January 1, 2015

Honest to a fault...

My sense of humor is not for everyone; it's dark and sarcastic...dry...irreverent. Many take it for negative or disrespectful, and I can't change that. The written word comes with no vocal inflection, facial expression, body language...it's wildly open to interpretation, and I understand that whenever I hit send, submit, etc. Perhaps I could change my delivery, but then I wouldn't be speaking my truth.

Writing comes easier for me because I can rant, edit, then submit (unless I'm in a real snit, then uh-oh). It's a great way to vent...get it all out on paper (ok, a screen), then delete without hurting anyone's feelings or offending someone. With the spoken word, I struggle. While I've learned to temper my thoughts, and mellowed with age, I still catch myself chasing words as they fly out of my mouth. My filter is sometimes lacking or skewed. Either that, or I'm just extremely honest...I think it, I say it...not always the best idea.

In my heart of hearts, I mean well; there is no ill-intent. But my honesty gets me in trouble every time, so I'm looking for that verbal edit button. No matter how true something may be, it does not always need to be verbalized. I'm in my mid-forties, and I still need to be reminded of this. I sure learn a lot, I'll tell you that. Sometimes I don't even remember or realize what I've said. It's just part of a conversation and no one reacts, but then it comes back to me and I am once again kicking myself.

I just deleted an entire paragraph that came across as incredibly self-righteous to me. Why can't I do that before I speak? Lawyers probably own the market on this one: "Move to strike, your honor!" Of course they know what they're doing. You can delete the words from the written record, but the jury still heard them...they've still been influenced. If only this tactic worked the moment I realize I've put my foot in my mouth, "move to strike!"

So how can I refocus and use my gift of gab in a more positive manner? Slow down, run it through in my mind before I say it so I can edit (or even delete). I'm a smart gal, I oughta be able to figure this out. We're continuously growing and learning, so I keep refining, and sooner or later I'll get it right. Just know in the meantime, I'm really not trying to piss you off.

September 9, 2014

I'm back?

I spent the morning reading all of my old posts...wow...could I have been more cranky and judgmental? Maybe, but a lot has changed since my last visit to ye olde blog (and it's been a few years, although from the dates on the page it only looks like a few months). I graduated from design school and started my new career. Jim graduated from the MSW program at University of Washington and started a new career (that's probably an entire post all it's own...comptroller to social work, in 3 easy steps!) There have been ups and downs...health...work...family.

We've traveled...Toronto...and I didn't try to accost anyone in the security line at the airport.  If you've followed me (or have been waiting for an update), I never did make it to China because Jim left that job and moved on to social work.  I didn't take that calculus class, but I seem to be over it...no more nightmares of showing up for a test I never studied for or a class I never attended.  I joined choir again, and then quit within the same year...I missed it, but not enough. I no longer belong to three gyms, in fact I need to join at least one. Perfectionism...still working on it, but I feel like I may be turning the corner. I still bitch about grammar on Facebook, all the while making plenty mistakes of my own. I enjoy football now (shocking to those who know me), and own enough Seahawk clothing to open a small store.

All of this is to say I've changed, and I think for the better. I'm not sure what my writing focus will be this time around, but the window to "my view of the world" is gone.  God, how conceited was that? I still welcome lively banter, and hope this will become a conversation rather than a place to lurk. I'll probably piss some people off...that's kind of my thing, but I'm learning to bend...see things from more than one angle.

Welcome back? I think so. Now I just need to figure out what I'll write about.

July 7, 2011

Dear Fellow Americans: You really must travel better.

