Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Day

I love the task of trying to find Christmas gifts for my Mom, just one or two, so that she can have packages to unwrap and, hopefully, be delighted with a gift.  It's pretty difficult since she doesn't want anything and is trying to get rid of the things she does have.

For the past few years I've given her calendars with artwork by Robert Tuckwiller, an artist who lives right exactly where we are from, and paints the landscape we think of as home.  I get one for me to put up at my desk at work, one for Mom, and I started getting one for my sister, too, when I realized how much she liked them.

No Place Like Home - Robert Tuckwiller
I swear, that is practically the exact view across the street from the house I grew up in, and the white house looks just like the house that the lady who sent me the bread recipe still lives in.

When I placed the order I told Mr. Tuckwiller how my mother really wanted to know the location of all of the paintings in the calendars, and he wrote out a list for her, even including previous years.  She was completely thrilled to get that.

She gets a ton of Christmas cards, and I also gave her this cute display hanger from Pier 1:
It looks a lot cuter with actual cards in it


Greg did exactly what I love, which is to get me multiple things to unwrap.  The highlights are a 40"x25" canvas art print of Adam Ant!  How neat is that?  He might know me.


It's already on our wall

And a really fancy USB turntable so I can not only listen to all my albums (yes, I still have all my albums from the 70s and 80s, shut up) but I can also convert them to mp3s.  I actually have a bunch of albums that were never released on CD, so I'm really excited about that.

I'm also excited about the blu-rays of season 1 and 2 of Downton Abbey, which came along with a promise from Greg to watch it with me.  The blu-rays will just look gorgeous on our giant tv.

But the best part was the sneaky way I ninja'd Greg's present.  It's pretty hard to spend a lot of money without him knowing it, since we share a bank account, but I realized a couple of months ago that I could just get $20 cash back whenever I made any purchase anywhere when he wasn't with me, and he'd never notice.  I racked up a couple of hundred that way, took his $100 cash bonus that he got at work, and with a little extra "Christmas shopping money" from the ATM I ended up with a bit more than the ~$400 he thought I had.

So he was pretty surprised to get the 4th generation iPad with retina display and a red magnetic cover to go with it.  Heh.  If he ever puts it down, I'll ask him if he likes it.

Despite Mom still being in pain and despite me hovering over her and forcing her to let me do her laundry and take out her trash and turn down her bed (all things she normally fusses at me until I give up even trying to do) we had a pretty nice Christmas.

My sister and her husband came and we all had ham, sweet potatoes, and green beans in the dining room together.
 
It certainly wasn't the typical Christmas most people picture, but I was with my sweet Mom and my sweet husband and we shared hugs and thoughtful gifts and it was, for the most part, very nice.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Eve

Greg and I drove up to Georgia with our Jetta packed with prettily-wrapped Christmas presents, laptops, our giant suitcase, snacks and our pillows (the secret to sleeping on an uncomfortable bed is to bring your own pillow).

We went out for our usual breakfast for dinner at the local IHOP, and the pancakes with hot syrup and butter were as delicious a treat as always.

The next morning Mom called me while we were still waking up and said she'd fallen and hit her chest on the corner of the table in her apartment.  We ran, and she seemed relatively okay, but in a lot of pain.  She said she felt a sharp pain whenever she breathed. I looked at her chest and she had a minor bruise, but I know (I think?) with elderly people sometimes things take longer to show up.  She is typically very anti-going to the doctor or hospital, so when she tearfully asked about getting medical attention I knew she must be really hurt.  She insisted we take her to an urgent care clinic, because she was scared of having x-rays and being admitted to a hospital.

We went, in the freezing Christmas Eve morning fog and rain, and found a packed waiting room run by a  cold-faced woman who said she had no idea how long the wait would be and waved a long sign-in sheet at me saying, "All these people are ahead of you."

We left and put Mom back in the car, Greg holding the umbrella over our heads while I helped her in, and I told her that if she needed to get medical care, I thought maybe the best plan would be to go back to her apartment and call an ambulance.  That way, she'd be taken right in, without spending hours in a crowded emergency room waiting room.  I told her they couldn't admit her if she didn't agree to be admitted, and she said okay.

In the hallway, I looked at Greg.  Help me figure out what to do, I said, I'm freaking out.  He held my hand and told me to take care of my Mom, and he'd take care of me.

They got there quickly and a bunch of EMTs crowded into her apartment. I noticed one or two stayed in the hallway, not bringing the gurney in right away.  They were all nice Georgia boys with heavy accents, going out of their way to be polite to Mom and address her as Ma'am and direct their questions to her, speaking louder when she couldn't hear them.  Feeling exactly like a scared 12-year old I tried hard to be the adult in charge, and I told them directly and succinctly what had happened.

They asked her if it was okay to examine her chest, and I knelt by her chair and held her hand, knowing it's hard at any age to have your chest examined after having two mastectomies.  The one who appeared to be in charge said he didn't believe any bones were broken or cracked, that he thought she had a bruised sternum.  They listened to her breathing with a stethoscope and took her blood pressure, and said she was breathing just fine.  He cautioned me that he didn't have "x-ray vision" and there was no way to know for sure without an x-ray.

She's 91 and has back problems and going in for x-rays will be extremely hard on her and painful for her, I told them.  I don't want to put her through that if it's not vitally necessary.  What would happen if she does have a cracked or broken sternum?

There's still not much they can do, the EMT told me, except give her pain medication.  I know Mom's history with pain medication, and it's basically nonexistent; even after fracturing two vertebrae she took mild pain pills only rarely, and under great protest.

What would you do, if she were your mother, or grandmother, I asked them.  They looked at Mom.  "Ma'am, do you want to go to the hospital?"

She shook her head.  "No, unless I have to."

Everyone looked at me.  I said that I thought it would be best if we just kept her at home and kept an eye on her.  They all looked relieved and told us to call again if she got worse and they would come right back, it would be no problem.  One guy told me that that's exactly the decision he would have made, but he wasn't allowed to tell me that before.

