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.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Wrestling Bear

The names of persons I use here are those of my followers, easily located on the sidebar. If the reader will indulge me, I don't feel up to creating all the links today. I appreciate my followers, though, and display each of you proudly. But right now, I'd rather spend my time visiting your posts which have gone up since I took a breather. Also, please indulge the use of "today", "tomorrow" and "yesterday". Sometimes things don't punch a time card. It was all written across a short time frame this week.

It's a delicate phrase (that conjures up quite an image when applied to me!) - "wrestling bear" - that means "dealing with stuff". Sorting out the jiggle in one's Jell-0, the junk in one's trunk. Handling one's problems or chewing on stuff. I'd just completed conducting a whirlwind, 'round-the-world magical mystery birthday tour on my bus and I ran out of gas. Precipitously. I knew I needed to apply the brakes, park the bus and retreat to some quiet place. I stayed off the blogs almost 100% for 3 1/2-4 days. I didn't give up e-mails as completely. A girl doesn't want to lose her oxygen or blood supply. I added extra walking miles, read a complete book, ate some foods I hadn't enjoyed in awhile - no, this does not mean overeating. It means consuming good foods that require some actual preparation. And I am better for all of that. Clearer headed. For you see, although when we enter the ring, the bear expects to win the match and I expect to lose it, that's not usually how it shakes out.

And so . . have I bent anyone's ear (or eye, since one reads the blogs) about liking things that work as intended and disliking things that do not? Ahem. Blogger is a mixed bag of stuff for me. A free platform to write and interact with others. But I'm sometimes left with Blogger egg on my face. Do other bloggers get into such a twist as I do when Blogger conspires against them? The answer is probably "yes", "no" or "maybe". But I get into a twist. I've blogged about the Starbucks mug given to me by a very young woman who considers me her mentor. It says "Meticulosity: an extreme attention to detail." Little Jazzy laughs and says it would have helped her to have seen that tattoo on my forehead the first time we met, but she soon figured it out. That's how I am - I give attention to the small stuff. So imagine my horror today to look at my own blog and discover what Blogger or the gods had done to me on Kass' birthday post. I spent hours sizing the pics so they'd line up side-by-side. I'd spent forever downsizing the YouTube clips that had nothing but one photo and the soundtrack. I'd been meticulous about the size of the photos so Elisabeth's head would not be 1/6th the size of her husband's famous onion tartlet, and what was I looking at now? Why was Tag's poem spaced with so much open air running through it? How come Kim's beautiful gifts were oversized splats in the middle of the post, with miles of pink air space? How in the world did I post Kass' birthday at 2:00 a.m.on her birthday, yet 3 comments had been posted on April 24th the day before? Look closely, those of you who wrote to say, "Where did my comment go? I know you posted it. I saw it." [For the record, I post virtually every comment except those I'm asked not to - the ones that are a shoulder tap kind of message. I've now fixed that up by attaching an e-mail account to the Profile.] And why, the Sam Hill, did it all look completely different again one hour later? Yow. I don't know the answers. I am not required to be knowledgeable about everything, and I cannot be such. First these things made me crabby. Then they made me crabby about blogging.

It struck me that I posted my first blog post exactly 11 months ago. Blogging has fulfilled me and frustrated me. It has connected me with both like-minded and polar-opposite people. It has taught me to appreciate how well some people do things that don't even intrigue me. But their passion draws me. I've watched some bloggers simply disappear and others announce they're taking a break. Some who are taking a break pop up for a moment at the most wonderful times. I read both Kass and Elisabeth at some length commenting on the amount of time the blogs take up and I'm right there with you, ladies. Writing for my own, commenting to those I follow. I am struck, after my bear wrestling, with something that unsettles me. I work far too much. Old news. I walk way too many miles which also takes up too much time. Seven-year-old news. I spend too much time time blogging. That's news. And I do little else at all too much. Hmm.

During this week of experiencing some malaise, I forgot to go check that newly attached-to-my-blog e-mail account. It's one I've rarely used, and I forget to check it very frequently. Thank you to those who dropped me a note and I'm sorry if I seemed a tortoise before responding. Friend Tag, who was in my real e-mail account, you'll know I wasn't handling it very well, either, or something you sent would have seen the light of the blogosphere by now. It's coming! Even when I have to arrive late, I still arrive. Full of sincere apologies.

Yesterday, I drove home through a war zone. The weather is the enemy and the wind the most ferocious weapon in its arsenal. All I had at hand was a very small Nissan. The more ballsy forecasters had predicted wind gusts up to 70 mph. They were right! I left the office going south on Rainbow. Every side street acted as a tunnel, slamming me with crosswinds that moved my car around. I remembered the reminders on TV ~ "Keep both hands on the wheel!" No kidding. I knew what I was in for. Turning west on Desert Inn, I started to buck the headwind. It was unlike anything I've ever experienced. Oh, yes, I am the woman who camped through a night of 75 mph gusts, but I remained in the tent. I didn't have to see anything. Now, the traffic light standards bounced and that always freaks me out. I had to stop at the store. Cat food and coffee creamer are big copy in my home and I was nearing empty on both. My aunt did family day care for decades and she had a saying that would make most misbehaving little boys pause: "If you don't stop that, I'm going to snatch you bald-headed." I know the feeling. And I don't like my hair mussed up. This morning as I walked, I had mainly very black thoughts as I passed downed trees, many window screens torn from homes, tumbling trash cans and various other distasteful flying objects. I learned on the news that small, private aircraft were overturned and a carport roof was torn away in an apartment community. Some Las Vegas-y attention-grabbing event scheduled for 8:00 this morning was expected to be cancelled. If the girls still wanted to sky dive in their bikinis, that was one thing. But it was deemed unsafe for the aircraft to be airborne. Justin said it best: "Imagine. Bikini tops and bottoms and half naked girls flung all over the valley." Have I mentioned I am sick of it? Sick to death of it? Literally almost ill from it? It's now been 36 hours. It's about the same as 36 hours ago, although some brief periods have been more tolerable.

