My Grandmother

The matriarch of my family died last week. My maternal grandmother was 91 and ailing and so she died. She in many ways is living on as I see so many traits in so many other family members. She was an interesting woman, strong and harsh. I can’t remember a time when she hugged me or read me a story but she’s always been the best grandmother I ever knew.

She called me Juel and always thought I should have been a fashion designer despite my lack of interest in fashion or talent for even looking good but I liked that she thought it. She knew more about pop stars than I ever did. She could ballroom dance and dressed appropriately for every occasion including shopping at the Big Banana and my sister’s wedding where she actually might have been over dressed. She gave me my appreciation for good food, taught my how to properly set a table and make a bed. She took me to the Bahamas and Disney World,  Bonwit Teller and Saks Fifth Avenue. She bought me my first leather skirt. As far as I knew, she’d never worked a day in her life. She watched soap operas and talk shows. She Jazzercised, drove a Thunderbird and smoked cigarets only when she drank her cocktails. She played poker and served appetizers every night before dinner. She had lots of formal china silverware and a living room that we weren’t allowed in. She was mystery and had a story that will remain unknown, probably just what she wanted.

Despite the fond memories I have of her, I know she was hard and cold.. A survival mechanism I suppose. I don’t know much about her childhood, she never told stories of her youth but I suspect it was hard. She had been married when she was young to my mother’s father but that dissolved when my mother was a little girl and in a time when people stayed married regardless. She never talked about that life and neither does my mother. One of the first fractures of a family split into countless slivers. Over the years I saw how callous she could be, a family trait that we all posses yet few rarely see in themselves. It split the family and even the families within the family. There are uncles and cousins, father’s and daughter’s, sisters and brothers who no longer speak. There are hurt feelings and grudges in all of our shadows. It’s the way we are and from the little I know about the family history, it’s the way we’ve always been. She never changed that nor tried to break the pattern, instead she added to it as has every generation after her.

Her funeral is tomorrow and there will be just a handful of the family there. Even death doesn’t mend the fences of my family. I wonder when we will learn. So I sit here tonight wondering what to wear to her funeral tomorrow. I should pay her homage and dress to the nines, but I will probably just wear some black slacks and a sweater. I don’t know why she ever thought I could be a fashion designer but the thought makes me smile.

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Humanity on the Fall

Something seems awry in the world. I’m not talking about global warming or terrorism or any other news worthy condition. I’m just talking about people. People are rude and no one seems to notice or care enough to point it out but I do and so I will.

The grocery store seems to be a place that rudeness abounds. It seems that once those doors swing open and you start pushing a cart, all rules of civility vanish. People even forget that we live in a right handed society. You drive on the right side of the road, you walk on the right edge of the sidewalk, your go through the right side of a double door. You should therefore push your cart down the right side of the isle. Most people do this but without fail in each aisle there is one person on the wrong side and not on the wrong side while passing a park cart, a person just driving down the wrong side of the isle because they have no regard for order or the other eight people who are in the aisle. Sure there is a chance that these people are English which is why they intuitively go for the left, but if they paid attention to the other people they could see they are in the wrong and should scoot over to the right.

Those aren’t even the worst of the shoppers. I’m particularly fascinated by the people who are so self absorbed and oblivious to others that they will walk up and stand right in front of me blocking all views and access to the mustards while searching for the perfect accompaniment to their freshly sliced deli ham. Did you not see me standing there in a five foot wide aisle browsing the mustard myself?  No problem, I’ll just wait until you are done.  You’re welcome.

I also like the people who think a trip to Market Basket on a Saturday afternoon should be a family event. Why wouldn’t you want to bring your husband, infant and toddle to the grocery store when everyone who lives in a five mile radius is there too. And certainly let the little fellow pick out his favorite canned vegetable despite the fact that he has no idea what vegetable he is picking while you stand back watching, blocking the aisle and thinking he is adorable. Just so you know, they rest of us don’t think he’s all that cute and think you should should have to eat that whole can of soggy mushrooms that he picked with a spoon right out of the can because you are an dink.

Rudeness certainly runs beyond the grocery store. I stopped at a crosswalk the other day so someone could cross the street. I guess the person behind me didn’t think that was the right thing to do because he sat on his horn for the 45 seconds that it took for the lady to cross the street. Hey stranger, it’s the law to stop at crosswalks and is that 45 seconds worth 2 people now thinking you are a jerk? Beyond the nameless strangers that I find to be rude, there are people who aren’t strangers whose lack of regard for others is equally mystifying to me. For example, the co-owner, Kristy Russell, of the condo building I live in owes me $450 for her share of some repairs that I arranged and paid for with her agreement. She’s opted not to pay me despite several requests on my part and a small claims court hearing. What a role model to children of the public system that she teaches in. Lesson learned there – don’t trust your neighbors. Even in professional settings, there are creeps. I did a comedy show back in August for Susan Alexander who said she’d pay me $150. She seems to have paid the other comics, yet I haven’t seen a check. Funny that she also won’t answer any of my emails about the situation. A mutual friend that I mentioned this too even talked to Susan about it. Eve with a little peer pressure and still nothing.