We all apologized for bringing them out, and they said that it was no problem at all.  Merry Christmas, they wished Mom as they left, telling her they hoped she'd feel better real soon.

Greg and I gave Mom a bunch of ibuprofen and she got back in bed, and by noon the next day she felt well enough to get dressed and have lunch in the dining room with me and Greg and my sister and her husband.  I could tell she was in pain, but she seemed to hold up okay.

She's still having trouble moving around, but has been able to shower and get dressed and undressed, and she said today she thinks it's starting to get better.



Monday, December 17, 2012

It's the Season

Boy, this time of year.  I deliberately try to make it easy on myself, with not making appointments and getting Christmas shopping and cards done early and nothing hanging over my head like an impending cloud of holiday doom.  But it always sneaks in, doesn't it?

My presents are all ready, but not yet wrapped.  Saturday I'll be wrapping, and cleaning, and doing laundry, and packing.  I usually make peanut butter cookies with Hershey kisses on top, but I think I may let that go this year. We'll be leaving for Georgia early Sunday morning, by Sunday night we will be having breakfast for dinner at IHOP and settling into the retirement home's guest room.  Christmas Eve will be lunch with my sister and her husband, and presents after dinner per our family tradition.  Christmas Day will be meals at the retirement home since restaurants aren't open (sometimes we go back to IHOP, the only one that is open) and spending time with Mom.  The day after Christmas will probably start painfully early with a drive back home.  And the day after that we'll both be back at work...

When I was offered this job, I was a bit reluctant.  I actually had nearly two month's severance paychecks that got cut off when I accepted this job.  I told them I wanted a few days to think about it.  I questioned their time off policy, because going up to Georgia a few times a year is very, very important to me, and was told that my paid time off amount would be nearly what I had had at my previous job.

Now they are telling me that they made a mistake, and that's not the policy I fall under.  The difference is pretty major, the paid time off is about half what I was expecting.  I went to the HR manager and after investigating she told me that they are really sorry, but it can't be changed. I went to my boss, and he said he'd look into it.  I have a meeting with him tomorrow, and have a pretty strong feeling I know what he's going to say.

I hate stuff like this.  I don't want to get screwed, but I don't want to get all litigious or anything either.  They attached a detailed description of the time off plan with my emailed offer letter, and my friend in HR tells me that counts as "getting it in writing".  My supportive husband has said that he is fine with whatever decision I make, whether I just wuss out and pretend it's not a big deal or I quit on the spot and walk out.

My boss is an extremely direct, brief, concise person who walks fast and will typically answer a meeting request within 1.5 minutes.  I've only sent him emails twice, and he answered those immediately too.  (He has an iPhone that he checks constantly.)  I have to admit I am curious about what he would do if I, the technical, geeky, very quiet 46-year old woman who he seems to make an effort to be nice to (I always have time for you! What can I do to help you? What do you need? even as he also asks: How do you spell your first name?), just got in his face and declared anything other than honoring what I was promised would be UNACCEPTABLE and he must FIX IT now or I would MARCH OUT.

The problem is, there's at least a 30% chance he would stand up and yell right back at me, at which time I would completely crumble and start sobbing.  Hmmm.

Anyway.  Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Abandoned

Continuing to look around on tumblr I have found a blog called Abandoned Porn.  It's basically beautiful photographs of abandoned places, which look completely poignant and heartbreaking.

Maybe it's the blue mountains off in the distance, but this one really reminds me strongly of the Blue Ridge Mountains where I grew up.  I'm fascinated by it, I can't stop looking at it.  That is the kind of house that was built by hand.  People lived their lives there, were born there, had loving moments and heartbreak there.  Now, even the trees taking it over look dead.



I'm back to myself again, though, which is nice.  I like myself, at least most of the time.  I'm getting together digital photos to take to Mom to put on her digital photo frame, buying Christmas gifts, mailing Christmas cards, burning Yankee Candle tarts that smell like Christmas trees.

Oh, and our dishwasher died, we will have to buy a new one, like now.  I'm not stressy about it, though.  I hated that old crappy dishwasher and look forward to a new one that hopefully works much better and with significantly less volume and overall crapitude than the broken one.

Maybe after it's replaced we can toss the old one in a parking lot and someone will take a poignant photo of it.



Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Bloody

I always said that those poor people who got all upset over a birthday were just in an unhappy place in their lives.  Nearly 30 and unmarried or childless or unemployed or whatever, nearly 40 and unhappily married or underemployed or filing for bankruptcy or whatever.  Whatever it is that they think they should have by that age and they don't so they freak out and get resentful and unhappy about having a birthday.

But holy shit, here I am about to turn 47 and for the first time in my life my period was really, really weird and I think it may possibly be the very early beginnings of menopause and I tell you what, I am FREAKING OUT.

I have a confession to make:  I kind of love having my period.  I don't love the pain (or the menstrual migraines, obviously) but I like how it makes me feel very introspective, and creative, and it kind of forces me to slow down and maybe take a day off work if I need to, and evaluate.  If there is any bullshit going on in my life it becomes very clear during my period.

Back in my late 20s I went through a hippie phase, for real, and I made my own menstrual pads out of unbleached cotton, and washed them and used the water on my plants.

Well, I did that for a couple of months, before I realized how kind of stupid that is, because it's just stinky and doesn't actually help the plants.  Even if you disregard the idea that soaking used cotton homemade menstrual pads in water is kind of gross, which it sort of is, but I was all about the loving my body and being natural and yadda yadda.  Even still, it did not seem to bring any benefit to the plants and was definitely unpleasant, so screw it.

I do not still make or use cotton menstrual pads, but I do try to find products that are not unhealthy to me or the environment, and I love my Instead softcups, which are kind of like a disposable Diva cup.

