Thursday, October 6, 2011
And while perusing a venue’s catering menu for an upcoming holiday party as I gulped my pre-packaged kit salad with its warm, soggy croutons, flavorless pressed chicken cubes and allegedly low-fat Caesar dressing (is there such a thing?), it dawned on me that soon I’d be playing helper to my daughter’s annual holiday baking escapades. It’s October and my sort-of-diligently upheld 2011 resolution of low-fat, low-carb diet and regular cardio exercise is officially doomed. Pumpkin pies and hand-dipped chocolates loom large on my dietary horizon; time to take my annual oath off life support. Pull the plug. I’m done.
But, wait! It’s October! There is a minuscule glimmer of hope for my pre-thirty pipe-thin pipe dreams, a long-shot of resurrecting my diet and exercise maintenance regime and – dare I speculate – amping up my workouts and – gasp! – achieving my coveted measurable one-inch girth loss from my grandmotherly, cellulite-riddled frame, and not just off my boobs either. I happened upon the perfect, target-area specific, weight loss aid and, since my credit cards are maxed, I know JUST the person to help.
I last wrote to him decades ago in my pony-addled youth, and I know that, if he answers my heartfelt and worthy request, I’m going to have to exercise patience along with my regular bike rides while waiting for him to deliver. But, financial woes aside, I have been a very good girl this year and, besides, the worst that could happen is he doesn’t respond and I re-pledge my allegiance to spin classes and Slim Fast in 2012. Right? Right.
So, here goes. Let me know if you think I have a shot.
I encountered a strange and intriguing item in my last Groupon junk e-mail, a ‘hot’ little number from the U.K. called "HotPants". No, Santa, these aren't the "hot pants" that my mother refused to let me wear at the onset of my burgeoning, pre-pubescent sexuality in the mid '70's because she was adamantly trying to protect my virginity - her idea of 'hot pants' back then was a freshly-forged chastity belt. These "HotPants" are new technology designed for weight loss and cellulite reduction. They're supposed to keep your muscles toasty warm while you exercise which increases perspiration so you sweat out all the icky toxins that coagulate excess fat cells and stuff them into the fissures of the disconnected connective tissue just beneath the skin surface of feminine hips and thighs making it necessary for every woman over a certain age to forego short shorts and embrace heavy support hosiery and Amish-style maxi skirts. Sort of like wearable bikram yoga. Like I said, Santa, intriguing.
However you judge present requests as frivolous or not, believe me, Santa, a pair of “HotPants” is absolutely necessary to my mental and physical health and well-being. You see, my daughter, the pastry chef, is rolling out a new dessert menu. For the last few weeks I've been playing sous chef and taster (I'm a very good mommy). Now the waistbands on my new slacks are tighter and I'm terrified of my bathroom scale. It just sits there all white and innocent on the floor, smiling wickedly at me as I step into the shower with thinly veiled malevolence. I know the instant I touch a toe to it, that little wheel will spin me into a brown sugar-soaked vortex, never to return until I'm the size, semblance and consistency of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. So, I was thinking that you might swing by London and snag me a pair of "HotPants" for my stocking stuffer this year. (I’ve got a Groupon for 53% off.)
You might consider picking up a pair or two for yourself, too. “Chef” is working on a new chocolate-oatmeal-fudge-nut cookie recipe to leave by your glass of lactose-free milk this Christmas Eve.
Thank you, Santa, and my best to Mrs. C and the Elf-kin.
P.S. If the "HotPants" don't work, I’ll need the name of a really good plastics guy…or a pony.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Here’s my problem. I am good at what I do. In my “day job”, when I’m given a task, I do it right the first time. That’s not me boasting, that’s actually written in my annual reviews. Consistently, even. Goody for me! I’m a good, sometimes great, and conscientious employee. But, I’m more than my job description and title alludes.
My official “day job” title is “Executive Assistant, but I never add “Executive Assistant” to my business cards. I can do that because I order business cards for everyone in my office. I have that much power. I know that I am more than an ‘executive assistant’; I’m more of an office manager. “Office Mommy” is the term I’ve coined for my position. The one who maintains calendars and schedules appointments and lays in supplies and tends boo-boo’s and, on occasion, wipes asses. I do do it all, and the earth-mother, Capricorn that I am comes by this very naturally. But…the “conducting-implementer” that my DISC assessment labels me balks at this pigeon-holing.
