Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year, New You!

It's that time again, time to at least think about making resolutions. There's a part of me that says there's no good reason that you should change yourself on a certain day. If you need to make changes, you just should. Plus, are you really going to change three or four things at once? Have you just set yourself up for failure?

But I love the idea of the clean slate. I look at my brand new calendars and they give me this sense of all the possibilities of the next year and I'm all, "Yeah! Let's do this!" And I envision this thin, organized, best-selling, fit version of myself. Oh, my temper is totally under control and I'm a world-class cook.

I know that the best resolutions are the ones that are achievable and measurable. You can't vaguely state you want to lose weight; you have to state you want to lose XX pounds. You have to have a plan. But in some cases, it's difficult to be that specific. I know I want to write more (and/or write better and/or write with more specific direction), but I'm not sure how one measures all that. I could do a wordcount thing, but that doesn't address quality at all, and that's really what I want to work on this year. I feel like my writing has been fragmented lately. I've stuck my toes into a bunch of projects but not really gotten anything worthwhile together.

I suppose the need for resolutions comes out of wanting to do more with my life. I'm probably not very good at giving myself credit for the things I am doing; I see a lot of things I should be doing. Maybe I need to spend some time figuring out what I like about my life. Maybe if I can be happier with the good stuff, I won't beat myself up over the stuff I struggle with. That's not to say I'm giving up, but maybe making myself into a personal cheerleader might be better for me than being a personal slavedriver.

Whatever your plans for 2013, I wish you luck and happiness. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Fate steps in and sees you through

All my life, I never saw a shooting star. I tried, more than once, but seeing a shooting star requires patience, the right conditions, and luck. I have never been known for my patience, and it seems that whenever meteor showers are occurring, the clouds roll in. It doesn't help that the area I live in is full of the lights of suburban living.

As to luck, I'm not sure how much I believe in it. I believe in the luck you can make, the spin you can put on a situation to make it better and, therefore, luckier. ("Boy, I was lucky to drop that plate and have it shatter all over the kitchen floor because when I swept the floor, I found this penny!") I pick up pennies, throw salt over my shoulder, anything to hold onto my luck, but, deep down, I am afraid to count on it, even a little bit. If I have to count on luck, then I am am not in control. If I have to count on luck, it could end up being bad luck, and I want to protect myself against this.

There was a part of me that was convinced I'd never see a shooting star. Some things only happen to other people. I doubt if I'll ever catch a foul ball at a baseball game, but that's alright. I felt that maybe shooting stars are meant for other people. But, unlike the foul balls, I wanted the shooting stars.

Last week, HWM decided it was time I saw a shooting star. The Geminids were peaking on a clear night with no moon. He went out to the deck before me, just to be sure we could actually see one. After a few minutes, he came in to get me. It was a cold night, but I was wrapped in a blanket, looking up while my eyes adjusted to the dark. While we waited, HWM said that maybe I had actually seen one before. I thought that this could be a possibility. Maybe I was expecting too much. We continued to wait. It was a beautiful night. There were so many stars, but I wasn't sure if we'd see more than that.

And then, there it was. A shooting star! It was perfect. It was so perfect that it confirmed what I had always said, that I had never seen a shooting star before. I would remember if I had seen something so amazing and beautiful before. We both saw it, and HWM asked me if I made a wish. I nodded, I was crying a little bit.

But the reality was that the shooting star was the wish. In that moment, I could believe that good luck might just happen to me. In that moment, I knew that wonderful things might just happen to me. In that moment, I got a bit more hope back.

(for G, thank you for the magic)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It's me, not you

Warning: This is just kind of a ramble of what's been going on with me. Not a lot of story here. I'm cool with that if you are.

It's been a while since I've written here. I'd love to say that it's because I've been working on another project, but that would not be the case. I have been busy with life stuff: some of it the usual (work, Christmas prep), some of it out of the ordinary (travel, an unexpected sadness). I just haven't had the time (or right frame of mind) to sit down and write these days.

The travel was a good thing. I saw family and we went beck to New Orleans (again, some more), which always makes me happy. Of course, the downside of traveling, especially close to the holidays, is that I feel even more behind than usual. (I had my first "oh my God, I forgot to put up the tree" anxiety dream in early November, so I got that out of the way early.) (The tree still isn't up, so look who's laughing now, subconscious!) I always love to travel, so I can't really complain about it.

On the sad end, we lost our beloved kitty, which has really thrown me. I plan to write more about that, but, I'm not ready quite yet. For now, I find myself crying at least once a day. I miss him so much. I miss him in so many unexpected ways. I am so grateful for everyone who has reached out about this. Thank you. (Yes, I'm crying now.)

I am looking forward to the holidays. I'm a sucker for the lights and the music, and I know that no matter what, every Christmas has its own type of special. The tree will get put up, the house will get (somewhat) clean, and there will be things I forget to do (or don't have time to get to.) I have to remind myself that this is alright and I need to take time to enjoy it all. I'm not always good at that, but I will work at it.

I hope I'll be able to write more here in the coming year. I do plan to simply write more, but some of it won't make it here. I have plans for January. 

If I don't write before the new year, I wish everyone the best for 2013. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Black Thursday

Shopping is taking over the holidays. This, of course, isn't news. But retailers just seem to want more and more. Opening at 6 a.m. or 5 a.m. on the Friday after Thanksgiving wasn't enough. This year, there are more retailers that are opening on Thanksgiving Day. Don't we all have enough gross consumerism surrounding Christmas? Can't we keep one day pure? Apparently not.

Thanksgiving is a great holiday. It's certainly one of my favorites. It's the holiday that has no gifts, no expectations or requirement of good weather, nothing but a huge meal and some football. It's a day that you're supposed to reflect on what you are thankful for and be with loved ones and eat until you can't move.

Part of what makes it great is that almost everyone has the day off, as well as Friday, so you have the glorious long weekend. If your family is out-of-town, it's a good chance to visit, and even if you stay in town, you can slow down a bit. You've just made a huge meal, and the leftovers will get you through most of the weekend without having to cook. Sure, you'll probably want to knock out some of the Christmas shopping, but you have all weekend. But now, retailers want to push shopping on all for the entire weekend.

It's gross. I feel bad for all those people who have to work on those days, because they don't get to relax on Thanksgiving Day. They can't travel to visit anyone, no doubt they can't fully participate in dinner as they have to rest before working crazy holiday hours, because some CEO decided that they needed a little more cash for the bottom line. (I found this quote from Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail foundation: "Shoppers have shown us that they love wrapping up their Thanksgiving meals, grabbing their coats, and going shopping." I'm willing to bet a large chunk of cash that ol' Kathy isn't going to be leaving her Thanksgiving meal early to open the doors at the local Target.) I read an article that said that the only people who are working are those who volunteered, which must be true because there are at quite a few Wal-marts and Sears that aren't opening because they didn't get enough volunteers to work on Thanksgiving Day (that was sarcasm.)

The thing I'm confused about is why. Why are they doing this? All these places have on-line presence. Can't we do this on-line, instead of forcing employees who are so desperate for money to give up a holiday? Costco seems to be able to do it. Amazon doesn't even have stores, and they've been known to sell a few items around the holidays. Do we have to camp out in front of Toys R Us to have a merry Christmas?

What are the stores actually getting here? Is this really making any difference to the bottom line? Somehow, I just can't believe it. Yeah, they get their store mentioned in the papers, a few folks pay a little less for another tv, but I don't know what the retailers are actually making. We all know that a lot of these door-buster specials have little or no profit for the companies, so are they turning on the lights and paying the employees for any actual profit?

I'll tell what they're getting from me: I've decided that I'm not doing any pre-Christmas shopping at any store (or their on-line version) that's open on Thanksgiving. It might be a boycott of one, but it's got to start somewhere. I'm not going to lie: it's going to suck. I love Target but none for me this holiday season. No more Old Navy (and Gap) for a while. Sorry kids, nothing from Toys R Us this year. No quick run to Kmart for lights or whatever. Maybe if some of us don't encourage this, we can get Thanksgiving back.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Morning Quarterback

The election is over and now it's time to figure out what happened. It's actually pretty simple: there's a group of older, rich white guys running the GOP and the closer you are to being them, the more likely you were to vote for them. Unfortunately for them, more and more people are less and less like them. 