I pay attention to my body, or at least I try to.  I like my body, give or take a few aesthetic changes I might desire, and I like to know what's going on.  This month it seemed like I ovulated for way longer than normal, but signs of ovulation can be misinterpreted, so who knows.  But then my period was a little more than a week late, and it was a week of unprecedented hormonal distress.  I felt violently angry, extremely tired, emotional to the point of tears for no reason whatsoever, and just generally really unhappy every minute of every day.  The weirdest part was that I didn't feel like myself.  You know, plus a lot of crampy pain.

If that is what menopause is going to actually be like, just kill me now.  I am pretty sure my husband, who tried so hard to be nice to me, would agree.

My period finally started on Monday, and I am just now starting to feel a little bit back to myself again. I hope.  I really have no idea if that was in any way menopause-related or if I was just panicking, but I have to admit, it was kind of terrifying.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

*High five*

Some days at work I am in the building where my official cubicle/desk is, with the team of people who are quiet and geeky, who walk past me in the morning looking at the floor and not saying Good Morning.  And some of them look a little surprised if I manage to say Good Morning to them as they go by.

It seems like most of the people who are in that part of the building are quiet and geeky.  The IT people, the Voice Services people, the contractors from an outside technical company.  Most of them are men, and many of them are Indian, all of them walk around tapping on their phones without looking up.  The ones who aren't actually carrying around open laptops, anyway.

One day I walked through the parking lot and arrived at the door just ahead of an Indian guy.  I beeped my card and the door unlocked and I opened it for him, standing behind it.  He looked kind of stricken, and stood there in front of the doorway trying to persuade me to let him hold it for me.  I smiled at him in my impersonation of a friendly office worker, and tried to make a little joke:  "I can be a gentlemen." He finally went through the door, looking so sad I ended up feeling bad about it.

Some days I work in the building where the call centers are.  The main call center I work with is a fairly high pressure sales environment, with incoming calls that are all identical, so every single call is the same spiel, and the vast majority don't buy.  They are expected to maintain a 6% sales average, which means 94% of the callers don't buy from them.  That's depressing.  They get an hourly wage, but they also get commission, and everyone is very focused on sales.  They have upbeat music coming from dozens of built-in speakers in the ceiling, and the supervisors and the managers walk around yelling (yelling) COME ON PEOPLE, TODAY IS A GOOD DAY, LET'S MAKE IT HAPPEN, LET'S BRING IN THOSE SALES, WE CAN DO IT!  *clapclapclapclapclapclap*  WE CAN DO IT!  They have smaller incentives that vary by day: make three sales today and get an extra $50, sell a particular destination and get $25 per sale; and bigger incentives, like every sale during a quarter is one entry into the drawing, and the prize is a car.  (A nice car, too.)

I kind of like it there, although it is really hard to focus on figuring out how to solve a problem or put together a complicated spreadsheet.  People smile at me, and say Good morning or Happy Friday.  Probably a dozen people have come up to me and just introduced themselves, shaking my hand and looking into my eyes.  If I stay over there for a whole day, I am almost guaranteed at least one spontaneous and sincere high five.

I kind of like the high fives.

The other call center I worked in today for the first time.  It is people making outbound calls, which is much, much more difficult.  They have dozens and dozens of calls every day, and if they are doing good they make one or two sales.  They get hung up on a lot, even though these people are actually customers of my company who have expressed interest in hearing about a timeshare.

So this call center is even more focused on being energetic and positive.  At the beginning of the day, they have a 5-minute motivational speech given by someone who stands up on a desk at the front of the room and leads everyone in a pep rally that involves a lot of yelling, hooting and clapping.  Everything is positive, everyone is smiling, everyone is talking about what a great job people are doing. The music is extremely high-energy dance music, and it's extremely loud.

I was looking forward to the energy, but it wore me down after a couple of hours.  I waited until today to spend time there because today I had a lot of fairly mindless data-entry type stuff to do, but even still it was so hard to concentrate.

These people are even more outgoing and friendly.  One guy who had a smile that reminded me of Arsenio Hall came up our of nowhere and asked me to help him with an Excel spreadsheet (I think my laptop made him assume I was IT).  Another person just randomly handed me a chocolate candy, and multiple people introduced themselves and shook my hand.

I'm kind of fascinated by the different personality types in the sales departments vs the technical departments.  I know which one I'm more likely to fit in with, but I also know which one I have more fun in.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Breaking

I saw a post on Twitter referencing people wanting to secede from the United States, so that's it.  I am officially on a news break.  And for me, being on a news break means not listening to NPR in the car and not reading news stories online. Good bye!  If we go over that fiscal cliff I am sure someone will notify me.

*Warning: Breaking Bad spoilers possible*

I've been looking around on Tumblr lately, and though I still haven't really gotten the hang of it, I have found a lot of Tumblr pages that are fascinating.  With any kind of social website, your own experience depends solely on the others you choose to interact with; for example, though I saw a lot of posts where my Facebook friends wrung their hands over the vitriol they saw on their feeds,  but on my own newsfeed I saw very little and can assume those people didn't choose their FB friends carefully enough.  Having said that, my overall feeling about Tumblr is that it attracts a lot of arty, geeky, poetic types. Which I like.

One of my favorite things on Tumblr so far is the Breaking Bad fan art page.  WIN.  Link:  Breaking Bad fan art.

A few good examples:

Digital fine art

Graphic art


Legos!



Handmade Heisenberg doll


I need to print this one out and put it up on my desk at work



A lot of the artwork features this quote


I would totally wear these



Even Halloween costumes!




It's interesting to see what people were inspired by. A lot of the art is about Heisenberg. He is the one who knocks.  Don't all of us kind of want to be the one who knocks?  I think the transition between Mr. White and Heisenberg is something we fear, or maybe hope, is deep within all of us. I think the idea that we could be the one who knocks, but only sometimes, is the trap.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

GOBAMA

I had a meeting with my boss today.  This is my hands-off, non-bossy boss.  The one for whom I've worked for 3 months now with exactly 3 meetings, 0 emails and 0 phone calls.

I like working independently, I really do.  I do also have a tendency to think the worst. I am not exaggerating when I say that when I tried to imagine how this meeting might go today I teared up slightly, thinking about how I would feel if I got fired.

