Wednesday, December 31, 2008

And a Happy New Year!

Today is the last day of 2008. What a year it's been, all around. I call it the "Year of Firsts." Of course, we had our first African American elected as President in the United States. There were also firsts made on the economic and international scene, although not quite as exhilarating or welcomed as the U.S. election. Personally, there were many firsts for me - most of which, in the grand scheme of things, are minor, but firsts none the less: my first Rita's Ice, my first trip to Vegas, my first visit to Montréal, the first time I have someone reporting directly to me at work, the first time I tried to participate in NaNoWriMo, my first blog attempt, the first time I've reconnected with some friends in 8 or more years, and many, many more things.

It was a year for learning and growing. It was a year for trying to survive, or being thankful for surviving. As I said, it was quite the year all around.

I'm not a resolution-making kind of gal. I've tried, but, due to a sheer lack of will power, always fail, usually within the first 12 hours of the new year. But I know I want 2009 to be different, better, happier. I've taken the last few weeks of 2008 to do a bit of introspection (more than this introvert usually does), and there are bits of myself I've suppressed, and bits that I would like to change. And this doesn't mean that it's all just about me. It's about you. It's about my world and the people in that world. The other morning, I turned on the TV to find the station tuned to Joyce Meyer ; her message for the day was to live a fruitful life, not just be "busy." She hit the nail on the head and spoke directly to what I have been grappling with all this time. This will be my mission in 2009.

So, with that, I raise my imaginary champagne flute, and toast all of you. I wish you all a very healthy, happy and most of all peaceful New Year! See you in 2009!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

'Twas two nights before Christmas...

When all through the house,
I finished gift wrapping, well - at least for my spouse.
The stocking was hung by the chimney with care;
it's stuffed with some goodies - how did those things get there?
In sweatpants I snuggle, warm in my bed,
While my to-do list still dances around in my head:
We leave in the morning and I still need to pack,
and sync up the iPod for the ride there and back.
I suppose we'll leave early to beat the great rush;
Pray the L.I. Expressway is not full of slush!
To church with the family, then off to the feast,
we'll have pasta and bratwurst, but no rare roast beast.
Christmas Eve night, we'll eat such good food,
and with wine we'll be merry and in a good mood.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear -
Gifts under the tree! Looks like Santa was here!
And I'll worry 'bout whether our gifts are enough...
or maybe, just maybe, it's a tad too much.
But it's not about presents or boxes or bows,
It's about loving and giving, as everyone knows.
So, 'though it's Christmas that I wait to be here,
I say to you all, "Happy Holidays and a Splendid New Year!!"

Monday, December 22, 2008

Snow!

If you've ever watched Irving Berlin's White Christmas, you'll surely remember the song the foursome sings about the splendor of winter on the train up to Pine Tree, Vermont, "Snow, snow, snow, snow, SNOW!"



How ironic, then, that it was the first measurable snowfall in these parts that kept my sister and me from seeing the Broadway version of White Christmas on this weekend in New York City. No worries. We enjoyed the scenery in our respective homes - both in front of gleaming fires amidst twinkling Christmas lights and decorations with cups of hot chocolate or tea. Snow days are the best, especially when you don't have to go anywhere.

Which is why I loved the article that columnist Mark Di Ionno wrote in Saturday's Star Ledger (a local paper) about "the innocent snows of yesteryear." He hit the nail on the head. Snow, in no small fault of the media and weather reporters, has become a point of anxiety, inconvenience and worse to us adults rather than a beautiful, seasonal blanket that christens the world anew with shimmering brightness.

Now, I know that this is nothing new. The wonders of snow always seems to fade away that moment we start driving and moving about our adult worlds. Snow days are for the kids. Right? No. I don't believe so. But whenever there's a snow storm (at least here in the NYC metro area) it's like the biggest catastrophic event that you could imagine. Batten down the hatches! Snow is coming! A whole 3-5 inches! SAVE YOURSELVES!!

I've lived in New Jersey all my life, with the exception of my college years in even-snowier Massachusetts. It's no big deal. If it's bad, don't go out. If you HAVE to go out, wait until they clear the roads. Drive safely. Leave yourself enough time and room between cars. Done. But, if you DON'T have to go out, enjoy it! Don't think "Oh, God! I have to shovel this mess. It's going to freeze. I'm trapped inside (and that's another point...here in the NYC metro area, no on is so isolated that they will be trapped for days on end, except maybe the extreme North/ Northwestern corners - not even, so I have to laugh when people go to the grocery store at the mention of snow in case the snowy apocalypse comes and they don't have their Ding-Dongs on hand.)

So, enjoy the snow. Revel in the beauty of it. It won't last forever.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Then & Now

I hadn't planned on posting anything today, but I need a mental health break, so what better way to enjoy a few minutes than to fill out a survey and give you more of an idea (maybe too much of an idea?) of who I am (and then, it will be your turn!) A special thanks to PQ Nation for posting this first!

THEN AND NOW: This tag basically asks what I was like as a kid, at age 18, and now, for all of the following:

*MY DREAM JOB*
Kid: It varied. For a while, I wanted to be an English teacher. Then, since I played "business" all the time (with no more than a tricked out calculator and a pad of paper), I wanted to go into "business." Then I wanted to be a journalist. I even used to have weekly issues of a newspaper I made myself on lined paper. My only subscriber was my sister, so the paper folded.
Age 18: I was a freshman in college studying child psychology. But my dream job was to be a journalist for Rolling Stone or National Geographic.
Now: Would love to be a published writer (book or magazine). Also, anything to do with music (magazine, radio station, whatever). Hey, you said "dream job!"

*MY FANTASY CRUSH*
Kid: Kirk Cameron, Joey McIntyre (NKOTB)
Age 18: Brad Pitt
Now: Anthony Bourdain, House (do I have a thing for grumpy, scruffy old men?)

*FAVORITE SONG*
Kid: Anything NKOTB or Debbie Gibson, then I really loved "I Beg Your Pardon" by Kon Kan...toward the end of the 80s I was into New Order and the Cure. And many many more.
Age 18: Anything Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, Ani DiFranco, BNL, Britpop. Loved "The Child Inside" by Qkumba Zoo. And many many more.
Now: I listen to a ton of music so it's hard to narrow down.

*FAVORITE MOVIE*
Kid: "Never Ending Story" and "Sound of Music." A few others, I'm sure. There was also a time when I watched "White Christmas" almost every day for a week. Don't ask me why.
Age 18: Anything John Hughes. It's a Wonderful Life. Sound of Music, a ton of others
Now: Anything John Hughes. It's a Wonderful Life. Sound of Music, Donnie Darko. About a Boy. The Notebook. A ton of others

*HOW YOU SPENT YOUR EVENINGS*
Kid: watched TV or played until bedtime
Age 18: Classes, watched TV, parties, typical college stuff
Now: cooking dinner or get togethers with friends, watching TV, reading, running errands

*YOUR BEST FRIENDS*
Kid: my sister, Lynette, Sam, James, my cousin Jaime
Age 18: Sam, James, my college roommate and friends
Now: my husband, my sister, Sam, Joanne, Beth

*MY JOB*
Kid: Being a kid.
Age 18: I worked over the summer and on holiday breaks as a bank teller
Now: Director for CME programs at med ed company

*MY CRUSHES*
Kid: I had a few. None you need to know about.
Age 18: I had a boyfriend then but it lasted only a few months. Not sure if that counts as a crush.
Now: My husband!

*WHAT SCARED YOU?*
Kid: The thought of losing my mom, then when that happened, having a stepmonster, which also happened
Age 18: living away from home for the first time and trying to make new friends
Now: The thought of losing my grandparents

*YOUR HERO?*
Kid: my mom, Amelia Earhart
Age 18: my mom, Amelia Earhart, Audrey Hepburn
Now: my husband, my mom, my grandparents, my sister and to echo Princess Q "Anyone who spends their life trying to make a difference in the world by being true to who they are."

