Monday, March 31, 2008

About participation

So, Indiana being the new Iowa, or maybe Florida (it being spring break, and half the state repairing to Ft. Myers, our ersatz sister city), we settle into being the epicenter of political activity.
We see articles in Newsweek like this one, calling May 6 "The New Super Tuesday."
We see the Democratic candidates opening offices all around the state, even in Ft. Wayne.
We see Chelsea Clinton being asked personal questions at Indiana college campuses.
And best of all, we see political candidates actually visiting our city. There she is, right in the parking lot of Sara's Family and Friends Restaurant in the Village at Coventry shopping center, a place where I myself have eaten pancakes (albeit not the company of politicians).
Perhaps you have remembered I have declared myself a
political tourist, showing extreme willingness to attend functions of any political ilk.
So far, that's meant seeing two Clintons in two weeks, and doing some suffering to see both.
For the former president, it meant standing in line in a light rain for the better part of an hour, then standing in a hot room for another hour and a half.
For his spouse, it meant standing in said parking lot for over an hour in a chilly wind and again, standing up.
In other words: during these functions, I'm either hot, or cold; perhaps damp; always hungry; back aching; having to go to the restroom; and and bored with the waiting. Although not too bored--for I have discovered there is lots of entertainment at political functions. Signage of all kinds, buttons as well; people old and young; media everywhere; a sense of anticipation over all.
But how often do we get to observe politics in action, in Ft. Wayne, Indiana? It's worth the sacrifice.
I'm extremely hopeful that Barak Obama is going to have a big do sometime before May 6; and I'm REALLY hopeful John McCain will come to town, so I can re-establish myself in the eyes of all my conservative friends as an independent voter, for many of them now, I fear, worry for my soul, having attended two Clinton gatherings in two weeks. At least Ron Paul--he hasn't dropped out yet, has he?
Now, answer me this: if you come to the function, walk right by the roped-off area, and go into the Applebee's next door, snagging the corner booth with the windows, from which you have a bird's eye view of the proceedings--can you be said to have "attended the Hillary Clinton rally"? I don't think so, and I told my family members who did just that, that they cannot tell people "I was there," although, of course, they kind of were. But they didn't suffer.
We did ... but we true participants also surely appreciated that table, after Hillary had given her five-minute speech to we hardy souls in the parking lot at Sara's, and then we ran over to Applebee's to warm up, have a beverage, eat some dinner, and watch out the windows as the roundtable continued on the TV above us.
I can only take so much participation, and then I need a mojito.
Well, how about you? Are you participating?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

About I love a rainy night

Jazz on the radio down low but it's raining and I'm driving down I69 trying not to go as fast as the maniacs around me.
The windshield frames an modern Monet in motion before me, rain and night and the long streams of red tail lights and everything blurry, and the windshield wipers and the rain and the passing cars are so loud I can hardly hear the jazz.
Some thunder, too.
I start out thinking about what I have to do at work tomorrow, and end up thinking about the nature of God.
Which isn't such a stretch considering that tomorrow will be my fourteenth anniversary working for a religious company.
And if I thought that such close contact with devout (if occasionally irreverent) people would convert me, I was wrong. If my respect has grown and my knowledge expanded, I still fail miserably as a potential Catholic. Lord, I believe: forgive my unbelief.
I'm a bad Methodist too; I'd be a worse Baptist, a sad Mormon, a recalcitrant Lutheran. A weak Jew, a rebellious Muslim, an unfocused Hindu--that's me.
My religious views are as tenuous as my political ones. I thought a little about those, too, driving home in my warm and dry car, in the dark. God and Hilary Clinton (who's coming to Ft. Wayne tomorrow) and Barak Obama and John McCain and me, drivin' down the interstate on a late March night.
Thinking about God hurt my head, and thinking about politics affected my serenity, and thinking about how long I've worked in the same place made me feel a little old.
But the jazz and the rain and the warmth and the drive, those were all good: for a second there it all came together, and if it didn't make sense, theologically or politically speaking, it didn't matter -- everybody in the car agreed. Just for a moment.
How about you? How do you like the rain?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

