FTF

August 20, 2016

FTF (Face to Face)

It’s 5AM.  I’m in San Francisco when I wake up, trip over my boots and vomit in the toilet, celebrating the small victory that I made it to the hole. I think: “What is this all about?” I don’t remember drinking that much last night, and I consider myself somewhat of a professional in that regard. A professional: one who drinks at least three alcoholic beverages every day. I grab a washcloth, drench in cold water, slap on my face and decide everything will be alright. I lay back down on the fluffy down comforter, knowing that I have exactly 30 minutes to pull it together before I need to begin the ridiculously painful daily physical maintenance rituals prior to the meeting.  Something is not right. I get up again, stumble to the potty again, throw up again, and place my entire face in cold water under the faucet.  Yes, I’m OK now. No, I’m not OK now. Again, again, again until all that’s left is neon yellow sludge which tastes like rotten spoiled lemon barf.

I’m in San Francisco for my team’s FTF meeting. This is a meeting that occurs once every 3 years, because I don’t have a job important enough to meet my peers FTF more often than that.  At my level in the organization, we only meet when the Robot Zombie Royals notice a disturbance in the force; so strong is the threat of revolution that a physical intervention is required.  Most of the time, the royals can keep us subdued with free coffee, Tobys and pep rallys, but sometimes, sometimes, the servants catch on to their reindeer games.  This is the premise of a FTF.

The first day of the FTF meeting kicks off at 7:30. It is now 7AM and I am pretty much still vomiting in my hotel room.  I force myself into the shower and proceed with a half-assed job of making myself presentable.  I leave my room at 7:30 with a plan to go find bread. I’m on the 13th floor and when I enter the elevator; my machismo Israeli coworker greets me.  Macho Man apparently likes his cologne but my vulnerable digestive tract does not.  Macho Man watches as I run out of the elevator as soon as we hit the ground floor and scamper to the nearest bathroom where I release more yellow sunshine.

I think I’m going to be OK.  I desperately need to twirl into my Wonder Woman costume.

I ask for a to-go box from the hotel restaurant, put an especially plain tiny bagel inside, and head back up to the room which has a more convenient toilet situation. Miraculously, my children had not yet stolen the four shiny quarters in my wallet, so I am able to buy a soda from the machine and head for my bed. It feels lovely to be horizontal again; however the sad bagel tastes like a Croc shoe, forcing me to swallow it in big rubbery chunks.  This is not good.  The bagel shows itself again to me, same sized chunks floating in the murky water. What a special moment in the life of a 40 year old.

It is now 8:10 AM and the texting begins.  “Coming down?” says one, “Everything OK?” says another, and “Meeting started at 7:30” says the third.  I pull myself together and text my boss: “Running late… be there soon.” That was just before I had to puke again. “At least now it’s not yellow,” I mutter to myself. At 9:30AM I decide to give it another go and head downstairs. I have no idea what to expect, where to go, or how many people will be there. I grab some mint tea from the lobby and scan the adjacent conference room hall: windowless, many brown doors, breakfast buffet, confusing Vegas-like carpets. There are two doors leading to the room I need to be in: one south, one north. I realize that if I choose the wrong door, I could very well end up walking in front of the audience.  I take a very, very deep breath, close my eyes, count to thirteen and choose the north door. This magical door was directly next to the projector screen, in which 50 people were facing as I entered. I felt my face turn red, but it was already green from the vomiting, so I suppose it was blue.  I decide to appear as though I did this on purpose by walking my five foot, two inch body tall, proud and slow: a prance. I prance right in front of the projection screen everyone was catatonically staring into. I feel pulsating zombie eyes protruding into my blue moon face.  The coworkers I accidentally drank a “female married with children” unacceptable amount of Jack Daniels with the night before smirk at me and nod their heads as though they are in on a divine secret.  I sip my tea slowly and try to pay attention to the meat head in front of me, delivering no new piece of knowledge, with his speech peppered with self- importance.  It just occurred to me that the night before I stated repetitively that I wanted to punch this person in the face. I ponder the potential political repercussions, and conclude I’m OK with my statement. He is a meat head.

A meathead will often make cruel and/or physical jokes to friends and acquaintances, meant to appear light hearted, but actually are just assertions of their power- which they’ll follow by “I’m just pulling your leg” or “I was joking mate! Don’t look so serious!” (credit: Urban Dictionary)

Then the tea decides it hates my stomach and starts to jump out.

The Toby

August 20, 2016

The Toby

“Does anyone have any Toby nominations today?” “Anyone?” asks Go-Getter Number One.  “Aw, come on, surely there’s someone out there we need to recognize this week” speaks Go-Getter Number Two, clenched teeth showing through his plastic horsey-face smile. All of a sudden a heavy arm is lifted and I can feel the room expand with air: lukewarm and faintly scented with coffee, as everyone breaths glorious sighs of relief.  “I would like to recognize Marsha Brady.  Marsha is just awesome, always willing to lend a helping hand. Sometimes we have to deal with difficult people and Marsha just flips her hair, smiles and somehow everything always works out.  Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!” (Everyone knows Marsha is a whore).

The Toby: a series of cheaply made lapel pins, featuring a small colorless man wearing a variety of predictable outfits which are meant to resemble the field of work to which the recipient belongs.  The Toby is awarded between fellow coworkers at the pep rally every week for menial bullshit disguised as turn-a-cart-wheel worthy feats of strength.  The name “Toby” was chosen because it means “courageous heart.” Everyone I work with has one of those for showing up every day, so it’s a damn good thing they made an award for it. The Toby replaced the former company recognition program: money.  According to the Wizard of Oz, courage and a heart are more important than money.  I guess the Lion and the Tin Man were behind these shenanigans after all.

