Sunday, May 31, 2009

I Now Return To My Regularly Scheduled Life, Already In Progress ...

Oh, hello.

Today is Sunday. I haven't posted since Tuesday, and that post was pounded out with haste, so as to have something up this week.

This week, which has been somewhat adventuresome. A friend called on Tuesday night to ask if I could pick up her nephew and his girlfriend who were stranded with a broken-down car nearby and who needed a place to stay until said broken-down car was once again road-worthy.

Well, the car is still at the garage where they had it towed. They, however, are visiting some friends in Ann Arbor for a few days. Turns out, there exists a service called MegaBus that transports people for (relative) cheap. Ah, college kids. They know all the angles.

The point is, between Tuesday night and when I dropped them off at Union Station Thursday afternoon, I was more or less away from my computer, driving them where they needed to go or otherwise being a host of some sort, not that I felt the need to entertain them.

And then, after dropping them off, I headed up to J-D's place for an afternoon of noshing and champagne-drinking for his birthday.

I like drinking champagne in the afternoon!

And then, once I returned home, I went about the business of cleaning up after house guests have left – doing laundry and such – and haven't been in the head space to blog.

Having impromptu guests was a good thing for me.

They served to remind me that I am very, very entrenched in my ways. I like having guests, but I also like planning for guests. I'm a planner. I like order. I like setting scenes. But, here's a funny thing: Life doesn't work that way. Life throws curve balls. So I need to lighten up, to go with the flow, view life as more of an episode of reality television, less of a scripted drama.

But that's what I get for pounding away at a screenplay for so long: I'm used to writing everyone's lines.

With them, though, they seemed to bring a shift in energy. My life this week has been very interesting, new characters are taking the stage with me, interesting possibilities are beginning to take shape, cool events are on the horizon.

And so in that way, I haven't returned to my regularly scheduled life. I'm in a slightly new world.

I like it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Excising ...

Last week, sometime, I cut my grass. Some years, I can reliably cut my grass one day a week, the same day, usually, and that's that.

But not this year. Oh, no. This year, the combination of fertilizer and excessive rain have led to a grass explosion. My lawn is like Jiffy Pop.

So I was cutting my grass, sometime last week, and as I cut the swath in front of my shrubs – my massive, unruly, overgrown yews – I decided, "These have got to go."

I've meant to get rid of them for years, actually. I've never been fond of them. Left natural, yews are very pretty plants, but somewhere along the line, someone decided that yews should be trimmed into shapes, like boxes or spheres or Ding Dongs. As a new homeowner, I tried to keep them contained, in shapes vaguely resembling Dumpsters, but I gave up the gardening ghost where my yews were concerned. Not because they had beaten me, but because I needed to step between the yews and my house to cut the back part of them, and I had no idea what was living in that space, and I didn't want to find out by feeling it crawl up my leg.

My neighbor William is a landscape genius. His yard, I'm sure I've mentioned before, is that yard that is camera-ready, all the time. One winter, when he was bored because he couldn't be outside in the garden (which is also tended to by his wife, Rhonda, and their son, Shane), he drew a landscape plan for me.

It's a beautiful piece of work, but I never installed it, partly because I someday want to alter the front of my house and would have to dig up much of what he called for, and partly because I didn't have the ready cash.

And then, a few weeks back, it dawned on me that the money I needed for the plants wasn't going to show up as long as the yews remained. But if I got rid of the yews, I would effectively open up the channel for the money to flow.

And so, last week, I decided that it was time for them to go. And I knocked on the door next door and asked Shane if he could help me get rid of them or recommend someone who could.

And Sunday, as I was watching "Barefoot Contessa" and noshing on a handful of almonds, the doorbell rang and Shane asked if it was OK for him to start working. He had some time.

So, I met him outside and I cut the grass in my parkway while he fired up his chainsaw and started slicing branch after branch. With the parkway cut, we dragged bundles of branches out the street, so the city could come by and collect them later.

