My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy
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, September 30, 2009
It made me think to say how terrible we feel when something bad befalls a loved one. It reminded me we are sometimes too complacent, thinking we know how every little detail of our day will play out. It is just the most recent event I can point to that says, "There's always something new to be dealt with, in addition to everything else we have to endure."
My dear friend, may I say I am glad it was no worse? May I express my frustration that there is nothing tangible I can do that will help you in any way right this moment? You did not need any of this, and I am sorrowful that it happened to you.
Tomorrow will be better! It will be one day past today. Eat well, rail about it to all of us who care about you, and then sleep well. Be as crabby as you need to be, for as long as you need to be. And then move on. You've dealt with worse.
In my ears right now: The echo of the startling words in the phone call.
Something that charmed me: I don't feel very charmed right now. Oh, all right. The obvious, lame statement. It could have been worse. I'm grateful it was not.
"Before" was childhood and youth, a long marriage, finally a child, the long career, my work life ending when I was 46, because I could do that. I thought I had the future planned quite well. OK, so the marriage wasn't sparkly and I didn't know what to do with myself if I was no longer defined by that career, but I decided I could hang in for a lifetime despite all that. The child was a nice reward to stay for. Ex already had squatters' rights in our home because he'd stopped working before I did. We were trapped in our home together all day, every day unless we looked for a purpose to get out somewhere. It took about four years for those walls to reach their maximum capacity, barely containing emotions building and unresolved for 30 years.
"After" is not yet fully defined, as I am still living this life. It's a work not yet completed. "After" has contained some of the highest highs and the lowest lows I will ever know. I'll keep you posted, interested reader.
"After" has included a man I knew from "before", but didn't know for 30 years. Our process of becoming reacquainted included, of course, the telling of the things we loved or disliked, the interests that caught our attention, the things we now knew how to do. "Do you remember the disco era?" We both hated that! "I converted to Judaism. My daughter was bat mitzvahed and worked in Israel." Wow! I came to "after" very well-traveled in Europe, Mexico, Egypt and on the world's cold and warm oceans. I could rightly be called an ocean person. He spoke compellingly of his love of the desert - photographing it, camping primitively in it. I knew nothing of the desert and was, in fact, just a little afraid of it. I'd driven through it all my life to one destination or another. It was pretty dull. Brown, hot, huge. But I was interested in him and if he was interested in the desert, then I'd check it out. "So, will you teach me about it and show me what you love?"
I have many wonderful desert adventures to share and beautiful photographs to punch up the stories. I will begin to share those soon, but this post is meant to be more general in nature. On the first camping trip, he uttered not one disapproving word about my four duffels and backpacks teeming with way too many, completely inappropriate clothes for desert camping. He didn't raise his eyebrows over my bringing shampoo and conditioner and hair wax. At least I didn't bring the blow dryer. Although friend Janne had taken me to Big Five to get boots, they weren't quite right either. But I didn't know that for a long time, because he was not critical.
When we rose up out of the deep gorge from our hike on an early outing, the wind was screaming. He was in the lead. He reached the top of the trail, where one's head pops above ground level like a gopher peeping out of its hole. "Oh, my god, our tent has blown away!" Well, he's known for his sense of humor and ironic wit. I know when he's funning me. "Ha! You can't fool this city girl!" It had. Despite being anchored by my four bags and his meager duffel full of necessities, that purple dome tent had had its stakes torn from the ground and had rolled seemingly half way across the Mojave.
It took just the one time to snare me. Emerging from the car into the dark, starlit night as we arrived, I said something I've never failed to repeat on any desert trip: "Listen to the quiet!" I learned to love the hiss of the lanterns. I reveled in the conversation and laughter and a shared cocktail in the campsite before ending our day in the tent, sometimes freezing and sometimes roasting, but always preferring to be right there, rather than anywhere else. During the months that are acceptable for camping in the Mojave - about October through May - we went out a couple of weekends per month. For years. Although we celebrate winter solstice rather than "Christmas", we have enjoyed our holiday dinner "out there" more than once. I could rightly be called a desert person.
Fast forward: nothing remains the same forever. Other interests take priority. Work schedules must be considered. One has to decide what one will spend free time doing. Cycling races took over the number one spot. If you care about someone, you support their endeavors and I have been willing to sacrifice some camping opportunities for some cycling races. The odd, rare campout has been enjoyed from time to time.
But now it's truly and officially fall. The last cycling race is in sight. I read something on his blog that said, while he has had such a racing season he can hardly believe it, he aches to be out in the starlight. I wish he'd said "eager" or "anticipate". "Ache" rather tore me up. I sent an e-mail to concur that it is time to camp. I used words like "longing" and "yearning". They are my truth. I named places like Paiute Gorge and Cow Cove. He came back with "Ibex Dunes". For I need to wake up to the sound of the coyotes and drink the good coffee dripped through the Melitta filter. I pine for the long hike in the sun, whether I am bundled up in a parka or wearing as little as possible. I am starved for the little treasures one locates on the desert floor - from shiny rocks to live little lizards, old mining tools . . . it doesn't matter the details. It's all good. I desire to scramble up the rock pile and find still more, previously undetected petroglyphs and pictographs.
I've had a difficult change of season from summer to fall this year. I almost thought I had some version of Seasonal Affective Disorder as I've been quiet, "down", moony. I don't sleep and I can't write and I can't "get right". I spy the "Not Available to Work" calendar on the wall in the office, and Limes' name appears nowhere.
Yesterday I read a comment on a blog I follow. I immediately confess that these are not my own words, but they struck me in my heart and gut. She wrote: "I long for something I cannot even name." My eyes filled with tears. I long, too. And soon we shall go camping.
All photo credits: J. D. Morehouse
In my ears right now: Bob Seger - Against the Wind. The lunatic wind right now is sucking my office steel and glass double doors open and shut, open and shut. A gust was clocked at 72 mph in Red Rock last night. The Badger is riding up in it now, though it's calmer than it was in the night. Virginia Woolf and I trembled in our bed as the wind screamed. Dylan is too aloof to care about such things.