Did I mention I was the one who called this meeting?  Anyway.  Not only did I not get fired, but my boss praised my performance so far and talked about the possibility of my taking on a larger role within the company.

Whew!

We also chatted about the election, and he said that he couldn't vote: He's Canadian.  What?  Those Canadians are positively indistinguishable from regular people; I had no idea.  I told him I voted already, and he seemed to be curious, so I told him: I am a Democrat, I said, a liberal, and - after a slight hesitation - an atheist.

Me, too, he said.  Right down the line, check check check, he said.  What?  I work for a Canadian democratic liberal atheist?  Wow.

He's thinking of becoming an American citizen, just so he can vote.  He spent a few minutes ranting about how Obama's health care plan is not socialism, and how Obama is sure to win 300+ electoral college votes even if he doesn't win the popular vote (ha). I'm not sure it's really a good idea to rant about politics in an office setting.  Or maybe it is okay, but only when they agree with me.

I feel more comfortable and more encouraged at work now.  So that's good.  Now if only my chosen candidate (aka, the right candidate) wins tonight, it'll be a great day all around.

Obama has seemed so much more like a regular person than other politicians. When I found out he was a Mac guy, my opinion of him went up a notch. When I found out he'd read all the Harry Potter books, up another notch. Weirdly, when I found out he was a smoker, he seemed all the more human, not like someone who had been raised from birth to rule America, and went up another notch.  But the thing that really got me was when I found out that he was a member of a book co-op in Chicago.  I had never even known such a thing existed before: a co-op,  for books!  Wow, what life must be like in the big cities, I tell you.  But what does it say that Barack Obama was a member of a book co-op?

Well, I love him for that, I really do.  I voted for him, and I will feel genuine joy and hope for the future of our country when he wins tonight.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Red Wine > Steamed Broccoli

It's our Halloween tradition to watch a classic horror movie on Halloween night, and this year we watched Nightmare on Elm Street.  I had never seen it, and Greg hadn't seen it since the video store era (aka, somewhere in the 90s).

Johnny Depp was in it.  It took me the first half hour of the movie to figure out why he looked so different, but I finally placed it: ungroomed eyebrows.  He was 21 when NoES (as it's colloquially referred to in the horror community) was filmed, but looked about 14.  Now you've heard about the high points and don't need to actually watch the movie.

I'm kidding.  It does have an interesting plot; the idea of dreams being able to physically harm you is fascinating and genuinely terrifying. It's a pretty typical 80s horror movie with cheesy lines and bad acting, which I am given to understand is a selling point.

We don't have a lot of Halloween traditions, since we don't have kids and we don't live in a neighborhood that gets trick-or-treaters, so we do kind of look forward to our annual scary movie night.  We had popcorn with butter, which was a real treat.

We've been counting calories eaten/burned by using the Lose It app, and so far I've lost about 15 pounds and Greg has lost about 20.  I actually had to go shopping yesterday to buy new pants to wear to work, even my "skinny" pants are getting kind of baggy.  The good side of losing a little weight: new pants. The bad side: I also need to get new bras.

One cool thing about the Lose It app is that it adjusts the daily calorie goal as I lose weight. I'm now down to 1,302 calories per day, which is pretty restrictive.  Well, it restricts stuff I want to eat, like bread and potato chips and red wine, I can eat pounds of steamed broccoli.  I do not wish to eat pounds of steamed broccoli, though.  I do have fresh strawberries and a baggie of baby carrots and low-fat yogurt ready to take to work with me tomorrow for lunch, which isn't bad.  Greg and I try to eat stuff we like, too, just less of it. We have beef stew cooking in the crockpot right now.

Of course, we are now entering the time of year that is the very worst for trying to count calories. I may go without eating for one entire day if it means I can have some eggnog.  Priorities, you know?

Speaking of Johnny Depp, how much does Adam Ant look like him in this photo?

Mr. Ant

Adam Ant's birthday was yesterday and he turned 58.  He looks great, as he always did.  I think the thing that scared me the most about the few pictures I saw of him during his highly medicated time was how boring he looked. Adam Ant not wearing something creative/strange/punky/weird is kind of unthinkable. He's now back touring the UK, his US tour having gone amazingly well with positive reviews and sold-out shows, and at his concert last night the audience sang Happy Birthday to him.




Saturday, November 3, 2012

Life of a Kitty

I often genuinely wish I could spend a few hours every single day just lying in a sunbeam.

Alabama

Sunday, October 28, 2012

1987, Probably



I was in a photography class in college, and we all had to go outside and practice on each other.

It was a black and white assignment, but color would have been wasted on a photo of me in college. My skin was pale white and my hair was nearly black and I almost always wore black clothes.  This was actually a dark purple sweater, one of the few colors I felt comfortable in.

I bought the rosaries and the black link chain from a big flea market in Roanoke, and the little gold lock I stole from my parents; it went with a suitcase.  I sometimes wore the little key on a hoop earring.  Sometimes I would wear the black chain as a bracelet, wrapped half a dozen times around my wrist.

I remember haggling with the woman who sold me the piece of chain.  That's what you were supposed to do in flea markets, and since I spent so much time there, I learned how, even though it made me uncomfortable to go back and forth with people.  But I didn't have much money to spend. She was selling in the parking lot where people could set up tables for free, like a yard sale.  People had to pay to get an actual booth inside the building.  We were haggling over a few cents, she wasn't even asking a dollar for the chain, and I remember looking at her holding it and seeing that she'd had some kind of cut across the bottom of her hand under her thumb. It looked strange, like the sides of the cut hadn't healed together, and she had sharp looking scars. I realized I was a perfectly healthy college student with insurance and parents to take care of me, and she hadn't been able to get adequate medical care to heal herself. I shut up and gave her the original price for the chain.

