Thursday, March 5, 2009

Striking a Balance...

I don't know about anyone else but by the end of a week my senses are raw. Some days I spend eight or more hours on conference calls. My brain turns to mush. On Friday afternoons, my biggest wish is to wrap up in a blanket and read whatever book I'm into at the time...or just taking a nap and shut out all the goings on around me. In other words, I want to escape! I don't want to talk or be out among people. If I do an activity on Friday night, I want to cancel (sorry girls who I go out with on Friday nights!).

I often have said that I would love to become a hermit. In fact, I think a lot of people think that they would like to become hermits. I have a great business idea that I would find a series of caves (or maybe build some underground fortress or something like that) that I would fix up with all the comforts and luxuries one could imagine or want. Before checking into "The Hermitage" the guest would have to answer an extensive questionnaire that would include favorite movies, TV shows, books, magazines, games, food, drink, etc. There would also be a number of different services like massages or mani/pedis or Wii games...whatever your little heart desires. So, when you checked into your cave you would be surrounded with all your favorite comforts. But, because there are really few people out there that truly want to be by themselves, I would schedule Hermit Mixers so that if you were tired of being by yourself you could meet other hermits -- people who really don't want to be by themselves. I'm good at planning parties and throwing parties. I'm not good at going to parties!

So, how do I keep my inner hermit in check? I have become the planner in my circle of friends so I guess I socialize on my own terms. My friends all know that they shouldn't leave phone messages for me. I don't answer the phone. I don't listen to messages. If Andy's not answering the phone, well your sort of SOL because I answer for very few people. It has nothing to do with how much I like a person. In fact, I'm always happy when I go out with my friends but there is always a moment the hermit emerges and I want to call off the plans and escape to the comfort of that blanket. You know that feeling -- it's the same thing you go through when you are trying to talk yourself into going to the gym. You don't want to go, you don't feel like it, but once you are there, it feels good.

So everyday is a battle with the hermit and trying to strike a balance between my natural tendencies to be an anti-social, non-doer and pushing myself past my comfort zone. We all need to push ourselves past our comfort zone and challenge ourselves. I push past my comfort zone everyday in my relationships with people in general.

I think I should probably win an Academy Award for the part I play during the day. You could say I'm a method actor. My feelings for my friends and family are certainly genuine and honestly, if I didn't have these people in my life it would be so much easier to slip into that hermit, anti-social mode. And it would be sooo boring! I'd probably be some crazy bag lady talking to the pet rat in her pocket. But, I think people would still approach me, even as the crazy bag lady. I've always been so baffled about this aura I seem to give off that allows perfect strangers to approach me so even as the crazy bag lady, I'm sure people would still ask me for directions on the street.

One of my early people nightmares was when I was in first grade. First, let me preface this story by telling you how excited my mom was when she had me. I was a living doll that she could dress up and share all the girly-girl things in life. Before I was old enough to say no to the frills, Mom had turned me into a living teddy bear. Rabbit fur coat, matching hat and muff...I mean really, who in the modern day uses a muff??? It wasn't like I took the sled to school everyday! At recess, the children in my class were so amused by this chubby bear that they encircled me and wouldn't let me out of the ring. I was traumatized. The more I tried to get out of the circle the more they laughed and caught me up in their entwined arms. They had no idea until the tears started rolling down my face. I didn't want the attention.

I'm no good in crowds. I don't like people touching me. My mind still wanders to the teddy bear incident. In fact, I have a big fur (fake) coat that I bought last year. It's really really warm but I'm afraid that people will pet me! It's like the pregnant woman phenomena. Somehow total strangers think it is OK to approach me. If you ever stand with me in a line, you will be amazed how many people who want to cross the queue will choose me to break into the line. And crazy people...don't even get me started on the radar I emit that says to the crazy people of the world, "Talk to this woman...she likes you!"

I blame my parents. They taught me to be polite to one and all. It is the ultimate internal struggle of my inner being...balancing the crazy hermit with the polite, well-mannered little girl. If someone addresses me, I have to acknowledge them, even if they are wearing a helmet made of tinfoil. This has often made me the victim of crazy people all over the world. I once had a man follow me from the Metro to my office in Washington, DC because I made the mistake of making eye contact and muttering, "Good Morning." I soon got a phone call at my desk from this crazy person. He had followed me into the office and asked the security guard what my name was and then called the main number of the National Association of Home Builders where I worked.

You might be thinking, "Awww...what a great story to find have your eyes meet across the Metro station." Well, it might have been if this man had not called fourteen times within the span of an hour! Cuckoo for cocoa puffs is all I can say.