*MADE YOU LAUGH?*
Kid: it seems that kids are always laughing at something stupid, so it could have been anything
Age 18: Being goofy with friends
Now: Inside jokes and being goofy with friends/my husband/my sister; stupid people

*HOW YOU FELT ABOUT YOUR FAMILY*
Kid: Loved my mom and grandparents. My sister was annoying. My father was, well, there.
Age 18: Loved my grandparents and sister. My father put stepmonster first which strained things a little. Loved him but it was hard at times.
Now: Love them all even if they can get annoying. Family is the most important thing.

*A DREAM COME TRUE?*
Kid: not that I can recall.
Age 18: Um...not that I can recall.
Now: My husband.

*WHO WERE YOU?*
Kid: The youngest in my family. Incredibly shy. A four-eyed, braces-wearing, taller than all the other kids in class, brainiac (aka, Nerd!). In a black hole after my mother's death.
Age 18: College freshmen trying to find my way. Trying new things and listening to my heart. A bit more confident.
Now: Still shy and trying to find what it is I am meant to do on this great earth. A wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a coworker.

I…tag…YOU!! Do this…it was a lot of fun

Monday, December 15, 2008

Run, Run, Rudolph!

Ack! 10 days until Christmas!

I was having a near-heart attack 37 days ago so you can imagine the frantic state I'm in now! I have managed to get the majority of my cards out, which is good. There are just a handful left to mail because I don't have new addresses (people, you know who you are! Please respond!) We also cut down our tree last weekend (I know, I know...for you greenies out there, I'm sorry. It's tradition, what can I say? Maybe next year we'll go "green"...so to speak) and decorated the house. Christmas shopping is about 50% done. Ack! It's not for lack of trying - I just cannot find the things that I wanted to get. So, over all, we're getting there. With 10 days and counting.

A few things have been put on the back-burner. Like the christmas cookie marathon. I'll be lucky if I can make a single batch of cookies this year with the lack of spare time. Same goes for seeing the NYC lights and displays. Thank goodness I have some time off after Christmas.

Added stress comes from work - an unusally busy time right now due to a major change in our company. But I suppose that's a good problem to have in light of the economy and all right now. So, I just feel like I'm running, running, running. Come December 25, I will be a more relaxed, and happier, camper.

So, my posts will be few and far between in the next few weeks. In the meantime, here's a little tune for you:

Vince Guaraldi: Christmas is Coming

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Toy Catalogue

Unless you have children (which I don't...not yet), have young relatives or have close friends who are parents of young children, it's not expected that you'd be hip to the cool toys of the season. I know for certain that I fall into that category. For instance, what was last year's Hannah Montana craze is this year's Twilight rampage (or is it HSM?); what was once Pictionary is now Wii (or is it XBox?). It's hard to keep up. And that's just for the "older" kids. I'm totally lost when it comes to the hot list for those under, say, 10.

So, why am I surprised every year when our company does its charity holiday gift giving initiative, I select a child who wants a toy I have never heard of in my life? Last year it was the Backyardigans. I had no clue. Luckily, a coworker had a young granddaughter who also liked those characters, so she helped me. This year, it's Elmo Dance and Learn. Now, I know who Elmo is. That part is simple. What I didn't know is that Elmo Dance and Learn is not, in fact, a dancing furry monster that giggles when you press his hand. It, as I've learned, is a mat for dancing....and learning. (I just thought I'd share my new-found knowledge for those of you in my shoes.) I still can't find the darn thing in stores, but that's besides the point.

When I was young, it was simple year after year: Barbie! Loved her. I had all sorts of Barbies, and accessories, including her townhouse, her Corvette, her McDonald's; then there was Ken, Theresa, and Skipper, and some other cousin/sister/friend whose name escapes me...and the horses....Oh, it was great. I don't think Barbie has the same luster any more. She doesn't even look the same. Even though Barbie just won a legal battle against Bratz dolls, I don't even know if either is popular with girls anymore.

I was in the toy section of a store today. They still sell Lincoln Logs. Can you believe that? With all the gizmos and gadgets out there now, they still sell the simplest (and most boring, if you ask me) toy.

I'm not sure what my point is today, except that suddenly I am reminded again how old I'm getting and how different childhood seems through these adult eyes.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Embracing and Owning

On any given day, I often find myself thinking that I should have done this or I wish I did that instead of whatever it was that ultimately happened. I obsessively go over in my mind all the "wrong" things that happened that were in my control, such as words I may have said or wrote and how I maybe should not have said it that particular way (just an example). It's really a nuisance. I try to convince myself that it happened, it's over, time to move on. Maybe it's not nearly as bad as I think it is. Or not. Maybe it was but no one really noticed. Maybe they did and are just being polite. {I really take the art of being my own self-critic to a new level.}

I go through this exercise daily. It's crazy, yes, I know. Which, I suppose is why I had to smile when I came across this posting on PQ Nation "Owning Your Words". Princess Q quotes Sonia Choquette when she says "Behind every word flows energy." Then PQ urges her readers to "figure out your flaws and your strengths…and OWN THEM. Don’t give ANYONE ELSE power over YOU."

This is the mantra I've been using lately "Embrace your imperfections." Go ahead - call me a head case. I know I am. There, see: I owned that! I have to keep reminding myself that behind all these words flow energy, like superpowers, and they are to be used for good. I really do need some good energy right now.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Perfect Boss?

File this under "um...ok?"

Ever have an employer who could easily be described as a "Hitler" of sorts?

I have to say, I've been lucky when it comes to having great bosses. No, really. I'm serious. Two people stand head-and-shoulders above the rest, since I would describe them more as "mentors", "friends", and "inspirations" than "bosses." There may have been one or two that raised eyebrows, but none were ever totally horrific. But I know others who have not been as fortunate.

Then there is Rosa Mitterer, a 91-year old woman in Germany who was a maid for Hilter himself back in the 1930s at his retreat house in Bavaria. According to this article in the London-based Mail Online, Hitler was the perfect boss and treated her, and her sister - also an employee - well. Mitterer, the last survivor of his staff from the years just prior to the onset of World War II, remarks, "That he had ordered such terrible things, I just couldn't believe it. Even now, I prefer to remember the charming facets of his personality." Right.

Does this mean even the absolute worst of all mankind has the ability to be human? More importantly, does this mean we need to find a new reference for all loathsome bosses?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Hand for Brit Brit

I have a confession to make.

Going against all I believe to be good music, I find myself curiously addicted to the sticky, sweet, overdubbed current single of Britney Spears, "Womanizer." <click here to listen>.

Now, I would not call myself a Britney Spears fan, but it's not her fault. When she first appeared on the scene as a pop princess (post "Mickey Mouse Club"), I was a senior in college listening to the post-folk folkies like Ani DiFranco, Sarah McLachlan and Dar Williams, chock-full of thought-provoking lyrics and girl power. I had moved out of the age of pop years before. To me, Britney's music focused more on synchronized dancing and thumping rhythms rather than actual singing. I didn't mind her insistent display of her personal sexual revolution - that's her prerogative (so to speak.) But that's all it seemed to be - there was no substance and that bothered me. I did give her a chance by watching Crossroads (yep - I did, but because a friend made me do it) and "Toxic" caught my attention. Just for a fleeting moment.

Thanks to non-stop pap coverage, we had the luxury of watching her train fall right off the tracks...down a steep embankment...plunging headfirst into a ravine. My heart goes out to the girl. With the controlling efforts of her father, the train has been pulled up and placed upright, although still mud-covered and dented. I didn't watch her special on MTV this week, but saw clips and she still seems miserable. We think she's doing much better because we don't get to watch her make a fool of herself anymore. For as famous as she is, we have to remember - she's still human.

Today is Britney's 27th birthday, and the release of her latest album, Circus. I sincerely wish her a happy day and a better year ahead. Her song (and probably her album) will put her back on top, but hopefully she'll be able to enjoy it on her own terms this time.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The NaNoWriMo that wasn't

Welcome, December!

