away somewhere with cologne and supplies for cleaning up his face and clothes in case of messes. They all know which on-board products to use on accidental spills to their clothes ~ they care about the image they project. We like that here.

We started the morning yesterday with 90 degrees at 6:30 a.m. Heavy silence reigned. Paper coffee cups picked up on the way in. Another cigarette for each of the home dudes. David and I don't do that. No one was very perky except Limes, but we talk about these things and everyone at least manages a chuckle or a "well, we're all in it together, so let's start the day."

One of David's favorite sayings is "there are miles of carpet in this city" ~ usually said with a dreamy grin on his face. We're called out to clean a lot of it. We do huge commercial jobs and one room jobs. We take them all. It happened that we cleaned the corporate human resources department of a major hotel/casino operation and our contact person loves our work. She seems to be very social, so we hope she'll talk to people in other departments and we'll get more and more work in that monstrous facility.

No one who follows this blog would know it, but I'm a talker. I am an only child, so I grew up thinking people wanted to hear what I have to say. I am a communicator and harmonizer by nature, always trying to make the connection with others. My mentor at the union (a crusty old curmudgeon teaching a sweet young thing the ropes) taught me, "If you can't give them substance, give them form." So with communication, I'm always two steps out in front. It's damned hard to shut me up. With respect to carpet cleaning, I had to learn from the ground up, but by now I have a barrel full of really cogent discourses on - you name it: pet urine issues, water damage restoration, cookie cutter patch repairs . . .

Home dudes rolled and my day started. July may have started in spits and fizzles, but it's going out screaming. I am an octopus - arms reaching out everywhere for phone, calculator, BlackBerry, keyboard . . . I took the next call. "Hi, Limes, this is Diane from XYZ Casino. You were out in May to clean our carpets . . . " I went on instant charm alert, because this is an important customer. [All customers are important, but you get my drift.] My fingers flew on the keyboard as I pulled up the customer record. If she had questions about the services or the cost, I would have the answers immediately. "Hi, Diane, I remember you well! How may we be of service today?" ["Got 10,000 square feet of carpet to throw at me?," I hoped.] "Your men did an excellent job for us and we plan to call you back in 10 months, but I wonder if you can help me with something." "I'll certainly try . . . . " "Limes, why would we be growing mushrooms through the carpet?"I sat up so straight, so suddenly, I could hear bones cracking. "M-m-m-m-mushrooms?" with a slight squeal in my voice at the end of the word. "Living organisms? Mushrooms? Through the carpet?" What the heezy? WTF? Folks, the words I was sputtering were just time spenders, because my brain had stopped. I'd crashed into the brick wall and was broken. "Well, they were living, but we keep pulling them out." I have to tell it as it was, readers: I couldn't come up with anything. She'd rendered me word-free. I got off the phone with a firm promise to investigate and get back with her. Yes, the lame old, "Let me look into this and I'll call you back." Blush.

I went to David's office doorway, which is a place where I often take refuge, my hands each placed on a doorjamb. He and I cackle a lot each day, but he could see the shock and distress on my face, and this was no laugh-fest. We're both brow-furrowers when faced with something mystifying, and this time the ruts were deep. Although you've read me blog about David's brilliance, he's not a nuts-and-bolts, take-it-apart-and-put-it-together kind of man. I think he would not like puzzles. He pays other people to work certain things out. All day I freaked out about those mushrooms. I spoke to almost every home dude as they radioed in: "Home dude, what do you think about . . . ?" "What? What, Limes? What did you say? You're kidding, right? Giving me the business?" No, home dudes. It's real.

By coincidence, all vans and service teams ended their day at the same hour. Home dudes collected in the office, where I could literally feel heat emanating off of their bodies. I started the mushroom talk and the noise level rose. "What the hell?" "Limes, are you sure that's what she said?" And then, Troy, in his quiet way, piped in. I had to hush the others in order to hear what he was saying. "Either their slab is cracked or the mushrooms are growing near an exterior wall. There has been some water source and the mushrooms are growing through the cracked slab or through the wall." Dead silence. Thought I: "Yeah, can that really happen? Is that something you've actually heard of?" I silently gave him Diane's telephone number. He called and spoke quietly with her. We all listened. He hung up the phone and grinned. "Mushrooms growing through the carpet along an exterior wall where they recently had a plumbing emergency that spewed thousands of gallons of water." Because Troy is a nuts-and-bolts, take-it-apart-and-put-it-together kind of man.

After Troy's show, Justin suddenly remembered an apartment he lived in where his bedroom abutted the neighbor's bedroom. The neighbor had a flood in his apartment and apparently appropriate water damage restoration work was not performed. Justin went to his bedroom closet one day and thought about fainting. "Limes, it was a forest. Mushrooms, little trees . . . " I'm adding mushrooms to my list of topics about which I am knowledgeable. Just like action-back carpet and Pet Urine 101. Once our CPA was visiting the office to make a presentation at our staff meeting. She watched us interact for an hour. When she was leaving, she touched my arm and said, "They are all so lucky to have you." Uh-huh. It goes both ways, home girl. Can't wait for the first phone call when I can ask, "Are you growing mushrooms, Ma'm?"

In my ears right now: Mushrooms, what did you think?

Something that charmed me: Justin growing a forest in his closet.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Try It, You'll Like It!

Ex and I lived in a 4-square mile city that incorporated the year we married. This city is the donut hole completely encircled by the San Diego metropolis. Oddly, however, the place feels like Nebraska or Wisconsin or Idaho. One has no sense of living near the urban sprawl or of being 7 miles from the ocean. It just has a different feel and we liked it. Amber has never lived at an address that is not located within this city.