DISC assessment tests, the secret weapon of today’s Human Resource department. That random, algorithmic determination of one’s natural vs. adapted behaviors test which funnels you into one predetermined life lot over another. The track system, defined, redefined and employed by the American public school system since its inception in the 1920’s. If, for example, an employee like me - intelligent, willing, ambitious and with a demonstrated acumen for management and advancement, is hired into a subservient role, like the title "Executive Assistant" denotes, he or she is destined to languish in a life of career stagnation. Whether or not that employee takes it upon him or herself to further his or her education, to accomplish corporate training and skills advancement protocols, or pursue non-firm sponsored training programs is moot. Once an "EA", always an "EA", with the obligatory, five second “stand-and-be-recognized” moment at the annual meeting.
I’m sorry, Mr. and Ms. Corporate Executive, but just because I lassoed my personal career ambitions to balance my work/life dynamic and support my single-parented offspring does in no way mean that I am inherently complacent, or malleable, or devoid of independent logic and thought, and, thereby, a happy and willing supplicant in the role of blind subservient to you, or your wife or your children. I certainly didn’t put myself $50,000 in student loan debt to spend the rest of my working life kowtowing to your every rational or otherwise whim.
No. No, indeed. When, during the annual review, one is asked what one’s personal career goals are and one explicitly outlines two or three possible, not to mention heavily experienced and well-qualified for lateral advancement options, and is told (and I quote) “I’ve got your back”, only to learn that viable opportunities are not mentioned and one’s applications are not even reviewed, much less considered despite following the rules of the game, one tends to get, shall we say, bitchy. Embittered and demoralized are probably the more politically correct terms, but what does corporate America care. Another wide-eyed idealist will come along and subject him or herself to this continued abject humiliation and abuse perpetrated by the egomaniacal and self-serviant career overlords until the disillusionment manifests itself in a drastic measure, like quitting without alternative prospects and sucking the unemployment coffers dry. Or something involving firearms.
Once upon a time, this country prospered and grew, thrived even, on the opportunities afforded to the diligent, hard-working, rule-abiding, imaginative populace. Those of us who bled and sweated to attain the dreams bred and nurtured by our forefathers. Unfortunately, the world today is rife with “haves and have nots”, “achievers and achievement –challenged”, “rainmakers” and the drowned corpses of the proletariat.
When will I ever learn that the least qualified, most lackadaisical and unmotivated are destined to advance beyond their talents and capabilities while the rest of us, we sparse few, the unsung, conscientious, do-gooder, suffocate beneath the stampeding herd of valid or not privileged ambition? It’s been fifty plus years, and I’ve yet to divine an answer.
Meanwhile, I’ll follow doctor’s orders, take my glucosamine, and keep trudging one foot before another praying to whatever deity may be out there that my knees don’t give out.
Sunday, January 9, 2011
It's ten days into a new year and long past time to start making good on those lame-duck resolutions that we all spew in our 12:01 a.m. drunken stupors. "I resolve to quit smoking!" "I resolve to get into shape!" "I resolve to eat better!" "I resolve to get sober!" "I resolve to learn piano!" By ten days into the New Year, you realize that your arthritis will never allow you to graduate beyond “Chopsticks”, you've just cracked open your second carton of Marlboros, your third fifth of bourbon is down three fingers, and your pantry has been neatly restocked with Cheez-Its, Ho-Hos and Orville Redenbacher's Movie Theater popcorn (extra butter). As my alter-ego, Ms. Green, says "I've never met a resolution I couldn't break."
MY resolution for 2011 is the quintessential, perennial, unpublished writer's pledge: "I will read more and I will write Every Day." I’ve got the ‘read more’ portion down, but, silly me, I forgot to set my specific, daily word count goal. Mr. King is quite firm on the idea of professional writers having set professional tasks - 'X' number of words per day, 'X' number of pages per day - and I have managed to overlook that crucial detail yet again.
For the past three years, my writing has been assigned to me by some very demanding professors. It was what this natural-born procrastinator needed and, I suppose, that's why I got my bachelors degree so late in life. But it did exert the necessary pressure on me to perform. To write. Now, the challenge is to write without procrastination. To put the pressure on myself. To demand my own performance. I demand a lot of myself in my day job, so I can demand just as much of my writing self. That shouldn't be too hard. Right?
The depths of my brain ring with Ms. Green’s raucous laughter. She knows me too well. I think she might’ve peed herself.
Rather than immediately plant myself at my desk with pen and paper like a good-girl-aspiring-writer, today, after finishing "On Writing", I opted for a trip to the book store. I felt compelled to purchase a copy of Mr. King's personal master’s class for myself. One that I can flag, jot my margin notes in and prominently display on my brimming IKEA bookshelf next to my copies of Barrett, Bryson, Dubus II and III, Faulkner, Lee, Lopez and my collection of Norton Anthologies of English and American literature. (Note to self: stop by IKEA for another 5-shelf Billy in black-brown.) I grabbed my Christmas gift card, slipped into my Skechers and carted myself to the nearest book store for a good browse and a large latte.
