Saturday, April 21, 2012


Yes, you saw that right.  FFS.

Friendly Face Syndrome.

What did you think I meant?

I've talked about it before. I have one of those faces, everyone thinks they know me or that I look just like someone they used to know. I also have this really bad habit of smiling most of the time. It makes people think that they should approach me and talk to me. The problem with this is that I am also an introvert. I can play an extrovert if I have to, I've had jobs where I have had to present a very outgoing personality, but I am an introvert at heart. I'm not shy, I'm not a recluse, but I prefer to keep my own company or the company of my small group of friends.

The other problem with that is that I am like flypaper to freaks. If I am in a large group of people I know that the ones that will make the beeline for me are the ones who are just off. And I have a very hard time being overtly rude to them to make them go away. I will do the subtle leave me alone signs, books, headphones on an airplane, checking my phone, but I can't really just say, "Hey, look, leave me alone!" Part of it is that I always wonder if that 5 minutes out of my day where I feel uncomfortable is maybe the 5 minutes out of their day where they feel like they had a good day. Could this be the only conversation they have with someone? And for the most part it's over quickly, I can shake my shoulders and clear off the claustrophobic feeling and walk away.

Unless I can't. I posted about this yesterday on Facebook.  The introvert's nightmare is being in a situation that you cannot leave with someone you don't know deciding that you are their new best friend. I have been going to these seminars by the Institute for Brain Potential. Super interesting topics, very engaging speakers, they count towards my continuing education credits (though that doesn't matter now) and they aren't super expensive. You add all of that together and you can see that they would also be extremely popular with others. So there is always a slight anxious feeling going to these things, crowds don't bother me but forced group work does. You know those things where they make you group up with people you don't know to work on something? I hate those.

For awhile when I was working in advertising the parent company of our client decided that at their annual marketing meeting they would assign seating and make you sit not with your clients and co-op but with people from other parts of the country. This was to encourage "cross-pollination" of ideas. Now for an advertising exec what it really means is it's a chance to poach someone else's clients. So the entire time you are trying to be extraordinarily engaging and full of brilliance with the group you are sitting with while watching your co-op members who are scattered to the four winds and making sure that no other agency is being engaging and brilliant with was exhausting for everyone and for me? It was horrible. After those trips I would come home and just want to sit by myself for a day. I needed my own space and my own thoughts and nothing intruding on me to recharge. But I was getting paid to do that so I did.  Benefits outweigh the pain.

The same thing with these seminars. The thought of having to interact with strangers makes me nervous. But the benefits outweigh the pain. And after the first one I discovered that except for a few odd times during the day when people (extroverted people) feel the need to make small talk you are left to enjoy the lectures on your own. I can deal with that.  Then there was yesterday....

I knew I was in trouble pretty early on. When I walked into the conference room I could see that it was going to be even more crowded than the last one I went to. The entire room was filled with chairs and tables, there were two big screens at the front of the room and at first I found a seat close to one of the screens.  There was a woman sitting at the table behind me that said hello, I said hello back and then realized that though there was a screen near my seat the podium where the speaker would be lecturing from was actually much farther over.  I like to be close to the speaker so I moved.  The woman at the table behind me moved with me. At first I thought she had also just noticed that the speaker was farther away and she wanted to be closer to him, but alas, no.  So the only end seat (left handed) open that was closer to the center of the room was in the front row.  I don't mind front row seats so I took it.  At first the woman sat behind me again.  Then she asked, "Do you like to be close to see or to hear?" I said, "I like to see. Inevitably I am the person that picks a seat and then the very tall person with the large hat sits in front of me."

So she picked up all of her things and moved to sit next to me. Or more specifically she put her bags on the seat between us and sat in the same row. She then pulled out a tape recorder and told me she was going to record everything so she could listen to it on the plane ride back to Phoenix, see, she used to live up here but moved to Phoenix three months ago so this seminar really isn't that inexpensive for her as it is for everyone else.  Instead of the $80 for the day she had to pay that plus the hotel room the night before plus the plane ticket. And then these things are always so much information that you really need to hear it three or four times to understand what they are saying and had I ever been to one before?

