Friday, February 29, 2008

Flower the Road

"Flower the road as you quietly walk on out.” This is a quote from “First Shop of Coffee Prince” – a Korean drama I reviewed a few months ago.

I got laid off in January. I’ve been struggling with it for a while but couldn’t find it in me to be public about it until now. I probably should have been blogging the process or minimally journaling it but I just didn’t have it in me. It took me a long time to really write anything. I had sort of shut down.

I knew that layoffs were coming, but I thought that they were related to unfilled positions in the office. On January 15th, an out of town representative from HR arrived as I was blithely going on with my tasks. At 10:00 am, I was called into a room by my supervisor and told my position was being eliminated. The role I was in was being recategorized and I could stay in it taking a $7,000 pay cut, or I could leave on March 15th and accept the severance package I was being offered.

Hard to absorb all that in a span of 15 minutes. Mr. HR was there to explain the severance package, what benefits would continue to accrue throughout, we talked about COBRA, and the myriad of services the company offers to staff that have just been marginalized. “We’ll help you with your resume, your job search, we’ll send you to a class to learn how to interview…” bwaahh bwahhh bwah bwah bwah. “Oh, and we recognize that this is hard news, so if you like, you can go home for the day.” Uh, f*ckin’ A I’m going home for the day.

During many of the intervening days I dropped the ‘f’ bomb a lot. I am a single parent and I was terrified. I followed that by getting advice from family, friends and former colleagues. I got solid advice on next steps, finances and analyzed all options. I asked a lot of people to pray for me.

One fabulous piece of advice I received was to behave “Flawlessly”. That was hard. That was reeeeelie hard. I didn’t struggle with the bitterness; I let it blanket me like a soothing protective cocoon. I had been told that the force reduction wasn’t personal; it was business. I decided that that being the case, no one should consider my change in attitude personal either, in fact, they could all go F themselves and I wouldn’t take that personally either. That was the anger stage of my grief and I embraced it.

The worst day was when I cried at my desk. 25 years in the workforce; I’ve never cried at work. Ever. Bad for the sisterhood. But as soon as I got into the office, the last straw had been placed on my back, I put my head on my desk and wept. I didn’t just sniffle. I wept those hard, wracking sobs that you can’t stop; you know, the ones that make your eyes sting all day? Fortunately, I sit in a place where no one can see or hear me. After a few minutes I pulled myself together. The emotions were just below the surface however, and if I allowed it, I could have started off on another jag and let rip. Which I did in the car on the way home.

I got my shiny new resume out there. I shored up my interview skills. I bought two new suits. I interviewed with one company, the process of which took three weeks and several hours of my time and theirs in an attempt to establish a “fit”. I apparently didn’t "fit" because they “decided to go with someone else”. That sucked. The next day, I interviewed with another company and I had an offer letter three days later.

I will start the week after I leave my current employment, take my 2007 bonus, thankyouverymuch, pocket my vacation, bank my severance, and go to a company with terrific and less expensive benefits.

It is easier for me now to behave “flawlessly”. The crushing fear is gone; the excitement of change is upon me. I’m going to start cleaning up and clearing out. I’m going to say goodbye to colleagues and will look forward to meeting new ones. I am grateful for the advice, the support, and the prayers that helped get me through this incredibly difficult time.

I’m going to start flowering the road as I quietly walk on out.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Ghost & Mrs. Muir

This movie is among my all-time favorites. Released in 1947 starring Rex Harrison as the ghost of Captain Daniel Gregg and Gene Tierney as the “obstinate” widowed young mother Lucy Muir in turn of the century England – Whitecliff-by-the-Sea. After an appropriate period of mourning, Lucy finally escapes the clutches of her smothering in-laws.

Lucy is a woman of limited means; her deceased husband having failed to provide for her and their daughter. There is a small income from a gold mine that finances Lucy’s move. Her circumstances force her to take an inexpensive rental– and Gull Cottage at Whitecliff-by-the-Sea fits the bill. We don’t know why it’s so cheap, but we are soon to find out that it’s haunted by the ghost of Captain Gregg. The story circulating town is that the Captain committed suicide necessitating the haunts.

A crashing thunderstorm, a black night. Electricity doesn’t exist in all homes yet, and Lucy maneuvers, candle in hand, to the kitchen in search of her hot water bottle. The scene is set. Her candle keeps mysteriously blowing out. We all know who is blowing out the candle. Screwing up her courage, Lucy verbally confronts the ghost. She’s not leaving, and he’d better get used to it. Out from the shadows walks the imposing Captain Gregg. Lucy and Daniel come face to face, toe to toe. Neither will back down.