Last night marked the end of roughly 20 days of travel, during which, I flew and took trains both domestically and internationally. While I enjoyed this much needed vacation, I also couldn't help but notice the atrocious manner in which Americans travel.  I'm not sure if this is a new phenomenon, or if as I age I get crankier - I'm thinking it may be a bit of both. But I'm telling you, the next time I run into one of these ignorant, rude or obnoxious American travelers...I don't think I'll be able to keep my mouth shut. Here's just a sampling of what I witnessed both domestically and abroad with American travelers over these past few weeks:

1. At Sea-Tac airport, the morning we departed, there was a family of four in front of us, traveling internationally. As they approached the first TSA agent in the security line (the one who double-checks your boarding pass against your ID), they just threw at her four plane tickets and four passports, none of them matched up...mistake number one. After the TSA agent tersely (and honestly, I don't blame her) reminded them to always match each ticket to each passport, she also noticed that none of the passports were signed...none of them. Now, for the two minor children, this is not an issue. However, the two, of age, adults, who were hoping to travel internationally, with their children, had not bothered to sign their passports. When the TSA agent told them they must sign the passports and provide other documentation to prove their signatures while she watched, they both acted surprised that the passports even needed to be signed!  In fact, the mother asked, "Where are we supposed to do that?"  Um, on the line on the first page of your passport that says: sign here or invalid.

Listen, the TSA agent was within rules and regulations to tell these people to pound sand - they are lucky she didn't. I cannot believe that two, supposedly intelligent people, who are parents, didn't double-check every single detail before traveling internationally...with their children. Moreover, it's just another example of idiots holding up the security line because they're either too stupid or selfish to care about the hundreds of people backing up behind them.

2. Buckets and buckets of you still don't realize that for carry-ons, liquids are limited to 3 oz or less and must be in a quart size ziploc bag. No, you may not carry full size toiletries in your carry-on luggage and NO you can't use a gallon size bag! Sure, there are exemptions for things like baby formula, and guess what? TSA has a handy little website to help you hammer these details out BEFORE you get in the security line at the airport. It's been years since these regulations were put in place; stop acting surprised.  The last time I checked, the Uni-Bomber was the only one who was actually living in a hole in the ground. You have access to this information; please utilize it.

3. No, you cannot carry your beverage through the security line. There is a Starbucks on the other side so please wait to get your fix and stop making the rest of us wait while you argue with the TSA officer because you have to throw your $20 coffee in the garbage. P.S. You cannot put your beverage in the little bucket and run it through the scanner either.

4. You must, must, must take your laptop out of the bag and put it in a separate bucket! Again, this is not a new rule so please stop acting surprised. Conversely, you do not have to empty every other electronic device you have into the bucket...just in case.

5. The area at the end of the conveyor belt where you pick up your belongings after going through security, is NOT the place to put your shoes back on and put everything back in your bag. There are roughly 300 people behind you; grab your crap and get out of the way.  There are benches literally everywhere put in place just for you to get organized again.

6.  Get in the right passport line.  The signs are in several languages so even if English isn't your first language you should be able to figure it out.  Again, there are people behind you...the ones you don't seem to give a damn about.

7. Don't cut in line. Don't pretend you don't see the line and walk around it. Don't be a tool. We all have connections and we're all in a hurry. If there is truly an emergency, ask for help and you will be escorted to the front of the line by an airport employee. But please, stop thinking your travel anxieties are more important than anyone else's.

8. When the gate agent announces the boarding process has started...DON'T RUSH THE GATE. There are boarding groups/zones for a reason. This "last one there's a rotten egg" business has got to stop. You have a boarding pass, a legitimate reason to be on the plane. It won't leave without you. If you have special pre-boarding circumstances the airline has a process for this. Please remove yourself from your "I am special" bubble and comply because again, there are roughly 300 people behind you. Don't cut.  Don't pretend you didn't hear the gate agent say it's not your turn. In general, stop being rude.

9. When boarding, do NOT...and this one really chaps my hide...put your luggage in an overhead bin 20 rows in front of your seat. The bin over your seat is for your luggage. I watched a little kid chuck his bag in the first class bins as he marched to the back of the plane. His mom just shrugged her shoulders and said, "oh well." No, not "oh well." That is inconsiderate. Use the bin over your seat and if your luggage doesn't fit then take a look at the damn size. You cannot bring on giant bags and expect them to fit. Which leads me to...