This is a lot of information coming at you at once and as flypaper for freaks it's the first warning sign that you are in trouble. So I told her that yes I had been to one before and she asked if I liked it.  Now if I were the sort of person who could shut someone down like that without worrying about their feelings I would have smarted off that "No, I hated it, that's why I am back for another one." Instead I told her that yes, I quite enjoyed it. And I also let her know that I was pretty sure she wasn't allowed to record the session. They sell the seminars on CD and DVDs so recording is a no no. She was shocked at that but the woman sitting behind us came to my rescue and showed her in the learning materials where it said you weren't allowed to.  I took this opportunity to try to scout out a new seat. The only other end seat near the area had the view blocked by the camera that was recording our session so I was stuck.

So I started on the subtle anti-social cues, Facebooking, reading the materials, anything that would give me my bubble back. But she was having none of it. And not only was she insisting on interacting with me (the nerve right?) she was a really soft talker so you would have to lean in to hear her. So I am as far out of my comfort zone as I can get. But even with all of that I am keeping my self in check by doing the reminder that she is just looking for interaction, it's not her fault she picked someone who has the outward appearance of an extrovert, smile, FFS, but is an introvert wanting to bolt for the door. She also was one of those people that just assumes you will take care of them. Every time she would decide she wanted coffee it was, "Watch my stuff." Not, do you mind watching my things? Or Will you be here for awhile, can you keep an eye on my things? But "Watch my stuff."  And when I grabbed my purse to go use the restroom before the lecture started she started to gather her things..."Are we moving?"'m going to the restroom. Then I turned to the person behind me, and asked her to keep an eye on my coat. (yes, it was passive- aggressive, sue me) Then she got weirder....

So the lecture starts and the speaker is one of those that engages with the audience, and if you are in the front row you are going to be part of his lecture.  He is giving an example and he says to my seat mate..."What's your first name?" and she says..."I don't have one."  WHAT?  He didn't even blink just moved to the person next to her and asked the same question and used her in the example.  But I was dying DYING to know what he thought at that moment.  See the speaker was a psychologist who specializes in borderline personality and toxic personality disorders. What do you think of the person who tells you they have no first name?

So then the first break period hits and another woman who is in attendance is handing out directions to Cascade Station for those who might want to head that way for lunch. My seatmate says, "Where are you going for lunch?" My first tactic is the passive pretend like you don't hear her move...So she asks again, but not once more, over and over and over until I respond. "I don't know yet." She then tells me if I am going to go to Cascade Station she will just ride with me. Excuse me? I don't know you.  Why in the hell would I give you a ride to lunch? Why would I want to do that? Put a stranger in my car? Are you kidding me? Now I wasn't planning on driving to lunch anyway, 650 people at a conference trying to get in and out of a parking lot at the same time, no thank you. I told her that the hotel had a restaurant and they offered a buffet during these things and she might want to check that out. She asked again what I was going to do.  I ended up telling her I was probably just going to grab something from the gift shop and eat in my car while I made a few phone calls. She wanted to know what the gift shop would have. Umm...snack type things. Nothing big. Lunch finally comes and I hang back long enough for her to get lost in the crowd.  Ended up grabbing a soda and a granola bar for lunch and going back in to the conference room to eat and read.

I don't know what she did but it didn't take long enough.  She ended up back in the conference room as well.  "What's that?"  "It's a Kindle."  "What's a Kindle?" "An electronic book, or reader actually." "What font is that? 10?" "I have no idea.  You can adjust it." "I would have to adjust it, that's too small I'm not sure how you can read it." "I was reading it just fine." THEN SHE PULLED OUT TOOTH FLOSS AND BEGAN FLOSSING HER TEETH! In the conference room. She tells me, make sure you keep looking ahead, I know this grosses some people out. You THINK??  You are flossing your teeth in the conference room! Go to the bathroom for goodness sake!  What the hell is wrong with you???  And that ladies and gentlemen is where I started writing this blog in my head to keep from flipping out on her....

You're welcome....

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Time travel...