My procrastination excursion opened to an encounter with a local writer promoting his second book. “See?” says Green, “HE writes.” A nice chat ensued and, after perusing the 50% off table and pouring over all available Stephen King titles (the man has his own personal rack in the 'Horror' section...insane), I stopped at the promo table and picked up a copy of Power Grid, complete with personal inscription from author, Art Adkins. One thing I learned in school is to support my fellow artists because, one fine day, they will support me in return.
I managed the prologue of Power Grid while sipping my latte in the bookstore café. Yea. Art's a little adverb-happy. (Yes, I know. Everyone's a critic). I hope the story picks up, but that discovery will have to wait. Right now, I have my own personal copy of "On Writing" to dawdle over for a little while longer. No, it's not the solid, hard-bound edition with the dust cover picturing a butter cream bay window and storm door trimmed by lively impatiens that I illicitly checked out of the WPUC library and must discreetly return. (Adverbs, Glenda. Adverbs.) Mine is the soft-bound edition with that waxy-cum-suede finish on the cover. That finish that lends a sort of sensuality to the touch as my fingertips caress nubby, raised lettering. Moreover, the cover artwork is a simple black-and-white shot of the author in his workspace - cluttered, feet up, corgi standing guard - working. Writing.
Ms. Green is nagging. “Hel-lo-o! So what if the only King you’ve read is “On Writing” and “The Green Mile”, at least he WRITES.” Green can be a real bitch sometimes, but she’s right; I have managed to procrastinate the rewrite of my current short story enough to replace the manuscript in my 'to do' tray for next weekend when I will have one full 24-hour period to concentrate on nothing but those words. BUT...I have posted another blog.
So, there, Ms. Green. Take that!
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Recent case in point: St. Louis Cardinals pitcher, Brad Penny proposed to his Dancing With The Stars girlfriend, Karina Smirnoff. She’s a professional dancer on the highest ranked popularity contest in the country. He’s got a multi-million dollar contract so, of course, he can afford to drop $95K on a platinum-set boulder. While I sincerely wish the couple a lifetime of happiness (really, I do), it galls me that Smirnoff is sporting ice worth half my mortgage value. (Notice, I said mortgage value, not home value.) I suppose that’s my fault for marrying poor and divorcing poorer. Twice.
But I digress. Here’s my real beef. How many OMG-tweeting girls out there just itching for a hitching will be dropping Karina’s bling as a most unsubtle hint to their steady beaus? How many of those hapless, shell-shocked guys will be shuttling their IRAs into off-shore accounts and heading for the far reaches of the galaxy to avoid their over-expectant girlfriends? Worse yet, how many of these poor schmoes will plunge themselves into lifelong financial ruin in a futile attempt not to disappoint their bridezilla-to-be?
Exactly what expectations are being established between a couple – blatantly or subliminally, celebrity or not – when two bedrooms and a bath are weighing down her left hand and his wallet? First comes the overpriced ring, then the over-the-top wedding, then the overinflated mortgage followed by the overindulged 2.3 kids…and a dog. All that’s the “for better” stuff. What will you expect from him – from each other – when the “or for worse” stuff arrives? Hmmm?
Since the early 1200's, Western tradition dictates that a man offer a gift, often a ring, to a woman in exchange for her promise to marry him. Nice tradition for claiming property and only slightly less proprietary than the feudal bride price. Reminds me of branding cattle. Anyway, according to my web search, this whole ring thing began in Rome. Not until the late 19th century were gem-bearing rings popularized as contractual engagment symbols. Diamonds didn’t outgun other gems until the 1930’s when they were purchased, primarily, as depression-era investments. The family dower, if you will. Before that, engagement gifts were exchanged by both parties and could have been anything; jewelry, cutlery, or even a pair of blue satin Manolos.
Puritanical lovebirds opted for a sewing thimble as the betrothal gift of choice. How romantic and practical, too! Branding by subservience! Historically, premarital expectations were established by religious dogma and were, well, reasonable. My feminist friends are probably dry-heaving about now, but remember; life, love and relationships were much, much different before diamonds were a girl’s best friend.
Look, kiddies, take it from one who knows. Marriage is hard enough without burdening entry into the union with undue debt, especially now.
