Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Yesterday has ended. Finally.

The day started just after 3 a.m. when rather than hearing the alarm ring, Aaron was touching my arm and talking. As soon as I gained enough conciousness to think in full sentences I realized full well that this meant he'd been up most of the night checking the clock incessantly.

I was out the door at 4. I had a hard time finding the parking log, as expected. Security was empty. I ended up sitting outside my gate waiting to board for an hour. But this was after I got hollered at for having a water bottle in my purse. And they don't even let you take a swig of it to prove it's harmless, as they do at the Holocaust museum. Nope. If it's liquid, they throw it away. Because certainly I'd know how to damage the plane with a bottle of water.

I got to Chicago early. By this time, it was 6:15 Detroit time, and I was hungry. All my stomach knew was that it had been awake for three hours, and food was in order. I had a craving for Einsteins until I came upon a Wolfgang Puck express with breakfast. Mmmmm. But before I ate the garlicky homestyle potatoes, I made sure I had gum. And then I wondered why security didn't take gum away too.

I figured I'd sit and have breakfast, then make it the rest of the way to the departure gate on the other side of the airport, then call Aaron and have a conversation before getting on the plane. So I sat down with my wonderful hot coffee and delicious breakfast, in a spot perfect for people watching at the airport, and took exactly two bites before the phone rang. So I ate while on the phone.

I landed in Louisville early. Two flights, both early. So I figured the rental car would be a hassle, since nothing ever goes perfectly, and I was right.

Off I went with three hours to kill and only a 45 minute drive. A bit further than halfway, there were signs for a historic town and a antique mall. I'm not big on antiques, but it was something to do. So I pulled off the freeway and headed for adventure. The antique mall was no bigger than the upstairs at Grandma's. I didn't even go in. I stopped at McD's to use the bathroom and watched a pregnant woman chainsmoking outside the door while her toddler drove her friend crazy inside with efforts to climb out of his high chair. It was about this point in time when I noticed that every last person in sight drove a pick up truck. And every last one had stuff in the bed. Wood, machinery, you name it. Someone had it in the bed of a truck. The historic town proved boring, and not very historic, and the shopping consisted of one strip mall with a Sears, a hardware, and an H&R Block. So I got back on the freeway trying to find a nail salon on my PDA. I found one, but the directions wouldn't pop up. So I figured I'd go find the final destination and hope for something to do around there.

I found it. Still with time to kill. So I continued on past it and found nothing but enormous horse farms. It was quite beautiful, but riding a horse would have required changing clothes, screwing up my hair, and smelling like a horse for my interview. So I turned around and tried to venture in the opposite direction from the final destination. I found the nail salon, but they were busy. It took twenty minutes for them to figure out they were busy. Long story. Then I stopped in a hobby store to see if there was anything in there for Christmas for Aaron. No luck. I grabbed a seat in the tiny little diner at the corner for some bean soup for lunch. I had to check my reflection in the mirror when I drove away, because I was starting to suspect that I literally had the word "yankee" written visibly on my forehead while eating my soup.

Then I parked outside the company's building in the visitor parking and sat. And sat. And sat. I fixed my lipstick, went over my documents again, and prepared questions. But I had way too much time to kill. Finally, at about 25 minutes before my appointment time, I went inside and signed in. Thus started the second strangest interview ever. Second to the one with a bunch of Japanese guys in 1996.

After the interview, the clouds parted and the sun came out, so to speak. Not only was the interview overwith, and the forward progression direction was in the hands of others rather than mine, but the whole world started to just seem a little bit sweeter. I stopped at a Wendy's to use the bathroom and change my clothes, and three different people started a conversation with me. It was really nice to be around such friendly people. And they didn't all drive loaded pick up trucks either. A coke was in order, just to patronize enough to justify use of their facilities. On the way from the counter to the condiments area to grab a straw, a shiny penny appeared at my feet. Face up. I hope it's good luck.

Back at the airport, the rental car went back to its rightful owners, and I stepped into the airport. There was a man snapping a picture of two young-ish girls and their babies. And a man standing just behind him. I figured it was a family, so I stopped and waited for him to be finished snapping the shot before offering to take one of their whole bunch. It turns out, the guy snapping the picture was not with them. Just a passer-by who offered to take a picture. The guy standing just behind him was a guy who assessed the situation and stopped for the same reason I did. It was astonishing to see that much kindness collect in one place. We all shared a good laugh at the situation and then went our separate ways. I looked for wine at the airport and was disappointed.

