Friday, March 31, 2006

Who's this for anyway?

Nancy raised a good point in her comments to my last post. I said I worry that I don't have anything interesting to say. She said she has the same feeling but needs to figure out where blogging fits in her life and who she's writing for - herself or her readers.

For me, the answer is that I'm writing for myself AND my readers. If I wanted to write just for myself, I would have a private journal. There would be no reason for a blog. But I write in this public forum because I want an audience. I've always wanted an audience - I used to do musical theater so I could have a live audience. At this point, I'll settle for a virtual one.

That said, the essence of writing is very personal (depending on the topic). "Write what you know" is a cliche for a reason. Even the most empathetic among us can only write from our own perspective and experience. And unless you're writing an instruction manual, your biases and personal views are bound to come out. There are as many opinions as there are people and if we're nervy enough to express our views in public, we have to be thick-skinned enough to hear dissent. Unfortunately, we may also need to be thick-skinned enough to hear personal insults. Not that I'm condoning such behavior but some people simply can't stop themselves from personal attacks when expressing disagreement. I hope I never get to the point where I need to turn comments off like MIM did - the give and take is what I like about this writing format.

I assume the people that stop by this blog think I'm interesting, at least some of the time, otherwise they wouldn't keep reading. And the fact that I have a few regular readers helps keep me motivated to write (when I'm not otherwise engaged in fire fighting in my non-blog life). Ideally, I'd like to have more regular readers. To that end, I'm going to try to write more often and, sometimes, write about potentially controversial topics. My goal isn't controversy for the sake of controversy (although that might get me some short-term readers). My goal is dialogue. In this self-selected world of bloggers, we have a surprising diversity of views. I hope we can learn from each other. Another goal is to get more comments - I know from my hit counter that more people are reading this than are commenting. I want to hear from you, even if you disagree with me. Really. Just don't make comments about my ass or I'll have to go all Tae Kwon Do on yours.

Now that we have that settled, I have a few questions for you:

Why do you blog? How much do you care about the number of readers you have? Have you sparked controversy? If so, how and what happened? What topics would you like to write about or discuss but are afraid to touch on?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Thursday Thirteen - I'm still around . . .

Here are 13 excuses (lame and otherwise) why I haven't written anything in the past two weeks:

1.Things have been busy at work. Things have been busy at home.
2. I've been procrastinating.
3. I have a severe case of writers block.
4. I've been thinking a lot about religion and faith lately. I'm not religious so it's kind of unusual for me to be giving so much mindspace to this issue. I've wanted to write about it but I'm concerned about offending people with my views.
5. Being overly concerned about offending people is also kind of unusual for me.
6. The controversy over at Morphing into Mama has made me extra skittish. (Go here to see the post that sparked the fire storm.) Not that I have nearly as many readers as MIM does. And my butt isn't half as cute as hers. But I think I have the potential to piss people off and I'm not sure I want to be controversial. (For the record, I think MIM makes some really good points. I also know that she's smart and funny and a fabulous writer. I think it's rotten that people have decided to attack her personally for sharing her opinion on her own blog.)
7. Sometimes I think all of the good stuff has already been written. I have a fear of being "derivative."
8. I don't really know what it means to be "derivative" but I'm pretty sure it's bad.
9. I worry that I don't have anything interesting to say.
10. There's lots of stuff that I would like to write about but since this blog isn't anonymous, I won't write it.
11. It's not that I have really bad things to say about anyone. But I can't write about stuff like job interviews (what? No. I'm not interviewing for anything . . . really), my family (not that I have anything bad to say but I don't want to embarass anyone or put my kids at any risk). I'd like to write more about my struggles with depression - although I'm not ashamed of it, there are people who might hold it against me so I don't want to take the chance.
12. Maybe I need an anonymous blog.
13. Yeah, just what I need for my procrastination guilt - two blogs where I don't post enough!

See the sidebar for other Thursday Thirteens!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Thursday Thirteen - work, work, work

Thirteen Things about Jobs I held before becoming a lawyer.

I know that last week I said I'd talk some more about world religions this week. Well, I did start reading the Bible (Old Testament) and I've gotten through a few of the 50 chapters of Genesis. Man, the Bible is one looooong book. And Genesis is a whole lotta family tree stuff (all about the male descendents, I might add). Anyway, I don't have much to say about it at this point so, maybe next week.
So, jobs I've had . . .

