Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thoughts that bump in the night

Almost 5 years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night suddenly, slightly disoriented in that way you are when your sleep cycle is disrupted.  I blinked a few times and promptly went back to sleep.

The next day, my cell phone rang as I bustled into my apartment, on a short break between class and rehearsal.  It was a friend I hadn't talked to in a while.  I was so excited to hear from her.  And then, she delivered devastating news.

The next day I was on a plane heading to NY.  I would miss the formal memorial for my friend, a young woman who had been murdered on Manhatten's Lower East Side, but I needed to be with my friends.  On the subway to Brooklyn, my friend's face was plastered on the covers of newspapers.  I watched them sway and bump with the motion of the train and couldn't quite make myself believe any of it was real.

Today, I feel the same way.  But while the pain I felt then was sharp and brutal, today it's sneaky, grabbing me at strange times, like now, in the middle of an evening of cleaning, filing and other mundane tasks.  Now, it's amplified by the fact that all those friends I just had to be with back then are drifting from me: getting married, moving to new places, living full lives somewhere that I'm not.  I'd be sad about that, regardless of the murder.  But the murder amplifies it.  It's a simple, not terribly profound thought, but it knocks on my subconscious sometimes; how would our lives be different if that snowy night in NYC had ended differently?

I wonder sometimes if my being jolted from sleep at approximately the time my friend was dying is some sort of cosmic wonder.  And then I shake my head at myself.  I hadn't talked to this friend in months.  To be honest, I hadn't thought of her in weeks, and I very much doubt she had thought of me.

But still, I trust in the unknown too much to not take moments like that, and even like now, tonight, to heart.  I can't figure out what they are telling me.  But they are telling me something.  Maybe someday I'll figure it out.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Can you ever really know anyone?

I am struck, at this strangely hectic time of year, by how little I actually know the people who are close to me.

Cases in point:

If you asked me about my brother, I'd tell you I adore him; he's the kind of good guy that girls would be lucky (like angels from heaven lucky) to snag.  If you asked me his favorite food or favorite color, I couldn't tell you.

If you asked me about my staff's work styles and office quirks, I can list them, no problem.  If you asked me what they are actually thinking and feeling about life, I can't help you there.

I talk to my parents once a week: about my job, what they've been up to, etc.  And then in a random conversation they drop some news that makes me realize how little I actually know about their lives.

Who among my circle of friends is a blogger?  How many of the dedicated facebook people I follow live the happy, cheerful lives they post about?  That cute guy who I see every few months - what is his story?

Paradoxically, I often wonder if I leave too much of myself out there.  Cue the guilt; do I share too much about myself and not care enough about learning more about my friends, family and colleagues? Like, for example, this blog post? :)

Strange how shopping for Christmas gifts, and realizing with a cosmic gulp that you have no idea what to get the people you are supposed to be closest to, brings it all home.  In this season of fellowship and brotherhood, sometimes it's hard not feel self-centered and alone.

Friday, December 11, 2009

There's something about Glee...

I confess. 

I'm not sure why I like Fox's Glee

Don't get me wrong, I love show stopping group numbers as much as the next person - it's why I love musicals.  But I generally have a hard time with film/tv musicals, especially when there are numbers that attempt to blend obviously digitally enhanced music with people walking down the street or hallway or other "normal" place.  That's always struck me as super awkward and weird. 

And I really despised the story line about the pregnancies, fake or otherwise. 

But I love the show.  It never fails to make me tear up or laugh out loud.  It's a bit embarrassing, honestly, how often I listen to the group numbers on my IPhone, but they've become my way of de-stressing after a long day; I love to crank up the stereo and sing along.


I think it's because Glee is so unabashedly in love with it's medium.  It has no qualms about taking retro material, glitzing it up, remixing it, and asking us to believe that kids singing on a stage in a high school could ever sound like that.   Don't get me wrong.  I'm sure, live and in person, the actors/singers sound great.  But they do not sound like they do on screen, for sure.  But the weird part is, I don't care!  I love watching them and listening to them. 

The mid-season finale seemed like a hedge by the writers and creators; an example of "well, we're not sure we'll be picked up for another 13 episodes, so we'll tie off most of the loose ends and hope for the best."  Normally, I would hate that.  It's too pat, too easy.  But it was perfect. 


This is one is easy to answer.  Things are tough.  We are struggling, nationally and personally.  And while we appreciate the dramatic tension of a fake pregnancy or a Sectionals filled with cheating, we really, really need a win right now.  At least I do. 

And I got it.  Thanks, Glee.  Keep on singing with your cheesy, melodramatic self.  We love ya.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cookiefest 2009

Every year, during the holidays, two of my dear friends and I embark on a two day adventure known as Cookiefest. Cookiefest is two solid days of baking cookies, for no purpose other than...because we can.   This year, the 3rd Annual Cookiefest, was perhaps our most prolific yet.  53 dozen cookies were made.  Yes, that's at least 636 cookies (not counting the toffee and other non-cookie sweets).

Cookiefest works for several reasons:

1.  Our hostess has a kitchen like non other.  This girl, a former Pampered Chef rep, has EVERYTHING you could want in her kitchen.  Except, strangely, a 9x13 baking pan.  Aha - Christmas present!

2.  Our hostess also has a cool husband and son; the boys put up with our cackling and giggling with grace.  Even a stomach bug for the son couldn't put a damper on things.  He was a real trooper.  And the husband helped make us yummy breakfast to kick off day two.  You've gotta love that.

3.  We're really good at shopping.  This year was our best ; we knew what we needed (5 pounds of butter, 6 bags of chocolate chips, two dozen eggs, etc), and we nearly halved our shopping bill.  Score.

4.  We're great friends.  The kind of friends who know their place.  For example, I am a cooking idiot.  A moron in the kitchen.  I heat up soup and consider it a culinary victory.  And I have absolutely no problem fetching and carrying and measuring upon request.  My two gals are also comfortable enough to know they don't have to feel bad about being far superior to me in kitchen knowledge.  They gently and cheerfully order me about, and it's great!  And this year, they even let me make my own cookie, a mix of Craisins, oatmeal and white chocolate chips that have been dubbed "Joatmeal" cookies. 

Now, a couple of days later, Cookiefest 2009 - Phase 2, also known as Cookiefeast, begins.  It's the effort to distribute the cookies so I don't eat all of them. It's also the time when casual acquaintances suddenly become much more friendly. I wonder why?

Happy Holidays, y'all.  Hope your friends are as great as mine.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

thinking in tweets and updates

OK, social media folks, admit it. Since you started tweeting or facebooking, you're thought process has changed. Maybe in the past something odd would happen to you, and you'd think it to yourself, or, if someone was with you, say it out loud. Maybe if you were super diligent, you'd write it in a diary.

But you had a filter, generally; either the fact that no one was around to talk to and you'd feel stupid talking to yourself, or the person with you was sick and tired of your random thoughts, or you were just too lazy to write in your diary. And so on.

Today though, that filter is, if not gone, at least a bit more porous than it was. Now, if you choose, ANY random thought that you have can be instantly shared with those poor suckers who haven't hidden or blocked you yet.

What tweets/updates did you NOT send today? Here are a few of mine (and no, they are not all less than 140 characters):

7:30am - Crap. 4 days vacation is not really vacation if you're with your family. Can I have one more day just for me? No? Damn it.

8:15am - Breakfast failure; gluten free blueberry waffles with a bit of low fat vanilla ice cream. Gross. Where are the blueberries? And why does it taste like I'm eating sandpaper? Yes, I threw the remaining waffle out the car window. It's biodegradable and editable. In theory.

8:30am - Definitely not in the mood to be social. I should be making the rounds asking people about their holidays. Instead, I'll hunker at my desk and pretend I can't hear anyone.

9:30am - Bless her heart, one of my lovely staff braved the morning thunderclouds and poked her head in to say hi. Starting to feel marginally human.

9:35am - Finally able to step into public and hunt down some tea. Wow, check out that fabulous jacket a coworker is wearing. Instant hatred of every piece in my wardrobe.

10am - First meeting of the day, begun with a giggle-worthy story about Nutcrackers past. Thanks, Martin!

10:30am - now what do I do?

10:31am - right, I've got about 50 emails to answer.

11am - Side note: I can't believe my brother's in a real relationship. He's always been able to share my frustration at going through life without a companion. Now I will really be a 5th wheel, even with my family. That one's gonna take some getting used to.

11:30am - oooh, let's take on that bully of an agent. Yeah! Take that! And that! And THIS! Sometimes it's fun to play tough.

12noon - Lunch with a pal! Favorite part of the day. And best of all, we pretty much decided there would be no impromptu Spanish lesson at our favorite Mexican restaurant. I think our usual teacher wasn't in the mood to put up with our ineptitude.