At my gate to depart back to Chicago, another gaggle of fine lookin' men in fatigues were waiting to board the same plane. So I spoke with one of them. He looked not a day older than 23, and had a wife and two children at home, with a third on the way. I showed him the manger scene that the MP's in Sadr City had constructed, and he was tickled. Just the nicest guy ever. He carried a Bible with a camouflaged cover. He was going home for Christmas.

Back in Chicago, finally, I checked the screens to see if my flight home still existed, and happened to notice another United flight was boarding for Detroit. I landed 2o minutes ahead of schedule. So I booked it across the airport in hopes of hopping on the plane and getting home early. No luck.

I went in search of wine again. And was successful. I sat with some Chinese food of the mall-food-court variety, and a $9 glass of mediocre chardonnay. But then, a friend appeared. A gal was heading home to see her parents in Brazil. Her name is Daysi, pronounced like the flower. We lost our jobs at about the same time. Hers from a Brazillian airline that she'd worked for in excess of 19 years, which had also transferred her from Brazil to Los Angeles a decade ago. She had a husband, dogs, and no children. She also had over an hour and a half before her next flight. And she loved wine. So clearly I was in good company. We laughed for the whole next hour before she had to leave, since her flight was international and she had to be earlier than if it were domestic.

While we were talking, a gentleman sat on the other side of Daysi. He was a consultant who happened to be on the same flight I was. An older man sat in Daysi's spot and turned out to be the hocky coach at U Mass. We had amazing conversation, and heard about his career history and the time he lost his job and took a position in Austria for a time. He gave me his card in hopes that we could all have dinner if Aaron and I end up in that area anytime soon.

Then the flight home. It was a bit late, and I lost my coupon for free parking, so I had to pay the $10. But it wasn't that big a deal. I was finally almost home, and had been awake and functioning for nearly 24 hours straight.

And now, the waiting game. I hope I hear something by Thursday afternoon, and I hope it's good news!!!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Religion in the Workplace

I saw a short article that mentioned the movement of several retailers to bring specific holidays back out in the open, like Wal-Mart embracing Christmas, publicly. Then it went on to mention that it's not just the holidays... Or retail... Religion is becoming more visible everywhere.

I agree. And as religious as I am privately, I don't like it.

I have had colleagues and customers from all walks of life. My friends are a melting pot of beliefs and values. In my wedding party alone, there was an atheist, a Jehovah's witness, one agnostic, one Jew, and a gaggle of Christians of various disciplines.

I don't think it's right that I have to stop meetings at GM so people can go to their prayer room and kneel on pillows. I don't think it's right that a coworker of mine had pictures of Jesus up on his cube walls. It's just a little too much. Go ahead and be a missionary, just not at work where you might offend someone.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I am not a "materialistic" person. I don't desire "things." It's difficult for me to make "wish lists" for birthdays or Christmas, even when asked. My wedding gift registry was all of two pages, and I had help.

But I learned something about myself yesterday that surprised me. I attach memories and emotions to material things. I don't hoard "things" or hold onto something in effort to hold onto a related memory. However, if something has a bad memory or a hurtful memory associated with it, it comes back with a vengeance when I see the stuff again. Good, bad, happy, sad, it doesn't matter.

I've been cleaning. And I'm not anywhere close to 50% done. But I'm working on it.

I opened a box yesterday and pulled out glasses from my honeymoon after my first marriage. Instantly, I was right back in that place and time. Old holiday decorations. Bridal magazines from 1997. (A clear indiction of why I'm cleaning.....)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I am so NOT lying... It was CSI live in our living room.

Okay. Admittedly, two things. First, I am a very busy person by nature. Second, my life goes through these phases of supreme dramatic bullshit that is enough to make anyone tired.

For these reasons, there have been many occasions that I've planned to see a certain friend of mine for a cocktail and it hasn't happened. I will call him and suggest a day, and by God each and every time all hell will break loose and I'll need to postpone. It's honestly never been intentional. It's like a new chapter of Murphy's law.

So, seeing as how I never see this friend anymore at all because not only have the majority of my efforts to get together and share conversation have been thwarted, but now we don't work together either. I called him and suggested we go to a local watering hole right between our homes and toast a martini. He said he was in. It was on my calendar. I was looking forward to it. The good Lord knows if I ever needed some Grey Goose and bleu cheese olives, it's lately.