1. The first job I had was at Aunt Diana's Old Fashioned Fudge at Northbrook Court mall. Thus began a life long struggle with my weight . . .that was some damn good fudge.

2. The second job I had was at Baskin Robbins Ice Cream in lovely downtown Highland Park, Illinois. Are you seeing a theme here? My boss was (conservatively) 300 pounds and a mean bastard. First of all, he hated kids and was always yelling at them for running around in the store. Clearly, he had no sense of customer service. We'd be serving scoops of ice cream and - in front of the customer - he'd yell at us for making the scoops too big and make us take ice cream off of the cones. When he wasn't around, we'd trade ice cream cones for egg rolls with the kids that worked at the Chinese restaurant across the street.

3. Then I worked at Michael's Hot Dogs which had been called Nathan's for years but then the people at the "real" Nathan's threatened to sue them if they didn't change their name. Anyway, even though I worked at the salad bar, I managed to eat my weight in burgers while I was there. (My favorite was a charbroiled burger with grilled onions, salad fixings and Swiss cheese in a pita - mmmmm, my mouth is watering and I don't even eat beef any more).

4. Michael's also had a good catering business - very big on the Bar/Bat Mitzvah circuit on the North Shore back in the day. Thirteen year olds looooove the cheddar fries. I made a bunch of cash working the catering during the summers. It was actually fun because it was social in a way that working behind a food counter isn't. (And man, it was hot, hot, hot behind the food counter with the grill going and 90 degree weather outside).

5. Then I went to college and was lucky enough to be able to not have a job while I was in school but I had some cool jobs during the summers. My first summer, my dad got me a job working as a production assistant on a movie that was filming out in L.A. The movie was called Monster in the Closet. (You won't find me in the credits - they don't usually list peons). I had a great time, learned a lot and worked my rear end off. This guy was a production assistant with me and I laugh every time I see his name in the credits of a movie or television show. He was a nice guy - all I really remember is playing Name That Tune whenever we rode in the car together. I kicked his ass most of the time. I lived in a fraternity house at UCLA. Remind me to tell you someday how disgusting the bathroom was when I first moved in and how much I hate the song "White Wedding" by Billy Idol after being forced to listen to it at full volume for an entire summer. Oh those crazy California frat boys!

6. The next summer, I went to Connecticut and worked for Folio Magazine. Again, it was a job my dad got for me (he had some pretty cool clients back then). I can't remember much about the work I did. Needless to say, I wasn't real interested in going into magazine production. However, I house sat in an awesome huge house in Windsor, Connecticut (which is a really lovely town). I had a co-house sitter - a guy who was a Christian rock singer from Oklahoma. I don't even remember his name or why the hell he was living in Connecticut with me. We barely saw each other since our social circles didn't intersect. I do remember that we were also taking care of two outdoor cats. Apparently, these cats were quite competitive - they would bring us dead birds and mice and all kinds of other woodland creatures, each cat trying to outdo the other with their "gifts" each day. Although I miss sitting on the back porch, listening to the crickets, reading a book and sipping ice tea, I really don't miss cleaning up dead animal carcasses.

7. The next summer, I worked as a lab assistant at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. (Yeah, my dad got me that job too). It was kinda interesting - I got to use pipettes and stuff like they use in CSI. Woo hoo. Mostly I was testing different testing kits for efficacy so the lab could figure out which testing kits they wanted to buy. Simply going to work at a County Hospital was depressing as hell even though I didn't have any patient contact.

8. After I graduated, I wanted to do movies and thought about going to L.A. but I was scared. I even started to write a screen play but never really got very far. My parents told me I didn't have to get a "real" job - I could stay at home and write or figure out what I wanted to do. But, of course, why would I want to take advantage of a fabulous offer like that? I wasn't that smart. Instead, I got a job as a waitress at a local restaurant/bar. I was a bit dismayed that I got much better tips when I wore shorts or mini-skirts than when I wore slacks. Like I said, I wasn't too smart back then.

9. A friend from college was moving to New York City and asked me if I wanted to get an apartment with her. Being the spontaneous sort of gal I am, I looked up a bunch of talent agencies in New York, set up some interviews and went for it. (I had decided that if Michael Ovitz could become a powerful producer after starting as an agent, I could do it, too). I got a job at Oppenheimer and Christie Talent Agency and moved to NYC. I lived in a one bedroom apartment in Brooklyn with my girlfriend and a gay guy we knew from college. It sucked.

