Monday, March 28, 2011

Doing Things to Make Myself Feel Foolishly Better

Let’s try something new today. I’m asking you, are you married? Do you want to be? Do you want to not be? 
Does the whole, “the grass is always greener on the other side” approach work here or no? 
Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. 
Nope, not quite. Was the bridesmaid once. Not always. Yet, definitely I’ve never been the bride.
When I was younger, too young to have been married, I watched “The First Wives Club” starring Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler, and Diane Keaton. Loved it.
This weekend I went to a bridal shower.
A person kept asking people at my table whether we were married, and she got to me and asked, “And, how about you?”
I said, “Oh, no.” 
The person sitting across from me noted the inflection in my tone made that answer sound so sad. She said I should have said, “Oh, no” without reservation and more earnest decision that said I was OK with it.
Honestly, I am ok with the fact that I’m not married. First of all, there’s no one to marry at the moment, and unlike my Mother’s freshman year of college prediction, I will not marry the first man who knocks on my door. 

As the events carried out throughout the afternoon I also thought back to that episode of “Friends” where Monica, Rachel, and Phoebe all try on wedding dresses. I converged my thoughts between that scene and the aforementioned movie, and thought, “Oh my gosh, its the haven’t been wives club!” 
Honestly, there should be such a thing! First of all, I like to cook. I like to cook for people. Secondly, I like to clean and have a clean house, but living alone does not inspire me to do it all the time. Third, I have a cat. That almost qualifies me to be in the “Haven’t Been Wives Club.” That, and the whole running of the brides thing scares me. 
It’s a new thing. I started it. Wanna join? 
Question for you: If you could start a club, what would you start? Or, have you ever tried to come up with a scenario to somehow make yourself feel foolishly better about still being single (or anything else for that matter)? 


Friday, March 25, 2011

You Don't Know Something Stinks Until it Smells

The first week of Spring is coming to a close, even though it roared in like it was Winter saying it was going to stick around another week.
I refused to let that get the best of me. Just because I can’t lay out by the pool or go running in the sunshine right away doesn’t mean it’s not Spring.
For whatever reason, I’m particularly excited about this year’s Spring. 
All I can think about is Beatrix Potter, Peter Rabbit, and having tea parties in rooms surrounded by tulips and girl friends wearing pastel Easter Springy-dresses! 
It might be throwback to my childhood, but I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that my guest room is starting to look like the Easter Bunny’s Workshop. First of all, the bed spread is very spring-like with all the flowers on it. Secondly, I have pastel post-it notes marking which card and gift goes to which person. Third, I can’t seem to stop myself from gathering up little books, magnets, lotions, and candies for a list of people.... (Yep, made a list, checked twice or so already) who are on the recipient list.
It’s all part of bringing back good mail. It’s a campaign I’ve been on, mainly because I’m tired of getting just junk and bills in my mailbox. I’m sure you are too. Just saying.
Going to the mail box now is like an Easter egg hunt. You don’t know if there’ll be a surprise when you look tomorrow! 

For all the good things that Easter and Spring can bring, one lesson from my childhood really stinks. Or, sticks out. Honestly, you don’t know something stinks until it smells!

One year my Dad hid eggs all over the house, the backyard, as well as jelly beans. I seem to recall finding jelly beans and eggs for days after Easter. Maybe even a week. Once they were all collected some of the multi-colored sugar-shaped eggs were hard and nearly broke my teeth off. I’d also had about seven egg-salad sandwiches a day - and I had moved on. I was ready for Summer. 
I don’t know exactly when it was, but we had gone somewhere, and when Mom, Dad, and I arrived back home, we opened up the front door and..... Blast.
Damn. It stunk. It stunk like a sewer on a hot summer day near the Salton Sea. 
So, what happened? Dad stuck an Easter egg in Mom’s china cabinet. The egg, mind you, had ideas of its own. It didn’t want to stay put. So, it exploded all over that thing. Dad had to cart the china cabinet, dishes inside, into the garage, empty everything out, scrub it down, and in the process decided to cut two inches or so off the height of the china cabinet.
Mom was not pleased. I don’t think this was the kind of Spring renewal she was hoping for.
I’m telling you, you don’t know something stinks until it smells. 