How is it possible that the world has come to this? How have people forgotten that we are all here sharing the same planet, the same roadways, the same space. We are individuals and at the same time a part of a whole. Think about that the next time you cut someone in line at CVS or cut someone off in a parking lot or you’re just downright rude. Ask yourself, is that how I want to be treated or my wife or child to be treated? Probably not, so just stop at the crosswalk next time.

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Weather Rant

I’m a New Englander and our weather changes 4 times a year. We’re seasonal people. We have spring, summer, winter and fall – although I generally say them in that order, that’s not the order the occur. Now it is winter time. It snows in the winter time. Every year it snows in the winter. We have different clothes that we wear this time of year. We keep those clothes in our attics during the summer. We hide away the heavy sweaters and flannel lined jean, long underwear and big boots so we are not reminded of the months that we spend wearing bulky layers and knit hats.

I’m not one to complain about the weather. I could live in San Diego or Tuscon or Austin, but instead I choose to live here where, as mentioned above, it snows. When I was little there was a great blizzard called the Blizzard of ’78. People still talk about it today. Schools were shut for days, people ran out of milk and bread and the snow piles were over my head. In 1978 the 30 day snow total was 58.8 inches.

This year the 17 day snow total is 71.8 inches and I don’t even know if that includes the foot of snow we got last night. In a little over 2 weeks we’ve gotten enough snow to break a 37 year old record. I am at my snow breaking point. I don’t mind wearing boots every day or my puffy jacket. I am even almost fine with the bitter cold because I know those days are ending soon enough. I’m even getting used to the apocalyptic like lines at the grocery store whenever the news even hints at a furry. What I can’t take anymore is the gigantic piles of snow. Just like in 1978, they are over my head but in 1978 my head was 4 feet lower to the ground. The piles make shoveling an Olympic high throwing event. I have to take a running start to just toss a single shovelful making the pile even higher. They are hazardous as well. I can’t see around the snow plow pile at the end of my driveway making leaving home even even less appealing than it already is. Pedestrians are risking their lives walking down the street and parking lots have become obstacle courses. We will have snow piles still melting well into June.

OK I’m done.  That’s my rant about the snow. I am a New Englander so I shouldn’t be complaining, but I am also a Bostonian and that’s what we do.

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I never fancy myself someone easily swayed by advertising. I don’t fall for the star studded commercials hocking everything from roofie scented body sprays to queso fresco. Fashion magazines clearly leave no impression as I sit here unmatched and unmade up. I’ve never needed the trendy toy or latest cleaning products. That all changed one Sunday afternoon.

It was typical football Sunday with a chill in the air, my friends were here watching the game when one time out commercial changed everything. The screen changed from a bright green AstroTurf to the steel blue of a nighttime sky with Matthew McConaughey driving a Champagne colored SUV across a bridge and into who knows where. Those city lights are unique but ordinary and mesmerizing. I stopped. Everything stopped. I was there, transported into some strange advertizing oblivion. Then it began, the muttered ramblings of a man searching. Searching for everything and at the same time nothing. A man unafraid to answer a question unasked with an answer that answers no question. A man selling a car that I could never rationalize buying yet now I want.

“Sometimes you’ve got to to go back to actually move forward. And I don’t mean going back to reminisce or chase ghosts. I mean go back to see where you came from, where you’ve been, how you got here, see where you’re going. I know there are those that say you can’t go back. Yes you can. You just have to look in the right place.”

I’ve seen this commercial and it’s various renditions many times now and each time it is the same, the world stops and I’m drawn into this ruse. I’ve tried to figure out why I am completely taken in by this. Is it Matthew McConaughey? Do I think that if I had that car I could be like Matthew McConaughey? Have Matthew McConaughey? That’s unlikely. And the dialogue he’s muttering is intriguing yes, but I already know sometimes you have to go back to move forward. Is it the car itself? Probably not since cars don’t really interest me. I’m very practical when it comes to cars and a luxury SUV is the opposite of practical for me. So it’s not a hot man drawing me in nor is it some slick advertizing copy nor is it the product itself.

I am drawn to this because of the message I get from the man, the script and the car combined. He’s in great shape, he’s self aware and he drives an elegant yet understated, expensive car. That trifecta is the draw. This guy has his shit together. Sure he’s a and self proclaimed bongo playing pot smoker, but he’s got it together or at least he’s got it together for the 102 seconds that I peak into his soul once or twice a week if I’m lucky.

“It’s not about hugging trees. It’s not about being wasteful either. You just gotta find that balance where taking care of yourself takes care of more than just yourself. That’s the sweet spot.“

Well done Lincoln, well done. You found my sweet spot.

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The Big Game

It’s the high holiday of New England football. The big game is tonight and we’re in it. Brady shirts abound at the packies and chicken wings are sold out at Market Basket. Facebook is littered with pictures of super fans and Twitter battles have begun between coasts. As much as I despise the sports heavy culture, we’re ready here too. Corn bread has been made, pork shoulder is in the over, baked beans are in the slow cooker and iced cream is pie in the freezer. Chips are ready, dips are waiting and cheese is sliced.

