Monday, January 26, 2009

A Trying Time

“Be still, sad heart, and cease repining;

Behind the clouds the sun is shining;

Thy fate is the common fate of all,

Into each life some rain must fall,

Some days must be dark and dreary.”

- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I know I have said before that I am fed up with people’s attitudes at work towards the company, the layoffs and the economy in general. I still am, so I won’t repeat that. I still believe you should not bite the hand that feeds you, and that if you bother to show up, you need to make an effort to justify your paycheck.

But I will have to say that it’s very easy lately to take our frustrations, lack of hope, on the company, its leadership and to be altogether absolutely impossible to work with, across the board, because of all the punches in the gut we’ve received.

It takes me all I have got, and then some to go through the day with a smile anymore. It takes me my whole will (and trust me, I have will!), my whole strength and I need to borrow some extra patience from some, to go through 4 hours of the day, till lunch, but it takes more than those to make it to 5 PM! Amazing what you’ll do for food, ya know!

The notion of career, and work ethics is out the window, it seems! The only notion there is, is survival! What can we do, folks seem to be wondering, to put in the minimum effort not to get fired?! The company wants us to participate more, to communicate more, but that’s not going to happen, because people refuse to look at this “durra mater” of a job as their home, and family, as something they actually care in the least about. Something that bears their signature, their pride anymore. And can you really blame them?!

We’ve had waves and waves of layoffs and retirements, forced, involuntary and voluntary as well. We have shrunk our overall staff by at least 150 people in the past year and a half. That’s a lot for a company that used to be 600+ folks. And we’re still not done.

A memo came out today to let us know we are to take furlough days, 5 in all, before June. So, instead of 26 weeks, as we should, we will get paid for 25 of those weeks, basically. Along with that, any kind of “cost of living” raises are frozen. Unless you change jobs or you take on more responsibility, you can’t get a raise. But that’s of course, felt as unfair, too: with as many folks gone, we all feel like we have taken on more than we can handle, but …

As always, we’re not sure what’s going to happen next, after June. Layoffs, more retirements (is anyone eligible anymore?!), more budget cuts, more furlough days, 4 day weeks?! Who knows?! Again, as I have said before: it’s not us, it’s everyone. We still have a job, and benefits. We still have a purpose in the morning, and if we cut a commodity, maybe two, we might even make it.

But it’s still hard, for some folks. Those who live paycheck to paycheck and the notion of savings or extra cash is foreign! There are those! Those whose spouse has been laid off or whose job has also been cut , those who have several children in schools and are single parents with no help. How they find solutions and hope in these times, beats the heck outta me!

My heart breaks every morning when I see another “For Sale” sign in my neighborhood. I pray that’s a person who got a better job somewhere else, and that’s not someone who is about to lose their home. It’s hard to smile anymore, and hard not to be frustrated, on the hallways of the building I have buried my last 8 years in! It’s hard to trust. It’s hard to care. It’s hard to go on. It’s hard not to ask: “Hhmm… is their profit margin shrinking, as my paycheck is?!”.

I tell myself, though, everyday, that I have to be grateful for what I have. And if they do fire me (whether you call it “layoff” or “voluntary layoff”, or “restructuring”, we, on this end of the bargain, feel it like a firing job: just like the gun firing: straight through your heart!), so, if they do fire me, still, it’s not something I can control – and that is my only consolation now.

My job performance is the only thing I can control and I will, and I am, with all I have got. If they let me go for crappy performance, then, I won’t be settled within me forever; but if they let me go for a budget expense, it’s gonna hurt, and be hell for a while, heck, without health insurance I might not even make it, but it won’t be “their fault”. I refuse to believe that! I am sure they’re not looking for absolution, but I just felt I needed to get it out of me, to stay sane! It’ll be just another loss I was thrown my way.

Unfortunately, as mom says, “I wasn’t capable to be my own boss, have my own business and call the shots, so I am expendable!”. The job will then become just … collateral damage. Sad – but so true. For so many!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Week in Review

"Science and art have that in common that everyday things seem to them new and attractive.” (Nietzsche)

Not much to tell this week, so I thought I’d just sum up all the things I have discovered, or have come across with , or some of the older things, that have been on my mind this week, as well.