I've been watching the new show Awake. It's a really interesting concept. There is a man who was in a horrible car accident and now he is living two lives. In one his wife survived the crash in the other his son. Basically he goes to sleep in one world and wakes up in the other. The problem I am having is that as soon as the show started you start trying to figure out which world is "real". And eventually there will have to be a reality. Because we all know that's how the world works. Though the character on the show doesn't want that. He says it best when he tells his psychiatrists (he has one in each world) that this works for him. He doesn't want to have to choose because as soon as he does he loses either his wife or his son. Right now he has both.

So today while I was cleaning house my mind started puzzling over the show and then wandered off on to real world examples of choices and how they effective everyone else. See in the show when he finally decides on a world not only will he lose either his wife or his son but he will lose an entire other reality. He is a cop and has a different partner in each reality. He has two different psychiatrists, two different lives completely. And his choice will make all of that reality go away. Now there is the room to debate on if it's not real in the first place then does it matter? But that's probably more than my brain can handle.

Wouldn't it be interesting if you could do that in your life? If you could just see how another choice would pan out? Brent and I have talked about this a lot. Getting married as young as we did and him going in the Navy right away were the choices we made. But we have wondered what it would have been like if we had gone to school instead. Did the more traditional college route. Then gotten Jobs instead of jobs and then gotten married and had C. Would it all have worked out the same way anyway? He is pretty sure that no matter what path we had started down after graduation it would have ended with us married and having C. I am pretty sure that he would have left me for a cutie college co-ed with money. Kidding.

But I still wonder how our choices affected everyone else. When Brent and I started dating I did probably the worst thing I had ever done to someone. I forgot they existed. Brent and I started going together over Thanksgiving weekend our senior year.  Going together was 80s vernacular for going steady.  Dating just each other. Being a couple. Anyway, we got together that weekend after briefly going out the month before. I had thought he didn't want to date, he had thought I didn't want to date, much hilarity ensued including me fixing him up with someone else and me starting to date someone else myself. But when we realized that we wanted to date each other that was it, we did. And we were a couple. In school on Monday morning sitting in Western Civ a friend said, "I heard you and Brent are going together now, congratulations." I said thanks and then the worst thing I had ever done hit home.  The boy sitting in front of me turned around and said, "I guess this means we aren't going out on Friday?" Oh my gosh...I had totally forgotten I had a date with him. I had totally forgotten him all together. How do you even start to apologize for that?

Fast forward ten years to our high school reunion. I am talking to that boy, now a grown man of course, and he says to me, "I am really glad to see that you and Brent are still together. It's nice to know that it was inevitable, you were just meant to be." So yeah, he remembered and yeah, it was an awful thing to do to someone. Now I wondered at the time what he would have said if Brent and I weren't together.  Would he have smarted off and said, "I guess you should have kept that date!" And today while I was thinking of the TV show I wondered what would have happened if he could have looked at a different reality? If he could have seen what his world would have been like if I hadn't started dating Brent and I had kept that date. My choice had as much of a ramification in his life as it did in mine. I ended up with the man that made me forget that I had a date with someone else. That I ended up married to and having my son with and living my life with and am still with 26 years later. But what happened differently in his life? Well, he started dating someone else and she was pregnant by graduation. How is that for a life changing event?

At the time nobody was sure if it was his or if it was someone else's and he just stayed because he was that sort of nice guy. I didn't ask at the time because we weren't really talking, as you can imagine things were a little awkward between us after I forgot about his very existence. I wanted to ask at the reunion, but before I could figure out how to his current wife came and took him to talk to other people. She had also gone to school with us and wasn't my biggest fan. I can understand that, I wouldn't like someone who had treated Brent that shabbily either. But it makes you wonder. I like the choice I made for me. But what would it have meant for him if I had done it differently? If Brent and I hadn't started dating that weekend? What would that reality look like? And would he choose it if he could? Now there is no way that I would have been "the one" in his life or he in mine, I would have eventually started dating Brent anyway, but it would have changed the trajectory that ended with him and a pregnant girlfriend.