When the Go-Getters introduced the Toby award, I sat back sipping my Dutch Brother’s coffee with a look of apparent horror on my face. “Are they for real?” I whispered to myself. Yes, they were. The real truth about the Toby is that the robots were terrified to give a monetary reward to a coworker in fear of being reprimanded by their superiors for handing out money for something that may be construed as a part of one’s regular job duties.  No one was willing to stick their necks out for cash, but for a Toby, and the chance to stand up and speak in front of the big important people in a saintly role?  Pure gold. See, the Toby is more about the person giving it than the person receiving it, and this is what makes it so special.

In our staff meeting each week, my manager begins by playing techno music from his laptop and then leaving the room until the song is over.  This is to prove to everyone that he is cooler than us and has the power to do such an absurd thing. When he returns, we immediately talk about the importance of awarding 2.5 Toby’s each week at the pep rally. He is not demanding us to do so, but strongly suggesting such. After that, we watch a Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED Talks) video and talk about what we just learned. It is actually one of the better staff meetings I’ve attended of the four managers I’ve had this year.  But who’s giving who the Toby is always first on the agenda, so you better damn well be prepared.

The Toby is a piece of flair. Supposedly akin to when you wore your senior boyfriend’s class ring on your pointer finger proudly (if you happen to be a girl).  Or, if you are a boy, maybe you sometimes kept your girlfriend’s undies in your back jeans pocket as proof that you got some.  Just like that, the flair makes you invincible, provides a superhero –like feeling, even though you are quite aware that this is mostly untrue. In desperation to be one, you apply the Toby directly to your company badge lanyard, hanging around your neck.  You desire to make the lanyard heavy with Toby awards. There will never be enough Tobys.

After months of keen observation, I’ve determined that physical placement of the Toby is one element that can be used to accurately identify members of the underground superfriends: rejection of the company badge lanyard (robot necklace).  Well, maybe this isn’t as anarchy cool as I’ve made it sound.  I don’t wear the lanyard because it muddles my fashion, I loathe my badge ID photo, and I don’t need that shit hanging between my tits.

I received my first Toby for being the only person from my company to participate in a dunk tank for charity. My Toby was actually awarded to me in recognition of “nipping out” through my wet t-shirt.  Who I am kidding?  Wonder Woman don’t need flair.  Wonder Woman needs only laughter to fuel her invisible jet.

Underground Army of Superfriends: Nancy Nodder Needs a Nudging

June 28, 2014

Nancy is the kind of woman that makes you wish you weren’t one. Everything about her screams weak submissive confused wreck (WSCW).  This is the kind of woman which many men gravitate to at the office.  Mostly because they like to watch the WSCW’s chin bob up and down after every sentence the man mutters, similar to chair dancing during a rock concert.  The men silently whisper “hell yeah” to themselves. They are clearly in control.

Another reason the WSCW is a raving success in corporate America-land is the simple fact that they dress like boys. That’s right: man pants, button-up shirts one size too large, and super fugly shoes. Nancy wears shoes that people in the nursing home profession wear, only in black as opposed to white, complete with black ankle length roll up panty hose. Another secret of the WSCW is the man hair, “smart” hair. Hair that a man could wear if he were in the band the Monkees.

The thing is, I really want to like Nancy. I think we probably have something in common, but maybe that something is merely that we have girl parts. I’m willing to find out though.

I suggest to Nancy that we have a one on one (otherwise known as 1/1 and not to be confused with the 1982 Hall and Oates tune). I also suggest we meet at 4PM and have a beer for our 1/1. Surprisingly, she accepts. I arrive at 3:30 and she arrives an hour later.  Luckily, I’m already primed with hops: full of love, vigor and the ugly truth. Nancy orders soda water with lime, asks how I’m doing, and the awkward robot dance begins. For some reason, Nancy refuses to perform any head nodding with me, a female. Maybe her neck is tired by 4:30. I try with all my might to make this happen, asking questions such as, “Do you think bread tastes yummy?” She says “it depends.” I say: “Being on the rag really sucks.” She says: “It serves a purpose, and I kind of enjoy the excuse to be lazy and let my body relax and just be.” I say: “Sometimes, do you find it difficult being a wife, mother and professional?” She says: “I’m just grateful to have the opportunity to be all three.” At this point, I decide to try the game of opposites.  “Aren’t babies ugly?” I say.  She stares at me a moment, lets it linger, and then a little longer, searching desperately for something positive to relate to my obtuse statement.  Suddenly, she has to leave the building. She apologizes for the urgency, but something has come up, an emergency: she cannot think of anything positive to say.

I continue to pursue WSCW because I want to understand her. Why does she feel the need to be this way? How is she unable to succumb to the underground world of superfriends, when there are so few female members? I think she can do this, I think she wants to do this, so I keep on trying and don’t give up.  I see Nancy sitting alone in the café one morning, having coffee and tapping away on her laptop. I ask if I can sit down or if she is preparing to have a 1/1. I shove her answer to the side and sit down anyway.   I ask how she’s doing; she is in a new role that she has absolutely no experience in, after all. This is how corporate America rewards the WSCWs: unfounded promotions in fields of which they have little to no expertise.

Nancy is clearly uncomfortable being seen with me. Her eyes dart around the café as she fidgets with her company badge lanyard. She stares at my super rad, extremely impractical shoes with a transparent horror. She would rather be sitting with another robot, preferably a dude with a big title. I ask again how she is doing. She pauses, and then says “well, I’ve had better days.” I scream inside “Aha!” I have my “in” with WSCW.  She’s having a bad day and it isn’t possible for a robot zombie to have one of those.  She is indeed, a special ops version of the underground superfriends!  There is a tiny crack in the egg; I’m going to free it, fry it and add hot sauce.