I can't see any in this photo, but I usually had on a lot of bracelets, too, including black leather wristbands. I had a few strips of antique black lace that I'd sewed snaps on and wore around my wrist.  I clearly remember getting a huge kick out of coming home and taking off pounds of jewelry, dumping it in a big pile on my dresser.  Those metal link chains are heavy.

I'm almost five feet one inch tall, and I'm sure I weighed less than 110 pounds here.  I thought I was embarrassingly overweight. I never wore shirts tucked in because I thought it emphasized my fat stomach.  I remember hating this picture because I thought the fabric stretching across my thighs looked awful.

I wish I had more pictures of myself back then.

That fake leather jacket had triangle-shaped panels on the front that eventually got covered with buttons: Adam and the Ants, Prince, the Dead Kennedys, the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Fear, an anarchy symbol, Punk's Not Dead.

Something about the way I felt back then is similar to what I'm feeling now. Creative but fearful, sensitive and sad, excited but hopeless, I'm still trying to figure out what it is exactly.  Or what I'm supposed to do.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

I don't know.

Maybe it's letdown from the fabulous concert experience, maybe it's that work has been wearing on me,  maybe it's PMS, maybe it's that I miss my Mom and wish I could go visit, maybe it's the shorter daylight hours, maybe it's a combination of all of the above, but lately I have just felt so blah.

I miss the days when I was, essentially, being paid to stay home.  What is with those people who get "bored" at home, and take a job just purely to "keep busy"?  I knew some people like that at my former call center job.  After I got laid off, I got up at 6:30am every day with Greg, did my little 12-minute workout, answered emails, cleaned, took free classes at the Apple store and the library and the local employment office, took my laptop to the mall or the library to write, worked on projects (like making a printed book of all the photos from our honeymoon), took photos or video of the kitten, went for long walks in the park, cooked dinner. I loved it, and I was so busy -- I literally never turned the tv on or picked up a book all day, and was constantly busy.  With life.

But now I have to go to work all day, so I can't get anything real done.  When I get home, I just feel so tired. I don't want to do the dishes, I don't want to clean anything, and I can't even find energy to write a blog entry or return an email.  And so everything gets dirtier, and emails pile up, and then it just seems like such an insurmountable chore.

I have wanted to research our family tree and make a book for Mom, but when I was unemployed and getting severance I felt like spending $77 for a 6-month subscription to the Ancestry site was too much, I didn't know when or if I'd find a job.  Day before last I finally forced myself to sign up, and it is really fascinating to see the census from 1910, with my father's parents and before my father was born, and then see the one from 1950 which listed him as being 4 1/2 years old.  Still, it's practically November, and I had hoped to have something for Mom for Christmas, and I don't know if that'll happen.

Whenever I do talk myself into doing something on my giant list of obligations, it doesn't even really make me feel better to cross it off, it seems like it just leads to something bigger.

Well, I'm a bummer.

To end on a lighter note (and an Ant note) I do seriously love the internet.  Though I don't post there often, I have been a member of the forum on Adam Ant's website for years, and I posted about going to the concert here in Orlando, and included a few pics.  Hilariously, a total stranger (and fellow forum user) recognized me from my pics and realized that they had taken a pic of Greg taking a pic of me in front of the Hard Rock!

A forum member taking a pic of
some lady taking a pic of some guy, and
Greg taking a pic of me.  It's meta.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Commitment of Being Passionate

I am old.  I know because when I went to the ladies room at the Hard Rock Live, the attendant saw me looking at myself in the full-length mirror, messing with my hair and adjusting my clothes, and she said, "You look young."

I am also still a teenager. I have literally not taken off my black Adam Ant rubber wristband since I bought it at the concert. I flip it inside out at work so you can't see the part that says Antmusic for Sexpeople.

I have worn the bandana on my head like a kerchief, on my head like a hairband, around my neck like a scarf, around my neck like a choker, and for the first week or so I slept with it on my nightstand so it would be right next to me.  Also: apparently Adam Ant smells really good.  I thought maybe it smelled of cologne or something, but it wasn't really that chemical-y a smell.  I made Greg smell it and he identified it as scented body wash, which is exactly it, I think.  Clean, but not soapy; scent-y but not perfumey.  I did genuinely consider keeping it sealed in a plastic bag to preserve the wonderful smell.  I ended up deciding that touching it was more important than smelling it.  After three weeks, the smell is gone.

If I could go back in time and tell my seventeen year old self about all this, she would be embarrassed by the push-up bra, overjoyed at the idea of the front row seat, amazed at the thought of Adam playing his 1977 punk songs in 2012, and completely bewildered by my decision not to quit my job so I could go see every single show on the American tour.  Or at least, at least the ones on the East coast.

I am really considering an Ant-related tattoo.  I googled Adam Ant tattoos and found quite a few of his face, which is not a thing I would ever get (fond as I am of his face).  There were a lot of his Antwarrior logo, which is just perfect for tattooing, but not for me.

There were several people who got his signature tattooed on them, and and a lot of copies of his Pure Sex tattoo.  (As a person who is me, I absolutely adore the idea of the type of person who gets a tattoo that says Pure Sex and their own name. I mean it. )

His tattoo is a heart with a dagger through it, the banner
on the left says Pure, the one on the right says Sex, and
above the tip of the dagger it says Adam

In googling, I found a number of interesting pictures, including this one of James Franco, who did an Adam Ant inspired photo shoot for GQ Style.  Who knew?

Photo by Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vonoodh Matadi

It is entirely possible that one day I will write a blog entry about something else, and what a fine day that will be, whenever it comes.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Joy. Part II



Part I is here.

Then finally the lights went down, and the opening bars of Plastic Surgery started slowly, and Adam walked out, facing away from the audience while singing the first few lines.  


Oooooh


Then when the chorus kicked in he turned around and was right in front of me, performing right in front of me.  