Lucy’s pluck arouses the Captain’s admiration; he gives her a trial. His death was accidental, not suicide, and he haunts because he doesn’t want anyone in the house. Lucy seems to be the epitome of a fussy Victorian lady, but she has a streak of independence and strength. The irascible Daniel, though dead, positively exudes animal magnetism and though a player in life, he displays signs of sensitivity; conversant with poetry, he designed his home and built it himself. Our characters develop a mutual fondness and respect.

Lucy’s gold mine peters out and she is faced with destitution and possibly being forced to move back in with the in-laws. We see Lucy’s more vulnerable side here, unsure what to do, she leans on the man in her life; Captain Gregg. In turn, it is apparent that Lucy has become important to Daniel – faced with the prospect of losing her, he tells her to stay, that they would think of something. Both a far cry from when they first met – Lucy determined to be independent and Daniel determined not to bring a woman aboard his ship. A plan is hatched; they collaborate on a book – Blood and Swash! (what a great title) “the unvarnished tale of a seaman’s life”. Lucy is invited to call Captain Gregg by his given name, Daniel. And Daniel calls Lucy “Lucia. A name befitting an Amazon.”

During the course of their collaboration, Daniel and Lucia’s feelings deepen. One of the magnificent aspects of the film are the passionate emotions brewing beneath the surface. Brilliantly unspoken, only intimated. When the book is finished Lucia only asks, “What is to become of us, Daniel? You and me.”

This is so much more than a love story. It’s a story of sacrifice, of longing, of time, of waiting and of enduring. Lucy’s loneliness over the passage of years is a mere echo to Daniel’s aching words when he lets her go. “What we’ve missed Lucia. What we’ve both missed.”

Bernard Herrmann’s score (which you have been listening to) so perfectly punctuates not only the passage of time but the yearning felt in both these characters. It’s creepy and it’s achy. It’s gentle and it’s powerful. It’s dark and it’s soft. In the end it’s full of hope and love fulfilled. I close my eyes and see the breakers on the shore and I can feel longing in my soul.

Can you say chick flick? Yes you can. I have yet to meet a woman who hasn’t just sighed at the end of this movie. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched this film, but I always melt at the end.

I just always felt bad that Martha was going to have to clean up that spilt milk.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Road Trip Nightmare

No. NO. NO! Must. Stay. In. Fetal. Position.

It was awful. I think the only way it could have been worse was had we been slaughtered and ground up for sausage.

I speak of this past Saturday night in Fayetteville, NC.

Let me back up. My cousin is being deployed to Iraq in the next few weeks. His wife and family planned a get together in Maxton, NC. Two of my cousins (cousin #2 and cousin #3) and I planned and were excited about the road trip down. Let me say right now, we had a wonderful time! Lovely home, truly beautiful people, terrific barbeque and you can’t beat getting together with family, reminiscing, and just laughing yourself stupid.

We had originally made reservations at a hotel room more south than we thought we needed to be and so at the last minute, decided to book a room further up the interstate to ease our Sunday morning haul back home. We thought Fayetteville seemed like a good spot. We prudently passed by roughly eleven barren lifeless motor hotels and responsibly decided to engage a reliable and established motel chain. I refuse to name the chain here, but will give you a hint; it rhymes with Flowered Schmonson Hexpress.

We made a few mistakes. #1 In our naiveté, we never thought a billboard advertising “Recently Renovated” could possibly be a lie. To be fair, it might not have been a lie...back in 1972. #2 We also did not weigh heavily enough the fact that a Juvenile Detention Facility was located nearby. Had we applied sufficient import to those two issues, we may have reconsidered. But this was Flowered Schmonson Hexpress! Surely we could trust the name and its newly renovated status!

We hopped out of the car, booked and paid for the room, then drove around the buildings looking for our overnight accommodation. Scary Motel Clue #3; when they place you waaaay in the back and on the bottom floor, it is probably so they can’t hear your screams.

