Wednesday, April 22, 2015

New Lease on Life

As you can tell, I've been a little busy since getting a new job. I want to keep updating this for the pure pleasure of writing but admittedly, most nights I collapse exhausted in my chair while me and Dave binge watch Mad Men.

It's been great getting back in my field, officially but with the freelance gigs and writing my stories, I feel like I never left.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

April Playlist: This is Me in Grade 9

I'm very giddy to be skating to the Barenaked Ladies' Grade 9 for this year's comedy/light entertainment event. Grade 9 happened to be the '83/'84 school year, and the height of the MTV/new wave/second British Invasion.

To compile this list, I went with international acts that put my heart and head squarely at the Lumen Christi Friday night school dances, pogo-ing with my girlfriends, wistfully wondering if any of the guys were going to ask me to dance. Answer: no. *sigh*

Every Breath You Take, The Police

Down Under, Men at Work

Sweet Dreams, Eurythmics

Hungry Like the Wolf, Duran Duran

Let's Dance, David Bowie

Electric Avenue, Eddy Grant

Too Shy, Kajagoogoo

Goody Two Shoes, Adam Ant

Come Dancing, The Kinks

Pass the Dutchie, Musical Youth

True, Spandau Ballet

Don't Cry, Asia

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Stories for the Boy: Happy Birthday

HBD baby


So you've had your sixth birthday this year. In case you forgot, your day included blue and blue baseball cupcakes with custom made Whitecap logo sticks for your party at school; presents in the morning which included a Star Wards pretend shaving kit and Lego accessories for your iTouch; and dinner at Applebees by request.

Since you share your birth month with your dad, I think it's appropriate to tell you about how we celebrated his birthday, our first as a couple. That would have been 1992.

Since I didn't have quite enough money to go whole hog on the day, I recreated our first date for him, the best I could. I "took him out" on a date in his living room, serving pizza and a six pack of Killian's Red. We opted not to return to Bilbo's in Kalamazoo. There was no cake, but we met with friends after. I know I got your dad a car, but cannot remember if I got him an actual present. Maybe a bow on the beer. Kind of a big deal.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Typing Out Loud: At Last!


Woooo!

It's been a long time coming. In a few days, I start a new marketing position for a local university.

When I started this blog back in 2008, I had a feeling change was on the horizon, and my fears were later confirmed when my position was eliminated, and I faced coping with defeat. To paraphrase the recently departed Toller Cranston, he based his creative career, artistically and athletically, on making up for loss of the Olympic gold in '76.

I think I have too.

I became a runner.

I rediscovered myself as an artist.

I became a silver level figure skater and an ice dancer.

I became a gold level figure skating judge.

And I chronicled it all the last 6+ years over the course of 260 blog entries.

Writing this blog was not only a way to cope, it was also a way to fire up my creativity and keep my writing skills sharp.

I've taking a lot of hits too. I've joked often about the interview process being like a series of blind dates and I have had my share of nightmare situations that have, quite honestly, done a number on my self esteem over the years. I could really write a book about this series of disasters alone.

Which makes it deeply satisfying to move on.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

March Playlist: Marty Robbins, El Paso


First, some facts:

El Paso was a number one hit, pop and country charts, in 1960.

It won a Grammy for Best C&W recording in 1961.

It is considered one of the top 100 country songs of all time.

It was used in the finale of the show Breaking Bad, a perfectly heartbreaking narrative.

So why the love?

My grand mother was a huge Marty Robbins fan. My dad used to sing this song while listening to the oldies station.

The song is a narrative ballad and tells the story of a cowboy in love with a dancer from Rosa's Cantina named Faleena. I love the flamenco guitar work and the haunting harmonies. And the end is so damn heartbreaking...

Friday, February 20, 2015

Why Art Matters: John Irving

Wrestler turned author.

I backed into Irving fandom in '88, a homework, dinner and a movie date with a boyfriend at the time. The homework was chemistry, the dinner cornish hens and the movie The World According to Garp. The relationship (and my pre-pharmacy major) didn't last, but my relationship with Irving's stories did.

His work has been described as similar to Charles Dickens, a fact I can hardly argue but I see his style as uniquely his own. He set his characters in absurd situations for which they act perfectly normal. His worlds are filled with bears in crisis, hookers with sage life advice, horny teenage boys, the world of wrestling, mental illness and finding yourself in Vienna. What is consistent is his blend of comedy and drama, like the grudge one man held against a baby since his dog was hit by a diaper truck. Strong female characters are also a constant.