Greg got some pretty good pics with his iPhone

"I've got a fetish for black
A fetish for green
A fetish for those arty magazines
I've got a fetish for blondes
A fetish for blondes
A fetish for blondes
A fetish for brown haired girls
I've got a fetish and that means I'm sick
So very sick
Any more for the Christian D'or?"
~Christian D'or

So many of the really punky songs, from before he was famous, from before the MTV Goody Two Shoes era, so many b-sides and album cuts.  Songs that I've never heard him do live before. Even singing alternate lyrics that I'd only previously heard on bootleg recordings of his pre-fame concerts.

"You gave me punishment, it lasted an hour
It made marks on my skin
I'm just a bundle of misery, girl
Since you kicked my cheekbones in
There's a whip in my valise, oh yeah
Who taught you to torture?"
~Whip In My Valise


I didn't take any pics, I was
too busy enjoying
But he also did a lot of hits (not all of them, he had quite a few, especially in England), and plenty of songs that everyone (it seemed) in the audience was singing along with.

Especially Antmusic.

"Well I'm standing here
what do I see?
a big nothing threatening me
it's so sad when you're young
to be told you're having fun
So unplug the jukebox
And do us all a favour
That music's lost its taste
So try another flavour
Antmusic!"
~Antmusic

And Kings of the Wild Frontier, which is still ringing in Greg's head a week later.

"No method in our madness 
Just pride about our manner
Antpeople are the warriors
Antmusic is the banner!

A new Royal Family, a wild nobility
we are the family"
~Kings of the Wild Frontier


See the bandana on his hip?
And I was so very happy, dancing in front of the stage, singing along with every single word of every single song. Adam looked fantastic, and believe me when I say that he wears 57 better than any man ever has before. He was energetic, dancing all around the stage, and looked as though he was enjoying the hell out of it. He sounded great, and his rocked-up versions of Desperate But Not Serious and Prince Charming were surprising and SO good. He did one song from his upcoming new album, and even though the song is currently unreleased, I knew a lot of the words just from watching YouTube videos of him performing it live.

"10:36 and I hope I've made
The right decision (nononononono)
Ninety eight point four's the bore
With twenty twenty vision (nononononono)
You want a thrill so you come and see me
A cheap line in fantasy
I'm still searching for the
Ants invasion
If I'd the courage
I would make my way home
Too many antics in the forbidden zone"
~Ants Invasion


Rock!

I've always kind of thought of myself as the perfect audience, I love to see people perform whether just in a casual conversation where they are holding court or on an actual stage, and being quiet and shy I don't want any of the attention and am happy to direct my full focus on the performer.  On this night I was probably the best audience anyone has ever been in the history of people, I am sure I looked happy, and thrilled, I was dancing with complete joy, and what songwriter doesn't love a person who has memorized every single lyric they've ever written?  As far as I was concerned, he was performing just for me. He was right in front of me, after all.

"I live the life that I've been left
I leave most things unspoken
But deep inside Geronimo
Is tearing me apart
Now's the time I must digress
From going through the motions
Take my head out of its sling
Free the warrior"
~Killer In The Home


The band and the backup singer were really good

He came out in a jacket, a white shirt, and a t-shirt, with various scarves and belts and straps and things.  At one point he took off the jacket, then later took off the shirt.  He pulled off a bandana tied to his hip and performed with it, wrapping it around his fist, around his neck, tying it around the microphone during Whip In My Valise and sexily pulling it tight.

Then he held it out, and the audience screamed and reached toward the stage with outstretched hands.  I was just dancing, and when he threw it in my direction I made a weak grab at it, but missed.

Greg caught it.  Greg told me later that Adam looked right at me, but I didn't see it, then Adam looked at Greg, Greg nodded to him, Adam balled up the bandana and tossed it directly into his hands.

I missed the whole thing, but I got the bandana.  I wrapped it around my hand and kept dancing.  It kills me now to think of it; clearly Adam Ant wanted me to have it. Is it safe to say he saw me loving his music and his performance, and wanted me to have it? I think it is.

That's my bandana wrapped around my hand

Adam performed twenty-two songs plus five more during the encore, he was onstage for nearly two hours. Being me, I had done a ton of research about his recent set lists, and actually had the whole list on a notecard in my purse. (Full disclosure - I also burned the whole set list onto a CD and made Greg listen to it nearly every day for a couple of weeks before the show.  You know, to prepare.)


Dancing

So when I heard the beginning of Physical I knew it was almost over. It's one of my favorite Ant songs, and he really rocked it.  Then he unceremoniously put down his guitar and walked offstage, just like he always did at the end.

One of the women I'd met before the show ran over and hugged me, telling me how glad she was that I got the bandana. Two other people from the audience told me I deserved it, since I "knew all the words".  (Good grief, I thought, could they hear me singing?)

And that was it. I wanted to sit down again, and Greg sat with me until the security people starting shooing stragglers out.

It was completely indescribable. He was brilliant, and I feel inspired and energized; I still feel it strongly a week later. It was such an intense, joyful, meaningful experience for me, I feel transformed.

Thanks, Adam.



Setlist:
Plastic Surgery 
Dog Eat Dog 
Beat My Guest
Kick!
Cartrouble (part 2)
Ants Invasion
Deutscher Girls
Stand and Deliver
Kings of the Wild Frontier
Wonderful
Whip In My Valise
Vince Taylor
Strip
Desperate But Not Serious
Cleopatra
Never Trust A Man
Zerox
Antmusic
Goody Two Shoes
Vive Le Rock
Christian D'or
Lady/Fall In

Encore:
Fat Fun
Red Scab
Get It On
Prince Charming
Physical

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Joy. Part I



My concert

It was always such a big deal to get dressed for an Adam Ant concert, not only because I was young and had a closetful of size 4 vintage clothes (largely black, some Victorian, one with actual gorilla fur trim) but also because it was part of the Antperson creed.  

"Fun to go to the A.N.T.S.
Put on a kilt, dye your hair green
And dance to Zerox Machine"
~A.N.T.S.


I have to admit, as a 46-year old woman who is now a size 14, I do not have a closetful of cool clothes anymore.  I have a closetful of clothes that were good enough for me to end the ordeal of shopping and go home. That would not be adequate for the front row of an Adam Ant concert.