10. The limit is 2 carry-ons!!! One of them is supposed to be small like a purse or a laptop bag. Please don't act like it's OK to bring everything you own on as a carry-on because it's not. Your full size suitcase will be taken away from you and it will be checked.

11. Parents, it's not adorable when your kids run around yelling and screaming. I understand ear pain and crying, it's going to happen. What I don't get is you allowing bad behavior as if there is no controlling it. However, waiting until you get to the airport to bring down the hammer might be too late. Yesterday morning in Prague, I witnessed a father decide that 5 minutes before we boarded was the moment he was going to announce to his overly indulgent wife and bratty daughters that he'd had enough of their behavior and that he was now in charge...in front of the inlaws. Guess how well that went?

12. When traveling internationally, yelling doesn't help those who don't speak English understand you. And no, it's not OK to get angry with the person who doesn't understand you. YOU decided to travel internationally without learning a few words in their language. Don't you dare blame it on them when they don't understand you.

13. Don't behave badly and then blame it on others. In Vienna, an American woman literally pushed me out of the way as I was climbing the stairs to get on the train. I said, "excuse me" and she started yelling at me. I was deathly ill and trying to drag my bag up the stairs. I had also just insisted another woman go in front of me so she wouldn't be separated from her husband. This woman who was now pushing me had just witnessed me being kind to another traveler so she couldn't say I wasn't polite. She just decided it was her turn and she was going to knock me over to get what she wanted. When I called her on her behavior she blamed it on me and said if my bag was smaller (I traveled 20 days with a small carry-on and a backpack) I would be happier. Then she told me to go to the dining car and get tea for my throat. These written words might not convey the snark from her in this situation but it was incredibly rude. Wait your turn people, again this "last one there's a rotten egg" mentality boggles me.

14.  Louder isn't better.  Everywhere I travel abroad, I always know where the Americans are because they can't seem to turn the damn volume down.  Take a look around, there are others around you.  We don't want to hear your conversation.  At the airport yesterday morning it was solemn and quiet...until the Americans started rolling in.  It was a flight to Frankfurt, a giant international hub, where everyone can connect to get home, so there were a ton of Americans.  The international travelers were quiet and kept to themselves...the Americans?  Wow...just...wow.  There's a reason we're labeled as loud and obnoxious.  Be quiet.  It's OK, the world will not come to an end if you have to endure a little silence.  At a minimum, can you at least turn the volume down?  Just a little?

It all seems like common courtesy, but it just doesn't seem to click for so many people.  Without sounding trite, I always try to use the Golden Rule:  Do others want to hear my conversations?  Wait my turn in line because I'm no more important than anyone else.  Move quickly and courteously through the lines so others aren't held up.  Keep to myself and be polite.  Follow the rules.  Pay attention.  Is it too much to ask that we all do that?  Travel more politely.  Please.  I beg of you.

June 4, 2011

Sunny with a chance I might scream

I hate talking about the weather. I should clarify: I loathe talking about the weather. It is the most inane topic and I pity the fool who tries to engage me in a conversation on the matter. I am also quite passionate about other people around me discussing the weather. It's silly and boring and it doesn't make sense to me...at all. What's more, WE CAN'T CONTROL IT PEOPLE SO JUST DEAL AND MOVE ON.  (In all honesty, I did warn you.)

But I am curious. Why do you all seem to freakin' looooooooove talking about the weather? Is the topic that scintillating? What is it about sun, rain, sleet and snow that sucks you all into this mind numbing topic? (I'm bordering on passing judgment here, aren't I?) What I really don't understand is why people try so hard to control an element that is utterly uncontrollable. It seems as if you all think that sending enough energy to the weather will make it happen - i.e. the snow dance. Why??? Unless you are an evil villain with a weather machine in your garage I implore you to knock it the hell off.

