September 20, 2009

Job-Hunting Haiku

Filed under: Poetry and Haiku — Ann @ 7:32 am

Don’t pull up Craig’s List
more than twice a week at most:
new postings are rare.

Twelve dollars an hour?
Yes, I know you made twice that.
Get over yourself.

“Must be team player.”
Oh crap! I’m not! I’m so not!
Okay. I’ll pretend.

“Fun environment.”
Unless this is the circus
or a bar, then no.

Bargain with myself:
I’ll send one more resume
then on goes “ER.”

The Folding Chair

Filed under: Ann the Columnist:Essays — Ann @ 7:29 am

Think of all the times in your life when you’ve sat on a folding chair. Under what circumstances. And what it felt like. They creak. They pinch and poke. As we get older, they’re never big enough. Some of us hang off the side. There are no arms, and so we don’t know what to do with ours — unless we’re holding fruit punch in one hand and a slice of white sheet cake with raspberry filling in the other. And where are we when we’re sitting in those chairs? Wedding receptions. School recitals. Living room baby showers. Church basements. Meeting halls. Synagogue classrooms. Thanksgiving with family.

These are the chairs in which we heard our child’s first school concert; the chairs we were warned by nervous mothers not to lean back in; the chairs we hauled out when company was coming; the chairs we were always borrowing and loaning. They fold up in a trunk, they stack, they rack, and they fit perfectly one under each arm. Sometimes they’re ugly greyish-brown metal, and sometimes they’re wooden with slats. Sometimes they’re a shiny basic black, and sometimes they’re painted white and decorated with bows. Often they sag in the middle from too many PTA luncheons. We can move them around from table to table, push them back, scoot them closer to our loved ones, turn them around and straddle them sitting backwards, and rearrange rows to our liking. There’s a familiarity about them which lends itself to such casual ownership.

Every day across the country, folding chairs are being set up and it always means the same thing: People gathering with a common interest. Each unfolding is an act of hope: let the attendance be good. (Those involved in community work, from fund-raising fashion shows to the annual spring chorale have no doubt heard the proud next-day report: “We had to set out more chairs!”)

Where there are folding chairs, there is togetherness and, usually, laughter. Children singing. People eating. Dancing, meeting, listening, talking, learning, marrying, unwrapping gifts. Community building and community mingling. All in circles or rows of metal chairs. We curse them when we should honor them. Archie Bunker’s chair in the Smithsonian? Nonsense. Instead there should be one perfect, squeaky, uncomfortable rubber-tipped, scarred ugly beige folding chair.

Those Three Little Words

Filed under: Ann the Columnist:Essays — Ann @ 7:19 am

I usually like a sweet after dinner. Yes, I know that dessert is a bad habit, but I do try to be mindful of calorie intake and often choose a low-fat ice cream sandwich or something similar.

So one night a few months back after we finished dinner, I strolled out to the kitchen to get dessert. Because Neal and I like to watch “Frasier” re-runs during our meal, he had it “paused” while I left the room. Fretful that I was taking too long I called out, “I’ll be right there, honey!” to which he replied, “Take your time!” I cannot believe the effect it had on me. After a day of rushing from here to there, always hurrying, and always trying to do something more quickly, having his loving permission to take as long as I needed was a true gift.

When I came back into the room, I told him so. And, a few nights later when the tables were turned – he was out in the kitchen and I was waiting for him – before he even said anything to me I called out, “Honey, take your time!” He came back out to the living room smiling and said, “You know what? That really works – I felt better when you said that!”

Since then, not only have Neal and I developed the habit of saying “take your time” to each other often, but I’ve practiced giving this precious gift to supermarket clerks, waiters, and other retail workers who are accustomed to being rushed. When I’m at the store and the clerk apologizes because she’s had to ring something up twice, I say, “That’s okay, I’m not in any hurry” – even if I am.

We are a hurry-up culture. Fast food, faster Internet connections, and everybody wants everything done yesterday. We’ve been well-informed about the effects of this lifestyle on our own health, and many of us have taken steps to combat the stress of a rushed existence, with deep breathing, yoga, and meditation. But while we’re busy taking care of ourselves, it can be good to remember that we have the power to extend that care to others.

Just remember the three little words that everyone is longing to hear: Take your time! Say them, and watch the transformation – it’s magical.

Compulsive Connectivity

Filed under: Ann the Columnist:Essays — Ann @ 7:16 am

My mother strikes up conversations with absolutely anybody, anywhere, about anything. When I was a teenager I was mortified by this – “Mom, that’s so embarrassing!” However, about 20 years ago I realized I had caught her affliction: compulsive connectivity. This includes saying “hi” to everyone, issuing genuine compliments, and sometimes engaging in lengthy conversations with strangers. All her life, my mom has been reaching out, creating connections where previously none existed and, I think, making the world a bit better for it.