Yesterday was the official close of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I was a participant...up to a point. Instead of reaching the goal of 50,000 words in 30 days, I clocked in at a measly 5,000. I lost steam about half way through and never regained it. I was disappointed in myself to say the least; after all, I truly intended on going the distance. But all is not lost, and I've learned quite a bit in the process, such as:
  • The support I have for my writing is not just from family and friends but some unexpected sources like coworkers and other writers, and that's just outright awesome. (Thanks, guys!)
  • Jumping into NaNoWriMo without a fully outlined novel is like running the NY Marathon without training.
  • I cannot force myself to write. It needs to flow naturally, from a clear mind. Psyching myself out because I need to reach a word limit does not, in any way, make me a better writer, but...
  • Having a goal was the push I needed to stay focused. However...
  • I let my inner editor get the best of me and that's the first thing a writer should not do
I wonder at times if my so-called failure is a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Until I decided to take the plunge, I held true to my belief that "I don't do novels." Still, I wrote. It may not have been a novel, but I wrote...and learned. As insignificant as it might seem to the outside world, it was an accomplishment, however small, and it pushed that wall down in my mind that said I couldn't (or shouldn't) do it. Baby steps.

So, in short, I am entering December with a new sense of growth. Maybe I'm not the winner of the NaNoWriMo word count, but I am coming out of November a wiser (and for that, better) writer. Thanks again to those of you out there who supported me on this journey.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Taking Inventory

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I had been planning for a while to include a post about all the things for which I'm thankful. When I finally sat down to write it out, I realized there are way to many things to be included in one post. In fact, I could probably use each post from here on out to list all the things that bless my life. That in itself is a blessing.

So, at the top of my "thankful list", I include:
- My loving husband
- My supportive family and friends
- Having a good job and being respected by coworkers
- Having enough money to pay bills and such
- Our home

Then there are many other things that are often taken for granted but are no less important, and therefore, no less appreciated:
- Our fireplace
- Having a car
- The Internet
- Living in an area that offers many opportunities
- Having the right to vote and speak for/against our leaders
- Being able to openly speak my mind, right or wrong
- Being able to blog about my life and opinions and having people actually read it!

This is just a sampling. Now it's your turn. What are some things you are thankful for?

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Thankful Heart

This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving Day. That day also marks an important event in my family: my grandparents' 70th wedding anniversary. 70 years together. Can you imagine? In addition, both of them share the same exact birthday (same day/same year) so we say they've been together since Day 1. They actually met as children in grade school but lost touch for a number of years when my grandfather's family moved to another town. As if Fate offered a helping hand, they unsuspectingly ran into each other years later as teenagers, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting my grandparents will be quick to tell you what wonderful people they are. And they are. They truly have the kindest and most generous hearts and welcome everyone with open arms. They have survived wars, the Depression, the loss of a child, taking care of eldery relatives, medical conditions, hospital stays, the ups and downs of life. Still, for all that life has thrown their way, they have remained steadfast in their love and the love they share with others.

So much of my life's happiness is wrapped up in them. To my sister and I, they have become second parents, not just grandparents, and every day I thank God for blessing our lives with both of them. So, this Thanksgiving will be extra special, for we have so much to be thankful for in our family.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Puzzle Pieces and Such

I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I know - how hackneyed, right? Well, I've seen it with my own eyes. It's true. I may not realize it at the time, but when the pieces all fall into their places, I can see the big picture and think "aha!" I wouldn't call myself a religious person, but it's those moments that make me a believer in divine intervention.

Case and point: A few years ago (I often say "in a previous life"), I worked at a large corporation. It was a wonderful job - an experience like none other in my life up to that point. My coworkers were truly like family. I also was dating someone in the company, but that's neither here nor there. Life was just dandy. Flash forward to post 9/11. The company took a big hit and downsized its workforce, including me. My surrogate family was cut off. My relationship fell to pieces. Things were about as low as they could have been....until I started working at another company. The job itself was terrible, but it was there that I met the man who is now my husband. SO (taking the long road like I usually do to make a point) had those events not happened, as bleak as it all seemed at the time, I would not have found my best friend, my inspiration, and the true love of my life. And for that, I am grateful.

TMI? Yeah. That's how I do. So, why do I tell you this? Because there are those days that seem like life just keeps ripping the carpet from you, that things are as low as they can get, but I believe there is a bigger plan. I remind myself of this every time that I am struggling - it's all just a piece to a bigger puzzle. Be patient. It will come together.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Digging Digital

On February 17, 2009, all television stations in the United States will broadcast only in digital, ending all broadcasting in analog. Rabbit ears will no longer work. What a shame. According to the FCC, the digital conversion will allow improved picture, better sound and more channels.

For months, there have been commercials on TV asking "are you ready?" and if you're not, go out and buy a converter box. You can even request a coupon for $40 off the retail price of the box, which is anywhere between $50-$70. I think, like most people, my husband's stance is, who cares? Everyone is digital these days, and if you're not, you'll be left behind in our dust. (I joke, of course). On the other hand, my heart goes out to the poor, especially seniors, who maybe can't afford to go digital and are happy with their rabbit ears or roof-top antenna. Maybe it's stupid, but that's how I feel. Not to mention (and maybe I shouldn't admit this) we have a TV in our bedroom hooked up to an antenna that only gets Channel 7 (ABC). I'm not sure why exactly, but probably because we originally agreed not to have TV in the bedroom. Anyway, I watch it now every morning. Come February, if I don't have my box, I can say goodbye to Robin Roberts and Diane Sawyer. That makes me sad.

The two of us have this conversation on a regular basis, and he loves poking fun at me on this. So, without further ado, this video is courtesy of my husband...

video

I love it! Absolutely hilarious.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We Need a Little Christmas

Would you believe there are only 37 days until Christmas? Holy cow.

I suddenly feel like I have that deer-in-the-headlights look. 37 days. Doesn't seem like that big of a deal until I start factoring how those days will be spent: a few days here for Thanksgiving, a few days there for business travel (fingers crossed that I'm not snow-bound on my trips), a day or two for the Christmas cookie baking marathon with my sister, a few days to write out and mail cards. Then there is the annual tradition my husband and I have of going into "the city" (NYC to the rest of you) to see the tree at Rockefeller Center, window displays, St. Patrick's Cathedral - all the usual holiday tourist traps. I won't even mention the shopping for both sides of the family. It's because of the holiday mall madness that I now prefer to do as much shopping online as I can, any time of year.
For all the craziness of the season, I love it. I really do. There is a warm glow about the holidays that is not duplicated any other time of year. The excitement of anticipation and preparing...and wishing for snow on Christmas day (yes, I've had the same wish every year since I was a kid.) So, this morning as snow flurries floated outside my windows, the excitement started to build. I even listened to a few Christmas songs on my ipod driving to work.

I know, I know. Normally, I would say that it's way too early for that. It's not even Thanksgiving, for crissakes. No doubt, retailers are pushing the holidays big time this year, too, doing all they can to encourage people to buy, buy, buy in these hard economic times that could mean the store's survival or demise. But - to repeat the cliche - the holidays are not about buying. It's not about the lights and decorations or songs. It's about the love and the spirit of giving. This year, probably more than any other in recent memory, I think it's important that those who are able give what they can to help others. Seriously. I'm not going to list all the charities that are out there, and I'm not going to plead with you to donate to them; that has to be your own choice. But I do ask that you remember, maybe a little more than usual, that there are many more this year that need help - and it's never too early to start giving.



Thanks.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

High School: The Requiem?

The other day I ran into an old classmate from high school. I haven't seen her, in person, since the day we graduated, over 12 years ago. I say "in person" because, of course, there is always the virtual class reunion of facebook.com (I'm sorry, classmates.com; let's face facts - you just never possessed the same luster or the addictive quality of facebook.) For the most part, after graduation, it was like the majority of my classmates just dropped off the face of the earth, and - like that long-lost Hollywood actor or actress, if they are not continually in the public eye, you just assume they are dead. All of a sudden with facebook now, it's like a miracle! They live! They have families! They live in California! They're...wow, they actually seem nice now!