Something that charmed me: On that first camping trip a comment was shared. "I love my little camping table and my lantern." I grew to love them, too.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Today is her birthday, and this week it was my turn to send the magical and much-anticipated "birthday box". She found it on her porch one night, alongside one her sister had sent her. She had to open mine first and she had to open it before showering after her run - good thing there were some shea butter soaps included in that box. She took out all the little treasures, put them all back in the box so she could take them out again in the morning, and she sent the longest 1:00 a.m. e-mail I've ever received, commenting on each and every tiny gift and the way it was wrapped or presented. She has a way of giving back a gift after she opens her gift.
She has a deep love of poetry and shares it often. When she asked me to share some of my favored poems with her, I had to tell her the truth: I am a bit poetry challenged. I don't always "get it" and I am not 100% at catching all the metaphors, the imagery. I am not quite the deep thinker that some others are and I'm sometimes not too imaginative. Now she sends poems that are still very beautiful, but presented in words that no one could miss. I like Mary Oliver and I like poems I can easily understand. She gives them to me.
She loves the desert, as do I, but she is far more familiar and intimate with it. She camps out in it alone, which I have not done. I am intimidated that she can do that and so far I have not been able to. She does not fear the things in the desert that I fear. I regret I have not overcome my fears, for I am certainly missing a good share of time in a place I love.
Her work that supports her is for a non-profit desert protection agency. She works at what she loves and believes in. She is knowledgeable and passionate about desert conservation and works endlessly to educate, inform and spread the word about the beauty to be found in the fragile environment she loves. She does not miss an opportunity to ask a new friend to become a member of her Desert Protective Council, and yes, I did - immediately.
She has been a runner for many years. I walk farther than she runs, longer and more frequently, but she runs freely and all-out, like a child. I plod like an old woman.
She tells me when I need to eat more, sleep more, work less, walk fewer miles. I tell her that, as a rule, I rarely tell other adults what they should do. She walks right up to my boundaries and rubs her foot on them. I tell her when to back off. She writes a lovely letter of apology. She also knew how to tell me to find the way to resolution of a problem when the important men in my life were simply saying "Fix it!" She knew how to say, "Do it this way. These are the steps."
Whereas I'd never let someone kick a girl just because she is female, my friend is a fierce feminist. Sometimes I make statements about women or other classes of people that I think are OK statements to make, at least to a friend. She bites me hard, and I have to say, "Alright, you are better evolved than I."
There is one subject we don't do well to discuss. Each of us bristles about it. Once, when she was prickly and I was calm, I said, "Look, there is always going to be this porcupine sitting between us. Do you want to be friends anyway?" She told me I stated that well and she did want to be friends.
It may be interesting to the reader to know that, so far, we have communicated deeply and well, but only through e-mail, blog and on the phone. I think we are to be commended for being open and committed to learning about another valuable human being.
About 8 days into knowing my friend, I knew at least one good reason why she'd been put in my life and why she was a gift. About 6 weeks into the relationship I learned yet another very good reason why I should be and am grateful to have her.
So, if you have ever had such a friend, or if you just like a good girlfriend story, or if you have seen T, TRegina, TRW or Terry comment on your blog, or if you just enjoy saying "have a great day" to the birthday boy or girl, please leave a comment that she will see, my very dear friend.
In my ears right now: The Happy Birthday song, of course!
Something that charmed me: Yesterday on e-mail I said, "You're absolutely giddy about your birthday coming." She replied, "Oh, Im just counting and reveling in the many blessings I've received."
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DEAR TERRY!
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
When our company was new, we rather flew by the seats of our pants, but we've formalized a number of policies and procedures over time. Weekly staff meetings were the stuff I cut my teeth on professionally, but none of the home dudes had ever been exposed to such a thing. It took a very long time - much more than a year - for the pained expressions on their faces to ease. It took longer than that, and a few changes in the cast of characters, for them to begin to speak up, participate, make suggestions, bring up tough topics . . . but now they do. Our staff meetings have become interactive, productive, efficient and eye-opening. From the most senior veteran to the newest technician, everyone has something to say. David encourages the notion of our office being our sanctuary - the place where we all gather among those who are on our team, our side. Since we are a small group, most of our stories, tales and legends spread pretty quickly, but it's often good to chew on them one more time in staff meeting so we can hear what David has to say about it.
The staff meeting agenda is presented on a white board in David's office. Most often it is I who writes down subjects to be discussed. Once, a technician asked if he/they were also invited to put up something to be talked about. "Yes, of course!" said I. David shoots from the hip each week. He needs no written reminders of what to talk about. At some point in each and every meeting, he asks, "Does anyone have any questions, complaints, comments, quibbles, gripes, bitches or gritches?" While that invitation met with dead silence and averted gazes for at least two years, that's no longer the case. Nearly everyone has something to say nearly every week. We like that!
As a union representative for almost two decades, I've advocated for people who encountered trouble at work more times than I can count. Sometimes people mess up. Sometimes the planets are misaligned. Sometimes people are falsely accused. I'd submit that few people have more adverse working conditions than my carpet cleaning technicians. Their work is tremendously physically hard. They have no set hours. They may begin their day at 2:00 a.m. and go until 11:00 p.m. They may have a void of six hours between two jobs and nothing to fill that time with. They jump from convenience store to fast food joint to eat all meals of the day sometimes. They suffer working with hot water in both scorching heat and snow. When the phones ring off the hook, they make very good money, because when the phones ring, I book jobs. When the phones are quiet, they make bupkus. When it's rainy, cloudy or snowing, business is down. When it's bright and sunny, business goes up. At holiday times, all bets are off - we run nearly 24 hours a day surrounding the holidays.
Customers treat my guys in all manner of ways, partly driven by the customer's personality, and partly by the technician's I am sure. Some of them cultivate fan clubs of repeat customers. Each of them is treated condescendingly sometimes. They hear comments such as, "I wouldn't have believed it could come out so well!" They see facial expressions that suggest, "Hurry up, moron." Although each of them takes care to say "The floor is very wet. Be careful when stepping from the carpet onto the tile," they see a tremendous number of people crash to the floor. Some customers follow them from room to room, not making any effort to hide their concern about burglary. Once in awhile, a meal is offered, or a sandwich or a cold drink. Sometimes they are told they can use the garden hose for a drink of water.