Sometimes I really feel out of place for not being more “in tune” with what’s on the radio, or the TV, but as soon as I turn one on to “catch up”, I am cured! Sure, I might be stuck in the 60’s for music, or 90’s for TV shows, but my God, some of the non-talent and non-value that’s out there is scary. I know Bob Dylan cannot sing, but his lyrics will tell you more (once you learn to decipher them from the mumbling) than “I want a credit card with no limit” and “You change your mind like a girl changes clothes” – as the songs of today that I have heard on the radio the other day. Just a tad more, I think! So sad for the kids of today: if these are their role models, where is the world going to? Have you seen “Idiocracy”, the movie?! Yeah!

On TV, I also hate the news, especially on “all news channels” like CNN. It’s not about reporting the news, it’s about speculating about the news. It’s about having so-called “experts” on all things politics, and terrorism, and economy, and life to tell you “what would happen IF this and that align”. It’s never about sensational news. It’s always about sensational gossip anymore.

I have asked around. For years now. And everyone I have asked is absolutely fed up and against the electoral vote. So, why not a referendum? Is it so hard for a democracy to think this up?! I know no one that agrees with the system. I am sure there are people out there (they must be) who like the electoral vote over the popular one, but I have not met them. So, why note let “The People” decide?! And if the referendum says we need to stay with the electoral votes, can we give Texas like minus ten electoral votes?! And Mississippi, too?? To just sorta match the count of votes with the general IQ of the population of that state. Just a thought!

Why does Sam’s Club take a credit card of pretty much any kind at their gas station, but no credit card other than Discover ( I think ) inside their store?!

This week, I have also lost, at least physically (I hope only that way!) a dear friend to Utah! I hope he’s happy and I wish him well, but I know I’ll miss our weekend sleep overs and get togethers. Sure, more excuses for me now to visit The Rockies, which is one of my favorite places in the world, but … in this economy is not an easily doable task.. I wish him happy trails, lots of fires, and dry summers!

I have also gone through an U2 phase later this week. Sure, just their 90’s and 2000’s years, but still. I love Bono, and I recommend that anyone who does should read his biography, Bono, by Michka Assayas. A real character builder.

I have also watched a great movie this week, recommended by my said Utah-bound buddy. It’s called Starting Out in the Evening. It’s an independently made film, presented at Sundance, but Blockbuster rents it. As a writer, I appreciated a lot of the insights on the writer’s life, and the critics’ and readers’ ones, as well. I was reminded that there are as many Shakespeares out there as are readers of Shakespeare, so you should hardly ever worry about how your message is received. If you feel you have a voice, and something, no matter how obscure, wants to get out of you, and finds you as the channel, let it go. Just like advice, writing should be given up completely, with no further attachment. Give it – and let it go. It will speak to different people in their own different language of understanding. And that’s OK.

In the movie, I was also reminded that time flies and before you know it, you’re at the end of your road, and you might not have gotten the chance to speak your whole piece. So, waste no minute.

Also, in this movie I was reminded why I have no interest in guys my age, and why I have not had a good date in over a year. One of the characters says : “I am not interested in guys my age. They are like bubble gum: ten minutes of flavor followed by bland repetition”. Amen to that! I guess I just need to be patient and grow up (eye roll!) till 40 some year olds find me interesting. Or 50 year olds …

I was also happy that we were snowed in at least for half of the day on Inauguration Day, and I got to watch it live, this week. And I don’t want to get into details, but I was really moved that my dad sent me on a hunt for all the major newspapers and magazines that had Inauguration coverage in the front cover (which one didn’t, right??). He wants to collect all of them! I won’t say more, but just know that I have lived almost 34 years, meaning all my life, for this moment.

This week, I have also spent WAY too much time on Facebook! Will fix that soon!

My absolute favorite book title for the week, after book browsing for hours in the store: “Life’s a Bitch and Then You Change Careers”.. So appropriate. Some other time in my life I would have said : “This got published????” – Not this week! This week, it sounded like “home”.