So maybe you think this only happened when I was younger (and better looking!) but actually no. It has happened all over the world. Last year I was in Barcelona on a business trip and my last night there, a colleague and I went out to our favorite Irish pub in Barcelona (her being a Bailey and me being a Collins, we have a thing for visiting Irish Pubs). We sat at the end of the bar enjoying our pints and chatting away. She left for a few minutes to find an ATM. I watched the soccer game on the TV and ignored the man sitting at the bar a few stools away. I could feel him looking at me. I refused to look over because I knew that it would be enough of an invite for him to strike up a conversation. I would not look over...I would not look over. Oh crap, I looked over!

That was enough for him to introduce himself. He was 26-years-old and somehow in the span of one minute I found out his mother was from the Congo and his father was Belgian. My friend Amy soon came back to the bar and found me engaged in conversation with this young man. "Is he OK?" she asked me through the side of his mouth. "Nothing bad yet with my spidey sense," I replied. Of course this was the same woman who didn't want me to strike up a conversation earlier that week at Columbus Square with a homeless man selling tissues. Let's say we balanced each other out very well.

Soon this gentleman invited himself to our end of the bar and even began to eat our food! This, of course, alerted the spidey sense. Once his strange hands (who knows when the last time he washed them) hit our food, I didn't touch it again. Trying to be polite, Amy asked him what he did for a living. That was when we knew this guy must of just escaped from the funny farm. He looked around to see if there was anyone listening and then leaned in to tell us the secret. "I am Illuminati," he said in a somber and serious voice.

Amy and I looked at each other and both said at the same time, "DaVinci Code Illuminati?" And he let us in on the plan to kill Dan Brown for exposing the order. Spidey Sense is now ricocheting off the wall. But I can not be rude to him and tell him to go away.

Somehow we get into a conversation about politics. This was before President Obama took the nomination. He was arguing with me that Michael Bloomberg, yes the mayor of New York, was going to be a surprise Republican nominee and win the presidency. Of course I had to tell him this was idiotic since he wasn't even in the running or throwing his hat in the ring. But I did it in a very nice and polite way!

Out of nowhere, the odd man says to me, and I'm quoting, "Do you know that when you walk down the street all people see is a stupid fat woman and no matter how smart you are, no one will take you seriously because you are fat." I'm in a little shock because how fast this guy turned ugly. And I'm always a bit shocked at how fast people are willing to sacrifice other people's dignity to make themselves feel good.

Well all I can say is God Bless the Irish...all the staff at the Michael Collins Pub are wonderful Irish lads and lasses. Our bartender was a lovely girl from the motherland who immediately went and told one of the larger, burly bartenders about the incident. He promptly threw Mr. Illuminati out of bar. After that, we were their guests for the night and the Guinness turned into Jameson's and we were well taken care of. We called one of our colleagues who lived in the city and he came to see us back to the hotel. No crazy Illuminati were waiting for us when we left. I do, however, feel the need to warn Mr. Dan Brown though!

When incidents like that happen to me, it reinforces my instincts to turn my back on people. Life is so much easier if I could ignore the bulk of humanity and be a hermit. But, and this is a big but, then there would be no stories. Life would be pretty boring

Monday, March 2, 2009

Pancake Night and Baked Bean Sandwiches Spawns an Entrepenieur

I didn't know my family was poor when I was growing up until I was well into my 30's. There were lots of tell-tale signs but either I was too dense to know or I didn't want to know. I think it was probably the latter.

In our family, every Thursday night was Pancake Night. It was a big coincidence that Pancake Night fell on the night before payday. But the ingredients where plentiful and always in the house. We never went hungry but I knew my parents struggled to make it from paycheck to paycheck.

Food became the barometer of my parents wealth. Saturday night was steak night (makes sense as it was the day after payday). As the payday got further away, the meals became less robust, culminating in the famous Pancake Night. My mother would get quite creative at lunch times and to this day, I still love a baked bean sandwich. I know, it sounds weird but she would take Wonder Bread and butter it and then smash Bush's Baked Beans in as the filling. Don't knock it until you try it! Every once in a while I get a jones for the comfort of a good old baked bean sandwich!

The funny thing is that I never ever heard my parents discussing money. None of us kids knew how much money my father made. Being children of the Depression, my parents main goal was to have more than their parents and provide more for their children. My father saw it as a personal failure if he was not able to give us something we wanted. Perhaps I was an overly empathetic child but I sensed that it broke my father's heart to say no so it was my personal goal at an early age to not give him the opportunity. I don't think I understood it 100% when I was a kid but my need for financial independence was a combination of not wanting to put my father in the position that he couldn't do something for me and also not putting my parents in the position of saying no to something I wanted. If I earned my own money no one could tell me how to spend it, right?

