Roller Coasters

It was my grandmother’s birthday on Monday. She died in April. It feels weird to “celebrate” her life when she is no longer alive. It feels stranger to not acknowledge it at all. I spent some of the day crying and some of the day laughing thinking about her. A friend asked what was the one thing I wished I could have that I didn’t have on her birthday besides her. I said, I wished I could send her flowers again this year. Last year she kept forgetting that she had already thanked me and called me three times. I want that back. I thought about posting the story of her engagement. It is my favorite story of the many she told me. But it needs to be edited and it was too painful for me to do on Monday. 

Wednesday I had a great business meeting. It gave me a huge high. It made me feel like she was watching from above and cheering me on. I felt like I could rule the world. I was ready to take on any new challenges. I felt her spirit and love of life surrounding me. 

Thursday I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t sleep until it was time to get up. I didn’t feel like getting dressed. I forced myself to make a cup of coffee. To make a list for what I wanted to get done. Then a list for what I needed to get done. I worked on creating connections. I did another business call that went ok. I cried. I didn’t laugh. 

Friday is my birthday. I have plans for dinner with my sister but I haven’t really talked about it with anyone else. A couple of friends have asked, I’ve responded but not with any real enthusiasm. I love other people’s birthdays. I think it is a day that everyone should be celebrated. I plan things for many of them. And yet on mine, I feel sort of blasé. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the celebration of life. Not surprising with so much death in my life this year. Not surprising with my birthday coming up. I have come to the following conclusion. 

Life is like roller coasters. Big climbs. Jerks around many corners. And scary drops. But if your smart, you raise your hands in the air and scream and laugh through them all because it’s the best damn ride in the park. 

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Call Squiggy…

DISCLAIMER: Let me just handle this now before we start this story. Yes, the below is a true story. Yes, it happened. No, I am not going to tell you the name of the band, unless you know me and I am comfortable enough to drink with you. And last, yes, I have stranger stories. Ok, with that out of the way….

In my early twenties I worked as a production assistant for live shows. The days were long but they always ended with live music or comedy. For me that made all the menial tasks worth it. Normally I ran around in a fifteen passenger van doing errands for the promoter, the band or a combination.  I was good at what I did. I was also liked. I could read a room. No when to talk and when to keep quiet. It was a few years in when I received a call from a promoter asking me not to run errands but instead to be a conduit between the band and the promoter. I was to run the other runners or PAs. 

I would be in a room with the promoter, take phone calls from the tour manager and get the band things after getting approval. There had apparently been friction between the promoter and the band but they were stuck with each other for the next 18 months. This happens a lot. This was however the first time I had been asked to straddle the line between the two. 

I would wait for the phone to ring and receive the band’s request. Most of the time I would get asked for something simple like five reams of paper. I would ask the promoter sitting behind me if it was approved and then send a “runner” out to get it. When the runner returned, I would bring the item to the band or tour manager.

For the most part I was asked for things that were necessary and easy. And by the second hour the promoter told me to use my discretion and just come to him if there was something I wasn’t comfortable approving.

The tour assistant was a lovely, soft spoken woman. She would call and say, “Hi Mara, this is Flo, we need….” And I would say it out loud in my little room and everyone would hear me. I would write the item down on the pad next to me as well as where I thought my “runner” should go to get it. I would tell Flo how long it would be or she would tell me when she needed the item. All worked well for about three hours and then THE call came.

“Hi Mara, this is Flo, we have a birthday for one of the back-up dancers today and we are going to need a few things.”

This is common when bands are on the road. They become a family and they find things to do as a family such as celebrating birthdays, playing softball, visiting the zoo, having a family dinner. You get the picture. 

“We would like everything by 2:30. Can we get a phallic cake, preferably black with white candles? Although candle color is not super important. As well as plates and napkins,” said Flo.

“One black phallic cake with white candles, no problem,” I reply.

Then write it down on my pad as well as the place I have purchased them in the past. You read that correctly. Where I have purchased them in the past. It really was not that unusual to be asked for phallic or breast cake. I knew the bakery that would have them in stock. Don’t be judgmental, you don’t have any privacy on a tour. You need a sense of humor. Most of the time a juvenile one.

“Great, thanks Mara. We also have a tradition for the dancers that we change up a little for each one. Today we are going to need 4 midget strippers, preferably female. Again if they could be here by 2:30.

“Four female strippers, wait did you say MIDGETS?” 

The room behind me, filled with men talking, instantly goes silent.  Everyone is staring at me. Nothing will stop a conversation quicker than strippers or midgets. It was like a bomb went off. If I wasn’t slightly anxious, I would have burst out laughing. As it was the only thing going through my mind was where was I going to find strippers that were midgets? And was that the politically correct term? Could you even ask for them?