Those are all the known quantities - the "givens". That's what we deal with daily. Now enter the wild cards: "What will happen when we knock on the doors today?" Our first clue is how the customer interacted with me on the phone. You see, I have a stunning memory and a remarkable ability to connect with others. If a customer gives me a phone number with a 619 area code, I say, "I'm from San Diego, too!" When a hear a squalling newborn in the background, it's "Mine is 19 years old now - enjoy it while you can." If the caller sounds quite elderly, I let them know I'm an AARP member. Pet damage call? "I understand, I keep cats." I make the connection any way I can and I'm good at recalling what struck me as I booked the job. We begin every morning with sales huddle, and the guys have truly come to enjoy Limes' rendering of "Today's Tales in the Big City." I either tell them there's nothing remarkable about a customer or I'll say, "Here's what I think you're up against . . . " Often, many times a day, I'll get a radio transmission to say, "Limes, it's just what you figured. I'm glad we talked in advance." Or, "Come on, Limes, how do you do that with just one phone conversation?" It's just what I do. It's my contribution. It's my way of preparing home dudes to ponder "what the hell is the matter with people?" before they arrive at the door.
Home dudes' personalities are all over the map. So are their life experiences and the way they react to things. There ages are widespread, as are their tastes and interests. I know each of them very, very well. I can tell on the radio when Matt is about to require a little anger management moment. When Cesar sounds a certain way, I can picture the look of disgust on his face. When Justin calls in, I can tell by his tone of voice on "Misssss Limes, come on in . . . " if he's about to deliver good news or difficult.
Some of what they encounter:
Cesar is a good, knowledgeable carpet technican, non-threatening, quiet, respectful, good looking with a radiant smile. I've predicted that when the company is 5 years old, 20% of our business will be Cesar's repeat customers. Last week he went to a customer's home for the fourth time in two years. He remembered her during huddle, "Oh, yeah. She's nice. Couple of nice little kids." He radioed to tell me he had arrived, how long he'd be, and the amount of the job. He sounded a little off. Soon he radioed again and he sounded way off. "Uh, Limes, I'm just calling in to talk to you . . ." Huh? Calling me in the middle of a job on a busy day to chat? "Cesar, what's up?" "Limes, this family is moving out and it's pretty crazy. The mom is busy packing and there are people helping. The little girls are running around the house naked." "Cesar, what?" "In the house, out in the cul-de-sac, up and down the sidewalk."
What had concerned this decent man, the father of three young children himself, was that all the adults in the home were packing boxes downstairs while the 4- and 5-year-old naked girls were dogging his footsteps upstairs as he cleaned the carpet. He tried to shoo them downstairs, which they thought was a grand game, especially the part where they sneaked back up to holler "boo!" He asked the mother to keep them downstairs for their safety. "Oh, sure, thanks for reminding me." That lasted about 5 minutes.
"Cesar, get back in there and get the job done. Then get out of there. Tell the mother again, as you pass her, that you're working with water at 240-degrees and she needs to keep the children downstairs." He finished that job in record time and I didn't hear from him again until he was rolling in the van. He didn't have to say much. I could hear it in his voice. "It's 2009, and you have a house full of people not watching the naked children and there's a strange man upstairs, and you live in a big city full of questionable characters . . . ."
Naked lady sightings, women in the shower with the door open next to the room where the carpet is being cleaned, and offers to barter favors for extra services are too common to individually enumerate here. Offers of beer or the harder stuff ~ a daily occurrence. Customers curled up on the couch smoking whatever and offering to share - at least once a week. Percentage of customers who leave underage children home to let us in - high. We don't go in under those circumstances, whether the youth is a young man or a young lady. None of the current technicians seem to be renegades. They value their jobs. They know David's standards for anyone who drives that van and wears that shirt identifying him as one of ours.Yesterday I told Cesar I was writing this post about his customer. He shook his head from side to side and that dark, angry look crossed his face. He added details I hadn't heard before. It seems that one of the little naked girls was pretty notorious. She'd been found as far as three blocks away from home, naked in the streets. The mother kind of thought she had a pretty spunky little firebrand of a daughter . . . . and I repeat: what the hell is the matter with people?
In my ears right now: Today it's a Marvin Gaye collection - and i like it!
Something that charmed me: Sunday I was shopping in Target and there was a young mother of two pushing her children in a cart. She was busy shopping from a list, but every time someone came into proximity, including me - a small, middle aged woman - she checked them out like a hawk. She made herself aware of what was going on around her children. I like that.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
A segment of my life that I savor is watching how people behave. I am fascinated by the people immediately surrounding me and the people who accost me on the phone and the people who do lovely things that no one else will ever know about. I'm interested in the people I see on the bus stop and those who walk out in the predawn every day like I do and in the homeless man who sleeps behind our office building and bathes with the hose and soap and towels we are careful to leave out there for him. I am strongly pulled to elderly persons and I like young people like the home dudes. I'm strongly opinionated after long study, and I feel certain that most people treat others either very well or very poorly in a given situation, with not many behaving middle-of-the-road.
In my workplace, we all love Sonia Sotomayor's soundbite, "Reasonable people can disagree." David has printed it and posted it in many vantage points in his world. He wants to remind himself of it at every opportunity. The trouble is, in my opinion, there just aren't all that many reasonable people out there. Those who try to behave reasonably probably get steamrolled often, become bitter and snap back once in awhile. Those who are unreasonable would seem to feed their own frenzy by the frequency with which they go off, thereby drawing more negative energy.
I would claim to you that when I drive past a train wreck, I don't like to look, but I invariably look, so maybe I should rethink my claim. I purposely watch people interact, and then I go into my reverie about why those people just did what they did or said what they said. I'm afraid I walk around looking either startled or dreamy a lot. One should try the people-studying thing. You may never land on a solid answer to "why do they do that?" but the ride will be thrilling!