Here's the problem with the GOP model: they're clinging to that cool-kid model of the '50s. (I know the GOP is completely not cool, but hold on for a minute.) The GOP thinks that everything is still like high school in the '50s. You have this group of popular kids: the star quarterback, head cheerleader, etc, and they run everything. It might be just a handful of kids, but everyone looked at them and were all, "if only we were them." They set the standard, ran student council, all of it. Very "Revenge of the Nerds". You didn't have to appeal to the minorities or gays or dope-smokers because they all actually wanted to be you and expected you to run things.

But now, for so many reasons (more minorities, people out of the closet openly, the internet showing someone that they are not alone), the "outcasts" don't want to listen to the self-proclaimed Big Man on Campus. As one of the folks I follow on twitter pointed out "it's no longer subversive to smoke pot at a gay wedding." The fringe folks are realizing that they're not so "fringe" after all. "You're not like the popular kids? Hey, me too!" Things like gay marriage are passing, mostly because most people don't care who other people are marrying. They certainly don't want other people to be making judgments about their lives. I think younger people (the ones that don't fully get the whole '50s mindset because that might as well be Victorian times) are confused about the idea of even voting on something like that. 

The GOP is genuinely befuddled that there are girls like me who don't want to be homecoming queen or cheerleader, even if it were offered to me. They don't understand that I actually do want to work and have a good job and not have to rely on a man to take care of me. They don't get that the gay guys don't secretly wish they weren't. (Even moreso, they don't secretly wish that meathead quarterback *was*.) I'm not saying that we're this super-tolerant society, but I do think that we are a society that, for the most part, really doesn't care what you are doing most of the time. Smoke dope? Whatever. Sleep with people your same sex? Shrug. You're not actually an American yet? If you're getting your work done and you're not causing trouble, what do I care?

That's the difference in message: The democrats say "we'll help you be what you want to be" whereas the GOP is "we'll help you be that 1950s thing!" Guess which one speaks to more people?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Where do the wishes go?

I wish. I wish too often. I wish on birthday candles and an eyelash on my face and the clasp of the necklace that made its way to the front and on the first star of the night. Despite all logic, I always make a wish.

Maybe it's real. Maybe there is a force in the universe that grants wishes. Maybe it's not for everything: the birthday candles might be real whereas the blown eyelash is just a puff of air. The thing is, I don't know, so I figure I better be safe and make all the wishes. And, just in case, I better make the same wish, over and over. What if that universe force decides to only grant the most recent wish? Better be sure I'm getting the wish I really want.

Although there is a part of me that knows that these wishes are simply hopes I'm casting into the air, there's another part of me that thinks it just might happen, so I better wish carefully. But there have been times when something happens, and I see that a certain wish will never come true. And I can't help but wonder where those wishes went.

You might think that when that wish is gone, it might shake my faith in making wishes. I suppose it should, but, then again, what if I'm wrong? It always comes back to that. What if there was a reason this wish shouldn't come true? Maybe the universe is looking out for me or has a plan that I can't see right now. Maybe someone else's wish somehow trumped mine or maybe I didn't do it right. But I want those wishes. I want those wishes back. I earned those wishes and I need them back.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

And you're working on something good

He's gone into his Little Room on what he calls a writing bender. I've never been with someone who is an artist-type before, and, even on regular days, HWM doesn't work normal work hours. But when he wants to really get in that creative groove, he takes a writing bender. He stays in the room, day and night, for a few days. He's at home, but he's also away.

HWM has a place to work that he calls his Little Room. It's not a study or an office, but it is where he works. He surrounds himself with things he loves, his pictures, his buddhas, his mementos, art he has created, whatever he needs to inspire him. He lights incense and candles and listens to music and gets to work. When he goes on his benders, he immerses himself in the Little Room, sleeping in there, only coming out for a few minutes to gather some food or go to the bathroom. Days later, he comes out, exhausted, needing a shower, but with a glow of creativity in his eyes. These benders push him forward, and I love to see this.

When we we first together and he would do a bender, they confused me. Why was he going away for so long? Why didn't he want to see me? What the hell was he doing in there? Everyone I know works "normal" hours, what did he think he was doing in there? Why was he sleeping in there, why not be more comfortable with me? But now I get it. I see why he does this and how they help him.

When he goes on benders now, I smile. I will miss him, even though we're in the same house, but I know he's creating magic. I smell the incense, I hear him moving around, and I can't help but smile. I plant a couple of kisses on the door and I hope he knows I am thinking of him.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Smoke 'em if you got 'em

There is something exciting and romantic about the whiff of cigarette smoke. These days, I don't smell it very often. I'll be out walking (you only smell smoke outside now; there's something almost scandalous about the idea of smoking indoors these days), and someone will walk by, and I'm transported to a different time.

When I was growing up, smoking was all around. All of my grandparents smoked, as did most of the grown-ups I knew. You could smoke in bars and restaurants, you could even smoke in college classrooms. I had a professor who would puff his way through 4 or 5 cigarettes during his 50-minute lectures at 8 in the morning. When my parents would have parties, the house filled with smoke and laughter. Sure, the house stunk of old smoke the next day, but while the party was going on, cigarette smoke meant something was happening.

The first boy I kissed beyond a simple peck on the lips smoked. He was the older brother of a friend of mine, and seemed mysterious. Until I met him, I thought only bad kids smoked but he seemed nice, not a "hood," as my mom would call the kids I wasn't allowed to hang out with; however, he didn't say much, so maybe I didn't know his secret life. I met him as part of a group and we seemed to get along. I got those first kisses at a dance club for teens, during a slow dance. Our next (and only) date was to meet to watch the next high school football game. I don't remember much about that night except being terrified that we'd run into someone who would tell my parents I was with a boy who smoked.

We didn't have a lot to say to each other but when he kissed me, it was exciting. I could taste the smoke on his lips. I can't say that kissing him made me feel grown up, but it did make me feel like less of a kid and more like a teenager. It made me wonder what dating and meeting boys and falling in love would be like.

When I got older and went out with friends, we would go to places where smoking was all around. Pizza places, bowling, concerts, anywhere people hung out, there was smoking. Going to bars in college meant you came home with your clothes reeking of cigarette smoke. Most of my friends smoked, and I was jealous as to how effortlessly they'd handle their cigarettes. The tapping of the pack, the cupping of the end around the flame as they lit up, that first inhale and exhale, the different ways they blew smoke. I'd be lying if I said I didn't find the way people smoked as cool. People look cool when they smoke, they just do.

(Of course I tried smoking in college. However, I have a chronic cough and even one cigarette left me with a hack so deep in my lungs even an idiot 20-something knows that's not a good look. I was left to admire others for having something to do with their hands when we were just hanging out.)

The smell of cigarette smoke takes me to nights full of possibilities. It takes me to a time when we didn't text to know who was going to be where. You showed up and looked around and hoped. Smoke was where things were happening. Smoke reminds me of going to breakfast with my Nana, and just taking your time with your coffee and cigarettes. To me, smoke is still the scent of excitement.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Birds singing in the sycamore tree

I am afraid to dream. I believe I am. This isn't to say I don't have goals or hopes or plans. These I have. But dreams. I'm not so sure.

Dreams are different from goals. A goal is "I will lose 20 pounds." A dream is "when I lose those 20 pounds, I will be discovered and become the world's first over-35 super model!" I'm pretty good at goals. I can make the plans, make a list of things to get done, start crossing those off. But dreams often require a bit of faith, a bit of hope, a bit of counting on chance. Dreams need you to be able to picture a new way of looking at your life. I'm not so good at those things.