So what shall I do with myself, because I'm fairly in a snit? Mr. Insomnia crawled in with me at 1:30 this morning and never let me slide from his loving embrace. Someone hacked our bank account number at work and created several fake checking accounts with their names (multiple entities, multiple names, multiple IDs given) and our account number. One even had our logo and company name replicated, and a very good rendition of David's signature! Yes, Wells Fargo Bank is behaving in a very helpful way and, thankfully, the rotters didn't hit us for nearly what they could have, had they been higher achievers. But the inconvenience has been staggering. No checks, no credit or debit cards for 10 days to 2 weeks. I may need to pay one week of payroll in cash. I have three - count 'em - posts in draft form that I can't complete. They're painful, each for a different reason. I've invested too much in them to hit the delete button, but I avoid them studiously because they hurt.

Here's my plan. Tomorrow night is the 2-hour massage. I'm going to wave good-bye to David Saturday and take the wheel. Last May, he and his wife booked a Mexican cruise to celebrate 5 years of marriage. Remember that nasty little illness we first called swine flu? The cruise was cancelled. They're going for their 6th anniversary now. While David's away, I'll start the e-mails to plan my girlfriend-visit trip away. I've hung home too long! But before that, I'm going to the desert. I'm going to the place that has a convenient parking lot, so I can just pull up. I'm going to the place where I went in the winter and did my DIY primal therapy, screaming at the heavens and throwing fiery balls of my anger off the planet. I'm going to the place that will be replete with cactus flowers and horned toads ~ I know about these things. For in this place, at this exact time of year, in the year I was 52 . . . the cactus flowers were abundant and I held 52 horned toads in one sunny hike.

And, now, the Kass Birthday Grand Finale. Tag just kept spinning birthday joy after I'd stopped checking my e-mail box. Here is what he spun for Kass starting with my lame 4 lines and continuing with brilliance:

The lovely Kass, so fair of face,
Exudes a state of natural grace.
But while she shares with us a grand felicity,
There's also that spark of raw electricity.

An accomplished young lady of many phases;
A heck of a poet, she has a way with phrases.
Her home is Sugarhouse, I believe that's Utah.
Is there really such a thing called a Hoppy Taw?
Very crafty! I've heard she redoes the undone and
shoots strangers in restaurants without a gun.
A dangerous hobby, it sounds to this friend,
but she's just keeping up with the latest trend.
Time to end my contribution. It's getting late.
Great idea, friend Limes, on a way to celebrate!
Friend Kass, you are loved by many, it's clear.
So lets do this again same time, next year!

In my ears right now:

Something that charmed me: I don't feel too charmed, actually. But I'll find something . . . OK, here we go. I let my post sit in the box overnight, even though I was pretty sure I was done. When I re-read it this morning it pointed out to me that there are reasons I'm not feeling all that charmed and I do have a plan to change the dynamic. One step forward. Then another one. Do it again. And I remember that the last time I went to the place of primal screaming, fireball hurling, cactus flowers and horned toads, I returned cleansed. It's lasted a long time. I just need to go get another dose.

Some photo credits: J. D. Morehouse

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Let's Celebrate the Anniversary of the Auspicious Arrival of Dear Kass!

It's her birthday. We should all get a little tattooed reminder to celebrate her each and every year. Happy birthday, Kass, and many happy returns of your special day. Readers should know this little celebration was created through the contributions of several really generous, crazily creative bloggers. It has been my task and pleasure to gather the input and deliver the finished product. That's only right because it was my idea! Please join me at Kassie's party. I'm leaving Las Vegas in my pink bus right now. I'm going to circle the globe, pretty much, picking up party-goers and the things they'll add to the party. Here's a look at the accommodations:

Here is our trio of perky party servers and let's listen to Pink get this party started!

My first stop will be only a few miles from home, for Standing On My Head lives right here in Las Vegas. She's a photographer with a grand grasp of the importance of light and composition, and her learning curve appears to be about a 45-degree angle. She writes poetry both laughable and stunning and presents both bravely. It's good to pick her up first because she thought of some of the most vital elements of partying. SOMH was one of the first bloggers to comment, "I'm in!" Soon came her gift of words and a list of food she planned to bring. "Guacamole and chips" caught my eye! Since I have the longest ride on the bus, I'll be munching at those for quite awhile. SOMH is also bringing a most important item - these are her words, quoted verbatim: "A hand-made, heart-shaped chocolate ganache cake festooned with crazy candles of various shapes and colors, burning brightly, as does Kass." Well!

SOMH sent these beautiful birthday sentiments to Kass, as well:

may the long time sun shine upon you,
all love surround you,
and the pure light within you
guide your way home.

My next passenger/party-goer to board will be Kim from Numinosity Beads. I have choices about where to pick Kim up, as she lives in both Arizona and Alaska. For convenience sake, I'm hoping she's in Arizona. Kim has a soft spot in her heart for forlorn little rag dolls and it is through Kim that we met Candace, now on her world tour. Kim is bringing along a friend of Candace's, the lovely Celeste who is in a partying kind of mood. Kim also took up my invitation to make a party for Kass and her gift was made very quickly, a tribute to her talents. This during a week she's making the move from Arizona to Alaska again!

Look at Kim's beautiful birthday gifts for Kass! Get on board, Kim ~ let's go.

We're going to make a sharp turn to the north, SOMH, Kim and I. Our destination is the home of my youth, Sugarhouse in Salt Lake City, where we'll pick up the birthday girl! Come on, Kasserole. Jump in and let us start to celebrate! I don't want to spring too many of the surprises, but there are to be so many gifts and happy moments in this party that I'm going to give my gifts to Kass right now, right in Salt Lake. First is my heartfelt, but amateurish poem. I am no poet. But I know whom I love.

