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A girl who rose from the ashes...and now is trying to make sense of this complicated world through her writing.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Dirty Thirty

On November 1st, my friend and blogging mentor Jan sent out a blogging throwdown challenge to another friend and me:  30 blogs in 30 days. Unbeknownst to me, November is a big month for writers.  Blogging website BlogHer was hosting their "NaBloPoMo" (National Blog Posting Month) challenge, and apparently a whole lot of writers take the month of November to write a 50,000 word novel.  Who knew?  Now mind you, Jan has already done the decathalon of blogging twice by completing 100 bogs in 100 days.  Thirty in thirty days was chump change to her. To me, however 30 in 30 days was a big deal.  But, my pride was at stake and I had some catching up to do if I was going to meet my previous self-imposed challenge of 52 blogs during the course of 2014.  Challenge accepted.

I started the challenge a day late because her challenge was presented to me late in the day and I had company in from out of town.  So On November 2nd, I wrote two blogs and from that day forward, I wrote a blog a day every day thereafter.  Let me tell you, it was haaaaaaaaaaard. There was more than one day that I whined about it to my fellow throwdown companion.  There was more than one night that I sat with my laptop perched upon my lap, cats softly purring at my side, staring at the blinking cursor on my screen for what felt like hours on end.  And twice, I feel that I "cheated" by writing a 33-word challenge - I simply didn't have the time or the energy to write anything grander than that on those days.

But....but.  I did it, with this entry I have written 30 blogs in 30 days, and I am very excited to have met this challenge!  Not only that, but I actually wrote several pieces that I love.  If I had written at my usual pace of one per week, I would have written four blogs at most - and it is doubtful I would love all four.  But now, I wrote 30, and I think at least five are keepers.  Thus proving the point: the more you write, the better you write. Lesson learned.

As for the clunkers I churned out, I simply offer a sincere apology to my faithful readers.  I know that I clogged up my Facebook feed with daily blog posts and nothing more...who has time to write clever status updates when you have blogging assignments to complete?  I promise I will get back to my old, sassy self starting tomorrow.  In fact, I will start thinking of something hilarious to post right away.

But in case you missed them, or you are wondering what my favorites are from the last month, here they are in no particular order:
1. A Single Girl's Guide to Not Finding Love
2. Fiddlesticks
3. A Healing Hug
4. Rocking Chairs and Gold
5. I Am Running for Mayor

Thanks for hanging in there with me for the last month, everyone...and happiest of holidays to you!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Oh Tannembaum

I love seeing the inside of homes, especially once I get to know a person. I think a home is reflective of who the person is.  Are they messy?  Neat? Layered?  Readers? Entertainers?  There is so much you can tell in just a quick walk-through....I guess it really appeals to the nosy side of me.  I love my little home, and per my own assessment, I would have to think it says this about me:  Colorful! Whimsical! Bright! Modest! and Hyper-organized!

As I was trimming the tree today (as in decorating it, not anything involving a power saw), it occurred to me that one's Christmas tree may also reflect the individual to whom it belongs.  There are people who go all out, year after year - new decorations, new theme, new levels of extravagance. There are people who have more than one tree - a tree for every room, even!  And then there are people like me, who delight in having the same old tree, year after year.  I like tradition to include a little of the expected and the ordinary.

So as I reflected on this today, I realized that this is what my Christmas tree says about me:

I like convenience.  My friends and family tease me because I love all things convenient.  And really, if you have the option, why would you not?  I pay someone to mow my lawn - a life-changing decision I made three years ago.  I have my Chinese food delivered to me rather than going out in the elements to get it myself.  So a few years ago, in line with my adoration of convenience, I decided enough with this "real tree" nonsense.  It doesn't suit me.  It's hard to find a good tree, and even a "good tree" can be a "bad tree" once you get it home.  It's too tempting for the cats to use as a scratching post and knock it over (which of course has really happened).  Real trees drop needles everywhere that are still sticking around by the 4th of July.  I broke down after a few years of resistance and got an artificial tree. Three easy clicks and a flip of the switch and voila!  Convenient holiday cheer.  I love it! There is no turning back.