Then I thought of a friend who had a choice made for her like that. She and another woman were up for a position. They were both very qualified but the other woman was hired. She had some sort of in at the company and they felt like they needed to honor that. My friend had really wanted the position and was upset at the choice that was made, but she rallied. She changed gears and focused on another area and found her contentment there. So then I wondered, what would happen if she ran in to the woman who got the job she wanted and found out that she had never wanted it in the first place? (yes, this is how my mind works, I was cleaning house, it's boring, you have to think of something!) Can you imagine? Say, five years down the road you are getting coffee and you see her, your nemesis! And you go to talk to her and see how your dream job worked out for her, and you find out that she's no longer with the company.  Worse than that she knew when she took the job that she really didn't want it, she just felt like she should want it so she took it.

Would you like to be able to look at the alternate timeline at that point? You know that what you did worked out for you in the end, but what about what you didn't do? What you couldn't do because someone else made that choice? Would you want to see what that looked like and be able to choose? To keep the life you forged for yourself in your new work or be able to choose where your life ended up leading you if you had gotten the other job? Her choice to take that job that she never even wanted changed your world.

So as my mind wandered from real world examples to more and more far fetched what ifs I realized that the time travel game wouldn't be any good for anyone. It would be like the show. Once you made the choice you would lose. If you could look at two different jobs, you would have two different career goals and if you were successful in both which would you choose? Or if you had friends at both jobs how would you decide who to keep and who to forget? Because you would know while making the choice that you would be leaving them to disappear, to have never existed. I think you would end up like the man on the show, torn between the two worlds knowing that you didn't want to make the choice.  That no matter what you did you would lose. I'm not sure how they are gong to handle this on the show...and since it hasn't been renewed yet for next year I might never find out.

Unless I could somehow get a peek at a timeline that had the show renewed....

Friday, April 13, 2012


Yesterday's April Picture of the Day was Stairs. I live in a tri-level townhouse so I took pictures of each set of stairs from up looking down, from down looking up and then a picture of the porch steps. And while I took pictures of them I thought of my life long relationship with stairs.

I don't have a great history with stairs. As a child we lived in a townhouse that had a set of stairs with a landing in the middle. You would walk halfway up then there was the landing area then a turn and you walked the rest of the way up. I fell down these stairs a lot.  A LOT. And I wouldn't just fall down the first section. I can remember falling down the first section hitting the landing with enough momentum that I would make the turn and then continue to fall down the second set! I was and still am full of grace. I have fallen down and up more sets of stairs than I can even remember. Yes, up stairs. It takes true talent to fall up stairs, but I have it.

When Brent was in the Navy in a pre- 9/11 world you could take dinner out to the guys when they were on duty and hang out on the ship with them. The ladders on the ship were always a trick. A ladder is a very steep set of metal stairs between deck levels. The trick to them is that not only were you going up and down steep STEEP steps but you were going through an opening in the floor that wasn't huge so you had to watch your head at the same time. Don't bump your head, don't fall down the stairs and stick to the correct side or you will get run over by someone coming up or going down that doesn't see you there. I was never very fast at maneuvering the ladders.

For the longest time my family thought I was scared of heights. I wouldn't go up on the tall slide, I wouldn't climb up in to the hayloft, I wouldn't go out on the upper deck at a friend's house so people just assumed I was scared of heights. It's not the heights, it's the stairs. And the ladders. Ladders after all are just super steep stairs.

 You can see in that lovely picture the terror in my face as I scooted down the steep steps of a look out tower at a roadside attraction.  I loved the view at the top and getting up there was okay, but I was so scared coming down that I almost froze up. I had to sit and scoot down.  And it was still horrible!

But the scariest set of stairs of them all were in my Grandparent's farm house.  I was terrified of those stairs. They were incredibly narrow and extremely steep.  The second floor was where the kid's bedrooms were when we stayed with them. I don't think they used the upper floors of the house at all when we weren't around.  It had that old musty smell to it. Iowa heat and humidity baked in to walls. There was a wasp's nest outside the window of the room Susan and I slept in and that was terrifying as well. But just getting up and down the stairs always scared me. That raise the hairs on the back of your neck creeped out feeling. And every summer I would think, this year, I won't be scared of the stairs, and every summer I still was.

They also had a root cellar and to get down in to the root cellar you used a pretty steep set of wooden steps. I can still smell the bag of potatoes that had stayed too long in the cellar and started to re-sprout when I think about it.  But the root cellar never scared me. You would think steep steps into the dirty, smelly cellar with the spiders would be much scarier than the steps up to the bedrooms, but for some reason it just wasn't. Maybe it's because the canning was in the root cellar so going down there meant coming back up with peaches or gooseberries or cherries.