I view myself as a practical person. Maybe it's my anxiety, maybe it's because, at heart, I am a scientist, but I when I make plans, I'm not comfortable with taking chances. It's not a bad thing: I have a steady job, a 401K, the sorts of things a responsible adult should have. But I don't really have dreams. When I try to dream, I see where it can go wrong. I see that I might need someone or something to come through that I can't control. And so I hesitate, afraid to commit to a dream.

On a recent episode of "Treme," someone criticized New Orleans, saying that it was nothing but "drunks and dreamers." And with that, I understood why I love New Orleans. When I visit New Orleans, I get to see the dreamers. I hear the stories of how they just packed a bag and moved there, or came to visit and just never left. Maybe it didn't turn out like they planned, but for a moment, they had the courage to give in to a dream. I think to myself, "I could never do that." I wonder what it would be like to believe in what could be over what current was. Is that enough? It seems to be.

Here's the funny thing: I have given into a dream. And it was the best thing that ever happen to me. So, why am I afraid to dream now?

I want bravery. I want bravery so that I can dream. I admire the dreamers because they have a bravery that I can only hope to have. One day, I may give into a dream, and you might shake your head at that crazy thing I just did. But don't worry; I'll still have my 401K.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Crippled inside

I feel fragile this days. I feel like I am stumbling and I can't get it together. I feel like I make the wrong choices and I can't follow my own instincts. This happens. I go through these phases. But today feels hard.

I always want people to think I'm tough, that I have a thick skin. But I get upset too easily. I try to act like a roll with the punches, but I feel jarred when things go the wrong way. I cry too easily.

Maybe it's not that I don't want anyone to know. Maybe it's that I'm afraid that if someone knows, they still won't care.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Shoot and score

I have ordered a new camera. It's not a DSLR and it's mirrorless, which are things that mean very little to me. I love taking pictures, but the details of what a camera does and what make one better than another isn't interesting to me. I barely know who much my camera can zoom. But this camera is, from what I have read, a good camera for those who want something more than a point-and-shoot, but don't want too much crazy going on. That sounds a lot like me.

I do love my point-and-shoot and I expect it will still be the one I carry around on most days. But, under certain circumstances, I get frustrated with it. Low light, action shots, certain indoor circumstances don't give me the pictures I want. There are times I see what I want to capture, but that's not what shows up. I suppose that will happen with any camera, but I'm hoping it's a bit less. I'm hoping to be able to get a good picture of the next full moon.

What pushed me over to the buying territory is that Sony is upgrading this camera in the next month, so the current model dropped in price by $200. I couldn't resist. It's possible that these upgrades in the newer version would be nice, but I'm thinking that won't be the case as the rumored upgrades have to do with video capture (something I never do with my current camera) and blah-blah computer interface. If you know anything about me, I'm about ten years behind on anything technology-related, so even the "old" computer-ish stuff is still at least five years ahead of anything I'm going to be using. Do I think those upgrades are worth over $200? I'm taking that bet and buying the current model.

I am worried about the bulk of this camera. I'm already pushing bag-lady status with the amount of stuff I drag around on a regular basis, so this might just push me over the top. "Don't mind the suitcase; it's carry-on size." Actually, I am more worried the bulk will have me leaving it behind and not using it enough. I will have to push myself on that.

Sometime next week, the new toy arrives. I'm very excited! Stay tuned for updates.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Pronoun confusion

"We built it!" chant the Republicans. This is in answer to a statement that President Obama said about small businesses. First of all, that statement about not building a business by yourself, besides being quoted out of context, is absolutely true. Even in the commercial of the guy rebutting the President's claims, he claims that he and his father built their business. Are they not even listening to themselves? When they chant, "We built it!" do they not see that the pronoun they are using implies that they don't do it alone?

Besides completely missing the point, that a business needs the infrastructure, roads, community, etc, to succeed, why is this considered a bad thing? Why is the idea of assistance something undesirable? I went to public schools and the government paid for a nice chunk of my graduate school. And where's the line? If you get a scholarship to college, should you turn it down? Should you avoid the interstate and get an off-road vehicle? I need answers!

I have no doubt that being a small business owner is a challenge and loads of hard work. But isn't this why you would want more help, not less?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

What we talk about when we talk to Genoa Jeff

When I was in high school I was one of those girls who spent hours on the phone. It was before the days of cordless phones, so I had an extra-long cord and I could cover my entire bedroom while chatting. We'd talk and do other things; they were less like conversations and more like just keeping each other company. We didn't have email or texts or facebook, so it was the phone.

I had a handful of friends I could turn to for these non-ending phone calls. Most of them were not my boyfriends, as my boyfriends weren't very interested in the rambling chatfest. It takes a certain type of person to be on the phone for hours and hours.

One of my phone friends was Genoa Jeff. I met Genoa Jeff when we were in the All-Ohio State Fair Band together. The AOSFB was three weeks away from home with 300 other band dorks. I loved every minute of it. I honestly don't remember how close Genoa Jeff and I were when we were at the fair, but he lived just close enough that calling each other wasn't long distance, so we could spend hours on the phone.

Genoa Jeff was skinny and sarcastic and smoked all the time. Looking back, I realize that he must have hated living in small-town Ohio (heck, Genoa wasn't even big enough to actually be a town), and he envied me, living in the big city of Toledo. He would ask for all the details of my high school, what music we were playing, how many people were in the band, did we really have ten tubas in the marching bands? Being a high school girl, I couldn't be more thrilled to talk for hours about my life, so it was the perfect arrangement.

We would talk and talk, until my dad kicked me off the phone. What in the world did we talk about? I suppose it doesn't really matter. We just told each other the stories from our day, no doubt editing our lives to make them more interesting or dramatic. Our lives barely overlapped, so any artistic license was purely for entertainment.

I'm not sure when we lost touch. He just sort of faded from my life, and, when I realized that he was gone, it was too late. I wonder what happened to Genoa Jeff. The sad truth is that I don't even know his last name, and googling "Genoa Jeff" isn't any help. So I just remember, long talks about nothing and everything.

(Thanks to Bru, who inspired this post.)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

You're my obsession

I'm not sure when things changed for me, but I wasn't caught up in the Olympics like I was years back. Don't get me wrong: I still paid way too much attention to what's happened and I spent plenty of time checking results on-line. But something was missing. A lot of people blamed the coverage (which had plenty of problems), but there's another issue for me.

When we watch the Olympics (or other world-class sports), we are watching people who are obsessed. There's a commercial that ran during the games showing various folks training and the voiceovers are statements like, "I haven't had dessert in five years," "I haven't read any books," etc. The idea, of course, being that these people are so focused on the athletics, they have time for nothing else. But is that appealing? Is this a good thing?

It is amazing watching what some of these athletes can do. You watch them fly through the air, run faster than seems possible, and you know that you will never ever be able to come even close to that. But you also hear the stories: how they left home at 12 because they wanted to train with a certain coach or how they've had the same knee repaired three times already before the age of 25, and I have to wonder if we really should be celebrating these athletes.

Maybe I'm a bit jealous. I've never had that singular focus. I've had times when I've had goals, and I've gone after them, but, deep down, I don't think I could have given up a big part of my life to go after just one thing. It's not that I've cut corners or walked away from a challenge, but I prefer balance over putting all my eggs in one basket. In fact, I'm happiest when I have the back-up plans and the different things to do.

When I was younger, I admired that focus that these athletes have. I wasn't consciously aware that this was part of the equation, but I would wonder what it would take to be an Olympic athlete. Now that I'm older, I realize that there is an element of "these people are crazy" that goes into this class of training and commitment. I'm not sure if we should be admiring this. And maybe this is why I'm a little more jaded when I watch the Olympics.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Four more years!

I started this blog four years ago. Sometimes I can't believe it's been that long, but it's not like nothing's happened during those four years. Since I started this, I've had three different jobs, three residences, two computers, three cameras, a divorce, and an amazing new relationship. There's been a lot going on.

I'd like to say that when I started this blog, I thought I had it figured out or that I'd have no idea that things would change so much, but that's not true. I had a feeling a storm was a-brewin'. It was one of the reasons I started this, to have an outlet. I knew I was looking for something, and I still am. But, as cliche as it sounds, I see that getting there is half the fun.