"They believed in sex and looking good
With their own brand of music
They weren't pandering
So which side of the fence
Are you on?"
~Magnificent Five

Encouraged by losing twelve pounds over the past three months, I decided the main thing to wear to the concert would be cleavage.  I have never in my life bought a push-up bra, but am now the proud owner of a red Frederick's of Hollywood bra that comes with its own boobs pre-installed (so mine have no choice but to be pushed on top).

"Don't you ever, don't you ever
Stop being dandy
Showing me you're handsome
Prince Charming, Prince Charming
Ridicule is nothing to be scared of"
~Prince Charming

I then shopped for a sexy black lace top and a short fitted black skirt, and happily discovered that I am now a size 12.  

"I'm the dandy highwayman who you're too scared to mention
I spend my cash on looking flash and grabbing your attention!
The devil take your stereo and your record collection
The way you look you'll qualify for next year's old age pension.
Stand and deliver 
Your money or your life
Try and use a mirror
No bullet or a knife"
~Stand and Deliver

Greg was somewhat surprised that I planned to spend the entire day getting ready for the concert, but seemed to get the idea when I spent hours trying on multiple combinations of stockings, tights, boots, camisoles, and jewelry, all the while playing Adam Ant videos and working on my hair and makeup. 
Antperson, wearing Death Eater
black leather wristbands,
push-up bra and Vivienne Westwood
day of the dead sugar skull necklace
Husband of antperson, wearing punk
Buzzcocks t-shirt, guyliner
and "ready to rock" face

"We don't follow fashion

That would be a joke
You know we're gonna set them, set them
So everyone can take note, take note"
~Goody Two Shoes


Finally it was time to go.  We arrived 30 minutes before the doors opened at 7:00pm, which gave us enough time to pick up our tickets

FRONT ROW CENTER



admire the view

The view!
and chat with other Antpeople who were already in line.  There were a lot of people wearing Ant-style white stripes, pirate gear, and Adam and the Ants concert t-shirts from the 80s.


Antperson and husband at Citywalk
When the doors opened, I immediately went for our seats, which were, as promised, FRONT ROW CENTER. 

Greg and I sat there surrounded by empty seats, looking at the dark empty stage, and I quietly relived every single feeling that I had ever had about Adam Ant and his music: when I was a lonely quiet girl spending hours and hours loving his music alone in my room, finding what felt like a family of kindred spirits attached to this beautiful man and his brilliant music, when that turned into finding Antpeople pen-pal friends, the long bus rides and car trips to meet them and to see Adam Ant perform in concert, the teenager who had lost the light and turned into darkness and cutting but went on a previously-planned Adam and the Ants concert anyway just out of remembered loyalty and came out of it completely overwhelmed with such joy that it brought back the light, when I learned how to run out of the concert with the opening bars of the last encore and follow Adam's tour bus back to his hotel, when I actually saw him in the hotel lobby in Atlanta, and then met him and got to shake his hand and touch his tattoo with a quivering index finger in a hotel room in Washington DC, when I got to meet him again in a hotel bar in Norfolk and ask him questions and get his autograph on my tour program, when I met Marco Pirroni and Jordan, and then when his career seemed to end and his mental illness seemed to take over, and there was no public word of him at all, for so long, and when he began appearing in public again and began doing concerts and talking about a new album, and it just seemed like it might be a bad thing, YouTube videos of him forgetting lyrics and it was just so upsetting, but then he kept playing concerts and got better and soon all the crappy iPhone YouTube videos of him in concert were driving me crazy, because he looked and sounded great and he was touring the UK and Europe and Australia, but would he ever come to America?

"He who writes in blood
Doesn't want to be read
He must be learned by heart"

~Magnificent Five

And there I was, sitting in my seat, looking at a stage about four feet high - no barrier between me and the stage - just literally a few feet from me.  Right there, he would be right there.


So then we went and got in line at the merchandise tables and bought two t-shirts, a tour program, and two wristbands.  Greg went to the restroom to put on his new Adam Ant t-shirt, and I just sat, dazed, looking at the empty stage and tearing up, just a little.

Ant vandalism at the Hard Rock

The opening act, Brothers of Brazil, were actually quite good, but I was far too distracted to really enjoy them.  When they left the stage and the roadies started clearing off their instruments and bringing out the rest of Adam's stuff, I started getting such butterflies in my stomach that I felt slightly nauseous. I was shaking a little. Greg went back to the merchandise tables for a third t-shirt.

Antperson and husband
wearing Antshirt

A roadie came out and taped the setlist to the floor, Greg took a pic of it with his iPhone.  When he showed it to the people sitting behind us, they were disappointed that they weren't familiar with more of the songs.  (I secretly got a kick out of that. Seriously, this was a surprising setlist packed with non-hits, custom-made for a punk like me.)
Awesome setlist, not including
the five encore songs

"Music for a future age
Don't be square, be there
All good clean fun
(Whatever that means)
Antmusic for Sexpeople
Sexmusic for Antpeople
Get off your knees
And hear the insect prayer"

~Don't Be Square (Be There)

Antperson in position, waiting

Part II is here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Instructions

Me: I don't want to sound selfish, and you know I have never asked anything like this before, but seriously: This is a miracle, something I was positive would never happen, and it just has to be all about ME.

Greg: I know, sweetie.

Me: Remember me telling you how Adam Ant would never tour again? With his mental illness and all that? I just can't believe it's happening. He's almost 60!

Greg: I remember.

Me: Even if I decide I need to do something that seems strange, like run in the second the doors open and then just sit and stare at the empty stage for an hour, you'll support me and do whatever I want. Okay?

Greg: Okay.

Me: And if I have to weep for a while, what will you do?

Greg: I will put my arm around you and let you cry.

Me: And if I have to weep for a while again later?

Greg: Same.

Me: And you won't get weirded out by my weeping?

Greg: I love your weirdness.  Do I need to put tissues in my pocket?

Me: No, I'm taking a small purse.

Greg: Got it.