I was really active in the local Soroptimist International organization for a number of years. Despite the large number of prominent old goats in my former city, despite their thinking they run the community, it really is a matriarchy. The women rule in Soroptimist, Friends of the Library, Kiwanis and Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce and Concerts in the Park.

My friend Janne and I crossed paths many times a day in these different pursuits and at Soroptimist we were kind of the go-to girls. We were the up-and-comers, as a lot of the Soroptimists were 70+ and slowing down. That was OK with us. We were in our 40s, feeling strong, creative and brilliant.

This was a time during which Amber was closely watching me - watching how I do things. Learning to be a woman, an adult, a do-er. She came to a lot of events other people did not bring their children to, but Amber went where I took her. She didn't cause anyone any grief and she's a well-rounded, successful, accomplishing person today because she was taken out into the world and shown how people do things.

Our Soroptimist group had a sister club in Osaka, Japan, and we interacted with those good women often. It happened that the president of their club was coming to the San Diego, so our group organized a fancy tea and reception. It was decided that Janne and I would then give the lady a San Diego tour, take her out to eat, and show our hospitality. Amber quickly joined in the mix - there was room for one more in the car. And, by the way, the lady spoke no English.

The day arrived. Janne, Amber and I had actually rehearsed our tour stops, scripts and how we'd pantomime to the lady what we were showing her. We'd printed things off the 'net and bought postcards and mementoes to present to her. The three of us would take turns presenting so the lady didn't have to hear the same person speaking a language she didn't understand.

At the tea, everyone was bright and chirpy. Gifts were exchanged from club to club. Photos were taken. Lots of smiles and blushes as everyone attempted to communicate. Amber's eyes were saucers as she took it all in.

We toured for about 4 hours, ending up at Old Town, because where the else would you take a visitor from Japan to dine on authentic Mexican cuisine? Here is where the original settlement of San Diego was established in 1769. There are wonderful cantinas and shops filled with colorful wares, as well as historic buildings, mariachi music and dancers. We waited a long time and were finally seated at a sunny table. Janne ordered margaritas and Amber had her first virgin margarita. Clearly our Japanese friend enjoyed the margaritas. She tentatively tried the chips and salsa - she didn't turn cartwheels, but she ate more than one.I ordered her a combo plate that feature a little bit of everything to be offered. When the food arrived, this good woman gave it the old college try. However, guacamole, sour cream and refried beans put her to the test - OH, the faces she made! I'm sure in other circumstances she may have spat into the bushes, but she managed to choke it down and put her fork on the table. The rest of the meal she focused on the margaritas.

That night when we got home, I asked Amber to tell Ex about the day. I wanted to hear her impressions. She gave a really credible rendition of events - she told it much the way I would have. She shared a few Japanese words she had learned from our visitor and did a pretty decent job with the inflection, to my American ears. She told her dad she enjoyed her virgin margarita and then said, in her delicate 12-year-old voice, "Dad, you should have seen the lady pack away the maragaritas!"

In my ears right now: What do you think? Mariachi music. Sort of. Part of a Dwight Yoakam tune.

Something that charmed me: The 99-Cent Store cactus in it's 99-cent pot is throwing yet another glorious flower. I'm going to see if I can get the Badger to photograph it!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

True Colors

When we worked for the union, Ex and I were swept away for 2 weeks each year to headquarters for some intensive training on varying topics. In election years, it was about political action, without question - we represented public employees whose income came from tax money. When important laws came down, we could expect deep immersion into the newest protected class under the Civil Rights Act or the finer points of objecting to random drug testing of school bus drivers in California (state law vs. federal law). As collective bargaining laws changed, we were the first to learn about the impacts on our members.

Annual training was always fun until we had a baby - then was a bit tougher. But the dynamics of 250 labor union business agents in a hotel ballroom for days on end was a beautiful thing. The egos are uncontainable. The passion is unequalled, because one can't do this work if one doesn't have the fire in the belly. If one isn't questioning, curious, rebellious, creative and gutsy, one is not respected by peers or the employer. If one cannot emote at a hearing like Clarence Darrow in the courtroom or write the post-hearing brief like a Supreme Court Justice, one should look for other work. The annual gathering gave us a chance to brag for and learn from our peers who covered every inch of California.

There came a year that we were losing disciplinary hearings at an alarming rate. Careful review showed strong evidence that in most of these losses, the rep had carefully prepared a case built on the accused member's version of events . . . and been derailed in the hearing because the member's version matched no one else's. Brainstorming sessions of battered representatives suggested that if only we could really understand what makes people tick, we could succeed for our members despite themselves. Now, where to locate that manual on human behavior?

Enter True Colors® ( http://www.true-colors.com/ ). We all got teasers preceding the training event: "Here's your manual on human beings!" True Colors® is a simple model of personality identification for people of all ages that improves communication through recognition of a person’s true character. Utilizing the colors of orange, green, blue and gold to differentiate four basic personality types, True Colors® is easily learned and is the real deal - recognized and used by mental health professionals around the globe. True Colors® training is always entertaining - participants absorb and use the information as they see fit. Some are briefly charmed to learn their dog Frisky is a green, while their third son is a glowing orange. Others become so connected to this method of understanding people, they become rabid. I would be one of those. I am a certified True Colors® facilitator and trainer.

At breaks, the reps milled around laughing, chatting, "accusing" one another of being "orange" or being "blue". Whether they would ever use this stuff again, they clearly understood the rudiments of it immediately. Soon we all looked beyond our best friend and toward, perhaps, our supervisor, spouse or the nemesis who sat across the table during contract negotiations. "Oh! I get it that when I say "X", he hears "Y". For his personality, I need to express it in these terms." By the end of the session, we all understood that every person is a rainbow, possessing each color to some degree. The point is that we all tend to lead with our strongest color most of the time and that is what defines us. After two weeks, we warbled Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" and went our separate ways.