I started writing here because I felt a pull of writing. I sort of expected to write a few posts, then let it fade away. I know that's not the most positive of attitudes, but I also know how these things go. I have more than a handful of half started projects hanging around the house (I probably will never knit that scarf.)

If I'm being honest, one of the reasons I started this blog was to reach out to (the former) Mr. Higgy-Piggie. This isn't the place to go into details about everything that happened or dig at old wounds, but, looking back, I know how many times and ways I tried to go to him, but there was never any attempt by him to move towards me. I started writing this, and he never read it once. Not a one time. Not when I started, not when I moved away, not when I told him that I didn't want to be married to him anymore.

I am now with Handsome Writer Man, and I am smiling, just writing this. As he is also a writer, it is not surprise that HWM reads this as well as any other writing I am willing to show him. He supports me, not only in my writing, but in so many ways that I was not supported before. I am happier now, but I am also stronger, and I am thankful for this every single day.

Thank you to everyone who has read this over the years. I know it's not a huge audience (if Statscounter is to be believed, I have yet to hit 7000 views), but I appreciate every single view. I will probably be writing here, on and off, until the idea of a blog goes away. I thank you, again, for reading and for all of the positive words.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I get carsick. I get carsick like a little kid. I was told I'd outgrow it. Sadly, this was not to be. It seems so minor, but it affects a lot more than you might realize. I'm not going to pretend that it's a serious illness or that some people don't have bigger, truer issues, but it's something I wish people wouldn't just dismiss it as nothing.

When I think back on being a kid, about half my memories involve carsickness. My best friend's mom used to take us around in large, older cars with the heat cranked up. The car smell liked plasticized vinyl and that fake pine from one of those air-fresheners hanging on the rear-view mirror. (To this day, when I see one of those silhouettes of a pine tree, I get slightly nauseous.) I don't blame any driver for causing me to get sick. I get carsick at an Imax theatre. I've made myself carsick with my own driving, which should earn me a special prize or something.

I can't always predict when it'll hit. Generally, I need as few stops as possible. I am less likely to get carsick on a 50-mile ride down a highway than a two-mile trip to the store on back roads. Heat is always a factor, so if you see me place my wrists on the cooler window, I'm just trying to cool down a bit. (I'm not sure where I got the wrist thing, but it works on a limited basis.) I'm better in the front seat than the back, and I'm best of all when I can drive, which is why I will often volunteer to do the driving.

When I get sick, I starts out as a touch of queasiness, a rumble in my stomach. I cough (a reaction I have to being nauseous because just turning green and trying not to throw up is never enough.) At this point, I am usually trying to get fresher air, cool down, concentrate on not being sick (which is often not the right action because then my body starts crying, "I'm carsick! I'm carsick!" My body is a jerk.) It just builds from there. Often there's nothing I can do but just hope we arrive at our destination soon. I rarely get to the point of actually throwing up, but, once I'm out of the car, I do need some time to recover.

It's embarrassing. It really is. For me, it's the usual reaction to a ride in the car, but, for a lot of people, they want to check to see if I'm alright or they get overly concerned. I just need some fresh air and a few minutes. I don't want to discuss it, because I am highly suggestible and the more I talk about it, the more I feel it. (How suggestible am I? I'm slightly carsick just writing this post.) The good news is that it never sticks around. Five or ten minutes after I'm out of the car, it's over.

You probably don't realize how often you just pop in the car with a group of people: you go to lunch, you run an errand together, you pick someone up. I do, because every single time, I have to decide if a bout of carsick is worth it. I dread when someone picks me up to go somewhere. Every Christmas, my family wants to drive around and look at the lights, and I have to ask them to limit the drive.

Of course, it's not just cars: planes and boats are just as much fun. Sailing is just an invitation to revisit my last meal. I'm not afraid to fly, but I hate the idea of getting sick when I fly. I can feel it the second a plane starts circling an airport. I can't read when I travel -- that would be too much. (I have found that mahjong on my Kindle is a good diversion, but I have to shut it down when we approach, which is when I'm most likely to get sick. Flight attendants do not take this as a reason to violate FAA rules.)

It's not deadly and there are bigger problems in the world. Just understand that when I ask to ride in the front seat and a touch more air conditioning, it's just an attempt to enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Toms shoes: A story of really awful customer service

I buy too many shoes. My excuse is that I have a hard time finding ones I like. I want cute, comfy, nice-looking, non-blister-forming shoes. This is not easy for me. If they're cute, I get blisters; if they're comfy, they generally look dumpy and I might get blisters anyway. I thought I found a solution earlier this year with Toms shoes, but their customer "service" is too terrible for me to support, on any level.

I bought two pairs, liked them, so I ordered a pair of plain black canvas ones. For what they are (basic canvas shoes) they're pricey, but they were want I wanted. It took two months to finally have these shoes. 

When I ordered the black canvas shoes, Toms sent me the incorrect ones (these). I did everything correctly when I placed the order (I didn't click the wrong style or anything like that), but Toms expected me to handle the return in the sense that they would email me a UPS label, and I would have to repack, label the box, and take the box to a UPS store, then, once received and processed, they would send me a replacement pair. I asked if they would at least pick the box up at my door, and the customer service rep said that I would have to drop it off. I don't live by a UPS store and I work, as I explained, so she suggested I flag down a truck and they would take it. As this was the extent of the help, I told her I'd figure it out.

Unfortunately, I was unable to get the return to a UPS store in the 30-day window attached to the label (I wasn't aware of the time constraint until I got an email stating that my label had expired), so Toms offered to send me another label. I replied to the email that, yes, I would like a new label.

I heard nothing back.

I sent another request via email.

I heard nothing back.

I called directly. Unfortunately, even though I called during Toms business hours (which are limited and West Coast times), everyone was away at a team-building event, so there was a message to call back even later in the day. I called back later and was on hold for over 20 minutes. Unacceptable. Look, I get that they want to be this hippy-dippy-California place who does team building on a work day. Terrific! But now that you're back to work, answer the damn phones!

It was suggested to go to email (although my email experience was a series of non-replies so I didn't go down that road) or live chat, where, much to my surprise, there was no one there as well, just this message, over and over:

"All TOMS Customer Happiness Team members are currently assisting fellow customers. We appreciate your patience and a SOLEutions specialist will be available to assist you shortly. Please have your order number ready."

I got that at least 20 times. You can only imagine how pleased I was at this point. I'm on hold and the live chat was sending form letters.

I finally did get someone to talk to me and send me a UPS form. I didn't want to go through that again, so I sent it off right away. And waited almost three weeks for my replacement shoes. Toms is one of the few places that still charge shipping fees and, yet, their shipping system is incredibly slow. Frustratingly slow. In that time, I realized I needed shoes for a vacation, and since these weren't coming, I ordered from Zappos.

What is going on over there? These shoes are not inexpensive, but I thought they'd be worth it. When I got my first pair, I thought that I had found that shoe that I could wear almost anywhere. My sister, who has all sorts of foot issues, also raves about how wonderful her Toms feel. But, honestly, how can I continue to support a product that doesn't seem to be interested in its customers?

So, as I do, I wrote an email to customer service detailing everything above (in fact, most of the post is from that letter.) Their response: "We are following up regarding your request for a return shipping label for a recent TOMS order error..." Yes, that was the point of this email: my request for a return shipping label. I ran screaming into the night.

I know that some of the delay was my own delay in sending the shoes back, but this whole experience has soured me on Toms. I appreciate their causes and wanting to help others, but they need to fix the basics. I just refuse to support a company that ignores customer service.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Love in a work climate

This isn't about office romance. This is a question for those out there, working for The Man: how much do you owe The Man? Where is the line between company loyalty and selling your soul?

Let's start with the basics: you owe your company however many hours promised per week (usually 40, which is another discussion, but, for now, these are the rules of the game.) But no one really talks about the quality of those hours. Of course, you have to talk to your coworkers, but there is a difference between discussing a deadline and chatting about the kids' soccer games. But, then again, getting to know your coworkers makes the work environment more pleasant and makes working with these folks that much easier.

