Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 - The Year of Shock and Surprise

Looking back, I spent a lot of time in 2009 being surprised and shocked by people. Surprised and shocked by their greed, thievery, unethical behavior, and plain old not giving a shit about anyone else on the planet except themselves. There were a lot of times when I walked around feeling like I had been punched in the chest out of shock. Seriously. Some people were just not good this year.

Don't quit reading here.... There's a big but ahead....

BUT... much MUCH more often than I was shocked in a bad way, I was surprised in a good way. Many, many people surprised me with the strength they exhibited through bad times, their tolerance, their loyalty, and their humor. (You think humor's low on the totem pole of what came in handy this year? You're sorely mistaken! Sometimes a good dose of gallows humor saves the day!) I learned to notice and appreciate simple kindnesses - a random funny text message, a bit of wise advice, a beer, even just hearing "good to see you". Honestly, those things were probably there all the time, but I had my head somewhere else and didn't pay attention. I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to clear junk out of my mind and pay more attention to the present moment.

Earlier this year, there was a period of about a month when I didn't want to even look at people because I felt like everyone in the world was sticking their hand out at me demanding something they didn't deserve.

As this year winds down though, and I pull back and look at it, I realize - For every hand that reached out to take and cause harm, ten others reached out to pull me up, to help, to support. For every voice that told me I'm not good enough, I'm not necessary, I'm not important, a dozen voices full of love and caring drowned it out.

Someone I know pointed out to me recently that they think I'm a better person now than I was at the start of this year. Stronger, more focused, wiser. I'd like to believe them. If that's true, then all the chaos and upheaval of this year was worth it.

I just read a really good quote from Pema Chodron: "We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don't really get solved. They come together and they fall apart." I think next year I'm going to try not to keep things so tidy. Not to try to put a bow on everything, and fix everything. Kind of let things just happen and feel how that feels.

Take care. Have a happy and safe New Year. If you're happy 2009 is over, may you bask in that happiness. If you had a good 2009, I hope it carries over into the new year.

Friday, December 18, 2009

I believe there is a direct relationship between how happy I've been feeling lately and my coffee intake increasing. Why I gave up coffee for a year, who knows. Bless you, beans of happiness.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Random List of Things I've Done After not having a Job

Just felt like taking a little stock in things I've started doing since I've been free from a job. Someone asked me, "So, what have you done since you got laid off?" My eloquent response? uh... ummmm, I don't know... So this is just me looking back:

  1. Got a cat
  2. Got rid of a TON of junk that I just do not need anymore. Clothes. Bowling pins. Fabric. Old magazines and concert programs.... none of it was doing me any good.
  3. Started a Winter garden. If I even get ONE salad out of it this Winter, I'll be thrilled.
  4. Had a lot of drinks and lunches with people I haven't seen in a long time
  5. Stopped to think.
  6. Set up my bead making area again. Beads to come once my better half gets the electricity set up to where it needs to be.
  7. Did a lot of yoga
  8. Read a lot of Buddhist stuff
  9. Had to let go of trying to plan each and every aspect of everything ever, and let things happen however they're going to happen
  10. Spent a lot of good quality time with my best friend
  11. Started making my own yogurt
  12. I bake our own bread now
  13. I shop local a lot more than I did before

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

That's right people! The Polka Hall of Fame AND the Softball Hall of Fame SHARE a building. I had no idea.

I'm trying to use the free time I have now to do things I've been meaning to do, but never made the time to do. Like, I got my furnace inspected, got my cats to the vet for checkups, made Peachy Chicken... and today, I visited the Polka Hall of Fame.

It was pretty darned cool.

I had the place to myself, except for the lady working in the gift shop. As soon as I got there, I couldn't STOP taking pictures. Sensing I was a PHOF newbie, the Nice Lady came over and asked me if I'd been there before. Then, she played me a very informative video on the history of Cleveland style Polka. Honestly, even though not so distant relatives came over on "the boat", I had no idea about half the stuff they talked about.