Some reps never used it again, preferring to use facts and logic to win cases rather than messing around figuring out human beings. Those people are green. Some used it forever after, seeking peace and harmony. Those people are blue. I cannot say what an impact True Colors® had on me. You see, I'd never understood other people at all. Now I had a roadmap! I've used it for 25 years now - it is part of me. I apply it to bosses, people I supervise, potential partners, girlfriends and store clerks. I knew Amber's rainbow was identical to my own by the time she was 2. It helped me to understand what she needed and how it needed to be presented to her. I have trained thousands of people in True Colors® and it is some of the most fun I've ever had.

True deal: True Colors® is so ingrained in me that one can take me to a cocktail party and have a bit of fun. Send me through a group of people I do not know and give me 5 minutes with each. I can go off to a private room and list these folks' rainbows, in order, with a little explanation beside each color. When I present these rainbows and ask if I'm correct, most people are pretty startled. I'm no Criss Angel, but I can work a little magic!
This won't surprise the reader - I use True Colors® daily. It's what makes me strong at booking jobs, at calming the angry customer, at helping a struggling home dude, at encouraging someone who is down, at getting my own needs met . . . I understand - at least at the surface, which is where we always start - what people need from me in terms of communication. That makes me feel powerful, because I can give whatever information I need to present in a way the listener will understand and value.

Should LimesNow sound just a little too full of herself to the reader, please consider this: I didn't make this stuff up. I don't own it. I'm not that good. It's just a tool that worked and works for me as I sit rambling on the bus trying to connect with others.

For a little fun, go take a free True Colors® test and learn something about yourself. I took one this morning and nearly fainted. I know myself well in True Colors® terms. Imagine my shock this morning to learn that I'm not what I once was - and I am what I thought I couldn't be. My faintest color for decades is right up there now. I think that attests to things I've achieved and a new mindset. An old dog can learn new tricks!

In my ears right now: What else? "I see your true colors shining through, I see your true colors and that's why I love you . . . "

Something that charmed me: Finding myself Green/ Blue/ Orange/Gold! I worked for years to stifle my gold a little and punch up my green. Or maybe it's just appropriate that Limes is green.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Dragonflies Flitting Around the Swamp that is my Mind

If the driver of my bus could peer into my muddled head today, he'd make me take a seat on the roof or the bike rack to blow said head out. I'm not particularly down, I'm just not particularly focused. In the 5-mile commute to work I was everywhere my head goes, and floating a little above the ground. I laughed, I cried, I ran the gamut of emotions. Then I tried, yet again, to run the 22 stairs to my office door. I'll keep trying until I've really run all 22. I have a way to go.

I was sad to see that Gidget died, and I'm not being wise. When that Taco Bell campaign was roaring, Amber was about 7. We collected all the stuffed toys, all the T-shirts and perfected our inflection of "Yo quiero." We "Yo quiero"ed everything from "Pepsi" to "a kiss" to "my allowance". I don't particularly care for dogs, and especially not for chihuahuas, but Gidget made me snicker and her dying made me a little nostalgic, for Amber isn't 7 any more and we don't snicker about such things.

Last night Stephanie pummeled me on the masssage table until I spoke uncommon words. "Back off a little, Stephanie." At that moment, she was pulling my leg backward over my shoulder to stretch me. I was using Lamaze breathing and focusing on my own personal beautiful imagined place. She had torn hell out of the neck from hell and never landed on relief. I was a little fretful. She finally asked me if I could possibly be overtraining. Hmmmmm. I wondered. When I got home, I referred to the marathoners bible I refer to. Maybe. Yes. Way too much, way too soon. Common eager rookie mistake. This needs to be paced.

I cackled a little bit about this anecdote in my theme of "I don't get men." I bought a top, cheap at Ross on Geezer Day. The label said its color is "grape". I wore it the next day. When David crossed the threshold, his eyes widened and he blurted spontaneously, "You look lovely today." There was absolutely no hubba hubba in this, folks. He simply walked in, saw something fresh and new, and gave his version of "Oh, how nice." The instant he said it, the home dudes - to a man - dropped their gaze to the floor and began to shuffle their feet. The place was dead silent as I said, "Well, thank you, that's a nice way to start my day." What the heezy? What struck them all identically and froze them in their tracks? It's been suggested that they frequently forget I'm a girl and that may have reminded them. I just don't know.

I sent Justin out to give an estimate yesterday. A commercial account - a well known country club clubhouse. Justin's just getting the hang of commercial quotations. He radioed me: "Limes, I'm going to be at least 2 hours measuring this." What? "Justin, what are you measuring? Are you using a ruler?" "Limes, if we get this, it will be the biggest job we've ever done. And they want it next week." Well, I'm a pretty quick study, people. Next week is still July. We're on pace for only a break-even month. I know the amount of the largest job we've ever done. I focused on my writing skills. For in giving estimates, home dudes inspect and measure. Limes is the wordsmith. I want that income for July.

And now, over the last cup of coffee for this day, an "I wonder". I wonder why, when I'm witnessing sunrise each day there is slight cloudiness. I wonder why, when I'm driving to work there is sunshine and few clouds. I wonder why the monsoon slides in as soon as our phone traffic should be starting for the day. It's only predicted for another week or so. Sigh . . .

In my ears right now: It's REM every time I get this way. Right now, it's Everybody Hurts, but I'll need to change it soon or I'll bleed to death.