Should you be updating your facebook page? "Heavens no! Not on work time!" Except it's been shown that a bit of web surfing can actually increase your productivity, so maybe not checking facebook is a bad thing. Maybe you owe it to your boss to be tweeting.

How many hours in excess to the base 40 do you "owe" the company? Should you be checking your email at night and/or on the weekend? How about when your on vacation? Or sick? How many extra hours should you put in to get that big project done? What if there's no big project and they just expect you to be working more and more? There is a definite "you're lucky to have a job at all" vibe that some companies give off, but don't they owe you a reasonable workload? Is it fair for a company to demand that you work extra hours to fill out your 5-year plan?

Another big question: when is it time to look for the next opportunity? Sometimes the grass is truly greener someplace else or there might be rumors of lay-offs and cut-backs. Is it being "disloyal" to look for other places to work? Is it fair that companies frown upon such behavior, yet have no issue with a "reorganization" that leaves hundreds of employees behind? Do companies have a right to upset if someone browses LinkedIn? What about going to a job interview?

Back in the day, people would work for a company for 20 or more years, so, not only were you loyal to a company, but a company would be loyal to you. Now, it's a different dynamic, but companies still expect a loyalty that I'm not sure they deserve. If you truly love your job, you may not get that commitment that you want or need. Maybe it's easier to not get your heart broken if you have love outside of the office.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

May the odds be ever in your favor

I'm wearing my good luck earrings today. I'm not sure how they became my lucky earrings but it always seems like I have good days when I wear them. I don't wear them too often because I don't want to use up the good luck. It's like praying to St. Jude for every little thing: he'll get tired of answering all those little prayers, and when you really need him, he'll be ignoring you.

I got these earrings from a bad boyfriend. He was one of those boyfriends who doesn't treat you right but you stay with him to prove that he is actually a good boyfriend to everyone who's telling you that you should break up with him. He worked nights and was always tired and was still in love with his last girlfriend. He acted like seeing me was doing me a favor, and, looking back, I'm not sure why I was with him as long as I was, because I can't even say I was really in love with him. I probably was vain enough to think that I would eventually break the spell his last girlfriend had over him and then he'd be wonderful. No spell was ever broken and I finally had enough.

They're probably my favorite earrings of all time, and it's not just the luck thing. They're what are called "threader" earrings, which you can find pretty easily now, but when he gave them to me, I had never seen earrings like that before. They're gold and delicate and easy-to-lose. I remember being so surprised when he gave me these, as he was not good at the gift-giving. He was the kind of guy who'd forget your birthday or buy you something that should be useful to you ("You said you needed new spark plugs!") Maybe it's one of the reasons I love these earrings: they remind me that unexpected things can happen.

I don't think of him when I wear these earrings. When I put on those earrings, I am hoping for something, and they remind me that life is full of possibilities. Maybe it's not the earrings that are good luck; maybe I am bringing luck to the day.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The house on the hill

Let's pretend: you need a place to live. You're not sure exactly where to live or the type of place you want, so you talk to a few realtors. These realtors show you these lovely, huge house, full of rooms you may never use. You never thought you'd ever live like this! It's all so beautiful! Of course, it's way more than you need, but, hey, you only live once!

As you've never gotten a place before, you're not even sure how much you can afford. But every single realtor sits down with you, "crunches the numbers," and assures you can can afford these amazing places. On one hand, it doesn't seem right: they're quoting numbers like $10,000 a month and you only earn $35,000 a year, but they pull out spreadsheets, tell you about grants, low-interest repayment plans, all sorts of ways to get money for this house. They explain to you that living in a place like this will make *you* more valuable, and this amazing house will pay for itself. Now, imagine you're 18 and being told all this. Would you believe it?

Isn't this how college is sold to kids these days? College is not cheap. We all know this. But an 18-year-old looking for a place to spend those next four years might not see all the money:
A breakdown of costs
They see your their place on their own, professors that seem to know everything, parties, big-time sports. It's all very exciting. They don't see the potential debt they may be graduating with:
Lots of stats on college debt
(I won't even talk about how much it might cost if they go to graduate school, but additional education seems to be required more and more these days.)

I would never suggest that kids shouldn't go to college. I am a firm believer in education taking you to that next level. I've got my degrees, and I needed to get them to be where I am today. But I think it needs to be done smarter. Should you be sending your 18-year-old who scraped by in high school and isn't sure of his major in to a private college using loans that he'll have to pay back after he graduates? Maybe that's not the best place for him to try to grow up. There are a lot of kids who might benefit from taking a year or so off and work for a while. See what a dollar buys these days, see how limited their opportunities might be. Colleges should embrace the kids that come back, although I'm not sure if this is the case.

Another part of this mess is the decision of major. I get the argument that college is not a placement service, but there is something to be said about giving someone all the facts before making a decision. There's nothing wrong with warning a kid who's paying $40K a year for college that, given the average salary of a person in her chosen profession, it'll take her roughly 20 years to pay back her college loans. I would also say that a decision about how this 18-year-old will pay back any college debt isn't stomping on someone's dream, but, rather, a practical decision.

There are a lot of ways to get an education. I am saying that the model of sending every 18-year-old who gets in to an expensive college without direction is probably not the best choice. While four years away in college may be a wonderful experience, paying off that debt for so many years to come may offset some of that.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Who's calling during dinner?

As you may have heard, there's an election coming. Welcome annoying political ads, welcome phone calls convincing you to vote a certain way. Even better, most of these calls are done by a machine, who can't tell it's leaving a long, rambling speech on another machine.

Last election, I was "lucky" enough to live in a swing county in a swing state, so I got the robo-calls. Lots and lots of robo-calls. Every day, there were multiple calls to sort through just in case a real person called and left a message I needed. Then all evening, they called. I suppose I felt slightly less guilty hanging up on a real person rather than a machine, but only slightly. I just wanted it to be over.

I suppose as annoying as they are, these calls have a purpose. Sure, they want you to vote for whatever candidate they are selling. (I do wonder if they accomplish their goal with these non-ending calls. By the election, I was so tired of all the candidates, I almost didn't have the energy to actually vote.) The other purpose was to get money for whatever candidate or party they were trying to push on me. "Hi, I've just completely interrupted your evening? Can you give me some money or we can afford to do this more?" I have to wonder, does this work?

I maintain they're doing it all wrong. Here's how you get me on your good side and get money from me: offer to stop calling me. You heard me: I will pay money to not get any more calls. Just imagine it. If you support a certain candidate, they'll put you on a list and not call you. No robo-calls, no interrupted dinners, no email. For more money, they could widen the net: no calls from the party associated with the candidate. Now, that's something I'd pay for: silence from a candidate. The problem is that if you could afford it, you'd probably pay for both sides. Of course, then you'd have to actually decide on a candidate based on issues rather than advertising. Wouldn't that make the election interesting?

Friday, May 25, 2012

American Idol: Make Number One More Better

Every year it sucks me in. I say that I'm only going to watch part of an episode, and I end up watching the whole season. I'm not sure why, but I think it's mostly because it's easy and predictable. You know what you're getting when you watch "American Idol." This isn't a bad thing. It's comforting, in its way.

It's still the number one show on television (ratings-wise), but the ratings are slipping. There are lots of people complaining that they get the same type of winner, year after year, but I don't think that's the problem. Sure, it's a bit boring, but winning "American Idol" guarantees nothing, so give the tweet girls what they want. However, I'd like to offer a few suggestions for improvement.

Let me start out by saying that I don't think it should change much. It's never going to be that powerhouse it once was but that's alright. Except for the random slip by Steven Tyler, it's safe, fun, family-viewing. And although I've stated otherwise, I've decided that the simple format of the person with the lowest number of votes goes home is the way to go. Other shows have tried other ways, but one of the charms of "American Idol" is that the audience really does pick the winner. "The Voice" was on its way to winning the ratings war, but they screwed up by making the judges too powerful and the system too complicated to understand. I say leave "American Idol" as it is; the one judges' save is enough.