I was a regular Donald Trump with my entrepreneurial drive. I had many different businesses growing up from lawn care to babysitting but it was in 1977 that I built a kingdom out of rope. It was the year of macrame. I started with less than $5 seed money to buy some basic supplies and made as many macrame planters as I could. Then I went door-to-door in my neighborhood and sold my inventory and took custom orders. At 13-years-old, I knew how much profit I made on each piece. I actually made more profit on the fast and easy basic designs that I could make in bulk then I did on the custom pieces. The most detailed custom piece was a hanging table made with a giant piece of cut cypress about six feet in circumference. The time and effort it took me on that piece along with the high-end beads and rope made it one of my most expensive custom pieces at $350 but ultimately I would end up losing money if I paid the labor (me!) an hourly wage. I barely covered cost of supplies.

And then I learned how to make the pot-bellied owl hand towel ring. Sales went through the roof! These towel rings were made with a special macrame rope that you knotted through the body of the owl and unravelled it. Then you took a wire hair brush and teased the heck out of it until it was fat and fluffy. I couldn't keep up with the orders. The summer of '77 was all about the owl and I seemed to spend every waking moment making these horned creatures.

The demand for these owls was so huge that I had to hire an employee -- my mother! In addition to paying her 20% of the profits made from each owl (she still wore her hair in a teased up bee-hive a la Priscilla Presley and had much experience with teasing). Plus I also paid my parents room and board. It was only $50 a month and I'm sure it cost a lot more than $50 a month to feed me and house me. I was proud to pay that to my parents.

The laws of supply and demand caught up with me and the bottom fell out of the macrame business. Meanwhile in the world, the bottom was falling out of lots of things in the economy. Remember the lines for gas? But I had caught the bug for independence. I was no longer looking for a little pocket change but I was anxious to pay my way. Also, paying my own way gave me (or so I thought) the unwritten, unsaid permission to do what I wanted. I stopped asking if I was allowed and my motto turned into a philosophy I still use today. It's better to ask for forgiveness later than permission now!

I would continue to be blessed to have a job (or jobs)...knock on wood! I give my parents credit for jump starting my work ethic. Just think, it all started with pancakes for dinner and a baked bean sandwich.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What is passion?

One of my best friends (we've worked together across two companies for many years) and I were having a philosophical discussion on finding your life's passions. Actually the discussion was on our company's Instant Message as we were both participating in long, uneventful conference calls and rather than waste an hour of our time that we would never get back, we put it to use having a deep conversation...on instant message. I know...ROFLMAO as I picture the event.

The ideal situation would be Joye is vacationing in Paris and is dressed in a glamorous little black dress with 4-inch, extremely pointy shoes that she would be traipsing all over Paris in with no pain at all. She'll be waiting in a chic coffeehouse for her husband as they meet for dinner and then the opera so she has decided to "instant message" her friend in the States.

Meanwhile, Kasey is zipping along in a chauffeured car to her next might be Rachel Ray or it could be Martha Stewart...she can't remember. Her best-selling novel has made her an instant celebrity.

Joye: IDK...I'm jealous that you know what your passions are

Kasey: LOL! You live a fabulous life traveling the world with your family

Joye: I know...we're fabulous! We got everything in life right!

Kasey: I know! We're so fabulous! We've got so many of life's passions! the scene isn't as fabulous but the conversation was probably better. In reality, we were both still in our pajamas, waiting for a break in our schedules to rush into the shower, maybe grab a meal. Joye had read my first blog and had made the comment that she wished she knew what her passions in life were.

It got me to thinking about the word passion. It's a dramatic word to use. It fills up pieces of our lives to have a passion. In today's society, it seems to have to mean something dramatic and out of the ordinary. You don't hear a lot of people declaring their passion in life to be broccoli.

I looked up the word passion. Passion (from the Latin verb patior, meaning to suffer or to endure, also related to compatible) is an emotion applied to a very strong feeling about a person or thing. Passion is an intense emotion compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or desire for something. The term is also often applied to a lively or eager interest in or admiration for a proposal, cause, or activity or love.

I look at Joye and I can see her passion, even if she can't or doesn't deem it exciting enough to be called a passion. Joye is the mother of three beautiful children and she is raising them to be the best humans that they can be. She's teaching her oldest daughter to be a confident, mature young woman and to pursue her passions. She's teaching her teenage boy how to pursue his passions and have not only the sports but the education. Not to mention the hours she spends on activities for parents of the athletes and supporting him at games. And her youngest, she is showing her how to be a strong woman and raise a loving family. She does all this for the kids and let's not forget her husband! There's a passion all on its own!

Sometimes we don't think our lives are exciting enough and could hardly call raising families a passion. Passions don't have to change the world. They change you. Not every passion can be converted into a career or an adrenalin rush. But I guarantee you that your passions change your life. I don't think I could live without my husband, my dogs, my want to have a family, my friends.

So, I declare publicly, on this blog, I have a passion for my life now...and for all things to be pursued. Now is the time to declare your passions...even if it is a passion for broccoli!