Moral indignity at the Kwik-E-Mart

So the only time I usually go to the 7-Eleven is to buy things I shouldn’t eat. Not unlike interactions with a doctor or priest, I’ve always considered the relationship between myself and the person behind the convenience store counter to be at least somewhat sacred. It’s an encounter based on necessity, and I’m not usually looking my best at that particular time of night, or in that craving-induced state of being, so we have an understanding. You stay on your side of the counter, don’t judge, keep your mouth shut and I’ll do my best to get in and get out. No one gets hurt, and I might even leave my pennies in that weird little tray.

Friday night was one of those times when I was really counting on that special relationship. It had been a long day at work, I was out a little later than normal, and there was a situation that only Doritos and Ben & Jerry’s could resolve. I strode through the store with my mission firmly in my mind. I grabbed my loot (stealthily adding a slice of pre-wrapped pound cake to the stash…I’m sure no one saw it) and headed to the front of the store, the finish line in sight.

I didn’t recognize the 20-something guy behind the counter, but I assumed that he had been properly trained in the ‘Way of the Convenience Store’, so my guard was down. I wasn’t at all prepared when he just stood there and looked at my haul, spread across the counter like so much bar-coded illicit treasure. He moved his gaze to my face and left it there.

“How OLD?” he snapped.

“Huh…” I stammered, trying to figure out when the state of Oregon might have started an age restriction on salted caramel OR nacho cheese, “…how old…am I???”

“Yes…50…” he spat, “…51?!?”

It sounded like he was accusing me of something, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure it out. I recoiled a bit, groping in my purse for my debit card. I just really, really wanted to get my groceries (how’s that for rationale?) and get home!

I handed the bank card to my accuser, and looking into his face it occurred to me that his tone was…familiar? I had a flash back to my first night in Morocco quite a few years ago, when I was overwhelmed by the forceful admiration of a man who almost knocked me to the ground while shouting about my ‘beauty’. I could almost hear the droning of a call to prayer in the background as I realized that my critic was from a part of the world where blondes of any age, size or shape were considered to be a prize.

“Almost 57,” I whispered, “but you’re supposed to guess 40!” (My vanity wasn’t going to take that high of a number lying down!)

“Too much makeup,” he shrugged, handing me back my debit card and receipt.

I grabbed my bag and my bruised ego and made a run for it.

Note to self: next time, stick with a drive-thru. Taco Bell really isn’t so terrible…right?

 

 

 

 

Oh Sealy Posturepedic, I wish I knew how to quit you…

So the new job is going great. It’s a wonderful company with amazing benefits and a great product, and the folks in my department are fun and supportive. Hell, they even give you free popcorn and fruit and there’s a cafeteria and a vending machine with healthy stuff in it. What’s not to like?

7:30 AM…that’s what.

(Just a warning…here’s where I’m gonna whine a bit. If you don’t like it, well…go back to Trivia Crack, I guess. )

I’ve never really been a morning person anyway, so having to be at work that early is a bit of a challenge. Just consider that I have to show up at work:

  • dressed (in something other than an over-sized ‘Kiss me I’m Irish’ t-shirt);
  • at least partially made up (I can’t even go into my own kitchen without mascara);
  • at the very least semi-coiffed (I don’t just wake up with beauty queen hair, you know); and
  • functionally awake (they don’t like it when you aren’t lucid yet – one day this week I actually shook up my full coffee cup in the work kitchen..it wasn’t pretty).

To accomplish all of this and be able to walk into the office by 7:30, I have to get up between 5:00 and 5:30 AM. Even the cats don’t like it, and I’m getting lots of eye daggers (especially from Buffy, but she’s a bit of a drama queen).

Which brings me to the main challenge – getting out of my glorious, cozy, wonderful BED. I’ve always just loved to sleep…at any time, and anywhere. I’ve mentioned before that it’s my super power, and it’s never been more true.

Up until my new work schedule, one of my favorite things for quite a while has been to wake up at around 7 and spend the next 30 minutes catching up on emails, checking out Facebook…all the things they tell you NOT to do in bed with your cell phone. All this recent early rising, however, has made that impossible. I use the most annoying alarm I could find (on that same phone), and I sleep until the last possible moment. Every second is precious to me – I just can’t get enough sleep!

I’m also starting to fade at the most inopportune times. Trying to watch a movie…better hope it’s a short one or I’ll be snoring on the couch. Going out after work on Friday? Heck yeah, count me in…well, until maybe 8:00 PM, when I’m all, “Hey, ya’ll got any nachos here…and can I get those to go?”

I guess the good news is that I can now afford to buy nachos and pay the mortgage…and get that fancy limited ingredient cat food that Ms. Kitty Girl likes…without having to resort to a life of generic toilet paper and store brand cheese. So life is good, I’m extremely grateful for my job, and I’m hoping that I’ll eventually get used to being an early bird. (Please?)

