Archive | November, 2012

Near perfect moments

26 Nov

http://www.freemanjournal.net/page/blogs.detail/display/47/Near-perfect-moments.html

We have them, all of us do — it’s just, do we recognize them?

Most of the time, I choose not to. Sadly, I look for more, something more satisfying than what I’m currently being served. I believe that almost perfect moments surround us constantly. Not that I would usually ever notice.

I have been one of those people who are not easily satisfied. Whatever the situation, it could be better; with someone else, something different, at a different time. The moment could be on its tiptoes, reaching for the stars and it won’t be enough. The music was wrong. The weather was too humid. My hair was not working. I can’t seem to let loose and realize what is right in front of me.

This was a major problem while I was in high school and college. I could be dating a guy or hanging out with friends, yet I believed that I would be having a better time with someone, anyone else. Even if the chemistry was there, we were having a good time — I had to ruin it with these thoughts.

Lately, I have had to slow down and realize some hard truths. This is my one and only life in the here and now. I won’t be getting this time back. And I’d better learn to enjoy what I have, how little or small, or I will look back with some major regrets.

So I’ve decided it’s not worth it to start petty arguments or become upset by seemingly tiny things, and I’m much, much happier because of it.

When those almost perfect moments happen, I’m trying to let them happen without manipulating them into something they are not.

Last weekend, my boyfriend Nate and I decided to take advantage of one of the holiday attractions that New York City has to offer: Skating in Bryant Park. The line was long, the air was bitterly cold, and skate rentals were fourteen bucks each. Sometimes (okay, a lot of the time), something about this would irritate me to no end. Perhaps I would complain or become soured early in the experience. But not this time. We joked around, held hands, and were looking up at the sliver of moon in the night sky. When we finally received our skates, heading out onto the rink, it was completely packed with people. While Nate was able to go forward and backwards with ease on the ice, all I could think about was falling and perhaps breaking an ankle. While this remained a worry, I didn’t let it bother me too much. Instead, we completed laps while Doris Day’s voice echoed from the speakers. Of course, I fell, but laughed it off. We stood on the side for a long time, just enjoying our time together and in awe of what we were experiencing. We kind of looked into each others’ eyes and my mind was flooded with all the reasons I so enjoyed us as a couple.

So much was going wrong at the time. I had started a low-paying job that wasn’t working out very well, Nate and I had spent barely any time with one another because of our schedules, and I was just not happy being away from family. Yet, this moment brought me out and away from all those problems. Even though it was one of those times I should have recognized right away as near perfect, I didn’t. It was just fun, to me.

It was a day later, on the plane back to Iowa, that it flitted back. Brief snapshots of the night before. It was a simple activity, with no grand gestures or beautiful words uttered like from a movie. It just was.

I’m glad for near perfect moments like this one. Thankful for the restraint to not ruin it, and for the ability to recognize the significance later. Something I will definitely cherish later in life.

Common Courtesy

20 Nov

Truth

WARNING: A vent
Do you ever get so frustrated that no matter the situation, you just can’t hold it in any longer?

That is how I felt yesterday when I was getting off of a Southwest flight from Newark to Chicago. I’m a frequent flyer and try my hardest to make sure that I am not making the flight unpleasant for anyone (including myself.)

Today, though, there was no assigned seating so we were allowed to pick basically anywhere on the plane to plop down. I was one of the middle crowd — no window seats were left. A few on the aisle were still available, though. Ah, I thought, I don’t want someone to have to climb over me to sit in a crumby middle seat. I’ll be a kind person and take that unwanted seat. So I did. Unfortunately, the girl who sat next to me wasn’t as polite. She rammed her luggage on the rack, moving my bag without asking. She practically fell into the chair, elbowing me as she rammed her giant bag underneath the seat in front. Her coat was on, then off, then on again. And while I don’t expect to have more than one armrest, she took both, lounging her arm somewhat into my chair. Throughout this all, she acted oblivious.

