Autumnal

We’re still a month away from the fall season, technically, but I can feel it coming.

Autumn is my favorite time of year. Colors changing, cooler air, a little rain, boots, sweaters, and pea coats. I can straighten my hair, since the humidity isn’t so bad. I can use the air conditioner less. I love driving around the east coast in the fall, all of the beautiful trees. The brisk weather. The apple cider.

I think that I love the fall so much because change is everywhere. The colors of the leaves, the air, the fruit, the food, the fashion. And I love it. I embrace it, even.

I like change. I like new beginnings. Maybe that’s why I am such a tumbleweed and move around so often. Maybe that’s who no place ever really feels 100% like home.

I’ve decided to embrace my inner tumbleweed. Life is too short. Let the wind take me where it may.

Embrace your inner tumbleweed.

Rededication

It feels like all of my time and energy goes to work, and hardly any time is put back into my writing.  If I were to hit the lottery some day, I would choose to write full time, but I feel like I could be doing more now to do what I love.  I’ve always been like my parents; I work hard, trying to earn my keep, and I put in more time than is probably necessary.  But it’s a part of how I was raised, and it’s a tough habit to break.  How do I reprogram my inner workaholic to prioritize my writing?

I need to get back to what I love.  Writing — in all forms — is what I want to do.  Guess I’d better make time for it then.

Let Men Be Gentlemen

So I’m boarding a plane, and thankfully I received an upgrade. As I go to situate myself in my seat, tossing my purse into the seat and preparing to put my roller bag into the overhead compartment, an older gentleman tells me to take my seat and he’ll take care of my bag.

I turned to the gentleman, smiled, and said, “thank you, but I’m capable.” I lifted my bag easily and took my seat.

Muttering to the other men in first class, he says women never let them be gentlemen anymore.

Yes, times have changed, but there is chivalry and then there is control. And maybe I’m just a little more sensitive on this point, but I don’t appreciate being told to sit down so that someone can do something for me. Why should I sit? Why should I cater to your “manly” ego?

Women appreciate chivalry to a point, and men appreciate independent women, but only to a point. Men appreciate knowing they don’t have a gold digger on their hands, but any ability a woman has that could best her man stands the chance of bruising his ego.

I appreciate chivalry, but only to a point. I appreciate the gestures. The door opening, the walking on the street side to protect, the pulling out of a chair. But I don’t need it, nor would I allow someone to use it to create the impression that chivalry is necessary to care for the weaker sex. Really, it’s in the approach.

Had the male flight attendant come up and asked me if he could help me with my bag, maybe I would have let him. Maybe I wouldn’t. But don’t tell me what to do and hide behind the guise of being a gentleman, and then subsequently get all your boys to chortle and chuckle at another one of those “feminist” types.

It’s not that I won’t allow you to be a gentleman. The truth is in the gesture. If you offered, you are a gentleman. If you tried to pay the check and she wouldn’t let you, or if she got to the door and opened it first, it doesn’t take away your intention. Why does it seem like these actions on a woman’s part are to be seen as emasculating?

I completely understand and applaud those gentlemen who step in and help those ladies who overpack their carry-on bags, who couldn’t lift them if they tried. Honestly, I’ve stepped in and helped those ladies too. Not because of my sex or chivalry, but because I felt it was the right thing to do. So I guess that means I’m not a gentleman.

To me, the question is really do you want the title of gentleman, or do you want to be recognized as one by your actions? Either way, I have no intention of feeling bad for being capable, strong, and independent. There are plenty of men out there who can appreciate that.

Days of Xanga

I first started blogging 11 years ago on Xanga.  I needed an outlet to handle my grief from my sister passing away, and the best way for me to deal with my feelings is to write about it.

One friend in particular has been with me the entire way — she was my first follower, understood what I was going through, and we’ve never lost contact.  Over brunch yesterday, we reminisced to our Xanga days, when we blogged daily and had a consistent following.  How much easier it was then, how blogging made so much sense.  Since then, we’ve both created new blogs, on multiple interfaces, but we’ve continued to follow each other, though our blogging is far less consistent.

The followers that we had weren’t in huge droves, but they were consistent.  They commented, they kept up with our daily lives, and we kept up with theirs.  We had true connections, rather than a bunch of strangers reading random lines and losing interest because there weren’t regular updates.