My absolute favorite chapter in a book, after browsing: I am looking through a book about “home herbal remedies” you can do on your own, at home, without a doctor’s diagnosis or approval: there are herbal remedies there for all diseases in the world, including … hypochondria! You gotta eat vanilla beans or eat a lot of cherries to cure that. My question is: how do you know you’ve got that?! Who admits to it?!

A happy new week, all!

Monday, January 19, 2009

11 Years Ago Today

You have to stand against the world although you may have to stand alone”.
(Mahatma Gandi) – this is my calendar quote on today’s calendar.

Back when I used to read fairy tales, it always intrigued me how every prince (not princess – those were still patriarchal times, you see), when they turned 18, they left their parents’ home to look for their “fortune” in the world. The authors never told you what they were exactly looking for, and I always wished they did tell me what it was that they were looking for. They would always set off, on a horse, leaving their parents old, teary and sobbing, to look for their fortune, their meaning, it seemed, their sort in the world – you were told. And then the search, and the hardships, and the conquests and the final settling down with a beautiful princess would follow.

I guess that’s what I did myself, 11 years ago today, when I jumped on that plane from my home country to come to the United States. Unlike the princes in the stories, though, I was not yet 23. Not many people approved of if (none comes to mind), but I knew … that was my life, and I had to go find it. Powerful things happen when one goes out to meet their destiny, you know: like you pay no attention to your sobbing parents that have given you shelter, love and food for all your life, and you never turn around, but you just set off, curious what life, your life, has in store for you alone.

If you asked me then what was I doing coming here, and leaving home, I would have probably said: I am looking for my fortune, or my sort and meaning in life. If you asked me today what I was doing – I would probably tell you the same thing. And to this day, the answer is the same every single morning, when I set out the door. I am still looking. Not in the “never grow up” sort of way, but in the “what indeed is it that makes one so happy and fulfilled to say they’re done?!” sort of way.

I can only tell you: it was not “the American dream” I was after, like you might think. After 11 years of living in the country that still makes my dad’s most coveted dream to move to, I will be happy to report that I found out that there is no such thing as “the American dream”. I don’t believe there is one dream that’s all American, that every American lives for to accomplish. I think “the” life dream of anyone is personal, and is different for each one of us – and that is just a universal premise, not solely an American one.

Maybe, if there were such a thing as “the American dream”, then that would be to accomplish our individual dream, or dreams, unhindered, and in freedom. To be whoever we are, and to live the life we each see fit. And for Society and the Government to have little to say about that. Again: this could be any nation’s dream – but it’s easier to achieve in America.

I guess for me, my dream is just like 11 years ago: to just live right, with respect towards everyone and everything I come across, to be happy, take one day at a time, and see where the next plane takes me.

Sure, there are accomplishments (a relative term, I believe) to speak of: I have married, and divorced, I have had step children to take care of, I have still never rented, and owned alone or jointly about 4 homes so far, I have made a home, for me, and my loved ones, when they’re around, I have loved and been loved, I have more than doubled my income since my first job here, and the most wonderful accomplishment of all: I have managed to stay alive, and lead a healthy (again, relative term) life, despite all the medical predictions; I have made friends, and lost some, I have lost family and loved ones, I have become an aunt and a godmother one more time, I have bought and sold cars, totaled one too and survived it, I have cared for the sick, and helped the poor, I have rescued animals, I have traveled, and most importantly: I never forgot where I started.

During the 11 years of being far away, I feel still as close if not closer to my family, and as close to being Romanian as I’ll ever be, I hope: I still respect all my church given feasts, and I still think, just like Eliade thought, that the Orthodox faith is where all my strength lies, I cook 90% of my meals from scratch, just the way grandma taught me. I sew my own buttons, I knit my own scarves, and I hem my own pants!

There is little regret in this all. If I had to be given the same chances again, I would pursue them with the same enthusiasm as I did the first time around. It’s been a great journey, and one that I would say has been mostly on my own. I have met some wonderful folks along the way, and some of them helped me go in the direction I am going now, whether they knew it or meant to or not. But at the end of the day, I do believe, I have gotten here because of me, my choices, my tears, my laughs, my ambition, or lack of it, my calling – whatever that might be.