About my meetings

We're a meeting kind of company. We love to have meetings. Or we hate it. We must love it: we have so many. There seems to be a tipping point: when we have too many, we hate it.
So there's a planning kind of meeting at 8:15 every morning, and I've been asked to start attending them.
I believe I have shared what kind of person I am: not a morning person, nor a night owl, but a "couple of good hours around lunch" type.
Definitely, not morning. That first hour at work, pretty shaky. Oh, I've learned to put on a good front. Now I have to keep it on during a meeting. Where I may be asked to think: even speak.
It's a short meeting, or supposed to be. Good thing.
I've been to three, I think now: hard to remember stuff that happens during a near-comatose state. Can I be held responsible for stuff I say? Probably.
And, as if my co-workers are helping? Because they are NOT! Why would anyone use these words in a sentence at 8:30 in the morning, and expect me to let it slide by without comment: "Tinky-Winky" and "hermaphrodite"? Really, Tyler, why? Why say those words? Because even I could not let them go by.
Let's just say, we agreed that Tinky Winky is not just straight, he's/she's probably gender-less and totally sex-less. Even with the purse.
But the TV in the that I'm not sure about.
How about you? How's your meetings going?

Monday, March 24, 2008

About our own private Easters

Some good friends are going through a terrible trial, a personal Lenten journey that will stretch beyond 40 days: serious illness, violent treatment, unknown prognosis, a new reality.
Early in their journey, they're also finding the love of family, the support of friends, the kindness of caregivers, the comfort of their God.
I'm a theological fool, a doctrinal baby, a Scriptural skimmer. And as much as I dislike Lent--I see no sense in taking more suffering upon ourselves, especially when, at any moment, we may be given more than we ever imagined--I love Easter. I know: without Lent there is no Easter. I guess I say: it's always Lent.
And, it's always Easter.
These days of daylight savings time, the sunrise comes late to the party, every day. I'm getting up in the dark once again. Yet by the time I leave the house, the windows show gray; still it comes, still it comes, still it comes, every day.
When I was a kid, we went to sunrise service on Easter, and it was led by the youth group. I was asked one year to give the sermon; I have no clue why they didn't pick the serious boy who would go on to be a preacher; why pick the girl who talked too much and laughed too hard? Yet they did, and regretted it: I mentioned a drive-in movie in my "sermon" -- something about "young lovers kissing" -- and I think they're still laughing about, and regretting, my homily. I have no clue today what I was getting at. Nothing very profound. Yet even with my bad introduction...Easter came.
Just today, I read a news story about a young man who had a bad ATV wreck; he was declared brain dead; his organs were about to be harvested. A relative touched his hand, saying goodbye: his hand moved. And it shouldn't have. Touched his hand again: moved it again. Touched his foot: it moved. Long story short: Guy wasn't dead, after all. Kept his organs for himself.
He had his Easter; his long therapy to recover has been his Lent. Sometimes they're all mixed up.
So it is for my friends. Somewhere ahead lies their Easter: no matter what happens, no matter when, they will find they are born again.
As we are, every day, sometimes in little ways, sometimes, big. Alleluia.
How about you?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