I am drawn to the blog written by The Old Bag. I am not a cyclist, but I have a good understanding of cyclists, follow a few, get their language and get what's important to them as relates to their cycling. This woman is fun to follow, because she is sharp and creative and has the skill of saying much with few words. What pulls me the most are her posts expressing exuberance about something that happened on the ride or during some other outdoor pursuit. She is passionate about her time on the bike which she propels with her body, which emits no noxious fumes, which makes no noise, which takes up little room on the road. Her mantra is "Please, after you." Yet she draws rude comments from young, dweeby male cyclists, stopped for a rest as she powers past them, to the effect that her male companion might have to slow down for her to catch up. And she has to watch out for her life and limb every time she rides, because motorists will edge and challenge for road space.
It is much the same for The Badger who describes a day on the bike in the best zip code in our city where the residents would be Las Vegas' best educated, with the highest income and the most likely to have some fitness routine - wouldn't you expect them to respect the cyclist? Of course, he has also been paintballed and shot in the streets on his bike, so Friday's little skirmishes are likely anticlimactic, even though he grouses about them. Flipped off and bunny hopping the curb aren't the worst things he's endured.
The puzzle for me is this: OK, nobody is required to love cyclists in their funny outfits on their odd looking bikes. But what is it about them that draws such aggression? Where we live, road rage and aggression are rampant. Motorists don't want to share the road with other motorists. But put a cyclist or a pedestrian in the mix and the stakes are raised. As a long-distance walker, I have my own stories to tell and have sometimes had to sit on the curb almost ill after a near miss. At least two disagreeing drivers are somewhat well matched in their cars. What is it that cranks up the heat when some drivers see "competition" in the form of a human being unprotected by any armor? Simple bullying at work? Predator and prey? People who feel so small about themselves that they have to crush other people to feel a little larger? I've already said, the answer is hard to find. We don't have enough information about the other players. But I'll share an anecdote in closing.
It was late afternoon on New Year's Eve and we'd shared a great walk with lots of invigorating conversation. It was still light enough that the cars didn't need their headlights. We entered a crosswalk. On the other side of the street, preparing to make a right-hand turn, was a mammoth SUV. We know what to watch for. She'd likely make that turn before we finished crossing, so we needed to pace ourselves. We watched her. She didn't jump, so we stepped it up a little bit to clear the crosswalk. Ten steps from the curb, we heard her engine start to accelerate. We looked up to see her looking over her shoulder for oncoming traffic, talking animatedly on her cell phone, and accelerating - perhaps that phone call caused her pedal foot too much excitement. We couldn't jump backwards into the busy street. My knees went weak and I wasn't sure I'd make it all the way to the curb. The Badger leapt into action, snatching me by the arm, pulling me onto the curb. What he did next was pretty remarkable. He leapt into the air as if he were a frog, not a badger, and flat-hand smacked the passenger side window, startling the passenger who also seemed not to have noticed us. He let fly with some good plain language in a very loud voice [one might say he shouted] and we staggered a few yards away to where we planted our arses against a block wall and hyperventilated.
We could hear the woman's SUV as she made the turn and it seemed she had slowed down quite a bit. The gas pedal was probably not floored. She was pulling up near us, so I began to compose myself, because if she apologized - as it seemed she was about to - I wanted to say "OK, but please - be careful. Watch the crosswalks. Put down the cell phone. Ask your passenger to be your co-pilot. We were about 30 seconds from being killed beneath your tires." When her mighty war wagon came to a complete (illegal) stop in the bike lane and the window was completely down, she leaned across the passenger and delivered her message: "Potty mouth!" They roared off toward the fine, exciting mall on the fun, exciting Las Vegas Strip as we dragged ourselves to my home for dinner where we both were rather subdued . . . . .
In my ears right now: Bloomsbury and Benson Bird chirping their heads off. One could take a lesson from them. No matter how nasty everyone is, they're happy all the time. But then, they are birdbrains!
Something that charmed me: An e-mail I received that was so lovely and welcomed, though simple. "Good night, Limes. I'm looking forward to seeing you." Don't we all want to have someone whose eyes light up at the thought of getting together? Connecting with others is what it's all about for me. I think I'll brew us some really special coffee to share.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
A - Age: Yes, I have one.
B - Book you love: The Camerons by Robert Crichton, a saga.
C - Cause(s) you embrace: Breast cancer research, cat protection societies, get-out-the-vote, any wilderness protection, supporting womens shelters, serving meals to the needy, mentoring programs.
D - Dogs' names: Nonexistent and I-Don't-Have-One.
E - Essential start your day item: Coffee bean grinder.
F - Favorite color: I can't pick one. I'm strongly pulled by almost every color.
G - Gold or Silver or Platinum: I bet a woman made up this meme and this stems from an interest in jewelry, which doesn't particularly interest me. But I like warm tones, so I guess gold.
H - Height: Never got any. "Stand up, Limes!" "I am."
I - Instruments you play: Piano, poorly. Tambourine, drunkenly. Upon request: "California Dreamin' ".
J - Job title: Manager.
K - Kid(s): Just the one. I waited the longest, I got the best one!
L - Living arrangements: Owned and managed by Dylan and Virginia Woolf. I keep the roof over our heads, food in our bellies, and litter in their catbox. I've got the better end of the deal. It's been noted, often, that I am difficult.
M - Mom's name: Mom.
N - Nicknames: "The skirt with a badge", Sparky, Limes.
O - Overnight hospital stay other than birth: Too many. I hope no more!
P - Place you love: Just about anywhere deep in the desert, preferably staying for a few days. Conversely, the green, green UK is my favorite place.
Q - Quote from a movie: "Nice marmot!" ~ The Big Lebowski.
R - Right handed or left handed: Right. On me, the left one has no reason to exist. It can't do anything.
S - Siblings: Sort of.
T - Time you wake up: 3:00 a.m.-ish. Every day of life.
U- Underwear: Unremarkable.