Hall of Justice Intro

June 20, 2014

Wonder Woman storms through the dark rainy nights after spending the day with the evil blood sucking villains. These are not your ordinary villains, oh no. These are the evil geniuses lurking in small, square, gray boxes, 10 hours a day, within walls of iron steel that one may not enter without an orifice exam and full blood work up.  These are the walls of corporate America.  The walls where little boxes crafted of ticky tacky are guarded, a soccer mom’s wet dream of a husband, girl scouts and eagle scouts, cul-de-sacs and casseroles.  This is the fantasy world where mediocre individuals are touted as extraordinary, and men who clearly don’t wear the pants at home sport them proudly at 7:30AM, featuring perfect wire hanger creases, last night’s leftovers wrapped in eco-friendly pouches, bellies full of oatmeal and raisins, starched undies, and middle fingers pointed at all.  The epitome of hell on earth: the office.

Monday: 8AM.

 It’s time for the weekly pep-rally, like church with lots of head nodding and fanatics speaking in tongues. This is the most despicable moment of plummeting self- worth.  Thank God I sat through grueling engineering classes, staying up all night to learn Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer to listen to these apparently enlightened ones explain “managing ambiguity,” “tackling the tough things first,” and my personal favorite “taking informed risks.” I’m taking an informed risk by sitting through this insult to 80% of the room’s intelligence.  One day, someone is going to stand up and cry “BULLSHIT!” And the revolution will begin.  I long for that day.  That is mostly why I attend.  I am waiting.

I pull on my bagel and drink the weak company coffee; scan the room for facial expressions. There is one guy who always smiles, like the Joker from the movie Batman.  It never leaves his face.  How does he pull this off? I’ve tried to break his smile but this man will not relent.  I will get to him one day, I will. Another lady always raises  her hand with a story or an example to help out the facilitators (who, by the way, are the same two “go-getters” every week, but more about that later).  A few people in the audience glance my way, because they know somehow, without words, that we all understand this to be bullshit, spit the kool-aid out with a vengeance, and want to punch people in the face because this is what our life has somehow become.  These are my people: The underground army of superfriends.

One of the men in the army stands up every week and tries his best to irritate the dictators. It is quite funny and he almost always succeeds.  He asks questions that make everyone squirm in their underpants and their sublimely fair Oregon cheeks blush. This is another reason I attend, to witness the art of Mr. Brown.

Mr. Brown is a short but svelte brunette with large chunky square framed glasses. His shirt is always half-way tucked out and is always plaid.  He wears shorts every day, whether it’s raining or not, and tube socks with nice loafers.  Well not really, but that’s how I picture he would dress if it were acceptable in cube world. He starts every question with: “Can I ask a clarifying question?” Mr. Brown is pure genius.

This meeting lasts 30 minutes and then we all leave presumably inspired, motivated, and ready to eat more shit pie.

Wonder Woman arrives at work every day in disguise. She is undercover, studying mostly the robots, and a handful of fellow undercover superheroes for a research novel regarding obtuse human behavior.  The other superheroes are the only thing that keeps her sane.  The research is grueling but the book must be written.  This is the book according to Wonder Woman.

Magic Pills

January 24, 2014

Jack was sick and tired of his life.  Sick and tired. He worked a day job behind a square desk, not a rectangle one because he was not important enough for that sort of real estate. Jack’s day consisted of waking, picking his shorts from his ass, entering a lukewarm shower which did nothing more than drizzle and drip, Mr. Coffee, brown sugar and cinnamon instant oatmeal, then off to wake his mother, whom he continued to occupied space with.

Jack’s mother was a wily woman.  In her day, she was an almost semi-famous lounge singer, her voice nearly sultry but for the most part crackly and broken from a lifetime of smoking Lucky Strike cigarettes.  She sang on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Jack stayed at home eating Salisbury steak TV dinners and watching Threes Company for a generous part of his life.  His mother wore bright red lipstick at all times, never wore a color other than black, and refused to shave her legs, opting instead to brush her leg hair  neatly every morning, patting them down meticulously with Aqua Net hairspray.  His mother was fucken crazy but he adored her nonetheless.

Jack continued to live with his mother at the ripe age of 44 for two reasons.  One: he felt as though she truly needed him and she would surely meet her demise if he were to leave her all alone, and two: he was working as a small town newspaper editor and was pretty much broke off his ass.

Jack and his mother lived in a meager shotgun house built in 1926 in Davenport, Iowa.  The house sat on 2 acres of land, a large majority of which was dedicated to a somewhat lucrative trout farm. People would come and go every weekend to see their children’s faces light up as they threw poles in with a bare hook, retrieving shiny trout in less than a minute.  Jack’s job was to take the squirming fish, pound the head, strip the skin, and make sure it looked pretty for the family to take home and likely ruin on the grill.  When business was slower in the winter months, Jack would catch 10 buckets of trout and sell them at the local farmer’s market to make ends meet.  He hated this job, because he had to do it on his days off, which were normally spent playing video games and watching porn.

One winter weekend, Jack realized he needed to sell some trout.  “Shit, he thought.” It was raining outside and there was nothing worse in his mind than having to deal with stinky fish in the cold damp rain. His mother said, “Jack, you know we need money.  This house don’t run on its own and I don’t sing again till 2 weeks from now.” His mother still sang, the majority of her audiences were video poker players, but she still sang. Jack looked at his mom and said, “Mom, how ‘bout I just sell some of my old records. I don’t feel like dealing with fish today.” She said, “I don’t give care what you feel like doing, you gonna go sell some of them fish so we can pay the goddamn light bill.”