1pm - Crap. What is that voicemail? I didn't have a phone meeting today, did I? Oh wait, it's not Monday, moron, it's Tuesday! Hey, at least the resulting conversation was WAY cool. Sometimes, we do really cool s#!% at my job.

1:30pm - Senior Staff meeting - scheduled for 30 minutes. An hour later, we're done.

2:30pm - race down to the Box Office for another meeting. I really do love my team. They are just smart, dedicated people, and I've got to remember that it's my job to make sure they have fun while they are doing their jobs.

3pm - back upstairs for yet another meeting. Can't stop being jealous of coworker who is going to EGYPT for a whole month with her mom. Floating on the Nile. I can't really think of anything much more fabulous than that.

3:30pm - back downstairs for another meeting. At least this one has a Brit on the conference call. Love the accent.

5pm - wander outside and suddenly feel woozy and a little nauseous, which NEVER happens. WTF? This doesn't bode well.

5:05pm - no time to feel sick - there's a city council meeting tonight! Guess I'm staying in the office until then. Excellent. Really wanted to work out, but let's face it, probably would have convinced myself not to given the aforementioned wooziness.

5:15pm - coworker mentions wanting peanut butter sandwiches to be magically delivered. Suddenly, this is all. I. can. think. about.

6pm - Screw it. I'm going to the store to get the fixings for peanut butter sandwiches.

6:15pm - OK, in the 2 minutes between the time I entered the store and exited, not only did a Salvation Army bell ringer appear, but about 50 cars. What the?

6:16pm - Crap - I don't have any change. Really baleful look from the bell ringer. Will try to put double in tomorrow to make up for it.

6:25pm - Mmmm. Peanut butter sandwiches.

6:45pm - Feeling human - dizziness and nausea gone. And holy crap, it's time to go to the city council meeting!

7pm - Council meeting. There are some weird cushions on these benches. Both me and my co-worker nearly slid off them when we tried to sit up straight.

8pmish - meeting over. I have no desire to be a city council member. None whatsoever. Glad that other people do.

8:30pmish - Nearly jumped out of my skin when a guy appeared at my side as I struggled to get the mail out of my mailbox. Yet another reason I can't wait to leave my apartment - the light in the mail area has been out for days.

8:50pm - My friend was right, Mythbusters is awesome. I really want to go skydiving. But I probably should lose a bunch of weight first. How depressing is that? Ugh.

8:51 - speaking of losing weight, this little mini pint of Cherry Garcia is mighty tasty. Sorry, but Ben and Jerry are The Men. Hands down.

9:40pm - Am pretty tired, but fundamentally unable to fathom going to bed at this hour. Solution? To the computer!

10:30pm - Geez, Jodi, get a life, would you? Ok, ok. I'm done. For tonight anyway.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Jump the...teddy bear?

Yikes, upon reflection that blog entry title is much dirtier than I'd intended. Hang with me for a moment; this is a pop culture post, not some repressed childhood sexual fantasy. I have a theory to put out there.

I submit that whenever a TV show delves into pregnancy, it's a "jump the shark" moment, by default. It might not spell imminent creative death, but it does mean the show has to work doubly hard to get back into my good graces.

Evidence? Mulder & Scully's baby - I don't think The X-Files ever recovered. I'm working my way through Joss Whedon's Angel, and just (thankfully) got through the birth of Angel's child. Even Lost's Aaron was a bit of a stretch for me; after the birth and the inevitable montage of strong men smiling tenderly and poignant piano notes accompanying a moment of peace and harmony, it took a while to bring me back from the edge. And it's the one part of Glee that makes me really uncomfortable.

I suppose this could just be me. I have this problem with pregnancy depicted on TV, in movies, onstage or elsewhere (not sure where else is elsewhere, but you get the point). Perhaps it's because I haven't had kids, nor been involved in anyone else's having of kids. Or maybe because it feels a bit too intimate, too secret, to put out there for the world to see.

Maybe it's because I know they are acting, and no matter how good the woman is (or man, I suppose; wasn't Scott Bakula pregnant once in Quantum Leap?), it's not real. There's no way it can be. Being pregnant and having a baby is a pretty sacred thing, in my opinion, and I guess it takes me out of the comfort zone of storytelling. I like my stories pretend, so I can imagine the world they take place in, and enjoy knowing that the actors are creating them with as much authenticity as they can, even when the stories are a mite far-fetched. Making a character have a baby brings that storytelling world crashing to reality.

What do you think? Are there examples of shows that had a baby and did it well? Or am I on to something here?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

none of these are connected...

...but they all made me do that thing that dogs do: perk their ears up, cock their heads to the side and, if they had eyebrows, raise them quizzically while saying (if they had vocal cords) "eh?"

A local TV station is running a "personal paper-shredding" promotion. I really don't get it. What's that got to do with TV?

There's a film fest taking place this weekend, which is quite exciting for this small town. It's called I-540 Filmfest. It's named for the highway that connects about a dozen cities and towns. But it's only taking place in one of them.

Ticket sales aren't exactly roaring along at my day job, so I was dreading the conference call with my boss today. But he was sympathetic, even empathetic, about it, and positively cheerleader-esque in his efforts to buck us up. I wasn't quite sure how to take it, but it certainly made me think about how I should do the same for my staff. Amazing what a little positive feedback can do.

On that same conference call, I got the giggles as I imagined my boss' head as a sleek black telephone.

I've been putting off a writing project for weeks, claiming distractions. Turns out shutting the door and ignoring email works pretty well against those distractions. Oh, so that's how you put one word in front of the other! Watch out, unsuspecting patrons, I'm gonna give you some prose that'll empty your bank accounts real darn quick.

In the last week, I seem to have suddenly developed a social life. When did this happen? I'm usually the one alone at a take-out line, determinedly texting myself so as to not appear a loser. Hmmm...better not jinx it; I'm shutting up now.

Today, as news of the awful shooting at Ft. Hood trickled in, I made the mistake of looking at the comments on an online news story. Bad move. Folks, let me tell you this; President Obama and his socialist agenda did not cause the shooting. Neither did gun-toting, secessionist Texans. Come on now.

I skipped kickboxing today, and trudged home feeling guilty. That is, until I opened the front door of my apartment. There, on the table, were my sneakers, where I'd left them this morning so I wouldn't forget them. I guess my subconscious knew what it was doing.

I'm on a cooking binge lately. Well, more like a "preparing" binge, since cooking implies spices and sauces, and I'm not there yet. But tonight I discovered that David Sedaris on audio tape actually makes slicing vegetables more fun. Just watch out for the sharp side of the knife.

Here's my favorite recently overheard conversation on the street: "No, it's not an actual sex toy, not really..."

And speaking of sex, the ducks in my pond were...ahem...enjoying themselves again this morning. Pretty sad when the local water fowl get more action than I do.

On that happy note, good night, blogging world.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Post-Halloween musings

Halloween always amazes. The childlike glee we get at the chance to dress up, play another person, or just make idiots of ourselves, is fascinating.

Men in costume are just more interesting than women. For example: a man dressed as a woman is vaguely scandalous and hysterical. A woman dressed as a man? Vaguely creepy, a little sad, and not at all entertaining. Seeing grown men dressed as Oscar the Grouch and Elmo? Awesome. Had women worn those costumes...not nearly as awesome.

A quote on Twitter seems particularly apt: Halloween is the one time a year when women can dress like sluts and not be judged for it. I'd challenge the "not being judged" part, but there is some truth there.

No matter how hot a skimpy outfit with fishnets might appear, the woman wearing it is freezing cold, I assure you.

Free dessert for wearing a costume? Sign me up.

The time that parents put into their childrens' costumes confounds me. Especially when the kids are less than 5 years old. But I guess that's like getting a manicure in the winter; though you might tell yourself it's for others, it's really just for you.

And just like that, November is here. Oh, joy, now all the commercials will be about stupid toys that your child just MUST have for Christmas. Ick.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An evening with Chanticleer

Some days, my job is just better than most. Today was one of those days.

It's bittersweet, of course, since technically, the performance by Chanticleer that I saw tonight was barely half full. I suppose some would call that a failure.

I choose to think of it as a special treat for those 600 folks who were smart enough to buy tickets. No, it wasn't the flashy Broadway show that 9000 people attended last week. No, there were no special effects. Yes, the generous crowds also gave that Broadway show a standing ovation, but those who know this town know that's nothing to get excited about. Tonight's ovation was for excellence, pure and simple.

Regardless of the language, these guys sang with the pure, clear voices of angels. As the lights came up at intermission, I experienced the thrill that is my litmus test for a great performance: a sense of glee that I had an entire 2nd act to go...and wouldn't have to leave the theater or the music just yet. Clad in tuxedos (a bit stuffy on a Tuesday, one of my colleagues said, but I like the formality; it implies a respect for the evening and the music) and falling into that odd sway/bounce motion that all singers seem to adopt, they held us captive for more than 2 hours.