Our non-smoking room smelled. But not of smoke. We were unable to identify the smell; it might have had something to do with the rotting tile in the bathroom; or perhaps with the dirt on the walls in the front area. We did not have time to think about it; we were already an hour late and still had about a half hour to go to get to the party. We were only going to sleep there, so we maneuvered around the streaky slime covered mirror to apply our makeup, freshened ourselves and got out on the road again. Not before I noted the staples located near the ceiling around the circumference of the room, however. I thought that maybe someone had a little birthday celebration in there and stapled up some festive, brightly colored streamers. Cousin #2 decided it had something to do with tarps, donkeys, and video cameras.

We couldn’t get out fast enough. But as I said, once we got to the party, we were able to forget about the room, spending a few wonderful hours with family.

Clue #4 when curious family members ask where you are staying, it is not a good sign when their skin becomes sallow, the back of their hand covers their mouth and they whisper; “Not Fayetteville!. In fact, before leaving, when we mentioned to the assemblage where we were staying, an uncomfortable quiet settled upon the room. Hindsight being what it is, I imagine they didn’t expect to ever see us again. Telephone numbers were exchanged, promises to respond to emergency calls were committed to.

We got back to the Hexpress at 10:30 pm. I neglected to mention that when we arrived, there were no cars in the parking lot, no doubt lulling us into a sense of security. When we returned, however, a few more guests had taken advantage of the chain’s hospitality. Like 30. All in the back where we were.

Couldn't help but see the fella who shared the room next to ours. He was a large gentleman who we can only assume had some voyeuristic tendencies, as his curtains were wide open exposing his ample man breasts as he watched television.

We ran into our room. Surely we’d be safe in there?

Not so safe as you would think. The extra lock on the door was broken. To ensure that the door fastened securely, I bravely ran outside to test. Our neighbor immediately pressed his cleavage against his window to locate the source of the action. Horrified, I began pounding on our door. Fortunately, screaming panic had not yet settled in before the girls frantically pulled me inside.

A closer examination suggested there was more DNA in that room than on an episode of CSI. We were glad we did not have a black light and luminol in our possession.

There was no cover on the bathroom light fixture, and our fertile minds suggested that a camera could easily be employed to the delight of cyber-creeps everywhere. Not saying it was, just saying we have very active imaginations. But who knows, some urine-phile may be watching me online right now.

We then found what may have been the origin of some of the smells in the room; when pulling back the covers on one bed, the sick stank of dirty feet filled the room. And just as we thought it couldn’t get any worse, a closer inspection of the sheets noted several varietals of hair. It was at that point that I think we all wanted to throw up.

We turned the heat on before bed, little knowing the level of anxiety that the sound of the fan would minimize. It got warm in the night and we shut the fan off. Immediately, a cacophony of noises and voices assailed us from nearby our room. “Baby! Baby! Don’t go! Baby!” a man pleaded in the night. Something seemed to hit the pavement outside our room. A car engine revved, tires squealed. Eventually, quiet settled on the night.

Yes. We stayed there. We wore lots of clothes, hoped that there were no bed bugs, prayed that we would not contract an STD or become a statistic. We made it through the night. Upon waking, Cousin #3, allergic to animal hair, announced that she was certain a creature or other had spent some time in the room since her lungs had filled up in the unmistakable way of the frighteningly allergic. This of course, gave credence to the tarp, donkey, video camera initiative suggested earlier.

In the cold light of day, we noticed that someone had scribbled “I want” on our front door. We told ourselves it had been scratched in before our stay, not during. There was also an unsettling amount of some sort of dried fluid on the pavement outside our room that could have come either from a long discarded cola, or blood, the amount of which suggested a head wound. We recalled the disturbing thud on our pavement in the middle of the night. We looked up. Man-Boobs was sprawled on his bed watching a Steven Segal movie.

We left. I’m home now. I have showered. I have no sores. But I am scarred. Oh yes. I am scarred.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Young Warriors of the Yang Clan

I started a new show. It is slightly reminiscent of the start of my journey over one year ago when I first viewed “Emperor of the Sea”. EotS was my first foray into the k-drama scene and I’ve been hooked ever since.

However, what I am watching now is not Korean. It’s Chinese. ""Young Warriors of the Yang Clan" (you can buy it at YesAsia) Drama-wiki’s synopis is brief and to the point: “This drama focuses on the earlier days of the legendary Yang Clan when most of them were not yet soldiers. It tells of how their parents, their enemies, and the women they loved shaped their characters, influenced their lives, and motivated them to become the patriotic warriors their clan is revered for.”