“Yes, midgets, preferably female as it is a male dancer and by 2:30, please. Do you need anything else from me?” Flo asks.

Hmmm, now I get some strange requests. Have even been asked for strippers and ladies of the evening but this is a first. Midget Strippers. I am not even sure where to start, let alone in under 3 hours. Still, it is the job. 

“Nope, we are good. Let me see what I can do,” I respond.

The first call I make is to the nicest strip club in town. The one that not only do you know that your boyfriends have been to but that you may have actually gone with them or with a group of your girlfriends.

“Hi, is the manager in? I am working a concert over at the arena and we are looking for some entertainment.” I was still shaky on the whole midget strippers term and I didn’t want to offend anyone. This was my first call. By the time I was on my third I was more direct.

“Hi, I am looking to hire four midget strippers and I need them in 2 hours, do you have any?”

All that was going through my head at this point was that I have a college degree. Not one of my classes had prepared me for this job. Were there classes that would?

After my seventh call, I was feeling desperate. What if Minnesota didn’t have midget strippers? What would be the alternative to offer? I am a deep believer that even if you can’t get exactly what someone needs you can come close. I am not sure what to offer as an alternative or what would be considered coming close! But on the tenth call I finally received a promising lead.

“You have to call Squiggy, he handles all the specialty dancers.” 

See, I knew there was a better term.

So I call Squiggy, and I tell him what I need and that I now need it in an hour. He tells me it is not a problem; he only has one question. Wait for it.

“Do you want them with or without animals?” he asks.

My mind just blanked.  Animals? Is this a legit question? Do I call Flo? Ask the promoter? Can we bring animals into the arena? I’ve seen dogs. I guess we could. 

I make an executive decision, no animals.  Whenever I tell this story to friends or family everyone asks the one question I did not. WHAT TYPE OF ANIMALS? 

At 2:30, four very pretty, very short ladies show up with two very big bodyguards. I walk them down to the dressing room where we have decorated, set out the phallic cake (yes, we got a black one) and depart. I don’t want to stay. I don’t need to have my education enhanced.  I am almost back to my little room when over the radio sounds. 

“Mara, this is Flo, our guests need something to play their music on.” 

I almost fell over. The tour I was working on had 55 tour trucks, normal tours have 5! It had a truck that just carried Segways. No one had a portable speaker? And the ladies could come with animals but no way to play their music?

Luckily, I had one in my office. Always good to be prepared.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, this is not the strangest job story I have to tell you. On the other hand, this story is a perfect example of two great lessons learned. One, no matter the task, there is always a solution. And two, be prepared to make a lot of calls. 

Oh, and if you need a specialty dancer in Minnesota call Squiggy!

To Curse or Not to Curse

It’s ninety degrees outside and humid. Things are not going according to plan. I was supposed to leave at 9 am. I left at 10:15. I was supposed to be on a train by 11 am. Then by 12:15 pm. I left LA at 1:10 pm. All of the little things that went wrong are too trivial to even write down. If ever there was a time to curse a blue streak, this was it.

I never used to swear. Never understood the need for it. Then I moved to Los Angeles, got a job at a talent agency and realized it was essential. It was a release. I also realized that apart from my friends at the agency no one else shared this view. 

Last, I realized I now couldn’t have a full conversation without swearing. This realization came when I bought a roll of quarters and put a quarter in the jar every time I cursed. When I ran out of quarters in less than 30 minutes, I knew I had an issue. 

I also knew I needed to change. I began asking everyone I knew what word they use instead of cussing. Below are my 10 favorite:

  • What the H or WTF? – Why do we feel that by using initials we aren’t swearing?
  • Frick – I don’t know why but I use all the time. 
  • Judas Priest – this was a term an old high school football coach used. Whenever I use it makes me feel 15 again.
  • Mother Trucker – I know, it is close to the line but that’s what makes it so satisfying.
  • Fudge – yep, been using that one since The Tales of 4th Grade Nothing…..
  • Gosh Dang – I know, sounds a little bit like Mayberry but it works
  • Holy Moses – I love this, is it religious or sacrilegious? Either way, it works for me. 
  • “I cuss in another language” – I had friends who said they never cuss in English, so it doesn’t count. Ummmm, I think someone understands it.
  • Darn it – I never understood this one because I thought darning was fixing.
  • BALLS – which basically sums everything up! 

Have one I am missing? Want to add to the list? Or have a list you want to explore. Hit the button below and leave a comment or send to me to add later..