10. Eventually, I got tired of working at a talent agency and went to work at Rossetti Films (a TV commercial production company) and worked for this guy. He's a brilliant director and very creative but he's was freakin' crazy when I worked for him. Once time he was mad when we forgot to turn the copy machine off one night. So on the door across from my desk, he wrote - in black indelible ink - "TURN ALL LIGHTS AND MACHINES OFF BEFORE LEAVING!!!" and he pulled all the videotapes off of the shelves in my office. When I came in the next morning, I thought we had been robbed. One of the cool things about working there was the fridge fully stocked with soda and beer. And the fact that Dominick's wife would go out every afternoon and buy us cappacino and scones. She was a lovely woman. Plus I learned how to use a video editing machine (which is totally useless now that the technology has changed!).

11. After about a year there, a good friend of my step-brother's died suddenly of a brain aneurysm. I wasn't close friends with him but it hit home - we were the same age and it was so unfair. My step-brother and his friends were devastated. I went through a whole soul-searching phase and decided to go back home to Chicago and try to write and take film classes. Rossetti Films hired a woman to take my place. She was so incompetent and so insane that they called me six months later and begged me to come back for a huge salary increase. (Well, it seemed huge at the time but I went from making absolutely nothing to making next to nothing which was a big jump.) So much for film classes. I went back to New York.

12. Eventually I landed at a small production company called Man in the Moon Productions. There I learned how to send videotapes through customs in Singapore via FedEx and UPS. I tell you, I gathered some pretty amazing skills while I was in New York. One day, I asked one of the production coordinators a question that my boss thought I should have asked him. This 200 pound man jumped up and down, screaming in my face "I'm the head of production! You come to me! Me!" I scurried out of his office and into the front room where my desk was. He followed me out, picked up the Pitney Bowes mail stamping machine and threatened to drop it on my head. Needless to say, I quit.

13. Then I decided to get a real job and went to law school. I won't bore you with the details of my stint at a law firm. Unfortunately, it wasn't anything like this.

See the sidebar blog roll for links to other Thursday Thirteens!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Note to self . . .

When at work, don't answer the phone when you don't recognize the caller ID number.

I just got off of a 15 minute call with a 91 year old shareholder of some of our investment companies. He called me because my name is on our annual reports and he figured (incorrectly) that I'm a Big Important Executive with all kinds of ability to make Big Important Executive Decisions (ha ha). He began the call by telling me how horrible it was that the person answering the 800 number for our funds had no idea who I was. Forget for a moment that he was horribly mispronouncing my last name. We have lots and lots of employees and the people who answer the 800 number don't even work for this company! Hell, there are people that work for this company, in the same building, that probably don't know (and couldn't care less) who I am.

Then he told me that I should be congratulated (yeah for me!) because I was at my desk like every good executive should be. He said "I have called executives of many companies and they're never at their desks. They must be out to lunch or in the bathroom or something when they should be at their desks!" He told me how he had owned a company for 20 years and he wanted to give me some advice. "Never allow your secretary to tell any callers that you are away from your desk! Executives should be at their desks working!" Ok, I'll keep my potty breaks to a minimum. I debated whether I should tell him that although I was at my desk (like the good executive I am), I was actually reading blogs. Maybe not.

The reason for his call (besides giving me wholly inappropriate and unsolicited advice) was to tell me that I need to band together with others in my industry and tell our main regulator that we should stop wasting shareholder money by sending out annual reports to people who are just going to throw them in the garbage. "I'm an intelligent person. I know a lot of things. I can't understand your reports anyway and I don't want them. It's a waste of money to print these things! I would have thrown this one in the garbage sooner but I found your name on it." (Again, yeah for me!) Not that any of you want to know the inner workings of this very dry area of the law but regular disclosure of important (and not so important) facts is essential to selling mutual funds. There is no way in hell the regulators are going to allow us to stop mailing these things out. Trying to be helpful, I pointed out to him that he could get them electronically and that would save his funds printing costs. "I've had this computer for four years. I have a tutor come over every week to work with me. I'm an intelligent person. I know things but I can't figure out the damn computer anyway." Okaaaay. And by the way, thanks for reminding me that the documents I spend half my life drafting, reading, editing and fighting with marketing people over are simply thrown in the trash by most people who get them. It's nice to know that the things I do matter so much.