I am a sentimental fool.  Putting up the tree is a walk down memory lane.  I have ornaments from my childhood.  I have ornaments that friends gave me.  But some of my favorite ornaments of all are the ones my mother and grandmother made for me.  I have a set of ceramic holiday mice that are in all kinds of silly holiday situations interspersed throughout my tree.  They warm my heart and remind me of my humble roots.  This one sleeping in the matchbox is my all-time favorite.

I love to travel.  There are a whole bunch of things I like to do in this beautiful life of mine, but traveling is near the top of the list.  I love to travel to a new city and spend four days tearing it apart, finding every tiny little thing that city has to celebrate.  In the past, I used to buy all kinds of things when I would travel.  Over the years, however, I've simplified.  I now typically buy myself just one thing when I travel:  a new Christmas ornament depicting that place.  So now, years later, my tree is filled with all kinds of happy memories.  Each year, it is a delight to remember trips from the past and unwrap the new ornaments I've acquired for the year.  The new ornaments always go front and center on the tree. This year I added Seattle and Multnomah Falls, which is just outside of Portland, Oregon.  Such happy memories!

I am loyal.  I hope this is something the people closest to me know and understand...deeply.  I think loyalty is very important in this complicated world.  In any relationship - family, friends, colleagues - there will be times when the relationship may be tested. Times that are hard or unpleasant where you have to stand by one another.  I am that friend.  I will come see you at the hospital.  I will bring a platter of Jimmy Johns sandwiches when you move.  I will listen to you tell your tales of woe over and over.  And, it turns out, I will still hang you on my tree year after year, even when one of your legs fell off.  (Sorry, Northshore of Lake Superior Santa - you may be an amputee but I still love you.)

I have a sense of humor.  Maybe I don't take life seriously enough, but really - if you are not laughing, what is the point?  I don't get being anything other than happy, if I can help it.  And so, I try to add a little whimsy to everything I do.  I like to be a little weird.  I like to crack jokes at inappropriate times.  I like to work the room.  It's just who I am.  When it comes to my Christmas tree, I like to think that the Elvis ornament I got in Memphis (one of the most fun trips I ever took with my best friend) really sets the tone.  Love you. Elvis.  And for the record, I could not agree more - we could use a little less conversation and a lot more action.

So all of that being said, Christmas is a time to reflect on all that matters. The life I've built for myself is full.  It has love and laughter and meaning. It's funny how something as simple as an ordinary tree can depict all that, and yet somehow it does.  So from my house to yours...enjoy this wonderful holiday season.  Here is my tree in all its glory:

Friday, November 28, 2014

33 Words of Wonder

He comes to me in my dream, the only place he is allowed to visit.  He saunters in and out as he pleases, and gives me a whisper that leads to a wonder.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Giving Thanks

When people are in a situation where they are asked to list their gratitudes in front of others, the natural tendency is to focus on the big things:  their health, their job, their family, their friends.  And while that is all well and good, I believe it is also important to focus on the tiniest things in life that bring us joy. Joy brings more joy, which in turn brings more joy.  It's how we create our contentment, our peace.

So today I am grateful for things like a funny joke made by an amazingly resilient friend.  ("I lost a husband this year and got a dog.  I traded up.") For things like looking through the Black Friday ads and feeling confident there is not a single sale item that I will ever be compelled to go stand in line for at a Black Friday sale.  (I have abundance. I don't need more abundance from Wal-Mart.)  For things like sprawling out on the couch with my family and watching a touching documentary.  (Racing Dreams - you should see it, too.) For things like the first and last bite of my sister's coconut custard pie.  (It's seriously amazing.  Every. Single. Time.)