Alarm Clocks…

The alarm sounds. It’s 6:30 am. I don’t want to get out of bed. I hit snooze.

The alarm sounds. It’s 7 am. I need to go to the restroom. I head back to bed after and set the timer for 1 hour.

The alarm sounds. It’s 8 am. I should go to the gym. I check my email, texts and social media. I set the timer for 45 minutes.

The alarm sounds. It’s 9:30 am. I get up. I make my bed. I wash my face. I brush my teeth. I make a cup of coffee. I should go to the gym. I set the timer for 45 minutes. I watch the news.

The alarm sounds. It’s 11 am. I must have hit repeat by accident. I am starving. I am going to make lunch and then go to the gym. I set the alarm for 1 pm.

The alarm sounds. It’s 1 pm. I remember that that means everyone who works in an office will be at the gym. I will go at 3 pm. I set the alarm.

The alarm sounds. It’s 3:15 pm. It’s so hot outside I don’t want to walk any where. I will go right after dinner. I go back to work.

I have just made dinner and feel like there is something I said I was going to do. Oh that’s right, the gym. It’s 6:30, I will go at 8. I set the timer for 90 minutes.

The alarm sounds. It’s 8 pm. I just want to finish this episode and I will go to the gym. I set the timer for 30 minutes.

The alarm sounds. It’s 8:30 pm. It’s dark outside. I want to be able to sleep tonight. Maybe I should just wait and go first thing tomorrow morning. I set the alarm 6:30 am.

The alarm sounds….

Airplanes….

Flew home to Los Angeles this week. The airports are definitely back. Flight was packed. I think we are all antsy and want to travel. Chose to sit in first class because I am still a germaphobe and want my own space. Noticed a guy in the gate area before we boarded that seemed to know everyone. He spoke to strangers and friends in the same manner. By the time we made it on the flight I knew I would be sitting next to him. It is just how my life works.

Sure enough, he sat down next to me. Within 2 hours I had made a new bff. He is a defense attorney in Seattle mostly working with DUI cases. He talked me into ordering doubles. I have been looking to find an estate attorney and haven’t had any luck. He was able to give me a recommendation. I am still surprised by how often random encounters bring me what I have been asking for from the universe.

It’s funny how sometimes it is easier to talk to a stranger as opposed to someone you know well. I didn’t feel any need to impress him, to coddle him or to be anything but me. We talked about music, cooking and family and friends. It was lovely. By the end of the flight we had exchanged information. And three other folks had introduced themselves to me and given me their information.

Have you ever noticed that the more you are enjoying yourself, the more other people want to join? This happens to me on a regular basis. I am at a party, a restaurant or plane having a great conversation and the next thing you know someone else leans in. I love when that happens. It doesn’t happen now as often as it did before our electronics were so portable. People are much more in their own world now but I highly recommend having that conversation with a person instead of your computer, phone or tablet. You never know who you are going to meet. Plus after this past year aren’t we all in need of a bit more human contact.

*Foot Note: We discussed the New York Times cooking app, if you have not seen it I highly recommend. Recipes were easy and amazing.

Raindrops on Roses..

I think Sunday mornings may be my favorite time of the week. Most people assume it is because I love church. Or that I don’t go out on Saturdays. Neither are true. I loved Sunday mornings as a kid because those are the days that my family had breakfast together. We would make a huge breakfast and no one was ever in a rush. It was the calmest meal of the week. Normally filled with lots of laughter. 

As an adult, Sunday mornings mean brunches and farmer’s markets. Both of which are quite possibly my favorite things. Farmer’s markets are just about the same everywhere. They are always full of new discoveries. I have found some of my favorite jewelry. Been talked into trying new vegetables and fruits. I always leave feeling revigorated. 

I hate Sunday nights though. Like most of us, I dread the end of my weekend. It is the reason I have changed my Sunday nights into Self-Care nights. I make no plans to go out or see anyone. I take a bath in my favorite bath salt. I have a facial with my favorite products. I deep condition my hair with my favorite conditioner. I read a book for fun not for work. It is relaxing. It is about me. It makes the end of the weekend a bit more enjoyable. It is one of my favorite things, even though I don’t love Sunday nights. 

But I love Monday mornings. The start of the week is where everything is still perfect. It is when I can still believe in endless possibilities. It’s when I make my plans and believe I can get them done. It is the only time of the week that I am guaranteed to feel six feet tall and unstoppable.  I used to always tell my assistants the same thing –  tomorrow is a brand-new day. Let today go. But Monday mornings are a fresh start. A fresh week. And that is why Monday mornings may actually be my a favorite. Then again, Tuesday are pretty cool…

Say Yes….