I’m not a big fan of Mandarin Drama. The subtitles flash across the screen too quickly and when coupled with a sub par translation, it makes for difficult watching. Additionally, I’m not a big fan of the kung-fu. My knowledge of the art is limited to young Gwasshoppah (Radames Pera ) trying to grab a pebble out of Master Po's (Keye Luke) hand - something made famous in the ABC television show from 1972. He also attempted to walk across rice paper without leaving a mark. I didn’t understand why walking on paper was so hard. Such were the musings of an 8 year old.

I have to say, I’m left pretty cold by the flying leaps and balancing on the edge of a sword stuff. I appreciate that culturally it’s a big deal; just doesn’t do it for me. I prefer the romance and the character driven stuff much more. And, there, Young Warriors is delivering. Of course, it sure doesn’t hurt that some of our protagonists are mighty attractive.

A basic good versus evil premise, with hot young bucks. (From what I can understand given the translation) they are sensitively written, the parents of the young men love their sons and are more emotionally in line with fathers of today than what I have seen in historical Mandarin drama. Loving their boys and showing vulnerability but trying to communicate strength to them. It's quite lovely the way it's shot too.

Of course, we have a Super Evil Bad Dude who is in love with the same woman that one of that one of our good guys, Hot Young Yang Buck is in love with. I hardly need to tell you that she loves Hot Young Yang Buck and despises Super Evil Bad Dude. But Girl gets sick with the "intoxication". “Intoxication” is a worms-in-the-blood disease that has infected everyone in town (they really should use the word infection...."Oh!" as still another Yang Brother spits up worms, "You have the intoxication!").

Girl gets sick with the intoxication, Super Evil Bad Dude slinks in to the barricade in fine ninja fashion, fights off Hot Young Yang Buck to bring the antidote to the woman he loves.

She HATES him! She will not take the medicine! She'd rather die! Bwahahahahaha - he informs her that Hot Young Yang Buck has the intoxication too! Good! cries Girl! They can die together! Super Evil Dude force feeds her the pill. Hot Young Yang Buck comes in! They fight! Super Evil Ninja Man jumps on a wall laughing "I will have her eventually!!" And explodes out a door! Girl is sorrowful because now she cannot die with her Hot Young Yang Buck lover, but Hot Young Yang Buck is touched and overjoyed that Super Evil loved Girl enough to give her the cure so now she can live. Before they cut to commercial his words were slightly reminiscent of that marvelous movie "Last of the Mohicans" - "You stay alive! No matter what occurs!" Didn't quite come out that way, but it's what I decided he was saying. Sigh.

And so the story goes. But like Emperor of the Sea, I’ve read the spoilers. I know how it ends. It's not good.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ahhhhh, Movie Line

I watched 'The African Queen' this afternoon. I just love that movie. It has some of my favorite lines ever:

"By the authority vested in me by Kaiser Wilhelm II, I now pronounce you man and wife proceed with the execution."

"Nature, Mr. Alnut, is what we are put on this earth to rise above." (favorite movie line ever, btw)

"I think I shall have to hang you twice."

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Debilitating Karaoke Injury

It's dangerous, is karaoke.

I went out Friday night (February 1). I'd had the worst day at work I had ever had in my life. And it started at 8:30 am.

My cousin, the Guest Blogger, encouraged me to go out with them that evening; Karaoke night up at the club. You need the company of people who love you, said she. People who will make you laugh and feel ok again. Well by 6:00 pm, I was really not up for it. I was tired. Just really tired and not feeling like being social let along singing in front of people. But I went. Determined not to have a good time. I looked at my watch, figured 10pm would be a good time to get the hell out and not seem too obnoxious.

I was also determined to stick to my "never mix alcohols again" rule:

After one dirty martini and 2 cosmopolitans, I had finally warmed up. Decided I could be social. Work was a think of the past. Ahhhhhhh.

We were having a ball. Lots of people were there, the mix of music was phenomenal. Getting up to sing Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody"? Fun. Fun with a capital F. "I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me...he's just a poor boy, from a poor family..." We head banged, people in the crowd were head banging. We all started dancing and jumping around.

That's when I suffered my debilitating karaoke injury. Something in the vicinity of my calf twirled, twitched, and flipped around in my leg. I Kept singing, stopped jumping. Pretty much stopped moving. Hobbled back to our table. The night was over for me, well, it really should have been anyway; it was 1am. A far cry from my goal of 10pm. But I had fun and I really needed to unwind that day.