It’s four hours until the big game starts. The regular Sunday crowd will arrive in an hour or so, no one extra and everyone will take their regular seats – it’s a superstitious crew. There will be lots of laughs and one uppings as game time approaches, but then it begins. The mood will change and the energy will be tense. The need for victory is beyond what I understand. If the Pats take a comfortable lead fist bumps and glee will fill the room, but if the Pats fall behind it will be quiet, gloomy. If we’re winning snack and seltzer will be consumed at a rapid pace, if we’re losing, I’ll be eating left overs for a week. If victory is ours, dessert will be served and we’ll await the 5th Quarter and making bets on what kind of outfit Tom will be sporting. If we lose, I’ll bring the brownies to work and the house will be empty before the 5th Quarter starts. Alas that is sports in New England.

Let’s go Pats!

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Storm Bonding

Let me preface this by saying that I living in New England and have lived here since I was too young to remember weather being anything other than this. It snows here. Every year at this time of year the temperature is low. It’s cold out because it’s winter. If there is precipitation it comes in the version called snow because it’s winter. This is what happens in New England. Despite the frequency of snow and storms, people still read this as the end of the world and panic. If these were the New England transplants (if people even move here from far off sunny places) I would understand but it’s not. It’s the hardened, life long, horrible accent slinging New Englanders and on the day before a storm they are all in the grocery store buying food like they will never be able to get food again. Of course I know this because I was there too.

I was standing standing in the dairy section which was the end of the checkout line. I had my few staple that I wanted since I hadn’t shopped in a week. In front of me was woman with a cart packed to the brim with soda, frozen chicken, loaves of bread and bags of cheese doodles. She was yelling at her three kids to go get some candy bars. The woman in front of her had an almost identical cart but topped with dozens of rolls of toilet paper. I looked at my meager basket with some oatmeal, milk for hot chocolate and a couple packages of meat and wondering if I even needed that. If needed I could probably live on my pantry stock for days if not weeks. I might not survive long during the apocalypse but I’ll survive a blizzard. I imagine most people could. Who doesn’t have a can of meat product hiding in the back of the cabinet and some extra beans somewhere? I wouldn’t even have to reach for that can of beef-a-roni until I ate through the boxes of crackers, pasta and mac and cheese. My freezer is stocked with left over pizza, homemade meatballs and iced cream. I’ve got enough food here to feed a third world family for a month.

So I stood in that line pondering dropping my basket and walking away knowing that what I had probably wasn’t worth the wait, but stood there none the less bonding with my fellow New Englanders making small talk over the pending storm, the storm that drives us together in the long lines of grocery stores and forces neighbors to chat over hills of snow while digging out the car.  In these days of Facebook and Twitter and every other media outlet, we rarely chat face to face. Storm forced grocery lines are the link back to humanity at least here in New England where it snows…every year.

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Ups and Downs

What a a week it was. I got handed a cash bonus and got called out on by name as being a terrible manager. That’s the norm these days in my work life. It’s a constant yo-yo of ups and downs.

I’m frustrated by the lack of quality support my team gets. Then on the most irritating of all days, the people that I’m most frustrated with who regularly ignore my requests and suggestions, go and hand me some money in “appreciation for my hard work”. If my work was appreciated you’d listen to some of the things I’m asking you to do and actually do them. And frankly, if you want to do something for me just stop hiring escaped mental patients. That is the only way I can describe them – they are straight out of the Cuckoo’s Nest and I think they might be contagious because I feel like I am losing my mind. Their behavior is so bizarre and unprofessional and no one seems to see it or at least no one does anything about it. Most days I feel like Tyler Durden – which version I’m not even sure.

So then I go about my business trying to forget about the bonus that feels more like a bribe and a colleague stops me to say “Hey I read about you on Haha – must have been that lady you just fired!”  Hilarious.  If you don’t know what GlassDoor is, it’s a website where employees can anonymously review the company they work for. Their guidelines include “We encourage a healthy and constructive discussion about the workplace. We don’t accept reviews that include malicious personal attacks (by name, title, or association).” They also say that they review each review before it gets posted. Well they must also have a top notch staff since a person’s name, namely mine, made it to the website. If it was a genuine review by someone who had even a modicum of self awareness I wouldn’t have minded. I appreciate feedback both negative and positive. How else would I know how I’m doing? I just prefer the feedback come from someone who isn’t angry about being fired for just reasons which, by the way, were well documented by the mediator monitoring the situation for 3 months to ensure that it was in fact a justified termination situation. So after sending a pleasant email noting my lack of appreciation for being slandered and questioning their stated policies, the review mysteriously disappeared without even an auto-reply “Thanks for your feedback” email. Typical.

So that was my week. A mix of ups and downs, praise and hatred. Now here I am on Sunday night wondering already what my week will bring and hoping only for some stability.

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