How about you? Do you have a memory from Easter that taught you a lesson? Or when was the last time something really had a stench? What was it?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

You Can't Be Right If You're Worried About Time

There is a lot of inspiration in a 100 Grand candy bar.
I ran track in high school. (Seems fitting since I liked to run, err, chase, people around the playground in elementary school).
The whole distance thing didn’t work out for me, but 100 meters, and I was there. My Coach, I seem to remember, was a one-time Olympian. He scared me.
The head coach, on the other hand, would give out 100 Grand candy bars. I don’t even remember what for, but it was inspiring. 
I wasn’t fast. I sat a lot of meets out. But, boy, did I love to run. I wasn’t the fastest on the team, but I was the fastest in PE class. I’d run so fast in class that by the time I got to practice, I couldn’t run anymore. Coach never made me feel like I wasn’t fast enough. 
It wasn’t until some 15 years later that I’d hear how important it was to be “fast” and to be “first.” (Thanks slogans and mantras at news stations.) We also had to be right.
So, how can one be fast? First? And Right? All at the same time?
Well, clearly. One has to slow down. You can’t be right if you’re worried about time all the time. Even if you got through the finish line fast enough, how can you be sure you’re actually first? What if you didn’t run the race right? What if you threw out your knee so bad that you finished, but have to wear a brace for the next two weeks. That’s no fun.
I had the shin splints for two weeks. I hated that. 
Then, in college, I thought I’d run a marathon. Six miles into training I felt what sounded like a gunshot go up my left knee. That would be the beginning of deteriorating cartilage.
I still like to run. I just don’t have to be first. Or fast. I just want to run. There’s nothing to run from, or to run to anymore. 
You know what? This is for all the people who give up their candy bars because they have to get in shape. 
Run. Run anyway. Then eat a 100 Grand. You deserve it. Coach said so. Then run tomorrow, too. 

But, I'm not in a hurry. I'll get there, wherever there is, someday.

Photo Courtesy:

Friday, March 18, 2011

We Tell Ourselves Stories...It's All in the Tone

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” Joan Didion. Also, the magnificent author, in my opinion, of the book “The Year of Magical Thinking.”
It’s entertaining, a bit, to have been told so much to “stop thinking” and yet have one of my most favorite books have the word “thinking” right there in the title.
I don’t necessarily like to think; I’m just good at it. I was a philosophy minor because, like episodes of “Seinfeld” I have never seen, I could sit and talk for hours about absolutely nothing. 
Everyone is always saying:
Stop thinking.
Live in the now.
Trust your gut.
Do what’s right.
It will pass.
Usually, at this point, I tell you some story about something that happened recently or I recall from the past. Instead, I’ll tell you a story with only half-truths. Because, well, when you tell stories, who knows what’s actually true and what’s not, right? We’re all listeners hearing things with blind faith. We faithfully listen and just have to believe that the three mile walk to school in the snow was true, and then feel guilty when we whine about having to stand on the corner and wait for the bus. 
In June 2005, I sat down to start writing what I thought might be a short story, at best. Fitting my very-thinking personality, I called it “The Philosopher” and the first chapter I called “The Quest.” We tell ourselves stories in order to live, and also, I believe, to make sense of what it is, and how, exactly, we are already living. 
“The Philosopher” opened the blinds on the third floor and looked down at the busy streets below, crowded with children, dirty vehicles and an ever-present sense of urgency.
It was Monday morning.
Just hours earlier, Alma Gant sat alone in a room lit only by candlelight, hunched over at a desk staring at one, single blank sheet of yellow legal paper. Hours went by as the clock ticked precisely in the background, hinting at the truth of the very temporal beings humans are. Driven by that ticking clock, Alma raced to get a word, any word, on that page.
“Words, without words I am nothing. Or am I someone without a thing to say? Without words I have no expression. When you have no expression, you have no reason. No heart. My blank slate disgusts me. The empty page of paper; it may be nothing because it is not alive. Is it even yellow at all? I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t invent colors, but I can invent my words. I can put words on paper. I can, because I am.” 
Returning to the moment, alarms could be heard going off, car horns were honking and children pounded their feet to the pavement in search of education, something new and different from what was behind closed doors at home.
Alma got up, went back to that once dark and poorly lit room, and stared down at that lonely piece of paper. At a glance, there were the words written just hours ago. They would define a lifetime that had yet to be lived.
Tuesday would be different - if not for the different cars passing by - but for the new direction her life would take. 
My eighth grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher would have us write daily, for at least an hour. She called mine “stream of consciousness” writing. Here I am, nearly twenty years later, and I still sit down and write whatever flows from my mind, through my arms, to my fingers, and to the keys... as these words appear before me. 
Remember, we tell ourselves stories. But, we also can write new ones, too. Looking back at that story I wrote in 2005, I imagined the character almost trapped in a library. But, it could be anything. One change of tone, and that entire story could be comedy. 