Start to finish, it took him about 30 minutes to cut them away from their trunks.

Thirty minutes to rid the front of my house for something I'd been ruing for the better part of nine years.

We spent about three hours, all together, cleaning up debris, digging out a long-forgotten brick border, cutting the stumps as flush to the ground as possible. Shane wields a chainsaw with surgical precision. His work is immaculate, which I appreciate.

So let that be a lesson to me to make room in my life for what I want, to rid myself of what I don't. One can't come while the other stays.

Now, I have a blank dirt canvas. Shane has advised me to live with the openness for a while, to really think about what I'd like to plant, not to feel any pressure to hurriedly fill the space we just created.

Now, wide swaths of possibility flank my front door.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

To The Naysayers, I Say 'Nay' ...

It has taken me almost a lifetime to get here.

My lifetime to date, that is.

But my psyche, at long last, is pulling into the station of self.

Put another way, to those who try to quash my dreams before they're even fully formed, I am putting my fingers in my ears and saying, loudly, "La la la la! I can't hear you! I can't hear you!"

Years ago, after my last newspaper gig went away because the parent company decided to divest itself of all of its newspaper holdings – I was part of the bleeding edge and lost my job years before the current newsroom massacres; lucky me! – I was at a party and a friend of the family asked me what I was doing, employment-wise.

I told her I was freelancing, to which she replied, consolingly, "Well, I guess that's fine until you get a real job."

Thanks for the invalidation! Have a nice day!

Yesterday, a friend forwarded a reply he'd gotten from an agent in Los Angeles. What the agent had to say wasn't mean. It was honest. It was his opinion. It was also pragmatic. Acting – in Hollywood – has got to be one of the hardest careers in the world to crack. Or any other entertainment endeavor, for that matter.

Some guy named Kris won "American Idol" last night. (I don't watch the show, but I know that much.) And how many thousands of people tried out for the season that just ended? In the immortal words of "Highlander," "There can be only one."

Like weekly winners of big lottery prizes.

Or egg-fertilizing sperm.

Anyway, the point is, my friend was disheartened. And I wrote back to him to say that he'll press on.

Or he won't. That's his choice.

But if he's going to let one person instantly erect an insurmountable brick wall in front of him, well, then, he doesn't really want his dream badly enough, I reckon.

And for too long, I was just like that. I was far too quick to let another's opinion derail my plans. If someone said, "It can't be done," I took their words to heart.

It took me a long time to realize that they might be saying not "It can't be done" but "I can't do it, so I don't want you to be able to, either."

Well, not to put too fine a point on it, but screw that.

I wasn't in the habit of looking to my Starbucks cups for life guidance, but sometime last year, my eyes fell on the name "Keith Olbermann" on the cup in my hand, so I slid the coffee sleeve down to read what was hidden behind it.

And I read: "Don't take it personally when they say 'no' — they may not be smart enough to say 'yes.' "

How do you like them apples?

That's not to say that the people in my life aren't smart. But everyone has their own perspectives and strengths and I was doing myself a great disservice, seeking validation of my ideas in others.

Sure, I value input and guidance, but unless I'm in mortal danger, I don't value anyone telling me not to do something before they fully understand what it is I want to attempt or how I plan to go about it.

Will I succeed spectacularly at everything I attempt? No, probably not. But what a shame to give up from the get-go.

The notion that I could walk 60 miles in a weekend used to seem a little ludicrous until I did it. And now I'm gearing up for my 6th 3-Day.

Years ago, I took the Mensa exam on a lark, just to see if I could pass. Leaving the test session that night, I was sure I wasn't Mensa material. Until the mail arrived a few days later with an offer to join.

Which isn't meant as braggadocio. Everyone has similar experiences, fears they thought they couldn't conquer, grades they thought they couldn't earn. Until they did.

Sometimes, you're your own loudest naysayer. Sometimes, it's really hard to get out of your own way. Until you do.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

An Early-Morning Request ...

Dear crow,

Please shut up.