The stairs up to the rooms in my Grandparent's house have featured in my nightmares since I was a very little kid. I will need to get someplace and have to take those stairs and they will get steeper and steeper and steeper until I cannot walk up them anymore. And I freeze. And can't go up or down. And the feeling of impending doom hits. Then I wake up, heart pounding, palms sweating, gasping for air. And yes, I know that to explain that one of the scariest dreams I have is about walking up the stairs at my grandparent's house is weird.

When I was maybe 8 or 9 I told my mother I would rather just sleep on the couch when we visited her parents.  I am not sure if I told her why or if she even asked but I know from that point until my grandfather died and we stopped going back to Iowa every summer I was allowed to sleep downstairs. It was a huge relief to me in the waking world but it never stopped the nightmares from coming.

I wonder now if I could go back and walk through their old house and see those steps if they really were that steep and that scary or if it's just the fact that I was so small. Sort of like most things that you remember being so big from your childhood really aren't.  The difference in viewing something from 2-3 feet higher in the air.  I can't imagine I will ever make it back to Leroy, Iowa or even I did I have no idea if that old farmhouse is still standing. But someday maybe I will have a dream where I make it up the stairs with no problems and banish them from my psyche and my fear of steep stairs and ladders will go away.

Or maybe I will just buy a one story house the next time we move....

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A New Dance

She could feel the fight coming. The one they always had. The one she always lost. But it felt different this time. There was something strange in the air. The feeling of familiarity; he will say this, I will say that, he will do this, I will do that, just wasn't there. Just the fact that she could feel herself detaching from the argument was different. It was like she was watching two people in a movie have a fight that she wasn't part of.

He had always played her like a violin. Knew exactly what to say and what to do to get her to respond the way he wanted. As she watched the fight building it was as though she could see him beginning to play, and then pausing...she wasn't responding the way she normally did and so he checked his instrument and started again. Playing faster and faster, trying to get her to move to the music as she always had. But she didn't. Every time he went to the familiar refrains and she did not follow he played harder. It was as though she could see him whipping his bow across the strings. Sweat flying from his brow as he played his masterpiece. The one that never failed to bring the house down. The bow started to fray from the stress, the strings dangerously close to breaking from the strain...and yet she did not move. Did not get up to dance. Did not applaud his performance. She realized that she could no longer hear the music.

And she felt...sad? Relieved? Happy? She wasn't sure how she felt about it all. Even though she had known for a long time that he was manipulating her, it was familiar and in the familiarity there was comfort. Even in the hours after the fight when she would think, I should have said this or I should have said that, she had always felt at least a little glad that it was over and they were done fighting. But now, now that she wasn't doing what he wanted and knew that she wouldn't be again, that from this moment on everything was different she didn't know what she felt.

And so she left. She told him goodnight, picked up her bag and went to hail a cab back to her apartment. As she got to the door and turned to say goodbye one last time she saw him looking at his hands in bewilderment, almost as if he too could see the violin that she had imagined there....looking at the bow and strings and wondering how his song could have failed him.

As she walked out on to the street she heard the traffic rushing by, people leaving bars and restaurants calling their goodnights to each other, the high trill of a woman's laugh...and in the distance she heard the slow sexy sounds of a saxophone drifting through the night...and she slowly swayed to the sound of the music...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Quick update

Oh, hey, know what I did last week?  I sent in a children's story to a publisher.  No big deal...

Okay, it was a super big deal to me.  I sweated it out and read and re-read the submission, thank goodness because I noticed on the 5th read through that I had misspelled the editor's name!  Eek!  So anyway...I sent it in.  This week when this cold stops kicking my butt I will also be submitting it to a few other editors that work with publishing houses.  Now I just wait...they don't let you know unless you are accepted and that can take four months.  Oh my goodness...

Thanks for all of the support, I really really appreciate the hand holding and the shoves as well.  I'll let you know when I hear something.  Meanwhile I should be back to posting regularly next week.  Or my normal irregular postings.  One of those...