I love this life of mine.  I really do. Today I am reminded why.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

33 Words of Wisdom

Rain pelting against the glass. Leaves stuck to the pavement.  Melancholy feelings would be effortless to arouse.  Yet, there is a warmth in my heart that supercedes circumstances.  Hello, gratitude, my old friend.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Searching for My Inner Kenny Rogers

I've been told - quite a few times in my life, mind you - that I don't have a poker face.  Truthfully, if someone is annoying me, everyone in the general vicinity will probably know it.  This does not fare well with my position of great responsibility.  It would be best if I could always be the consummate diplomat. It would be ideal if no one ever suspected my feelings of wanting to put hot pennies in my eyes because I am so blasted bothered.  It would be wonderful if I could always be perfectly wonderful. But....I can't.

So I am working hard to dig deep.  I need to work on this, and today I just pointed out to someone else who I love and respect very much that they could stand to work on their poker face, too.  I'm thinking that maybe we could work on it together.  We could hold up pictures of people, places and things that send us reeling and practice not having a reaction.  ("Look - it's a picture of someone eating baby carrots in a meeting - go!")  We could grade one another on our poker face performances and give honest, unrelenting feedback. We could keep working at it until we get it right.

Because right now, truth be told, I feel like my inner Kenny Rogers is buried deep.  I know he's in there, I just have to find him and nurture him and get him to the surface where he can see the light of day. Because Kenny?  Kenny knew what was up for real.

He knew when to hold 'em.

He knew when to fold 'em.

He knew when to walk away.

He knew when to run.

Word on the street is he also didn't count his money when he was sittin' at the table.

So you see, Kenny was one cool cat.  Kenny had it all figure out.  I could stand to be a lot more like him.  I'm going to keep searching for my inner Kenny Rogers until I find him.  I'll let you know when that happens.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Transitions: A New Business Model

Working as a leader in a public sector system - a system that is highly scrutinized, no less - has had its benefits.  One of those benefits is fine tuning some skills that can only come from opportunities made of sweating brows, churned stomachs, wringing hands.  Maintaining good ego strength on days where there is no love to be found?  I've got that covered.  Entering a room filled with an angry mob and turning the energy around?  No problem.  Solving two, three, even four problems with one solution? I'm a master at it.  Smiling on the outside when I feel murderous rage on the inside?  Believe it or not, most days I've got that one tucked away somewhere, too.

The one skill I may have fine tuned the most, however, is that of delivering bad news.  I've thought about this skill quite a lot in the last few days because it's everyone least favorite time of year - contract time. That's right, it's the time of year when agencies in our system learn their fate.  Will their business thrive or die?  Is it their time to shine, or is their day in the sun drawing to a close?  As a department, we have to deliver news to eager executives, and some of it is just no fun to deliver.  But that's business, and if we are making and executing hard decisions, it also means we are being good stewards of the tax payers.  It truly is all in a day's work.

So when you've built a career on the sad misfortune of expressing bad news, it would make sense to build further upon that skill.  Right?  So I present to you, the new business I am developing.  Please know, I invite your feedback for its worthiness and its possible applications.  It is my proud honor to share with you:  Transitions.

Welcome to Transitions.  Transitions is a business model built on doing your dirty work.  No, we aren't a maid service.  We don't come with Haz-Mat suits and we don't do biohazard clean-ups.  Rather, we do your dirty work...of delivering bad news.

Have an under-performing employee who is sadly pathetic but needs to go?  Afraid to fire them because you know they have a slew of hungry children at home?  No problem.  Transitions will compassionately but decisively let them know they need to pack up their desk and move around.  We will stay on-site until they've assuredly left the building.

Need to back out of business with your partner who was also the best man in your first wedding? We've got it covered.  Your professional Transitions Team will pull the sad sack aside and let him know what's what - and we'll even deliver the papers your lawyer drew up for him, too.

Is it time to end that relationship that is literally on its last leg?  With just a quick phone call from you, you can arrange to have the Transitions van pull up to the house, ring the door bell, and let your future ex-girlfriend know "it's not you, it's me (which, in fact, is really you)."  For a small up-charge, we will even stick around to gather up your favorite hoodie, your Fleetwood Mac album, and your iPhone charger.

So there you have it:  Transitions.  "Let somebody else do the talking, while you do the walking."

I think I could really be onto something here.