About when you go to see a president

Tuesday night, I had a choice: go to my book club, as I do every month, or go downtown to listen to President Clinton's speech.
Positive of going: I would see, in person, my second president (the first being the older President Bush, back when he visited Huntington with Dan "Puppy Love" Quayle in 1988).
Negatives of going: I would see, in person, a president who half the people I know hate, and would take much criticism (delivered with a smile, but sincere, nonetheless) for it.
Positive: I have book club every month, and I hadn't read this months' books anyway.
Negative: I would have to go straight downtown from work and get no dinner.
Positive: This was a Very Special Event in Fort Wayne, as usually our state is so thoroughly red that no candidates come here, and our primary is so late in the spring that races are long since decided, so it would be like being Part of History.
Negative: My mom and my mother-in-law would be mad at me, as they both hate our 42nd president.
Positive: I wanted to go, and I didn't care what other people thought anyway.
Negative: I really was a little concerned about that dinner thing.
Of course I went. And was glad I did: I love observing stuff like that. I got to stand right behind the media, and I love watching the machinations there--a few tweaks in my career, and maybe that would have been me. I had an unobstructed view of the President, as long as the TV cameras guys stayed put. I wrote in more detail about in on my other blog, Common Sensibilities; you can read it, and see some pictures, here»
[President Clinton is pretty chatty; the speech lasted the better part of an hour, I really had to pee, I was starving, and my back was killing me. It was all good, though.]
I don't know who I'll vote for in the primary--it's fun to think that for once my vote might actually mean something, so I'll weigh issues carefully before I make up my mind. Somebody's husband's speech is not going to sway me--or anyone else, I suspect. He might have motivated a few people to volunteer (not me).
And people's reactions were interesting--if I discovered half a dozen people at work who wished they could have come with me, I discovered three or four who wanted me disinfected before I came back into the building. As I told someone, "He's not the devil!" (Again, some disagreed.)
His personal choices were extremely ill-advised; his moral example, deplorable. He is not the first president, nor will he be the last, to disappoint us in his personal behavior. Still, I judge not: nor do I condone.
I just wanted to hear his speech, and be in a room of people who might think a little more like I do, than I'm usually in a room with. You know: those ones with the spray cans of Lysol who met me at the door on Wednesday.
And if any other candidates come to town, I'm there--Hillary, Barak, John McCain--sh00t, I'd go to see Ron Paul. Stuff like this just doesn't happen in Indiana.
How about you? Are you disinfecting your screen after reading this?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

About exceptions and rules

The other day, I heard these words come out of my mouth:
"As a rule, I don't like to...."

"As a rule." My Gramma used that phrase a lot. "As a rule, I like to eat prunes every day." "As a rule, you shouldn't eat this ice cream before dinner, but we will this time." "As a rule, I like to plant the tomatoes after Memorial Day."

So I had a gramma moment when I heard myself use the phrase in casual conversation, then I got to thinkin'.

It seemed to me that as Gramma used the phrase, she was really was more like a pirate than I could have imagined -- she was sketching out her guidelines for living, rather than hard-and-fast rules. She often used the phrase just as she was about to BREAK one of her rules. ("As a rule, I don't drink, but just a little glass on Christmas.")

Now, there are personal rules and exceptions, such as the ice cream example above, and then there are rules -- and exceptions -- we kind of take for granted on a bigger scale.

If it's accepted that Indiana is a red state, and that our presidential primary is in May, as a rule, we Hoosiers don't have much say in the national dialog about who the Democratic candidate might be. (Not much in Republication, either, especially when that one's already decided.) We're going to vote red anyway; the primaries are long decided by May; we're too small to be much of a player. As a rule.

My Gramma, apolitical as she was, would not be surprised to see that those rules are about to be broken this year.

Red though we may be, there's a bluish caste around the edges, and suddenly the Democrats in Indiana aren't quite a superfluous as usual. And the 72 delegates we'll send to the Democratic convention are starting to look awfully juicy to the presidential candidates.

So juicy, candidates and their surrogates are actually starting to COME VISIT.

Barak Obama in Plainfield last weekend. Hillary around the state this week. And today--Bill Clinton is coming to Ft. Wayne (among other stops), campaigning for his own personal First Candidate.

What next? Political ads on TV?

"It's 3 a.m. Do you know where your favorite candidate is?"

This week, it just might be Indiana.

