Thursday, December 31, 2009

Things I've Learned in 2009

As we get to the new decade, I'm forced to reflect on the things I've learned from the last year. Here goes:
  1. Good or bad eventually things catch up to you. whether it's Tiger Woods's exploits or the opportunities that I've been given this year, I think that whether it's for better or worse things can catch up to you. Not that I'm perfect--far from it-- I'm just glad for this year it was on the good end for me.
  2. Sometimes instinct is instinct and not self-fulfilling prophecy. I had some instinctive reactions to people that kept them at an arm's length or brought them in close this year. So far, my instincts were right on for them. That make me feel better about my gut and skeptical as I meet new people. Maybe I'm just a cynical person.
  3. No matter how much you avoid the hard conversations they have a way of forcing themselves upon you. That conversation you wanted to avoid because it was awkward, dirty or just plain tough to deal with? Well, it will find you and not when you're ready to have it but when you're at your most vulnerable and don't want to deal with it.
  4. Even after the tough conversations, you'll live. I might not have wanted to have some of the talks that I did this year, but in the end they needed to happen. Plus it helps to have Chef saying "How much do you think 'so and so' has cried about your conversation?" to keep things in perspective.
  5. Cats are good people. The last is common sense for half of the population. Until last September (2008) I was not one of those people. However, now fully entrenched in catdom, I can say that these little lions are the best pets I could've asked for.
So there aren't many lesson for 2009 but the ones I learned were learned the hard way and in a big way. I'm sure I'm forgetting more, but I can say that I'm ready to learn the lessons of 2010.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Doing As Little As Possible For As Long As Possible

For the last couple of days, I've managed to do very little. Cat maintenance, basic personal hygiene and a lot of cooking. However, I have not once opened my computer up and since last Wednesday, have had very little thoughts about work.

I'm suddenly conflicted. Am I just not thinking about work because we're closed or am I so willing to let it go because I'm driven to be driven? Without a constant challenge and stroking of the fires, do I easily give up and go back to my normal slovenly ways?

Whatever it is, I know that things will only get rougher as we approach heart month (February for all you normal people out there), so I'm going to be as slovenly as possible with the majority of my exertion spent on preparing food. Because I love food and eating. . . taquitos are up for lunch!

But until the alarm beckons me to wake for a purpose other than cooking or hitting the stores before they get too crowded, I will be lazy.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tradition Isn't Everything

There are some lucky people who get to celebrate Christmas the same way every year. For a long time, I was one of them. As a kid, I knew that Christmas Eve was spent at my Grandma Wrye's house with my aunts, uncles and cousins and the annual visit from Santa (who in reality was the town's podiatrist). Christmas was spent waking with my brother in the middle of the night, grabbing our flashlights and then scampering to the living room to see what Santa brought us (our Santa didn't wrap--Smart Santa). We would then crawl back into bed for a few hours before waking at the crack of dawn to actually play with our loot. Later we would pack up and head to my Grandma and Grandpa Clark's house to play with more aunts, uncles and cousins.

That was the constant schedule until my parent's divorced. The schedule stayed about the same except that we unwrapped gifts at Dad's house on Christmas Eve before going to my Grandma Wrye's and with my mom on Christmas before hitting that side of the family. Not too shabby a deal as our Christmas expanded by one.

And then Mom died. That pretty much threw a wrench into any type of Christmas plans that I would ever have again. My brother and other family members tried to keep it the same, but it almost seemed like a weird attempt to recapture a time that was clearly past us. Since then, my Christmas celebrations have varied almost every year. Naturally there was the addition of Chef into the mix, and of course the niece and nephew. Christmas morphed into a three day orgy of presents and shuttling between Indiana, Illinois and all lands in between.

This year and last, Christmas has been more low key in that I have toned down my expectations, travel time and grasp of tradition. I have tried to free myself from doing the things I thought I had to to capture the spirit. But in letting go, I have enjoyed myself more. Five years ago I drove through 23 inches of snow and ice, leaving Chef in our first holiday season together, to be with my family at Christmas. I don't love my family any less, but as I was driving home today from Indiana I realized that if the snow were to hit again, I would probably forgo the treacherous drive. I would probably not leave Chef at home willingly. I have learned that change isn't all that bad in the face of tradition. It can actually be quite freeing. And this holiday was definitely a relaxing one that I will never forget.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

sitting at the bar on "vacation"

it's 8 o'clock and i'm at the patterson house waiting for my friend greg to get here. I am officially on "vacation" but it's the kind of vacation where the office is still open and there are two people there, but two people who aren't used to being there alone. i'm sure my fitful sleep will include worries about the alarm being sprung inadvertently in the morning.