Arts administration can be a thankless, anxious job. Lots of numbers to crunch, strategies to plan, people to manage and ticket sales (or lack thereof) to fret over. Shows like Chanticleer are the therapy that keeps me going. The harmonies that wafted out over the audience today were a quiet massage to my tired brain. That perfect vocal moment, when the soaring pitch of the tenor forces a deep, rapturous breath into the lungs, was a reward for the days spent in meetings and at my desk. That wonderful beat at the end of a song, when the wavelengths of sound are fading, and the singers lower their folders, and the murmur of appreciation ripples through the crowd before the first person claps: that moment makes my job worth it.

And the sight of a stooped, elderly gentlemen, proudly showing his signed, vinyl recording of Chanticleer to the group's young music director, who was likely a child when the record was cut, is just the icing on the cake.

Yep. I have a great job. Thank you and good night.

Monday, October 19, 2009

U2 in the Round

Glory be! At last, I get to write a blog entry about a show that has absolutely and unequivocally nothing to do with my day job.

The show: U2's 360 degree tour stop in Oklahoma, which is winding up the 2009 leg (there are only a few more chances to see the show in the US in 2009, according to the website).

As I've mentioned in this blog before, I'm a musical idiot. I have no pop/rock musical sensibilities other than "I like this," and "I don't like that." So when I say I love U2, it's with full acknowledgment that they are mainstream, mass-media entertainers who don't have the independent cred of other, more enlightened (your words, not mine) bands.

And I say to you; I care not. They are kick ass. The 360 tour is unabashedly huge in all ways, with more than 200 trucks and an enormous "spaceship" of a stage, which not only trumpets the tour's universal ambitions, but also gets the sound system off the ground, giving the band a chance to perform in and among their fans. The design of show was an attempt to create intimacy in the most un-intimate space of all: a football stadium. I'm not sure it achieved this, but again, who cares?

Every element of this show was technically superior, with the exception of the fact that I found the sound muddy from time to time. Lights - amazing, from the 12 spotlights mounted on the "legs" of the spaceship to the mirror ball that rose high above us. Moving walkways? Check. Smoke and fog? Check. Genius videography that made us feel like we were inside a music video (one that just happened to be live)? You got it. Pacing and flow of the songs? Pretty much spot on.

And, oh right, the music. There's not much to say there; you either love U2 or you tolerate them. Plenty of their newest album, No Line on the Horizon, was featured, and just enough of the old standards to keep the diehards happy. The only song I missed was "In the Name of Love," but you can't have it all.

The unique stage design meant that every band member, even Larry the drummer, could walk among the crowd at some point. And the videography meant we could see their fingers framing the chords and beating the rhythms, and watch Bono's face as he danced and spun around the stage. Bono is a performer. There is no other word for it. If anyone can explain to me why he is so compelling, even when he's no bigger than a matchstick from my vantage point, I welcome the insight.

I'll be the first to tell you about the wonders of live performance: sharing air, experiencing community, seeing something that will never be quite like that ever again. You can get that experience in your local black box theater or the largest of symphony halls. But there is something unusual about a crowd of more than 50,000 singing together. And it was magical when Bono, who had been conducting the crowd through "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," gently took the microphone back from us and began segueing into "Stand By Me." Try it. You'll see how the two songs can follow each other. Later, mid-set, he strode downstage with a guitar and gave us "Amazing Grace." I'm pretty sure a collective chill ran through the crowd.

As the show wound toward the end, it became unapologetically activist, and I sensed in the show a healthy appreciation for the irony that, while we rocked out on a cool night in Oklahoma, the themes and tragedies of the songs we sang were real for many around the world.

In truth, the only thing really missing from this show (other than a larger crowd, which I was hoping for) was context. In an article in Rolling Stone, Bono spoke of performing the show in Zagreb, Croatia, where just a few years before, humans had been visiting upon other humans the worst kinds of atrocities. As soon as I read those words, I knew the show, deep in the middle of America, where most of us are lucky enough not to know real fear, would not have the same impact as it did there.

But despite that, I will still hold this concert up as one of the most incredible nights of live entertainment I've been lucky enough to experience. From the friendly Kansan ladies behind us to the "human traffic" line outside the gate, the whole evening held magic for me, and the more hours that pass, the more I realize how much this one will stick with me.

PS: The 10+ hours in the car with a good friend brought a great many laughable moments, which I'll have to discuss later. I've got some more thinking to do.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Positions of power

On Friday, an email arrived from one of my staff. It was a singing e-card for Bosses Day. My awesome team then took me out for sushi. Did I know it was Bosses Day? Nope. But it sure was a nice surprise.

Which got me thinking. About being a boss. And how, now that I am one, I would say it's harder to be a boss than an employee. However, when I was an employee...the reverse was probably true. But now, I find myself lying awake asking such unanswerable questions as: "Are my staff engaged in their jobs? I think they are, but maybe they're just pretending to be..." or "I think I have a great relationship with my staff, but what if they are just blowing smoke up my ass to make their lives easier? What if after work they get together and bemoan how much of a pain I am?" or "am I challenging them enough? Or too much?" or "is that bad mood related to home or job?" and on and on and on.

This, of course, led me to wonder how many people in the world find themselves sending Bosses Day cards to bosses that they absolutely despise. Are there cards out there that, played backwards, tell bosses how their employees REALLY feel? There should be.

And I hope to God I never get one.


Here are two things you never want to hear from the person waxing your eyebrows:

1. Did it rain last night? I didn't sleep at all, and I didn't hear any rain...
2. I suppose I should put on my glasses so I can see what I'm doing. They're new, you see, and I'm not quite used to them...

I should have bolted from the chair, but I was helpless under the power of the tweezers and hot wax. So if you notice that my eyebrows are crooked or something, just keep it to yourself, ok?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Why book signings are not all they've cracked up to be

God love David Sedaris. The man is on a 36 day tour of 37 cities (or maybe it's the other way around), and after speaking for more than 90 minutes, he is likely STILL sitting in the lobby of Walton Arts Center, signing books, chatting with people, brightening their rainy evening.

Which is why it pains me to say: I think I dislike book signings.

I've attended two signings in the last few weeks. The first was fine. James Patterson was gracious, smiled, nodded, signed my book, and the line kept moving. Now I have a signed James Patterson book, which I suppose is cool. I forgot about it within a few hours. No big deal.

However, a signing with David Sedaris is another matter entirely. He talks to everyone. In fact, this evening, our line didn't move for about 20 minutes because he was talking to the first people in line. For the entire 20 minutes. As 20 minutes stretched to 30, I could feel my stomach dropping. I snuck a peek at the Walton Arts Center twitter feed...people were gleefully tweeting about the witty and involved conversations they'd had with Mr. Sedaris. And I knew, I just knew, that I was sunk.

I'm not one of those people who can have a bright and interesting conversation with total strangers. I tend to say weird things, making leaps between thoughts that make no sense whatsoever if you're not in my head. And situations like tonight just depress me; I mean, if he can talk to one couple for 20 minutes, they must be really interesting. I'm not. I can't think of a single interesting thing to say, and if I think the interesting thought ahead of time, it will not be remotely funny or interesting when I actually say it. Everyone knows that planned humor falls flat unless you're a comedian.

Add to this the fact that I was standing in line with nearly a dozen books, only one of which was mine, and you have a recipe for awkwardness. Bless David's heart, he gamely signed my books, tried to engage me in conversations about the Ozarks, and even asked if I had a dog or a cat so he could draw me a picture. I could practically hear him mentally running through his "questions to ask when the person who's book I'm signing isn't interesting" list. Someone, get this girl an ounce of wit and charm, would you?

So, combine the relatively uninspiring James Patterson signing (the best part of which was that I felt no obligation other than to say thank you, clutch my book to my chest, and head for the door), with the forced cheeriness of this one, and you understand why I'm not a fan of signings. I think, in the future, I'll leave them to those who enjoy them.

But hey, I've got a signed David Sedaris book. Lest you think I'm a total grump, that actually is pretty cool. And I really, really appreciate that he is probably STILL signing books right now. That' a word...generous.

PS: I wish I'd asked him to sign my IPhone, which is the only place I've actually "read" one of his (audio)books. I would have found that funny, even if no one else did.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Red Sox are losing...

...and the good mood I was in yesterday has gone the way of the sunshine.

It's raining like cats and...well...really hard tonight. We had tornado sirens going off and everything. I confess that seeing all the facebook status updates about friends hunkering with their families in hallways and basements made me sad that I was by myself for the weather drama. Storms are more fun when they are shared.