I envy those people who rejoice in recollecting stories about high school and claim that those days of teen angst were the best of their lives. My high school years, well...let's just say, I became a much happier person after high school. Like most people, I was awkward and shy and had, like, zero confidence. My home front situation was less than ideal and contained enough material for several Lifetime (or maybe even Sci-Fi) movies. It was only compounded by the fact that my two best friends transferred around the same time, leaving me to my own defenses when everyone already seemed sewn into their cliques. It's not like people were mean to me; in fact, I think I got along with most people. But, paraphrasing what one person once said to me, "some people were more interesting than others." Yep. I suppose they were.

Then 12 years happen. Change happens. The class b*tch suddenly has a heart of gold, and the class beanpole suddenly has gained some muscle mass, and so on. We are now adults with careers, mortgages, maybe even families. Some of us have traveled extensively; some have moved to other states. Some have suffered tremendous losses; some have achieved tremendous success. Still, being as honest as we can with ourselves, that small fraction of who we were in high school will forever exist in the brains of our classmates.

I looked at my former classmate the other day, thinking two things: she's shorter and more soft spoken than I remember. I can only imagine what she thought about seeing me again. The good thing, though, is that I don't think either one of us cared - we were just happy to see each other.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Three Cheers

I saw this video on today's Good Morning America. This kid has that crowd in the palm of his hands. He's gonna go places with that kind of power! Aren't there some days you wish you could raise your hands and have the same reaction?

This just brought a smile to my face and thought I'd share:

video

Monday, November 10, 2008

Let Love Rule

There has been a substantial buzz lately about Proposition 8, which was a ballot proposition that received majority vote in last week's election in California. In essence, it would overturn a recent California Supreme Court decision that had recognized same-sex marriages in California and only recognize marriage as an act between a man and a woman.

Now, I'm not a gay American, but I have many friends who are. And, sure, I live all the way on the East Coast in little New Jersey - a state, as far as I'm aware, that only recognizes civil unions and domestic partnerships, but has not taken the full leap to recognize same-sex marriages. So, what do I care about what goes on in California? Well, I guess because it's a fight that has been happening all across our country, and while California's debate is the most visible right now, it reflects the struggle going on in every state and home town, and it's time for the country to open its eyes, minds and hearts.


There are many conservatives who will argue that marriage is a sanctimonious act reserved, per the Bible, ONLY between man and woman. It is, indeed, sanctimonious, but the way I see it - if you love a person - whether same sex or not - and are willing to spend the rest of your life with them, share a home, share maybe even a family, then why shouldn't you be married? I've seen too many heterosexual couples get married for all the wrong reasons, only to end in divorce. But because the couples met the criteria for what a "traditional marriage" should involve (i.e., being a man and a woman), does that mean their unions were more holy or acceptable than same-sex couples who have stayed together for decades with unwavering love? Not in my eyes.


Bible thumpers and old timers will say that allowing same-sex couples to celebrate marriage and receive all the rights and benefits reserved for married couples will hurt "traditional marriage" by teaching immorality to our children. What? Next thing you'll say is that a black man should never be allowed to become President (..oh wait...) By allowing Prop8 to be pursued doesn't mean that gay people will simply go away. They should not be shunned in such a gross, deliberate form of discrimination. They are people, too, and should be given the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts. The fight continues, but in this day and age of progress, should it really have to?

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Century Mark

When I first started The Humble Pen in May of this year, I already had two failed blogs under my belt, a lack of audience, and some serious apprehension about starting up a third blog susceptible to the same doom. The name of my third blog is derived from the Paul Simon lyrics in "Hurricane Eye": "you want to be a writer/but don't know how or when/find a quiet place/use a humble pen." I'd take all the guidance I could get. Sure, THP had its rocky moments, and if you scroll through September, you can see the seams literally coming undone. Once designed as an outlet for me to write and discuss poetry, it became a real albatross, and due to the lack of interest and minimal feedback, I was not only questioning my purpose as a blogger, but also my ability as a writer. And that, my friends, was not a good feeling.

So, after a few adjustments and continued pursuit of improvement, here we are - Post #100. I'm glad we made it here together. For some of you prolific bloggers out there who have been doing this for years, I bow down to you.

With that, I thought, for today, I'd take it back to where it began: Poetry. I wanted to make mention of a new book coming out about my absolute favorite poet, Elizabeth Bishop, and the letters she exchanged with fellow poet, Robert Lowell. The book, "Words in Air" was reviewed this past weekend in the Wall Street Journal and in today's LA Times, and I'm psyched to read it. I love her writing, and have a topical knowledge of her life, but am looking forward to reading this book to learn more. She, in my eyes, is the reason why poetry will always be relevant.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tag stag

With all the excitement of Halloween, the election, NaNoWriMo and just daily life, I forgot to tell you that I was tagged on Cosmopolite Kaffeeklatsch last week. I usually don't do the tagging thing - why? I don't know, I'm wacky like that - but I guess being tagged means it's time to share 7 random things about myself to keep the chain going:

1) I went to the same elementary school that my sister, my parents, and my grandparents attended
2) I'm addicted to Twizzlers candy
3) I almost died when I was two years old from meningitis
4) I was in college when I took my first and only trip to Disney World
5) The first car that I owned, all by myself, for the first time was a Honda del sol, and it was totaled a month after I bought it
6) I'm a Leo
7) My first concert ever was to see The Cure

So, now it's time to tag 7 others:
Coming full circle...again and again
Lilly's Life
Me and the Blue Skies
Rambling Rose
Life as I know it
My Random Thoughts
Christinchen's Soapbox

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Here We Go!

Today is a new day. For good or bad, Americans let their voice be heard and we have ourselves a brandy new president-elect. Half the people I have spoken with today are elated beyond words; the other half express disappointment and a little fear and skepticism. Me, personally? Well, all I have to say is that:

  1. I was happy that so many people got out and voted. They said this was the largest turnout in 100 years. Wow. That is tremendous. I went to the polls first thing in the morning before work (foolishly thinking I'd be in and out in a snap), and because the lines were so long, I had to come back after work to get the job done. Now, if only that many people voted in EVERY election, we'd really be on to something.
  2. I myself am a skeptic. I've been fooled before, and hope with all my might that the American people have not been fooled again. No matter who won, I would feel this way. Promises are one thing; action is another. I still feel that it all remains to be seen.
  3. I feel like a huge weight has been lifted. No more commercials, no more debates, no more pundits filling air time with exorbitant claims. No more tug of war. It's over. Done. Now we can get back to our "normal" lives after 2 years of this crap. And for that, we can all celebrate!

So, with that said, today is all about moving forward and onward and upward and outward and...well, it's about progress, right?

Speaking of progress, I'm well under way with my novel. Sure, I'm only half way to where I'm supposed to be, word-count wise, at this point. But it's still progress. A week ago, I still didnt know what I'd write about. The funny thing is that I forgot how writing like this consumes you. And (I'll let you in on a secret since I like you), since the story is loosely-based on actual events, it really drains me reliving those moments as I twist them into fiction. After I've been typing away for a few hours, I have to snap back to reality and present-day, with the residual effects lingering. A very bizarre experience but worth every second.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Time for a Change!

I don't need to say it, do I? You know what you need to do today.

Just remember, though - you are an individual. Listen to your gut. Make your own choice. Don't let mob mentality sway you. The future of the free world is in your hands [no pressure]. But seriously, now is the time to let your voice be heard. VOTE!



Now, go get 'em!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Do or Die Time

Happy Monday! I'd like to apologize for my tirade the other day. As you could understand, my feathers were ruffled a bit and it was a reactionary post. But I've had a weekend to cool down, gained an extra hour of sleep thanks to the end of daylight savings, and am ready to start the week anew...and what a week it is expected to be!

Unless you live under a rock, you would know that tomorrow, November 4, is Election Day in the United States and the biggest seat in all the land is up for grabs: the presidency. Personally, I will be as happy as a clam to see the election season come to an end. Let's be honest here: Every presidential election year, we are forced to choose the lesser of two evils. Sometimes, that's not easy to do, so I completely sympathize with the people, who, with less than 24 hours left before making their mark on history, have not yet decided. For the people who are 110% behind their candidate, that's great that you are so strong in your choice, but I think to a degree it's blind. BOTH candidates have their faults, despite mob effect of the throngs of Obamaniacs and McCainiacs who would fight to the death to prove otherwise. Both lie. Both bend the truth. Both have made less than favorable decisions that leave you to wonder if either is capable of handling the supposedly most powerful, and no doubt most hated, country in the world. I really, really just encourage people to not take things at face value. Ever. Really.