As a rule, I don't miss my book club meeting. But I'm going to tonight. National politics only comes around so often.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

About bracketology

Sometime between now and Wednesday, I'll sit down with a sheet of paper and a pencil, and practice some bracketology.
Yea, that's the old-fashioned way. But we need something to hang on our wall, along with the poster that will be in the paper, and we'll keep track for two weeks of who won and who lost and which family member has the most wins and who's picked the most losers.
Oh, I'm already signed up for Facebook brackets, so I'll fill that out too, and I may or may not pick the same teams I do on my printed bracket.
And I've got to see if I'm already signed up for CBS online. I signed up last year--do you have to sign up again?
Because certain people in this house are taking Thursday off, and being joined by certain other people taking the day off, and they are going to do nothing but watch basketball games all day. And I mean gameS.
Here's what I came home to one day last year on the first day of the tournament: the TV going with picture in picture. Two laptops going. Yes. They were watching four games at once.
In years past, Greg's workplace had a pool, and he'd bring home brackets for all of us and we'd pay our $5 each and not only follow along to see how we did against each other, but also how close any of us were to winning the prize. (Never very close). And you can only imagine how devastated the guys were to find that Jayme, not a fan, was actually in the lead for awhile a couple of years ago...and she had picked using uniform colors as her guiding principle.
Indiana has four teams in the tournament, so there will be plenty to root for. Our Hoosiers have had a rough patch, and lost a heart-breaker in the Big 10 Tournament, so who knows in what frame of mind they'll be in. And the Big 10 has four teams, so even I may find myself rooting for Purdue at some inopportune moment.
No matter who wins or loses, the sun comes up the next day, and there's always another game. But some of those close ones late in the evening make it hard to get to sleep!
How about you? What team is giving you insomnia?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

About my guilt

I just said to Greg tonight, in reaction to a story I'd seen online about short people being more prone to jealousy, that, while I've certainly felt jealous once in a while, it's not a driving force in my life: I think we all know someone whose motivation IS the green monster. But then, I'm tall--maybe that explains it.

And, not being Jewish or Catholic, guilt is not part of my oeuvre of functional emotion, not too much (and yes, I realize I've just evoked stereotypes of several sociological groups).

The things I'm jealous of, or feel guilty about, are pretty pedestrian:
Being over 50, I am officially jealous of young bodies, because I miss mine, and did not appreciate it when I had it. However, I am thankful for having any body at all.

I am jealous of people who live in the Midwest -- like me -- who get to go to Florida in the winter. I get to go sometimes, too, so I can't waste too much time on this.

I am jealous of people who can buy any book they want, but since I can go to the library and get any book I want, so what?

I'm not jealous of rich people, because they often are just as screwed up as the rest of us; I'm not jealous of blonds, nor females with big boobs, because I just don't care; nor am I jealous of people who can eat anything they want, because sooner or later that will catch up with them.

Now guilt: I feel a little guilty when I eat the last cookie. I feel guilty when I buy that pair of shoes I really could and should live without, but can't resist, then later they look so cute I forget I felt guilty, especially if I got them on sale. I feel guilty when I go in the grocery and forget my cloth grocery bag. (Which is almost every time.) I'm guilty of reading (or computing) when I should be cleaning or doing other chores; please note I said I'm guilty OF these things, but I don't feel guilty ABOUT them. I don't feel guilty about not going to church, because I work at church, nor skipping my doctor checkups, because I got those caught up, or watching too much TV--oh wait. Never mind.

And I was thinking about all this because of this guy: Eliot Spitzer. Soon to be former governator of New York.

And just go take a look at his wife: she is having one bad day.

Are we there yet? Here are people we might understandably be jealous of: Harvard lawyer types, big successful careers, high profile jobs, possible presidential aspirations, beautiful family. Maybe I wish I had an Ivy League degree (but I don't wish it, IPFW). Maybe I wish I had the confidence to run for public office, and hear people tell me confidentially I'm Oval Office material. Maybe I'd like to have everyone holding me up as an example of integrity in business and politics.

Or maybe I don't, because, who wants to be just one more couple standing behind a microphone with a galaxy of lights shining in your eyes and a forest of microphones pointed at you, and one person looks so sick they might be about to throw up, and the other person looks, as my mom would say, like death warmed over? (See story referenced above for several examples.)