Remember how I said I had plans for moving? Nix those, thanks to my current "landlord" (which is a massive management company; I knew I'd pay for selling out to the man at some point). Breaking my lease, they inform me, requires me to pay another 4 months of rent. This despite the fact that I have been a superb tenant for 4 YEARS...yes FOUR YEARS, and they recently filled my building with college-aged boys who smoke, blast their music and pee in the bushes. And lets not forget that for 4 months I couldn't walk down the sidewalk because they wouldn't trim those bushes. Grrrrr...

Anyway, today was a tough day for much more important reasons. My Leadership Fayetteville class had "Social Services" day; I have dubbed the day "Be glad your life doesn't suck" Day. Amid the tear-jerking stories of homelessness, poverty and disabilities, we visited a house for children age 18 months to 6 years who are the victims of sexual and physical abuse. Sitting at their little tables to share lunch, chatting with them about costumes and their opinions on pizza, feeling like a giant person in the face of that tininess, I got swept into just how precious and vibrant those kids are. It wasn't until I was on the bus leaving that I truly internalized why they were there; someone ABUSED them. Barely more than a foot tall, brimming with cuteness, and some asshole man or woman hurt them. In moments like that, I wonder why we consider ourselves to be the superior race.

Later, we visited a Women's Shelter and were informed that 1 in 5 people (women? I'm not sure) are the victims of abuse. There were 9 women in the room. We were all doing the math.

And the Red Sox are STILL losing. I think it's time for me to call it a day.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Back to the funny...

I'm swearing off serious posts for a while. Time to get the funny back. Therefore...

For those who remember Tad and Fritz, the ducks in my pond, I have depressing news to report. Their attempts to conceive have come to naught. If you want to have a bit of fun, give some thought to the concept of duck couples/fertility counseling.

Many of you probably heard this one on my facebook account, but about a week ago I rounded the corner to my apartment and discovered a neighbor peeing in the bushes. He caught sight of me, and gawsh, did he zip and disappear in a hurry. Good thing it was dark and I didn't see his face, because keeping mine straight would be tough. That was the proverbial straw, and I have sent that camel to the hospital with my plans to move out as soon as I can. More on that soon.

David Sedaris is coming to town soon. And I'm pretty sure he's promoting a book brought to us by the folks that do The Onion, which has been making me guffaw into the quiet of our office over these last days with headlines like "The Struggling Cleveland Zoo Hosts an All-You-Can-Eat Penguin Fundraiser," and "Struggling Museum Now Allowing Patrons to Touch Paintings." But my personal favorite is: "Relationship Not a Power Struggle, Woman Who's Winning Reports."

I ordered a CD from Amazon the other day (yes, sometimes I actually like to have the actual CD, gasp!), and when it arrived, I eagerly fought my way through the irritating packaging, discarded the crappy merchandise-selling flyers, and put it into the CD player on my computer. Imagine my surprise when I hear, instead of the first bars to a Broadway-type show tune, the dulcet tones of Michael Jackson. As someone who's burned many a CD in my software development days, I know its possible to mislabel a CD, but...really? Michael Jackson? I wonder what it says about my music taste that no one has caught the mistake before now...

(Ethical question of the day: Do I download the Michael Jackson songs to I Tunes before returning the CD? I have chosen not to. Lame or right? You decide.)

Today at BodyCombat, I broke down laughing mid-class because I could not get my left/right legs/arms coordinated. The whole class was going one way, I the other, and the really sad thing is I didn't notice for half the song. Thank goodness I have learned to laugh at myself. I'd spend a lot of time weeping if I didn't.

Well, my quest to find the funny was only marginally successful, I'd say. I'm out of practice; too much political thinking and pondering the world. I'll do better next time.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

From Navy SEALs to Alex Cross

Today's blog is about books and authors - two very different authors from different genres, yet strangely connected.

Last night, while I was watching a TIVO'd version of NCIS: Los Angeles, a bunch of terminology about Navy SEALs was bandied about. Coincidentally, I knew what Hell Week and swim buddy and BUD/S meant, because I'd literally just finished an amazing book called The Lone Survivor. Apparently this book was a huge hit back in 2007, but somehow I missed it. I'm not sure why I picked it up at the library, but I am so glad that I did.

To say this book is harrowing is weak, about as weak as Marcus Luttrell, the author and recently retired Navy SEAL, made me feel as he told his story. It's riveting, heartbreaking, and inspiring, and when I finished it, I felt what can only be described as patriotic sadness: a mixture of awe, gratitude and pride that men like the SEALs are out there, and sadness that they have to be.

Mr. Luttrell has a lot of anger against the liberal media, and many of his readers seem to think that it was a triumph of "America" over liberalism when the book made it to #1 on the NYTimes bestseller list. I don't get that, but I believe Mr. Luttrell is largely justified; I wanted to kick my TV when I read that the media was proclaiming him dead before the Navy had. He also has a love for Texas that I don't understand, being a jaded Northerner, but I cried hardest when I read about the roar that went up at the Luttrell's Texas ranch when the word came back that he had survived.

I do think Mr. Luttrell missed a theme in his tale, however. The death of his comrades occurred in a vicious firefight with the Taliban, brought on, we are led to believe, by the fact that Mr. Luttrell and his teammates made the decision to let unarmed civilians live. Those unarmed civilians, it is assumed, alerted the Taliban, thus precipitating the battle.

Later, Mr. Luttrell is rescued by Pashtun Afghani villagers, who could very easily have turned him over to the Taliban. They chose to let him live, and to defend him with their lives. The parallel seemed obvious to me; but it wasn't discussed. It's probably just my naivete leaking through, but I wish it had been.

On the heels of this soul-searching read, this morning I listened to a talk by James Patterson, author of the Alex Cross books and, I learned to my delight, a whole host of other books that I will enjoy reading over the next few weeks.

Mr. Patterson was sarcastic, funny and opinionated; when asked if he worries that people will copycat the horrible crimes he creates in his books, his "no" was firm, and followed by the following quote (paraphrased, but as accurate as I can make it): "Listen, the book that has inspired the most serial killers is the Bible. I don't know what we do with that." The room gasped and might have booed, but he was off into his next joke, and for the moment, it was forgotten.

But I won't forget it. It reminds me of something Mr. Luttrell said in his book, about how so much death and destruction has been visited on the world in the name of Islam. And like Mr. Patterson said, "I don't know what we do with that." But I do know this: I am lucky that the SEALs and other service men and women are fighting for me and my freedoms. And I'm also lucky that authors like Mr. Patterson are fighting a different battle, teaching kids to read and think for themselves. I want to believe its the same fight. Naive? Perhaps. But I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The first watermelon...and other musings

Who knew that a trip to Sam's could spark so many random thoughts?

Here's a sample:

>I've figured out why impulse buying at Sam's Club is so much fun. Because odds are, you will eventually use what you buy, even if it takes you 2 years to work your way through 120 trash bags. Unlike clothing shopping, where there's a real chance of buyer's remorse when you get home and try on those purple boots you just knew you had to have.

>As I loaded a mini-watermelon into my shopping cart, I suddenly wondered what it must have been like for the first person who discovered watermelon. I mean, it's this uninspired green rindy thing; but what must it have been like when he/she cracked one open and discovered pink, sweet goodness inside? I'd like to think that choirs sang and the heavens bathed both watermelon and discoverer in golden light.

>Speaking of the first watermelon - now there's a tale of viral marketing. How the word must have spread once that first bite was tasted, and now billions know of that special summer treat.

>Finally, there are many things about living alone that, frankly, are awesome. Sleeping in, watching whatever TV you want, and being able to dance to your music with absolutely no inhibition. However, there are some things that completely suck; in particular, there's no one to help you haul your loot back to the apartment after an impulsing-buying trip to Sam's. Sigh.

Happy Wednesday, everyone.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


It's been a fairly dull weekend, and I was just beginning to sink into a bit of self-pity for the pathetic nature of my social life when the phone rang. It was my former Little Sister (of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program).

Side note: If there are men reading this, you need to become a Big Brother. As soon as possible. The need is great, and you can make a difference. Ladies, you can too, but your wait time to be matched will likely be longer.

This young woman has had it rough. The details of her life would shame any of us who grew up with parents and our health. I hadn't talked to her in months. I had begun the process of trying to track her down via DHS, but had only gotten as far as the hospital she currently calls home. Then she called me.

She didn't know I had been trying to find her, but I guess the stars were aligned. I am always grateful that even after months of not speaking, she still has my cell phone memorized. She was upbeat, excited about possibly getting her GED and becoming a CNA. After all she's been through, she wants to be a nurse, and help people.

I am humbled every time I talk to her, and as hard as it is, wish everyone could experience the same feeling. We'd all work harder to serve our fellow humans if we did.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Reflections on the last few days

It's been an oddly quiet kind of weekend/early week, so far, with a few spices thrown in.