Me: I mean, he's doing mostly old punky songs!  The ones nobody's ever heard of, the b-sides and the ones from Jubilee. I seriously can't even believe it.

Greg: I know, I'm excited too, I really like those songs.

Me: (tearing up) I know you do, and it just means so much to me to have you there with me and to share it with you.

Greg: It means a lot to me too.

Me: This part is very important, okay?  I don't know what it will be like, if our seats will be up against a barrier, or if we can go right up to the edge of the stage, or if most people will stay in their seats or what.

Greg: Sweetie, we have front row center.

Me: I know, but what if there's a space in front of the seats and people go in front of us? We can't let that happen!  I will be right up against either the stage or the barrier, in the very center, right in front of Adam, regardless. Okay?

Greg: Okay.

Me: And you will be right behind me, and you'll brace your arms on either side of me if people are pushing and shoving. Right?

Greg: Right.

Me: And if there are short people right behind you who might have trouble seeing, do we care?

Greg: No, this is your day and you are the only one who matters.

Me: That is correct.  And if the concert t-shirts are horribly expensive and overpriced?

Greg: We'll buy two, one for you and one for me.

Me: (tearing up)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Working Woman

Work is moving along workily.  After a month and a half, I am still trying to get the actual program set up correctly, but it is finally looking like implementation is imminent.  While I kind of enjoyed the challenge and the independence and the decision-making and people listening to my expertise, now it's starting to wear on me and I have to keep telling myself that I don't have to do everything.

We've decided that to make things more efficient all the agents have to either be flexible with their schedules by 2 hours (meaning their start times could vary by up to 2 hours week to week) or come up with a really good reason why not. But it's me telling the director this, then the director tells the managers, the managers tell their supervisors, and the supervisors tell their agents. I am completely positive that there are agents who really don't understand what's about to happen, and since they were hired to work a set schedule, I have every sympathy for them.

Still.  Reassuring them/helping them understand is not my job. If there are a bunch of upset people when the first schedules are released, at least I can take comfort in the fact that I am in the other building, and none of them know who I am.

So the first day of agents looking at the new program to see their schedules, and of supervisors and managers looking at the supervisor version, will be Monday, October 1.  Which is my 9th wedding anniversary and a day that I typically take off to spend with my sweetie-pants. And it's also the next workday following the ADAM ANT concert.  It's also the day after my mother's 91st birthday. This is not great timing, especially if things are getting behind and I'm having trouble.

I'm really hoping I can get all the info loaded into the program and get everything ready to go by mid-week, and then have at least a day or so at the end of the week to review stuff and make sure nothing was missed. I also have to train the director and managers on it, so that they can train the supervisors who will then train the agents. The massively simplified version will be very quick and easy to learn, hopefully just a few minutes. Then the next step will be to get everyone trained on the full version, and roll out all the other things it can do besides just show schedules. That'll take at least a month or more.

I have to wonder if my bosses (ie, the two people I report to) aren't talking about me and wondering what the heck I'm doing and why it's taking me so long. They don't understand the program well enough for me to explain. I assume that when I give them quick overviews of what I'm doing I at least sound knowledgeable, whether or not they have the slightest idea of what I am actually talking about. I assume they trust that I am actually doing stuff.

I do, I must admit, enjoy getting my paychecks.




Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Pride About Our Manner

I am way behind on my apparently ill-advised movie watching goal for the year. To meet the goal I will need to watch 26 movies in the next 3.5 months, approximately. That will not happen.  New goal for 2013: Watch more TV shows!

TV series are arguably an equivalent art form to movies now, with cable channels throwing tons of money and people like Alan Ball at them. I have not had more time for movies because I have been positively enthralled by shows like Downton Abbey, Louie, Homeland, Girls, and now... Oh, now.  Now I am completely and utterly addicted (ha) to Breaking Bad.  Greg and I started watching it on Netflix and got sucked in right away by the amazingly realistic characters and the fascinating plot. We are now up to the middle of season 4, and we literally can't stand to watch anything else. We have Real Time with Bill Mahers and Louies and Daily Shows piling up on the DVR, and they will all just have to wait until there are NO MORE Breaking Bads, because we can't watch anything else.

It's just such an intense, semi-movie-like experience to watch episodes of a series one after the other, instead of waiting a week or months in between. We have so many more we want to see, too.  We haven't seen The Wire or Deadwood or... well, there are plenty to keep us busy.

I have completely fallen in love with my little Kindle, too.  I bought a pink faux leather case on eBay, and I've even taken it to work to read on lunch breaks a few times.  I've been reading a fairly mindless but cheerful and entertaining ebook series about witches.  I saw a review of the one I'm reading now (#3) on Amazon that said the reviewer would not be buying any more of these relentlessly cheerful, unrealistically nice novels. But that's exactly what I am enjoying! I don't know, I'm not in the mood for realism and darkness.  Or maybe I'm getting enough from Mr. White.

Work is going fine. I have literally read the entire manual for the program they hired me to know about, but I had no idea how many changes needed to be made, and I had no idea how far beyond my knowledge and experience this would go. I am liking the challenge, though.  And I have to admit, being basically boss-less and working completely independently is nice for me. I find that if I keep trying I actually CAN figure out things that seem hopeless. This whole job feels oddly temporary, but so far I think I am doing a great job (even though, truly, no one sees it yet at all) and I'm feeling optimistic.

I have wanted to write about how excited I am to go see Adam Ant in concert on the 29th of this month, and it is such an emotional thing for me that I can't find the words. I'll keep trying, but in the meantime I have gotten thrilly butterfly-tummy at least once a day just at the mere idea of it.

I feel beneath the white
There is a red skin suffering
From centuries of taming

No method in our madness
Just pride about our manner
Antpeople are the warriors
Antmusic is the banner

A new Royal Family

a wild nobility
we are the family
~ Kings of the Wild Frontier by Adam Ant and Marco Pirroni


Tell me those drums don't make you want to buy front row center tickets to hear it live, and to DANCE.