Thank you.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Pith And The Pendulum ...

I have emotions on my mind.

I'm not feeling emotional, mind. I'm feeling rather stoic this morning, actually. Or analytical. Or detached. Or curious. Or fascinated. But not emotional.

I just fired off a text to College Boyfriend David. He called last week on his way home from teaching and when I answered the phone, having seen his number on Caller ID, with, "Hey, honey, what's up?", he said, "I'm just calling to say that you don't bring me flowers and you don't sing me love songs and you don't call me anymore."

Which is true. I don't call him. But not because I don't want to talk to him. He's just one of the most insanely busy people I know, so I never know when to call him, when he won't be in class, when he won't be with his kids, when he won't be otherwise disposed. So I just let him call me.

But I text him from time to time. It's less obtrusive. And interestingly enough, I added texting to my phone after a conversation with him. I had told him that I thought texting was stupid, as the point of a phone is to call people, but he convinced me that texting is handy to have, so now I have it, and now I text more than I talk. Not because I'm anti-social but because the cell coverage in my house sucks. I guess the Verizon posse is busy with other customers.

David, though, is the only "man from my past" with whom I keep in touch, and our past was a long time ago. I was a sophomore in college. That means we dated, let's see, in ... 1879.

No, not really. It was 1989. A mere 20 years ago.

Twenty years. Half my life ago. I met him when I was 19. Right this minute, I'm 39.

Twenty years. Huh.

But as I was saying, he's the only one I keep in touch with, and what's fascinating me this morning is how widely feelings for one person can swing. (My iTunes, which I've mentioned is surely synched with my brain, just shuffled up a tune from the Era of G. For those of you who don't know about G, go back to my archives starting with November 2005.)

In a relationship, in those early days, everything is heady. Everything is worthy of anticipation. Even the un-date-like moments are fun because I'm with the other person. But I also like those banalities because they're a little bit of real life. Early on, dating, in theory, is all about dates – movies, dinner, drinks, etc. – but I like sharing the everyday stuff, too. It's a little glimpse into what life would be like with the person I'm with.

Of course, to date, none of those early scenarios have converted into "the" relationship.

But in those moments, all the little gestures and gazes sustain that heightened level of giddiness.

Until things end.

And then there's sadness for a little while.

And then a separation mechanism kicks in and the emotional pendulum swings wide the other way, and if the other person is still in my life in some form, I basically want him to go away.

It's not intended as cruelty. My brain just works its way around to a place of "You didn't want to date me anymore, so now leave me alone."

As I once told a man who was breaking up with me but who told me he wanted to keep me around because I made him laugh and he liked to vent to me when he had a bad day: "I am not an a la carte menu."

The "friend" thing almost never works. For me, anyway. It's too hard for me to dial a relationship back from its previous intensity and intimacy.

Except in the case of College Boyfriend David. I'm not sure why we've lasted all these years. We don't see each other often. Making coffee this morning, I was thinking back to when he was here over Memorial Day weekend – two years ago – and wondering where two years have gone.

But we talk from time to time and we text from time to time and we have that kind of relationship in which no amount of time is insurmountable. We always just pick up right where we left off.

The others are exes. David is a friend.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The 3-Day: Fundraising ...

Hello, would-be and first-time 3-Day walkers!

This is the third in a series of 3-Day-related posts based on what you might want to know about this 60-mile adventure, which is actually much longer, when you add up all the miles you walk when you train. You are training, right? FYI, my post about training is here. What's that? You haven't signed up yet? Well, get crackin'! There's still time to register. And FYI again, my post about registration is here.

But for those who are already well along in the 3-Day process, now is the time that you're fundraising. And unless you have a very rich uncle or some other such benefactor, you probably haven't hit your $2,300 minimum yet. (I haven't either.)

And let's face it: In this economy, raising money seems like a Herculean task.

But it's not.

Yes, there may be more challenges than in years past – I had two supporters bow out this year, each of whom have contributed $250 in the past, so whoosh!, there went $500 I was able to count on before – but "challenge" ≠ "impossibility."