9/11 hit me hard, as it always does, on Friday. I can, like so many, remember exactly what I was doing when I first heard, and the panic in our office as people tried to find friends and family over that long day. Many moments are etched in my memory. Hearing a false rumor that there was a truck bomb at the state department and thinking "this might be the end of everything I know." I remember Sting singing just one verse of a song, and weeping. And I also remember walking into the post office as the first tower came down and calling my dad, who was working and hadn't heard much. He was oddly unaffected, probably because he hadn't seen or heard anything yet; he tried to tell me it wasn't that bad, surely everything would be ok.

I can't believe it's been 8 years. I'm saddened that Americans, in general, have forgotten how to support each other like we did during that time.

Shaking off the gloom...

Friday night was one of those strange quasi work/leisure activities; I got to listen to cool music, but I was working while I did it, so that took some of the fun out of it, but I would never have gone by myself to it if I wasn't working, so....anyway. It was made worth it as I spotted the redneckiest of men: cowboy boots, ragged jeans, scruffy face, accompanied by the appropriately trashily attired female. I didn't catch what she was wearing because I was distracted by the "Peace, Love and Beer" t-shirt the man was wearing, and the ginormous Victoria's Secret Bag he was toting. I don't believe the woman was toting anything. Fantastic.

Saturday had nothing to recommend it, except that I missed an appointment at work, felt bad about it, and drowned my sorrows by driving 20 miles to find a good bagel. And it was worth it. Mmmmm. Carbs. (side note - I didn't actually drive 20 miles just for the bagel. I was going that way anyway)

Sunday brought that curious lethargy during the day, followed by the inevitable cleaning frenzy in the evening.

Tonight, a good workout that kicked my ass, followed by MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL! The Pats pulled a crazy win out of some magic hat, or, depending on your point of view, were handed the game by the Buffalo Bills, who might have asked "would you like fries with that?"

And then the news that Patrick Swayze has died. An icon of my teen years. I made my family watch Dirty Dancing more times was a lot. I will still watch it when it comes on TV. Even though I own the DVD and VHS versions.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Replacing acrimony with civility, or the end of my adventures in conservative talk radio

Disclaimer: The follow blog entry likely contains naivete, idealism and a bit of disjointness. Get over it.

On August 18th, a friend challenged me to listen to 2 weeks of conservative talk radio, instead of NPR. I succeeded.

Thank you, Mr. President. Good speech. You sure can give a speech. That said, methinks you've got a long way to go and a lot of convincing to do. But I hope, like you do, than we can rise to the challenge. We, metaphorically speaking, since I'm not in Congress.

This seems a fitting time to complete my online accounts of spending 2 weeks in conservative talk radio land.

Bottom line? It was tough. Tough to listen to, tough to analyze, tough to suspend my judgment. I learned some stuff. I shouted at the radio quite a bit. A few times I just had to turn it off.

My biggest insight was that I am not convinced that "they" are out to turn my country into a Socialist/Communist/Fascist state. I did get some insight into what it must have felt like during the McCarthy era, when certain ideals were equated with socialism, and that was declared to be a danger to democracy. I refuse to believe we are headed there. I know too many rational, reasonable conservatives to let that happen.

As I listened to the President's speech on health care tonight, I was struck by his claim that we can replace acrimony with civility. And that, in a nutshell, is the biggest insight I gained from my two weeks in conservative talk radio. I like civility.

I don't like a radio program where the host yells and insults the character (not just the policies) of me and my friends.

I like debating in a way that doesn't make me feel like less of a good person if I disagree with your ideas. For example, I want to be able to say I have a problem with executive salaries being too high without being accused of betraying my country.

I like searching for kernels of reality beneath the hype.

I want everyone to be as willing as I am to admit they are wrong or maybe, just maybe, they don't have all the facts.

Most of all, I want to be proud that I live here, while still believing it's my duty to improve life, not just live it.

The good news is, most of the time, I can have the things I listed above. Sometimes, political and media personalities, on both sides, refuse to let it happen. I choose not to let that get me down. And I choose to take heart from the fact that, the other day, while driving home and listening to NPR, I flipped to the "other" station to see if there was a different perspective to hear. Granted, all I heard was a commercial for life insurance. But it's a start.

Thanks again, Mr. President. I want to believe the things you said. Time will tell.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Back to blogging...

It's been a VERY busy few weeks - with travel, events, and more travel. Lots of good stuff happening. For example, the end of my sojourn into the world of conservative talk radio. More on that in a later post - I'm still

Though my noggin is full of deep, introspective thoughts, I'm going to keep it light and focus on some of the funnier/odder things I've seen/heard/thought over the last few weeks.

Let's take Schadenfreude, for $200:

In San Antonio, on the Riverwalk, all I could think of was how they could possibly have a sidewalk that butts up to a river without a railing? How have they not been sued by someone who fell in? And why couldn't I have seen someone fall in?

Next category? It's a Small World, for $400:

On the flight from Dallas to NWA, I saw our Chamber of Commerce President, who very nicely helped me with my luggage, and one of my coworkers, on her way back from another work-related trip. The next day I got to visit with an old acquaintance who travels with Second City (we share a dark period in our theatrical pasts) and discovered through facebook that an old college friend has been hanging out in my childhood, er, hood. His father likely chats with mine every morning. Weird.

Alex, I'll take Animals You'd Not Expect to see in Hotels, for $600:

While exploring the "basement" of a hotel recently, we discovered a possum in a laundry bin. I choose to believe he was hanging out in the dirty laundry only.

And finally, for the whole ball of wax, I'll take Nostalgia for $1000:

I would swear that the college boys downstairs have a beer die table. Don't know what beer die is? Your loss.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Adventures in conservative talk radio, continued: I listend to Rush...briefly.

On August 18th, a friend challenged me to listen to 2 weeks of conservative talk radio, instead of NPR. I'm on day 12.

Managed to catch a bit of Rush Limbaugh on my way back from a work meeting the other day. Just enough to hear him say how much he hopes Obama fails, because Obama's failure will be good for America. Also to hear him say that the communists are coming to take your freedoms.

I have 3 more days on this journey, and I'm determined to stick it out. But I will freely admit that I am not persuaded by the talking heads of talk radio. I have learned some things (especially about personal finance). But I have also had some fairly scary revelations about the increasingly wide gap between right and left in this country. It makes me sad.

More later.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

We don't have to follow the rules...

Does it strike anyone else as odd that, at a conference of arts managers, who spend our days finding ways to tell our patrons to be quiet, turn off of their cell phones, and unwrap their hard candies, that we have bowls of hard candy sitting on all our conference tables, and we unwrap them during our speaker's presentations? How is that not rude?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Adventures in Conservative Talk Radio: Day 3

On August 18th, a friend challenged me to listen to 2 weeks of conservative talk radio, instead of NPR. I'm on day 3.

Things I heard on the radio today:

"Thank you, Senator. Your are one of our good guys."

"What do we have to do to get people to acknowledge this ideological war?"


I am noticing a trend: the use of military words applied to discussions about politics - war, fighting, battle, skirmish, etc. When I listen to NPR again, I'll be on the lookout for these words.

Here's my blatantly stereotypical statement of the day (thanks to my shopping buddies for helping me figure it out):

When conservatives think you are being an idiot, they will likely tell you so. Bluntly.

Liberals will do it subtly and diplomatically, leaving you wondering if you've just been told you're stupid, or if you missed the point entirely.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Adventures in Conservative Talk Radio, Day 2

On August 18th, a friend challenged me to listen to 2 weeks of conservative talk radio, instead of NPR. I'm on day 2.

Observations from today:

1. Liberal or conservative, I will cry

I will admit to welling up, on more than one occasion, when listening to some reports on NPR. Usually they involve soldiers, or the occasional Story Corps feature where two people unabashedly and without embarrassment proclaim their love and respect for one another. It's a given; give me a story like that and I will dissolve into a sentimental puddle, sitting alone in my car until I can dry my eyes.

Today, though, during the Dave Ramsey call-in show, I lost it when some poor woman came on the show to ask for financial advice. She talked for a bit, then dropped the bombshell that her husband had died a month ago at the age of 42. Dave (or whoever was taking the calls), immediately stopped her and told her kindly that he didn't want to give her a 30 second answer so could she hang on and he'd talk to her during the break. I thought this was the ultimate exercise in sensitivity; taking her off the air to give advice in private. However, after the break, he BROUGHT HER BACK! And this woman told all us listeners her financial and life story. I wish, how I wish, that he had counseled her in private. But it was clear that she wanted to air her grief in this manner. And who am I to judge.

2. I have some pretty stellar liberal friends. When I shared this odyssey of conservative talk radio this morning, many of them said "oh, sure, I do that all the time. I try to make sure I'm listening to both sides." Many even had station recommendations for me. That's pretty cool.