With my head full of curls and questions, still, just like 11 years ago, I still wonder what my sort is, and what my fortune will be, and wonder when I’ll find it. But I am happy to say that I would be thrilled to know there is no end to this search, and the search itself is what someone might call “my fortune” one day, when I’ll be long gone and forgotten.

For now, I am enjoying making plans for my next plane ride – and that’s how far I’ll ever want to go with my true “planning” and deadlining. As they say in Yoga: I forever want to stay a beginner: because beginners … will try anything.

And as always on this day: I want to thank my new country for having me and my family for loving me no matter how far I went, just like they promised then. This journey would not have been possible at all if it weren’t for those two mainstays in my life.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Roads Less Traveled

Why not Seagrove?!

Curiosity didn’t kill the cat. It just made her more knowledgeable. I am convinced!

I predict this will be the year of day trips. I find myself, along with the world, in a conservative spending mood, so day trips is all I’ll have to splurge on for now, till a better economy decides to roll around. No big deal though.

I was reading a travel blog this week, and the author said it doesn’t matter whether you travel alone or with someone (Amen for that! Finally someone decided to bust the “must have a boyfriend/ girlfriend to travel” myth), the important thing is that you travel. That you go.

Paraphrasing that: I don’t think it matters how far from home you go, it matters that you go! Any corner of the world that’s not been seen yet, distance is irrelevant, should be new to you, and reveal something you’re not familiar with.

So, today, in 20 degree weather and with my kitchen pipes frozen solid, with a sinus cold that’s kept me up all night, I decided I won’t watch the pot boil … eeeerrr… the pipes defreeze, but I’d keep my own self busy, and head out of town. Anywhere.

I have always heard good things about Seagrove, NC, a pottery hub, that was still unknown to me, after all these years (almost 11) of living here. And after all, “why not”, Seagrove, right?!

I have always loved pottery. I love clay, and the things man makes out of it, just like I love anything natural: wood, stone, bamboo or wicker. It is a rudimentary way of using what’s God given. It’s simple.

So, I headed down 220S for about 40 some miles. Seagrove was quiet. Not sure whether the low temps scared people off the streets or what, but it was a ghost town. I could hardly find the Pottery Center, because there was no “noise”.

I visited The Pottery Center, learned about the Owen(s) and Cole – some of the first potters, or “turners” as they are called in the South, families who have laid the foundation of pottery making in these parts; learned about kilns, pronounced “kills” in these parts, and various glazes (lead, alkaline or ash, or even salt ones), also about Native American pottery, the first in this country, of course. I made a contribution to the center, to support it, and it’s educating the people about the ancient trade. I browsed in the museum’s store, and visited the Seagrove Pottery town store which was like a museum itself. The shelves were overloaded with “stuff”, all unique, not two pieces alike! I spent an hour in that town store, to probably the dismay of the two 16 year old girls who were manning it today!

Then, I headed North, towards home, again. I noticed a brown sign for ‘Pisgah Covered Bridge’ on 220N, so I decided to take that exit. I remembered my creativity professor, once upon a time: she advised us that sometimes, to find your creative well, it’s good to drive into nowhere, with no set destination, but just to pick a direction and see where it takes you. I thought this would be good practice for that.

I am also fascinated with covered bridges: why did they cover them? I understand tunnels, but covered bridges? All that lumber? For what?! For one very brief covered piece of one’s journey? They’re a mystery to me! Plus: I had never seen one in real life! I don’t think I have, at least. If I did, shame on my memory for not helping now! Another reason: I live off of a Pisgah Road - so, this is a must!

So, I drove. For a while. I just followed the signs towards the Pisgah Covered Bridge, and let me tell you: it’s hiding! You take a left, and then a right, and then another left, and then another left … I went for miles and miles and miles, without seeing a car. It was getting dusky, too, so I was getting antsy: where is this thing?? Will I have any picture opps by the time I get there?? Will I get shot by some redneck thinking I am trespassing?! It was no-man’s-land out there! Just woods, and more woods, and hills and streams, and pastures. I was sure I was going to get lost!