I woke up yesterday morning and did a mental scan of my day's plans. A drink with my friend was in there. So was visiting my storage garage to clean some things up and make room for additional boxes. At 5:30 in the morning, I got up with my husband, prepared his clothes, and started the car for him. (Check me out - aren't I the best wife ever?) Technically, we've switched cars for the time being. I have, in my humble opinion, a very nice car. I bought it when I got a promotion that included a car allowance. Prior to that I'd only owned and driven very used cars. Without said car allowance, I'd have never made the purchase. It would not have been logical or smart whilst still paying off student loans and credit card debt. But as it is, I was able to buy a car I loved and paid a grand total of I believe $85 out of pocket monthly to cover the car payment and insurance after the allowance. Not a bad deal, really. So my husband has still been driving a car that is 12 years old with 110K miles on it. But as he works in a whole 'nother state, I've been a bit worried about him in it. It's all about odds. It's certainly far more likely that a 12 year old car with 110K miles will break down than it is likely a brand new car will. So I've put down my size 6 foot and switched cars with him. He has not been very receptive to this, by the way, because he feels strongly that I "earned" the nice car, and it should be mine. I say bullshit. It's a hunk of metal and plastic on four rubber tires. It's meant to be driven, and if he's doing more driving than I, he should have the car. But certainly the chivalrous and sweet way about him was noted and appreciated.

So off he goes in (technically) my car. He calls me at about quarter to eight in the morning and reveals that the storage unit key is in the car. Damn.

I go on about my day and realize that my insurance card is also in the car. Damn.

Here I'm in a predicament. It would behoove me to drive to his state of employment and get these things, or at least meet him for dinner and get these things, so it won't interfere with my doctor's appointment set for 2:30 the following day and the plans to work in the storage unit.

But, I have plans with my friend. That I don't want to cancel. Because, it seems, I ALWAYS have to cancel with this friend.

So I work out a way to switch some of the week's activities around and still keep my plans intact. Until, lunchtime on Monday comes.

I would write out the conversation, but it would honestly take too long. My husband calls me as he leaves work and heads to our studio apartment only a mile or so from his job to make some lunch. He enters the apartment, and trails off from our conversation with some confused, perplexed mutterings.

He was looking at several pieces of splintered wood lying on the floor in the living room. Not understanding, at first, where they came from. Then he found a few metal parts, including, but not limited to, the metal contraption on the side of a door with the doohickey that goes in and out as you turn the doorknob.

Someone broke in. Through the side door that leads from a main hall in the building into the living room. A door that is never used. The regular door knob never really locked well on that door, but there was a fine, industrial strength deadbolt that kept things intact. Until, that is, someone used a prybar or large screwdriver to rip the entire door apart from the outside and bust through it. The wood all around the floor was from the door frame.

Of course he had no idea what to do, and he had no numbers on him to contact his boss. I suggested he go back to work, and I'd make the drive there and help him handle things.

On the way down, I had to call my friend and postpone. I swore I wasn't making all this shit up. I told him the whole truth - the storage unit keys, my insurance card, and now the break in. He laughed.

Incidentally, nothing was taken. Not the two Christmas presents sitting in plain view in the kitchen area that are valued at about a grand each. Not the television, microwave, or PlayStation. Nothing. All they, he, or she did was bust in and search the place, tearing through everything as they, he, or she went. What was being sought, we had no idea. Until some other folks in the building appeared. And it seems there was not only evidence that someone tried to get into two other apartments, but that one had been robbed a few weeks back and it was unreported. All that was missing? Lots and lots of prescription drugs in labeled containers. The tenant there is a pharmaceutical rep.

We all glanced into the tiny bathroom, and there were smudges all over the edge of the medicine cabinet. But nothing was removed.

Disappointing, I'm sure, that all either of us take, on rare occasion, is Advil or Tums.

Then things got exciting. Remember Barney Fife? And his partner? In Mayberry? Imagine a "B&E" in Mayberry. Because that's exactly how it was treated in this small town. The officers came, then detectives followed, and they took prints and castings of everything. No shit. Armed with plastic gloves and many of the tools we've all seen on CSI, they went to serious work on the place. It was amazing. The police force was there for hours at work. I was sincerely impressed. And, any worry we had at the oddity of a break-in happening in this tiny little town was pretty much gone by then because clearly this is how the police force operates. They were not foolin around. You'd have thought it was a homicide scene with the Hope diamond missing from the premises.

Where we live? Dispatch would have asked if anyone was hurt or dead, and then extended an invitation to come down to the station and file a report. Good ole' Michigan.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Story of Christmas Trees in Our Home

As soon as Thanksgiving hit, thoughts and discussions of our first Christmas ensued. Of course, this also included foresight into decorating a Christmas tree together. This lovely occasion will commence this coming weekend.

However, this will NOT be our first Christmas tree. No, not our first by a long shot. Grab a coffee and maybe a shot of Baileys while I describe the ridiculousness that surrounds the whole idea of US having a Christmas tree TOGETHER.