Something that charmed me: I sat with Justin to "interview" him about his inspection of the country club. I do that so I can write my quote with more punch than if I simply looked at numbers written on a work order. He kept choking on his replies to me. "Justin, what's up? Aren't you comfortable with what you saw or what you're telling me?" He replied: "No, Limes, I don't know fancy words." Said I: "Just tell me what you saw in home dude terms. The words are my job." He just beamed and gave me a beautifully descriptive verbal tour of that vast carpeted area.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

It Takes All Kinds of Nuts to Make That Box of Chocolates

David tells a story of a stop at a carwash a few days before opening our company. He pulled up behind a fine automobile and observed the owner, in hospital scrubs, exit the driver's side. This man set out in full cry the instant his feet hit the ground. He repeated the same thing to every carwash staffer he saw, from the pretreaters to the cashier. "I want a good job this time. The last time I was in here it was a really bad job. I'm going to inspect it this time before I leave and if it's not right . . . ." At 100 decibels. Never mind whether any of the employees here, now, had ever touched his car before, this man was a dissatisfied customer and he wanted good service today.

The man was so obnoxious and loud that other customers were exchanging glances, women distancing themselves from him. David hoped he would make eye contact, so an appropriate comment could be delivered to the idiot. David is good with a quip and when his remarks hit a nerve, he is good at holding his own. Finally the man's number was called. His fine automobile was ready to go. He stomped out to take possession of the car, shouting "I want a good job this time. The last time I was in here it was a really bad job. I'm going to inspect it this time before I leave and if it's not right . . . ."

David is a deeply reflective individual and he knew he had just witnessed something profound. Stroking his chin, he thought, "I've spent a lot of money to open a small business with the best work tools I can afford. And that's exactly who my customers will be - the general public." Thankfully he went forward to open the doors anyway!

We see everything. The best people imaginable. The worst people possible. We see kindness and pettiness, appreciation and disdain. People try to work us against each other: "The girl in the office said . . . " We've become such a tight team that home dudes say, "No, ma'm. I know what that girl in the office says. Each time, every time." The technicians are sometimes asked for the "homie hook up" (premium cleaning, rock bottom prices). They hold their ground - we price fairly for the good services we deliver. They are sometimes offered personal services in exchange for carpet cleaning services. None of them is that stupid.

When David hired me, I was not allowed on the phones until I'd listened and absorbed for at least a month. It needs to be said that I was in my 50s and a nice, pleasant person. I'd likely never gone off on a stranger for any reason in my life. There was some fear I might bleed to death, but finally I was allowed to take the phone calls. I can say in literal truth it took 6 months for me to change a lifetime of behavior. I, too, have experienced the loveliest and ugliest exchanges in the name of work. Our business was doing very well when David said, "You don't have to take that kind of nonsense. I'd have hung up 10 minutes ago using foul language." I learned to go off and I have done so. I'm pretty tough. It was a good life lesson to learn at an advanced age.

We live in a place where maybe 35% of the work force relies on tips to make their income really livable. And everyone who lives here knows that. This is a tipping kind of town. Carpet technicians are deeply appreciative of gratuities and each of my guys does the kind of job that deserves a tip for good service. I often hear on the radio, "Hey, Limes, I got a really generous tip. We're going to have a sit-down lunch on Van #3." "Good, you guys!" Other times I hear a bitter, "This customer drained me dry trying to get something for nothing, pulled out a wad of $100 bills to pay, and didn't offer a bottle of water in 115-degrees and no air conditioning. It's a cruel world, Limes." "I'm sorry, home dudes. Find a convenience store."

Sometimes the form of the tip causes a little consternation. Cold hard cash is best, preferably in easily shared denominations ~ say two $10 bills. Including gratuity on the customer's check or credit card is second best. They know they will be appropriately credited by me on the next pay check. Sometimes "things" are given as a tip. New homie Mario came in last week with a boxed set of unused margarita glasses.OK. That's good. One of Cesar's customers thinks so much of him that while he cleaned her carpet, she made a huge home-cooked breakfast, then sat down with him while he ate it. Lovely! One man asked if the technicians would get their tip if he included it in his check for payment. "Yes, sir. We always do." The man proceeded, however, to write a check for payment and then two separate checks made out to "Cash" for the tips. Home dudes didn't know what to do to get their money, so I explained how it was done. Those checks cleared the bank on the third attempt to cash them. Yesterday's offering was a conversation starter. Cesar and Troy are calm, warm hard workers with lots of skill. They had knocked out a huge job for a very nice couple. We're going back there soon to do some more work for these good people. As they were about to leave, the man said, "Wait, I have something for you. It's not a tip, but it's something valuable." Hmmmm. OK. Business card directing them to a website where they will find spiritual salvation. They were still talking about that this morning.

In my ears right now: Justin on the radio a few moments ago. He walked into a home and immediately began to get attitude from the husband. Times are lean right now. Justin knows how to save a job, although he doesn't like to be a whipping boy. After the husband lit into him for reasons unknown, the wife jumped him about the woman in the office who gave her attitude yesterday. "What kind of company are you, anyway?" When Justin radioed in the numbers and told me about that little exchange, I got a little hot under the collar. "Home dude, she booked the job online. I've never spoken to the woman." "Yikes, Limes, you're right!" And have I mentioned that we see it all?