A few years ago while in Amsterdam for work a friend had arranged a bike tour for a group of us to go on. I had not been on a bike in years. I actually could not remember the last time I had been on a bike. I wanted to decline. I was the only female in the group and the rest were very athletic. I am not. 

I had several excuses in mind. 

Excuse number one – “Make it a boys bonding experience. I am totally fine sitting this one out.”

Excuse number two – “I have too much work to do. It will be so much better for me if you guys let me stay at the hotel to work.”

Excuse number three – “I don’t want to hold you back.”

I had more but those are the top three. Then I remembered something I had promised myself the previous New Year. Not a resolution. I don’t believe in resolutions but more an intention. The way I wanted to start living my life. That previous New Year I had realized that I was saying No to almost everything. No, I don’t want to go to the club. No, I don’t want to go for a hike. No, I don’t want to go shopping. No, I don’t want to go the party. I was saying NO to LIFE. 

I had reasons, ok –  excuses. I was tired. I was beat up. I wasn’t feeling good about the way I looked. The way my career was going. Or the lack of my personal relationships. I was saying NO to ME. As this realization hit, I made a goal that this was the year I was going to say YES.

Yes, to doing things that scare me. Yes, to trying new things. Yes, to trying things I had done before and liked or even disliked. I was just going to say yes when someone asked. So I said Yes, to the bike ride. I said yes to trying to keep up with guys that ran daily, had competed at the collegiate level in sports and one that had even won the Amazing Race.

You would think that I was excited and proud of myself. I was not. I was scared. Petrified actually. Worried that I would embarrass myself, embarrass them, or worse get hurt. It took everything in me to get dressed that day. To meet in the lobby. To walk to the bike shop. To find out that we were going on a bike tour that would last several hours and several miles. It took everything in me not to leave once they handed me a bike.

I was shaky getting on the bike. We were biking on city streets. We were biking in a line. I was scared I would be too slow. I would fall over. I wouldn’t last the full tour. How would I get back if something happened?

Then something changed. We started onto a bike path through the park. It was beautiful. I started to remember how much I loved the feel of the wind on my face and in my hair. I started to remember how much I had loved biking as a child. I started to remember how I had learned to bike. I remembered the people who taught me and the love I had for them. I remembered how much you see when you are on the back of a bike. I remembered how much I love trees, the sound of birds chirping and the smells of the air around you. 

I forgot about the worry of keeping up with others. I forgot about worrying if I was the worst biker or not. I forgot about caring what I looked like on the bike. I forgot about the fact that I was scared. I forgot about being anxious. I forgot about the traffic. I forgot about getting hurt. I forgot about everyone around me and just lived in the moment. 

And then it started to rain. I know what you are thinking – that I gave up.  It was a perfect and legitimate excuse. Instead, I put the poncho on that the guide gave us and kept pedaling. We pedaled through parks and puddles. We pedaled over bridges and by water. There weren’t a lot of other bikers because of the rain, which was fine by me. We stopped at windmills, strange houses and amazing architecture. It was fun. It was glorious. It was a feeling of peace.

It was then that it happened. Isn’t it always? 

We were crossing a busy intersection. We were in a line. I hesitated so I wouldn’t hit the guy in front of me. I never saw it coming. The Moped that slammed into me. I went down. He went down. I remember the yelling in another language. I remember the police showing up. I remember being mortified. I remember being so embarrassed and scared. I was in a foreign country. I had just caused an accident. I was asked about the accident. Given something to sign in another language. The other person and the accident and I spoke. Realized it was an accident. We gave each other a hug. And then we were sent on our way. 

I now had the perfect reason to get a cab and not ride that bike any more. But you know what else I remembered? 

I remembered that in life we only really have two choices; yes or no. I remembered that I could give up, say no and go home. Or I could say yes, get back on the bike and pedal the mile or so back to the shop. I remembered that it is not how many times you fall down (or are nailed by a Moped) but how many times you get back up! 

I got back on that bike. Put one foot in front of the other and pedaled. I did not think. I remembered. I remembered to hold my head up high. I remembered being thrown from a horse and being told to get back on. I remembered that it was ok to fall. I remembered to feel the wind in my hair. I remembered to get back to the joy of living. 

I remembered ME.

That last mile was hard. I was shaking so badly I am surprised the bike stayed upright. When I got back to the hotel I did not feel accomplished. I felt cold. I felt achy. I felt scared. I felt disappointed. It took me a while to see it more clearly. To have perspective.