Memorable characters include Owen, who believes he was conceived in a VIRGIN BIRTH; Garp, conceived by an asexual nurse who rapes a patient as he lay dying; Freud, the Viennese innkeeper who believes he is training a bear, who is actually a woman in a bear suit; Dr. Wilbur Larch, head of an orphanage who is also an abortion doctor; Piggy Sneed, a man of no consequence made heroic by a child's blatant lies; Ruth, used as a pawn in her parents dissolving marriage turned novelist, who of course befriends a prostitute in Vienna.

Even though Irving has his own unique set of tropes, he never relies on cliche to complete his story. His stories are never neatly tied in a bundle, yet you do not feel cheated out of a satisfying ending. You are offered redemption in one way or another, at the end.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Typing Out Loud: Bang, Bang I Am the Warrior

In my continuing saga with the River Bank Run, I submitted an application, three times I may add, to be a Road Warrior in the 5 and 10K divisions for the annual race.

Road Warriors represent the race at community events and trainings, as well as blog about the experience. Right up my alley.

First thing was the application. My first application was crafted carefully, an epic tome meant to make readers laugh, cry, be inspired and thus be nominated for the first-ever Pulitzer for online applications. So when I hit send... I got the dreaded 404 error.

Second application was an edited version of the first, emphasis on inspiration, a "chicken soup for the runner's soul" that was so heavy on syrup, I hesitated hitting the submit button. Another 404 error.

I gave it a few days and submitted a dashed off third try. I was borderline smart-alecky, inserted some trademark humor, and when I hit submitted and got the "accepted" page, I mentally ticked the "do something brave today" box, pretty certain I was not the type of runner they wanted or needed for their program.

Until I got the "congratulations!" letter from officials while I was eating supermarket sushi in a hotel room while off to judge a figure skating competition.

I was very surprised and immediately bashful. Me? No really, me? Before any reader think this is false modesty, you have to know how I think. And it isn't pretty. I probably have the worst case of conflicted self image in the history of self images. Immediately upon reading the news, the vicious, cynical side of me woke from her sleeping slumber and unleashed a series of worst-case, ego destroying wicked vile that made me toss and turn most of the night.

Ever had your own brain tell you such things as "you're a loser"? How about "you're not a real runner"? Or even the litany of put downs such as "you think you're so special" and "you think you're all that" or "attention whore."

Niiiiiice.

The first ring of the circus was the community vote. You were given the link to publicize your intention to be a warrior. I skipped Twitter and Instagram, and opted to get the word out on Facebook. I composed my post at Starbucks and sent it out into the world. It got liked, shared, reposted, etc. Friends rallied to cheer me on. There were also a few notable exceptions to the support, which send my negative Nancy on a rampage.

I didn't win the community vote.

The next phase was the personal interview, conducted at Gazelle Sports. I was funny. I was gracious. I got arms and limbs involved in telling stories, swooping in for effect. They loved me. But it all came down to I think one key question: "what are you not looking forward to in this process?"

I wanted this, but I also wanted to be honest. Skating is a huge part of my life, and working at the hospital, I work odd shifts that don't always work with someone's 9-to-5. I reviewed the listing of events I was required to attend and worried out loud I wouldn't be able to make any of the Wednesday trainings, and most of the Saturday runs. For the first time, there was a wrinkle on the brows of the women conducting the interview. Game face still on, I was pretty sure I was sunk.

Less than 48 hours later, my fears were confirmed when I got a "thanks but no" email from the committee. As an added bonus, I also got a rejection letter from a place I had applied to for a writing position.

Negative Nancy had a field day on me on my way to work. The way I figured, NN had somehow found her way out of my brain and managed to have not one but two entities vocalize what I had been thinking all along. You're nothing special. You're a loser. They're all laughing at you.

I took another day to reflect, and give myself perspective. After running for only 4 years, I managed to hang with the best the Grand Rapids running community had to offer. Even before when I thought I had a chance, I was worried about the time commitment, knowing full well that work, family and skating took precedent. I represented myself well and conjured up some confidence I didn't know I had.

I posted today a thank you to everyone who supported me, and to tell them I wasn't chosen. I rewrote it carefully as I intentionally omitted negative words like "loser" from my phrasing.

I'm still doing the run, and as a reward for my efforts, I was given yet another free entry to the race. So I got a prize after all.