Something that charmed me: Home dudes chewing on the delivery of salvation through a website 24 hours after receiving that hot tip.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Bad Juju

I've been feeling pretty blechhhh. Monsoon season is the worst kind of juju for carpet cleaners. Funny - cloudy gray skies make the phones stop ringing. No phones, no new jobs. When it's sticky and wet outside, most people don't want to invite a company in to put water on their carpets. Our TV personalities love to report "Rain is on the way,folks. Stay tuned!" Well, yes, technically it is rain. 47 drops across the entire valley. While we made a good deal of money last week, it was not a good one for booking new jobs. This week we've had to give each of the technicians a day off. That day off is not considered a gift. "Do the phone dance, Limes!" "Dancin' , home dudes, but it's not working." We're on pace for a break-even month. Better than going in the hole. David may not pay himself this month. I detest that. My reporting on percentage of business regained over the month before . . . will be a fizzle.

Last night I went for the haircut. Christine is a really interesting and bright woman from Germany. I griped about not scaring up enough new business. She said, "Oh, it's the same for us here at the salon. We're really slow." Then she asked me to walk to the door with her. The salon is located at a busy intersection with a shopping center on each of the four corners. "Look all around. What do you see?" Having walked for miles yesterday, worked a lot of hours, and now messing around at the salon, I wasn't in the mood for guessing games. I also detest getting undressed for a haircut and wearing the gown she insists on, and I don't want to stand at the front door in it. "I don't know, what?" "Four shopping centers with no cars in the parking lots. Nobody's out. Nobody's spending." She's right. Everyone seems holed up at home.

This morning as I shared this observation with home dudes, Troy said, "The streets even seem to have fewer cars on the road." He's right - they do.

A few of my favored bloggers have withered up and seemingly died on the vine. I miss them.

Last night I blew up a second Ferrari computer and will have only the BlackBerry to sustain me for a couple of days. I wonder if it's the way I'm driving them?

By the time I sent my reduced band of warriors out on a pitiful number of jobs for the day and sat in the silence, I could have worked myself into a real slump. It was then that I realized the silence wasn't silent. Bloomsbury Bird and Benson Bird were really going at it this morning. These two were vocal, loud and persistent. I stood up to really look at them and they were jumping from perch to perch in their home. The only word I can apply is "joy". They jumped for joy and sang a tune to it. Pretty soon I was grinning. Then I laughed out loud at them. They do not share a thimble full of brains, but they can express joy at being placed in a sunny window, fresh water in their dish and good bird feed.

Sat back down and felt a little better. The BlackBerry announced an e-mail and there was Mother Badger. She was chatty, interesting and flattering after having read the blogs. She had much to say. It made me feel much better.

A friend e-mailed me an article that I needed to receive today: the short version is "take the time you spend complaining about things and do something to correct those things." Oh, yeah. That's good.

When business is lagging, David and I talk about it. He never freaks out. He has built such a good foundation for us that we're strong enough to withstand some down times. We reduced enough expenses last fall after the crash that we're pretty efficient and streamlined. He pokes a little fun my way to ease tension, "Limes, you're a little off your game." "Sir, if the phones will jangle, I will book jobs. Remember my batting average."

When David left this afternoon, Cesar and I were chatting. David said, as he always does, "Let's come back tomorrow and try it again. Let's do it as right as we do it. Have a good evening. Be safe." OK, then. Just come back and try again. I'll be here. That's how we roll.

In my ears right now: Bloomsbury and Benson still at it in full cry.

Something that charmed me: Mother Badger made a hilarious comment on e-mail and said, "Don't you dare blog that!" Now, I'm a woman who always wants to go for the laugh. But for Mother Badger . . . . I'll refrain.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Table for One, Please

I am a person who wants all the good goods that life has to offer, but I don't intend to pay full retail for anything. I like eBay, craigslist, Tuesday Morning, Ross, Marshall's, Bealls and even Big Lots. I will do coupons, double coupons, rebates and early bird specials. I will own up to my actual age publicly in order to get the senior discount. Tweet tweet!

I also happen to be a massage junkie. I need a 12-step program. For years I was massaged several times a week because I could afford it and I loved it. Then I became my own sole support and my schedule had to be modified. I didn't care for that.

Massage Envy is a business that pushes all kinds of my buttons. It's within walking distance from home. Membership allows one to pay a monthly fee, get one "free" masssage for that monthly fee and limitless additional massages at really bargain prices. Last night when I used the restroom there, I saw the poster that said, "Buy $200 in gift certificates in July and get 2 free massages!" I'm nobody's fool. I can work that out. I get the $200 in gift certificates for myself, get the 2 free massages, still have my monthly "freebie" and any others that I want at rock-bottom prices. I'm good at figuring this stuff out!

I have never had a male massage therapist and I don't think I will. I find it hard enough to start with a new female therapist, as I am not one who presents my naked body fearlessly. I typically bond to one therapist and stick with her, although attrition in their workplace sometimes forces me to look around for someone new and recommended.

It's been my observation that most of these good women are quite spiritual, have a belief system that is broader than average, are open to unusual ideas, are quite nurturing, and lean toward this modality or that method or the other approach. I'm pretty open to trying new things, and I'm not afraid to say, "No, that doesn't really do it for me, let's go back to our original model." I'm not shy about saying I'm too hot or too cold, or more pressure or less pressure. I'm comfortable on a massage table. I'm told I can take a truly brutal working-over with the best of them, and I like it for up to two hours at a time.

My first massage at this establishment was unremarkable, but I thought I'd try one more time. "Stephanie" was a nice name, so I booked with her. She is Danish/Swiss/American and she is good at what she does. From the beginning, I rated her an outstanding therapist. She goes after triggerpoints and pulverizes them! It's not always pleasant while it's happening, but the next day there is relief to be enjoyed. When she asked me if I'd like to experience some craniosacral therapy, I didn't know what it was. She explained briefly and I said, "OK, let's try it. " Cranio utilizes a very gentle touch and encourages the movement of cerebrospinal fluid through the spinal cord to ease all manner of ailments (so say its supporters). There is much disagreement about whether this therapy is real or mumbo jumbo. I can only tell you I felt wonderful after it, every time. Mother Badger loves it because it is effective for her and she doesn't have to disrobe. I raved about craniosacral until David finally said, "OK, give me her card." Off he went one afternoon and when he returned, he just kind of shook his head. "Didn't feel anything, Limes." I, however, remained in Stephanie's good care until she needed to go to Denmark to visit her ailing mother . . . .

