Monthly Archives: June 2011

Cleaning, Part 2: The Best Find

I’m sorry readers, but please allow me to take up space in your inbox twice in two days for a very special sharing moment.

I wish I had waited and posted yesterday’s cleaning blog until I had gone through last night’s set of stacks. Because it was last night that I found this gem: the HANDWRITTEN response from Allison Knight (Jordan and Jonathan’s sister) on behalf of New Kids on the Block respectfully declining the invitation to my Bat Mitzvah.

Now tell me, is this not totally something Grace Adler would do? I told you I was the inspiration for her!

But seriously, I remember clearly the day I received this in the mail. I was so excited that a Knight sister actually took the time to write me a note. Obviously, much squealing and screeching ensued.

And this is the fun part about cleaning. Remembering all those great memories, people and moments that have gotten you to where you are now — packing up the first home you bought to move in with the best friend and partner you weren’t sure you would ever find, but are so grateful that you did.

I guess I have the New Kids to thank!

Cleaning, Confronting, Procrastinating

The pressure is on. I’m two weeks away from moving in with JB and I’m determined to start this new chapter of my life with as little clutter as possible. That requires that this packing experience be different from my last few moves. Instead of just taping the drawers and moving furniture, storage bins and cabinets filled with papers and mementos as is, I have to: Actually. Go. Through. Them.

Crap.

This has been a daunting task. And it’s forced me to confront the area of my condo that makes me worry I will one day be featured on A&E’s Hoarders: The Hall Closet.

In The Hall Closet, I have kept bags, filing cabinets, and other storage contraptions that contain every document, payment confirmation, health benefits summary, etc. that I otherwise didn’t know what to do with, but figured I might need one day. It’s like the bank vault for an identity thief. I knew over the years that I should go through them and purge all of the old and unnecessary paperwork, but I kept procrastinating and then the idea of it just became too overwhelming. And the cycle continued. (Wow, I really do sound like a hoarder, though I promise it’s not that bad.)

The Hall Closet has residents like this bag bill payment organizer:

I have given myself small goals each day, which makes the project more manageable. And with the advent of bulk shredding options (including your local Office Depot where they will shred while you watch), this undertaking has fortunately been far less confounding than I was fearing.

You see, my problem is not an inability to get rid of things. It’s the paralyzing feeling of not knowing where to put something or how to discard of it properly. So I do nothing. And then, when I’m under the gun, I realize it wasn’t actually that difficult of a predicament. So I encourage all of you — confront your Hall Closet or Under The Bathroom Sink or whatever it is that you turn a blind eye to. As always with  moving, I am reminded that it’s so much better to live without the clutter.

And that means digital clutter, too. So to distract myself from going through phone bills from 2006, I have also been cleaning out my DVR.  There are now only three items left that I can’t seem to delete.

The Friends and Will and Grace listings are my favorite episodes from those shows that I captured on reruns. And of course the Lost series finale which I’m not sure I have the mental strength to re-watch, but can’t erase. If you’re curious, the Friends episode is the trivia game about each other the crew plays resulting in the girls losing their apartment to the boys. The W&G one is Grace grieving her break-up with Woody Harrelson’s Nathan character.  It’s when I really started to wonder if the writers spied on me for their Grace inspiration.  As for Lost, it turns out it was purgatory all along! (Just kidding.) ( I think.)

Well, I have a stack of cable bills from three apartments ago that aren’t going to shred themselves, so I should stop procrastinating. I’m sure you’re reading this out of procrastination for something else, so just go do it!

But first, what task do you dread? How do you just make yourself do it? Why don’t I just buy DVDs of my favorite TV shows? (I thought I would ask that question for you.)

A Quick Post On Resiliency

Photo courtesy of Luke Donald

This weekend I was a little obsessed with the U.S. Open (thanks to JB). And today, I have been overly obsessed with this Oakley advertisement congratulating the champ Rory McIlroy.

(As I wrote in the caption, this picture was from Luke Donald’s Twitter post. Donald is currently the No. 1 ranked golfer and happens to be a fellow Wildcat. If you’re not familiar with him, you can drool over his pictures read more about him here. If you’re still in college, stop tailgating at football games and get thee to a golf tournament!)

But back to Rory McIlroy. Which could have been the Open’s tagline for the weekend: Back to McIlroy. He dominated the 4-day tournament and went wire-to-wire (that means he led the entire four rounds; I learned it this weekend and now I throw it around because I’m a golf expert) to be crowned champion.

The story is sweeter (and explains the pictured ad) because McIlroy was also in the lead going into the final round of the Masters tournament back in the spring before the wheels came off on the final day and he fell off the leader board completely. Immediately, he handled this defeat with poise and, obviously, resiliency.