Remember that episode of the “Golden Girls” where Blanche has writer’s block? For as deep thinking and analytical as I am, this clip is always playing in the back of my head:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Don't Wait Until the Line Goes Dead

Knock, knock.
Who’s there?
Pick up.
Pick up who?
Pick up the phone, damn it! 
A doorbell sounds off in the background.
Or, maybe it was the sound of a honking horn. Or, maybe a knock at the door.
There is a ringing of sorts.
It’s also the ripping and rippling sound of opening something...
It’s Christmas morning, you might think. Tearing open presents?
It’s a party in the parking lot, and car alarms are going off? 
Nope. It’s not that either.
Then, what is it? Some people might wonder. 
It’s communication. 

Consider me old-fashioned, or group me in with the pair of Grumpy Old Men types that I saw while getting my car fixed the other day. Although, I think after I tell you what the conversation went sounded like, you might agree with me. That is, unless, you’ve already closed this window and logged onto Facebook, or responded to a text, or ignored a text... (And yes, I'm just as guilty of this as everyone else). 
“He got rid of the woman who was going to bury him into the ground,” said a a Grumpy Old Man at the place I went to get my car worked on. 
“You have to do that!” said the other. 
“We have to be careful, we’re going to hurt this young lady’s feelings,” said the third. 
No, I’m fine, I thought. “It goes both ways,” I said aloud. “I don’t care if you’re a man or a woman, or if it’s a spouse or a friend, we all have one that might bury us into the ground.” 
“What does that mean,” said Grumpy Old Man Number 2. 
Gee, what did I mean? I honestly wasn’t even sure. So, I looked up at Grumpy Old Man Number 1 and he said, “It’s about communication.”

Bingo! Another hot pan came flying at my face. Figuratively, of course. So, I said, without second thought, “Why is it so hard to pick up the phone and call someone? How come we have to text answers to questions that deserve more thought?" 
Grumpy Old Man Number 2 looked at me and said, “The only thing you can do is turn off your phone.” 
WHAT? Seriously. How on Earth would anyone, in this day in age, survive by turning off their phone?
Just then, a young man, close to my age, came into the shop. After going through the few mandatory steps of dropping the car off for work, the man behind the counter, Grumpy Old Man Number 3, asked for a cell phone number.
“I don’t have one,” said the Young Man Without A Cell Phone. Grumpy Old Man Number 3 looked baffled, and I, on the inside thought, I bet he doesn’t have a single distraction and anyone who actually wants to know him knows how to get a hold of him. 
The conversation with the Grumpy Old Men continued for a while after the Young Man Without a Cell Phone left. At one point, I looked down at my own cell phone and wondered, “Who is going to call me?” 
Someone, maybe. Someone other than the hairstylist. Someone other than the pharmacy telling me that my prescription is ready. Someone other than my Mom who calls most of the time anyway. Who knows, maybe I'll call you. 
Pick up the phone, damn it. Don’t wait until the line goes dead.  