Jack hated it when his mom acted like, well, his mother, but he knew that she wouldn’t be around much longer and he would eventually own this house and manage things much differently, or sell it and go to Vegas. He had a plan, after all.  With this in mind, Jack reluctantly trudged over to the fish house in his rain gear, prepared to go to battle with the trout, and make $150 at market to pay the goddamn light bill.

He wrestled the fish into submission that day, ten buckets, cleaned them like a champion, made them all look pretty-like, placed them in a cooler, and took them back to the house to dress them up like a toddler participating in a beauty pageant.  Jack took genuine pride in this ritual:  he placed four fish on a red plastic plate with exactly five thinly sliced lemons on top and 2 sprigs of dill, wrapped this in saran wrap twice over, trout eyes bulging through the wrap, then placed his typed up “how to grill trout” instructions on top of that, with more saran wrap on top.  His instructions were fairly basic, and this is why most folks messed up with the grilling of the trout.  Jack considered this a strategic move, because most of the folks who attempted to grill the trout were men, and predicting they would fail with his very basic instructions meant that most men would return next weekend to try one more time and perhaps even come back another weekend because they would nonetheless fail again.  He knew it took at least five tries to grill trout just right and he didn’t want to reveal the secret right away.

After he had the plates prepared, he stacked them all in a cardboard box and headed out to the farmer’s market to make enough money to pay the goddamn light bill.

The market was slow.  It was raining and not many folks came out.  The only high point for Jack at the farmer’s market was a girl named Jolene.  Jolene was the daughter of a local sheep farmer and had long wavy blonde hair, deep brown eyes and olive skin.  She cursed like a sailor and dipped snuff.  Jolene would always stop by and talk to Jack about how much she desperately wanted to leave Davenport and move to Venice Beach.  She had it all planned out: Jolene spun wool from the sheep and knitted super cool lingerie to sell at market (and not many folks make lingerie from wool, turns out).  She knew people in Venice Beach who would buy her stuff and she was saving up for a car to drive out.  So far she had four hundred and seventy six dollars which she made over the last 3 years.  Jolene was the type of girl who no one seemed to understand, but Jack did, and he loved her above all else although she had no idea of his undying affection; he kept it hidden from her. He only did this because he knew that she didn’t want to hear it.  But he knew that she must have inherently understood how much he longed for her, even without the words, and the two of them had mind sex each time they met at the farmer’s market.  This fact made the whole stinky fish thing worth it for Jack, and he always made one special fish plate for Jolene: he added a packet of Texas Pete hot sauce to her plate and gave it to her for free in exchange for smiles and awesome conversation.

The day began at 9AM.  Jack sold most of his fish by 11AM and only had 3 plates left.  One was the special plate for Jolene but she hadn’t stopped by to chat with him just yet.  Jack was ready to leave, but desperately wanted to see her: damp hair, cracked plump lips spitting snuff, and the way she said “mother fucker” got him off for another week.  He was doing the crossword puzzle when an older lady approached to buy the last two regular plates of fish.  The lady introduced herself as Desdemona.  She said, “Can we trade?” Jack says, “Trade what for what?” Desdemona says, “I’m not gonna lie to you, I haven’t eaten in three days.  I have no money and I am so hungry.  The only meat I eat is fish and your trout is making my mouth water.” Jack says, “What you got to trade with?” She says, “I have magic pills.  These pills are very special.  I gathered them when I traveled to India and they have powers beyond what you or I could ever imagine.”  Jack says, “Whatever, lady. I need cash.  I got my own access to magic.” Desdemona gasps, her face become blank, no emotion.  “You have no idea what you are missing, boy.  You think you got this all figured out, eh? Good luck with that Muchacho.” She walks away.  Jack is intrigued by this lady.  Something is missing in his life, maybe her magic pills will provide it.  What does he have to lose? It’s only two plates of fish, twenty dollars, and she seems legit.  Even if she isn’t legit, he will have a story to tell and he doesn’t have many of those anymore, working behind his square desk.  “What the hell,” he thinks.  He leaves his table at the farmer’s market and chases her down.  “Desdemona!” he yells.   “I’m down with the magic pills!”

Desdemona tiptoes back and says, “You can call me DD.”

They trade and DD gives Jack a sloppy kiss on each cheek.  Jack never saw Jolene that day.

He returns home with the loot.  His mom is singing that night, so Jack heats up a Mexican frozen dinner and turns on the TV to watch “Who’s the Boss.” He jerks off because he has a huge crush on Alyssa Milano.

His mom arrives home just after midnight and wants to know how much money they made that day.  Jack came home three fish plates short.  His mom is very upset about this.  “Goddammit, Jack! We need that extra thirty bucks!” Jack says, “But Ma, I traded two plates of fish with this gypsy woman named DD, who gave me these magic pills in return.  I figure we could each use one.”  His mom calmed down a bit but was still irate.  “I’m gonna have to add another shift to my work week to make up for this,” she says.  Jack says, “Ma, tomorrow’s Sunday.  Let’s each take a pill in the morning and just chill and see what happens.”  His mom reluctantly agrees that this is a semi-good idea, goes to the bathroom to wash her face off, listens to some Sam Cooke and puts on her special gel eye mask, drinks an Alka Seltzer, and is snoring in 15 minutes.  Just like every night.