I told him he should write the regulator himself, that they're always glad to hear from the investors they serve. He said "I've written to congressmen and all kinds of politicians. Nobody wants to do anything! I've told them that we need to be prepared for natural disasters and have evacuation plans in case of a NUCLEAR WAR!" (Yes, he yelled "nuclear war" in my ear.) Sigh.

Thankfully, after 15 minutes he said "I have another call. Thank you for listening to me."

Just to be clear - I'm not making fun of the elderly. At 91, this man appeared to be more clear-headed than most people half his age. At least some of the things he was saying made sense - it's silly to send annual reports to people who don't want them. I'll grant that. We should be able to send them only to people who request them and put them online for people who can use their computers. However, that will never happen in my lifetime. So there really is no sense in banging my head against that particular brick wall.

In the end, I'm really proud of myself. Usually I avoid talking to shareholders, regulators and other people with the power to make my work life miserable (I have this nasty habit of saying what I really think which tends to be a bad thing in those conversations). I usually punt those calls to people who are far more tactful. But this man wasn't nasty and he was only making suggestions so there was no harm in listening. And maybe he just wanted to talk to someone who would listen. So maybe I was able to matter to him, if only for 15 minutes.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Are you happy now?

I read an interesting article in the Personal Journal section of the Wall Street Journal today. (I'd link to it on the Internet but it requires a subscription to the Online version of the Journal.)

The article talks about a recent survey that asked people whether they were happy. A small number of people said they didn't know whether they were happy which surprised the author. It doesn't surprise me because it seems as though the sponsor of the survey didn't define happiness. Happiness can be a mood like any other and it changes from day to day (or for those who are particularly unstable like yours truly, from minute to minute). I suppose the question was meant to gauge whether people were generally happy or not happy but it's sort of an unfair question. My answer would be "It depends. I'm happy a lot of the time but it's the beginning of March with no spring weather in sight so I'm pretty crabby. If you force me to answer such a ridiculous question right now I would have to say I'm not so happy."

Which leads me a different definition of "happiness." Happiness is sort of an internal rating of a particular thing or state of affairs, unrelated to our moods. So, I can be happy with my marriage but unhappy with the way my ass looks in my formerly-favorite pair of jeans. I can be happy with the weather but unhappy that my kids don't want to go for a walk but would instead like to watch yet another hour of Spongebob episodes. Granted, my internal rating of things can sometimes change with my moods - work is a whole lot suckier when I have PMS for instance - but I can hate work and be happy watching American Idol at the same time.

Which is why the answer to "Are you happy?" has to be "It depends." And it's an unfair question (especially for a lawyer who can't give a straight, non-wordy answer to even the simplest of questions.).

The interesting part of the article was its brief review of how the definition of happiness has changed over time and how it differs among cultures. In our culture (probably dating back to the "inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness" in the Declaration of Independence), happiness is a goal in and of itself. So many of us search for people, places and things that will "make" us happy. Despite the fact that everyone knows that "you can't buy happiness" and "happiness comes from inside" we still have this feeling that happiness will come when we find our soul mate, when we have kids, when we get a plasma TV or when we can finally afford that vacation home. And we feel that we have a right to happiness which, when you take a step back and consider it, is absurd. It's one thing to say that the government shouldn't interfere with our pursuit of happiness but it's a big leap to thinking that we have a right to feel happy all the time.

As I've blogged about before a couple times, I have a thing for self-help books. I keep thinking that I just need the right program and then I'll have it all figured out and I'll be happier (and thinner and more organized and a better parent). It's not that I'm unhappy - I just figure I could be happier and sometimes I just can't figure out how to do that.

Frankly, even if I could figure out what will make me happy once and for all, this focus on personal happiness isn't healthy anyway. I love something that Reese Witherspoon said in her Oscar acceptance speech last night. She said that when people would ask June Carter how she was doing, she'd say "I'm just trying to matter." When I was a teenager, I worked at a small hamburger joint. One day a co-worker told me that she had considered suicide but the thing that stopped her was the realization that she mattered to her sister. That thought has helped me during my own bouts with depression through the years - I know I matter to at least a few people and that keeps me going even on the worst days.

I can't always figure out what will make me happy at any given moment. But maybe if I concentrate more on mattering to the people I care about, I'll be happier and I'll be able to make some room on my bookshelf!