My recommendation? Celebs, since you are forced role models, be so in all aspects of life, not just on the ball field or dance floor. Stinking rich or not, at least try. Commoners, forego the celebrity-sized expense and keep your two bedrooms and a bath. Settle for a carport and drop a garage’s worth on her finger to start. You can always upgrade to the condo-sized rock later after you can actually afford a stone equal in value to real estate. Come to think of it, in today’s post-meltdown economy, that doesn’t really amount to much, does it.
Try this. If your paramour truly-ooley is “The One”, recycle grandma’s diamonds. It’s an ecologically sound option. It's far less costly. And you have no politically incorrect, “conflict diamond” consternation. All of grandma's gems were conflict-born and the statute of limitations has expired. Besides, it just might instill a deeper sense of commitment between the two of you because of its family heirloom status.
If it seems like this hopeful romantic is waxing romantically ambivalent, I am. Still, I suppose something precious should be exchanged when popping the question. Truth be told, I really do prefer jewelry. Face it, chicks like bling and I am a chick. Jewelry is a nice deal sealer. But remember: Bling is pretty. Bling is shiny. Bling temporarily blinds us to the true reality of marriage.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Hmmm.... Sounds a bit like the medieval precursor to the AIG bailout. Absolution of debts without all that messy inquisition nonsense or charred flesh.
My Friday the 13th is not nearly as onerous as the original, though it does smack of financial tumult. I awoke this morning with the dread and apprehension of one as overextended as King Philip.
I graduate from college this month.Technically, my degree confers on August 31st after final grades post and I sweat over tenths of percentages to maintain my magna cum laude status. It will be a rather unceremonious event, a trembling peek at a website followed by either a ridiculously embarrassing happy dance mid-office, or a mad dash down the hall to hide the tears. Yes, GPA is that important to me. After that I'll get a large piece of paper in the mail - no robes or mortarboards or Pomp and Circumstance, just that coveted piece of parchment.
After three very long undergraduate years at Rollins, I will finally have my very belated Bachelor of Arts degree. (Side note to anyone thinking of going back to school, but feels they're too old to - just do it - sorry, Nike.) I've achieved this milestone through sheer stubbornness (more on that in a later blog) and by amassing twice my annual salary in student loans.
Friends, family, colleagues and co-workers are all so excited and proud of me for finishing school. "Congratualtions!" and "Way To Go!" and "Great Job!" and "Knew You Could Do It!" pepper my e-mail and my Facebook wall. And I am truly grateful for all the moral support so generously bestowed upon me. I really do have some of the bestest friends in the whole wide world. (I know it's not a word, but I'm an English major. I can say "bestest" if I want to.) They have been encouraging and helpful, always reminding me that "there's a light at the end of the tunnel." ...I wonder.
I am proud of me. I have achieved a very self-fulfilling personal milestone. I applaud myself for not giving in to the temptation of quitting and settling for just getting by in life. I believe in myself and I know that life holds more for me now than it would have before completing my degree.
The all-consuming question is, will I be able to afford my life when the student loans come due without a major lifestyle overhaul. I'm coming under some serious financial fire these days, as are we all. I find myself arrested by collector's phone calls, tortured by the monthly vaciliation between payments to either Peter or Paul, never both, and executing my monthly budget diligently, much to the chagrin of my pantry and gas tank. I wish I had a rich uncle in Washington. But, alas, I am bereft of benefactors, which is probably just as well - they love flaying their pounds of flesh as much as ol' Philip.
My grandparents worked for the railroad so I have a long and endearing history with that light and tunnel analogy, but I think my grandmother said it best. "Of course there's a light at the end of the tunnel, the question is: is it daylight or another train."
My degree confers the end of August.
The invoice arrives in February.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
These past few months I've been burning copious amounts of midnight oil to finish my too long procrastinated bachelors degree. Seems an odd thing to covet, especially at my age, but if anything is worth coveting, it is one's education. Anyway, August 2010 is the golden month of my deliverance from oddly opinionated hack to fully accredited literary academic. Between now and then, though, I still have to finish writing a fairy tale, an academic paper and a marketing case study or two, as well as suffer through two finals and compile my writing portfolio. (Whew! Just typing that list exhausted me!) Needless to say, first thing on my agenda after my last final is haunting the Holt School website until grades post immediately followed by a bottle of wine and nap. Then, with luck and a generous contribution to my travel fund, a long hike somewhere. Sedona sounds good. (Now to find a wealthy benefactor...)
Watch for my celebratory graduation post in late August, and please stay tuned for more regularly scheduled posts on heaven only knows what.
Wishing you all a safe and enjoyable summer!
Saturday, January 9, 2010
I hate my daughter.