so I sit and wait and sip my moscow mule (vodka, lime and homemade ginger syrup- good but a little heavy on the ginger). I hope my friend gets here in one piece with stories to tell. I hope I have time to get my ambien prescription filled tomorrow so I can get a good night's sleep for once (although I will probably worry about driving or eating in my sleep as others have warned).

really I just want my brain to turn off.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I Must've Been a Good Girl This Year

It's a Monday. I'm at work and I've already enjoyed about 66% of my Christmas. Which is to say that I've celebrated with 2 of 3 families so far. And apparently I was better this last year than I thought because I've had a heck of Christmas so far. I can easily say that I'm a spoiled girl. Not only have I gotten to spend some time and see almost all of my family, but my dad and Robin got me a Kindle.

Don't see me as ungrateful as I received some other fantastic presents (which I would list, but fear of sounding like too much of a brat prevents me from doing so). However, I was really stoked to open my kindle. It's now fully charged and linked to my debit card, so I'm sure I'll be broke from all the books I want to buy. I can't tell you the times that I've stood in front of one of my bookcases and picked up one to re-read because I hadn't the time to grab a new book. And there are PLENTY of new books that want to read. And plenty of old ones too. Now it's so easy that I accidentally bought a book.

I was looking to see if the book that has my story in it (Women.Period.) was available for the Kindle (sadly it is not). I apparently was a little rushed in my clicking and while in the results mode accidentally bought a book I will never read: Weaving the Past: A History of Latin America's Indigenous Women from the Prehispanic Period to the Present .

Oh well. Lesson learned. My next Kindle book will be a good one! That I'll buy on purpose.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Shopping with a Strategy

It seems as if my work life and the thoughts that go behind it are slowly seeping into my personal life (or what's left of my personal life). The two have been on a collision course for a while and it's predominantly my fault. But I digress.

I went shopping on Tuesday night because my schedule and the revolution of the earth around the sun dictating the hours in a day allowed me to have one night free for shopping and one night free for wrapping. And by night, I mean 2 hours or so of free time before my head hits the pillow before waking again a few hours later, but that's another story.

Two hours. One night. 16 people to buy gifts for.

It was at that point or realization that I knew instead of my lacksidasical meandering to find things that I got a good vibe from wasn't going to work. It was going to take a battle plan. I scoured the circulars for ideas for certain people. Then I listed out all the stores that carried the items I had in mind. Seeing that, I brainstormed places with good deals on those items to consolidate the 7 stores into 3. I selected which store to go to first based on any contingency plans of second choice gift items. After doing all this, I was ready to shop.

Except for one thing. I had to execute my battle plan without my war paint. Because I was at the gym working out and I didn't want to eat into precious time, I went from the gym to the mall. And not just any mall, but the mall in the ritzy side of town. No make up, hair back in a messy pony tail, t-shirt and capri workout pants (both oversized for comfort).

I should've been embarrassed. I don't like being seen in public (other than maybe Ghetto Kroger or a Harris Teeter trip for 5 items or less) in my workout clothes. I should've cared that I could potentially be smelled by the other patrons (a quick dash through the perfume section took care of that). But instead I was mostly irritated by the fact that it took longer to get someone to ring me up. I get it. I didn't look like a big spender. However, I had the item I needed in my hand and was waiting at a register. It's a done deal. Just sidle on over here and ring me out.

Needless to say, I had less of a problem when my second store was a Target. God bless you, Target. I will love you and your ability to welcome me with the unexplicable smell of popcorn when I enter (which is there whether you sell popcorn at the snack bar or not. Isn't that weird? Do you pipe that in?) and your welcoming beeps because I know that my workout clothes are only slightly worse than the red top and khakis mandated attire of your staff.

And with that, I'll say my strategy paid off. One night. 16 gifts. One hour and 45 minutes including travel time. Not too bad if I say so myself. Hope you had just as good as luck as I did...with a little strategy to boot.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Turn to Wax Poetic About Cats

I was going to write about a different type of cat (a Tiger), but I looked at the calendar (which I SWORE was my nephew's birthday when in actuality it was yesterday--good thing the present was there on time) and realized today was a different kind of cat's day. Actually, it was two cats' day. One year ago today Chef and I adopted Mila and Attila.

It was kind of a fluke. I was on craigslist posting volunteer opportunities when I decided to check out the pet section. We had gotten Genghis a few months before and noticed his kitten tendencies were getting a little out of hand. "He's got only-kitten disease," we decided and were on the lookout for another kitten. The catch was that we had bought Genghis because we wanted a specific breed (the pixie bob). We didn't want to just get any old cat, but another pixie bob. And we didn't want to pay for another kitten that close to Christmas.