What is amazing is how closely this race is being watched, not just by Americans, but by the world. Take for instance, a blog that I follow, Cosmopolites' Kaffeeklatsch, written by a Canadian living in Germany. I think this blog is fantastic, not only for the humor and great writing, but also for the unique perspective on the presidential race. It's blogs like this that remind me/us that our votes do not only have a direct impact on change in the United States but for those around the world (and not just in the obvious places like Iraq or Afghanistan). Yeah - it's that big.

I will not disclose which candidate I'm voting for because, for as much as I like you, it's none of your business, just like it's none of my business who you vote for, either. BUT, with that said, I strongly urge whoever is still undecided to take today to study up on the facts, the proposals, the promises and IGNORE THE COMMERCIALS because they're just full of sh*t anyway. If you are 18 or over and qualify as a registered voter, you have no excuse to not vote. SO DO IT! See you at the polls tomorrow!

McCain-Palin or Obama-Biden

Compare & Contrast

CNN Election Coverage

Fox News Election Coverage

Friday, October 31, 2008

Treats or Tricks?

If I didn't know the full moon happened a few weeks ago, I could have sworn there was one this week. For months, things have been pretty sedentary for me - or, I should say, it's been a while since life has handed me the usual drama I'm accustomed to. I don't know why this week was so special, but the cosmos decided to go on vacation and let me deal with the chaos on my own. OK, so it wasn't that bad. I've been through much, much, MUCH worse. I guess it was just unnerving to be plucked from my seat of quiet contentment and tossed into a shaking, spinning sphere of noise.

So, speaking of full moons and chaos, today is Halloween. I'm not one of those people who goes crazy over the holiday, but I am known to dress up for our party at work. Today - I'm a mime.

The beauty of being a mime is, well, that they can't talk. This is ironic since most of the chaos of my week has revolved around the spoken word: presentations, training team members, brainstorming for a new company name and identity, verbalizing ideas for my to-be-written novel, and more. Then there was the accusation from a friend that I said one thing and wrote something else. To that person - yes, I'm talking to you - I'm not angry; that's not my style...but I am extremely hurt. Anyone who truly knows me would know that I have no tolerance for liars or two-faced people (which probably explains my disdain for most politicians), and to have someone (a person very close to me, mind you) even for a moment think that of me is just...I don't even know the word for it. Tragic? Ignorant? As we corresponded via e-mail, I tried to explain (Word to the wise: e-mail is always a bad way to try to explain yourself), I probably made things worse. But then I thought, why do I even need to explain myself? I know perfectly well what I said, and what I wrote, and if this person listened and read carefully, they would see that the ideas are not contradictory but complementary, and that what I wrote is an extension of what was said.

I told this person that I'm not angry and that we're still on good terms. I meant that. We are. I've known this person far too long to do otherwise. I'm not a fighter. But I think it's important for said-person to understand that a misunderstanding can be hurtful, dangerous even, so it's good to look and listen carefully first. Said-person may very well maintain their opinion about this, but I don't think it's up to me to change their mind. I spoke the truth. I wrote the truth. My part is done.

[On a separate note - less than one day to go. Thank goodness for the end of daylight savings; one extra hour to write with this weekend.]

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

And It's Only Tuesday

This week is already shaping up to be "one of those weeks", so I thought that I would just post a quick apology now to my friends out there waiting for the next big post. It most likely will not happen until later in the week.

So, here is a quick summary of what's been happening so far:

  • The pumpkin I carved so lovingly on Sunday afternoon and placed proudly on our front porch was demolished by some animal Sunday night. The entire face is completely gone!
  • Promotion at work (yay!)
  • Meetings at work (oh...)
  • Husband's birthday minus the bash due to a cold (his, not mine)
  • Snow?!?
  • Prepping for the big change coming to our company and how I will help lead the charge
  • Trying to figure out what my storyline will be for NaNoWriMo. Only a few days left.

Lots of planning, brainstorming and Advil-popping going on.

Friday, October 24, 2008

NaNoWriMo?

Earlier this week, a coworker gave me a clipping from November's Self magazine with the heading "Got 3 minutes? Start Writing a Novel." She left a sticky note pointing to the article, saying "Christine - Saw this and thought about you - you can do it!" What a nice gesture. I told her a while ago - maybe a year or two ago - over lunch that I like to write as a hobby. Since then, she's been giving me clippings from magazines or newspapers about writing and getting published. I think that's tremendous that she has so much faith in me, especially being that she's never read any of my writing outside of professional material.

I put the article aside, thinking, well - I don't do novels. I write poetry. Bad poetry, but poetry nonetheless. I tried my hand at short stories a while ago but they never amounted to much. I always lost inspiration...or heart...or interest. Then I started thinking things over again. A novel. I always say, with all the craziness I've seen in my life so far, I could write a book. Maybe now's the time.

Why now? Well, apparently November is National Novel Writing Month. Who knew? Also, apparently, it's the 10th anniversary. So, what exactly does this mean? Click here to find out.

Write 50,000 in 30 days. The thought of it sounds so...daunting. I can't even imagine what 50,000 words look like. I guess novels don't necessarily have to equate Dostoyevsky, though - right? I have to at least try. So...without further ado, I am announcing that I am officially participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I have one week to sort things out and prepare myself.

The article my coworker gave me gave three tips: 1) Find a personal story line, 2) Turn off that critic in your head, 3) Stay Motivated. Sounds easy enough, but we'll see. Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Feeling Punk

My mind has been in a fog the last few days. It could be information overload, as that tends to happen at the most inopportune times and my brain decides to shut down before rebooting. It could be that it finally feels like fall, and I would rather be kicking around the leaves than sitting in my office. But, I think the real reason is that I'm coming down with the first cold of the season. Hooray! It happens every year this time, usually on or around Halloween, so it's actually a little early this year.

It starts with Sore Throat. Scratchy..dry..it makes me sound a bit like Kim Carnes when I speak. Sore Throat often brings his companion, Fever, and her best friend, Chills. It's like a big party. All the while, I try to act like I'm not home but they crash my pad anyway. Before I know it, Sniffles drops by and then it's wall to wall Snot. Snot likes to stick around for a bit. He's a big guy. He doesn't like to be told when to leave. Hacking Cough finally shows up near the end of the party, saying "Hey, where's everyone going? The party's just starting!" Sometimes Sore Throat feels bad for Hacking Cough and they buddy up. Glassy Eyes is always around, but she kind of just sits there, waiting...

All the while, I'm in denial: "I'm not sick; it's allergies. I'm just thirsty; all I need is a mug of something hot. The office is just cold. Or hot. I'm fine. Really. Boy, is it warm in here!" I try to play it off, but in a few days time, that will be impossible. I become a red-nosed, congested mess and everyone has to stand 5 feet away from me so not to catch my plague. Then if someone happens to get sick, they all know who to blame. They're just jealous the punks didn't come to their house first.

So, I'm already planning for the shindig around Thanksgiving. That's always a hoot.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

From Where I Come

Ever since I was young, I have had heard bits and pieces about my ancestory - mostly from my mother's side - so I knew enough in general terms to understand (somewhat) my cultural roots. Like many Americans, my ethnic composition is a hodge podge of several groups, none of which you would immediately be able to detect by just looking at me. My family has been in the United States for a few generation now so I'm about as exotic as Wonder Bread. Because we are a nation that likes to push people into boxes to make things easier, I'm considered "white." I hate that. Yes, my skin is on the pastey side, but I'm not "white." Same goes for "black," "yellow," "olive," and so on. People are not colors. We are heritages and cultures and stories and history. If you're going to assign me to a color, at least pick a pretty one, like "rose" or "indigo."