You just have to get more creative.

This year, I ordered business cards through VistaPrint.com for next to nothing. My digital camera wasn't happy, trying to capture the type on the cards, but you can get an idea of what I did. (I opted for text on the back for a small fee, but you can skip it, of course.)

Front:


Back:


The 3-Day web site has "cards" that you can print out and fill in with your information to hand out, too.

Often, when you ask people for contributions – and note that I call them "contributions," not "donations"; I think people react differently to being asked to contribute something versus being asked to donate something – they feel as though they need to contribute a great amount or nothing at all.

And while more is certainly better when it comes to raising money to find a cure for breast cancer, we're all aware that the economy is taking a toll.

But people haven't stopped spending money entirely.

The 3-Day web site has plenty of ideas for fundraising, but here are a few quick take-aways:

- Remind would-be contributors that contributions start at $5. Ask your caffeine-addicted friends and family to skip one weekly trip to Starbucks for a month – just four visits – and contribute that money to the walk instead. They can brew coffee at home or take advantage of the office coffee on those days. (These days, many offices buy Starbucks to brew, anyway.)

- Ask local business owners if they'll agree to contributing part of a day's take to your fundraising effort, either a percentage of the day's total or a fixed per-sale amount.

- Remember that you never know who your angels are. Here's something you can do right now to jump-start your fundraising effort: Go through your e-mail address book and pick 10 people (or 7 people or 5 people or whatever makes sense for you) who weren't part of your original e-mail solicitation and ask them for contributions.

I do this every year and without fail, at least one of those people contributes. One year, within minutes of sending out such a mini-blast, my e-mail chimed and when I checked my mail, I saw that someone had made a contribution.

I clicked through and gasped when I saw that someone I had worked with on a project a few months earlier had contributed ... $300!

I wrote to him immediately to thank him, and he replied that his niece had recently passed away, not from breast cancer but from another form of the disease, and his contribution was one of the ways he was honoring her memory.

You never know who wants to support your effort until you ask.

I know it might feel very foreign to some of you to ask people to contribute. Even after doing events for many years, I'm still not entirely comfortable with it, either. It's just not part of my makeup. But I remind myself that breast cancer touches everyone's lives, directly or indirectly, and that many, many people want to contribute.

Will everyone say "Yes" to your request? No. But many will. Fundraising is a numbers game. Keep asking.

And then make it as easy as possible for them to contribute. The online tool is as easy – and safe – to use as any e-commerce site, but for those who might not have a computer or who might be hesitant to put their credit card information online, I print out donation forms for them and fill in everything but the amount of their contributions. I also address an envelopes for them and stamp them (with a breast cancer stamp, of course). That way, they can easily submit their contributions, or I can do it for them if they mail the checks to me.

Of course, you already know to thank your contributors, and the web site enables you to keep track of your contributors and whether or not you've thanked them. Personally, I jot a e-mail (from my personal e-mail account, not from the 3-Day site) to each contributor as soon as I receive word of their contribution, and then I follow that up with a handwritten thank-you note, too. People like to receive mail that's not of the junk or bill varieties.

Opportunities abound. People are generous by nature. Put the two together and you'll meet – and exceed – your goal.

'Star Trek' ...

In a word: WHOA!

In a few more words: Seeing this flick on an IMAX screen was totally worth the few extra bucks. Although I seem to remember that the movie screens of my youth were about as big. When did they turn into, essentially, television sets?

So, is there anything J.J. Abrams can't do? "Alias"? Outstanding. "Lost"? Genius. And his direction on this movie is superb. It balances the overall gravity of the plot with plenty of lighthearted one-liners that hearken back to the campiness of the original series.

But the most amazing aspect of this film, for me, is the casting. I doff my imaginary hat to April Webster and Alyssa Weisberg, the casting directors for this film.

Zachary Quinto as Spock is just genius, and I was thrilled to see Simon Pegg show up as Scotty. And Anton Yelchin did a great job of contorting his speech into Chekov's accent.