Well low and behold, I typed in "pixie bob" in the search area and came up with a hit. Someone in Columbia was giving away two pixie bobs to a good home because of allergies. It's a long story, but we ended up with them both. And soon Oliver and Olivia became Attila and Mila. I have typed in "pixie bob" randomly ever since and have yet to ever get a hit.

They were both so scared that they spent the first few days hiding behind the toilet. Mila then hid behind the headboard for a few more days. It took a good 3 months for them to warm up to us, but now it's all over. Attila flips on his back at the sight of us coming near in preparation for the belly rub he longs to get. And Mila just waits for one of us to lay on the couch so that she can hop on our chest and knead us with her little paws.

So far it has easily been my second best and luckiest find on the internet. The first, of course, being Chef.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

What Happens When You Have 50 Extroverts In a Room

I found out last week while I was on blog hiatus. I was in Dallas for the non-profit version of sales training. You stick a bunch of extroverts in a room and try to have them sit still, not talk too much, and keep to the confines of what they actually know. It's too much for anyone.

It also made me realize that no matter how much I align my external thoughts and ambition to the goals and strategies of the American Heart Association, there's still a part of me that will remain cynical and sarcastic. It's when that part of me quiets that I know I'll be in trouble. I might not wear a backpack and purple Puma suedes to work any more, but I can still see the irony in having to fill out a form and paperwork for a seminar about whether or not we have too many forms and paperwork to fill out.

So it was a few days in a room in Dallas and the content was pretty engaging, the presenters knowledgeable and my peers. . . mostly annoying. I've realized over the year that I'm not good at small talk unless I see the value in developing a relationship with someone. It's probably why I had so many bad first (and only) dates before I met Chef. It's hard for me to fake enthusiasm.

But in the end, I left Dallas with some new ideas and a few trophies from my shopping hunt. So it was a good time.

Friday, December 04, 2009

All I want for Christmas. . .

Is for my shopping to already be done, my Christmas cards already sent and my baking to be complete. I looked up today and realized we're three weeks out from the big day. I also realized that I don't know which relatives we really going to see yet (at least not all of them), so I don't know if I have to ship a little or a LOT of gifts.

Oh and there's the actual going out to get the gifts part. I hate crowds. Like to a degree that I'm beginning to feel the Social Anxiety Disorder that I once legitimately had (I was grieving. It was justifiable.) coming back over me. I see people in line to check out or lines to park and mentally I'm done before I've even begun. I mean, I go to the grocery store on FRIDAY NIGHTS to avoid that crowd. That should say something.

But aside from all of that, I'm heading to Dallas next week for a business trip, which means that my shopping and prep time has been cut by virtually a week. Not only am I gone for four days, but I will undoubtedly have work that has piled up that will knock me off my normal schedule for another three.

Before I sound too much like Scrooge, I will defend myself in saying that I still have some of my mother's holiday spirit in me. This woman would wake us up--even as teens--early on Christmas morning with the smell of baking cinnamon rolls. Once we had the milk down, but with the moustaches still on our faces, she would shove me and my brother to the tree for the orgy of unwrapping and exclamations to begin. And it's that moment. The one where we're all together destroying what took weeks of planning and pain to create and moments to execute. That's my favorite part of the holidays.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Isn't it enough to have to worry about the flu?

Just when I thought the biggest contagious threat of the season was going to be H1N1, a new report comes out that makes me fear something else. . .loneliness.

Apparently, people's feelings of isolation and despair when shared with others can be more than just shared but made literal.

This takes me back to a job I had when I was 16 years old. I was looking for something that I could work in the summer with flexible hours because I played softball an ungodly amount. The only thing I could find was working as a telemarketer. It was horrible.

Our bosses could listen in to us making our sales pitches to get appointments with people to have them try an air filtration system. We were given a headset, a script and a phone book. My boss listened in to one of my calls and then asked me "Why do you think you're not having luck booking appointments?". What I wanted to say was "Because no one wants to hear from a 16 year old telemarketer about air filtration unless they're super attractive and in your living room." What I did say was "Because a lot of people are working and aren't home."

The overzealous guy in the cubicle to my left overheard my conversation and went nuts. "If you start thinking that people won't book appointments because they're not home, then I'll start thinking that people won't book appointments because they're not home and she (girl in cubicle to his left) will start thinking the same thing and then no one will book appointments. Stop thinking like that it. It's contagious."

Now nearly 15 years later, maybe the little weirdo was right. Either way, I only lasted one day.

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