But I digress. Back to my ancestory. So, my maiden name is not a common one, and most people really don't know where it came from. (For the sake of privacy, I will not give my last name here, but those of you who know me can follow along at home). It's Russian, folks. Or Ukranian, depending on the year you're talking about. People don't often believe the name's roots because it doesn't end in "-ov" or "-ski." I will say this - as with alot of names (just try and dispute it, government), upon entry into the U.S., someone decided to add an extra letter to the name so instead of "-alo" it became "-ailo." And so the name stuck.

Why all this talk about last names and heritage? Well, last week, I found out, under no uncertain terms, that I'm also Hungarian. Or Austrian, depending on the year you're talking about. I had heard rumors drifting in the stratosphere that I had relatives from the Austria-Hungary Empire. As it turned out, it was my paternal grandmother's mother's family. Thanks to the website Ellis Island and some help from my aunt, I saw with my own eyes the ship's record of my great grandmother's passage, who left Hungary at age 7 with her siblings and mother and sailed aboard the passenger ship Derfflinger from Bremen, Germany; her father came a few years earlier. In fact, today, October 21, is the 105th anniversary of my great, great grandfather's arrival into New York aboard the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse.

I can only imagine the hardships they must have faced. It's bad enough to endure cramped quarters on a passenger ship for weeks amongst strangers harboring who-knows-what kind of diseases. It's downright heartbreaking to be so desperate to leave your homeland to seek a better life for your family regardless of the risk to your own; to arrive on a foreign shore not speaking the language or looking the part, coming from shear poverty into more poverty, and trying to improve your standing despite heavy xenophobia and beliefs that you are another species altogether. But they overcame those barriers, just as my maternal relatives from Ireland, Wales, and the Netherlands did. I won't get into the story of my Mohawk relatives; that will be another post.

I guess I could make several points here and go off on a diatribe comparing my relatives' story with the current immigrant situation, assimilation or lack thereof, and how xenophobia still exists and what will the presidential candidates do about it and so on. But I won't. You can do that. I'm just happy to have a connection and a tangible piece of my ancestral puzzle. It's not the only piece, and I cannot wait to learn more. I do know that many records, on both sides of my family, were destroyed either in fires or whatnot years ago, so I'm not sure how far back the trail goes. Has anyone researched his/her family ties? What sites are good? Has anyone tried the Mormon Genealogy Library?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Your Guide to The Hunt

Tomorrow I will be once again partaking in the Far Hills Race Meeting, more commonly referred to as "The Hunt." This will be my fourth or fifth year (I lost count after a while.)


Those of you in New Jersey have no doubt heard of this annual fundraiser and its reputation for being one of the grandest, rowdiest, high-priced tailgate party east of the Mississippi. More often than not, it's a bunch of rich college kids drinking way too much. Sure, you'll get the conservative crowd with their fancy spots, waiter service, high heels and cigars but for the rest of us, it's a chance to get together with some friends and have a good time, whatever shape we're in. My group is a little older (not college age) and do not try to be anything other than what we are, but we fit in anyway. I have to say, it is not a very ethnically diverse crowd, which only exasperate the stereotype (a true one at that) of it being geared toward white, upper middle class prepsters who try to "out-prep" one another. For someone like me, the crowd watching is just plain hilarious.

So, since I've been to a few of these things, I offer my insight and "survival guide" to you first-timers:
1) Prep your stomach and liver for mass quantities of alcohol consumption. Some start doing this Friday night/Saturday morning. Whatever works for you. For me, as I'm not one to frequent keggers anymore, I pad my stomach with bread and such before the drinking starts. Whatever you do, just remember: no one likes stepping into vomit on the field - least of all, Muffy in her Prada shoes, so do what you have to do to avoid it.

2) Dress weather-appropriately. Without fail, on the very day of The Hunt, an Arctic front blows in and it's freezing. This is only made more interesting by the deluge of rain that tends to also fall. It's like Mother Nature turns the switch just for us. One year, it rained so hard and the fields were so muddy, mud splashed all the way up to my thighs on my jeans! You're exposed for 5, 6, maybe up to 8 or 9 hours, so to avoid hypothermia, bundle up! Wear layers.

3) Wear appropriate shoes. I'm sorry - Prada heels are not appropriate, even if you're stuck with Thurston Howell III under his lush corporate tent and not parading around the grounds. Heels can sink into mud and dirt. Wellies are de rigeur on those days when you could have taken Noah's Ark to the races instead of the train. Men wearing penny loafers and argyle socks are just hilarious, but if it makes you feel good - go for it.

4) The Train. What to say about the drunk train. Board early, if you can, to get there. Watch the fields crossing over to the rails (see #2 and #3). Board early, if you can, going back. Fight for a seat. No one likes that jerky motion after chugging your weight in beer. Your stomach will thank you.

5) Bring dollars. At whatever site you find yourself, no doubt there will be betting. We just do for fun, so our group usually bets a dollar a person (although new comers to our spot this year are trying to mix it up, and I can't see the rest of us being down for that.) White boards are optional. We'll have one this year; I'll let you know how it works.

6) Have fun. It's what the day is about. I'm sure the proceeds of the day are going to a good cause, but being that I live in Essex County, I have not, nor will I probably ever, find myself in the halls of Somerset Medical Center. I'm not going to take the day, or myself, too seriously.

I would like to hear your stories about The Hunt - whether from this year or previous years. What have been your experiences, and what tips would you add to this list to help out Virgin Hunters?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Stamped Out

As mentioned yesterday, I recently came across some old letters from a few pen pals I had back in grade school.

One girl, Crystal B., was from Thorndale, TX and I started writing to her through a program arranged through our schools. The second girl, Jackie C., was from Clondalkin, Ireland, just outside of Dublin, and that connection started with a girl scout project. My writing friendships with both Crystal and Jackie lasted about 3 years - between 5th and 8th grade. I don't recall any of us writing much beyond that point in time. There were two other pen pals that didn't work out so well: a boy from France, and a girl from Midland, TX. I have a feeling the boy didn't write or understand English well (or maybe he didn't want a girl as a pen pal); whatever the reason, he never responded. The girl from Midland wrote her whole life story in the first letter; she must have thought I was a jerk for asking where Midland was and telling her that there was no such town in New Jersey as Indian Falls where she said her friend lived, because she never wrote back, either. Ah, c'est la vie.

I enjoyed having pen pals. Most of my friends had pen pals then, too. It was the thing to do in the pre-Internet days. Can you imagine - taking the time to WRITE a thoughtful letter, maybe include a drawing or magazine clipping or something; ADDRESS AN ENVELOPE and maybe include a doodle on the back flap, and STAMP the letter?? Preposterous! But that's how we did it, kids, back in ancient times.

I learned so much about other places in the world and what people were like, whether we shared similar interests, and so on. It was a great experience. But what made it really great was receiving MAIL. As a kid, the only mail you get if you're lucky are annual birthday cards (maybe) and perhaps a monthly subscription to Highlights or some kind of children's magazine. You just don't get mail. So, with my letters (especially the ones from Europe) I felt important. I felt there was a connection and it made me smile then, and it does now re-reading the letters. You don't get that from e-mail. Well, I suppose you could, but would you really print out each e-mail and save over the years? It just wouldn't have the same effect.

Today, if you do a Google search for pen pals, you'll come across mostly Web based services. "Hey, kids, you can send more e-mails in addition to all the other Web-based things you do! Hooray. Watch out for the pedophiles." Just another nail in the coffin of childhood. There is Student Letter Exchange that actually let kids MAIL letters! But, I doubt there is such an interest anymore. Kids, for the most part, don't even know how to write a decent sentence without "texting lingo." Such is a sad day for the English language.

As for Crystal and Jackie - I don't know where you are or if you even remember me, but I hope you're both doing well. If you read this, send me your e-mail address and I'll drop you a line.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tripping down Memory Lane

This weekend, I stopped by my father's house to help clean out some of the things I left behind when I moved out a few years ago. Since then, I got married and while our little house is wonderful, it just does not have storage space. At all. Like, zilch. My intent was not to leave things at my father's house, but with hardly any room for daily goods, I took what I needed and left what I didn't. After a few years of empty-nesting it, my father decided that he didn't want to build a shrine to his youngest daughter (come on, dad! don't you love me anymore?) so after storing my {ahem} stuff in his house, he ever so kindly asked me to remove it from the premises so that he could actually use the space. Ugh.