I missed Randy Pausch's cameo, but a quick IMDb search reveals that he was a Kelvin crew member, which means he was in the very first part of the film.

So I guess I'll have to see it again, to spot him. And I guess I'll have to see it again because it's really cool. I don't often see a movie twice while it's in the theaters. Hell, I don't often see a movie once while it's in the theaters, relying on Netflix to help me catch up on all the stuff I intended to see but never got around to somehow.

But this movie? If you haven't already seen it, seek out the biggest screen you can find.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Beyond Blogging Banalities ...

Oh, hello there. My calendar tells me it's Wednesday. And would you look at that? I haven't posted anything since Friday.

I've actually been rather busy these past days. Not so busy that I haven't had time to write, but busy enough that I've had things to write about.

And yet, I haven't.

Friday was an exceptional day, a transformative day. But I'm not going to talk about it. Because while I'm happy to put a lot of my life on display in this space, there are some things that occur that come imbued with the notion that they should remain unwritten. For now, anyway. It's not about jinxing them. It's about honoring them. And until such time as I'm able to reveal them fully, they should not be revealed at all.

Beyond that, though, the rest of my life is equally as enchanted, if a lot more everyday. The weekend was lovely, Saturday grey and chilly, just the way I like 'em. It felt far more "fall" than "spring," but I spent part of the day with mom tromping around her favorite nurseries, helping her stock up on interesting plants. And later, we watched "America's Test Kitchen" and had soup, because it was a very soup kind of day.

Sunday was sunny and cool. I spent a goodly part of the day at my parents' house, doing Mother's Day things for mom. During an afternoon break in the action, I came home with the intention of cutting my grass. At which point, the widely scattered showers in the area decided to unleash right over my house, just for a few minutes, just long enough to get everything really wet before moving on.

Thanks, weather. You're swell. Next time, why don't you take a bite out of every chocolate in a box and gnaw all the blooms off every tulip in the yard, too.

By Sunday night, I was completely beat, having done more that day than I do most days, and realized that my mom puts forth that level of effort pretty much every day of her life.

Which led to the add-on realization that I am a slug.

But Monday arrived and enabled me to rest a bit. Though I did spend a chunk of the day, in one-minute increments, checking Ticketmaster just in case Springsteen released some last-minute seats.

He did not.

And yes, I checked Craigslist but all the seats were in the third tier, which wouldn't suffice, as my mom's bout with vertigo a few years ago still makes her a little unsteady when she's in certain situations, such as steeply pitched arena seating. Hell, I'm not exactly sure on my feet in situations like that, either. (Doreen well remembers the show we saw with Jeff and Lee in Detroit. I'm pretty sure the ushers there were retired sherpas.)

So, yesterday passed, Bruceless. But I've seen him, what?, eight times since 2002? Nine times? I've forgotten. A lot. I've seen Bruce a lot. And I think it'd be nice of him to add another Chicago date in the fall and come back. If U2 can sell out Soldier Field twice over, Bruce can sell out the United Center again.

Ah, Bruce.

And here we are, this morning. I slept in because when my alarm went off at 6 a.m., I heard rain, which canceled out the morning walk. (I'll get on my treadmill later.) It's still raining lightly and everything outside looks extra verdant.

And my coffee cup is running low. Time to remedy that situation.

Friday, May 08, 2009

'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' ...

Hugh Jackman was woefully overdressed for much of the film.

That's really all I want to say about the movie.

But I'll also mention that as it compares to the other "X-Men" flicks, it's not as enjoyable. Well, not for me, anyway. There are lots of very cool effects and all, but I like the mutants I've come to know, not this new – old – crop.

Worth seeing? Sure. It's a good popcorn movie.

Although I didn't have popcorn, which might be why I didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped I would.

(And no, this is not an American version of the movie poster, but the American versions don't, well, look like this!)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

'The Soloist' ...