So, if the voting should stay the same, what should be changed?

First, and most important: fire Randy. Yo, dog, I'm just not feeling it, dude. He says his ridiculous little phrases, drops a few names, but adds nothing. I don't get why they keep him, and I doubt that anyone is watching the show for his pearls of wisdom. When the contestants do a musical tribute to your lack of originality, it's time to go.

Why isn't Jimmy Iovine a judge? Wouldn't he be the perfect replacement for Randy? He actually knows music, he has a relationship with the other judges and the contestants (even if he can't get Jennifer's name right), and he always has good insights into the performances. Make this happen! Also, I miss the occasional guest judge. Guest judges add a different perspective. After a few weeks, you know what the regulars think of the various contestants. It's nice when someone new gives their opinion of what's going on in the competition.

I'd like a little more behind the scenes. I like knowing which contestants are friends, which ones compete against each other. It certainly makes the elimination shows more interesting. When Colton got voted out, watching Phillip's reaction was part of the drama. I love watching the process of picking the songs. Some contestants come in with terrible choices and Jimmy guides them to a better fit, and sometimes Jimmy doesn't agree but they show him that it is the right choice. Don't turn it into "The Real World" or anything like that, but the personalities are part of why we watch. This is why everyone loves Hollywood week.

The biggest change "American Idol" needs to make is to update the song catalog. Through these many years, "American Idol" has made roughly a gagillion dollars. Please, use a fraction of this to pay for songs that have been released during these kids' lifetimes. Other shows seem to be able to do this. Why does Idol cling to standards? Why is Hollie singing a song from 1945 in the finale? I seriously doubt that when Joshua found out he was going to get an opportunity to sing with his idol, he wanted to sing a song that was written 22 years before he was born.

At least now they allow the contestants to admit they hadn't heard of the song when it was assigned to them. But how do we get a sense of what kind of a singer they'll be if they don't get to actually pick songs they know. I don't mind having the various theme weeks, but we need more songs that these kids genuinely love. If I'm placing bets, I'm thinking that the girl voice-powerhouses would rather sing Adele than Whitney. And if they fall on their faces, at least they did it singing a song they love.

It's not much, but a little update would be nice. And, truly, get rid of Randy.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Face the face

Can we talk? Well, according to Sherry Turkle in The New York Times, we cannot. Here's the full article. There are points that are valid: there's nothing I hate more than someone checking their phone while you're talking to them (and, yes, of course, I've done that as well because we've all become that gross.) I also agree that there is something wonderful about a conversation between people. However, she showed how people can't converse by quoting a 16-year-old boy who states that he'd "like to learn how to have a conversation." When were 16-year-old boys ever able to have a conversation, especially one with a 50-something college professor?

There's something very cranky, "you kids get off my lawn!" about this article. She complains about the "young people" at work who wear headphones instead of chatting with the senior partners at work. I have to wonder if she asked any of the "young people" why they wear headphones? In my case, I work as a writer in a noisy office space (because, despite her statements about the lack of conversation in the modern workplace, there are loads of conversations happening at my work.) Because I am not a senior partner (or equivalent), I have a shared office space. I need those headphones to get my job done. This doesn't prevent me from chatting with my coworkers, but it does allow me to control hearing every social update.

I am tired of the narrow definition of communication so many people cling to. Turkle is one of the many who insists that a conversation is "sitting in the same room talking." (It's unclear what she feels about talks on the phone, but I'm guessing she's anti-that as well.) I'm not saying that conversations like this aren't a good thing, but it's terribly narrow. I communicate with people in so many ways: email, twitter, facebook, blogging, text messages, phone calls, flickr. In fact, one of the reasons I do all of this is because some people in my life are more reachable these ways. I need and want all of these ways to have the people in my life communicate with me.

This lack of acceptance of other forms of communication feels like intolerance to me. I'm not saying somone has to do all the forms I do (because, clearly, I have a problem), but if you are only reachable by one form of communication, you have cut me off, not the other way around. These other ways of communicating show different sides of a person. I have gotten to know people through facebook, their blogs, twitter; I am in a flickr group with two of my aunts, and I'm seeing their lives in a new way.

Turkle writes about "sips" of conversation as if it's a bad thing. Sometimes a sip is exactly what you would want. Sometimes chugging isn't the way to get to know a person. Some people need to ease into your life. She also makes the assumption that verbal communication is better than written. There is something wonderful about the written word that isn't captured in long, rambling conversations.

The art of conversation is changing, but it has always been changing. I am sure that when the telephone was invented, people decried the lost art of letter-writing. Perhaps instead of all the hand-wringing, we should be celebrating that we have so many ways to communicate with one another.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dear Headhunter (Part 2),

How wonderful to hear from you again! Truly. I know that I asked you to not call me at work, but when you called me yesterday during business hours, you were just showing me how determined you are! You didn't let the fact I didn't give you my number the last time deter you. Good for you! Once again, you went through the switchboard at work. Because if I'm looking for a new position, my goal would be to make it as difficult as possible for you to reach me.

You're so clever, you even called me at lunch. How nice of you to assume that if I'm too busy to leave my desk at lunch, that I would want to talk to you on top of everything else. I know I was a bit short with you, and I apologize. After all, you were simply interrupting my day at work to take care of something that is really important to you. I really should be thinking of your needs a bit more.

I will admit that I'm a touch confused as to why you are contacting me again for a position that you discussed with me less than a month ago. The exact same one we talk about at length. You acted like you didn't remember this, but certainly that can't be true. Is your record-keeping really this poor? Should I be trusting my career and livelihood to someone who is this disorganized? Surely, you wouldn't expect that! And the fact that you didn't apologize for wasting my time is more my issue than yours.

Just to remind you, we discussed, in detail, that not only am I not interested in relocating at this time, but I am not a good fit for this particular position. There were a number of reasons: geographic, wrong field, etc. Maybe I wasn't clear: just because the position is in the same state where I live, it's not a reasonable distance for me to drive. I suppose use of a map and a basic knowledge of DC traffic is too much to expect from someone who's in New York City, but I ask you to believe me on what I view to be a reasonable commute.

I did think I made it clear that this position is not a good fit for me. I have skills, but not the right ones for this position. I am not an MD. Trust me as a person who's actually working in this field, I know what's required here. The HR rep who told you otherwise is looking to fill a slot and not exactly looking out for my career. But I'm sure your determination is enough to get me a promotion years from now.

I have to say, I am curious as to how far you will ramp this up. Will you stop by my workplace in person? Will you send flowers to my home? A horse's head in my bed, perhaps? Oh, I kid, but you do realize that you're pushing really hard. When I mentioned that you were being invasive, maybe you shouldn't have been so offended.

I'm sure I'll be hearing from you again, whether I wish to or not. Until then...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

One touch

There was a morning after a storm, I driving to work in New Jersey. It was a drive I did every morning, on auto-pilot, changing lanes without thinking. I was maybe half-listening to the radio, when the announcer pointed out that some live wires had come down. I looked up, and the wires above me were intact. But my mind started wandering: what if a wire came free? What if I touched that wire? What if, for one instant, I abandoned logic and instinct and reached out and grabbed a live wire?

For some reason, that scene in my head haunted me. The idea of one stupid thing changing everything. You'd like to think that you'll always do the right thing, but we know it's not true. We know that we do dumb stuff; what happens when the dumb stuff is a big deal?

I guess I've been lucky: I haven't done anything major like (obviously) touched that live wire. But I have done stupid little things that ruin a perfectly wonderful occasion. The overreaction to something so minor, it's embarrassing. ("The meal was delicious, but I noticed that the frosting on the cake was a little too sweet, so I am freaking out in the kitchen!") In fact, it's so embarrassingly stupid, you can't even believe you are acting that way over something so silly, so now you need to make it a big deal to justify it. ("Everyone knows that that frosting sets the tone, not only for the meal but for the year. It's a birthday, after all, yeah, that's it! It's important that this is perfect, so my reaction was not kooky or nutty!") Justifying the overreaction rarely works.