I pooped around for a couple of weeks with no massage until I could barely stand myself. I called and took the first available appointment with a woman therapist - enter beloved Natascha. She's from France and she is a delightful woman who clearly loves what she does for work. Her accent made me giggle and she did outstanding work. It came to pass that I got all junked up (massage therapist insider technical jargon) with triggerpoints on and near my glutes. Yes, I had a pain in the butt - this can happen to walkers who also sit at a desk for hours each day. She worked me session after session. Finally one night as I lay miserably face down, she said something interesting. "Limes, move your arms. I'm coming up there with you." I didn't say anything, but my eyes opened very wide as I stared through the headrest at the floor. Huh?!?! She proceeded to get onto the table and then she proceeded to get on top of me! I won't go into what raced through my head. For a wonder, I couldn't come up with any words! But I trusted her. Mostly. And all of a sudden my pain began to ease.

Dear Natascha was into Thai massage. The moves she put on me made all kinds of sense, once she explained. You see, the triggerpoints were very deep in my muscles. Natascha's kneecaps covered a much larger area than her hands could cover. With her full body weight on me, the pressure went far deeper than anything she could do with her hand and arm strength. If only she'd said that before she knelt on my backside and wiggled all around. When I told the Badger, I said, "I imagine that's illegal in some states." When I told the home dudes, their jaws dropped. "Limes, you mean you're not dressed in there and she did that?" Yes, home dudes, a woman does what she has to do. I'd have stayed with Natascha forever, but she broke the news to me one evening. She and her wonderful "Ed-ween" were moving to Austin, Texas in two weeks time.

I've been suffering for about 6 weeks with a really messed up neck. I do not know what caused it. I only know that I am literally nauseated from the pain of it and it seems to affect my right eye for some reason. I've tried muscle relaxers that rendered me zombie for days, and then OTC pain relievers - old fashioned aspirin proves effective for an hour or two at a time. Finally, I returned to Stephanie, just a little mortified that I'd left her for another. She whammed me on Monday. I felt 75% relieved on Tuesday. She whammed me on Wednesday. I felt 90% relieved on Thursday and repositioned my dual monitors at the office. Now it is Saturday, and I seem to be 100%. For the first time in recent memory.

On Wednesday evening, Stephanie popped out some new language: "Limes, do you want to do some energy work?" "Ummmm, sure . . . " Even though I am not fully certain I know what "energy work" might be. She placed her hands in a horizontal position about 3 inches above my aching back. The electricity was amazing! I twitched. I resonated. She placed one hand under my back and one hand on my chest. "Do you feel anything, Limes?" "Yes, lovely warmth emanating from front to back and from back to front." "Where is it in your body, Limes?" "Right through my heart!" Stephanie: "What color is the warmth, Limes?" It flitted through my head to get up, get dressed and run, but instead I said, "Peach, Stephanie. It's peach colored." "And is peach a good color for you, Limes?" Yep, peach is a lovely color for me. "I saw it as slightly blue, Limes." "No, Stephanie. For me, it was peach."

In my ears right now: Pat Benatar ~ Hit Me with Your Best Shot . . . fire away . . .

Something that charmed me: Massage Envy became licensed to give hot stone massages. Some of the therapists became certified and some chose not to. Natascha got her certification and I was the first client at my branch of Massage Envy to get the hot stones. Natascha took them from a crockpot-type container and worked me for 2 hours. The next morning I had little burn marks all over my body, even though I had not felt even slightly uncomfortable while being massaged.

Friday, July 17, 2009

When Do We Move from Middle Aged to Old?

Brother Badger has been visiting Mother Badger since July 4th and it's been very quiet on e-mail during that time. "Badger," I asked, "have you heard anything from them?" "Not one word, " he replied. I sent a short e-mail a week into their visit and heard back this morning. They're enjoying one another's company, trying to beat the heat watching lots of DVDs and doing the things Brother Badger likes to do when in Arizona. He enjoys going to Cabela's and has - so far - been there three times. Mother Badger went with him once, taking a book and finding a comfy chair while Brother Badger roamed that outdoorsman's paradise. Mother Badger commented on how easy-going Brother Badger's personality is and how he is resting and feeling a release of pressure.

For Brother Badger, you see, retired in the middle of June, just before his 57th birthday on June 30. He had a very high-pressure post in Montana state government in the finance department for decades and he was done - ready to be stuck with the fork. This is an amazing concept to me, as Brother Badger and I are almost exactly the same age and I embrace working another 13 years or more before I take on my ideal retirement job at a Starbucks or a book store or a cat sanctuary. Considering that my peer is retired, work life finalized, never to work again . . . got some things stirred up inside me. I'm rather pensive.

Brother Badger and I were sophomores that fall of 1967. The Badger had graduated from IHS the preceding June and was already at El Camino College. I wouldn't meet him until months after I encountered Brother Badger in algebra class. That's the year we spent a full semester dissecting A Tale of Two Cities, which I still pull out to enjoy about once a year. Man wouldn't walk on the moon for another 2 years and Woodstock was still to come. It seems such a short time ago. I feel like the same person.