Yesterday, as my mom and I walked out of the theater, both of us sniffling, I turned to her and said, good-naturedly, "Thanks for raising me to be such a sap."

"The Soloist" is an amazing film, both heartbreaking and uplifting, and Jamie Foxx is a lock for another Oscar nomination.

I marvel at his talent as an actor. For a man who got his start acting like a buffoon (or a buffoon in drag) most of the time, he's parlayed his early success into a career well on its way to being distinguished.

Set against the backdrop of the homeless population in Los Angeles, this film made me sharply aware of the need to do more with my life. There is simply no excuse for me to not use, to much better effect, all that I've been given.

A minor subplot of the film is the ongoing staff reduction at the L.A. Times. Writers like Steve Lopez, played brilliantly by Robert Downey Jr. (I am thrilled by his acting renaissance), are an endangered species, and this film made me wonder about a world without newspapers. Who will tell these stories when they're gone?

Some might say that these stories don't matter. I would vehemently disagree. These stories are not separate from us, they are us. The story of Nathaniel Ayers is unique, just as each of our life stories are ours alone, but his complex tale of passion and pain shines a light at once on the beauty in the world and a side we'd rather not see.

The homeless population in Los Angeles numbers 90,000, and as the movie points out, many of the inhabitants of Skid Row and beyond are not average folks who've had a run of bad financial luck. Rather, many are people who are coping with numerous mental and physical problems.

And yet, some, like Ayers, have extraordinary gifts, and all of them play a part in this world.

I came home and printed out a label that I stuck on my monitor that simply says, "DO MORE."

And I will.

I am.

Every day.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Getting More Than You Give, Part II ...

A while back, I wrote this post about Kiva.org.

Kiva enables micro-loans to individuals all over the world who are trying to start a business or sustain a business. I made my first loans about a year and a half ago, and the two women to whom I loaned have been paying their loans back ever since. Each woman has repaid 83 percent of her loan, to date.

As money is repaid, it's returned to the Kiva accounts of the lendees, who can then reloan the money or withdraw it and receive a check.

I never intended to take the money back. I always thought I'd keep loaning it in a perpetual loop.

But the last time I went to Kiva's site, I thought something was wrong with the search function, because there were no requests for loans.

Turns out, every loan had been funded. Every loan! Every person who was asking for a loan to help better their lives and the lives of their families had received all the money they needed! I was completely blown away.

Today, I received an e-mail update from Kiva and surfed on over to see if there were loans to be funded. And were there ever. Hundreds of them. So I loaned $25 to Mariam Camara in Mali to help her with her cereal business.

As I wrote on my Kiva profile page: "... while I am not wealthy monetarily, I have been blessed with a rich life. The least I can do is loan a few dollars to someone who is trying to begin or grow a business. They inspire me. And, selfishly, it makes me feel good to do something for someone else."

I encourage you to visit Kiva.org. If you have a few dollars to spare, a small loan can make a big difference.

Monday, May 04, 2009

'The Girls From Ames' ...

I am entirely devoid of objectivity.

Here's the short version of Beth and Jeff: A Friendship: "I met Jeff Zaslow when I was 17, shortly after he took over for Ann Landers at the Chicago Sun-Times. We've been friends ever since."

And through the years, there have been books. His first book, Tell Me All About It, was about winning the contest to pick Ann's replacement and his ensuing experience as an advice columnist. We were working together while he wrote that book. I remember printing out the manuscript and shipping it off to New York. When it was published, he inscribed my copy, in part, "Well Beth, you were a great help and a good friend ... . I'm sure we'll be having a lot of contact and good times ahead."

That was in January. Of 1990.

Somehow, he managed to publish two more books without an ounce of help from me, but a couple of years ago, we found ourselves on the phone talking about a book contract he'd just signed, a book about 11 women from Ames, Iowa.