I'm paying for it now. My companions paid for it the following day, because if you watched the above Jim Breuer clip, well, they invited tequila to the party last and they were all feeling it's effects. My leg wound will take longer to heal I think. I've iced it, elevated it, had some myo-facial voodoo worked on it, taken 800mg motrin (vestiges from the root canals and head injury of 2007). My physical therapist cousin, Starbuck does not seem to think its a ruptured achilles tendon, though I suppose if it doesn't heal, I'll be off to the doctor for an xray.

They've all recovered. I'm still hobbling around like an 84 year old man.

KDrama: My Sassy Girl

There is a dearth of English-subtitled Korean drama available to me right now. I was forced to watch a couple of movies. I found a lovely one. It's called "My Sassy Girl". My Sassy Girl (엽기적인 그녀; literally, That Bizarre Girl) is a 2001 South Korean romantic comedy that became a mega blockbuster in throughout East Asia drawing comparisons to Titanic. Or so Wikipedia would have me believe. The movie is based on an on-line serial written by Kim Ho-sik that detailed his relationship with his off-the-wall college girlfriend. This was eventually compiled into a best-selling book.

In short, regular college guy (Gyeon Woo played by Cha Tae hun) gets all mixed up with really crazy drunk girl (The Girl played by Jun Ji Hyun. Seriously, no character name is ever mentioned).

I was pretty disturbed and didn't identify at all with the girl in the beginning. We first meet her on a train completely wasted. Like alcohol poisoning wasted. She proceeds to rid herself of
her ramen all over an old man's head. Our hero does not find this attractive either, but he winds up being forced to take care of her in this state and so their relationship begins.

I'm really not sure what captivated me. Maybe it was Gyeon Woo's eventual gentle and endearing affection for the Girl. He came to understand her more completely than she understood herself. We know
the girl is flawed, we eventually find the cause and are sad for her. We ache as their fates do not seem to be made to be together.

As with most of the Korean movies and/or series I have seen, the sex was subdued. I have learned to appreciate the Korean character and soul through these glimpses. The ending was simple and sweet and I admit that I've gone back a few times to watch the ending again and I find myself tearing up each time. It's just quiet and happy and sweet.

Wikipedia also tells me that an American remake of the movie is to b
e released in the US some time in 2008. I'm looking forward to it. I remember watching The Lakehouse (an American remake of South Korea's Il Mare, also starring Jun Ji Hyun) and loving the American Keanu Reeves / Sandra Bullock version much more. But I found My Sassy Girl to be so charming that I don't know that any remake will be able to top it for me.

If you get a chance, watch it.

Little Lacie

I've written about Little Lacie of the Enormous brain a few times. Wanted to update and make a request.

Lacie had the first of her three surgeries on Friday, February 1. She's doing well! This is an incredible relief. I can't tell you all how thankful I am to God that Little Lacie of the Enormous Brain has gotten through the first of her three procedures. I can't tell you how thankful I am for this form of media so that John can just type updates, load 'em in, and we all know how our friend is doing.

Many have been privileged to read and be part of this tiny little woman's incredible journey. Out of her generosity, and let's face it, her need to make sense of this whole process, she let us in. I've known her for, I don't know, maybe 8 years and the way she has carried herself throughout has been an inspiration to me. Me, I'm too big a baby. I recently experienced a debilitating karaoke injury (I will write about this later) and do nothing but hobble around wincing at the pain in my calf. I have considered going to the doctor to try to get some oxycotin for the pain. Not sure if it's gonna fly.

Today's request/plea though is this: I want us to buy Lacie some wigs. She has resoundingly approved of this idea and fully intends to wear whatever we buy her. We can get some lovely things here at a very reasonable price, or you can be more conservative here, but slightly more expensive. While I may look for something in a Scully fashion, I might decide to pander to Lacie's geekier side and get The Matrix Twins Wig. :)

Here's what I would like you to do: if you want in, if you want to in some small way, help support this beautiful woman who has inspired and moved us, email me at I will coordinate the types of wigs so there is no duplication, tell you where to ship them to make sure they get to Lacie so she can smile and feel your love. If you can't afford a wig, which is cool, email me and I'll collect cards, letters, emails, and love for her and deliver them in a happy package to her door.

Cards and words of encouragement for her husband John would be a great idea too. I know what it's like to have a spouse in the hospital. I know what its like to carry the load at home, caring for the kids, working, rushing to the hospital, and worrying all the time.

Let's show Lacie and her family how much she has touched our lives, while she Lives Loves and Laughs.

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