How many more of these scenes must we be submitted to on CNN? 'Cause I'm thinking they should just replay the same one over and over and dub in the apology for the specific sin(s) committed. You know, just make their lips move, like the sea captain at the beginning of SpongeBob.

We all screw up, and we all feel bad, and the next day we get up, put our shoes on (mine may be cuter than yours), and go on.

Thank God: When most of us screw up, we don't end up bawling on national TV about it. And looking like crap to boot.
How about you? Guilty, or jealous?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

About my organization

I hauled a blank notebook to work this morning, and I intend on marrying it and being faithful to it forever. Or at least until all my projects get done.

It's my new "to-do" notebook, and our union is a proactive one.

It's for my projects. At home. That I can't seem to get organized, or motivated to do, much less complete.

Do you read Real Simple? I do, and probably shouldn't. It's both very informative, and very depressing. It's full of great ideas and motivation. Still: Real Simple depresses me almost as much as O, Oprah the Magazine. Because I fail miserably at taking their advice and making my life into the post-modern nirvana it could be. Even, should be.

I've got too much in my head, too much to do, too little time, and sometimes, too little energy to accomplish everything I should.

I think this little brown notebook will solve all of those problems. Especially if I marry it. Here's why:

First, having too much in my head. If I keep this notebook with me, I can write down all the things I need to address, all the little (or big) projects, from cleaning out a cupboard to filing those bills to painting the entire house. I can keep my shopping lists. I can write down all the little worries that pop into my head, and brainstorm ways to solve them. Maybe by writing all those things down, I'll get them out of my head, and my head will feel a little more clear. Maybe I'll even find that some of the things I'm thinking about aren't even important enough to do at all!

Second, if I write down all these "do's," maybe I can prioritize them, and instead of feeling overwhelmed by all of it, I'll be able to fit them into the time I do have, and hence, cross them off my list. Out of the notebook, into the now!

Third, I do, after all, have 24 hours everyday, just like everyone else. If I have a list of organized projects, I can fit something into the time I do have.

Fourth, if I'm feeling more organized, I might feel more energized -- if I have a couple victories, that might adrenalize me, and I can get more done. I don't have to do it all in one day, ya know.

I've had a victory already! I started the desk area organization I've been putting off -- put cords and cables neatly in a new drawer organizer, put papers away, straightened printers and phones and network storage stuff up. I'm left with just one box of stuff to go through, and the whole corner looks at least 75% better.

In my notebook, I'll put my plans for the future -- the bookcases and TV stand and computer desk I'll look for on my next trip to IKEA. So that room can be really functional, plus nicer-looking.

I think I may found my own magazine: Dysfunctionally Simple.

Want to sign up?

Monday, March 10, 2008

About my laptop

[This post has now been proofread, because my original posting was terribly fraught with typos.]

A dumb thing happened to my Sony Vaio laptop on Friday night.

We'd been out to dinner, with a little shopping thrown in, and got home around 8 or so. I settled into the end recliner seat of the sectional, my laptop beside me, and opened it up to turn it on, as I finished reading the paper.

When it had booted, I tried to move it to my lap -- only to meet resistance. The cord seemed caught under the footrest of the recliner. I put the rest down a little ... pulled on the cord a little ... only to have to come free in my hand. And not because it pulled out of the laptop, or had become unplugged -- but because the cord had been cut in half!

All I can figure is, it must have gotten pinched in the joint of the footrest, and snip! There it went.

Slight panic on two fronts: One, the thought that I had only two hours (or so) of computing time on it until it died -- if I couldn't replace the cord quickly (like, Saturday), I was delegated to my old Dell; and two, how did I escape being electrocuted on my own La-Z-Boy?

I guess, thanks to the elements of 1) grounding, and 2) sitting on foam, not metal, I was saved from a shock.