Lucky for me, dad became impatient and basically threw whatever was in my old bedroom in boxes for me to sort through, making my job of sorting ever so much easier. Honestly, though - rediscovering bits and pieces of my past as I sifted through box after box was really....weird...but kind of a fun weird. Like, going through someone else's things. With the exception of a few items that were, in fact, someone else's things - my sister's - they were all mine and I couldn't believe it:

The '80s Childhood

  • My Girl Scout uniform and badges
  • Scholastic News from grade school. News of the day included the Challenger explosion and Berlin Wall tumbling down
  • Letters from my pen pals circa late '80s/early '90s: Crystal from Thorndale, TX and Jackie from Dublin, Ireland
  • All my NKOTB memorabilia, like posters, buttons, dolls, trading cards, comic books, magazines...I think I paid for their retirement
  • A local newspaper from '91 announcing that the U.S. entered the Persian Gulf War and remembering my sister's then-boyfriend going off to war
  • Statue of Liberty commemorative pencils from 1986
  • My hot pink and purple Caboodles with a scattering of scrunchies, headbands, makeup, movie ticket stubs, phone numbers
  • Lisa Frank stickers

The High School Years

  • Prayer cards, postcards, thank you's, birthday and Christmas cards from family and friends...some still in my life, some not
  • Triangle-folded notes passed in high school classes, including one from my German-exchange student
  • A newspaper clipping from '95 with a photo of the high school senior I had a crush on winning a basketball game
  • A collage meant to have been in my senior year high school yearbook with photos of friends who transferred schools years before
  • Mixed tapes of dance music I probably would still listen to, had I a cassette player anymore
  • Likewise for the broken Walkman

College and Beyond

  • Swizzle sticks from when I finally turned 21
  • Canceled rent checks from senior year in college
  • The approval letter declaring I would graduate cum laude after completing original research for my honors thesis in psychology with an "A"
  • Dried bouquets from all the weddings I had been in
  • Early copies of my post-college résumé
  • Recruiter cards, from places I had no interest in then but now find are my clients
  • Directions to my former boss's house for her annual Christmas party
  • A list of stolen CDs, created from memory (yes, I'm that neurotic about my music), after someone broke into my car...including "Take Your Time" by Love Bite

This list may not seem extraordinary to you. To me, it's a small sampling of over 20 years of my life. During my sorting, I had no emotional attachment to most of the junk in those boxes and just tossed away. Then I came across this stuff and was instantly transported back to those days when Little Chrissy was just trying to make her way through the small world that surrounded her. I was reminded of all the embarrassing moments and occasionally, the sunnier times when, for the briefest of moments, I felt invincible. I'm happy to say my world has opened up much more since then, but I am a bit sad that I don't really relate to my younger self anymore. I guess that's life.

Why did I hold on to this junk for all these years? I guess I felt like there was some significance there. Am I the only one my age who is now just letting go of her past?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sticky & Sweet (The Review)

If you read my post on Friday, you would know that I was a bit torn about going to the Madonna concert this weekend. Well, we decided to go. I mean - it's Madonna, right? So, for those of you who have not had the chance to see her on this tour, I'll save you the suspense. If you are planning to go, and don't want the surprise ruined, turn away my friend - turn away.

The Good:

  • SEAT LOCATION: So, the show I attended was at New York's Madison Square Garden. Our seats were decent and conveniently located directly behind the bar. So far so good.
  • SONGS: Delivered as expected were a slew of her new songs off Hard Candy which are ok but not spectacular; she did, though, inject new life into favorites like "Vogue", "Into the Grove" and "Ray of Light." I think my favorite was a more spiritual version of "Like a Prayer."
  • STAR POWER: Britney's video worked well during one of the songs, as did virtual Kanye West and Justin Timberlake. Pharrell Williams came on stage a few times which added to the cool factor.
  • CHOREOGRAPHY: It was all gorgeously choreographed - lights, screen images, dancing. Many times through the night, it felt more like a rave than a concert.
  • TENDER MOMENT: Singular. She dedicated "You Must Love Me" to her daughter, Lourdes, who was celebrating her 12th birthday that day.
  • AMERICAN THIGHS: Did I mention what excellent shape Madonna's in? If you've seen the photos, you would know how her thighs are cut like stone. All but a few songs were fast, so she was on her feet dancing for the majority of the show. Amazing. I hope I can be in half that shape when I'm 50.

The Bad:

  • TIMING. The show was to start at 8 pm. No, no, really - it was. In reality, it didn't start until 9:30 pm. No opening act, which is fine and to be expected. No encore, and it was all done by 11 pm. With all the set/costume changes, we actually waited longer than she performed.
  • SET LIST: Her setlist is pretty much identical each show. That's sad. Especially for you suckers who paid to see her at all area shows, no doubt you're seeing the SAME SHOW every time. She has enough material that she could mix it up a bit.
  • HIGHWAY ROBBERY: The tickets were overpriced. The price of a tank top was just stealing.
  • FAKE OUT: There were times when she was on stage when a recording did the singing for her - I mean, she wasn't even feigning to lip-synch.
  • HYPOCRISY and POLITIK: As mentioned, I thought her version of "Like a Prayer" was incredible - and the screen graphics showed quotes about how to be in touch with a Higher Power, like, don't have hate in your heart and don't hold a grudge and things like that. Too bad Madonna doesn't seem to follow it. As anticipated, she started in again about Sarah Palin. Enough already. That bandwagon left a month ago. Time to get off. Plus, as well-publicized, her video that briefly showed Obama in good light and McCain/Bush as the enemy. It wasn't as bad as the media made it out to be, but it was no less obvious what her intent was. Let it go, Madge - let it go.

Overall, it was a good show but I did not leave feeling like it was the best I had ever seen. I expected more. But as she sings, "This is who I am, you can like it or not." I was left with an resounding "Eh."


Sticky & Sweet Set List
Intro/Candy Shop

Beat Goes On
Human Nature
Vogue
Video Interlude - Die Another Day

Into The Groove
Heartbeat
Borderline
She’s Not Me
Music
Video Interlude - Rain/Here Comes The Rain Again

Devil Wouldn’t Recognize You
Spanish Lesson
Miles Away
La Isla Bonita/Lela Pala TuteDoli Doli (Live interlude - Romanian folk song)
You Must Love Me
Video Interlude - Get Stupid

4 Minutes
Like A Prayer
Ray Of Light
Hung Up
Give It To Me (Finale)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hung Up

Over the years, I've had a sort of Love/Hate relationship with Madonna.

When she first came out, I was too young to understand what she was singing about or even why there was controversy around her. When she went through her awkward stage, like marrying Sean Penn or trying so hard to be a serious actress in the likes of "Dick Tracy" or "Bodies of Evidence," I was in my awkward stage, albeit moving away from bubblegum '80s pop like Madonna, NKOTB and Debbie Gibson in favor of darker (and better) music like The Cure and Siouxie Sioux (What can I say? I was ahead of my time.) She drifted in and out of my life over the years. By 2000, Madonna reinvented herself for the 50th time, and I was ready to accept her with open arms.

Things were going well. We were on sort of a honeymoon phase after Confessions on a Dancefloor, but now it's just all going downhill.

Oh, Madge, what are you
doing now?

I understand that you don't like McCain/Palin. Alot of folks don't, and that's...ok. I don't care about your politics. I want you to Get Into the Grove. Instead you're Causing a Commotion and pretty soon you'll find out the Power of Goodbye from your fans. Controversy isn't anything new with you. That's who you are; it's why people love you - because you say what's on your mind and don't give two craps about the repercussions. But...you are an ENTERTAINER, not a politician. Hell, you're not even an actress to qualify as a political activist alongside your ex, Sean. So, shut up and get on with the show already.