And just as he was embarking on telling their story, he returned to his alma mater to see a man named Randy Pausch deliver a lecture – his last lecture – and the Ames project was shelved temporarily so Jeff could co-author The Last Lecture with Randy. Time, of course, was of the essence. (I blogged about The Last Lecture briefly last year before the book's release in April. At the end of the post, I predicted that the book would be on the New York Times' bestseller list for at least a year. Ahem. After 55 weeks in print, it's currently No. 3 in hardcover advice.)

This April, The Girls From Ames arrived in stores and mailboxes. (Like The Last Lecture, it too sold out on Amazon and debuted on the New York Times' bestseller list.)

Today, I finished my copy.

And as I suspected, while I read it, I laughed. I cried. I saw more than a bit of myself in several of these women. And I thought a lot about the friendships in my life.

Jeff writes, "... [R]esearchers say a woman who wants to be healthier and more psychologically fit in her old age is better off having one close friend than half-a-dozen grandchildren."

I stuck a Post-It Note to the margin on which I wrote, "Well, that's good news." Odds are getting better that I won't have grandchildren in my life. I'd need to have children in order to have grandchildren.

Later, in another Post-It-Note-worthy passage, he writes, "[Marilyn] and Jane—and the other Ames girls, too—would sometimes talk about how it was hard to find men who possessed the qualities they were looking for. 'Why is it that I can find those attributes in plenty of women?' Jane would ask. 'Why do so few men seem to have them?' She had decided that there seemed to be more interesting women in the world than interesting men. 'There are definitely great guys out there,' she'd say, 'but not a lot of them. So a lot of really neat women who'd be great wives are not going to end up meeting someone special.' "

Amen to that, sister!

But it was heartening to read, later in the book, that Jane did indeed get married.

Of course, some of the women also got divorced. Late in the book, Jeff writes the most powerful sentence I've read in a long, long time: "Kelly says she understands that not all love lasts forever, but that doesn't mean it never existed."

It's a very good reminder. Love is indelible. Love of all stripes.

I Post-In Noted other passages on other pages, but I don't want to spoil the stories. I will, however, reveal that anecdotes include Michael Jackson and maxi pads. But not together.

The girls from Ames and their collective lives are a microcosm: Their upbringings were similar in many ways but sufficiently different. They have grown into very varied women, geographically dispersed, each with unique perspectives, but forever united by the bonds of friendship, friendships I envy, as will many other women, I'm sure.

Jeff and I do not have an Ames-esque friendship. We met later in life and a decade – as well as gender – divides us. But in some ways, we're the same as those Iowa women: We are there for each other unfailingly. Jeff always asks about the men in my life. (One day, I hope to have good news.) I share his deep, deep devotion to Bruce Springsteen. We never want for advice or encouragement from the other. And we cannot foresee a time when we will not be friends.

I'm sure we'll be having a lot of contact and good times ahead.

Introducing Myself ...

I wasn't planning on posting this morning. When I post something over the weekend, I usually leave it at the top of my blog for all those who swing by on Monday morning when they arrive at the office.

But then I read a post on my friend Jane's blog and wrote a comment that was more like a post unto itself.

And here we are.

As part of her post, Jane wrote, "I think you should treat people better than you want to be treated."

To which I replied:

I do this myself. No, check that. I *did* this myself. Until very recently. And then, one day about a month ago, my new life philosophy came to me in a flash: No more crumbs.

I haven't written people off entirely, but I've stepped back with the expectation that they step forward. If someone tells me they're going to get in touch with me about having dinner and then they don't, then we don't have dinner.

I don't expect them to come all the way to me. And I don't keep a scorecard to ensure that everything is exactly even all the time, but I've been the giver and the doer my entire life and I've finally learned to chill and assess the status of my relationships. If they fade because I'm not putting forth all the previous effort, then they the lack the substance they need to sustain them.

Everyone gets busy, I know. So I'm flexible, but I'm not a pushover.

Not anymore.


And then, once I got a few sips of coffee in me, my brain started to take the idea further.

There are people who do not like me. They will never like me. No amount of hoop-jumping or nice-being on my part will change that. They have decided that I am a certain person and no one will ever convince them otherwise.