The lovely Kass, so fair of face,
Exudes a state of natural grace.
But while she shares with us a grand felicity,
There’s also that spark of raw electricity.

My second gift is a gift of music. I learned this week on another blog that Kass enjoys the music of Israel "Iz" Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole. So here is Iz doing what he does, and . . . . oh, Kass, I have a little surprise for you. She has taken a brief break from her world travels and dressed in garb that Iz would recognize. Here, just for your birthday, is Candace in her party hat, hula skirt and coconut shell bra. I brought along a little stowaway! And now, ladies, let's start picking up some men. We'll head for the eastern part of the U.S. and pick up the man who commented just last weekend, "That Candace is a doll!"

I love adults who can be playful and whimsical. I'm not sure when we forget how to play and use our imaginations. It pleases me to head now for Cleveland to pick up Kirk Jusko, a playful man I feel I know very well, indeed. Alas, I have never seen Kirk. He does not post his picture. How will we know him when he gets on the bus? Well, I imagine he'll be wearing his mystery man costume. And we'll surely know him by the music! For Kirk's response to the party invitation was that he didn't know Kass well enough to wax poetic about her, but he'd be pleased to bring along some party music!

Passengers, please hold the noise level to a dull roar and buckle up once Kirk seats himself. We're heading south to Norfolk, Virginia and it's going to take us awhile to get there. Is everyone finding enough to eat, drink and make merry with? Candace and Celeste are drinking virgin pina coladas, right?

We're aiming for Tag's place next, folks, and Tag will be a wonderful addition to our wandering party. Tag is a most contemplative and gentle man, generous with sharing love and admiration. He was the first to say "I'm in!" for a party for Kass. I didn't hear anything else for a day. Last night while I had the two-hour massage, my BlackBerry announced that Tag was delivering up the goods.

Tag approached the tribute in a couple of ways. First he found some pretty brilliant images that put him in mind of Kass.

The significance of the images is this. Tag felt we wouldn't want any uninvited guests crashing our party like a flock of birdies. And he found the photo of the distraught princess evocative of some of Kassie's own photos featured on her blog Shooting Strangers in Restaurants.

I was pleased when Tag volunteered to bring the wine. It's an important consideration for a party! However, he said his stemware could use some attention over at yet another of Kass' blogs, Redoing the Undone.

Last, but not least, Tag produced an extraordinary gift of words. The reader should know a few things. Kass committed to writing a poem a day for National Poetry Month in April. She has done that, and admirably. She's not churning out shlock. Tag has written Kass a ghazal and has begun each couplet with a line from Kass' own writing, followed by a line of his. Behold:

A ghazal for Kass in her words (and mine).

The mind is a questionable thing especially when you ask it,
to pull a rabbit out of a hat, or words from an empty basket.

The wintering language of violets, make no sound at all
as if the motor in my mind had blown it's own head gasket.

Poco a poco mon non tropo, da capo a fine
here I show my ignorance. for now I'll try to mask it.

Gathering courage I grab his face and hold it close to mine
deeply entombed inside the earth, I've gone and lost my casket.

I am where I am going, yet a star shines from the sky.
Does the universe care, I don't know go ahead and ask it.

It's like...not quite... but almost coming close
Running out of rhymes, though not quite ready to trash it.

The second to last line, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KASS
and we are back where we started from a tisket and a tasket.

All right, hearty party-goers, get out your passports and your diving gear. We're going international! In theory, my pink bus should be able to deal with the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and finally the Pacific. But we tried to consider all possibilities. We're going to Zambia. And yes, I had to look it up on the map, too.

The blogger seems a gentle creature who signs her comments loveNlight. I think she must give those off in abundance. She has a remarkable number of poetic quotes at her fingertips and offers them generously, garnering many thanks almost every time she comments. With apologies to Gabi, I could not import her photo. Please visit her lovely blog and see her face for yourself at Embracing Who We Are. In the meantime, I improvised and Googled "love and light" for an image. Although I know Gabi is darkly beautiful, I liked the image that came up and I hope she does, too.

Here is what Gabi had to say to Kass:

The slience is broken
The “K” is talking
With her hearty token
She is finally talking

But I was also touched with what Gabi had to say about Kass: "This is Gabriela (known as Gabi). I love your idea of giving a different and meaningful present to our dearest Kass. So please kindly receive attached my humble contribution to the same." It's not a very humble contribution whatsoever! Come on, Gabi, jump on board.

Fellow revelers, prepare to travel awhile. For we leave Africa now and we're heading for the Land Down Under. She's not contributing vegemite sandwiches, but I imagine she could tell us where to locate some if we wanted them. Elisabeth is an extraordinary writer. She is thoughtful and thought-provoking. When I read her posts, I have to go away for a day and think awhile before I can make a cogent comment. She is brave, sharing her compelling life stories. They are not always sugar and spice, but sometimes gritty and tragic. She picks up followers faster than any blogger I have seen other than those whose blogs have been named Blog of Note. I believe I would characterize her as a serious person, and yet she once held her own in days of ongoing commentary about a comedy movie she'd never seen. She also participates in virtual parties and bus trips around the world, offering her poem and contributions before any other blogger. Kass and I were once e-mailing about Elisabeth. The word that kept popping up was "respect". Be sure to visit her wonderful spot in the blogosphere!

Here's what she had to say: "I'm bringing a microphone for the speeches. Anyone can speak, poetry and prose are acceptable, but all should be directed toward this celebration of Kass' birthday." Hear! Hear! By the time Elisabeth boards the bus, there will be some noise and those microphones will come in handy.