In the fall of 2006, the Badger, Brother Badger and I converged to celebrate Mother Badger's 80th birthday. For several days we enjoyed one another's company, breaking into small groups of different configuration, with all groups getting along famously. We drove to local sights, laughing like any family in the car on an outing. It intrigues me to watch Mother Badger's different style with her two very different sons. One is not very badger-like and he is treated altogether differently. Mother Badger is fair and even-handed, but definitely not the same with the two. It makes me sad that I never met the Youngest Badger who died too young. It makes me sad I never met Father Badger, for he is an elusive figure to me, even though they have all shared their memories of him. Although I easily accepted all the miles on the Badger and myself, it was surreal to meet Brother Badger for the first time in four decades. I expected him to be the same golden teen-aged god. What had happened to him? Time and life. And now he's retired!

I'm not sure why this has unsettled me so. Why am I not simply pleased for Brother Badger? While I am pleased for him, it makes me feel a little odd that my peer, someone I actually know, is a retired person. Although I am a card-carrying member of AARP and get the extra 10% discount at Ross on Tuesday because I am a girl geezer, I have not stepped up to the retirement diving board. Clearly I am not ready to take the plunge, nor even to train for it.

I used to marvel at Stepfather for all the things he did well past 80 - hard physical work in the yard and on the boat, beautiful stained glass creations, frequently organizing nice outings for large groups of us, always looking grand in his clothes. He said, "Limes, you have to keep moving. If you stop moving, the devil will notice you and grab you." I think I'm right where I am supposed to be. When I interviewed with David, I said, "In two months I'll begin to collect a nice pension. I'll give you my last 15 years of work life." I believe I'll keep that promise.

In my ears right now (well, more in my head, but you understand): Workin' in a Coal Mine, It's a 5:00 World, She Works Hard for the Money, We Can Work it Out, Whistle While You Work, I've Been Working on the Railroad, Working for a Living. Who said this is an unresolved, prickly issue for me?

Something that charmed me: Mother Badger, although nothing like Miss Piggy, refers to herself as "Moi". It's never failed to make me grin.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Equal Time for Virginia Woolf

Photo credit: J. D. Morehouse

Virginia Woolf ~ July, 2009
BFFs for almost 2 years now

I tried the room-mating thing for awhile. It did not suit me. It lasted 10 unhappy weeks. I was so determined to get out of there, I worked two 8-hour-a-day jobs for a month to buy things I'd need to set up housekeeping without tapping savings or building credit card debt. I hired two home dudes to move me on Labor Day weekend in Las Vegas (not pleasant), worked like a dock walloper myself, and no - I didn't let the door hit me in the ass as I left. I am sure the people I roomed with do not consider me a very pleasant person. It was one of the most unhappy times of my life.

I scoured craigslist diligently looking for the good goods - cheap. Found a great sofa, and I knew home dudes to clean and scotchguard it for me. The seller convinced me to also buy a lovely red bamboo floor mat to go with it. I got a dining set for a song and I think it is the handsomest thing I have ever seen. When the seller delivered it to me we had to be pretty crafty - I couldn't carry my end of the glass top and we had to engage the help of a new neighbor.

I knew I wanted a cat with me from move-in day, and I found that on craigslist, as well. I don't feel that "a cat is just a cat". Not all cats bond with all humans. It's personal. It's individual. The owner of the "small, but adult, all black female cat" was a good e-mail correspondent, so she got more attention from me than the hit-and-miss types. Conveniently, she lived near the house I was moving from. It was arranged that I would visit a couple of times to meet and befriend "Athena".

The woman was friendly as she let me come in. My first sight in the home was a pack of 10-12 completely black cats roaming around - these cats were identical. Except for male vs. female, I don't know how one could have differentiated them. The woman, however, plunged her arm into the herd and gently lifted the one who was Athena. I confess to looking at the back end of Athena, just to make sure she was a female. Come on, nobody could possibly tell these cats apart. Athena charmed me completely and I asked if I could come back soon just to reaffirm that we'd be well-suited. "Sure," the woman said.

A few days later I returned. On that visit, I noticed the fine, self scooping cat litterbox contraption. They are quite expensive, and intriguing. It scoops itself, but one still has to collect and dispose of the scoopings, so . . . . hmmmm. Surrounding this mechanical litterbox were acres of cat droppings on the floor. I don't think those cats liked the device, and I asked the woman about that. "Oh, the only one who will go in the box is Athena. All the others go on the floor around the litterbox." ("No shit," I thought to myself) . I asked her if she felt certain Athena reliably used the box, because a cat who can't catch on about the litterbox has no future with me. "Oh, yes - absolutely. She's the only one who does use it."

I said that I would like to take Athena into my home and we made arrangements for me to pick her up on moving day. As I was leaving, I asked if she was finding new owners for all the other cats. I wasn't sure if she was moving away or just decided she didn't want to keep 10-12 cats any longer. "Oh, we're not giving any other cats away. Just Athena." What?!?! If you can figure that out, please clue me in.

On moving day I appeared with my cat carrier, picked up Athena and put her in the car. I'd left the A/C running while I collected her ~ didn't want to roast her in her own juices. She got agitated in the car, howling as some cats do when transported. She was pretty loud, incessant, and began the drooling thing, eyes bugging from her head. I turned off my CD player to reduce the noise level in the car and said "Come on, Virginia Woolf, we're going to the new home we'll share." I said it quietly. She never made another sound. Silent assent. I swear that is literally true. We have been BFFs since that day. That cat has never, once, offered to do anything other than use her litterbox. (Let's make sure that's the one we give away, OK?)