Until very recently, I would have tried. And tried. And tried. I was the wind-up toy that made its way to the wall and could go no further, walking in place, walking in vain.

But in these past few months, I've tried, mightily, to shift my energy. And with that effort, I've picked up my wind-up toy self and turned myself away from the wall, turned myself in a new direction. It feels good to be moving again.

I know the truth of who I am. And most of the people in my life know it, too. Yesterday on the phone with Rick, I was talking about the run-up to 40 and the shape my life is taking. It's almost as if I can watch myself putting the pieces into place, the pieces of who I want to be, moving forward.

These pieces, of course, have always been a part of me. I've just recently excavated and dislodged them from their dusty bounds of fear. It is a slow, delicate process, very much like archaeologists gently brushing grit away from objects in the earth.

For some people, I guess life really does begin at 40. Or, technically, 39.

It's a process, to be sure. And I am grateful for my new-found awareness and resolve.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Turns Out, You Can ...

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I worked for the Chicago Tribune. (Most of my readers know that, but I mention it for the benefit of those finding this blog for the first time, who need context for the title of this post and the ensuing rambling. Cue the rambling ... .)

I used to call the Tribune "The Hotel California of Journalism," as in "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave."

I "checked out" in 1997 but the Trib stayed with me. For years afterward, I would refer to "we" when talking about the paper, as though it was still part of my life. Because, really, it was. Not actively, of course, but nearly five years in those storied halls had soaked into my psyche. All experiences become a part of the fabric of our being, but the Tribune was more than just a job.

And when I would return to meet up with friends or to bid a retiree farewell, I would walk through the 5th-floor features department and feel as though I'd never left. I still recognized most of the faces at most of the desks and those faces recognized me.

But last night, I arrived at the Tower to drop off chocolate chip cookies for some friends in sports (and the newsroom in general) and it felt familiar and foreign at the same time.

The 4th-floor newsroom was remodeled years ago, made more camera-ready for its regular appearances on CLTV and the WGN news. (Synergy, don't you know?)

When I worked there, the newsroom, the heart of which is a very high-ceilinged two-story space, was a dingy white with large black desks and carpet that would be vacuumed by very nice Polish ladies, though often at the most inopportune times, like when we were on deadline and trying to communicate with each other.

Now, the newsroom is decidedly more beige. Walls have been torn down. Sports is located where graphics used to be. I don't know where graphics has gone. Small desktop TV sets have been replaced by a bank of flat-panels on the wall. It's the same newsroom (the bathrooms are still in the same place), but it's different.

Of course, the paper itself is different. The staff is heartbreakingly smaller. Heartbreaking because I really adored the people I worked with, and it's sad that circumstances have led to the hemorrhage of so much knowledge and talent.

Newspapers, as we are all too well aware, are experiencing excruciating growing pains. The business model that made so much sense for so long has vanished and papers need to find their bearings in a world where news is disseminated, non-stop, in a variety of ways. My friend Steff recently said that this is the awkward teen phase for newspapers. I love that analogy. Newspapers will figure out their place in the world again. But for now, awkward rules the day.

I had no reason to visit the 5th floor, nor any reason to expect that anyone would still be working at that hour on a Friday. Then again, almost everyone I knew on that floor has left the newspaper business for a new career, or retired, or taken a buyout, or been let go.

So I made my way to the lobby to turn in my guest badge and paused by the door to text Doreen about the next phase of the evening.

I heard the revolving door begin to turn and looked up to see one of my former friends. He paused briefly, registering that he was in fact seeing me, stepped into the lobby and said, "Hi, sweetie." And then went on his way. No follow-up "What brings you by?"

But I told him anyway: "I brought baked goods. They're at the sports desk."

Which is no longer the sports desk. It's the sports area, a sea of beige cubicles in which the employees could just as easily be selling insurance.

Almost everything about the place has changed.

But it surely doesn't feel like progress.