First, we have, I believe, the year 2003. We live in the condo-that-will-never-sell. It isn't, and never was, big enough for all the stuff that two people own who separately lived in homes more than twice the size of the condo-that-will-never-sell prior to moving into the condo-that-will-never-sell together and sharing space. With a dog and cat and newts. Most of which incidentally illegal at subject property. Anyhow, during this hectic and ridiculous time, we are both in school, juggling workloads, trying to keep sane, and our living room became a storage unit for boxes of stuff. Yes, we had a REAL storage unit, but it was, and is, FULL. Anyway, on to the story. There was no room to set up a tree. We got ourselves a tiny potted Christmas tree. We put lights on it. And our one beautiful Swarovski ornament that has since become an annual tradition graced its strongest branch, yet still made it sag under the weight. We put the tree in our bedroom, and we'd turn the tree lights on, all the other lights off, and just celebrate being alive and finally both having jobs, simultaneously, for long enough to afford decent Christmas gifts for everyone.

The plan my darling drafted mentally and then shared with me, and made me coo that he was certainly the most romantic man ever to walk the earth, was that we would keep this evergreen tree alive, and in the spring, when we finally bought a house together, we could plant our first Christmas tree in our yard. And decorate it every year.

Except, it died.

The only contact either of us had with the tree was to feel the soil in attempt to react if it were too dry. One day, I touched a branch. And every needle on that branch instantly broke free from their grip and scattered about the carpeting. I tried very hard to revive it. And, neither of us wanted to throw it out. In finally moving and disposing of the tree some weeks later, millions of tiny, dried, sharp pine needles implanted themselves into the carpeting of multiple rooms, not to be fully evactuated via vacuuming for months of effort.

2004 came. By this time, we'd reached the point where we were ready to buy a house together. Started shopping apartments to set up camp in while listing the condo-that-will-never-sell, ended up moving into Grandma's for what was supposed to be 6 months or so, and decided we needed our first regular sized tree. We bought it fairly late in the game, as he was traveling constantly with his job. About two days before Christmas, there were finally some lights on it. But it never bore a single ornament. We were never home at the same time for a single night the whole time it was in the house. The nights we did both have off work and school and were both in town? We ran like mad to shop and get things done.

Then things went from bad to worse. Remember I mentioned he'd been traveling? Constantly? Yeah. This meant he was not around to take the thing down. It was the second or third week in January, and I was tired of cleaning up needles. I got it pretty well wrapped up in the special "tree disposal bag." I emptied the water from the tree stand, and tipped the entire thing on its side. Stand and all. Then, grasping the stand, I drug it across the living room, out the front door, and to the front of the yard. But not before the screen door slammed shut on me and the tree in the middle of this and broke my Movado watch.

And then? When I got home the next evening, the garbage crew had removed the contents of the trash cans, emptied all the recycleables, yet left the dead tree in its now-ripping-in-the-wind special tree removal bag. Oh the horror. The embarrassing horror. I was so careful to take it out at MIDNIGHT the night before trash pickup day, so the only people who would see it disposed of so late after the holidays were those who left for work after the sun came up, which is nearly nobody. But then? Then the whole neighborhood had the chance to see this dead seven foot Christmas tree poking its dried up branches through little holes in the bag. And the trail I made in the snow dragging it to the curb. Gah! I was sure all the neighbors were sitting inside their homes sipping tea and laughing at me.

It was Friday evening. My honey was expected home Sunday, if memory serves me right. He was working as a designer for a sporting goods company, and they did several weekend gigs, so it wasn't unusual for him to travel over the weekend. I could not move the tree, as it was now also stuck in the snow that had formed embankments all around its perimeter at the curb. It sat there until he got back, and all we could think to do was get rid of the bag, and put the dead tree in the backyard. So the neighbors got to sip tea and laugh at me for three days.

It seems the west siders have specific weeks that Christmas trees will be accepted into a garbage truck. I grew up on the east side, where they throw everything into the truck that you leave anywhere near your curb. No matter what week it is. If it's your trash day, and it's near your curb, it's going to disappear.

When spring 2005 came, part of our clean up efforts were to chop the dead Christmas tree into small pieces and load them into the approved brown paper organic refuse bags. But we didn't do this until the time came after which the trash collection schedule had approved pick up of these brown bags, of course. Our tree took up three bags. Dismemberment of the tree drew blood. It was a big job, and my poor honey ended up doing it all.

2005? We didn't even bother. Can you blame us?

2006? Now we're married and we have the whole first Christmas together deal to celebrate, so we have to have a tree. It's just necessary. So we bought a cheap fake one. It's light. I can deal with it alone. It requires no trunk trimming, or pennies in the stand. It does not increase the frequency of vacuuming requirements. It even came with a free wreath. That's fake, too.

I know, I know. Bah humbug.