And it’s now Sunday afternoon, so time for a nap!

jealous much

Who loves ya, baby?

So I have this theory that life is all about the lessons you’re supposed to learn. It’s not like I came up with this idea, but I’ve decided that it’s true and important…at least to me. So, it goes like this:

1. Life throws a lesson at you that you really need to understand. Now, it would be too easy if it were all nice and neat and had big arrows pointing at it, like this…Life sign

Instead, the lesson is usually small and stealthy, and sometimes it’s in disguise or even hiding underneath something else (like that last chocolate covered cherry in the farthest corner on the bottom layer of the picked-over valentine’s box…behind all those nasty marshmallow-filled things). You have to really sort through to find the good stuff.

lovey candy

2. Unless you’re some sort of highly advanced soul, you might not notice your lesson (in spite of the universe’s prodding). If you do happen to take note, it might not seem like something that’s fun or interesting, so you keep walking (or if you’re like me, you flat out run from it).

3. By now the universe figures out that you’re dim, and that it’s gonna take more to get you to wake up to your lesson. Pretty soon the lesson is showing up more often, in different packages, shapes and sizes. Mine looked something like this…

Construction sign

 

 

 

 

 

…and this…

movie sign

…and before you know it, your secret message from the universe shows up everywhere you look…

Scaffold sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. If you’re lucky, by this point you’ve decided to finally open your eyes and figure out what it is you’re supposed to GET. If you’re, however, as hard-headed as I am…well, it might take a little more…

Old Building

I like to think that my own personal message is finally starting to sink in, but little reminders certainly don’t hurt.

MIRROR

 

Whatdya mean I have to wear pants?!

Big news…I’m finally going back to work at an honest-to-God 8 hour a day so-called normal gig. For the past four years I’ve done free-lance project management which (somehow) paid the bills, but it was never very dependable. There have been quite a few sleepless nights — sometimes because I had to work all night to meet a deadline, and sometimes because I had no idea where the next insurance or mortgage payment was coming from. The best part was that I got to work from home and, while it can get boring not going into an office, at least you never have to work with a nosy office mate or smell anyone else’s lunch being nuked. Best of all though…PAJAMAS! There were some times when being dressed certainly added to the experience, but sweats and yoga pants were usually fancy enough for even the most formal conference call.

Six months ago I took on a second job, doing some part-time front office work for a small heating and air conditioning contractor. It was fun having an office to go to again, and since almost all of my work was computer and phone…no dress code. To top it off, there were regularly dogs in the office, which is a definite perk.

Buck happens to like my 'style'...

Buck happens to like my ‘style’…

Working the two jobs simultaneously was challenging, often requiring me to get up early for my freelance job to take client calls and then stay up late to meet a deadline…squeezing in 6-8 hours of phone work in between. I could no longer wear pajamas all most of the time, but jeans were standard and no one even cared if I bothered to wash my hair (scrunchies were practically encouraged). As you can see from the photo, my office mates were very non-judgmental.

My wonderful new job won’t have fun puppies to pet, but it will have a regular schedule (no more over nighters!), a 401-K with matching funds, insurance that will only cost me a small percentage of what I’ve been paying, and lots of other exciting benefits. I’m really happy about the whole thing, but there is the (unfortunate) requirement that real clothes be worn. Welcome back to the world of business casual, Tammywhich typically does not include fuzzy pj bottoms with bunnies or super hero logos on them, and where yoga pants just won’t cut it. I’m hoping that the extra time I’ll now have will make it easier to do more writing…assuming that I don’t have to spend the whole weekend doing laundry!

 

 

 

When my family wrote (in) the Bible

Grandmama’s bible smells the same now as it did when I was a girl…a scent somewhere between encyclopedia and nursing home, with just a touch of cigarette smoke thrown in. The pages are edged in red, their wispy thinness still protected by the hand-worn, zippered black cover stamped to look like leather. It was a gift from some cousins to my great-grandfather on his birthday in 1958 – the year I was born.

I don’t still own many of the physical things I grew up with…running away from home in your 30’s to find a new life 3000 miles away tends to scatter your stuff. This one thing is honestly my most prized possession and has, miraculously, stayed with me. It holds a place of honor on the bookshelf that faces me most of the time, where my special treasures are kept.

Bible presentation pageNow, I’m not a Christian, and I don’t necessarily value this piece of memorabilia for its content, but the book was important to my Grandmother. It had belonged to her father and was a part of her life for years. She held it carefully in her hands as she explained its stories to me, referring to the pictures of David slaying Goliath and the baby Moses being pulled from the river. I always preferred the Old Testament tales, somehow a little put off by the flashy red text of the New Testament…a tendency that has stayed with me over time.

Another reason that this keepsake is so precious to me is the penmanship in this particular good book. The presentation page was inscribed by, I believe, my great-aunt C, since her boys were the ones doing the gift giving. However, more interesting are the annotations by my sister…St. Lynnie the Defacer (note the green ink). She obviously disagreed with the year (XO, I say!), and added some artwork as well.