At the end of the flight is where my slight explosion happened. And not toward the girl, oh no. While common courtesy usually dictates that you wait for those in the front seats to exit the plane — that wasn’t the case with this flight. One couple, who was sitting in the  complete back, barreled their way as those of us in the middle were trying to get out of our seats. Yes, they acted like if they didn’t hurry out, they would be locked on the plane forever. Finally, while I was moving out of the aisle, the man in the couple accidentally hit me with his luggage and garment bag, ignored what happened and kept walking down the aisle in front of me. His girlfriend was right behind me. So I said calmly, “Usually, you let the people in the seats before you exit first.” I couldn’t help it. I didn’t even notice that it had spilled out of my mouth until it was too late. He stopped, turned around and harshly replied, “Excuse me?” I repeated myself, and he let out a bunch of non-repeatable words. When he had made it past the plane door, he made this comically grand gesture toward me and said, “After you, madame.” That was proceeded by him and his girlfriend saying a barrage of insults toward me as I briskly walked to my gate.

Yes, normally, or almost 99 percent of the rest of the time, I would have let it slide. Something inside me ignited and I vomited out my thoughts. My bad.

Perhaps it’s the fact that I have grown so tired of seeing people out on the street daily not caring about anyone but themselves. Three buddies will be walking down the sidewalk, not leaving room for anyone to pass by. Rather than let cars go at green, ignorant people will walk in front of the vehicles, making them brake hard — causing near-miss accidents. Or the people who budge in line, stop while walking to answer a text, or are just plain rude.

I’m at a breaking point. Thank God, I’m on Thanksgiving break. Thank God that I’m going to a small town where people are usually almost overly polite.

P.S. I was typing this last night while I was waiting for my connecting flight. I was half expecting the couple to be on my flight for another awkward encounter. Did I mention that I put on my coat, hat, scarf to be less recognizable? Yes, this word vomit is not my cup of tea.

Coming Home

19 Nov

One of my recent Skype conversations with little Q.

http://www.freemanjournal.net/page/blogs.detail/display/45/Coming-Home.html

I just finished packing my suitcase, and all I can think is “now what did I forget?” Shirts and dresses are crammed in the tightly zipped bag, clothing that probably won’t even be worn on this trip home. I always seem to favor a pair of old jeans, a baggy cardigan, and boots, anyway. On top of the pile of badly folded items is one carefully laid exception. A small stuffed animal for a very cute little lady. I chose a monkey as a Thanksgiving gift for my six-month-old niece Quynn. My sister, her mother, had such a toy as a child and called the beloved animal “Bonkey.” I feel it’s time for little Q to have one of her own.

I am so ready to climb aboard a plane and head for Iowa, for some old-fashioned holiday fun, comfort food, and the company of family and friends. It’s my first real trip back to the Midwest after moving to New York City, and I’m ready for it. I’ve grown accustomed to my new surroundings, the crowds, and flavor of the area; yet, there is really no substitute for the place I grew up. In the last month and a half, I have spent my Tuesday nights scouring travel sites in search of cheap flights. Thank God, I figured out that Des Moines finally has Southwest Airlines as one of its carriers. Seriously, so thankful for their excellent service and lower than low airline prices.

The last week has been spent in growing anticipation of departing the East for something familiar. I long to actually see the stars again. To feel the exhilaration of wide-open spaces. To experience the quiet of small town life, without the hustle and bustle associated with NYC. And to spend time with one of my favorite people.

Quynn is one awesome baby. For such a small person, she has a sense of humor, exudes intelligence, and has a fascinating curiosity. Although I am far away, I have been able to have some chats and laughs with her through the magic of Skype on a daily basis. I know that at approximately 9:15 a.m. ET, I will have about 20 minutes of face time with the cutest kid out there. Whether it’s a good or bad day, I know it will be even better after just a few minutes of seeing Quynn bounce around on screen. I play little games with her, while she sings songs or gabs aloud. I can’t wait to actually hold her and see her in person.

While I have spent my fair share of time babysitting and being around little kids, I never thought that I would become this exhilarated or attached to a baby. It makes me extra excited to have one of my own in the future.
I’m about to get in a taxi and head over for some lengthy airport security lines. But that stress feels like nothing compared to my anticipation of being in Iowa. Now, I’m thinking about how this trip will be so different than the ones spent in holiday past. Then, it was about spending time out in bars with old acquaintances, recalling funny stories or wondering what happened to so-and-so. This time around, all I want to do is be around the people I love, especially little Quynn.