I learned that Cleveland Style Polka is generally more melodic and accordion based than other styles. Which I think is good because while I'm open minded, I don't think I would like atonal Polka music, even if it were to be accordion based. Here are some more pictures:

I knew Frankie Yankovic was a big deal - In fact, I saw him when he played at a church my uncle was the pastor of. I did not know, though, that he won the first Grammy for Polka music. Rock on! This is a picture of his Pancordion. The pancordion is also played by Myron Floren, who was the house accordionist for the Lawrence Welk Show.

Once I looked around and saw everything, I went to the gift shop. The woman working in it was really nice. In order to try to get street cred, I did oh-so-casually work in how I appeared on Polka Varieties. Don't know what that is? It was a tv show that aired on Sunday afternoons. Paul Wilcox hosted it, all kinds of Polka bands would play, and people would come in all dressed up and dance to the bands. Think American Bandstand, but with Polkas, and an older crowd.

While I was looking at t-shirts, an older man came in. He was driving past and heard a song on the radio that he liked, so he came in to see what song it was and buy it. The Gift Shop Lady called polka show to see what song it was. They didn't sell it at the shop, but at least the guy had the info he needed to find it on his own.

Then the Gift Shop Lady asked me why I was there. I told her I lost my job and was catching up on things I always meant to do. She said, "Yeah. I figured you got laid off but I didn't want to ask". Then she told me that she herself lost her job earlier this year. She was at her former employer for just shy of 30 years, and there's no chance of her getting called back to work. She also talked to me about her daughter who still has a job, but has had to take on more and more work, to the point where she isn't sure it's worth it.

I wish I was a better writer and could do a better job of capturing the conversations I've had with people. This is such a surreal time for so many people. I am always surprised at how the rotten economy has touched pretty much everyone I come in contact with.


I didn't make it to the Softball Hall of Fame. Polka was enough for one day. Maybe next time :)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Office Holiday Parties

I realized yesterday that this will be the first year in honestly I don't remember how long that I don't have a workplace holiday party to attend! Are they always fun? mmmmm..... not really. But are they a tradition? For sure! Sadly for me this year, no awkward conversations, no Chinese raffles, no White Elephant gift exchange (I even had my present all ready to wrap in MAY), no watching co-workers shake their groove things to a DJ playing classic hits like "Brick House".

Are you still working? Is your office having a holiday party? If you have an open slot, consider me as your entire company's "+1". In return, I promise to participate in, or at least enthusiastically encourage the following:

1. Xeroxing body parts.
2. Drinking too much and then try to hide the fact that they drank too much when they're talking to someone like the CEO, etc...
3. Drinking too much and making out with someone completely inappropriate
4. Requesting rap songs with bad words in them then giggling at the awkward stares as HR vacates the dance floor and glares at the offending party, secretly planning the latest addition to that person's "Permanent Record"
5. Food fight!!??!!
6. Loudly demanding "Let's do shots!"
7. Sneaking out of the party and sneaking into a better party at the same facility but thrown by a different company
8. Finding the stash of blank name tags and making up funny faux name tags

I would be especially honored to be included in the subsequent flurries of emails sent to / from my "coworkers for a night" expressing remorse, sharing gossip, and, especially welcome, containing photos. I promise to hit "Reply All" and respond with clever retorts like "LOL" and "OMG" as long as you wish, to keep the conversations going and make sure the server has plenty of data to store.