It is Sunday.  Jack wakes up to the smell of bacon and pancakes.  His mom makes this for him every single Sunday.  He argues in his head whether or not this is in fact, the best part of his week, but then remembers Jolene.  He stumbles down the stairs, splashes some cold water on his hot face and flosses his teeth.  He remembers Jolene again, and goes back upstairs to his bed, thinking of her:  damp long hair slightly curling onto her chest, her smallish perky breasts showing through her worn out thin shirt, her outie- belly button which he can sometimes see, her slight belly pooch which he wants to bury his face in, her toes which are never polished and mostly unkempt, but another bare part of her body which he gets to see because she always exposes them by wearing flip flops or no shoes at all.  He wants to lick the dirt between her toes.  He can no longer smell bacon, just the scent of Jolene and what it would feel like to grab her hair and taste her mouth.

As soon as he makes it downstairs, he forgets all of this and only thinks of bacon: crispy goodness.  “So Ma, let’s eat breakfast and then take these magic pills.  What do you think?” Jack’s mom pauses for a minute, and then reluctantly agrees to this plan.

His mother doesn’t eat bacon, only hard-boiled eggs with lots of hot sauce for breakfast.  Jack devours his plate with a tall glass of milk. Then they both take the magic pills with giant gulps of coffee.

At first, nothing happens.  Jack’s mind wanders back to Jolene.  The most prominent thing he remembers is her scent.  She smells like sunshine.  Her smile seems to reveal that she’s in on some secret that no one else knows about, and he wants to know what it is.  His mother begins to get sleepy, even though they just woke up.  “I think I’m gonna head back to bed.” She puts on an Etta James record and splays out on the bed.  Jack was so relieved that this happened.  He wasn’t sure how it would play out with his mom and the magic pills, and this was definitely the best case scenario.

Jack decides to take a walk.  There is a giant oak tree about a half mile from the house on their property.  He walks out to the tree and lies down on the cool, wet grass.  An acorn lands in his mouth and he crunches it up, like a squirrel.  He spreads out his arms and legs as though he’s making a snow angel in the grass.  All he wants is Jolene, right now.  And all of a sudden, she appears.  “Peace,” she says.  The clouds above make her eyes look black, so beautiful.  She has shadows surrounding her body.  He can see her belly button.  He desperately wants to bite it.  “How are you here, now?” he says.  She says, “I am always here.” Jack looks at her feet and absentmindedly begins to kiss them.

They lay there underneath the giant oak tree.  Jolene’s hair makes a blanket under Jack’s neck.  She turns to him and kisses his neck, then bites his dangly earlobe.  Jack is staring up at the sky and sees his mother in the clouds.  “Why is my mom up there?” he wonders.  As his mom floats away, she points to the oak tree and moves her hands, as if she is trying to make the tree grow taller.  She continues to do this, until the tree begins to sprout upwards.  At first, this seems impossible.  Jack rubs his eyes, and looks at Jolene, who is equally mesmerized by the tree.  They lay there together, holding hands, watching the tree grow and grow.  His mother continues to move her hands towards the tree and blows Jack a kiss.  The blow creates a wind that encourages the tree to branch incredibly outward, like giant arms.  She begins to float away and whispers, “Climb, love.” Then all of a sudden, his mother is gone.

Jolene and Jack can no longer see the top of the tree; it has sprung up into the sky and the branches are spindly and full of colorful leaves: orange, purple, green and blue.  All Jack can say is:  “Whoa.” He looks at Jolene, she at him, and without speaking, they decide to climb the tree together.

The tree is surprisingly easy to climb.  It is almost as if the tree was designed for this purpose.  Once they neared the top, there were giant mandarin oranges growing everywhere.  Jolene and Jack took a break, laid down in the canopy of the tree, stared at the clouds, ate sweet oranges and squeezed the juice into each other’s mouths. This was bliss.

After the break, they continued upward, finally reaching the top, where they found an enormous apartment building.  “What is this?” asked Jolene.  “Beats the shit outta me,” said Jack.  The building was decrepit.  It looked like a crack house.  There were people hanging outside with lots of bruises and scabs, there was garbage everywhere, stray dogs roaming around, and a prominent fishy smell.  “Dang!” Jolene said.  “Let’s go back and eat more oranges.  Forget this noise.” Jack persisted on.  He noticed something on the roof of the apartment complex: a giant golden key.  The key looked as though it was floating above the building.  Jolene was entirely unimpressed by the key.  “Let’s just go back to the oranges,” she said.  Jack says, “Baby, we need to check this out.  It could mean something.” Jolene smiled big and said, “I think I love you, baby.”  “I loved you before I met you,” Jack said.

They proceed up to the building.  A one-toothed crazy man pushing a grocery cart with a dread lock beard approached them first: “What you two doin’ up here, now?” His voice sounded like tires on a gravel road.  Jack said “We are looking for a friend. Maybe you know him?” Snaggle tooth looked at him with his head turned sideways, “There ain’t no friends here, only shadows.” Jolene looked at Jack and spontaneously began doing cart wheels.  She did ten in a row.  Jack began to wonder if he was imagining all of this or if Jolene had eaten one too many mandarin oranges when they were in the tree.  All the derelicts clapped and cheered.  Apparently there was a lack of entertainment at the crazy apartment building at the top of the giant oak tree in the sky, and the residents were impressed with acrobatics.

This created the perfect diversion for Jack.  Jolene continued to entertain the crazy- folk and Jack raced up to the building, fighting off rabid, hungry, homeless dogs and humans who crawled instead of walked. He made it to the door, which was locked.

He knocked on the door, but there was no answer and no doorbell although he noticed a tiny door, carved out at the bottom of the big door, which had a door knocker.  Jack squatted and used his pinky finger to knock on the tiny door.  After the very first knock, a rat answered.

“What you want?” asked the rat.  “I’m just looking for a lady,” Jack said.  “Ain’t we all,” said the rat.  “What’s the password, Lady’s Man?” “Er, how about Jolene,” Jack said.  “Sure!” said the rat.  “Come on in, Muchaco.” “Sweet,” Jack said.  And in he went.