Elisabeth told me she was planning to bring her husband's excellent famous pissaladiere to the party. I did not know the word. Luckily, she described it as an onion tart latticed with anchovies and dotted with kalamata olives. Yikes! Far better than vegemite sandwiches. Here is her clean, unadorned haiku for Kass:

A non-silent K
Her words roar across the page
Kass, poet and orator

Picking up Elisabeth last makes me a little sad. Had we gone the other way around the world, she would have been fourth and Kass last. That wouldn't have made sense to party without the birthday girl. But I propose, in order to give everyone a complete party experience, we circle the equator just once more, completely. We shall laugh and dance, toast Kass and get to know one another. We shall eat and drink and be unfettered by the restrictions of real time. We shall part ways with smiles and hugs. And I will park my bus under the carport until the next birthday comes around.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Calling All Bloggers of Good Spirit

All right, it's been done here before. With great fun and good will and camaraderie. The Badger was on the long drive to the first big race of the season. The e-mails flew back and forth as he progressed toward his destination and an idea struck me. This man deserved a party! He would feel boosted to know that many others were rooting for him, cheering him on and interested in the outcome of his mighty battle. I put up a short post asking interested bloggers to help me cheer. I proposed that we compose a poem or a rah, or whatever it turned out to be. It felt just a little risky to me, for what if no one played and the notion fell flat on its face? But to my complete enjoyment, and to The Badger's, the bloggers rang in enthusiastically. The result was a most wonderful poetic tribute that truly touched him.

It's a bit of a different occasion, but I propose fun and glee of a similar nature. Sunday, April 25th, is the birthday of a most wonderful woman. When we first found one another in the blogosphere, I sent her an official fan letter and she confessed to having a girl crush on me. I have learned much about grace and strength and beauty, about honor and intelligence and art and soul from this woman I've never met in person, but know at a very deep level. I've observed her treatment of other bloggers. I'm not getting any special treatment. She treats everyone well. And so, readers, it is the birthday of the lovely Kass. Whether you know her from this blog or this one you know how special she is. I'd like you to join me in giving her a birthday tribute. Who's in?

I'm going to embellish on the way I went about honoring The Badger. This time, I propose a poem tribute and I propose we put together a virtual birthday party. For the poem, let's do the same as last time. I will start with a few lines. Anyone willing to contribute, please put your words in my Comments section and I will develop the poem. We'll need a title, and - yes - I'll credit everyone who participates. **LATEBREAKING ~ Sometimes I am not the sharpest tool in the shed at the end of a long day. Bloggers, please drop both poetry offerings and party contributions into my e-mail which you'll find on my Blogger profile. That way, the wascally woman will not be able to see the poem as it develops. For anyone who puts their offerings in Comments, I'll acknowledge I received your contribution, but I'll hold back on publishing anything our Kass should not see before her birthday. And a note to myself: don't try to be brilliant after 3:00 p.m. when you've been rocking for 12 hours and have many more to go.**

This time, however, let's take it up a notch. We're putting on a birthday party! We'll need decorations, food and beverages, music and gifts. Please send me a short list of what you would like to virtually contribute and I will put that party together for presentation on Kassie's birthday on this blog. Be quirky and creative. She is! [Please send your party list to the e-mail address in my Blogger profile.]

Please, bloggers, if you know others who enjoy Kass but may not frequent my blog, shout me out to them or put a link on your own blog. Spreading the word is a good thing! And, Kass, it wouldn't be unbecoming of you to put the word on your blog, either. ;~}

And, finally, a disclaimer: if I am avalanched with material, we may have to make this a belated birthday party. I remember the html nightmare the Badger's poem became after many, many contributions, but I will land that post as close as possible to April 25th.


Poem starter:

The lovely Kass, so fair of face,
Exudes a state of natural grace.
But while she shares with us a grand felicity,
There's also that spark of raw electricity.

Come on, bloggers! Party for Kass over at Limes' place.

In my ears right now:

Something that charmed me: The notion of celebrating a special friend in an unusual way, and inviting others to join me.

Some photo credits: Kass, herself.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Little Charmer ~ Not ME, the Rug!

In my last post, I told about the wool megalo-rug that nearly beat me in a dust-up. Rugs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are more charming than others.

In our small carpet cleaning business, we do things as simply and consistently as we can. It makes us efficient. It makes us credible to the customers when both the office and the technicians say the same thing about any situation. David and I are good communicators. Everyone knows everything he needs to know about any subject. Some of our touchstones include explaining pet urine damage the same way to every customer every time, quoting room prices the same to everyone who calls in, and explaining carpet repairs in precisely the same way every single time. But perhaps the most deeply ingrained piece of information we share is our minimum service charge. Each of us could tell that number in our sleep. It's a simple concept. We cannot roll a van with one or two technicians, all of the equipment, all of the cleaning solutions, the cost of the business license, liability insurance, advertising costs . . . for less than a particular dollar amount. In most cases, that minimum charge does not come into play. Most people have their entire homes cleaned at one time, and the cost exceeds the minimum service charge. I never even have to utter those words. But once in awhile, Mrs. Las Vegas only wants one room in her home cleaned and the minimum sounds a little pricey.

When the technicians arrive at a customer's house, their flexibility quotient rises dramatically. Now someone from our company can see the carpet. I've given the estimate over the phone based on the customer's own description of the carpet's condition. But one person's idea of "filthy" is another person's concept of "not too bad".The technicians might recommend a little preconditioning treatment or a rotary scrub, or pet damage restoration. They are free to price these services as they see fit (within a loose framework). David's philosophy is, "They're out there. We're not. They've assessed the carpet and the customer. We have not. Let them secure the job." Sometimes we have to work a little extra to hold the job. "Let me call the office and see if I can offer you a small discount. If the office OKs that, may I get started right away?" I sometimes ask the technician if it is even worth doing the work if the customer is asking to pay an extremely low amount. If the technician says, "No. It's not worth it. This will be trouble forever. They're cheap and demanding.", I tell him to roll up his hoses and roll on down the road.