Friday, March 03, 2006

American Idol dish

I admit it, I totally loooooove American Idol. Even the crappy singers, Simon's snarky comments, Randy Jackson's TOTAL name dropping and the fact that Paula simply can't say anything that isn't sickeningly sweet. I love it all. I love the underdog factor - the rags to riches stories. People having their dreams come true.

However, the torture they put the contestants through on elimination night? I don't love that so much. I really feel for them - even the people that have to know they aren't cutting the mustard. I don't think I could stand on that stage about to be sent home and sing my song without bawling like a baby. Have you noticed that the people going home ALWAYS sing the song better than they did the night before?

So - let's talk about last night's eliminations. I think all the right people got let go (except I really, really can't figure out why Kevin Cobais is still around except that he's really sweet and maybe people expect him to suddenly stop lisping when he sings and become Clay Aiken - ain't gonna happen people!).

Anyway, the whole point of this post is to ask - does any one else think that Paula Abdul was TOTALLY high during the show? At a time when these poor kids are nervous as hell that they're going home, there's Paula laughing her ass off at some comment Simon supposedly made to her. And she did it not once, but twice! On any other night she's smacking his arm and saying something nice. But last night, she looked like she could barely keep her head off the desk, her hair was a complete mess and she didn't say one coherent sentence.

Just wondering if I'm the only person who noticed.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Thursday Thirteen - World Religions edition

Thirteen Things about My New Desire to Study World Religions

1. I've actually been interested in religion as an academic study for awhile. My college major was psychology - mainly because I was pre-med for two years and when I decided I didn't want to go to med school, psychology was an easy major to complete. But I also studied psychology because I thought it would give me insight into human nature. However, I've since realized that if I had to do it over again, I'd study History or Literature because those disciplines give a far better picture of human nature than psychology. Psychology, being a scientific study, tends to focus on the trees instead of the forest. And I think that you need to see the big picture of human behavior - as reflected in history in particular - to really get a sense of how people behave.

2. I've always been interested in Medieval history. Don't ask me why the time of rampant syphilis, poor hygiene and beheadings is appealing to me. It just is. Anyway, it seems to me that Medieval history and religious history are intertwined. You can't really understand that time in history without studying the development of organized religion.

3. Although I would say I'm a spiritual person, I'm not religious. My family has sort of a strange religious history - my dad's mother was born in Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) and when she was three, she came with her family to the United States. (She came through Ellis Island which I find totally cool.) Unfortunately, her baby brother died soon thereafter during an influenza epidemic. According to family lore, the Catholic Church wanted $10 to bury the baby in consecrated ground but as recent immigrants, they didn't have the money so the baby was buried in Potter's Field. (Or as my dad tells it, his grandmother would angrily say "They flung the baby's body into Potter's Field." We have a history of drama queens in my family.) After that, they never went to church again. My dad's father grew up in a religious Jewish family but for unknown reasons, he stopped going to synagogue after he was 13 and when he was about 18, he left home and never went back. He never talked about his religious upbringing or why he turned his back on his family.

4. My mom was raised Methodist but wasn't a big churchgoer and religion wasn't an important part of her life. So my brothers and I were raised without much religion. We celebrated a secular Christmas and the only time we went to church was when my parents hired couples from nearby Trinity College to babysit us when they went on vacation. My brothers and I thought it was cool to go to church and sit in the playroom coloring in Jesus Loves You coloring books. We grew up in a predominantly Jewish suburb of Chicago so I grew up identifying with Judaism from a cultural and perhaps spiritual standpoint but not from an organized religious standpoint.

5. That changed when my dad married to a Jewish woman. We would go to synagogue on the High Holidays and celebrate Passover at our house. We lit candles on Hanukkah and learned about Jewish history. I began to identify myself as Jewish and even joined a "Jewish" sorority in college. I was the only non-Jew in the house. No one knew I wasn't technically Jewish until my mom sent me a Valentines card addressed to me with my full name - I have always used my middle name and my first name (at least on my birth certificate) is Mary. There aren't a lot of Jewish girls named Mary. The revelation didn't cause any drama - having grown up where I did and with my history, I didn't really count as a non-Jew.