V - Vegetable you dislike: Peas. I wouldn't eat them as Gerber's baby food and I won't eat them now.
W - Ways you run late: Refuse to do late. Can't do it.
X - X-rays you've had: Just like that "overnight in the hospital" deal, too many. No more, please!
Y - Yummy food you make: I don't make it, per se, but I prepare it. Sliced cucumbers, dashed with balsamic vinegar and freshly ground sea salt. Every morning of life at 10:00 a.m. "It must be 10:00. I smell her cucumbers."
Z - Zoo favorite: Not anything simian. And yes, you see me below, seated on the rump of a silverback gorilla.
In my ears right now: The abecedarian song, "A, B, C, D, E, F, G . . . . "
Something that charmed me: Friend Willy is a man who likes to learn new things. PhotoShop intrigued him, so he took a short class. He took the one picture of me and delivered it up in so many hilarious ways, I'll never be able to share them all.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Monday morning felt a little different as I drove in. I've been musing for awhile now that autumn is almost here. Monday morning I lived that. No blazing sunrise in the desert. Glowering gray sky, scattered clouds, and I really shouldn't have been wearing my sunglasses as I drove eastward in the sunrise hour. There were some youngblood skateboarders that I really couldn't see well enough as they exhibited "bullet-proof" and I exhibited "need to get to the office".
Up and down the stairs twice, as I am a woman who carries bags and bags of stuff, plus I had David's birthday gift and on Mondays I stock the office fridge with my food for the week and I had Starbucks and, and . . . "Limes, you going to sit down?" "Yes, home dudes, let me greet my little birds I missed so much and then I'll sit." "Good to see you in your chair, Limes." "Thank you, homes." "Thank you for such an awesome gift, Limes." "Found it at the Harvest Festival, David."
So ... Monday (as well as many recent days for a few years now) the wind screamed. My return to work started with one of my favorite events - we had a huge wool rug to clean for a commercial client. I love this process, as it takes place out on the deck and no matter whose job it actually is, everyone pitches in. I've never heard one of them say, "Hey, I need to be paid commission for this if you want me in it." I've heard each of them say, many times, "Hey, Bro', what's that [cleaning solution] mix you're using?" or "Show me how you approach this." or "Uh-uh, those fringes aren't good enough. I'm going back after it." A little fun has grown up around, "Hey, Limes, come out here and I'll teach you a thing or two." For I have the classes and certification, but have never cleaned a carpet or rug. But once when we had an enormous and very, very old handmade rug to deal with, I was able to show them how it had been cut down and reassembled from something very much larger because I sew and work with textiles. This is us doing what we do very, very well. It's a beautiful thing. We learn from one another. We value and respect one another.
So the enormous wool rug was cleaned and placed across the deck railing to be blown dry by the remarkable wind. It was a grand day for it. The morning progressed, all vans and all technicians out on the road for a busy day. Black August behind us, September seems better. I worked hard at re-entry and David showed all the signs of a man being pulled hard in many directions. The phones jangled, which is a good, good thing. Cashlynn and Chloe shih-tzus went up and down the stairs a few times for potty breaks, Bloomsbury and Benson birds seemed to sing for me particularly sweetly. About mid-morning, I heard a very loud expletive that immediately suggested to me that rug had set sail across the Las Vegas skyline. Yep! Overboard. Aloft!
In David's new enterprise, he occupies a much different role than in our little world. He dresses beautifully and professionally. I'd known the man to wear beautiful athletic wear every day since I'd met him, but now he wears beautiful career wear. Down the stairs he went in his gorgeous lavender shirt and crisply creased trousers. Up the stairs he trudged with that wet, smelly ton 'o wool rolled up and tossed across his shoulder. As the phones still screamed, I could only watch him out the window. He moved patio furniture. He stretched the rug out on the deck in the sun where it lay in its 400 square feet of glory. He brushed himself off muttering, "Damn, not one of them noticed the hurricane force gale? They all worked on it and not one of them . . . "
The morning pressed on and I was booking jobs at a fast clip. David went next door to where interviews are being conducted at his new business venture. I saw the first interloper clomp across that wet rug in the middle of booking a huge job for a new client I had wowed. Uh-oh! Rug clomping! In something that must have been reminiscent of the old Candid Camera clips, my phones rang non-stop for the next 2 hours. They were rolling to voicemail and I had three lines going at one time. I watched interviewees come up the stairs and cross that mighty rug both coming and going to and from their appointments. I was so distressed by this, I had to turn my chair away from the window as I was being distracted from my phone conversations. Not that I could have done a thing except direct traffic - that rug is too big for me to roll or move in any way. Finally, David appeared from around the corner, eyeballed the condition of the rug, ran to its edge and nearly tipped over onto it! This was not turning out well, this rug venture.
The afternoon passed quickly and home dudes began to roll into the parking lot. The pair whose job it actually was to clean the rug trudged up the stairs. I heard Justin say, "Where the hell's that rug?" while he was still in the stairwell. I saw the relief on his face when he saw it laid out on the deck. I also saw the terror cross his features when he saw the thing's condition. We all began to talk at once and the noise level rose. There was some urgency to re-clean this rug, get it at least partially dry, and deliver it as promised. Human nature being what it is, before the work began, everyone needed to express a little angst. Then home dudes tore into it again.
The next morning in huddle, the rug was discussed. "Was the customer happy with that rug, guys?" "Oh, yeah, we've got a customer for life!" "Great - good save, you two!" "Limes, you seemed a little too amused watching a couple of guys have to scramble for their lives." "Oh, no, homes! I never want to see a man have to do his work over again. I was just thinking how, in my inexperience, I'd have approached that rodeo a little differently. You all would have laughed at me, but I picture myself employing maybe ropes, bungee cords, string, a little twine. I might have been silly enough to go looking for a pair of big rocks or some of those full plastic gallon jugs of cleaning solutions we keep by the hundreds. Yes, you'd have snickered at 'the girl', but sure as shootin', I wouldn't have let that rug fly away!" This is us doing what we do very, very well. It's a beautiful thing. We learn from one another. We value and respect one another.