The (wonderful) flip side of taking money away from a customer in exchange for services is that we also have the ability to give a good customer extra attention. My technicians see every kind of situation every day of life. Single parents struggling, elderly people just trying to get by, an obviously really fine individual who has been laid off three times in a year. The men are quiet when they tell me, "That poor woman, Les. She is living in hard times. I knocked out a couple of rooms of premium service and didn't say anything or ask for more money. She needs help." Or, "Les, that couple were in their 80s and have been in that house since 1965. The carpet was so clean, I don't know why they called us. Maybe they just had a reminder on the calendar they didn't question. I gave them a couple of rooms of Scotchguard for free." We've had days where a woman customer has asked a technician to walk her to her car because of a domestic dispute. Not comfortable for anyone. We help people up from the floor when they've failed to heed our warning, "Be careful stepping from the wet carpet onto the tiles." And one of the commonest "gimmes" is to clean a few small area rugs without charge. When one weighs a $500 cleaning job against 3 minutes of work on the rugs, it just makes good business sense. The kindness is remembered, and the customer will invite us to return in a year. There exists a friendly rivalry between the technicians. They watch each other closely. "How much did you sell today?" It should be no surprise that our best carpet cleaners are also our best salesmen.

A woman called to ask me about cleaning an area rug. She knew more than the average caller. She knew the dimensions of her rug and she knew it was 100% wool. I quickly calculated the square feet and applied our price per square foot. I held this up against our minimum service charge. Yikes! This was going to be an expensive rug cleaning. I started my usual presentation: "For our minimum service charge we could do another rug or perhaps a room of carpet . . . " She doesn't like people coming into her home. Um, OK, the rug could be brought to our office. She took our address and I forgot about her for a week.

Yesterday, I looked out on the deck. A small woman, probably very near my own age, struggled along the breezeway, a very appropriately named passageway here on the second floor. Windsock might also be properly descriptive. She turned the corner and aimed for my door. I greeted her and she commented that we were very hard to find. I don't agree, but then I've come here almost every day for nearly three years. "Well, yes, up on the second floor and on the back of the building," I allowed. She had something with her that she proceeded to unfold for me. It clicked immediately! This was the woman with the tiny wool rug. I inspected it and felt on solid ground, even though I don't clean carpets every day like the homes. It certainly was wool. My good eyes told me the dimenstions she had mentioned were about right. It had some pet hair on it and a few spots that gave me some concern. I quoted her our minimum service charge, knowing she'd already heard me say that dollar figure over the phone a week ago. This number so alarmed the woman she had to take a seat in my office. I let her sit. I let her ponder. "Gee, I was hoping you'd do it for about half that amount." I told her, not unpleasantly, all the reasons I had to charge her the minimum service charge. I reminded her we could come to her home and she'd get more value for her money, but that I could not charge less than the minimum. She left the rug and walked away looking pensive.

On Thursdays, David conducts staff meeting and I am second fiddle. On the other days of the week, I conduct "huddle". "Huddle" means, "at 7:00 sharp, gather in the office, have your work orders and your route sheet in your hand, have a pen, pay attention. She who must be obeyed is about to speak." In huddle, we go through the day's work, team by team, van by van. I tell the men everything I remember about each job or customer. I tell them if a job is simply unremarkable. The homes have come to appreciate huddle, because I possess an uncanny ability to call people for what they are, for reading a situation for what it is, even though I've only participated in one telephone conversation. It is a rare day that someone does not come in and say, "Les, you had that man dead-on. It made me able to work with him better, understanding what kind of person he is." In huddle, we also share our daily stories from our adventures in the big city. It's a safe place to talk, to tell, to ask, to share. Sometimes someone has a need to bite in huddle. That's OK, too. We leave huddle as friends. And better informed. Invariably, before and after huddle there is much good natured milling around, coffee being consumed, "good morning"s, bustle.

Huddle was almost over this morning when Matt noticed it. "What's that on the floor?" I'd nearly forgotten to mention the rug. I grinned. "Oh, it's a handkerchief I booked. The customer brought it in. I need it to be cleaned so she can pick it up." They all stared at it. I like to have fun, too, so I put on a little show. Got a little smarty assed. I picked the rug up and spun it on my hand like Luigi tossing pizza dough. They stared at me. "Is that all there is for this job?" "That's it homes. Just the one little hankie." It got really quiet. "Um, Les, how did you price that out?" I said I'd charged the minimum service charge. "And somebody went for that?" "Well, you're looking at the rug, homes." There was some shuffling of feet and gazing at the floor. "What? What's up?" To a man, they agreed that this rug was one of the size and type they'd clean for free on any job where the customer had been half-way pleasant. It was simply the right thing to do. "Well, let's talk about this, guys. How would it be if I let anyone walk in off the streets and give me things to clean and I gave it to them for free? I don't have the advantage you have. I'm not in their home doing lots of other work and just adding this as a little nicety. I have to insist on the minimum service charge." They averted their gaze and shuffled their feet again. I saw shoulders start to shake. I heard some snickers and someone said, "God damn. She's never cleaned a carpet in her life and she just got the highest paying job we've ever had for a rug if you consider its size." We all cackled. It was Matt who came up with the idea. "Let's put her in a war wagon, send her out ahead of us to knock on the doors of every job for the day. She can sell the jobs and we'll just follow her, cleaning carpet!" I just stuck to the script. We take minimum service charge very seriously here.

Joseph and Justin cleaned the hankie. It had issues. The spots that concerned me were curry, Joseph said. Curry doesn't come out. It's permanent. Joseph has 35 years experience at carpet cleaning. Joseph has celebrity clients in Hollywood. I don't doubt those spots are curry. I don't doubt curry is a permanent stain. How does the reader think I'll deal with the customer? The rug cleaned up beautifully except for the curry spots. What would you do? I already know what I'll do!

In my ears right now: Miss Fiona of Sunnybrook Farm. Yes, I like it!