A few months later, I noticed her jump into the litterbox as I was leaving for work. OK, I could wait a moment, scoop, and go. To my horror, I saw blood in the litterbox! I went on to work, but David took a look at my face, asked what was going on and then said, "Call the vet now and go - don't lose an hour." I did and I didn't. The result was anticlimactic and expensive. The Badger said, "Wow - that's a lot of money! How do you feel about that?" I replied, "Oh, Badger, imagine being a creature so small, so lowly, that the best deal you ever had in life was Limes watching over you. I'll take care of her the best I can for as long as I can and I won't ever extend her life to make me comfortable."

And now I'm done (for the moment) blogging about those silly animals and I shall move on to other topics.

In my ears right now: What do you think? Stray Cat Strut! ". . . I don't bother chasing mice around, I slink down the alley looking for a fight, Howling to the moonlight on a hot summer night, Singin' the blues while the lady cats cry,"Wild stray cat, you're a real gone guy." . . .

Something that charmed me: David quickly sending me away from Mission Control to get my cat attended to. I didn't know him all that well at the time. I didn't know the way he loves his own pets and considers them important members of the family.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Granny-O and Transportation

By the time they had the first several children, Granny and Grandpa led a busy life. Granny spoke of meal preparation when the family was at its largest: frying 4 chickens, cooking 10 pounds of potatoes, serving 2 loaves of bread and a gallon of milk . . . that was for one meal. There were clothes to be made, from the underwear all the way out, and laundered and ironed. A house to clean, several children at different schools, once there was a sizable age span. It was determined that great efficiency could be attained if Granny could drive a car and combine errands.

It happened that Aunt Ruth was left at home with all the younger siblings while Grandpa and Granny went out in the Model A. They were gone less than an hour. No other driving lesson ever took place. No one still living today knows what happened during that time. She was able to handle certain types of machinery and implements well - a sewing machine, hand tools, kitchen gadgets, hatchet to slaughter the chickens for dinner and not at the cost of her own digits . . . but apparently not a car. My Granny never did drive an automobile, but - by God - she could get around.

First there was the walking: she walked longer, farther, older than most people. After Grandpa died, she was content with walking to the grocery market and pulling her purchases home in her granny cart. Sure, she liked it when one of us came along in a car and she could make bigger purchases, but she didn't complain. Once, when Grandpa was in the hospital in the winter, she walked to visit him with her umbrella against the rain. The belt to his bathrobe had dipped into the toilet and he was a fastidious man. She walked home with her umbrella against the rain, washed the belt, ironed it and wrapped it in plastic. She walked back to the hospital to deliver it to him. She was 70 years old and the hospital was 3 miles away. She still had to walk herself on back home, too!

But Granny's true transportation forte was riding the buses. There was nowhere in Los Angeles County that Granny couldn't travel with ease and speed. She knew all the routes, where to take a transfer and what time the next bus came. Throughout her 60s, she took the bus to visit her daughters and grandchildren a couple of days a week. From Santa Monica to Long Beach and West L.A. to Pomona, rode Granny with her bags. While riding on the Freeway Flyer, she'd piece quilts. When her stop was near, she'd take off her thimble and put away the fabric pieces. After pulling the cord to indicate she wanted the next stop, she'd gather the bags, typically containing her quilting, National Geographic magazines to be shared, a layer cake she'd made, outgrown clothing from one cousin to be given to another.

Ex and I had set up housekeeping and, like most teens, we had nothing to start with. Granny boarded the Greyhound and headed for L.A. with more luggage than the law allowed. There was some concern that the VW Beetle wasn't going to be able to handle Granny, Limes, Ex and all the luggage, but we managed. Think: Jed, Granny, Jethro and Ellie May pulling into Beverly Hills. The 72-year-old woman had packed and transported everything from a CorningWare coffee maker to bath towels, from sheets to a hand mixer. We could actually survive and even thrive for years on what she'd brought. On the Greyhound bus!

When I was in elementary school,I loved Wednesdays because that's the day Granny took the bus to our house. When I came home from school, she'd be in the living room, piecing a quilt, talking with my mother, waiting for me. We'd visit and talk. My Granny and I never ran out of things to talk about. There was never silence between us because there were too many things to be said. At 4:30, we'd start packing Granny up. We'd wait to hear the toot of the Helms Bakery truck pulling up in front of our place. My mother and I carried Granny's bags. The Helms man always handed me a free cookie and took Granny's elbow to help her up into the truck. Once firmly lodged in the truck, she'd take hold of the brass handle and ride standing to the bus stop. Mr. Helms transported her that way for years. 4:45 on Wednesdays, so she could get home and make Grandpa's dinner by 6:00.

This post started with just snippets of memories. The soundtrack might be "the wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round." I think this is my concluding thought, though: little inconveniences such as walking 12 miles in the rain (in four separate 3-mile spurts) to wash and iron a man's bathrobe belt, or hauling bags and bags of stuff 25 miles aross Los Angeles County on the bus while keeping one's hands busy with quilting in the moments unclaimed by other demands . . . . didn't stop her from doing what she needed to do. I don't believe I ever heard her complain about anything. Not once. She just did what she did, and didn't let much get in her way.

Last Saturday night as I took a life step, I was sent an e-mail that said, "I am so proud of you. You do what needs to be done!" Oh, my dear one, I am an amateur, an abecedarian, a dilettante. But she's an inspiration and I can learn!

In my ears right now: The Who - Magic Bus. What else? Maybe Magical Mystery Tour would also be appropriate.

Something that charmed me: Finding an image online of a genuine Helms Bakery truck. They were beautifully appointed with oak cabinetry and drawers and they smelled as good as the wares they were carrying. Little old ladies didn't need to be concerned about accepting a ride to the bus stop with one of the gentlemen in white uniforms.