North Carolina drives like a bluegrass song. Rolling hills, sun peeking through leafless woods, “barns hooked up to satellite dishes”, rebel flags, pick up trucks with gun racks, and porches with swing doors; white picket fences and old tobacco barns that are falling apart, but they still store wood; lonely animals wondering why in the hell are they left out in 20 degree weather?! There is no grass! Everything is either picked, or “yella”, so they’re wondering why the hell they’re out here, in the open wind?! It’s lonely, and it’s open, and it’s quiet. It’s a fine ride, though! One where you can finally hear your thoughts, and know what you’re going to do tomorrow when that loser calls back! It does bring you back to … you. And it replenishes the well! So, the creativity professor was right.

I did eventually find the bridge. And it was neat, just like I hoped it would be. I still don’t know why they cover it. I wish my bridge, back in my teen years were covered, so folks won’t see me steal a kiss or two … Maybe that was it: ‘whatever happened under there, stayed there…’?! I am not sure whether I'd pick up and look for the covered bridges all over the country like Clint Eastwood in the "Madison County" movie, but still: it was fascinating! It was quiet, and lonely, and it looked new. I were to find out it was 1911 new, and it only cost $40 to build! Oh, the olden times!

I even found my way back with no trouble at all – maybe a couple of wrong turns or three – but they were all worth it. I figured, the sun slipping over the hills, and saying “good night” was proud of my guts for taking the less traveled roads, and finding the hidden treasures. And I know I will sleep better knowing that I have added to my memories the fine looks of North Carolina hills and the first covered bridge I remember seeing.

My kitchen pipes never did burst, and the water did run in the afternoon – so it didn’t need me at all to stay home and wait for it. And, see, it pays to be curious about a brown sign on the highway that you never noticed before. See for yourself.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cracker Aunt

"If one feels the need of something grand, something infinite, something that makes one feel aware of God, one need not go far to find it. I think that I see something deeper, more infinite, more eternal than the ocean in the expression of the eyes of a little baby when it wakes in the morning and coos or laughs because it sees the sun shining on its cradle." (Vincent Van Gogh)

The closest that I have ever been to the miracle of life was when my cat back home gave birth to her two kittens. I was there when they came out, I cut the cord, as no one volunteered, and I tried to teach Dolly, my cat, about taking care of them, now that she was a mommy. Looking at the new born kittens, just fur balls of slime and squiggly life, with no eyes and definitely no direction of where to from here, I was numb, in an eerie mixture of grossness and wonder. I was resolute, and shaky, and numb! It was one of those moments when you knew: there must be some Force, out there, that just … sustains all this that moves, and becomes, and … happens. Some Force that gives life strength, and direction, and passing.

A very young me, with Dolly's kittens, once they grew eyes.

I am almost always visited by the same feeling every time I see my nephew reach a milestone. As you all remember, he was a preemie, by many, many, too many weeks. He was so weak, he could not breathe on his own. They had machines pulling his chest back up off of his spine, because his lungs and sternum and rib cage were not strong enough to push them back out.

He didn’t know how to suck on a bottle, or how to swallow, and he fed through tubes for weeks. He had rosy cheeks though, a firm grasp, and a determined look in his eyes, of “I’ll show you!”. He had so much hope! And we did too.

And show us he did! I have so much love and respect for his parents, and for their patience with him! He’s eight months old and all but completely caught up with everyone his age! He is over 16 lbs, sits up, rolls over, demands things, and loves pushing buttons. Both literally and figuratively! And says “ma-ma”. And this last video just made me cry with joy, pride and so much love, when watching him eating a cracker!

How could it not have done that, when you know that this nothing but a bundle of life, nerves and blood vessels came into this world without being able to swallow to eat on his own, and breathe to stay alive, and the infinite love and patience of good parents, and his own will and strength and survival instinct, and that magic "Force" that governs us all, pushed him all the way to a booster chair, a sippy cup and a cracker?! Somehow, he's learned that he has to bite, and chew, and swallow. How? From where? … You are just stunned with wonder, awe, and gratefulness.