Something that charmed me: We were driving west on a major boulevard through the city. We'd had a great afternoon together and were chatting, thinking about dinner. We stopped at a traffic light in an older section of the city. Here many small old houses have been turned into business offices - an insurance agency, a florist, etc. One of them, neutral in color (mainly) and otherwise unremarkable, caught my eye. For the upper 20% of the building was given over to a brightly colored, eye-catching promotion. Superimposed over stripes of the red, white and blue was a good likeness of the U.S. president. In large, tidy letters was proclaimed "Obama Pedicure ~ $9.99". What the heezy? I've scratched my head for days. What does the reader suppose might make that pedicure distinctly Obaman?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Some Things that Charmed Me

It's already Saturday! What a week! Ups and downs, undulations and perambulations. Charm and razzberries, sunshine and flowers.

I will run as fast and hard as anyone from dealing with problems or disputes. I'm not confrontational or aggressive until pushed very far back into a corner, when I spring out like the tigress I normally forget lives inside me. I tend to spend far too much time attempting to shoulder the responsibility for the disagreement, even when I had nothing to do with causing it. And while I do this, the pressure and negative feelings build. I'd sidestepped a time or two, including replying less than honestly to e-mails that asked, "Are you angry with me?" I was angry. And hurt. But I didn't say so immediately. And I kept brooding on it. It should be noted that I have ridden in this disagreement rodeo a time or two, yet I almost never fail to mount up the same way again in the next round. Slow learner. It's been my observation that many things between human beings begin to form blocks, and this was no exception. It was time to stick a pitchfork in this bale of hay. I did. I presented my issues with words, not tears. I presented them calmly and I don't believe I used one curse word. I didn't threaten any grave consequences. In fact I went the opposite direction from any statements like that. I was met with calm listening to my lengthy grievance, no defensive statements offered, no excuses. "I know. That's what I did and I'm so sorry." Oh. OK. An apology. For a sticky wicket with a lot of angles to it. I felt the weight lift from my shoulders and I reminded myself how long I'd let the problem trouble me. I remind myself to keep trying to learn new things. Try new ways. Trust the people one cares about to come up just as good as they are.

One morning this week, I wore a lighter jacket to work. The pea coat had had to be brought out again when March and earliest April proved fickle, but now it seemed a bit much in the morning. I wore the jacket home that evening and back in to work the following morning. That evening, I forgot the jacket on the coat tree at the office. Because I felt so warm the word "jacket" never entered my consciousness. I didn't need one. That same evening, the display on my dashboard let me know that the temperature down on the blacktop, near where the sensor resides, was 88-degrees. Tangible evidence ~ we're warming up! Quickly. Oh, to be sure, the wind still howls off and on, but I see sunshine and I feel it warm on my skin. Including the skin on my backside. Yes, that's what I said. Read on.

Joseph and Justin struggled up the stairs with a 9' x 12' foot 100% wool Oriental rug to be cleaned. I could tell by their facial expressions it was incredibly heavy. It is extremely valuable and is going to be donated to a charity to be auctioned, so we want to take very good care of this rug. The morning the rug was to be cleaned was extremely cloudy and overcast. Joseph, who has 35 years experience cleaning fine carpets and rugs, explained to me that was a good thing because we do not want direct sunlight on this monstrous piece as it dries. All the technicians began to mill around getting every van and steam cleaning machine ready - we had a couple of large commercial jobs to do and it was all hands on deck. Joseph asked if I'd pull the corners to fold the rug in half if the sun came out. The sunlight wouldn't hurt the backing, would continue to dry at least half of the rug and the men would flip it over upon their return. "Sure!"

The sun came out in its full glory and I was pretty thrilled just to have reason to get up from the desk and go outside. I duly took one corner of that rug in my hand and started to pull. I pulled my arm, I pulled my back, and I pulled that rug not one inch. Giving an ill-considered mighty tug, I lost my grip on the wet wool and landed on my caboose on the warm deck. Mortified, I sprang up like a jack-in-the-box. Had anyone seen me? Well, no. I'm up on the second floor on the back of a building, thankfully. I'm pretty dogged. I tried at each corner of that rug several times, landing right on my rump time after time. By now I was deck warmed and possibly even taking on an abrasion every time I landed. I had to approach this differently. Hmmm . . what if, instead of taking a corner and pulling with brute strength, I pulled forward just small sections of the thing, straightening everything out after each small tug? Yes. That should work. I couldn't step on the rug with my shoes, so I took them off and peeled off my tights. I yanked and tugged at small portions of that floor covering for 45 minutes. Its surface was slippery, and - yes, I did go down on my rear a time or four.

I went back into the office wet, scraped up, banged up a little, but that rug was protected, perfectly aligned, fringed end lying over fringed end. The men came in between the two large jobs. Joseph thanked me for folding the rug as asked. Cesar commented that I looked as if I had been wrestling bear. A little worse for wear and tear. I allowed as how I figured that rug weighed at least as much as I did. In his Jamaican accent, Joseph piped up, "Oh, no, Leslie. Wet wool holds an additional 30% of its dry weight. That rug weighs about 450 pounds right now. Did it give you any trouble?" Yow.

It's well known that blogger friend Kass makes me both laugh and cry. Her influence makes me want to be unruly. I'm always interested in checking out the blogs she follows. Chances are, I'll be interested in them, too. I picked something up on Kass's Redoing the Undone blog. [In this instance I am not going to print the link to Kass's blog, as that would be redundant just for this post]. Reading Kass's post, I followed a link to the blog of the very talented and funny Kim of *Numinosity* [yes, there will be links]. Of course, going to Kim's blog led me to some of her followers, and suddenly I found myself in the presence of a group of most felicitous women, mostly of a certain age. Many of them are artists or artistes. All of them are whimsical women who know how to have a grand time. And through these women, I learned about Candace. I learned that Candace wants to travel. Candace, you see, is a rather plain little rag doll who is feeling somewhat housebound. Kim's good followers have volunteered to host Candace in locations spread far and wide, to take photos of Candace's adventures, and to write in the journal that Candace will bring along. Readers, I promise you many laughs if you click on these few links and read the posts and commentary. Candace is going to have one good time in many different locations.