Ken, get out of the dream house

16 Nov

Barbie and Ken: An eyebrow-raising love affair.

According to Barbie’s Facebook page, she is now in a relationship. The famous doll and Ken reunited on Valentine’s Day, to make it official.
“As I thought over my feelings for Ken, you were all such a doll-tastic support system from start to finish,” she said of her many fans and admirers. Well isn’t that special?
And while she and Ken start “liking” each other’s status’ and writing super-duper updates on their plastic lives in the dream house, I just have one thing to say to Ken and his never-moving hair: Don’t do it.
Yes, I said it. Barbie does not deserve to be with someone like Ken. Blondie has never been stable, had a lasting career or one hairstyle for very long. One moment she’s modeling for fashion plates in a hot pink ballgown and the next day she is playing doctor on her tip-toe feet. From an airline stewardess to a ballerina to a McDonald’s fast-food worker — she can’t make up her mind. And where has her doting boyfriend been through it all? Behind her — in a beautiful hot pink ascot and metallic swim trunks. (That is a whole other reason why I think the relationship is doomed from the start, but I won’t go there.) She has treated him as an accessory in her blush-colored life, another pair of high heel pumps to step on.
When I was younger, I always envisioned her with someone like Allan or He-Man. Someone who might be able to put their foot down when she can’t make up her mind on whether to take the pink convertible or the jeep to the volleyball match.
I also have questioned Barbie’s relationship efforts. Where does she have time to analyze whether a relationship will work — between modeling on the cat walk and jamming with her band The Rockers? And really, someone with combs the size of their face has some obvious vanity issues. Barbie is just not girlfriend material.
Midge might be. Or even Christie. But the one plastic icon that seemed to be more suited to the needs of flamboyantly-dressed Ken is Skipper. The petite younger sister knows a thing or two about playing second fiddle to the great and powerful Barbie. Although I knew that Skipper most likely lived in the mansion with her pop star sibling, I always questioned the living arrangements. For I never heard of a Skipper bed, or a dresser and mirror set for the baby sister. Did she sleep on the floor? Did she pay to live in Barbie’s dream world as an indentured servant?  Questions I am sure Barbie would never want to answer.
Yes, Ken deserves better. And when they broke up — I applauded. Now Barbie has more time to dress up as Marilyn Monroe or try on more Cher-inspired Bob Mackie wear.
And if he doesn’t remember well, when they broke up, it was widely rumored that she had been friendly with an Australian surfer doll named Blaine. Really? You want to go back to someone who likely is still writing love letters to her plastic boy down under?
So Ken, if I were you — I’d spend more time working on you. Instead of just surfing your days away at the beach in your mesh neon shirt, how about going back to school? Find your own way as a veterinarian, a teacher or as an astronaut. And maybe, just maybe, find a different stylist?

You’ve got a friend in me

12 Nov

Little Finn

http://www.freemanjournal.net/page/blogs.detail/display/44/You-ve-got-a-friend-in-me.html

It’s not easy.

Moving to a new place of any kind can be a daunting task. Across country away from family and friends? Definitely not easy.

I have always been one for dreaming about the adventure, of meeting new people and experiencing new things. Anticipating the newness has always been preferable to the actual event.

Before hitting the road to New York City in the U-Haul, I had my hand pressed against the windowpane as I watched my parents wave back at me. I knew then and there, this was going to be harder than I had previously thought.

After arriving at the apartment building with all of our earthly possessions, we knew with the unloading process that our work was cut out for us. I stepped out of the truck and immediately, this small little black cat greeted us with a cute meow. He was skinny, definitely a stray, but was curious about what we were up to. While we were drenched in sweat, furiously unpacking the trailer in the August heat, he sat on a perch, occasionally angling his head this way and that. I hesitantly gave him a scratch on the head, afraid of fleas or a surprise bite or scratch. He brushed against me to show mutual affection.

The day after, he sat on our steps waiting for our emergence. He again rubbed up against my skin and smelled my hand. He looked so malnourished. I gave him bits of tuna and salmon from our canned goods.