“I’m Jolene,” said a lady behind the door who happened to have a mustache.  “Welcome, to the palace, baby.  I been waiting for you for a long, long time.” Jack nearly pissed himself.  “Jesus, where am I,” he whispered.  “Come on in now and make your self at home,” said Jolene.  “There ain’t nothing I want more than to please you.”  Jack was completely freaking out.  This lady was not really a lady, but part monster, part man and party lady.  She had a curly tail like a pug dog, long black hair, a red mustache, no discernible ass, giant tits and the biggest feet he had ever seen.  Jack decided the most appropriate pronoun for Jolene was “it,” and It was at least 10 feet tall.

It returned with a giant glass of something that steamed and said:  “Drink.”  Jack had no choice but to do whatever It said. There was no way he was going to attempt to rationalize with It.  The drink tasted amazing, like a strong pina colada made with very fresh pineapple puree.  “Mmmmm,” he said.  It was quite satisfied that Jack was enjoying himself, and placed Jack in Its lap while rubbing his thighs, hard.

Meanwhile, the real Jolene was unable to keep up with her acrobatic shenanigans.  One can only do so many cartwheels, after all.  She made the town folk dizzy and pole vaulted herself into the building through an open window. Jack was nowhere to be found.  “Where is he,” she thought.  She began exploring the building, took the elevator, and made it to the roof.  “Where the fuck is he,” she thought again.  She creeped around the roof like a cat and noticed a bright shiny thing which seemed to float above the building.  It was the key! Jolene remained unconvinced that there was anything special about this key, which was actually rusted and not golden at all.

The key was spinning around like a top, very fast and every now and then, she noticed Jack’s mother’s face appear in the center.  His mother was using her finger, motioning for Jolene to come closer.  Jolene reluctantly approached Jack’s mother, who then acted as though she wanted to tell her a secret.  Jolene leaned in carefully, to the middle of the spinning key and Jack’s mother said: “My son loves you.” And then she faded away. Jolene grabbed the spinning key with both hands and fell backwards, to the ground.  She had the golden key!

Meanwhile, It put Jack in a cage with a swing, gave him a giant lollipop and dressed him up as a gimp, placing a tennis ball into his mouth.  It would visit him every hour, give him a banana, then leave.  Jack could not think of another time where he felt so vulnerable, other than when he sat behind his square desk at his lame job.  The bananas were quite good though, so he sat in his gimp outfit and wondered how the real Jolene was making out with the locals.

Jolene had the rusty key and desperately needed to find Jack. She found a rope on the roof, tied each end to the key, and crafted a make-shift backpack.  There were no discernible exits in site.  Jolene paced around the roof, trying to form a plan of escape, when all of a sudden she noticed a strange enormous bird off in the distance. “Is that a dragon?” she wondered.  The bird came closer and closer to the roof when Jolene realized this bird was actually a marvelous, giant-sized raven.  She began to call to the bird, waving the rusty key above her head.  The bird seemed curious about this and landed on the roof, screeching loudly.  Jolene approached the creature slowly and deliberately, then began to pat its shiny feathers.  She whispered, “I need your help, fella.  Can you give me a ride out of this godforsaken place?” The bird screeched again and nodded its red beak.  Jolene strapped the key around her back and hopped onto the raven, holding tightly to the muscles surrounding its wings.  In three seconds, the bird whooshed up into the air like a rocket and began soaring higher and higher.  Jolene pointed to the ground and the bird whirled around, heading toward the earth that contained rabid viscous locals.  Jolene dismounted the raven, rubbed its head and said, “Thanks, buddy.” The raven blew away with the wind.

Jolene was surrounded by the people that she already performed acrobatic tricks for earlier, and who were peering at her as though she were a piece of something to gnaw on.  She knew she had to make a quick decision: attempt to rescue Jack or abandon ship, or in this case, tree.  Jolene pondered Jack.  He seemed OK, kissed OK and told her she was beautiful sometimes.  He would probably be an OK lover and had an OK job.  He did like bacon, which was something they had in common.  All this being said, Jolene was not sure if OK was enough.  She remembered how Jack would wrap the fish he gave her in a special packet; that was sweet, admittedly.  But was it sweet enough now? She could take the rusty golden key, sell it with her story of crazy, and move to Venice, or she could find Jack and live happily ever after, in a little box made of ticky -tacky, hoping that Jack would progress beyond special fish wrapping into something more than OK.

She ran.  She ran as fast and as hard as she has ever run before, into the canopy of the tree.  All the freakish locals were chasing her, throwing obscure things, such as old car parts and cooking utensils.  She made it to the tree and swung like a monkey. The locals began to make bombs out of two liter Coke bottles, tossing them into the tree.  The top of the tree caught fire, and Jolene decided to just let go and drift.  She was in free fall through giant puffs of clouds, torpedoing back into reality.

“Where is she?” thought Jack.  “Where is my Jolene?” As soon as he thought this, It appeared, as if reading his mind.  “What do you need, baby?”  “I need to get outta here!” cried Jack.  “This is royally fucked up!” “You can’t keep me like this!” It glided over to Jack’s cage and used a very tiny key to open the door.  It lifted Jack with its pinky finger and placed him on a table.  “Baby, talk to me, what do you want,” said It. Jack thought about this.  What did he really want?

“I want someone to care for me.  I want someone who holds me, kisses me, and removes all of life’s little miseries; someone who physically cannot get enough of me, and who only thinks of me and my needs; a person whom is capable of completely forgetting themselves. I want an angel who can act the devil in bed.”  “I’ll treat her right, I mean, OK.  I’ll buy her a nice house in the suburbs; we’ll maybe have kids, and I’ll grill her trout perfectly.”