My dance card is filling up for the rest of the year, but for your office's party, I'd happily re-evaluate my priorities. Especially if the DJ will play the Chicken Dance.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Peachy Chicken and Cranberry Orange Chutney

Peachy Chicken and I have a little history. I remember about, oh, maybe 7 years ago, having lunch with some coworkers at the Rockne's out in Solon. On the table was a bottle of Heinz Malt Vinegar. It's the restaurant standard as far as malt vinegars. On the back of every single bottle of it EVER (at least every bottle I've ever seen) is a recipe for something called Peachy Chicken. During that lunch I vowed out loud "Someday I'm going to make that." I'd repeat that promise every single time I'd see a bottle of Heinz Malt Vinegar. Well, yesterday was The Day. Funniest part was when I went to the grocery store to get more malt vinegar because I didn't think I had enough, the store I went to didn't carry Heinz. Of course the recipe's all over the interwebs, so I found it in about 2 seconds after I got home.

Final Grade: B. I'll make it again, but with more spices. So there. 7 years of empty promises now atoned for! Thank you, crashing economy for the time to make Peachy Chicken.

I finished all of my Thanksgiving grocery shopping yesterday - aided by three sets of lists I created over the course of 2 days. The list for the West Side Market. The list for the grocery store. The Final Menu. I'm grateful that I can do shopping at off hours, because on Monday morning, stores were already getting crowded and people were squirrely. You know how people say that New Years Eve is Amateur night, because people who don't go out much will go out and act like people who don't go out much? I think shopping before Thanksgiving is like that.

The turkey find was exciting - a little free range, no hormone fueled bird that hopefully had a reasonable life before turning itself over to us.

This morning I made the cranberry orange chutney (and discovered that it is delicious on oatmeal). Later today, pie crusts. Tomorrow, stay out of my way because it's ALL getting cooked tomorrow.

Also yesterday, I made an appointment to go meet a kitten that needs a home. I'm on the fence. I'm not sure bringing a new cat into the house will be good for our current pets - the two crotchety old lady cats we have (if you are old enough, picture the Baldwin Sisters from the Waltons if they didn't have the benefit of The Recipe). This would technically be a good time to add to the fold because I have the time to work on keeping them separated until they get used to each other and stuff, but they're old and I love their dynamic (they sleep on us a lot). I hope I'm not messing with that.

I also had a little phone interview yesterday. Very exciting sounding position, we'll see what happens.

Rock on!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Let Me Brush Your Rock and Roll Hair

Go on, TRY not to think of the Cars song.... I love the Cars. In fact, I'm pretty sure every time I hear a Cars song, I say out loud "I love the Cars". I am predictable that way.

So I got a nice little lesson in "Care. Less." and how it can be some darned good advice. Bear with the little set up... I was in a pretty up and down mood yesterday. The morning was good, I got a good haircut then went to MOCA to see the craft show. Then when I got home, I was back to feeling funky-in-a-bad-way again. And I did exactly nothing to shake it, which was my own fault.

Later that night we had plans to go out and see some bands. I almost said I didn't want to go because it all just seemed like too much work. Puuuuuuuuttting on clothes....... puuuuuuutttting on makeup.... goooooooooing outside.... But I had a great hairdo, my better half was pumped, so I went with it.

Turned out to be one of the most fun nights in ages!

One of the bands that was supposed to play canceled at the last minute (screw you, or maybe THANK YOU, Russian Business Syndicate), and one of the dudes in another band asked me if I'd play a few songs. Normally, I plan my sets down to the LETTER, but this time, I just said, "SURE!" They set up a kick drum for me, and a guitar, and got me a kazoo, so all I had to do was just sit down and play. I didn't even make up a set list. This may not sound like a big deal to you, but ME? No PLAN? hoooooly lack of planning Batman! No pre-show jitters, no hassling with booking, no nothing. Oh, and it was to celebrate someone's birthday. As if I can EVER dis a birthday!

So I think this small incident was a little gentle sucker punch from some higher power, telling me "See? Plan all you want, stuff's going to happen as it is supposed to happen." Maybe it's my new rock and roll hair. Maybe it's the fumes from the aerosol hairspray. Don't know, don't care. All I want to do is hang on to that feeling of winging it, and having that be A-OK.

Happy Sunday everyone!