This morning I learned that Candace has already been having fun at her first stop - Seattle. [This is a must-read, folks!] I've been angling for days to get a chance to host Candace in Sin City, but Kass and I were each a few days behind the other good women who volunteered. This morning Kim pointed me to her follower, artymess, from the U.K. I e-mailed quickly, made a connection with Lorna, and . . . Candace will be arriving in Las Vegas after international travel from Great Britain. Oh! The plans I have for Candace. Certainly the Neon Boneyard and the Bonanza Gift Shop! Since she is a girl of the desert (at least part-time, I believe) herself, she might enjoy some hiking nearby, or even camping out in some of the wonderful places I know about. Surely, she'll want to take in a Las Vegas show, and I'll be the designated driver so she can become as lubricated as she would like. I'm sure she'll want to visit my little business and meet all the homes who are already splitting their sides at the very notion of Candace's travels and so many silly and fun loving adult women across the world. I want to take her to Massage Envy where we will enjoy the Girlfriends Massage, both tables and two therapists in one room with us. When we're tired from all of our adventures, I will embellish Candace's dress with sequins and beads. Or maybe I'll even whip up a couple of new things for her. I want Candace to meet beloved Dylan and Virginia Woolf, and I'll remember to place Candace's little bed in a locking cabinet or a closet that can be closed. Virginia Woolf likes to carry small objects in her mouth and hide them. Candace doesn't look very large to me. And - hey! - have I mentioned I'm expecting a visitor sometime in the future? Welcome, Candace. Viva Las Vegas!

In my ears right now: I am also charmed by artists who cover the material of other artists. I like hearing music I recognize, but having it contain a little twist or surprise. Like, "Hey, who knew?" Or, "I like this version as much as I liked the original." This has been in my ears all day. And may I just say that I love a woman who wears her cowboy boots with a skirt? I am such a woman.

Something that charmed me: Well, I've been charmed a lot this week already, but I have big plans for tomorrow. I need some sunshine. I need Vitamin D. In a bad way. I have an outing in the works. A day in the sunshine exploring a new place and new things. The weather is suited to shorts and a T-shirt and a baseball cap. Lots of water will need to be packed in, sunscreen and the camera tucked into the front flap of my backpack . . .

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Back to the Future, or Everything Old Is New Again

I wrote happily about my far distant past and then felt a little low reliving some of those very early days. I found that musing about a different part of life was a little less painful and I had some donkey laughs. I was flooded with memories of a decade of early adult life and my fingers began to tap as quickly as the thoughts filled my cranium. To my surprise, I was writing (at least in part) about Ex. Without invective. With no vitriol. This was new and fascinating to me, as I have spent few moments in the ensuing years fondly remembering things past between us. I am a woman who did not let the door hit her in the ass as she walked away. Few pleasant words were ever again exchanged between us. But to my further surprise, after posting about the 1980s, I continued to recall little bits of debris from the 32 years spent together and I found it quite pleasant. Comforting. Pleasant memories burn less energy than angry ones, I've found. I believe I have grown a bit.

Friend Tag rang in on Comments to say he'd also experienced tremendous professional growth during the 1980s while also taking on marriage and parenthood. We spoke of some movies we enjoyed in common, and I'm still hangin' in the 80s. When I took my momentary little plunge, I went to YouTube and was perfectly poised to select music that would only make matters worse. But I stumbled over a fortuitous find that led me on a path to other discoveries. Pretty soon, I was laughing out loud. I danced, too!

Some adventure/comic movies of the day included Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile. These starred Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. In retrospect, they look very 1980s, but we enjoyed them. They were fun and funny. They had some decent enough songs in the soundtrack. To call these films life-altering or even particularly memorable would likely be stretching it, and yet . . . something lingered in my mind. Billy Ocean. MTV. I don't want to say too much. I want the reader to view it. But, without giving up too much, I will say that one wants to wait until the back-up singers are revealed. I wonder if others will first grin widely, then laugh loudly, and finally replay the thing and dance with them like I did. I have got the elbow-bending leg-marching rocking thing going on! I can punch my fist high into the air just like they do . . . and I am reminded of having fun in earlier times. I can do the sideways shuffle thing like Billy Ocean and I wish - oh, I wish - I had a white tuxedo! I regret that embedding is disabled, but follow the link for some fun! Or perhaps I'm just too easily amused. "The tough get rough . . . !"

All right, enough of that. True story: Ex came home every Friday night, no matter whether he drove for hours or took the redeye. He came with dirty laundry to be exchanged for clean laundry and dry cleaning to be taken when he returned to whatever part of California on the Monday morning. The weekends were filled with errands and socializing with friends and family, at least a few hours of quiet and private conversation, prescription-filling, expense reports completion, shared meals. Sometimes I had a honey-do list for him ~ hey, I worked a zillion hours a week, too. And I was never good with drills or other tools with moving parts. If the gardener had let us down again, Ex tackled the lawn. If the cars needed service, he took them while I took the dogs to be groomed and shuffled paperwork for both of us. It worked out nicely. All we lacked was sufficient time to rest and relax. For much more than a decade. Spending more time apart than together pointed something out to me, and I believe to him. Being together for brief periods on the weekends reminded me of the things I liked and disliked most about him. It seemed to me that everything was experienced through a magnifying glass. Small irritations seemed too important. The good times felt over-the-top. Once in awhile I took a nap on Sunday afternoon that lasted from noon until 6:00 p.m.