And what really chaps my hide? Complaining about the weather. Guess what? You live where you live and the weather patterns, for the most part are established (lets save the global warming chat for another day). Yes, the spring lasts longer in Seattle and we had a La Nina this year so it was colder. Move or shut up because if I hear one more person bitch I might end up on the evening news.

But wait! Yesterday the sun came out (and so did all the inappropriate clothing for a whopping 60+ degree day.) And today it was even warmer, almost 80 in some spots, so I'm just waiting...for someone to complain that it's too hot. You know it will happen. Mother Nature can't seem to keep you weather whiners happy. It's as if a little bit of Goldilocks resides in each and every one of you; you're not happy until it's "just right."

It never will be. Never. Ever. So stop talking about the weather because I really don't want to end up in prison.

May 9, 2011

She had me at yel-low.

When I was in fourth grade my school had a program where once a month one of the parents would come into the classroom with a copy of a famous piece of art and explain it to the class.  The first piece I ever saw was Van Gogh's Sunflowers; our friend Holly's mom, Mrs. Rushton, told us about the piece.  (I really cannot believe I remember names.)  Mrs. Rushton told us all about Vincent and his mental illness, how he cut off his ear - all very honest for a class full of fourth graders - but it got to me.  She also talked to us about the colors Van Gogh used and pointed out the painting is not merely yellow and green, but rather many different tints, tones and shades of the colors, blending together to create the beautiful sunflowers.  And then Mrs. Rushton hooked me, she said that to this day (well, at least when I was in fourth grade) the paint was still wet!  No way!  She explained that oil paint dries very slowly, if at all, but that we could not touch the painting to find out because museums rope these famous works of art off.  She warned us sternly to never, ever, touch the paintings in museums (something I still want to do to this day).  Heck, I touched a marble table at The Huntington Library last week and the security guard nearly exclaimed, "off with her head!"

But I digress.  6 years ago I traveled to Amsterdam.  Guess what's there?  Yep, the Van Gogh Museum.  I had been looking for Sunflowers all over Europe (lazily never bothering to look it up online) and had yet to find it.  I realized on this day, my one day in Amsterdam, that this might be my chance - Sunflowers could be in the very building in which I stood!  Jackpot!  It took a while, and I almost blazed past all the other paintings to find it (annoying Jim and several patrons), but find it I did - a full circle moment.  I think I even cried a little.  My quest to see the first painting ever explained to me as a child was right there in front of me and I soooooooooooo wanted to touch it to find out if Mrs. Rushton was right.  But I controlled the urge - mostly because I didn't want to miss the rest of the exhibit (and every step I would have to retrace), but also because the exit was far too far away and there was no way I could stick my finger in that paint and make a run for it without getting into some serious trouble.

I left the museum that day with a book of all the paintings in the Van Gogh Museum and a print....of....The Bedroom.  Well, Suflowers is in my book and I fell in love with a new painting that day, one that now hangs in our guest room (OK, so it's a copy).  So, without further ado, here are two of my favorite Van Gogh pieces - one I waited to see in person for nearly 25 years - totally worth it.

Vincent Van Gogh
Sunflowers, 1888
Oil on Canvas
92.1 cm × 73 cm (36.2 in × 28.7 in)
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Vincent Van Gogh
The Bedroom, 1888
Oil on Canvas
72 cm x 90 cm
Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

May 1, 2011

Knocked over! Knocked over!

So many things rushing through my mind tonight:

Hey, Dubya, now the mission is accomplished.

Hey, Trump, is this good enough for you? Do you need his birth certificate too?

Hey birthers, would an extremist Muslim President kill one of his own? Can we drop this now?

Tsk, tsk, Pakistan; you swore you weren't hiding him. You've got some 'splaining to do.

Crap, Boehner's gonna cry again.

Four more years!  Four more years! (Not that I'm overly excited about it, but I know many who really are not, and a little light hearted ribbing seems to be in order.)