This advertisement resonated with me not because of my fledgling interest in golf, but because in my job, I see students struggle every day with resiliency, with bouncing back after an obstacle or adversity. I struggle with it myself. We’ve developed such an “everyone’s a winner” society with children that I think sometimes we forget how much one can learn from their setbacks and falls. I like the ad’s wording about “owning your defeats.” We don’t have to always make excuses for our shortcomings or setbacks, we just have to own them. We’ve been taught to learn from our mistakes, but I worry the younger generation is losing the message. And consequently, losing their resilience.

But Rory’s victory is an example of what it really means to own your defeat and grow from it. And at only 22-years-old, he is a great model for today’s youth… and for those of us who are old enough to type phrases like “the younger generation.”

New Job, Old Friend

First of all, thank you to everyone for your well-wishes on my new job. I’ve now completed two weeks and I have yet to be fired or promoted, so my strategy for keeping under the radar and letting other people do the dirty work while I unassumingly win it all has paid off.

(Why do I watch so much reality TV in the summer?)

But seriously, it has been an exciting two weeks and I’m starting to shake off the “new kid in town” feelings. Being clueless has also left me pretty exhausted, which explains my lack of blog posts lately. When I have had a free moment online, it’s shamefully spent catching up on the live Casey Anthony trial. I can’t miss game-changing tweets from Nancy Grace like this:

Investigative legal reporting at its best.

Amid all of the new experiences these last two weeks, however, there was one that stood out because it… wasn’t.

From a simple Facebook status update and a friend’s comment, I learned that a once close mutual friend from growing up who I had lost touch with had just moved back to Dallas and started working at the same university. (So that, Facebook haters, is one of the reasons people are on it even though you might “already keep in touch with everyone I want to keep in touch with.” It’s time for a new line!)

Even though we hadn’t spoken in years, I immediately felt like I had a buddy on campus.  We quickly set up a lunch which happened this week. It was wonderful catching up on life: the big — I heard she had gotten married, but it wasn’t until I got in her car and saw the car seat that I discovered she had a child! — and the small.  Had we not both ended up at this employer, I might have never known she was a mother. That seems weird to think about after being so close for so long at such formative times in our lives.

Long ago, this dear friend’s dad coined the phrase “I Don’t Caryn” to denote my indecisiveness fickleness fear of confrontation agreeableness when asked what I wanted to eat or what I wanted to do.  And while certain people would probably argue that I’m overly more confident now in sharing my preferences than I used to be, I’ve thought about this nickname often when I would hear myself say “I don’t care.” It always reminded me of how close I was with this friend and her family. Of course, almost 20 years later, she still had to make the final call of where we ate lunch.

I know I’ll make new friends at this job, but it’s especially nice to reconnect with an old one.

What has been a big (positive) surprise for you at a new job?

Vacation Book Review

I want to write about my latest vacation to St. Croix because it was wonderful, but who wants to see other people’s beach pictures? Hey, guess what I was doing while you were at work? Oh what’s that, you’re laid off due to a bad economy and have no paid vacation days? Aww, I’m sorry……. but look, the water is so clear you can see my feet!

No, no, I didn’t want to do that (this time). So instead, I will recount my vacation through the literature I read while away. Having time to devote myself fully to a good book is one of life’s greatest pleasures (for me) and is surely a way I restore balance.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay

I actually read this leading up to my vacation,  and it’s a good thing, because even though it is a quick read, it is not exactly what I would consider beach reading.

I’m usually hesitant to read or watch Holocaust-related books and movies, especially when it focuses on the youngest victims. True to form, I had a troubled sleep every night while reading this book. Sarah’s Key is fiction, but centers on the real event of the massive round-up of French Jews in Paris, largely women and children, in  July 1942. Most involved in the arrest were ultimately sent to their deaths in Auschwitz.

I had resisted reading it despite recommendations, but I was lent a copy and with that guilty accountability you feel when you borrow a book and you know the next time you see that person they will ask you if you have read it, I decided to give it a try.  I didn’t put it down for three days.

Sarah’s Key follows the story of a little girl and her family involved in the round-up, juxtaposed with a current-day story about a journalist in Paris investigating that horrific event. To remind you that this is fiction, there are conventional plot twists and some all-too-convenient coincidences linking the two stories, but nevertheless, I found it to be engaging, emotional and educational (I was previously not familiar with the Vel’ d’ Hiv’ round-up).

On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan

At just 166 pages, I started and finished this book on the flights to St. Croix. McEwan is the author to one of my favorite books, Atonement. (Yes, the Keira Knightley movie, but the book is much better, as per usual.) Atonement had a tentative start, but it’s build-up, twists and ultimate pay-offs have made it a book I like to go back and read the last few pages of every so often.

McEwan showcases the same refined writing style in On Chesil Beach, along with the “what could have been” agony that characterizes Atonement. I picture the author writing this book in one sitting on a rainy afternoon. As he hits “send” to his editor and shuts down the computer, I hear him saying to himself, “Well that was easy.” That’s kind of how I felt reading it too. I was never very attached to the two characters in this book, Edward and Florence, or their predicament — consummating their marriage on their wedding night.

Most of the book takes place on this night in their hotel room. In the end, it’s much more about communication, confronting fears, and sharing them with those you love than any physical act. And I found these emotionally damaged partners and their loosening grips on their relationship very interesting. I just needed a little more. As my flight touched down in St. Croix and I closed the book, Edward and Florence were already far behind me.

Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde by Jeff Guinn

At least the last book had the word “beach” in the title. I can’t find any reason why this book should be read on vacation, but it was actually the one I read anytime I was out by the pool or relaxing on our patio (I’m not really into sand or sea life so I keep my distance from the actual beach).

I’m not a Bonnie and Clyde aficionado or anything, but it was a selection of my (now former) employer’s staff book club and I thought it would be an interesting read. I was right. The author delved into the life of robberies, fast getaways and family dedication of these young criminals with rich details and, from what I can tell from reading the sources, a whole lot of fact-checking.

Besides his driving ability, Clyde was a pretty mediocre thief. They rarely had glamorous bank robberies or a posh life on the road as presented in the Warren Beatty movie. They were just poor West Dallas kids who every now and then had money to buy some nice clothes. I’m not sympathizing with them by any means; they had a death count, mainly of law enforcement, to be sure. But it’s amazing how we romanticized these and other legendary outlaws.

I’m not sure I would be as interested in this book if I wasn’t from Dallas, but reading about familiar locations added a certain feeling of insider knowledge. If you’re local and/or a history buff, you might enjoy this work.

In reviewing this blog, it’s clear I read a lot of depressing sh*t. If you were looking for suggestions about how to begin and end your upcoming vacation with books about death, I hope you found this post helpful.

If you want some actual “beach read” recommendations, check here and here. And if you have your own suggestions, please share in the comments!

Retirement Living

Yesterday was my last day of work. And I don’t start my new job until Monday. So for two whole days, I am not an “employee.” There is no parking decal on my car (crying when you drop that off at your employer’s parking office is awk-ward, by the way), no company ID in my wallet, and no emails piling up that I will have to respond to upon return. This is different from vacation. For two days… I am retired, baby!!

While my retirement is short-lived, I was able to celebrate two real professional farewells this past week — American Airlines Captain O’Neil (can’t confirm the spelling) and Oprah (pretty sure babies coming out of the womb know the spelling).

When flying back from vacation on Sunday, we were informed this would be the last flight for pilot O’Neil after 33 years. As we pulled away from the gate (and again when we landed), the traditional water salute for retiring pilots and planes commenced. This isn’t a picture from the actual occurrence, but to give you an idea of what it looks like:

It was a moving tribute. Even more special, as we flew, we learned that Captain O’Neil’s wife was making this last voyage with her husband. The pilot thanked her in flight for her support, despite a work schedule that includes many missed holidays and birthdays over 33 years. Needless to say, I was emotional.

Upon touch down, all of the passengers immediately broke into applause. The women, if comfortable, were asked by the flight attendants to give Captain O’Neil a hug on the way out. Every woman I saw, myself included, did just that. All the while, his adorable wife was snapping pictures.

Another moving tribute happened earlier that week, though I didn’t watch it until I returned from vacation. Ms. Oprah Winfrey said goodbye to her viewers as the last “Oprah Winfrey Show” aired. Now, I am not a huge fan of the show. I have nothing against it, but it’s on at 4 p.m. which isn’t exactly conducive to my weekday schedule and my DVR has a “no vacancy” sign.

But I did record her very last episode, as any self-respecting pop culture junkie would do. I knew it would be no-frills, but I was a little taken aback by the simplicity of the episode. Oprah stood on her stage, speaking to her ever-adoring audience both in the studio and watching in their living rooms about what the show and the fans have meant to her over the last 25 years. Needless to say, I was emotional.

Her last episode touched on some of the themes her show addressed, but I’ll leave the rundown to bigger Oprah fans over at Salt and Nectar.

While Captain O’Neil and Oprah might be retiring from very different environments, it was interesting what they had in common. They both profusely thanked and shared credit for their success with staff, family and friends. Stedman affectionately sat  in the Oprah audience just as Mrs. O’Neil sat in the front row of the plane, just a step outside the cockpit where her husband was addressing his audience in his own way. Clearly, no matter your job, your ultimate success comes down to those who support you along the way.

As if she knew about my future blog post, Oprah said she told her team that they were finally going to “land this plane.” And as she concluded the show and walked backstage through her entire staff lined up on either side cheering and hugging her, it reminded me of the two streams of water forming an archway of recognition. Recognition for, at its most simplest, a job well done.

Good luck to Captain O’Neil, Oprah and your families! I’m not quite ready to land my plane yet, but I hope when I do, I can leave with similar support and the knowledge I’ve had a career where I gave all I could to make an impact.

And then I’m sleeping in.