6. When I was in my 20's I officially converted to Judaism with the Mikvah and everything. I attended a Conservative synagogue and really enjoyed it. As part of the conversion, I promised to marry a Jewish man. But life being what it is, I fell madly in love with my husband who was technically raised Lutheran but isn't religious. We've talked on and off about finding a religion that would suit us both - we both enjoyed going to my parent's synagogue because they practice something called Humanistic Judaism which (according to the the Society for Humanistic Judaism) "embraces a human-centered philosophy that combines the celebration of Jewish culture and identity with an adherence to humanistic values and ideas." But, for a variety of reasons, that doesn't work for us. We celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah (at least when we can remember to light the candles!) and we talk about different religions with the kids.

7. I think that both of us would probably be most comfortable with Unitarian Universalism which (according to the Unitarian Universalist Association) is "a religion that keeps an open mind to the religious questions people have struggled with in all times and places. We believe that personal experience, conscience and reason should be the final authorities in religion, and that in the end religious authority lies not in a book or person or institution, but in ourselves." But neither of us really feels like we need to start attending church and frankly, I'm not sure how we'd fit it into our schedule right now.

8. So - why all of a sudden, do I feel like studying world religions? As I said above, I've always been interested in it and lately I've been feeling like I need to learn something new. If I had all the money in the world, I'd probably go back to school and do something in this University of Chicago Humanities program. But right now, I need something that's free and that I can do at my own pace, given my already too full schedule. Plus, I've been doing a lot of self-reflection lately and I feel I could use a little spiritual study at this point.

9. The other day, I got the urge to read the Bible - the whole thing, Old and New Testament. I'm sure it's related to PMS, I get weird ideas like that when the hormones kick in. But I stumbled on the Internet Sacred Text Archive which is one of the most ambitious and amazing sites I've ever seen. The site is "a freely available archive of electronic texts about religion, mythology, legends and folklore, and occult and esoteric topics. Texts are presented in English translation and, in some cases, in the original language. This site has no particular agenda other than promoting religious tolerance and scholarship." It contains THOUSANDS of full texts and articles about world religions.

10. With respect to Christianity, this site has among many other things, the ENTIRE text of the King James Bible, the Vulgate (which is the Latin bible - in Latin), and the Apocrypha. With respect to Judaism, it has the Tanakh (both English and Hebrew texts) and the ENTIRE TEN VOLUME Talmud. It has books and information about every other religion you've heard of and many you haven't. It also has sections on "Traditions" which aren't necessarily religions but include things like Shamanism and Legends such as the Legend of Arthur. The Traditions section includes sections regarding women and religion that are fascinating - I read part of The Vindication of the Rights of Woman written in 1792 by Mary Wollstonecraft. It even has The Woman's Bible by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, published in 1898.

11. Last night I read The Book of the Goddess which is fairly short. I admit, I giggled when I read the part about the "Big Bang" being the first official "world-shattering" orgasm. ("And the Goddess saw that the multiverses were good. And that was the first orgasm. When we experience orgasm we take an infinitesimal sip Of the cup of the ecstasy of creation.) I think that's funny. What can I say, I'm immature like that. I really couldn't help but laugh reading Genesis, as defined in the Goddess tradition. It's sort of a weird combination of official sounding religious wording and scientific mumbo jumbo ("In the voids between the stars and deep in the nebulae, Wherever atoms linked into long chains, There was a soup of organic molecules. And the Goddess sang "Let the long chains of atoms become self-replicating And evolve into my image".)

12. It has some interesting principals, though - most of which are hard to disagree with. Goddess worshipers believe in love for all people, care for the planet and sharing the gift of your sexuality with those you love. They believe that when you judge others, you take on the karma of that judgment so you need to be careful and fair in how you judge people. The Goddess teaches us to remember that the Earth is not dependent upon humans to live but humans are dependent upon the Earth and so we must rebalance our lives with that in mind. Goddess worshipers believe in leading by consensus and finding common ground rather than through force and hierarchy.

13. Ok, now I have to get back to the work that pays the bills. Tune in next week for some more fun with world religions!

See the sidebar blog roll for links to other Thursday Thirteens!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It's easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Out of step

I've really been absent from this blog and I know I'm going to lose what few readers I have if I don't write something! I've just been out of sorts lately and writing makes me feel emotionally vulnerable. The desire to write honestly about whatever experience I'm having scares me.

I really miss my husband and my daughter. I missed them while they were in Asia but there was a lot of time to get used to the idea that they'd be gone. We made a fairly quick decision for them to go to California and maybe I just didn't have enough time to adjust. And my husband was traveling prior to that so I don't feel like we've had the time we both crave to re-connect with each other after their Asia trip.