Rush is going to say something stupid, isn't he?

Beck is going to say something stupid, isn't he?

Jon Stewart is going to say something brilliant, isn't he?

Do I still have to fit my toiletries in that stupid quart size bag?

Now can I leave my shoes on when I go through security?

Will TSA finally stop frisking toddlers and cancer patients?

There's just something missing without Peter Jennings delivering this news tonight. I feel like I need him to close the loop.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all my friends and family who serve. Each and every one of you owns a piece of this.

Peace to all of the families who lost so many on that dreadful day. We never forgot.

March 30, 2011

Confessions of a "Good" Student

I've always been a good student - label it how you will. I study hard, get good grades, blah, blah, blah. And I don't really know if I'm a good student because I get good grades or if I get good grades because I'm a good student. It's one of those circular, chicken and the egg type arguments. At any rate, I was labeled from an early age, along with many of my friends, and we traveled in a pack through all the advanced classes our school district had to offer. Well, except for the time I boycotted sophomore AP English because I heard it was "too hard." After a week of SSR (silent sustained reading) in "regular" English, I'd had it. I marched down to the guidance counselor and respectfully requested my original slot in the AP class - crisis averted. I then happily (well, as happily as any normal teenager can) continued my journey towards high school graduation.

But there came one final crossroad (crossroads? See how much that AP class helped me?) before I graduated...Calculus. Me and my pack (grammar error noted) had moved together through all the advanced math classes from 7th grade on, and then Calculus reared its ugly head at us. It wasn't the subject matter that daunted us, but rather, the instructor. He was a known alcoholic. I knew a little more about the situation than I wanted to because he was our neighbor, three doors down, and I had spent much of my childhood around him. I knew it wasn't a rumor. I also knew he was very smart. However, I had no intention of marring my academic career (translation = grade point average) by taking Calculus from someone I did not trust to actually teach it to me. So I did what every grade point average loving, crazy, "good" student would do: I bailed and was a T.A. for the band director instead. Bright move.

But wait, there's more! I gained early acceptance to PLU (Pacific Lutheran University for those of you not from the PNW) my senior year and then sat back and watched everyone else scramble as they waited to apply during the normally prescribed time. I thought I had it made, was in the clear. And then PLU did something I never thought they would do; they sent me a math placement test. It had been a year since I'd been in a math class but I figured I could easily pass the test. After all, I was a "good" student. And even though the test was accompanied by a letter strongly encouraging a review with a math teacher, I ignored it. One afternoon, on a whim, I grabbed that math placement test and took it with no review, mailed it back to PLU and waited. When I finally received my fall schedule guess which math class I was placed in? Remedial Algebra, a 2 credit class. Dammit. I was crushed and I don't think I've ever told any of my friends this story, the same friends from my "pack" of "good" students - probably because I was ashamed.

I bounced back. Within a month, my professor could not understand why I was in a remedial class and waived the following 2 credit class, allowing me to go straight into Business Calculus, a 4 credit class. I would leave PLU with 2 more math credits than I needed, but also with a very important lesson learned - not to let my ego get in the way of what was best for me. I did very well in both classes, with the exception of functions, which I don't think I'll ever wrap my brain around (Thanks, Jen, for getting me through that topic.), and I graduated college, which is the main goal, really. Right? And guess what kids? You really do use Algebra when you grow up, but that's a discussion for another time.

Here's the thing, I just turned 40 and I still have nightmares about not taking that high school Calculus class. It is one of my biggest regrets and it drives me batty. My subconscious cannot seem to get past the fact that I did take a Calculus class in college. Guilt? Probably. So I've made a decision; when I finish at the Art Institute next year I am going to take a Calculus class at a local community college so I can close this crazy loop. And this time I know I will need some review before I take the plunge. I have a few things going for me: 1) I live with a math wizzard and 2) I'm a "good" student. That should help, right?