Lynnie’s writing continues later on when you get to the Who Married Who pages that follow the prophets. (She changed pens, but I’d recognize that slanty script anywhere.) Here are her notes on our family’s births, accompanied by what I like to believe is a pregnant fish…or something. Her artwork for the Marriages page is also interesting…was she trying to learn to write my name, or are those the three crosses that stood on Calvary Hill…um, probably just the T for Tammy…or some telephone poles. Marriage history

Not that I didn’t leave my own mark, but mine is in the form of a very practiced signature placed right before the beginning of Genesis. I don’t remember putting it there, but it appears to have been an attempt to establish ownership…not claim authorship. Or maybe I just wanted to prove that at least one of the Gist girls could actually write in real cursive (and do fancy swishy underlines). Note, however, the green marks – it seems that Lynnie got the last word.

20150118_172122

Tammy with a capital T got the book, though!

 

 

Lord Byron has left the building

I’ve been processing some very sad news that I recently received. My second husband (affectionately known here as #2) passed away two weeks ago today. He was only 50, and I still don’t know exactly what happened, but I strongly suspect that the disappointment he had in his own life just finally caught up with him.

My ex was a huge man with an immense hunger for love, poetry and romance in the true sense of the word. His heroes were Hemingway, Baudelaire and (most of all) Lord Byron, whom he adored and emulated whenever possible. In fact, #2 wanted to be that ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’ poet whose profile he had used when we met on an AOL chat site so many years ago. If he couldn’t have that, he would have settled for living in Hemingway’s Paris of the 1920’s, or for walking about an Ivy League campus with the leather-patched elbows of an English professor. This smart, funny man surrounded himself with books, candles, wine bottles, old paintings and dreams of being someone else…anyone except a warehouse worker from New Jersey.

I was recovering from my long, drawn out breakup with my first husband when I met #2. He powered into my world, bringing laughter, love and a sense of home back into my life. Even more importantly, he helped me to open my heart enough to rediscover the importance of family…something my cross-country move with husband #1 had forced me to bury out of sheer pain. For that gift, I will be forever grateful.

I didn’t write this to talk about myself, but it’s confusing and there’s just no way to know how you’re supposed to feel at a time like this. Obviously, there is sadness, but it’s a strange, muffled ache…like a heart-break once removed. We hadn’t spoken in years, and I no longer had any connection with his life back in New Jersey, but this man was once a huge part of my life. It has taken some soul-searching, but I definitely know that I’m not responsible for my ex’s fate…for someone else’s decisions or for the way their life turned out. I guess that what I’m grieving for is actually the life unlived…the fabulous, fulfilling life that this sweet soul could have had with a little more self-love.

We spent six years together, and were divorced ten years and two weeks ago.

Rest in peace Richie. Thank you for the lessons you shared with me, including this one.

 caspar-david-friedrich

 

I can tell it’s almost Christmas because the meat arrived safely!

My mama has a holiday tradition that tickles me. About this time every year I come home to find that a big old styrofoam box has been delivered to my front porch by UPS or the post office. The ice chest shipping container with rounded corners and Omaha Steaks on the return address has become familiar to me over the years, and it always makes me smile to know that Mama orders this for me as a holiday gift. (Living 3000 miles from your family has some perks, but being away from them at Christmas isn’t one of them.)

Inside my annual non-biodegradable treasure chest there are many smaller boxes, fitted together in a Tetris-like stack over a packet of dry ice. Each year the process of opening the boxes is like a scavenger hunt with varying levels of payoff…

  • Steaks – CHECK (the box doesn’t say Omaha Oatmeal, you know)
  • Pork chops – The ‘other white meat’ and I go wayyyy back.
  • Chicken and/or fish – This year I got both…SCORE! (One year there were two lobster tails…I remember that as the year that I finally believed that there really was a Santa Claus)
  • Hamburgers and gourmet hot dogs – I assume that this means a higher real meat to snout balance?
  • Twice baked potatoes – Seeing these just makes me smile…don’t judge.
  • To top it all off, there’s always a dessert…it’s a bit of a wild card. (A few times I got a whole chocolate tort – yummy but too much for a single girl watching her figure…um…expand. Then there were individually packed mini molten chocolate cakes, but they were better than the big cake, so I ended up eating all of them in one day. Sigh.) I have to say that this year’s dessert has potential…caramel apple tartlets! I’ll let you know if they’re binge-worthy.

So my treats are all stashed in the freezer and now I just have to figure out what to do with the empty styrofoam box. There are some plans online for converting them into everything from an upholstered foot stool to an incubator for snake eggs…which is NOT going to happen. No, like its predecessors before it, mine will most likely just be a cat toy and, if it’s really lucky, may someday be graced with a six-pack…or three.

WARNING Omaha

Click on the picture to find out the truth about this affliction…it’s a sad story!