UPDATED March 13, 2011: I couldn't help but notice that I listened to Madonna's, "Hung Up," shortly after posting this. It's kind of relevant, isn't it? 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

We Need Not Take Everything So Seriously (Part 2)

(Drafted in a hotel lobby after taking a final exam....)

Well, isn’t that the truth? Isn’t it so much the truth that some people still tell me that to this day. Recently, someone called me “Analyzing Annie.” While true, it was like a slap in the face. It was akin to walking out of a hot room into an ice cold blizzard. 
Anyway, I heard what my then-babysitter said to me, but still I went to school the next day in pursuit of my new would-be-failed-friendship with this person. 
In an admission I’m embarrassed to make, I literally chased this girl around in circles until she told me she didn’t want to be friends with me. (Reminder, this was third grade and on a playground).
[A few years later, I did the same thing, at a restaurant with the first guy I ever had a crush on. I walked and followed him around, and around, and around, until he finally looked at me and said, “I know you have a crush on me.”
Stunned. Hurt. Shocked. Rejection
So, I have said that giving is better than receiving. It truly is. Except, sometimes you find yourself giving so much to the one or two or few people who don’t give anything in return. Not that they’re not worth your love, or your time, or your thought, but there are so many other people who need your love, your time, and your thought. 
Many times during the last fifteen or so years of my life, people would tell me, “You know what you need, a hobby.” 
Or, “Why don’t you volunteer somewhere?”
Or, “Why don’t you work at a flower shop?” (because I randomly loved to send people flowers).
Or, “Why don’t you start your own card line?” (because I randomly liked to make cards and send them to people). 
Or, “Why don’t you look into catering?” (because I would make dinner for my friends and co-workers just because I wanted to.).
Finally, it dawned on me, the only satisfaction I would get out of wanting to be someone’s friend was by just being their friend. They didn’t have to be my friend back, but as long as I treated them with the generosity, loyalty, and companionship I would want, maybe they’d have a better day. 
On that note, I recall a saying that I used to say during middle school when I had the most unique core group of friends. 
You use time for the things that need to get done.
You make time for the things you want to do.
You have time for the people that matter.
It was that simple.  (I mean, seriously, who ever really wants to be "penciled in." Even though, I admittedly did joke several times to people that I'd have "My people call your people.")
Yet, echoing still, as I write this, “You need not take everything so seriously.” 

Saturday, March 5, 2011

We Need Not Take Everything So Seriously (Part 1)

Maybe, if I just keep chasing them around in circles they’ll want to be my friend.
At least, that’s what I thought. 
I was in the third grade and I was new to my hometown and my school. I didn’t know anyone. Friends didn’t come by me easily because I didn’t talk to anyone. I was too shy and too afraid of what they would think if I did speak. 
When I moved to Southern California it was between my second and third grade year. I honestly didn’t believe that my friends, or the people I believed were my friends, didn’t live near me anymore. 
“Mommy, when are they going to take their masks off?” I asked my Mom about a year after the move. I was referring to my new friends who weren’t anything like the friends I had left behind, but I was certain they’d show their faces soon. Oh, the amazing imagination of a child! 
Then, I started to meet people. Popular people. Pretty people. Mostly, they reminded me of my old friends.
This is probably when the me that I am now first started to emerge. I remember going to some Scholastic book sale in the library and a girl didn’t have any money. I did. So, I let her go around the store and buy whatever she wanted. At the end of the little book outing, I spent $80.00 of my allowance money. I never got it paid back. 
That was my first lesson in realizing that your friends can’t be bought. I didn’t feel the joy in giving then. I felt let down. 
That same year, I remember trying to be friends with a girl that I thought was a lot like me. She was studious, and quiet, and seemed reserved, but friendly. I couldn’t figure her out, though. 
I called a family friend on the phone, who used to be my babysitter. She would call me, “Little Annie Petersen.” And, still calls me that to this day (makes being a 30-something feel like being a 3-year-old-something sometimes, but a fantastic thing none-the-less). 
“Listen, Annie,” she said. “You need not take everything so seriously.” 

To be continued... 
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