Marley Part I

October 25, 2013

I adopted a Cabbage Patch doll when I was eight years old.  It was a boy and his name was Xavier Sebastian.  He had blonde curly hair, tan-ish skin and blue eyes.  He was my adopted baby boy and I loved him more than anything (but, I think I eventually threw him out of our car’s window, it was my thing, I’m not sure why I did this with my dolls, and Raggedy Ann experienced a similar fate).

I had always wanted to adopt a child.  I’m not sure if this had anything to do with Xavier Sebastian, but it was always a little fire in my soul which I never thought would flame out or be extinguished.

I lost a baby when the baby was 14 weeks old.  I was pulling a wagon carrying 40 lbs of boy and something unexpected happened.  I mourned for my baby, but understood that sometimes life just ain’t meant to be.  This made me very sad, but opened up a door that would’ve otherwise never been opened.  I realized how much I wanted another child and wondered what was stopping me from doing so.  So I did it.

There was paperwork, all of which seemed to ask the same questions.  There was blood work, and physicals, and visits to the police station for stamps on other paperwork and awkward visits from strangers in our home that lasted 5 hours, and weird immunizations for petrified diseases, and interviews regarding my thoughts on parenthood, sex, and life. There was also the “what are you willing to accept” questionnaire.  Whoever designed that questionnaire had a soul made of stone.

After 1.5 years of paperwork and interviews, her photo came in my email inbox.  All I can remember are beautiful brown eyes on a tiny tiny face.  It was the most glorious photo I had ever seen.  I cried and laughed and felt my guts in a giant knot.  Even though it was just a photograph, it gripped my aorta, my nerve endings, my brain synapsis, like nothing in this world had, or will ever do.   I stared at her photo for hours.

The next part was the hardest:  she existed.  My daughter existed but I could not be with her.  I wanted to be with her so badly, more than anything in the world I wanted to care for her.  I wanted to hold her, feed her, smile at her, make her hold on to life.

For the next 6 months, utmost pure hell.  My beautiful 12 week old daughter, who I was not permitted to be with, contracted chicken pox then pneumonia.  I found out from other traveling parents that she had been in an Ethiopian hospital for 10 weeks on life support from severe pneumonia.  The only way I could cope was to run 10 miles a day, blasting heavy metal music from my headphones.  I was completely helpless. I could do nothing for my daughter. And I did not pray.  I only hoped that someone out there was looking out for her when I couldn’t.

My daughter never recovered while in Ethiopia.  She was put in a special room in the orphanage for the children who required more attention.  I had no access to this information.  I was living purely on hope. She was not eating, sleeping or thriving.  She weighed 10 pounds at 7 months old.

Finally, the trip came.  I got lucky and it was time.  I didn’t know what to expect but loved her unconditionally and always.  As soon as the plane landed, I wanted to go to her, so that’s what happened.  I remember entering the orphanage with wide bulging eyes just searching for her face.  I saw from photos that she has a mark on the right side of her face, so that was my examination: a baby out of 50 with a mark on the right side of her face.  But she wasn’t there. She wasn’t anywhere.

A lady saw me and led me into a closet sized room with 4 cribs and lots of flies on babies. My daughter was in one of the cribs.  She had impetigo and that’s why she was in the tiny room.  I have never experienced such joy in my heart as I saw her lying there.  After over 2 years, I am able to hold my daughter.  She is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.  I will never forget the look on her face.  She and I both knew who we were to one another.  I have never held someone as tightly and longly as I did Marley Hermela that day.  I will never hold anyone like I held my daughter that day. She is the best gift I have ever been lucky enough to receive.

Image

New shirt that was supposed to be a dress

October 13, 2012

Shirt that was supposed to be a dress

This was supposed to be dress “A” (awesome green dress below) from this sweet vintage pattern from Butterick:

I screwed up the vastly pleated skirt and after a couple of months messing with this, I decided to say the heck with it and hem it as a shirt.  Still cute though, right? I’m happy.

Beast shirt

June 3, 2012

Reconstructed turkey shirt

This is a recent shirt that started out easy and wound up really, really rowdy. I decided to call it the beast.

The focus of the shirt was a toddler-sized t-shirt that someone gave our kids from Turkey (er, the country). I liked the shirt because of the vibrant red color, the traditional spelling of Turkey (“Turkiye,” umlaut and all), and the flag (sliver moon and star). Since this was a toddler shirt, I decided to use the images as straps, since there was very little material to work with. I cut four strips from this shirt, based on how I wanted the images displayed and which I wanted in front, then decided they needed some “umph” so I made bias tape out of blue polka dot cotton fabric. I sewed the strips together with bias tape in the middle and the straps were all done. The halter piece is simple, just measure around your boobage and double the fabric (the fold will be the top of the halter). I sewed the straps to the halter, criss-cross in the middle and standard on the back.

This is where it got ugly. I had this super perfect found t-shirt with gray/black stripes- it had a bad place in it, so first I cut that away. This shirt was going to be the “skirt” part of the tunic. I cut out the shape, but should’ve added more to it since I didn’t cut the fabric in the direction of the selvage (I cut opposite to selvage- cross wise grain of fabric- so not much stretch action). Thus! The skirt was WAY too tight for my comfort. So I chopped the skirt part off at an angle, no less, and realized I didn’t have enough of my original t-shirts left to complete it. And, I complicated things with that angle action for no damn good reason at all. So…

I got mad and put it down (and poured myself a drink).