The reality is that you want to make that moment of crazy go away, but it's out there. People have already reacted to your outburst. In fact, you're now upset that you've gotten everyone else upset and you've behaved like a five-year-old, but everyone still thinks you're upset about the first hunk of crazy you've delivered. And you will never make it go away.

In case you are wondering, right now I am embarrassed by so much previous bad behavior. I am thinking of one thing in particular, though. One stupid bit in a sea of amazing.

I am so sorry. I can't untouch that wire. All I can do is hope it didn't cause too much damage.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Why I don't write

I love writing here and I feel guilty when I don't have time to write more often. The reasons vary but it's usually that other things crowd out time for writing here. The past couple of weeks, it's been visitors, work, house stuff, the life stuff. I have intentions, but taking the time to put the thoughts down doesn't happen.

Sometimes I don't write here because I honestly can't think of anything to write about. (It may be hard to believe that rants about American Idol make the cut, but there you have it. Spoiler: I may not be very deep.) Of course, if I think about it, that's not entirely true. I always have an opinion, but sometimes I'm not sure exactly how to say what's on my mind. There are thoughts, but they're flitting about, not so interested in forming a cohesive narrative. Sometimes I send emails to myself with a line or two. Sometimes those emails sit in my inbox for years.

Often I am writing, just not for this blog. I actually make my living as a writer. I also do some writing on my own, keep a diary, write the usual emails to folks, etc, which means that there are times I just really don't want to write another word. Sometimes the creative outlet goes elsewhere, like when I end up taking pictures rather than writing. Sometimes I get tired of my own thoughts.

I am trying to grow comfortable with the fact that writing here is a sometimes thing. There may be a time when I write a bit more regularly but, right now, I hope you're alright with the occasional rant about "Glee."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Take a sad song and make it better: Another American Idol post

Let's talk about Heejun Han for a bit. If you're not watching, he's the slightly kooky Asian guy on "American Idol." He started out as a fan favorite, but now he's getting a lot of negative stuff thrown his way, which is completely unfair.

At the beginning of this season, Idol used his humor and "fish out of water" act to "sell" him. His audition featured him blowing his nose and gently teasing Ryan and the judges, acting like he wasn't sure exactly what all this "American Idol" stuff was all about. During Hollywood week, he could be counted on to make dry, witty comments about what was happening all around him. Throughout the process, he's the guy who's been a step above it all, observing the crazy and shaking his head. And, until recently, the show seemed to turn to him for a break in the action or a bit of humor. But the show counted on Heejun eventually playing by their rules and it didn't really happen.

The past couple of weeks, things have started to turn which has more to do with Idol taking itself too seriously rather than Heejun not taking it seriously. Heejun was never going to be a traditional, pretty boy pop star. He clearly has no interest in playing that game. He's a guy who likes to sing and, if it turns into anything, that's a bonus. He doesn't need the judges or Jimmy Iovine to give him his sense of self-worth. He is singing to the kids he works with and to the people he loves. If he grabs other fans, it's a bonus.

The thing is Heejun is an adult. He's got a real job that makes him happy and has a family who clearly supports him. Heejun is happy with his life, no matter what happens. He's not one of those starry-eyed 16-year-olds who think that a singing career is about fancy clothes and cheering audiences. If this ends tomorrow, he'll go home and back to his life and look back on all of this and smile. I can't imagine he'll have a second of regret or "gosh, if only..." thoughts.

Heejun got a lot of heat about last week’s performance. If you didn't see it, he started out all serious, but switch to singing "My Life". He was dancing around and, while not the strongest vocal performance of the evening, it at least kept me awake. There was a lot of chatter about Heejun being disrespectful, but I disagree. He was sending a message, but it wasn't a negative message. He sang it: "I don't need you to worry for me 'cause I'm alright..." Unfortunately for Heejun, the Idol Powers That Be don't like a kid who isn't going to kiss up to them, so there was a lot of frowning and tut-tutting. 

I hope this doesn't change him, but I'm afraid it might. What Idol doesn't need is a(nother) boring kid who's just so excited to be here, but that's what Idol is demanding. Idol would rather having Tommy Hilfiger "style" the contestants into his idea of a "star" (by the way: good call taking Erika, who was already one of the least-recognizable singers, and making her completely unrecognizable.) Heejun pokes the Idol machine and they don't like it. Unfortunately, Idol will make sure Heejun toes the line, and then they will wonder why they are losing viewers. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dear Headhunter,

I know that you think in this economy, I should be excited to get a phone call and/or email from a headhunter. I get that this position you are dangling in front of me is just fabulous and, in your mind, I am a perfect fit. It is flattering. But the truth is, I get at least one call a week from you guys, and, I don't want to be burning any bridges, but some of you are just starting to piss me off. To make both of our lives easier, I have a few tips for you:

1) Unless I tell you otherwise, do not call me at work. Ever. I hope you can understand why that's not cool with me. Even if I were looking and wanted to talk to you, I wouldn't be doing it at my current place of employment. I work in a cube. I have no privacy at work. My boss (and plenty of other coworkers) just stop by whenever they wish. A VP's office is about four steps away. I do not want to be overheard discussing other opportunities, no matter how great they might be. If you found me on-line, please, contact me that way. I will get back to you if I'm interested. And, no, I don't think you're especially clever for contacting the front desk and getting through to my direct line. In fact, I think you are probably more aggressive than I am comfortable with. You do not get bonus points.

2) If you contact me and I email back a polite response that states "thank you but at this time, I am not looking for a new position," please, believe me. I'm fine with a response that states something like "if you change your mind, keep me in mind" or "good to know, but here's a couple of current positions I'm looking to fill that I'll attach, and if you're interested, just contact me." But that's it. Don't push for the reasons or a phone call. Truly, if this position is so incredible, the description will get me to contact you. Also, can we not be coy about location and details of the position? Send me that information right away.

3) Not everyone will drop everything and move across the country for more money and/or (possibly) a better title. Take me at my word when I tell you that I am happy in my current position at this time. I really have no reason to lie to you. This isn't a personal insult to you or a diss on this position; I have my reasons. I really don't have to justify this choice to you.

4) Please, take the time to read my LinkedIn profile. I know you did the keyword search, but you should look at the whole picture. I've lived mid-Atlantic East Coast area for 25 years. I probably don't want to uproot myself and move to California to stay in a similar position. Related to this, if we do talk, please listen to me. I know what I can do and what I want to do. I also know the things that are my deal-breakers and must-haves. I'm not teasing when I say that moving further south is not in my future, so I'm not going to take that job in Texas. I also am not interested in that position where I'd be making significantly less at a lower title. I don't expect you to know everything about every position, so I may see things that you do not. Trust me when I say "no."

5) If I decide to dip my toe in the water, I expect you to be an advocate for me. I've worked hard over the years and I have skills and education and I do bring something to a company. I need you to at least try to negotiate with folks looking to hire me. For example, if they want to set up an interview in two hours and I tell you that I would like it the next day, don't call me back and say, "so, the interview is in two hours!" (This is based on a true story.) If I ask you if this position could be a work-from-home position, don't tell me how great Boston or Phoenix or wherever is. Yes, you are "selling" me to a company, but you're also selling the company to me.

And on that note, if you hear something is not so great, be honest. Some companies kind of suck. Some positions are hard to fill because management is wacky. Help a gal out. I may still be interested. It might be that I'm desperate to get out of my current position, so I'll put up with a lot. Or maybe I'd be willing to put up with it because of a bump in salary or a step up to go to other things. But if you tell me that is a fantastic company that's growing like crazy, and, when I get there, a hiring freeze kicks in, I'm a touch annoyed. At you. And I will tell my friends. It's a small world, and when you play in a particular field, it gets even smaller. Believe me, there are loads of headhunters out there. We have options.

Here's the thing: a good headhunter is awesome. I have worked with some that have been just fantastic. If you do it right, we both walk away happy. Most of this is just being polite and professional.