Another day tomorrow. Anyone know how I can listen to Rush outside of his 11am to 2pm slot?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I will likely regret this...

So, the facebook conversation about liberal vs. conservative continues. It started with health care, moved on to Big Brother, and now it's moved to the bias of the media. They won't win the debate, and neither will I; there are no winners in a debate like this. It's all just opinion.

But, that cop out of a cliche aside, I have been challenged. To listen to 2 weeks of conservative talk radio instead of NPR. Gasp, horror!

Side note: I listen to NPR for a max of 30 minutes a day - just while driving. I don't watch network news, or PBS. If I read the NY Times, I try to read another paper to get the opposite viewpoint. Just putting this in perspective.

But I've decided to take up the challenge. It'll be an exercise in really, truly listening, and in trying to quell my judgmental side. I'm not going to listen more or less than I usually would and I may sneak an NPR fix in there now and then. I may not make it. But I will give it my best shot.

I began after work. Some findings:

>Rush Limbaugh does not have an IPhone ap. Or if he does, I can't find it. How am I supposed to listen then, since he's only on when I'm working? (Rush is my friend's favorite)

>There are a lot more commercials on KFAY than than there are on KUAF. And they all seem to be funded by the Ad Council.

>Possible aha moment: I reacted very badly to a rant by the host of a call in show. Initially, I objected to how he took a caller's question and turned it into a 5 minute diatribe filled with generalizations about "the black community" that made my blood boil. However, I have to ask myself - is this how conservatives feel when listening to NPR? Do they see a story researched by reporters as having the same level of bias that I see in that host ranting after a listener call-in? Am I comparing apples to oranges? I have to admit the only call-in show I've ever heard on NPR is Car Talk...

Something to ponder. We will see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Who says real life isn't funny?

Several observations today made me laugh:

1. I don't think people with straight hair can understand this feeling. You get up from your desk after working for a few hours, and head to the bathroom. You're washing your hands, looking down, when suddenly you are seized by fear; "Oh my god. I haven't looked at my hair this morning. What if it's gone crazy on me and I didn't know it?" You slowly, agonizingly meet your own eyes. Phew. Only a few curls are sticking either straight up or in the wrong direction. That can be fixed, and mostly ignored. Dodged another bullet.

2. This afternoon, a man fishing by the pond was very intent on his casting. The pond isn't very wide. All I could think of was what would happen if he sent a beautiful cast spinning through the air...and caught it on the opposite bank of the pond.

3. Men constantly complain that women talk too much. Tonight I sat on my balcony for 15 minutes listening to the new guys downstairs talk without stopping. The occasional "ding" told me they were also receiving text messages. Their voices never faltered. And I'm pretty sure they were talking about absolutely nothing. At least when we women get together, we talk about important stuff. Like clothes. And men.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Banking and healthcare - bringers of enlightenment?

Two unrelated things have happened to me in the last few days, and as a result, I've gained some blessed clarity.

Incident 1:

Two weeks ago I paid a $3.58 (don't ask) credit card bill - only to find out the next day that I actually paid the WRONG account (I did this online and got the cards mixed up). But then I looked at the card I'd paid the $3.58 to and realized that I'd closed that account 5 months earlier. Natually, I called the company and asked what was going on. The man on the phone informed me that yes, the account was closed.

Me: So it's closed, but it accepted a payment?
The man: Oh yeah, we'll take money whenever, even when it's closed.
Me: Well, that's really...stupid. (Yes, I said this. The guy basically ignored me and offered to transfer the money to another account. Pretty good customer service. I should have apologized for being a jerk, but I didn't. Karma will get me for that one)

So that account is closed. But they'll happily take my money. Wow.

Incident 2:

An innocent facebook post the other day has embroiled me in a spirited online debate with some conservative friends of mine, and I must say it's been enlightening. I posted a remark about how I don't understand the vitriolic levels of fear and hatred being attached to the healthcare debate. I was informedthat it's not really health care causing the trouble. It's a deep-rooted fear that Big Brother/The Government is out to take away our personal freedoms.

The debate has been good for me. It forced me to find some fact-checking websites where I could search for the reality amid the media and poltical quagmire. I realized that one point made by a friend, which I initally dismissed as fear-mongering, has some legitimacy. Always good to be reminded that it's easy to get sucked into the easy answer.

However, I gained a much bigger personal insight from all this. Basically, what I realized is this:

In my head, Big Brother (that thing we're supposed to fear) is not the government. Big Brother is the company that will happily take my money in an incorrect payment, but if I were to mistakenly charge something on a closed card, deny the charge. Big Brother are the web companies that track my every online move and someday, could use that knowledge against me. Big Brother are the companies that pay executives millions while laying off thousands of "average" Americans and running their companies into the ground, resulting in my hard earned investments being cut in half. And so on. I'm more scared of unchecked greed than I am of our current government's political agenda.

This doesn't change anything in anyone's world other than mine. But it's a thorny issue that thankfully, makes a little more sense now. I'm grateful for these small favors in this messy, complicated world of ours.

Disclaimer: Lest you think I'm naive, I realize that the President I voted for is in the White House, and my political party is in power in Congress. In this highly polarized political world, it's natural that I have less fear than I did, say, for the previous 8 years.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

How do you define "politics?"

I use the term "politics" quite a bit when talking about the inner and outer workings of my professional life. At least once every five uses, I get a vaguely glazed look in return; it's often accompanied by a polite nod and a quick change of subject. Today, I had an epiphany. It's because I usually use the word outside of the political arena. I'm usually talking about the "political" issues and drama that are a part of human and organizational dynamics. I'm referring to ego clashes, hierarchies, power struggles, etc., not policy-making or elections. But it just seems like such an apt word to describe how offices, governments (city, state and federal) and even friendships sometimes operate. Yet I still get that look.

So I've been pondering if I'm using the word incorrectly, and if I need to find another one. has 6 definitions for "politics" -

The most common: the science or art of political government

Ok. That works. That makes sense. But it's not what I'm talking about.

Aha! How about definition #6: use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control, as in business, university, etc.

That's more like it. But it's still not quite right. Because in my definition, it's not always all about obtaining power or control. It might be about fighting powerlessness. It might be about trying to relinquish control. Or it might simply be looking out for one's own interests.

All of this introspection really proves nothing, other than that I think too much about stuff like this. And that I probably need to find a new word to express the point I'm making. Sigh. But it was such a good one!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

What happened to days 2-5?

Um, so...I got kind of distracted by having fun in Chicago and Madison (slow wireless in my hotel plus my inability to use the mousepad on my laptop didn't help, either), and didn't keep up with my blogging. But, onward!

Days 2&3 of the workshop were fun. Going to Wrigley Field on Day 2 was more fun. I love baseball. I love being surrounded by friendly people who don't need the joy of baseball explained: the man beside us had surprised his bride of 18 years with tickets, the little boy with glasses in front of me wasted no time high-fiving me at the first Cubs home run. I love listening to the ebb and flow of the fans' chanting. Most of all, I love being with a crowd, in a place where you don't have to be quiet, where chomping on popcorn is welcomed, and where I don't have to worry about pissed-off patrons.

The workshop was really interesting. But by day 3, I was D-U-N done with conference-speak/schmoozing. I have determined that I am missing a gene; commonly known as the networking gene, it is found in development directors and most of the people at the workshop. The perfect weather outside didn't help, either, so once the workshop was over I hightailed it back to the hotel, dumped the software geek paperwork and made like a tourist in my jeans and sneakers, strolling through the Grant/Millennium Parks (which is which, by the way?) and along the waterfront. Spectacular. Saw Jersey Boys that night, and the drama of my attempts to get to the theater far outshone the drama of the show. Thanks, Broadway in Chicago, for giving me the wrong address, and thanks (seriously) to my I-Phone for showing me the way. As for the show, I don't get why everyone loves it so much, but I can't deny the music was awesome.

Thursday brought a full day of Chicago fun. I slept in, bought a duck for the Special Olympics Duck Race, and had lunch with a friend at Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, which houses one of the coolest exhibitions I've ever seen. However, my attempts to describe it to people have been met with quizzical incomprehension, so I'm going to simply revel in the fact that I got to see it, and you didn't. Sorry. The Architectural Boat Tour was less than I'd hoped for, and I made a bit of a distance judgment when I thought the cab fare to the Museum of Science and Industry would be cheap. Not so. Also made an idiot out of myself by trying to give exact change to the bus driver on the way back, but hey, I was a tourist. I reserve the right to leave my brain at the hotel.