A week went by and we found out a bit about his back story. Finn was a two-year-old black cat that had previously worn a collar around the neighborhood. Up until March, he was someone’s pet — that collar was unceremoniously taken off and he was left on his own. I have no respect for people who do that, absolutely none. Finn had to learn to fend for himself, which he took to begging off people and catching birds. Luckily, our neighborhood cared for him, as several people started feeding him from their pantries.

Being an animal lover, I went to the pet store and bought him some treats, a bag of dry food, and a bowl. Finn instantly became acclimated to my morning feedings outside of the apartment building. Dry food changed to wet food as I fell more in love with my feline friend.

A month had gone by. While I looked for jobs, Finn continued to sit on our top step or sleep in the flower garden nearby. He would peer into our windows from time to time, just to see if we were inside. When I needed a break from the computer, I came out and petted the loving creature. While his claws were ferocious looking, I would let him settle into my lap for a nap while I used my phone or read a book. He was always exhausted from only getting short bits of sleep outdoors.

The weather started getting colder and we became more worried about Finn’s well being. He had no place to go. He would sit and cry and cry outside the building, it was so hard to hear. One night, I couldn’t take it anymore. I made a makeshift litter box and bed for him in the living room and let Finn in. As hard as it sounds from a cat, he showed me more gratitude than most humans would. While I was afraid of fleas and mites, I was more afraid of my friend getting sick.

After that night, I tried to contact every animal organization and shelter in the area. No response. We wrote an e-mail to our apartment manager and were told, no, we could not keep a cat.

Through Finn, we started meeting our neighbors and really liking them. We started learning of all the good deeds our neighbors had been doing for the little guy. They were all worried about Finn. During Hurricane Sandy, one neighbor kept him in their garage with all that a cat could possibly need. Other people brought him in for a night or two from the cold. Finally, one neighbor had a friend that wanted Finn as a pet in his Manhattan apartment. Unfortunately, a nor’easter came through our area and we had another week of worrying about our neighborhood cat.

He secretly came and stayed in our apartment building, sleeping in our apartment at night. Finn went to the vet where we all learned that he was disease-, mite- and flea-free. He became used to being a house cat, while occasionally slipping out to hunt birds (he was quite good at that.) On the last night of his stay with us, he brought a dead bird to our doorstep. I truly believe the bloody mess was his way of giving us a gift. He was absolutely beaming standing next to his prey.

Finn left on Saturday morning, and while I know he is in a good home and luckier than most strays, I’m still pretty sad. He was my first new friend in this lonely city. Finn was there for me when I was the most homesick. And while I am sad to see him go, I am forever thankful for this little angel that stepped into my life during a time of great transition. I desperately needed a friend and Finn desperately needed me. I am getting used to this strange place, meeting new people, and New York City isn’t as daunting as it first was. Finn is now getting used to being a big city kitty, and I’m getting settled in as well. I will not forget his friendship and as sappy as it might sound, that little guy will forever be in my heart. Thanks, Finn.

The uninformed voters

6 Nov

Happy. I am so, so glad that the election season is nearing an end for many reasons. And while many people waited in long lines to cast their ballots today, I stayed away. My absentee ballot had been sent back to Iowa a month prior. In my mind, that method is preferable, as I can study up on the candidates and make an informed decision that doesn’t feel rushed. Today, I was able to say I did my part and am ready for the results to be in.

Why so glad, you ask?

Ads. Fortunately, in a non-swing state, I haven’t been inundated by wasteful flyers, annoying commercials, and endless campaign stops. I have listened with sympathy to Iowans with a completely different story. During recent Skype conversations with my mom, she would receive two to three phone calls from politicians during each 30-minute period.

Hyperbolic rhetoric. Each presidential candidate (even the one I voted for) has engaged in digs on one another. He did this or he didn’t do that. Whatever it was or how small and mundane the issue at hand was, it is brought up again and again. Supporters try to bring out the pettiest of charges against the other candidate to grab the public’s attention. It’s ugly and just plain sick.

Money. The amount of money raised by both of the main political parties is disgusting. I can imagine many wondrous causes doing so much good with that kind of capital. Instead, it contributes to the giant spectacle that is the political season.

But my main beef at the moment with political campaigns is this: Uninformed voters.