I'm also PMSing so, as usual, that has me feeling all topsy-turvy.

I had to go to L.A. on business last week (which is one of the reasons I haven't been writing). So I brought M Girl and so we got to spend some time with Big D and A Girl. (Actually, M Girl got to spend time with them - I was in meetings and going out for big, expensive meals every night).
So let me just say that I think L.A. is the most intimidating city in the world. Not that I've been in every city in the world but I have traveled a bit and so far I haven't been anywhere that intimidates me as much as L.A. (Beverly Hills in particular). And staying at the Peninsula Hotel just reinforced that feeling ten-fold. I'm still recovering which might be why I feel out of step.

So here's what the Peninsula - Beverly Hills is like - there's a circular drive with the entrance in the middle. Across from the entrance is a lovely stone fountain with lots of beautiful greenery around it so it blocks any view of the entrance from the street and makes you feel like your in a more secluded place. Parked around the driveway are a selection of Mercedes, Bentleys, Maseratis and (my personal favorite) an occasional Aston Martin. Porches don't even make the cut to stay parked up front (not even the cool looking convertible ones). Can you even imagine what it felt like to pull up in our rented Ford Taurus wearing no make up one morning? (And without a cuddly, fluffy purse dog accessory like so many of the women were carrying.) The head of the valet dudes interrogated me until he was satisfied that I actually was staying at the hotel. I think he was a bit put off when I indicated that I did intend to have them park the Ford for me. (Of course, I didn't expect it to stay out front. The Ford knows it's place in the valet parking pecking order.)

Every employee has clearly drunk the customer service Kool-Aid. They're polite to the point of sycophancy. (Wow - SAT word). I like good, friendly service as much as the next person but sheesh - you don't have to plaster yourself to the wall when I walk by. And for goodness sake, you don't all have to snap to attention when I walk into the lobby. (I would always check behind me to make sure there wasn't some important celebrity getting off the elevator behind me). It really makes me feel self-conscious when five people behind the counter look at me with identical robotic smiles. It's downright creepy.

In the room, there's personalized stationary and business cards saying Ms. La De Da, Peninsula Hotel -Beverly Hills, In Residence. Seriously, does anyone actually hand that shit out? I barely ever hand out my real business cards (and even then it's usually to another mom so we can set up play dates for our kids).

And then there's the other guests and assorted visitors. My hubby and I saw a handful of celebrities that I recognized or other people pointed out. Jimmy Connors, Richard Lewis (you know, the comedian with the kinda long hair), Tony Robbins. There were dozens of people that I'd swear I'd seen on TV or in movies but couldn't think of their names. You'd think with a daughter who's on the margins of the business, I wouldn't be intimidated - these are real, human people. Just like you and me. But in so many ways, they aren't just like you and me. For one thing, they get driven around in limos (or those fab Bentleys) on a regular basis. They don't just occasionally get to stay in hotels like the Peninsula (and then only on business when someone else is paying) - they always stay in places like that.

I saw very few women without make up on. Even early in the morning. Even at the Starbucks across the street. Even the ones I saw jogging. And I didn't see many fat people, but that didn't come as much of a surprise. The men were mostly dressed casually but it was a calculated casual - like they worked hard to look like they didn't work hard at getting dressed just right. It was a showy casual, if that makes any sense. I saw more Prada bags and shoes than I've ever seen in one place outside of a knock off market. And I'm pretty sure they weren't knock offs.

Generally, I wear make up - not a lot. Just enough that I look like I made at least a little effort. But I don't "put on a face" (as my mother calls it) and that's what pretty much all the women looked like. There are plenty of women in Chicago that wear lots of make up but I rarely get the feeling like I'm out of place with my level of make up wearing. There's a diversity in Chicago that's comforting. I didn't see much diversity out there. Again, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

Maybe part of my discomfort while I was out there came from thinking about the possibility of moving to L.A., either permanently or part-time, if our daughter gets significant work. My husband and I don't particularly want to move (although I will say that this time of year, the weather in California is a significant draw) and we just talk about it in terms of "what ifs" so that we can be better prepared to make a decision in the event that it comes up. But just trying to picture us there was difficult because I felt so conspicuously out of place. I know that the Peninsula Hotel and its guests are not representative of the greater L.A. area. But it is indicative of how much the culture in L.A. differs from the Midwestern vibe that we're used to.

So I can't wait until my family is all together again tomorrow. I don't feel whole without them around.