In my ears right now: Steppenwolf ~ Magic Carpet Ride.
Something that charmed me: We all came from vastly different work backgrounds. We've all proven to be open and willing to learn. I've learned from them how to look around and find some solution for a problem quickly with whatever I have at hand, make my fix be good enough and move on to do the next task well. They've learned from me how to be good record keepers who can do math and who participate in discussions in staff meeting. We've learned from each other, and grown.
Monday, September 14, 2009
I've had the pleasure of traveling around a bit with someone who shares my ironic sense of humor and who packs a wonderful camera. When we go off vacationing, there's no hanging in the hotel bar with a drink or watching movies in the room. We get out and partake of the place we've chosen to visit. We come to see the sights and enjoy them. It came to pass that we'd spend a few July holidays in a fun beach area 30 degrees cooler than our home, and with more charm than one could imagine. We spent tremendous hours in the streets and the shops, including walking to a great bistro for dinner . . . yes, that was me in the cute skirt, silk sweater and really sturdy sneaks. "Dammit, I walked here for dinner. I know one doesn't wear sneaks with this outfit!"
In the old, old part of a small beach community where I once represented union members, there is a school dating from 1916 and I would imagine the houses nearby are contemporary with that. Today their conditions range from "expensively and authentically restored" to "not well-kept" to "we kept the foundations and knocked everything else down". Remember, I know this community well, so imagine my surprise at turning a corner in the streets, mouth going a mile a minute, and spotting the SS Moonlight and the SS Encinitas where once had squatted two tiny cottages! All the windows were open on this fine July day, and people were moving in and out. Obviously, groups of young people occupy these homes. Note that they are propped from beneath with wooden stakes that don't look sturdy enough to support a building and they sit on a fairly steep hill! His camera was coming off of his neck before I could squeak out, "What the heezy?" "House boats, Limes!" I don't know if they qualify for that designation, as these vessels have never been on water . . . but they charmed me. Proof - I had to walk past those houseboats every day of that vacation! Even if it was out of the way.
In the same area of the little city are a few blocks that are likely even older. It is extremely hilly on these cliffs above the Pacific and the sidewalks are thick and broken. Walking here can be treacherous, but the few blocks provides a quick throughway between different parts of town. He spotted it first, as I was focused on the crumbling concrete. "Ha!" "Retirement home, Badger! Seaside community. White picket fence. Needs a little TLC."
It should be noted that at night when we walked, we strolled Neptune Drive where many homes worth millions hunker in with some modest places that have sat on the cliffs since the 1950s - in terms of housing, this place has it all. Some things you'd think of and some things you never could! Enter the house. If it has a name or description, I don't know what it would be. I'm rarely at a loss for words, a quick quip. This, however . . .
It is a much newer structure, perhaps 1950s - 1970s, two story woodframe, garage apparently on the bottom floor. On the top floor, every window is open every time I've seen the place. We've never heard music or seen a human being. But we've seen the occupant's sense of style - oh, yeah!
The paint colors lean toward purple, fuschia, turquoise, green and cream. The main garage door is covered with music CDs, both in original condition and gold painted. Interspersed are pictures of old, dead R&B artists, but - oops! - there's a young Bob Dylan and a young John Lennon, and - hey! - Johnny Mathis. Albert Einstein is there, alongside Karl Marx. I believe there are pictures of no females. The pictures are framed with concentric circles of velvet, ruffles, a little aluminum edging, seemingly whatever can be found at hand when it becomes decorating time. A smaller, side garage door stands welcomingly open. Inside one can see a large wall ornament, and the door is covered with brightly colored small balls of some sort. I stuck my head inside once ~ there is a black drape where one would expect to enter the larger part of the garage. No, I didn't open the drape.
The upper story is adorned with things that look like manmade peacock feathers and other curiosities. Again, every manner of art supply has been used, including some things I've never used as an art supply. A smallish American flag flaps in the ocean breezes on the very peak of the roof. But the most remarkable area is the outdoor "sitting room". Not that one would want to be seated there. The photo was taken at dusk and shows poorly on blog. It is worth taking a closer look, however. Chained to the wooden telephone pole in the alley is a huge, ancient bicycle, decorated with whole and broken CDs and other "found" items. All are painted gold. Even the chain and the tires. Next to the side of the house is a large sofa and an enormous cocktail table. Both decorated in whole and broken CDs, painted gold. I believe half of the free world's CDs reside in that "sitting room" where no one would sit. One's rear would be shredded!
"What does it mean?" we've asked each other. "I'm too scared to guess." "Did you catch the new Mahatma Gandhi in the sitting room?" He had. "Badger, what do you think happens to the pictures and the velvet and the ruffles in the rain?"
Something that charmed me: How the ruffles are always crisp and the pictures sharp in contrast, the gold paint fresh and the bicycle tires inflated. These Californians are houseproud. They work hard to keep their places up!
Saturday, September 12, 2009
I have a problem that is very common and there is really only one way acknowledged to successfully work against this problem, but I am a hard case. I spend far too much time and energy tilting at windmills, when - as important people in my life pointed out this week (one at the top of his lungs and one in loud CAPITAL LETTERS on e-mail) "There is only one thing for this. Do it!" I was kicked in the arse and lovingly embraced across a couple of weeks time, sometimes the same person both kicking and embracing. A special woman friend has been to this particular rodeo and told me the simple nuts and blots of how this thing is done. She didn't kick me in the arse, but was gentle and sisterly at all times. My head emerged from the clouds or came up out of the sucking mudhole, whichever nice picture does it better for you. I've spent a week doing nothing as I usually do and everything as I never do . . . and I have something new. I have hope. For the first time in a very, very long time. I will be blogging about it over time - it's too new and raw to unveil in one fell swoop when I haven't blogged for a week and have other things to write about, too.