Today I look back on that ride, that adventure, that accident, as one of the best memories of  my life. It taught me that it is ok to get knocked down. I will always get back up. I will always try again. It was and is still the best lesson to learn. 

This year I plan on not only saying yes but on looking for more challenges, more adventures and more ways to remember the person I want to be. Because in life, it is not about the storms, it’s about learning to dance in the rain!

IT’S TIME

It’s been a while since I have written. Twenty-twenty was a year that was made for writers, especially me. I was paid to stay home with plenty of time on my hands. More than I have ever had in my adult life. It was time for me to start doing things I never had time for before. It was the perfect time to write.

Instead, I decided to do diamond art. What is diamond art? It is color by numbers with teeny, tiny, jewel pieces. It was annoying, aggravating and slightly satisfying when I finished. I have absolutely no desire to ever do it again. Then I decided to learn how to make pretzels. I love getting a pretzel at the mall. Since none of us were going to the mall it was a perfect time to make them at home. And Wetzels Pretzels had a kit. Just add water. It was delicious. It was easy. It was slightly satisfying but way too instant. It was one night and I didn’t really learn a new skill. It was like making those cookies from the pre-made dough. Good for a moment but not as good as homemade. So I stepped my game up. I learned how to make Chicken Adobo. I do not think I ever even had Filipino food other than when I was in the Philippines. I am lucky enough to have a friend who is not only Filipino but is also an amazing cook and she agreed to teach me over zoom. And it was great. It was not too easy but it was also not too hard. Plus the dish was delicious. I have now made it several times and am looking forward to making it for friends when I finally can. Unfortunately, it was once again fleeting.

So I took up crocheting. Crocheting was simple. (God bless good friends and YouTube.) While frustrating at first, it was easy to master, took a bit of time and had results. I made a huge blanket for my bed. Then I made one for a friend and one for my sister. I can do it while watching TV or talking on the phone. It is a great meditation for me. It is also a massive distraction.

Which I think is the common thread with all of the “things”. They were all time-sucks, preventing me from taking the time do the thing I said I wanted to do. Why wasn’t I writing? I had the time. My bills were paid. I had the computer. I had things to say. And yet I didn’t really want to take the time to say them. To write them down for others to read. There is an old saying that says the more you have to do the more you do. Maybe that was my issue. I had too much time. I would constantly say – I’ll do it tomorrow. The problem with that is that today is the tomorrow of the day I didn’t do what I said I was going to do yesterday. And that is the circle of my 2020. That being said, I am in Seattle. I have the time. It is time for me to make a new practice. Daily writing. I hope that some of you who are reading this right now will come back daily to catch up with me and what is going on. I hope that you will engage with me and tell me what you think. But even if you don’t, if no one does, I am going to write daily because I have the time and I am tired of wasting it.

Lost and Found

I lost a friend this weekend. Lost is such a strange word for death. It is not like I don’t know where to find her, I do. She died. She died crossing the street trying to be safe and catching an Uber instead of a DUI. Life and death are funny that way. About the time you think you have it figured out, life will hit you with something else.

I have been thinking a lot about what I would say to her if I could have one more conversation. We were not in a good place. Hadn’t actually spoken to each other in years. Had a falling out about something that was not important. I remember hearing once that if something is bothering you, think about if it would still bother you in five years. If so, then work on fixing it. If not, then let it go.

I call it the five-year rule. Then again I used to call my dating range the five-year rule as well – no one over or under 5 years of my age, that hasn’t totally worked either. But with this five-year rule in mind, I have tried to remember one thing from five years ago that still upsets me today and the only ones I can come up with our relationships I have ‘lost’. Back to that word again, the one that doesn’t accurately describe how I feel. It is not like I don’t know how or why I no longer have that friendship or relationship. But I did lose that friend or lover. I no longer have them in my world and some of them I would like to still have at least in my orbit.

I looked up the definition of lost and it has several meanings but here are the top two. Lost defined as unable to find one’s way; not knowing one’s whereabouts. I have been lost too many times to count. Still looking for a really good GPS or road map for life. If you have one, let me know. Or lost defined as denoting something that has been taken away or cannot be recovered. I guess death would be the second definition. We can’t always get back what has been taken away. We lose our youth. We lose jobs. We lose drive and sometimes inspiration. And sometimes we lose ourselves. But the unexpected loss of people can feel like the worst thing we lose. What would I say to my friend that I ‘lost’ so unexpectedly? I would tell her that I miss her laugh, her stories, her advice. Most of all I miss just hanging out with her and a glass of wine laughing about those things we have lost and found.

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