I know you think it’s silly to be happy about some baby eating a cracker, but … Patrick’s new milestone also makes me be so thankful that he is just so seemingly perfect! It makes me so thankful for all the little things we forget to be thankful for, and which we take for granted every day: to all the babies out there, born not of their choosing into this world, who might not ever know the simple things of sitting up on their own, or eating on their own, or talking, or smiling, or ever feeding on milk or crackers … my heart goes out. Babies who will not be aware that the sky is blue, and the grass green and soft in the summer, but coarse and yellow in the fall, and that puppies and kittens are cute creatures.

Babies that were, maybe, born too early, or not … quite “done” yet, and that would not know the booster chair and the sippy cup. I am grateful for what was just given to us when some people learn to have it the hard way, or never enjoy it. I am once again, speechless.

And Patrick is grateful too – he just doesn’t know how to say it yet!

Note: and I thank my friend A., for the headline.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

“Growing old is unavoidable. Growing up – always optional”

Any resemblance to real people and facts is purely accidental …

Not sure if you have seen or remember the oh-such-a-chick-flick movie, “One Fine Day”. In there, there is a line that goes like this: “Love your guy as you love a little boy, and one day he will grow into a man”. Personally, I think, they never turn into men, or into “men according to women’s definition of that word”, anyway: whether they’re loved “as little boys” or not, they stay … little boys …

I have always thought that sitting alone at a bar and having total strangers talk to you about their life stories was a myth. Something just for the movies, so they can have a starting point for the plot. But I have discovered that bar conversations are indeed real, and not just for the movies.

A bar could be a great stage for the human show, great venues to check out the dance between sexes, and between people, in general. People feel a tad more free, and a tad more lonely at the bar, and they are more willing to share themselves there, than say at the office, or a random party. The bar also comes, for the most part, with a Vegas-like rule about it, more so than the office, or a friend’s party: what happens there, stays there – you don’t have to share more than names with the strangers, so, free of consequences, you’re more inclined to tell your story honestly, and be whoever you are, with little censorship. After all, it’s easier to be honest to strangers, than to judgmental people you know.

Last night, a friend of mine and I went out to celebrate her birthday, and we got to chatting with Mike, Jim and Mike from South Bend, Indiana. All I know about South Bend, Indiana is that my ex-boyfriend’s ex-sister-in-law moved there a while back, and that it’s damn cold.

Mike, Jim and Mike were RV salesmen, and in town with an RV show – or as they said “they sold adult toys”. We chatted about our jobs, their jobs, their children, or lack of them, public schools vs private schools, zodiac signs and what they mean, favorite colors, and politics. Like a good ol’ Mid-western man, Mike #1 was a Republican – and he was not afraid to admit it. We pretended not to notice, and changed the conversation to sports instead.

They were friendly, and nice, and cordial, but although they were anywhere between 37 and 52, they disarmingly immature, I thought. And for the millionth time in my life, I reminded myself that … boys will be boys and I need to just accept that as part of their charm. *Sigh*. Immaturity aside, I went with the flow, because no matter how old and stuck up I usually am, I accepted for one night to be silly, goofy, light, and entertain the “boys” – because they were indeed fun, and the fun consisted for the most part in their light-heartedness and kid-like behavior.

I felt like I was a camp supervisor of teens, and for several hours I forgot that these were adult men, with wives, kids, and a serious job. They made it very easy to forget that: they were playing with one of the I-Phones, trying to make the phone guess who was playing on the restaurant’s sound system or playing YouTube videos, or looking at pictures, they were doing magic tricks, and giving silly smart mouth answers: “When is your birthday?”, Jim’s answer: “My birthday is the sex birthday” – and then he was shocked when I guessed what that was; Mike #2 was doing an Elvis impression after being told he looks like The King’s impersonator. Does this sound like we were hanging out with teens? No matter what their age, they were teens in spirit – I can assure you.

Several hours and cocktails later, in the same frat boy meets high school drop out fashion, they invited us to drive their “hot” car to Hooters. As the half of the party who did grow up from the high school years, we ladies politely denied. However, they didn’t seem to think that such a proposition was outrageous in the least.