To provide some balance, I will also say I have fewer problems than most people and I am more fortunate than many in all kinds of ways. I am deeply grateful for that. I am liked and loved by people I want to like and love me because I like and love them. I am blessed in that I have not been hurt by the economy very badly. Oh, I'm not on the rocket ship to the Planet Money any longer, but I have what I need and more. I can do nice things and not worry about it. Dylan, VW and I eat well, see doctors when we need to, are warm in the winter, cool in the summer. And it's just about to be autumn. For a few short weeks I can open the sliding glass door and Dylan can sniff at real air - he's an addict. My body is in good health. I still learn new things. My work is meaningful to me. I find things to laugh at every single day.
9/11/01 is a day that will go down in infamy, but to me it is a special good day. You see, I had no crystal ball, so I'd made big plans for that day. When Amber came down the stairs very early that morning to say, "You guys better turn on the TV and see what's happening!", we were shocked, like everyone else. Would the plans we'd set out so carefully have to be postponed? What should we do? My mother was coming, too. A quick phone call: "Mom, I think we're at war!" "With whom?" "I can't tell you. I don't think they know yet."
Ex was good in a pinch. He said, "Nobody has called to tell us differently, so let's do exactly what we're supposed to be doing if the world wasn't going to hell before our eyes." Good thought! Amber teared up badly when we parted. Her task for the day was to go to school as usual and go to Cousin's home after school while the rest of us completed my big plans. She'd been offered many options, and that was her choice. She stuck to task, like the soldier she is. Our lives were changing, she knew, and now the world seemed to be changing, as well. To my amazement, in San Diego that day, my little tiny world moved forward as planned. You see, I'd made a decision about 18 months prior and had spent that much time trying to make something happen. It required persistence, a lot of money, overcoming challenges, overcoming "NO", and a myriad of other details and setbacks.
It happened! You see, I had a problem then, too. It was a big problem of decades duration that affected the first 50 years of my life, give or take 18-20 years in bits and pieces. It affected others around me and held me back from some successes and achievements I may have enjoyed. Oh, I've had a few of those, but I could have been more. I could have done better. But on that notorious day, I took the step to fix the problem. Eight years later, the problem remains fixed, which makes me a minority, by far. There is no question that my big fix created other, new problems, some of which are not fixed and some of which cannot be fixed. But for me, September 11th is the day I call my second birthday, the one I gave myself.
This post is so full of the essence of the me of right now that I held it overnight on purpose. It is so raw and so much from the deepest inside of me, I wanted to re-read it in the daylight on the first day of my next year here. It is imperfect, but I'll live with it. I'll post it.
I started this morning in some very familiar ways: ground the coffee beans, boiled the water for the French press, provided a huge bowl of freshly filtered Brita water demanded by Dylan with head-butts to my shin and by VW with her mouth going non-stop. I checked out the blogs briefly and I e-mailed a little. The place doesn't look quite as thrashed as it seemed last night - maybe a couple of serious hours of tidying up will be enough. Then I sat quietly, and that is very unfamiliar. I closed out everything else except me, including closing the door to the cats. I worked on one small, pesky annoyance until it doesn't seem very pesky any longer. I planned my day in such a way as to include some rest breaks - lying down, reading a book, maybe-even-snoozing rest breaks. I planned a letter of love to a friend (not to be confused with a love letter). I briefly thought out a quick e-mail to Mother Badger. I took out a workbook and spent 5 whole minutes exploring options to address another annoyance. Two hours into my day, I'm feeling it, still ~ hope. And I'm reminding myself that I do have a little personal history of making tough decisions, taking steps, and resolving problems.
In my ears right now: Nothing. I've been advised to try a little silence, and I am doing so. It's not bad.
Something that charmed me: In my short period of discovery, I learned how much the blog means to me. I learned that I must write something often. Write for myself and absolutely no one else. And I already have enough experience to know that when you put down what you feel, you will connect with someone who will say something, and you'll write more, and so it goes.
Some photo credits: J. D. Morehouse
Thursday, September 3, 2009
So Cousin and I set out on the search. I picked up Pomeranians and scoped out Scotties. I researched breeds, studying their suitability to me and my lifestyle. Jack Russells were struck from the list of possibilities with regret, and rescued greyhounds likely needed more than I had to give. Ultimately, I knew it would have to be one of the terrier breeds for me. We looked high and low, becoming regulars at some of the pooch emporia. One evening after Starbucks, we walked into a place where everybody really did know my name, and there - before my eyes - was a new arrival. My head spun toward Cousin. "Wire haired fox terrier on the left, Cuz!" That good woman had seen the price sticker, however, and said, "It's not a very nice one, Limes." She was wrong.
I visited that puppy four days in a row, for hours at a time. I placed a deposit so she would be held for me to make a decision in case someone else walked in and fell in love with her. She liked me and I liked her. On the fifth day, she came home with me. I extracted a promise from Ex that he would not feed her or flirt with her - dogs and children liked him more than they liked me. Amber was allowed access to the puppy I named JB (Jelly Belly - yes, like the candies). I felt the little dog was a good mom-daughter project.
This was about the time when I began to be a very serious walker, and that little curly/wiry-haired dog was my companion as I hoofed around Lake Murray every day of life. Afterward, we'd go to Barnes & Noble where she'd scoot under my chair and snooze while I read and had coffee. Some of the patrons looked oddly at me and my dog, but there was not a notice posted to prohibit her presence and she did not behave objectionably.
You see the lovely JB above in her Halloween costume that autumn that was so difficult for me. Yes, I was a pretty indulgent dog owner. I was about 2 stoplights from crazy, and those weren't the only clothes she owned. She was as good a friend as I could have hoped for. When I left the marriage, the little dog stayed back in the family home, of necessity. I couldn't take her with me. Sometimes Ex tried to rattle my cage by saying, "If you don't come and get this dog, I'll [multiple choice] 1) sell her; 2) give her away; 3) put her out at the curb on recycling day. . . . " But I never got too shaken. You see, there's a reason dogs and children liked Ex more than they liked me.