I cannot complain enough about people who do not research the issues and candidates themselves. People who will cast ballots based on a teeny iota of information that can possibly be false. That is what scares me most about the outcome of this election. Social media has been awful. From Facebook to Twitter, people will type furiously about why they believe such and such – sounding quite ignorant. I could care less if they are writing about Obama or Romney, but before putting yourself out there – at least Wikipedia the topic to see if there is even an ounce of truth in the statement. And please stop getting your information from liberal or conservative outlets — try to find a news source that is fair and factual.

It’s not just the candidates but the issues that people have neglected to become educated about. Honestly, it scares. me. There are some very, very important decisions being voted on tonight, and I have seen some of the DUMBEST, MOST IDIOTIC statements made on the internet about people’s voting intentions. If you feel one way or another, it could be completely against what I believe in, I will respect your decision if it is well-informed and based in fact. Not fiction. Not rumor. Not petty gossip or hearsay.

I have chosen not to respect uninformed voters. That is my choice. I respect your right to vote for the candidate of your choosing and your opinion on political issues. Just please, please be responsible, be resourceful, and research before making your choice.

A hurricane’s reminder

5 Nov

Love one another, as I have loved you.

http://www.freemanjournal.net/page/blogs.detail/display/42/A-hurricane-s-reminder.html

Guilty. Thankful. Cautious.

Those are three words that describe the emotions currently running through my system. With Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath still evident throughout New York City and New Jersey, I cannot shake those feelings.

Walking late at night in Jersey City (a no-no, as we are still under a curfew), you know things have not yet returned to normal. Garbage heaps clog the sidewalks — mattresses, furniture, books strewn about, reminders of the massive flooding. Stores and restaurants post signs that say they cannot open due to extremely low inventory and no delivery trucks. I overhear many distraught business owners talk of the loss of freezers, food, and more — their livelihoods in jeopardy. At the grocery store, I strike up a conversation with the clerk. She lives in another area of the city, which still does not have electricity. I glance down at my winter coat and wool scarf, thinking of the low temps.

Guilty. That is why I feel this way. We were lucky. Extremely lucky. The storm surge came two blocks from our building and was one of a handful of basement apartments that stayed dry. Our electricity came back on after a day and a half — it was inconvenient and we lost a lot of food from our refrigerator, but that was it. We have had heat, warm food, and general comfort, while many have not. Some still live in shelters, rely on others for sustenance, and worry about spending another day in an inhabitable space. Yesterday, we spent a couple hours worrying about how we would get to work. With the PATH Train still inoperable and our train station flooded, buses and ferries are our only option. We hemmed and hawed about standing in long lines, and that is when the guilt became insurmountable. At least we can get to work. At least this is our main concern at the moment. It does not compare to the worry and grief that fills the space around us. People dead from the storm. Homes completely destroyed. Shorelines ravaged.

Thankful. That is when I look up and realize what should be celebrated. We were blessed, and so many others were as well. Sometimes I can be pretty down on New Yorkers and people from this area, because it is so different from where I come from. But people really do care about each other. People will haul extension cords to the front of their homes to help power cell phones and laptops. At every corner of each block is a box full of personal care items. “Take one if you need one”, the sign exclaims. Compassionate volunteers help shovel garbage and debris from homes in Staten Island. Groups provide hot meals for those in need. That is pure beauty, what the fabric of our society should resemble. “Love one another, as I have loved you,” comes to mind.

Leaders of both political parties have been excellent in caring for the people of their regions. Enough can’t be said about the electric crews, emergency personnel, city, state, and federal workers that have worked around the clock to restore the infrastructure of the East. For me, it has restored faith in our government system. When we work together, it works.

And cautious. Unfortunately, we are looking at another storm this week. While it would be nice to just look the other way, we have learned that is not possible. This nor’easter isn’t supposed to be as strong as last week’s super storm; we are expecting strong winds, a storm surge, and cold, cold temps. It could definitely hamper relief efforts and put area citizens in jeopardy. I pray that the weather gives this region a break while it tries to recover.

Hurricane Sandy has dominated the headlines this past week and may continue to do so. It is important to remember that it is not just another sound bite or news item. There are real people suffering from this disaster, each with their own story. And that should be the focus at this time — not the politics or gripes on how certain things could have been handled differently. It is about the people, those suffering and those helping. Let us remember that during this season of giving.

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