I am telling you: no matter how long we wait, or how much life thrusts them into its “reality”, there is something so endearingly simple about boys that will never wear off. I just hope I remember that next time I might have a boyfriend and he will think it’s cool to play for hours on the I-Phone while I try to get some plans made for our next home. Reality is measured by completely different dimensions in boys’ brains, I am sure, and as much as this is a truism, we ladies seem to forget that quite often.

Our female brains develop three times as fast as theirs, it seems, and the main wars between the sexes, I do believe, starts from the fact that boys don’t ever catch up with us – and render us frustrated and helpless, when we realize our wait for them to grow up is in vain. But despite of what I thought 10 years ago, I don’t think they don’t want to grow up, but I do believe that they are not able to. It’s how they’re wired. And somehow, they get through life, have families, and real jobs, wage wars and make politics, without having to grow up and “be serious”, otherwise.

Frankly, after last night: I envy them! I wish I had the freedom and lightness in my heart, less control freakiness, as well, to switch off the seriousness that governs my life daily, and just to remember to be a kid again, and tell silly jokes, just for effect, and to watch around me, and check out the adults’ reaction.

And then, it made me wonder: loved as little boys, or not, why would they ever want to grow up, when they’re having so much fun?!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Do you remember, by chance, that once upon a story time, when girl meets boy and boy and girl have about 3 or 4, sometimes even 5 or 6 dates before boy gets girl into bed? First, he asks her who she is, what she does, what her favorite food is, where she's from, you know, the "small talk" before he has her?! Do you maybe remember that time, not so long ago, when people used to go to each other's house to see a remodeled kitchen, or catch up on vacation memories? Do you remember when we used to read magazines, and you could tell a person by what subscriptions they had?! Do you remember when you told people to look you up in the phone book? Do you remember the hand-written cards?!

OK. Maybe some of you do. Maybe most of you do. But pretty soon, we'll fade all these out, and our kids - will think we're talking about 200 years ago. I mean, who needs to "see" each other anymore, who needs opening conversations and pre-dates, before they know someone ... when now we have Facebook?

Everything we do, whoever we are (generally speaking), is all on Facebook. We want to find out something about a person - we read their profiles; we want to know whether they camp, or go to parties - we check out their pictures; we want to find out if they have kids, or have been married, or are from New York - we check Facebook. We want to send them flowers (??!!!) - you got it: send any flower invented by God and named by Man, on Facebook - almost! You want to read their stories - guess what, their blog is not only linked to Facebook - it has its own feed into it. You want to know what they did for Christmas - there are videos of Santa visiting their home loaded on Facebook. You want to know what they're doing right this second?! - you got it: Facebook.

Sometimes I wonder why we ever even bother to go out and meet people, and congregate, when we can know everything and anything we possibly want (or don't want) to know from our couch?! A lot of folks think this is shallow business. I am (or used to be) one of those people. But, folks, there are tons and hundreds of hours and thought that are put into these pages! Sure, not everyone uses their brains to build a page (the ones who put their cell number in their screen name are one desperate case, I guess...), but most people guard their privacy and show taste when posting the pages. So, this is careful, thought-out business.

We live in a Facebook age, I decided. Sure, our generation has invented new verbs like: to blog, and to google, and to yahoo, and to text; and now, we all facebook, too - but what amazes me is the TIME that people spend on this site. And I am not talking about 16 year olds with no supervision... I am talking about people my age, older, and oldest , with kids or not, with jobs and responsibilities, with "lives" ... that have pages so loaded with "stuff" (all of it personal information) that a DSL connection cannot fully upload them! Do you ever remember when this last sentence would not have made sense at all ?!

We facebook everywhere: at home, while having coffee in the morning, or while waiting on the pot to boil supper, or all day when we have a lazy weekend, or on vacation, when we come in from sightseeing, at the pool, because whoever goes to a pool without wi-fi nowadays?!, on the cell phone, while waiting for the light to turn green, and don't even get me started on how much we're facebook-ing at work!