Thanks for listening.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Press "play"

My relationship with organizing is a weird one. I really want to be organized, but it's not my natural instinct. I go through periods of "love me: love my clutter" but then guilt overwhelms me and I go on a bit of a cleaning frenzy. (Unfortunately, I rarely have the energy to complete the task, so I rely on an old family technique called "The Bag Method." For those unfamiliar with this, it goes as follows: you put it all in a bag.) It's like I know that hanging with certain kids would be a good thing for me, but I'd rather just hang out with the stoners and laugh at their stupid jokes. I really, really would love to get my nonsense together and have some organization, but I end up watching old seasons of "America's Next Top Model."

Nothing shows off my mess more than the simple question, "Can you just print this out?" My printer is my walk of shame. In all fairness, I rarely print out anything at home, so I need my printer only about once a year. But when I do need to use it, it's a disaster. I actually have a nice location for it (there is space in a bedroom closet where it is propped perfectly on an old milk crate). I get it out and I think I'm ready to go, but then I realize that I need cartridges. Well, this isn't exactly true: last time I used it, I thought I only needed black cartridges (I had a box of color ones), and I actually remembered to get them the last time I was at CostCo. 

This morning I go to set up and pop in the new black one, and when it's adjusting, it's apparent that I need a color one as well. Turns out that box I thought was holding a spare color cartridge doesn't have any; the heft of the box is due to the free photo paper that was included. Of course, it wouldn't even mattered, as I realized I have no idea where the cord that connects the computer to the printer is. (I am sure it's in that bedroom but, as that room is the recipient of The Bag Method, that's not terrifically helpful.) I'm sure it'll turn up when I'm looking for something else and I'll be all,"I needed this for something..."

The good news is that I found other two things I've been missing, so it wasn't a complete waste of time. Maybe this weekend I'll tackle a couple of the bags up there.

Monday, March 5, 2012

This Is. American Idol. (Or The Voice or X Factor)

For someone who can't sing and doesn't really listen to pop music, I watch way too many shows about discovering pop talent. I watch the "big" ones, not religiously, but enough that I can hold my own in a discussion. (Not that it ever happens, but it could and I feel better knowing I am prepared for such an event.) I'm not sure why I get pulled into these shows. In some ways, I think it's a throwback to my love for "America's Top 40" that somehow, I made that hit happen. ("I bought that single and now it's Number One in the USA! I made it happen!")

All three have their pros and cons. Right now, it seems like "The Voice" is the closest to getting it right, although they have yet to produce a star. "X Factor" tried to have variety: they had groups, younger kids, older singers, but it struggled, and the winner, another belt-y girl. But I think that Simon Cowell can make it work, so I think it will get better, although I doubt it will be the mega-hit that "American Idol" was back in the day.

The "American Idol" season is kicking off, and most would agree that it's definitely missing something. Is it age of the show? Is it the vanilla that the judges are determined to bring every week? Is it that, at this point, it's all teenage girls and dialing robots that vote? (Remember when other people used to vote? Or was that just me?) I don't know why I care, but I just want to yell, "Be better!" There are so many things that need changing: the judges need to actually judge. I'd say they need to get rid of the audience. Sometimes the performance really is awful and if the judges say something, all they get is a bunch of boos. Yeah, they should have a thicker skin than that, but no one likes boos, so it's easier just to be all positive, which is just boring.

I'm always torn about how much say the judges should have. On one hand, it seems like America is, frankly, boring, and will vote for the same types, so maybe if the judges just pick the best ones, that would help. But, on the other hand, I don't exactly trust the judges. I kind of like the "So You Think You Can Dance" model: America picks the bottom three and then the judges pick who's going home. Actually, here's what I propose: now that we're down to the top 13, each judge gets to protect one contestant a week. This might force the judges to have actual opinions. After it gets down to, say 10, they get to protect two, then one, then America is on its own.

None of these will ever be early-season "American Idol." It's too diluted: by the number of seasons and number of other shows like it. But the current crop of "American Idol" judges just aren't going to generate any excitement, so I watch when I'm in the mood. I still have fun criticizing song choice or trying to see a kid struggle with songs they have never heard before it was theme week. ("Queen? What's a 'Queen'? Why are there men singing?") It's familiar, it's fun, but it's no longer must-see tv. These days, I'm more interested in Cee-lo and his cat. That cat is a star!

Monday, February 20, 2012

And don't f*** it up

I am hopelessly addicted to "RuPaul's Drag Race." It's crazy and out-of-control and surprisingly touching at times. It may have started as a sort of joke on "America's Next Top Model" but it's so much more.

If you haven't seen it, the premise is simple: fabulous drag queens compete to become America's next drag superstar. There are mini-challenges, runway shows, dirty puns, bitchy fights, and nasty judges. And if that was all there was to it, it would still be fun to watch. But the more you watch, the more you realize it goes deeper.

There's a community here. From the first episode of every season, there are queens who squeal in delight at seeing each other. They help each other out, even while snipping behind each other's back. It's a competition but they know that after the show, they may be working together.

I can't imagine what some of them must have to go through to be themselves. During one episode, one queen was feeling like the others were ganging up on her, and she cried, "You don't know what it's like, to be beat up and picked on!" and they all gave her a look that was, "girlfriend, please. We are men in dresses. What do you think our lives are about?"

So many of them have stories of rejection by family. They have to rely on their friends and the families they have made. The family members who have been supportive are their heroes. One had left behind her partner (also a drag queen) and was so worried about him. When he got a message from home, he cried and cried, he was so relieved that his partner was doing well. It touched me because it was so obvious how strong their bond is and how much they must rely on each other.

(Of course, pronouns are an issue here. After one of the shows, with everyone completely dolled up, one of the queens scolded another: "Be a man." Even the queens paused at that.)

Yes, it's a competition, but it's a competition about learning about yourself, finding out who you are, and loving it. There is no standard: they come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and they're all amazing. As RuPaul reminds them every week, "If you don't love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?"

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whitney Houston

Unless you were around then, you have no idea how huge Whitney Houston was in the mid-80s. Her timing was perfect: Michael Jackson had made it okay to play "black" music on "white" radio and MTV (seriously: this was a thing back then.) MTV was at the peak of its power when it came to influencing actual music and what was popular, and Whitney Houston was perfect for MTV: incredibly beautiful and an amazing voice. If you have any doubt as to whether or not she could sing, watch "American Idol." Whenever one of the girls decides that she can handle a Whitney song, it's a kiss of death, because no one can come close.

She was a hit machine. I was in college when that first album came out and way too cool for Whitney Houston, but even I wasn't immune to the charms of "I Wanna Dance with Somebody." (I found earrings that were like those ones she wears with the purple dress and those were my "party earrings.") Looking back, there were plenty of people who weren't Whitney fans, but no one ever said that girl didn't have an amazing voice.

It fell apart. We all knew it, we all saw it. The details of how or why it happened aren't important. She went from this beautiful, singing angel to the Whitney Houston we've seen for these last years. Too skinny, a little crazy, unpredictable, drug and health issues.

I saw her once at an airport, about ten years ago. She and Bobby were on my flight back from Atlanta. Bobby was wheeling her around in a wheelchair, and she was shouting to Bobby that she wanted Popeye's chicken. She was incredibly skinny. I don't know if she needed that wheelchair, but she looked almost too skinny to support herself. The person I was traveling with didn't believe it was her at first. She looked too old. Wasn't she once so beautiful? But it was definitely them, whooping it up before the plane was boarded. On one hand, they sort of had this bubble around them which kept people from coming up to talk to them, but, on the other hand, they could have waited until the last minute to be in the waiting area, but they were there early, as if they wanted to have a bit of a show. There were a few people who did go up to them, and they were very nice to them. A few years later, when they had that reality show, a friend of mine wondered how much of it was acting up for the camera, and I said that, from what I saw at the airport, that's just how they were.

It's a sad day today. I had always hoped that she'd get it together and make her triumphant comeback. Wasn't that was supposed to happen? That she would be saved and we'd have an older, wiser Whitney? Now, we'll just have to remember how amazing she once was.