Also, thank goodness I had spend the previous week whipping the old Dell laptop into computing shape, or I would have been out of luck. The old girl had needed her hard drive repartitioned, thanks to a boot error, and Windows XP reinstalled, and a couple service packs installed, and then a bunch of programs installed, oh, and a new Belkin wireless card, because the old Linksys finally bit the dust, thank goodness -- it was always a little unstable, and she needed set up on the home network and the printer installed.

Knowing I had a backup, I spent some of the last few minutes on the Vaio looking for a new cord, and experiencing sticker shock of the computer kind when I discovered that a new Sony replacement cord, at Best Buy, would be $90! Plus, it could not be picked up at the store -- one had to order it, and pay shipping.

A visit to eBay assuaged my shock a bit -- I found an acceptable replacement, with shipping, for about $33. Guaranteed, too, with a 99.8% satisfaction rating for the seller. I'll take it! (Except it's coming from California, probably by the Wells Fargo Wagon.)

I won't soon get over the shock of pulling on that cord, and having it come free in my hand; but that's better than the shock of 120V on my butt.

How about you? Anything shocking this weekend?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

About the universe, Horton, perspective, and body image

Three years ago, when I was fat, every day felt like a "fat day," as almost all females have.

Then, when I started to lose weight, every day became a "thin day" -- even I, with prejudiced eyes, could see such a difference, that for a couple of years, I never felt fat.

Then I readjusted to myself, and last fall started having them again. Fat days. And I did not like those days.

Because the mirror told me, and the fit of my clothes, that there was no reason to feel "fat" -- I was not much different on a "fat" day than on an "okay" day. But my brain wasn't buying it.

So I started working on myself. And I remembered a tactic I had back in the real fat days: the matter of perspective.

When I was feeling particularly voluminous, I'd think about the universe. All the big unimaginable hugeness of it. The vastness of our galaxy, the distance to the stars, the idea of infinity. When I think about it really hard, I feel a little unbalanced, as if I'm trying to understand a concept that humans are not meant to understand. Yet we try.

And the moment I felt precariously on the verge of either 1) understanding or 2) insanity, I'd come back to earth--I'd think about myself. And how big I was--or wasn't. And I'd find myself feeling very, very small. I didn't feel like Horton. I felt like the Who.

For awhile, anyway.

How about you? How big you feelin'?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

About my commute

You know, in the summer, I'd never wake up thinking about my drive to work. Because I'd just get in my car and go.

The exception to this would be if I was having car trouble--the kind where something sounds funny, or makes the car shake, or (the worst) smoke--something that I'd keep trying to diagnose for several drives until 1) I figure it out so I can take it and get it fixed; 2) the symptom quits; 3) the car quits. Of course, this can happen any time of year.

But in the winter--especially this Indiana winter--getting to work can be an adventure. And not of an enjoyable kind.

I was just reading an article this morning on about the mild winter northern Europe is having--they are worrying about global warming--indeed, the article says they are "confounded" by their weather.

I want to write northern Europe a letter:
Dear Northern Europeans, QUIT WORRYING! I've found your winter. It's here in northern INDIANA. Frigid temps? Check. Snow every day? Check? Whipping winds? Check. Lingering into March? Doublecheck! Come visit your winter anytime, it's missing you. Better yet, we're going to ship it back to you asap. Your cold friend, Cathy.

So, yesterday, a particularly nasty batch of stuff: freezing rain, sleet, snow. Sometimes all at the same time. (And it all seems to be coming on Tuesdays--what's up with that?) It depressed me for several reasons--one, after LAST Tuesday's snow, it had all melted over the weekend. I never thought brown grass could look so good. Second, it's March--it's time for spring to start creeping in, not winter to come roaring back. Third, I went to bed dreading the drive to work, and woke up thinkin' about how bad it might be.

Here's the good news: I made it okay. The skies had cleared, the sun was out, and it was all of 19 degrees. The roads were terrible, with ice under the snow, and I couldn't see edge lines or center lines, and some people wanted to drive as if the roads were dry, but I made it. Once again.

This batch will melt, too, eventually--not real soon, according to the forecast, but I don't think we'll have it around when summer really comes.

How about you? How was your drive?