Incidentally, I am going to her concert - although, I have to say, with a heavy heart. I don't respect her lashing out at Palin; again, I may not be a fan of Palin either, but seriously, have some class. STILL...I've been waiting a lifetime to see Esther in all her glory. I'll let you know if I end up staying for the whole thing.

Below is a little timeline I created to map out my rocky relationship with the Material Girl. Like one of those pros/cons list you might create when you're about to break up with someone. She better give me a reason to stick around. {Double click on the image - I know it's a tad small.}

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Do Something Nice Today

I just heard about Operation Nice which is kind of like Random Acts of Kindness, which is all meant to put a smile on someone's face - even your own.

As someone from the New York metro area, being nice around these parts is almost an oxymoron. I mean, people in this area try to be nice, but maybe don't express it to the highest level. A study on the geography of personality in the US ranked New York and New Jersey toward the bottom for positive traits like agreeableness and conscientiousness, and toward the top for neuroticism. We're notorious for road rage, for being cynical and unfriendly, for complaining, for just having an overall attitude. You got a problem with that?? A point of pride for those who live here, our hard edges just may not be appreciated by everyone else.

You know what else we're overloaded with? Stress, depression, and worse. Our lifestyle is taking the life right from under us. Will it change? Probably not. We move fast, talk fast, it's go-go-go, and if you get in our way, watch out. That's just how it's done here.

Not to say that we're all meanies. The study, of course, talks in generalities, and most of us do have good hearts, we like to laugh and smile, and interact (in a good way). But, when I think of doing a random act of kindness - like leaving a note on someone's windshield - I have to stop and think, "Is this nice, or is this a violation of privacy on the verge of stalking?" I bet people in the Midwest don't think twice about it. They were ranked as the nicest (and to my friends out in the Midwest, you really, really are!)

So, let's try to put aside our geographical differences and stereotypes and try to do something nice today. I know just the smallest thing can make me smile, and I'd like to do the same for you. Maybe I won't leave a note, but the sentiment is there just the same :)


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Death of a Salesman

In less than 4 weeks, the sale of the century will be over. Both salesmen with the best inventory are promising low, low discount prices for the highest quality. They dance and sing, put out commercial after commercial, to lure the American people into buying into the fabulous deals they are offering. And we do like those deals...and fads, and getting caught up in the frenzy; just look at the original Cabbage Patch Kids and Beanie Babies. Then the sale goes on for too long, and the ads become as annoying as "Bob's Discount Furniture" or "Head-On." We're ashamed of falling for the tawdriness of it all but keep defending our purchase because it seemed good at the time.

OK, what??

Let me explain. If you look at it, really look at it, you can see how the two presidential candidates are basically pimping themselves out for a few votes and to earn the crown as King of the World. They preen themselves, have a few cleverly written lines and catch phrases, talk about what they can offer, and what their competitor cannot, and once they're done with their sales pitch, keep nudging people to buy in. And we've bought into it...basically because there is no one else selling right now.

Back in college, I took a statistics course for marketing. Why, I couldn't tell you because I was a psych major and already fulfilled that requirement. Anyway, I ended up doing an independent honors project on top of the course that examined political marketing/campaigning and what is done, what works and what doesn't - statistically. It was during the 2000 Bush/Gore presidential election year. Basically, it showed that established incumbent candidates relied on talking about experience, while challenger relied on negative ads against the incumbent because they had no experience to speak of. Unfortunately, in this day and age - even during the 2000 election - negative ads come at us from all sides.

Now, I previously addressed my overall feelings of this year's election season. So now, debate #2 is over and there's only more to go. We have a relative new-comer in Obama and an experienced Senator in McCain; then we have an experienced VP-nominee in Biden, and an inexperienced VP-nominee in Palin. So, the negativity is flying around like poop on a spin-art machine. Yeah - it's gross. Yeah - it's unappealing. Yeah - it makes me want to run the other way.

The thing that I think is amusing is that people are so fiercely protecting their candidate of choice, mostly because people don't want to venture from their own political parties. If you're a Democrat, more likely than not, you'll vote for Obama. He's attractive, speaks well, has catchy ads, is marketing himself in all the cool places like the Internet, and most importantly, is not Bush. A good salesman all around. An overwhelming number of Americans are buying into him like the second coming of Jesus Christ Himself. Do you support everything he's proposing? Do you even know what he's proposing? If you're a Republican, it's McCain for you. He's experienced, he's a war hero, he's a soft speaker but takes action, he's like the Cloris Leachman of the national dance floor. What about his policies, his voting record, and his proposals? Get the facts: Candidate Comparison; Senate Voting Records.

In our troubled times, we really need to do a little comparative shopping, and select the things that we truly need and will improve our lives, not fluff that will in time collect dust and be thrown out. Buy wisely, shoppers! The sale will be ending soon!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Vegas, Baby...Yeah!

As you read yesterday, I just returned from my first venture to Las Vegas: Sin City, the Entertainment Capital, City of Lights, Glitter Gulch, the ADD Capital of the World. What were my impression, you may ask? Well...first, I think a long weekend was more than enough for me. I'm not a gambler, I'm more of a rocker than a clubber, I could care less about the Donny and Marie show or tigers. But I do think it's one of those places you have to experience at least once in your life.

Years ago, I wrote the poem Desert Floor, which I posted on here a while back. It was written based on the stereotype I held about the city, before seeing its "charms" first hand. Re-reading the poem now, it pretty much sums up the place. The city itself is so artificial. First, yeah, it's on the desert floor, surrounded by gorgeous mountains. It's become an oasis of sorts, but I don't think necessarily the good kind. Themed hotels that are supposed to look like other places like Venice, Paris or New York are kind of cool in their kitsch, but it's still kitsch. Even beautiful places like the Mandalay Bay, where we stayed, are lovely, but there's something really weird and kind of wrong to see a mother pushing a baby carriage through the rows of slot machine and smoky air, or an obviously-destitute person shoving dollars into a machine that could probably be better spent on food or rent. Then there are those who look like they came straight from the plastic surgeons, tanning salons or steroid-suppliers.


It's not all bad. Again - the desert was beautiful. I drove out to Red Rock Canyon with two of my oldest friends to watch the sunrise, which in itself was beautiful, but what was most astounding was that, for a brief moment, there was pure silence. Coming from noisy Northern New Jersey with the aural congestion of planes, trains, and especially automobiles, to hear nothing - not even insects or birds - was wild. Back into Sin City, the awe continued in seeing celebrities (yes, it's true, Paris Hilton and friends were at LAX with us), visual stimulation around every corner and the freedom to do anything you wanted at anytime. I suppose, too, the company helped.


Would I go again? Maybe. Is it my scene? Definitely not. I found myself trying to have the "Vegas experience" which contradicted my everday life. But, I suppose, that's the point, and no one has to be the wiser.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Friends and Strangers

Just came back from a fabulous weekend in Sin City with some of my girlfriends. It was a big weekend for us. For me, it was my first official visit there (we'll go into that more another time); we were all celebrating birthdays; and it was just an excellent excuse to get together since all of us have hectic lives and don't see each other much.

The girls that went to Vegas have been a part of my little circle for such a long time. I've known one of the girls for 25 years, and another girl for 24. A third girl, I've known for 16 years, and a fourth girl - for at least 10 years, probably more. In fact, I've been friends with the majority of those in my circle for a minimum of 10 years. I love that because they are the most sincere, and for that, the most treasured. We've shared each other's highs and lows; there's comfort in knowing that these friends will always be there, and even if we have an argument, it will blow over in time and we can resume things better than before.

I have made more "recent" friends, but those friendships do not usually last. We try to maintain it, but then life gets in the way, and we lose touch. I suppose I'm less trusting, too, then I used to be, more insolated, and tend to keep people at arm's length. Is that right? Of course not, because I've come across some wonderful people and don't mean to appear like a cold person. When I feel like I might be perceived this way, I feel terrible and try to rectify it by forcing myself to be more open, more outgoing; but this is who I am. Many people don't understand it; others just don't like it. I say, too bad. My real friends understand me, and I feel comfortable enough to be myself, and there is nothing better than that. Thanks, guys!

I've been humming the "Friendship" song all day today. I could totally see us doing this: