Saturday, April 6, 2013

Why Two Blogs?

A reader asked me recently why I choose to have two blogs - this one and my weight-loss blog.  Good question.

The short answer: I'm a Gemini.  We do everything in twos.

The long answer: I'm keeping both because this one is supposed to be more of a commentary-type thing where I address stuff in the news, explore various current affairs, issue forth random ideological musings, and spew my opinion regardless of how popular or warranted it might or might not be.  Sleeve It, on the other hand, is a diary/journal/chronicle of a specific journey.

So far I haven't done a bang-up job of keeping up on the stuff I'd like to write about here, but that's just where my head is right now. I'm overwhelmed.  Sometimes I read the news and get so overloaded with information that I just shut down.  It's hard to decide what to write about when you're simultaneously stewing about gun control, getting angry at the assholes who are making it hard for your gay friends to be married, running imaginary forensics in your head about murdered toddlers, attempting to keep up on sequestration, worrying about the economy at large, and fighting with ign'ant fucks on comment boards about collapsed buildings in India.  My shrink (yeah, I admit it - I'm in therapy, so what?  Aren't most of us?) advised me to cool it with this shit for the time being because I have to focus on my health and well-being, and if I'm constantly worried about other stuff, I won't be 100% for this giant life change about to happen.

And she's totally right.

My dreams of becoming the next Arianna Huffington will have to be shelved for now (not that I was ever that aggressive about pursuing them in the first place).

In the meantime, feel free to follow the other blog to keep up on the happenings in my life as I work toward becoming a not-so-fat prattler.


Friday, April 5, 2013

Gay Marriage: Why I Care Enough to Not Care

Many years ago, I stood up in my best friend's commitment ceremony with his partner - another man.  They exchanged vows and rings, received the blessing of an officiant, and threw a hell of a party afterward.  It was like any other wedding, just more tastefully decorated.

This was in Boston in 1993 - long before the issue of gay marriage was even prevalently on the table.  At the time, only a handful of states recognized same-sex unions, and even then it was more a matter of "oh, isn't that cute - these two kids are pretending at marriage!" like one might pat their toddlers on the head for doing the same.  There was no real legal recognition, and the fight to bring it to the federal level was still a quiet buzz.

It always struck me as odd that people would care so much about who marries whom.  Marriage, at its fundamental level, is a union between two people who choose to spend their lives together, and the only people who need to be involved in a marriage are the two people who are married to each other.  Children become a byproduct of that marriage if they choose to bring them into the picture, whether through birth or adoption, but ultimately the only people who should be concerned with who marries are the people exchanging the vows.

People who are crazed at the idea that a man might want to marry a man or a woman might want to take a wife have, in my brazen opinion, little else to worry about in their lives.  For real.  It was not so long ago, remember, that interracial marriage was forbidden.  Today, no one thinks anything of it - or if they do, they're usually wise enough to keep their opinions to themselves.  How long will it take before we as a society accept same-sex marriage as just another lifestyle? 

At this point in my life I have almost as many married gay friends as I do straight ones.  I'm not going to get up on a soapbox and preach the success rate of one versus the other, because I have divorced gay and straight friends, too.  I have bisexual friends and trans friends and cisgendered friends and pansexual friends, some of whom are married to other bi/trans/cis/pan folks.  I have many friends - and my sister - who are married to someone of a race other than their own. None of this bothers me.  Why?  Because (a) it matters nothing to me what color someone is, what gender they are or present as, or who they choose to sleep with, and (b) it's not my marriage.  Simply put: I. Don't. Care.

I care about my family.  I care about my friends.  But unless they're marrying a known serial killer or someone whose face I've seen on the wall at the post office, I couldn't care less about their choice of spouse.  That's between the two of them, and as long as they're happy, I'm satisfied.

Apparently this just makes too much sense for some others to grasp. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Like a BOSS.

Most of you who read this blog know that I work part-time at Starbucks.  What some might not know is that I've been there for over nine years.  In those nine-plus years, I have watched the company change significantly.  I've watched it grow, shrink a little, and then grow again in leaps and bounds.  If you've not read Onward: How Starbucks Saved its Life without Losing its Soul by Howard Schultz, I highly recommend it.  It was a valuable resource in my Creative Leadership class in graduate school, but even if you're not interested in or employed in creativity, leadership, or any other field that could benefit from this man's story, I still recommend you check it out.  It's brilliant.

A few weeks ago I had the grand pleasure of meeting Mr. Schultz.  My district won a sales raffle and was awarded a private reception with the Big Cheese himself.  It was just a short, small affair in a hotel conference room, but Howard spoke for about 45 minutes, and for that entire time everyone in the room was transfixed.  Howard is a dynamic, engaging, and interesting speaker, and a personable guy besides.  After he spoke, I muscled my way into the line and got to personally tell him how much I thought he rocked.  As I pumped his hand in a vigorous handshake, I told him how much I admired him as a leader and how much I appreciated everything he'd done for Starbucks as a company.  He asked me how long I'd been with the company, and when I told him, he said, "Wow.  Nine years.  Well, thank you for your service; I really appreciate it!"

I could go on and on about him and how much I admire him, but that's not really the point of this post.  What I really wanted to do was talk about this:

and how unbelievably awesome I think it is.  Seriously.

Anyone who wants to knock Starbucks for being a corporation can kiss my ass.  Yes, they're a corporation.  Yes, they have huge returns and profit margins.  But you know what?  "Corporation" does not equal "Evil."  They're ethical.  They are tolerant.  They are generous. As a part-time employee I get health insurance, paid vacation time, company shares that I can buy and more that are simply given to me every quarter simply for showing up to work, a free pound of coffee every week, all the free coffee I can drink, and next year after I hit my 10-year anniversary I'm eligible for a one-year sabbatical, during which time I plan to do some serious traveling and produce some major creative output.  Not too shabby. So they're a corporation with a global presence.  So what?  Starbucks, remember, started out as one little hole-in-the-wall coffee shop in a marketplace in Seattle.  Any company with the right creative vision, revenue, investors, and leadership can grow up to be a global force.  The real trick is to maintain your small-business values while doing so.

I complain about my job. A lot.  I complain that I have to get up for work while most of the Western World is still asleep.  I complain that I have to freeze at a drive-thru window in the dead of winter.  I complain that I have to deal with rude people who ask stupid questions.  I complain about smelling like coffee when I leave.  I complain about eight-hour shifts on Saturdays when the entire fucking Buffalo Niagara region decides to come to my store and order nineteen Frappuccinos at a time. 

But for all that, I'm proud and honored to say that I work for Howard Schultz.  And after this?  More than ever.  You tell 'em, Howie.  Like a boss.  Like a fucking BOSS.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

So I'm Having Weight Loss Surgery

...and I have another blog wherein I prattle on and on about all things related to that.

Follow me?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Random Pang of Indiasickness

When I was in Dharamsala last summer, I used to frequent a place called Lhamo's Croissant. Lhamo's was situated on the road directly across from the bottom of the many steps that led to my apartment. They had tasty coffee, lovely pastries, a comfortable lounge, an amazing rooftop with a breathtaking view, free wifi with a good signal, and free movies every night. 

Nearly every morning I would pass Lhamo's and see what movie they were showing that night, and nearly every night on my way home I would stop in for coffee, dessert, internet check-in, and a movie before ascending the steps to go home. It became a ritual for me. 

A little while ago they posted a photo on their page of a croissant and a cup of coffee on a table in the lounge, and something about the way the sun was hitting the composition just took me back. The sights, the sounds, the smells...I can't believe I could ever so sorely miss a place I only spent a month in, but I do. I do.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fuck Money.

"Money can't buy happiness."

Whoever coined this phrase didn't know what the fuck they were talking about.

Yeah, sure. Money can't buy happiness.  I get that.  But you know what money can buy?  Peace of mind.  Peace of mind knowing that I don't owe my landlords (who happen to be family, which on some levels I think makes the situation that much worse) a shit ton of money in back rent.  Peace of mind in not cringing every time my phone rings with another creditor looking for money I can't give them.  Peace of mind knowing I could get my bills up to date and not have to stress out while I constantly rob Peter to pay Paul, and try to stay one step ahead of the bank's posting schedule.

Money would pay for my pets' vet bills, which I cannot afford at all right now.  One cat needs $500 in dental work.  The other?  Who knows.  I haven't taken her in because I fear the answer.  One of my rats has a tumor that could probably be removed.  She's young enough to withstand the surgery, but I can't afford it.  I feel cruel.  I feel like a bad pet mom.  I feel like a horrible human being.  The only reason I was able to pay the last vet bill was because two very generous people came forward and GAVE me the money.  And while I know it was generosity born of friendship and sympathy, I still consider it a debt that I need to pay back or forward at some point.

Money would pay my medical bills and allow me to relax every time I go to the doctor and don't have to hear, "are you putting anything toward your balance today?"  It would allow me to not constantly have to cancel appointments simply because the copay isn't in the budget that month.

Money would pay to fix or replace my broken laptop that is no longer under warranty but is not yet paid for.  Big insult to injury situation there.

Money would pay my student loans, which have been deferred for months at this point.  Three degrees cost a lot of dough, even at a public university.

Money would buy new tires for my car, and would restore normal color to my knuckles every time I have to drive on slippery rain-slicked or snow-packed roads.  My car's name is Butch, but I should change it to Flounder, because I fishtail all over the fucking place.  My only saving grace is that it's a giant behemoth of a car, so if I do crash it, I'm probably not going to die.  But then of course, I'll be out a car, and that'll be just as bad.  And speaking of the car, money would pay the stupid car off so that I'm not losing sleep over the very real possibility of having an 8-year-old beat-up heap repossessed every time I'm a week late on the payment. 

Money would lubricate a lot of sticky spots in my life, but I can't seem to make or hang on to much of it, and at this point I've dug a hole so deep I'm not sure I'll ever get out of it.  At least not at this rate.

What pisses me off more than anything is that the amount of money that would shore me up isn't even that much.  I'm talking a few thousand dollars.  I know people who make more than that in a single paycheck, but to me it's such an unobtainable amount of money.  For someone who is as educated and creative and motivated as myself, I can't seem to figure out how to make it work in my favor.  I work 20 to 25 hours a week at one place so I can have health insurance.  I work 12 hours a week at another place that pays me about half what I should be making, and I spend at least another 20 to 30 hours a week doing freelance and independent contract work, but it's not the steadiest form of income, and the other two jobs cut into the time I would really like to be using to develop my "real work."  I work part-time as an independent auditor/evaluator, which is usually good for a few dollars and some free stuff.  I also do a little metal recycling when the weather cooperates.  That brings in a few bucks a week, but I consider that more of a hobby than a source of income.  Whatever I make doing that usually goes right into my gas tank anyway.  Sometimes if I'm feeling particularly indulgent, I'll treat myself to a slice of pizza with part of my earnings.  That's me.  Big fucking spender.

I've cut back on just about everything.  I eat a lot of pasta.  I shop at Aldi and Price-Rite.  I keep my heat at a reasonable temperature, but I'm on budget billing, so my gas bill is the least of my worries.  My electric bill on the other hand...holy mother of god.  I figured out recently that when it rains, the sump pump runs nonstop.  And guess what it runs on?  Yeah.  But if I don't keep it running, the basement floods.  And that's no good, either.  In the summertime, I hang my laundry outside so as not to have to use the dryer.  I hardly ever go out.  My weekly lunches with my friends have turned into a once-every-few-months indulgence when I can scrape ten bucks together.  I buy everything on sale and try and buy in bulk when possible.  When applying for evaluation assignments, I try and find jobs that will provide me with a free meal or other free stuff.

After the electric bill, the car payment, the car insurance, the monthly doctor visit and medications, the phone bill, and the necessary incidentals like internet, web hosting, file transfer services, and the payments on my above-mentioned dead laptop, there's little left.  My one really true decadence is my monthly Netflix subscription.  That's $8 a month.  I don't have cable and don't watch television otherwise.

Yes, I have traveled, and that is certainly an indulgence.  But in the grand scheme of things, my travel budget is pretty low.  I can say with a fair amount of confidence that most of my overseas travel has been done on a shoestring, and that I know people who spend more on a week's vacation Stateside than I ever have in a month abroad.  I stay in sublets and hostels and travel like a sardine, packed into crowded buses, trains, and economy airline seats.   And I have no further overseas travel plans in the immediate future, of course.  Past travel was carried out when I could afford it.   My next trip is a little summer vacation out west, covered by airline miles, friends' couches, and paid vacation time from work.  I figured out that the whole thing ought to cost no more than $200 for incidentals and ground transportation. But if I can't get ahead by then, I might not even be able to afford that.

So what I'm trying to do now is figure out a way to make some more money.  Full-time designer jobs are just not available, and if they are, I'm always beat out by someone younger and hipper than me.  Since I like to travel so much, I'm entertaining the idea of working a stint on a cruise ship. I've sold almost everything I can manage to live without at this point.  I don't know what else to do. 

If anyone is reading this and has ideas on how to raise a few thousand dollars, let me know.  Or if you need some work done, please get in touch.  My rates are competitive! I'm not looking for get-rich-quick schemes, and I'm not interested in doing anything illegal or harmful.  But at this point I'm spinning my wheels with no end in sight, and while money might not buy me happiness, I'm pretty sure it could buy me a break from the vicious merry-go-round.  And THAT will make me happy.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Lots of Lemonade

"When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed, 
when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, 
count your many blessings, name them one by one, 
and it will surprise you what the Lord has done."

-"Count Your Blessings," one of my favorite hymns

Life has been handing me a shit ton of lemons lately.  My car is falling apart and needs about $750 in repairs.  One of my cats got sick last week and it's going to run me about $700 to make her better.  My love life continues to stink.  My house is a mess.  I'm behind in everything,  I feel like shit,  I'm exhausted,  depressed, feeling quite alone, and I have really been feeling like the weight of the world might crush me.

But in the last couple of weeks I've been reminded of how much support I really do have.  Without going into detail, I will just say that the generosity and compassion from various friends - some of whom I barely know or have not seen in decades - is absolutely astounding.  My family, small as it might be, is amazing.  My cup of lemonade, so to speak, do runneth over.

I'm not alone.  And in my brief periods of loneliness when I feel like no one cares or is paying attention,  it helps to remember this.  I have people who care, clothes on my back,  a roof over my head, and job(s) to go to.  I have more work coming down the pike, and potential to get ahead if I can just get my head out of my ass and remember that it WILL get better.

And it will.  Pass the lemonade, please.