Friday brought lunch with a friend, and a road trip to Madison. But the big find of the day was Sirius XM Radio - On Broadway. I never realized there were so many obscure shows out there; and it's obvious why they were obscure. Lunch on the Terrace with the fantastic Andrew Taylor, author of The Artful Manager, then a stroll up State Street, then a Mallards game (well, sort of), followed by beer with another friend. Then, up early the next morning for the incredible Madison Farmer's Market. I can't help it; I compare all Markets to the Madison one, and they just don't stack up. For one thing, they are lacking the dozen or so cheese booths that feature samples. Lots of samples. Mmmm.

So, over the week, I got my ration of local cuisine, including deep dish pizza, brats, cheese curds and Spotted Cow, saw a bunch of friends from different walks of life, and remembered why I loved summer in Madison so much. It was a great break. Getting off the plane to icky humidity and the faint smell of manure was a rude welcome home, but I am ready to dive back into the fray. We'll see how long the refresh lasts.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Chicago, Day 1

A long day. That's really the only way to describe today. A long day of brainstorming exercises with the occasional longing glance out the window at the gorgeous Chicago shoreline.

But there's really no way I can complain. Not when I'm part of an effort that is truly grounded in both good intentions and a real desire to make the world better. It's not every day you can say that.

I truly think that intelligent conversation with smart people who check their pride and ego at the door is one of the best parts of being human. Anyone disagree?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Chicago, Day 0.5

Chicago has always held a special place in my heart. Which is odd, when you realize that I can count on one hand the times I've been here. If asked, I'll wax on about how much I love Chicago. All 12 hours that I've spent here. Well, maybe it was more than 12. There was that trip in grad school where we ate way too much pizza. My first business trip to see the Joffrey and stay in that fabulous apartment. Two years ago, Wicked. And today, the first 1/2 day of my longest stay in the 2nd City.

Hearkening back to my last disastrous trip via the air, this one was a breeze. Even the child sitting next to me, whom I just knew was going to scream for the duration of the trip, was well-behaved. A minor blip occurred when the woman next to me on the shuttle did her best to imitate a masticating cow as she munched her pretzels. But even that was not enough to dampen the fun.

Weather? Super cool. Like 80 degrees cool. Like jeans and t-shirt and a breeze in your hair cool.

Hotel? Ditto the coolness. Like, decorated in blue and green (not a speck of orange to be found), free wireless, Oxford English dictionary instead of the Bible cool.

Location? See above. On Wacker (which is just fun to say), on the river, in the middle of dozens of restaurants and steps from Michigan Ave, which is enjoying a special summer program of incredible gardens.

Live theater? Check. A wonderful, lush production of The Arabian Nights at Lookingglass, directed by Mary Zimmerman. This gorgeous production was only slightly marred by two things:

1. I was sitting next to the father of one of the actresses. That was great until about 10 seconds into the show when the first of her many, ahem, steamy moments arrived. Cue the awkwardness.

2. The pacing bordered on self-indulgent, with some veeeerrrrry long pauses, and one interminable montage of stories that went on about 5 minutes too long.

But those are small details! It was a wonderful, lavish night of theater, and makes me realize how much I miss having a real theater scene right next door.

The night was clear and cool as I walked back up Michigan, accompanied by the jingle of cups being shaken and change being requested. This made it harder to enjoy the skyscape and the lighted buildings, but I find myself, as it often the case of my first night in the city, energized. In 7 hours today, I saw more people, representing more cultures, countries and ideas that I will in a month in my hometown. Tomorrow I'll dive into the geeky world of software design. And hope that I get a chance to go outside and visit the city a bit more.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Flashback to the 90's

While moving furniture this past weekend, I was forced to empty my hope chest of all of my photo albums. That, of course, meant that I had look through a few of them and experience the inevitable pangs of loneliness and nostalgia as I looked back on times when I had lots of friends nearby. Nearby meaning in the dorm room next to me. But aside from strengthening my resolve to get back to my college weight (which wasn't all that great then, but better than now), and reminding me just how long my hair used to be, there were a few moments of laugh-out-loud recall:

A picture of yours truly in a high-school one-act (I think it was called Of Widows and Vegetables - I can't believe I remember that!), wearing purple tights, a white floral prom-type dress and yellow lace up high heels. That character's name was Wench. Priceless. And no, that one's staying in the album, thank you very much.

A photo of me and my roommates, dressed up as if we were going to a college dance. We were going to the grocery store. We laughed for hours.

Two of my friends and I in our "bitch pants" which we bought in England. We thought were so hot.

But the best, by far, was this one:

My fabulous Geneva apartment with...wait for it...a giant Val Kilmer poster next to the calendar. And not Top Gun Val. Island of Dr. Moreau Val. Genius. I'd forgotten about my Val Kilmer phase. I always prided myself on being an Iceman fan rather than a Maverick fan. Even then my intuition about Tom Cruise was dead on.

It was a fun little journey back in time. I should move furniture more often.

Friday, June 26, 2009

not only am I a rock music idiot...

...but I don't get jazz either. Tonight, I saw a lovely concert full of, according to those who know, virtuosic piano and saxophone musicianship. Excellent. Too bad I don't know what I'm supposed to be hearing that is so amazing.

I've found most jazz concerts to be full of sagely nodding intellectuals, bopping along to a beat that I will swear DOES NOT EXIST. Tonight, I enjoyed a piece called Chrysalis (I think it was called that - there wasn't a program to tell us so we had to rely on the musicians to tell us what they were playing), but only because I knew it was called Chrysalis and I could try to paint the image of butterflies and cocoons in my head. I enjoyed when piano and sax would chase each other up and down the scales, or toss a note back and forth like it was a ping pong ball. The audience clapped after those sections. Ok, I get it. That was cool.

But I know I missed the point. I spent most of my intellectual power wondering why I liked the sound of the soprano sax so much. Aren't you impressed that I knew it was a soprano sax? I only knew it because we asked someone who knows these things. But I did like that instrument; it's pitch and tone hit my ears just right.

Anyway, the nice thing is I'm not going to lose any sleep over this. I don't get jazz. That's ok. I'm still worthy of life. Even my jazz loving friends say so.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Confessions of a rock music idiot...

There was a time in my life when being laughed at or ridiculed in any way would have crushed my tender spirit and sent me crying into the hummus-colored bathrooms of my elementary, middle and/or high schools. Thankfully, I got over it and now probably spend more time laughing at myself than everyone else does.

That's why I'm not afraid to make this statement: I do not, nor to I really care to, have intimate knowledge of dozens and dozens of bands and their songs, whether they are local, regional or national. I can't name every song written by the angsty bands of the 90's. Nor can I tell you what band is playing at the local dive. When I first came to Arkansas, I shocked my colleagues by not knowing who Al Green is. And when a certain famous drummer recently visited our small town, I had to look him up on Google. Yes, I knew the song The Weight, but only because my good pals sang it a capella in college. (It's a great song, by the way. I'm glad I know it.)

My music comes to me via friends and inertia. For example, U2 and Dave Matthews are around so much that I happen to like their music. Some of my favorite tunes/artists were introduced to me by my previously-mentioned harmonizing buddies. And I get to explore all kinds of great music that isn't rock through my job. (The Silent City by Kayhan Kalhor and Brooklyn Rider, by the way, is completely awesome)

So it's with no regret that I proclaim myself a rock music idiot. I'm not interested in being educated, except when my job requires it. That sad, self-conscious kid who would rather have died before admitting she didn't know the latest New Kids song is long gone. Send good songs and artists my way and I might listen to them. Or I might not. But it will not hurt me when you drop your jaw and say theatrically "you don't know who (insert brilliant band here) is?"

Sorry. It's nothing personal. I know there are lots of you out there who know lots more than I do. And I humbly bow to your expertise.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Thanks, humanity...

I will admit I've been a little antsy in my small Arkansas town/city lately. Thoughts of bigger cities, and my friends and family so far away, have set my sense of peace and contentment on edge.

Tonight, though, a lovely group of people gave me a special gift.

First, some context. For all those marketing/PR types out there, you know what I mean when I say that there is nothing worse than a public event to which no one shows up. You shrink inside, and your self-worth goes right out the window. Tonight, a photo shoot for our season brochure, could have been one of those nights.

But, one by one, they trickled in. A pair of our dedicated volunteers, a few staff members and their friends, the random person who heard about the photo shoot on twitter. Even people on the street, families out for a walk with their kids on a warm spring evening, joined in.

They waited patiently for nearly an hour, then spent another 45 minutes walking in circles on cue, and then patiently waiting again for us to say "ok, folks, just once more!" Not one of them left. They did whatever we asked of them. They kept smiling and laughing and when we were done, many of them thanked us. Several of them didn't even know why they were with us, but were content to sit with strangers and enjoy themselves.