In my line of work (computer support, for the most part), I see computer screens of users all day long. One of the windows minimized at the bottom of each screen is either Facebook or MySpace, its close and not so hated competitor. And I confess: I log into it too, from work, and out of the 5 people that my profile is showing "online", 5 people are in the same office building as me! But then businesses are losing money - and that's another topic altogether and entirely!

We don't want to miss one second between meetings or phone calls of our darling non-stop voyeur show - all free and open to all. People update pictures on the site from work, "write on walls", tell everyone what "they're doing RIGHT now" ('cause you know: the world's gotta know what you're doing every second, God forbid they'd get yesterday's news on ya), give each other quizzes, and send each other "virtual flowers" and kisses, and awards, and ... It seems sometimes that just like we used to eat, drink, read, and sleep, now ... we facebook. It's part of life, and it's gotta be, or else we feel ... disconnected, not whole, not "in" ... or something ...

Facebook is not going to tell you who a person is. Not really. You're not going to know whether they're forgiving or not, or patient, or not, or giving, you're not going to know whether they cry at movies, or love pain. But it's going to tell you what you need to know to "have an idea" of what they are about: enough of that stuff which used to fill up a 3 or 4 one hour conversations.

In Emeril's spirit, you can say that the only thing, I guess, Facebook doesn't do is let you smell the roses, literally, or the coffee. Not much "virtual smells" there. For now.

Oops ... but my blog writing ran a bit too long. Gotta go and answer my facebook notifications for the day!
And as always: if you want to reach me, for any reason, find me on Facebook! I know all of you recycle the phonebooks anymore!

Sunday, January 04, 2009

A Personal Matter: Won't Let Go ... Of the Christmas Tree

Back in Romania, we decorate the tree on Christmas Eve, December 24. That's the tradition, and it has, to this day, seldom been corrupted by the Westernization of the country, and the consumerism that pushes Christmas to be ever so early.

One of my fondest memories about Christmas is when my sister and I were decorating the tree, on Christmas Eve, with (American) Christmas cartoons playing on TV. The parents were making the house smell good, with all the cooking, while we were listening to carols and The Chipmunks while putting the lights on and the thread through the ornaments to be hung.

I promised myself that unless I have Alzheimer's or I am completely immobile and I cannot make decisions for myself, I will always have a Christmas tree, and my fridge will always be full for Christmas. I don't care if I am 100 (so help me God!), or have no guests one year, I will have a tree and plenty of food and drinks in the fridge.

A tree is 'home' to me. It's not only fun to decorate it and make it my own (lately, my trees have been mostly purple and silver), but it brings up all the good memories of Christmases passed, of good and bad years alike. It's like reading a cherished diary, only easier. More visual.

I realized this year how personal a tree is, to all of us who have them. I made a purple and silver tree - my favorite colors. Mom made a blue tree - her favorite color, of course. My sister and her family made an all white tree - it's what we each like. It's what we think "Christmas" is ; what we think makes us happy and calls our name. It's a personal matter, as all important things in life should be. And for me, along with purple and silver, it'll just be ... one extra week : I just want it to last longer! So, I am keeping the tree up!

The Christmas tree I have every year helps me not only remember that it's a holiday, and a new year, and that I am reaching a milestone, but it also helps me connect with my past, and for lack of it (sometimes), it helps me feel "at home". When I look at my tree, every day, I see all the times Andy and I put our trees up in our parents' home, I see my parents cooking the Christmas dinner, the carolers at the window, my childhood, and I am overwhelmed by this sense of "safety" like no other time in the year. It makes me come home - which I so need it.

And thus it's so painful to take the tree down. I'll take my tree down once again late, maybe next weekend. Because for one more week, I want to feed off my memories of Andy and I singing carols and hanging lights ... For one more week, I want to hold on to the feeling of belonging. And being loved. I want to feel home. For one more week.

Maia (my mother's mom) once told me that I threw a fit when they had to take down my very first Christmas tree (I was 9 months old), so they had to buy an artificial tree and keep it decorated till Easter, till the frenzy of the Easter Bunny made me forget about Santa and I was OK with them getting rid of the tree.

A little bit of that is still left in me, somewhere. Most kids have a favorite blankie to feel home. I have my Christmas tree.