In my ears right now: Music I do not understand. Matt writes songs and is a pretty remarkable angry poet. He has put together some studio mixes that he clearly worked very hard to produce. He's very proud of them. Now I can do Pachelbel and Mozart, Hank Williams and I don't mean Jr., the British invasion, 80s stuff, REM, and even some musician's musicians. But, for the first time in my life, I'm struggling to find meaning and beauty in "young folks' music". I'm not delicate. I like the poetry of Charles Bukowski in its brutality. But I struggle trying to enjoy this.
Something that charmed me yet again: I moved to Las Vegas and began to walk in the park where I've walked almost daily for nearly 7 years. It is a lovely area, a circular park almost precisely 1 mile in diameter - it makes for easy counting. It is populated by families, older adults, teens, and pets. There is an older man who walks a wire haired fox terrier several times every day. I don't see them on the days that I walk in the pre-dawn, but most weekends . . . . his little dog likes me, too!
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
I am a sucker for a horned lizard (horned toad). In all of my life, I'd never touched a reptile until I was in my 50s and hiking with the Badger. He spotted a little specimen, who immediately shot into the shrubbery. Badgers are not known to tolerate nonsense, and we meant the little animal no harm, so the Badger plunged into the thick brush after him. Pulling his hand and arm out of the undergrowth, the Badger proffered the little guy to me. I was new to this camping and hiking stuff and I wasn't about to come across looking like a girl, so I put my hand out . . . and fell in love. It soon came to pass that no camping trip was considered a success by me unless there were numerous horned lizard sightings and fondling. I love to stroke the little spikes on the back of their heads, and - folks, I swear it's true - they like it, too! The Badger dubbed me the Queen of the Reptiles one spring day when I was 52 and handled 52 of them! For those conservationists who might read this, we are conservationists, too. We do not terrorize any animal and we do not take shoe boxes full of horned toads out of the desert. Instead we go to their back yard and enjoy playing with them like the elementary school kids we are. I am the happy owner of a horned lizard hand puppet, a pewter model that lives on my desk, and Sunday I received as a gift (from the Harvest Festival) a really lifelike one who now resides on my refrigerator. Love me some horned toad!
On the weekend we visited Prescott, we enjoyed a really fun artists' co-op where we perused paintings, photographs, jewelry, weaving, handmade clothing, decorative grouds, tin art, and just about every kind of creative item one could dream up. One particular artist had some pieces on display that played a couple of tunes in my hit parade. She painted a variety of scenes featuring primitive calavera (skull) art, often recognized as celebrating the Mexican Day of the Dead - the Badger and I both love this art and have collected many examples of it. But she also had some of the dead flowers thing going on that the Badger has photographed all summer. I stood in front of her display and dropped my jaw. "Badger, get over here! What do you think?" "Ha! Hey, do you think she follows my blog?" "That could be the case, Badger."
There is an abandoned mine in the Mojave near a place we have camped often. We love to poke around this deserted excavation because across acres are abandoned vehicles and machinery, water tanks, furniture, semi-trucks and every manner of tool, equipment and appliance imaginable. It appears that the whistle blew in the mine one day and everyone dropped what was in his hand and they all floated off to another planet, leaving everything where it lay, never to return. Some of the piles of debris look as if a giant scooped up his industrial strength toys and then flung them petulantly to the ground. The metal items are covered with varying states of rust and decay and one must move around carefully as there are sharp objects, exposed metal cable, and other hazards. The material being mined was volcanic lava, so the ground and the hills are sharp, black or reddish and porous. It is a stark, silent, jumbled environment. "After the holocaust", one might think. However, in the spring, one can bend over and see an amazing array of tiny Mary Engelbreit flowers poking up through the lava. In the fall one is treated to the sight of coyote gourds spread across wide vistas in all stages of development: fresh, green and striped; mid-phase golden; dry and brittle. These gourds charm me. I can't not pick them. Many of them have been eaten almost completely by small rodents in the desert. The seeds spread, guaranteeing another crop in another year. Mother Badger creates decorative crafts from gourds, but found the coyote gourds too thin and brittle to use. But Limes didn't stop picking. I have been seen hiking in the desert with so many gourds stuffed into my clothes I appear to have ponderous tumors all over my body. Upon returning home from one outing, the Badger was filling the car with gas and I opened a side door . A gourd avalanche began. Badgers are not known to tolerate nonsense and he wasn't thrilled to see 20 or more of them rolling around with Limes in hot pursuit. A really nice woman helped me gather them up. "What are these things?" "Coyote gourds." "What do you do with them?" "Not much." However, as mentioned at the start of this post, I like to decorate with little bits of this and that. So in both my home and my office, I have made natural still life arrangements from the gourds, taking care not to puncture them, letting the seeds dry. And something that really, really charms me is my 50 or so coyote gourd "maracas". Sometimes I shake them at home dudes and they grin from ear to ear.
Some photo credits: J. D. Morehouse
In my ears right now: Something Carmen Miranda-like, with lots of maracas.
Something that charmed me: I already gave three examples in this post. I'm all charmed out for the moment.
When they spotted me, my favored baristas, a young man and a young woman, started windmilling their arms in the air, pointing to a shiny new announcement poster. Beginning this morning, pumpkin spice latte is back! Never mind that it's only September 1st and it will be 104 degrees here today. It's autumn, dammit! It must be. Starbucks said so.
So Greg said, "Limes?" "All right, Greg, a tall skinny pumpkin spice latte, please." It was already lined up on the prep counter to be made for me - they spotted my car when I pulled up. "Whipped cream on that, Limes?" "No, Greg, that pretty much defeats the purpose of 'skinny'."
I walked out grinning, carrying my day's calorie intake in a brown paper bag. Although caused by something very bad, that sunrise was gorgeous. And if pumpkin spice latte is here, then eggnog latte can't be far behind.
In my ears right now: Lucinda Williams, "Over Time". Elvis Costello included it in his "Artist's Choice" CD of favorites, and I'd have to agree.
Something that charmed me: I love calavera (skull) art that celebrates the Mexican Day of the Dead. Check the party at the cantina! The lovely senoritas with hair bows attached to their skulls and full, party skirts, home dude guzzling what appears to be a pitcher of margaritas. I like a party!