The next morning, I woke up refreshed and with a new plan. I decided to make my own fabric for the skirt part, out of t-shirt scraps in my bin. Yep. I dug through and found reds, grays and blacks in which I had enough of to make same length strips (width didn’t really matter). I cut, like, 12 of these and then sewed 6 each together, making two pieces of fabric for my skirt.

THEN! I lined up these pieces with the anger infested angle I cut the day before to get the cut right. I cut the skirt, then pinned to the anger angle and sewed it down. Only I sewed it wrong and then the halter was turned like 90 degrees to the skirt. So…

I got mad and put it down and went hiking with my family and ate a bunch of fried chicken.

I came back to it that night…ripped out the freak factor and started over. When I finally got it right, I decided to make it pretty on the bottom with trim that matched the strap bias tape…so I did that. Then I tried it on…and

It was exactly as tight as it was when I started.

me trying to be comfortable modeling the turkey tunic

I yelled at the shirt and confessed that I was apparently its bitch.

Seriously.

The turkey tunic, back

That being said, I also forgot how sewing a piece of cotton to the bottom of a knit shirt is a bad idea, because those two don’t like each other and you lose stretch and movement. Your bottom is not a good place to lose that stuff either.

So that’s it. My sewing beast story. But without all this madness, the learning would stop, so bring the madness future beasts!

Cabin Fever Crafty

March 23, 2012

Last Sunday, we attempted to leave the house a handful of times unsuccessfully due to snow, rain, and even hail. So, we gave up on the outdoor adventure (apparently, Sauvie Island has some neato water fowl, eagles and such hanging out this time of year). Instead, the kids and I had a major crafty throwdown and I even taught the oldest some basic sewing skills. So, I’m posting this now to show off the fruits of our labor.
First, we have a stencil I made for my hub: Bubbles from the show Trailer Park Boys. If anyone reading watches that show, you will understand why I chose Bubbles. How can anyone not like him and his affinity for grocery carts and cats?
John and Bubbles shirt
I found the image online as-is and didn’t need to manipulate it at all in photoshop to make the stencil. I sized the image in a word document and printed on cardstock. Then, just cut out the black pieces. If possible, you want to identify the black pieces that form “islands” in the middle of the image and try to connect them with other black pieces while cutting out. (That sentence probably makes no sense, but if you try this, you will see). After this, iron a tshirt and place a piece of cardboard under the area where you intend to stencil the image. (very important step). Next, find some black acrylic paint and add textile medium (buy this at craft store). Use double side sticky tape on the back of the stencil and tape that sucker down where you want it on your shirt. Make sure to secure pieces that might lift up while you are painting. I tend to overtape because I’m OCD like that. Now, dab paint over stencil with a cheap foam brush. If you like, you can use a hair dryer to dry this and then lift of the stencil. That is pretty much it. Might be a good idea to turn the shirt inside out the first time you wash.

Jack and Jeff
Next we have the dolls! My older son made the doll on the right. The patterns we took from an Aranzi Aronzo book. Abe wanted his doll to look like a “business man” with a mustache, so that is what we made. Ha. I did the hand sewing on both dolls, and most of Leo’s puppy. Leo did stuff the puppy though!

It was a fun day and I just wanted to write about it. Sometimes Portland weather has its advantages. It frees you from the nagging feeling that you should be out there doing something.

I made another laptop bag

January 29, 2012

I made a new laptop bag

Hooray!  I finally finished my new laptop bag.  I made another one last year and was eager to make improvements in the design after carrying that one around for awhile.

Improvement #1:  Make it smaller (I lug this thing around with me all day long).  I measured my laptop, and added ~2 inches to each side.  I also kept the depth minimal.

Improvement #2:  Material.  Cloth bags and Portland rain do not go well together.  Especially the bottom of the bag.  Especially a white bag.  Also, I wanted to eliminate the padded divider for the laptop…is that really necessary?  No.

Improvement #3:  Pockets.  My previous bag had one pocket sewn to the divider for my chargers.  This was not a good idea because it was always “bulging out” there and I had no room for other stuff.  Also, I didn’t really need an inside zipper pocket…it was a pain to undo the zipper each time, actually. Pen pocket was another thing I needed.  Also, make pockets smaller and specific for whatever items they will hold.

That is all, mostly.

So up there is the new bag.  I made it from white quilted vinyl which I was lucky enough to find a remnant of at Fabric Depot, for $5 total.  The bottom of the bag is made from a strip of black vinyl (see Improvement #1).  The flap lining is Ikea fabric that I had left over from another project, and the lining is fabric I had on hand and love to pieces.  The lining is interfaced with the stiffest stuff I could find.  I used this for my previous fabric box project, and I haven’t gone back.  It is just super awesome for projects requiring major umph.
With the flap up
There is one pocket inside, which is deep and narrow for power cords and the other is small for random essentials like chapstick.  Both pockets are sewn into the lining (between the lining and the outside), for maximum roominess.  I wanted to maximize use of the fabric, so I placed two pockets under the flap:  one for keys and one for phone (and one for a pen!)

Inside pockets

The strap is around 56″ long.  On one side, I used a vintage belt buckle to secure the strap, and on the other, the strap is sewn directly to bag, then I used a strap adjuster so I can wear across my bod if I want.

 Hanging there

I’m really happy with how it turned out.  Hooray!

PS, this type of bag is really not difficult to make if you are an intermediate level sewer.  It’s just a basic bag pattern, like this one, here.  I used measurements for the bag, based on the size of my laptop.  Vinyl is not as scary as it may seem, I just used denim/vinyl grade needles in my not-so-fancy sewing machine.  It’s actually pretty cool to work with!  The interfacing is more difficult in my  opinion.