Because my mom is a shopper, most of her impromptu conversations take place in stores. And because I’m a walker – racking up 20 to 30 miles a week – most of mine take place right here in my neighborhood. Today while walking I decided that there are three levels to compulsive connectivity: The first is just saying “hi” when you see or pass someone. Many if not most of us do that; it’s common in a town like Sonoma. (In fact, have you ever tried walking the Sebastiani path with a friend? As it is customary to greet all passersby, your conversations tend to go something like this: “So I was telling — hi! — him that we have to — hey, how are ya? — get our tax information — good afternoon! — together and send it to — nice day!” Cheerful but wearying.)

The second level of connectivity is adding a comment: “Good morning – I love your garden!” And the third and most risky level would be actually asking a question of a stranger. “Ooh nice hat, where’d you get it?” Over time I’ve graduated to Level 3, and I have to warn you, it doesn’t always turn out well. Yesterday while walking I saw a man in his 30s with a long black cord tied to the back of his truck. It looked like he was trying to pull his truck backwards with the cord. Curious, I piped up, “Hi, whatcha doin’?” He glared at me and I know he wanted to tell me to mind my own business, or worse, but he replied brusquely, “Stripping. Wire.” Sensing the negativity vibe, I said, “Ah, very clever,” and skedaddled.

Which brings us to demographics. You might ask, Is there any particular gender or age group that is most likely to greet me back? Yes – men in their 60s and 70s are most friendly; people in their 20s seem to be least friendly. Long ago I decided I would always say “hi” to children, because I thought that to walk by without greeting them would give them a picture of a hostile, sullen world. So I still greet kids, even though sometimes I get no reply. (Of course, they’ve been taught not to talk to strangers, right?)

This week as the weather is nicer and we’re out and about more, I suggest you try some compulsive connectivity of your own — and stretch yourself a bit. If you’re at Level 1, try adding a comment to your greeting; if at Level 2, add a question. (We’ll start a movement and call it “Say It Forward.”) Remember it may not work out; on the other hand, you may be rewarded quite richly. After all, Californians are a witty bunch. When Neal and I were vacationing at Morro Bay we walked down to the pier and, spying a guy with rod and reel we cheerfully greeted him and, Level 3 style, called out, “How’s the fishing?” He flashed a big smile and replied, “Fishin’s great!” As we started to walk away, he totally cracked us up by adding “But the catchin’s terrible!”

Times are tough, and these moments of happy connection are free – but then Mom knew that all along.

The Case of the Amazing Geronimo…

Filed under: About The Animals — Ann @ 7:12 am

…and the Reappearing Collars.

Breakaway collars are de rigueur for cats these days, for all the obvious reasons. The trouble is, well, they break. Away. And disappear. In the few months that my husband Neal and I have not-owned Geronimo (see “Here Cat!”), he has come home collarless three times.

The first collar to go missing was his original collar, the orange cloth one, the one he was wearing when we met him, which had his name and the phone number of his real mom engraved on a black disk dangling from a metal loop. That disappeared months ago. His real mom replaced that with a sporty medium green one with a bell, upon which she wrote her phone number in black Sharpie ink, having no more black disks.

One day, he came home without that and Neal and I went to Safeway and bought him a bright red one with a red bell, and we wrote Real Mom’s phone number in black Sharpie on that one.

He’d been wearing the red collar for awhile when one day, Neal found his green one, dropped on the stoop of our back door. Amazed, Neal brought it in to show me, and we pretty much agreed that Geronimo had brought it back. When I e-mailed Real Mom that after a long period of absence the green collar had returned, she wrote back, “Geronimo wants to wear that one; I’d put it back on him.”

Well, Neal and I being procrastinators as to Non-Urgent Matters — and switching cat collars is most certainly in that category (pardon the pun) at present — we left the bright red collar on and tucked the green one away for future use. Experience had taught that we’d be needing it.

And sure enough, about a week later Geronimo came home without the red collar. However, Real Mom got a call from a woman who lives a block over from us; she’d found the red collar and would hang it on her mailbox for retrieval. I did indeed walk over to get it but, meanwhile, we put the green collar back on Geronimo. And tucked the red one away for almost certain future use.

Then for awhile all was quiet. He came home every day and voila! Green collar was still intact.

But a few minutes ago, Neal and I were sitting on the couch talking and we heard Geronimo outside crying at the living room window. He usually does that when he comes home from wandering, so he can get his food. But this afternoon his cry sounded odd and choked. I asked, “Is he sick!?” Neal said, “He’s got something! It’s another cat’s collar!” We both went running around to the side yard. There was Geronimo, standing on the patio. Wearing his green collar. And looking down at — his original orange cloth collar with the black ID disk, which has been missing for months.

Just goes to show you — well, I don’t know what it goes to show you. We now have three collars. Knowing Geronimo, we’re going to hang on to all three.

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