He and I were polar opposites in many elemental ways. I am prepunctual. Always. I would rather arrive some place naked than late. Ex told time by the calendar and actually appeared to enjoy creating a little chaos by dithering. It is almost literally true that we always traveled in separate vehicles to the same destination. For more than 20 years. Air travel with him was an excruciating proposition for me, but - in fairness - we never missed a flight due to his sense of time management. However, on this particular Saturday, we rode together to the mall. Ex needed some new kicks and then we were going to see a movie everyone was talking about - Ghostbusters. We shopped awhile and he bought a pair of new Reeboks for a startling amount of money in 1980s terms - the Miami Vice model, if I am not mistaken. How's that for some 1980s aura? So pleased was Ex with his purchase, he decided to wear the new shoes out of the store, tucking the other pair inside the box and bag. I glanced at my watch and went on alert. If we didn't hustle, we'd be late for the movie. I set a pretty brisk pace to get us out of the mall, and Ex grouched at me for being too tightly wound. Yes. That has been said about me. Especially regarding punctuality. Exiting the mall, he got tangled up in the bicycle parking stand, whacking the top of his foot pretty hard. "You OK?" "I don't know. There's no time to check and see. My wife has a ticking stopwatch."

There was no discord in the theater. Ex and I were agreed on the finer points of popcorn. We both liked Diet Pepsi, and Bon Bons were a firm favorite of us both. We were completely in accord about where to sit in a darkened theater so one doesn't get a stiff neck, blasted out by the speakers or crawled over by late-arriving movie-goers. We settled into our seats and enjoyed the film like just about everyone else at the time. How can a movie starring Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis go wrong? Sigourney Weaver was lovely and talented, and I'd watch Annie Potts in any role. The special effects were grand, the dialogue quick and funny. I was having a wonderful time! Until he started. At first it was a slight wiggle of his leg. It escalated to a pretty rapid shaking of the same leg, and non-stop. "What the hell, Ex?" He said his foot was hurting a little. Probably from whacking it on the bike stand. Soon his entire body was gyrating. "Geez, Ex, do you think we need to leave?" I'm sure my tone of voice did not suggest to him that I thought that was a good thing. He said he wanted to see the end of the movie and he'd be all right. The twitching and shaking went on until I finally moved one seat away, putting my jacket, purse and the popcorn on the seat between us. I could still see him shimmying out of the corner of my eye, but at least I wasn't being jiggled continuously. Finally the movie was over. We said we'd enjoyed it. It was good!

Making our way out of the dark, Ex commented he needed me to slow my pace. His foot hurt. It was throbbing. I'm not cruel, and I had no other pressing engagement. I slowed down tremendously and gave him my arm. "What do you think is going on, Ex?" He wasn't sure. He just wanted to get to the car so he could assess what was going on. I suggested we check the foot in the theater lobby where he could sit on a bench. Who cared if people thought it was strange for a man to take off his shoe and sock in the lobby? We needed to see what was happening. He sat on a bench and brought his foot up across the opposite knee. It was enormous! Three times the size of his other foot, maybe more. Dark brown eyes looked into blue ones. Uh-oh. I told him I wanted to take off his shoe and he agreed. I tried to remove it and was stunned to learn that foot was not going to eject that new Reebok. His foot had swelled so tremendously, it was as if the shoe had been consumed by it. I couldn't squeeze a finger between foot and shoe. "I'm going for the car. Stay here." It scared me that he agreed to do that. Usually he soldiered on when I asked him to be cautious.

Running across the parking lot, I decided we were going directly to the emergency room. If I took him home, he'd self-diagnose and self-heal. I'd seen it happen before. It scared me that he didn't bitch about my taking him directly to the hospital. Well, Ex was not an infant, was not running a fever, was not unconscious, was not pouring blood from any part of his body. He was way low on the list of priorities in that emergency room. We talked. I brought him drinks and a snack, crabbed at the intake window that the man's foot was huge and throbbing and couldn't that possibly indicate some internal bleeding? Finally we were ushered into a draped cubicle where we waited another eternity. At least now, his foot was elevated. And finally assistance came. Now I can't swear the man was an M.D. For all I know, he could have been part of the custodial staff, but he was here to do something about this foot and I was happy to see him. He replicated my earlier efforts to try to do something about getting that shoe off. No way. Ex was grimacing from the man's attempts and the fellow proved humane. "I'm going to have to cut the shoe, and likely the sock, off. There's no wiggle room here." Yes, I knew that to be a fact. He used some of the marvelous flat scissors found in places like hospital emergency rooms and made a number of cuts so the shoe and sock could be peeled away in strips. As the pressure was released, I could see Ex's body visibly relax. The foot, however, swelled even more, right before our eyes. It was incredible! "My god, Ex. You're all swelled up like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man!" The doctor or custodian, Ex and I began to guffaw in a way unbecoming in an emergency room. Obviously that good man had seen Ghostbusters. Ex quipped, "Just don't roast me in the streets of New York, please."

It was really pretty straightforward. His new Reeboks had been tied snugly. The whack on his foot at the bike parking stand broke some blood vessels and he began to bleed. A couple of hours seated in the theater allowed that foot to fill with blood until it became enormous. When the shoe and sock were cut off, the blood that had been constricted from the pressure flowed out and completed the largest single foot ever seen on an average human male. He was put on restricted physical activity and needed to keep the foot iced and elevated to the extent possible. It took a long time for his body to reabsorb so much fluid. I'm certain he was pretty uncomfortable for awhile, hobbling around trying to work, travel. He kept his brand new, single Reebok in the closet for years. I used to see him pick it up and study it closely. When we moved to our new home years later, he put that Miami Vice shoe on the patio and put a little potted plant in it. The plant thrived and grew, bursting its pot. Its root system grew and filled up that Reebok to three times its . . . I swear that's true!

In my ears right now: I imagine the reader already figured it out.

Something that charmed me: The story of Ex and his Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man foot was told and retold so many times that Amber can tell it perfectly. One can watch her face and see the laughter cross it at the funny moments, concern when she speaks of Ex being uncomfortable. She wouldn't be born until 6 years after it happened. But it is part of her landscape.