I'm not sure the same sense of easy conversation and laughter would have existed in a bigger city setting. Certainly the air wouldn't have smelled so luscious, laden as it was with the scents of spring flowers; the light wouldn't have been so pure, glowing from the sun hidden below the horizon. Maybe the sense of fun and friendship would have been the same, but I wonder.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

An evening at RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles

I've never seen a tribute concert before. They've always seemed vaguely creepy and sacrilegious. I mean, come on. The Beatles are...the Beatles. If you weren't around to hear them, well, at least you also weren't around to live through the Vietnam War. Tough luck, right?

Not so! Read on...

I won't describe the costumes or lights except to say they properly set the mood. The video content that helped put the music in historical context was an integral part of the evening. Musicianship and showmanship? Check and check. The show was well executed, without a doubt. It had a familiar, comfortable feel to it; like a visit to an old friend whom you have seen in years but with whom you can simply pick up old conversations.

Some thoughts that popped into my head during the show:

Hang on, WHY do I know all of these songs? My parents weren't hippies. They grew up in the 60's but they were not flower children. Did they listen to the Beatles when I was growing up? I'm embarrassed to admit I don't know. I remember that my school choirs sang Beatles medleys, anchored by Hey Jude and Let It Be. I bought the "Past Masters" albums. But that's not enough for all of these songs to sink so deeply into my memory that I recognize them with no more than a few introductory chords. How is that possible?

On the other hand, how is it possible that I don't know every word and chord of While My Guitar Gently Weeps? Mental note: buy the White Album as soon as possible.

Give Peace a Chance: Wow. What would I have been if I'd lived in that time? A peace-loving, pot-smoking hippie? A pragmatist who wants to be a peace-loving hippie, but can't quite surrender to idealism, like I am today? Or something else completely?

Imagine: Oh man. It's eerie to watch someone play John Lennon; almost like I'm spying on a ghost. I want to go where the music is taking us; down a road of protest and advocacy for peace at all costs. And it really hurts, in my heart, when I realize it's not that simple

A sublime moment, in the first stanzas of Let It Be, as a quiet, reverent blend of audience voices wafts through the hall.

Roars, screams, cheers, audience that really means that standing ovation.

A wonderful night of music and nostalgia for an era that passed before I was born.

Monday, May 25, 2009

What's behind your facebook update?

It's raining, for the 6th day in a row. It's Monday, with a week of chaos ahead. The day started poorly and went downhill from there. You slogged through it, dragged your sorry self back to the ranch after 10 hours in the office, and for some reason (narcissistic tendencies, maybe, or simply a need to share), you log on to facebook.

Now, you're faced with a decision. Do you post how crappy your life seems right now - which could potentially alarm your friends, co-workers, or even relatives (while secretly delighting the enemies you have friended) - or do you come up with a half-truth that hides your deeper issues?

Do you choose:

"God, my life sucks. I'm miserable at the moment."


"Had a long day. Glad to be home."

The answer to this question probably reveals some deep personal psychological tendencies. A grant-funded study opportunity if ever there was one.

Memorial Day

It's strange that one day, of 365, is designated as a day when we should remember those who have died fighting in America's Armed Forces. I would hope we'd remember them every day.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Customer Service

Attention, airlines. In particular, USAir. This is no newsflash, but your customer service is abysmal. And I know it really doesn't matter, because we're all going to search for the cheapest fare when we need to fly. But I am hereby promising to do my best to avoid you at all cost, USAir. You did everything you could to make my life more difficult. That is the definition of a company that doesn't care about me. And frankly, I don't care about you. Yes, I'm thankful my plane landed safely. But that's your job, your core competancy. It's the other stuff that matters. And in that, you failed.

In contrast, I'm sending out a cosmic thanks to the waitress at the Charlotte airport Chili's, who took the few seconds, after asking me what I wanted to drink, to ask if I was having a good day so far. I lied and said yes. She got a big tip. USAir's getting a nasty letter. Not that it will matter, since they probably get hundreds a day.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The continuing saga of T.A.D. and Fritz

Ah, spring. When young men's thoughts turn to flights of fancy...and mine to my favorite children's book of all time: Make Way For Ducklings. If you haven't read this book, give it a try. This would be a good one to seek out at your local independent bookstore.

Now to the point; the first post I ever wrote on this blog was about a white duck who lives in a pond next to my apartment. I named him (more on that later) TAD, which stands for The Aflac Duck.

TAD has been on his own for two years or so. So when he found a companion, I was delighted. However, I soon discovered that he's actually a she. How did I find out? Well, let's just say ducks are less puritanical about sex than humans. Or maybe they just don't have blinds to close.

Anyway, TAD's a she, and she's found herself a significant other. Fritz is quite a distinguished duck, mostly black with some white. Should they be successful in their procreation efforts, I wonder if the ducklings will be black, white or zebra?

I learned from a brilliant colleague the other day that ducks need a safe roosting place to bring ducklings into the world. Which is why I'm keeping a sharp eye on the nasty geese who like to fly into the pond and shake things up. Fritz gets pretty serious when they show up.

All of this makes me realize just how long I've lived in this apartment by the pond; long enough to have constructed a whole world of drama and intrigue for the ducks who live next door. It's really great to be 30 something and still have a healthy imagination.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Recycling makes you (read: me) feel good

I'm not sure why I always feel so sunny and virtuous when I recycle. Today, when I volunteered to take my neighbor's cardboard and newspapers with me to ye olde recycling center, it just about made my day.

Now, I don't pretend that recycling is the answer to the world's problems, but I do have a theory why I always feel better after recycling. It's this:

The world is huge, and the problems we face are exponentially enormous. So it's nice, once in a while, to see how a small action can have, if not a big, then at least a "not small" result.


If I shop at the grocery store 2-3 times per week, and I use my cloth bags that I keep in the trunk of my car to tote my groceries, I'm not using at least 6-9 plastic bags a week. 52 weeks in a year (ok, 50, to give me a chance to forget my cloth bags) and I'm not using 300 - 450 plastic bags each year. Say I live another 20 years (I hope to live more, and hopefully plastic bags won't be around by then, but you get the point), and I have not used 6000 - 9000 plastic bags.

Now that's a stat I can smile about.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Missing an old friend

I've had a good week, both at work, personally and with my family (scattered and far away though they are). Which is why I feed especially glad to have stumbled upon some old emails, written in 2003, by a friend of mine who was killed more than 4 years ago. The emails are vintage "her"; calling on her female friends to connect, enrich and inspire each other. Calling on us to make sure we are fierce, and loyal and vocal about what we, as women, need from the world. It made me smile to remember it, and though I think of her all the time, this time it had a frame around it; a frame of women sitting in a garden in Brooklyn, trying to make an imprint on the world.

I miss my friend.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

the new chain letter - but on facebook

I find it interesting that so many people whom I would assume consider themselves above something as corny as a chain letter have embraced the "25 things about myself" trend that is zipping around facebook. So in that spirit, I created my own version. I'm sure someone else thought of it before I did, but it hasn't made it's way to my friends. So for now, I'm considered clever. Enjoy.

Directions: Write 25 absolutely false things about yourself. Tag a bunch of people and ask them to do the same. See what comes of it.

1. I never spend any time on facebook.

2. I moonlight as a supermodel.

3. My irrational fear of broccoli has cost me more than one potential soul mate.

4. I feel an innate connection to jazz as an art form. Truly, is there any other kind of music?

5. There's nothing like a good winter storm to get me in the mood to party. Ice storm = bliss.

6. I think it's cool that facebook chooses to show me ads about pregnancy tests and alternatives to abortion.

7. Sailing is quite possibly the most interesting and riveting of the Summer Olympic sports.

8. There's nothing I like more than showing up at an event where I don't know anyone. Awesome. I just dive right in and start making friends.

9. Without a doubt, I believe Peyton Manning is the best. quarterback. ever.

10. I spend hundreds of dollars a year perming my hair.

11. I am completely comfortable amid the put-together, fabulous women of the south. Those ladies have nothing on my style and flair.

12. I hate being onstage. It's even worse when people cheer and clap for your. God, that sucks.

13. I secretly want to be a chemistry teacher.

14. I love sitcoms. I watch them all the time.

15. I know that cats are far superior to dogs. In fact, I believe cats are superior to everyone.

16. My car runs like a dream. No noises, no dents, nothing. It purrs.

17. Guinness is my favorite beer.

18. Mornings are my favorite time of day. The new light, the birds chirping...ahh. I am always in a good mood in the morning!

19. I look absolutely smashing in lime green.

20. I know every band that ever played in the 90's, plus the hot alternative bands of today. I am an encyclopedia of cool music.

21. I love to cook.

22. I always knew I'd wind up living and working in Arkansas.

23. I have never been accused of having a clandestine relationship with a friend's husband.

24. The Yankees rule.

25. Everyone I know wants to be me. Who wouldn't?