No I don’t. I love her to bits, and I'm dreadfully, terribly, obnoxiously proud of her. But I hate her nonetheless. Why? Well, folks, the reasons are numerous and are firmly rooted in my own, very personal, feelings of regret, but for the sake of argument, let’s just focus on the top four.
First of all, my Bohemian baby is taller and more slender than I ever was in either my first flush of youth, or as a dancer and competitive gymnast. Second, she has a ready openness and an entirely personable, c'est la vie attitude that, try as I might, I shall never attain. I happen to be as totally guarded and anxiety-ridden as the rest of my matriarchy. Third, she is as intelligent as she is beautiful. You can accuse me of motherly conceit here, but she is a former model who consistently earned academic honors throughout her high school and college careers. And fourth and most importantly, she is flat out, talented! My daughter is (as my waistline will attest) a sinfully delicious pastry chef, a provocative, budding artist, a not-half-bad karaoke singer, and a thoroughly distinctive writer.
"What?" you exclaim in feigned surprise knowing full well that the apple rarely falls far from the tree, "She's a writer just like her mother?"
No. She's better.
While I sit stewing over characterizations, plot lines, and the sticky 'K' on my keyboard, she opens her notebook, hits 'repeat' on her iPod, clicks her Bic, and starts scribbling. Her words flow like the Niagara, plummeting onto the page in a cool, showering rainbow mist of literary brilliance ... and I sincerely hate her for that.
As a parent, I have always encouraged my children’s interests. Always. Like my maternal forebears, I firmly espoused the “you-can-do-anything-you-set-your-mind-to” adage during her formative years. I still believe in that, as should we all. Am I jealous much? Not really. Honestly, I have nothing to be jealous of. I'm just patently amazed and, perhaps, a tad more than mildly envious of her talent. Simply put, my daughter, Danielle, astounds me!
My daughter first shared her writing with me one day when she “was bored,” as she puts it. She sat at my computer and pounded out her brainwaves. She typed furiously for less than 10 minutes, printed the page off, and said, “Mommy,” (it’s always ‘Mommy’ when they want something), “could you proofread this for me, please?” Other than a missing comma or two, I was rewarded with 525 words of unadulterated brilliance, and I’m not exaggerating or “mommy-boasting.” I was just so got! At age 22, she possesses an insight that I still strive for at age 50.
Now, I have always known my daughter is an astonishing creature (that is a "proud mommy” statement), but, until recently, I never realized how readily her talents flow. This last Friday, she and her best friend from high school - an equally talented and stunning young woman, and one of my surrogate progeny - surprised me at my office. The three of us caught up over a light lunch-cum-gabfest, and my daughter explained her literary process. She really does put a song on 'repeat' and listens until it fades into nothingness. Then she opens her notebook, writes down her predetermined first sentence, her prompt, and allows whatever else is in her brain to spew forth. She calls this "Word Vomit." (If you ever happen across that title in your favorite book store, BUY IT! And remember you heard it here first, folks.). Right now, Danielle’s pieces are short, more of the flash fiction genre, but they are concise, full-bodied, and easily relatable, leaving a tangy warmth on your soul. Sort of the same way a really good chardonnay finishes in your mouth.
I suppose what enflames my little green monster is how wholly original and fluid my daughter’s voice is. Perhaps it has something to do with how liberally her mind works. There is an eclecticness in today’s youth that is, often, sorely lacking within my pseudo-diversified generation. My writing is, sometimes, forced and a little rigid, just like my synapses, although my workshop colleagues might argue that point with you. I even have professorial attestation to my “unique, disarming, and brutally honest” writing. But Danielle is a force majeure.
One of the foremost lessons I absorbed growing up is that the really good parents always harbor “better-than-me” aspirations for their children. By this I mean that, as a mother, I hope and pray that my children will be fabulously happy and financially more solvent in their lifetimes than I have been in mine. However, we parents never seriously consider whether or not our children will a) follow in our footsteps, b) exceed even our own expectations for us or for themselves, or c) ignite inter-generational, hypothalamic envy, angst or competition. Personally, I find it rather disarming that, with no actual intention, my daughter far surpasses the artistic goals that I have set for myself. And she does so with zero premeditation. It just happens.
Trust me when I say that I am fully aware that my own writing is nothing if not genuinely impactful. I know that I am possessed of my own unique and wholly original voice, every writer is. But it’s the genetic predisposition that truly flabbergasts me. My mother is a Christian writer with a book deal pending. I am an aspiring novelist with three short stories in process while working on submissions for upcoming masters classes. My son is a poet, lyricist and amateur rapper. But my daughter? My daughter is a canon-worthy, naturally born literary artist.
Did I mention that I hate that girl?