I want to get back to the Xanga days.  One thing that I can say is that daily blogging, even about random events or feelings, is that I had a sense of clarity.  I slept better.  Even if I didn’t go shouting from the rooftops all of my feelings and frustrations, they were on the page.  I had expressed myself, talked through it.  Maybe someone commented, maybe they didn’t.  Maybe someone could relate.  At the end of the day, it didn’t matter, because I’d dealt with whatever was going on and moved forward.  I slept better because I wasn’t going over the details repeatedly in my head.

I work hard at my job, but I’ve been neglecting my first love: writing.  I put so much time and effort into my work that I am too tired to write.  I use the excuse that I was brought up that way; trained and groomed to work hard and put my best foot forward.  But I think about what I would love to have time to do every day for the rest of my life, and it’s not work – it’s write.  If I want to do what I love to do, I guess I need to make more of an effort.  I can’t publish a book that’s never finished.

Time to renew the motivation, the commitment.  In doing so, my hope is that I’ll restore the connection with my readers (though not huge numbers) that I valued so much.  Time to return to writing.

Reminiscing

A little piece if my heart is still in México…

Bands competing for attention en el Zócalo. Families walking, couples kissing, wrapped in each other’s arms like they’d lose each other if they let go. Little kids toting balloons.

Breeze floating dry leaves. Street performers dancing to whistles and cheers, a drum line marches in.

Everyone is so relaxed. No one is rushing into the streets. Lazily sitting in benched in the shade or under big umbrellas enjoying crepes and churros. Strolling while eating an ice cream cone.

Es Puebla.

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Another Way of Life

I’ve been in Mexico for over a week, enjoying the sights and sounds of El Centro Historico de Puebla. It’s a gorgeous city with a slightly unnerving view of an active volcano. There’s no mistaking this thing for a mountain; the ribbon of smoke is clearly visible.

I’m here for a Spanish program, but I’m finding myself learning more than language. The culture here is palpable and embracing. The people are proud of their city, and they want to show it to you. The history, the churches, the art, the music, it resonates with me. Beautiful murals, graffiti art, and street vendors. The smells of grilled meat, car exhaust, and fresh crepes. Cobblestones, brick, slate, and marble; iron balconies with canvas awnings, and cabbies dodging in and out of traffic like they were trained in Manhattan.

But everyone is calm. No one is stressed about their jobs, their lives, or their circumstances. No one rushes down the street. People stroll. Couples walk around holding hands, or arm in arm, and they whisper while stealing kisses, unaware of anyone around them. Children tote balloons of their favorite cartoon characters, as they walk with their parents around the Zocalo.

Walking into any of the 300 iglesias around Puebla, there’s a sense of quiet reverence. Lit candles, people having confessional, others taking pictures of the ornate and elaborate ceilings and fixtures, gorgeous chandeliers, and quiet mass services. I even walked right in and witnessed a wedding on a Friday afternoon. It was different than others I’d witnessed in a Catholic church, but it was gorgeous. I could feel the nervous joy of the bride and groom, the amusement of their families, and the excitement of the children trying their hardest to keep still.

The music, almost competing from the four corners of the Zocalo, is rhythmic and romantic. The mariachis play, and then a drum line appears, and crowds gather in appreciation. It’s hard to decide which one you want to listen to. Hearing the different bands play at the time still sounds like music, and not just a bunch of noise. I have no idea how that works, but it does.

Street vendors, performers, and people handing out flyers. People sitting at patio tables under big umbrellas eating ice cream cones. Folks standing in line for street tacos. The scents of chocolate and mole sauce as you pass the closest restaurant. Museums standing open, waiting for you to come in.

It’s a lovely place. If you haven’t visited, you should.

Hotel Palacio San Leonardo

Zen Moments

The last few months have been complete craziness.

As much as I want to say I never think about those butterflies I used to feel in the past, I really can’t say it. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I’m not over it. I don’t think about it all the time, but once in a while it just hits me. Needless to say, I’ve made every attempt to find other outlets of fascination.

Work has been up and down; the question of relocating has been on my mind, but I’m not completely sold on moving just yet. As more and more work piles up, I’ve tried to quiet the worry in my mind and keep from stressing the little things and the things that are outside of my control.

I’m about to be a godmother… again. This time, I’m not as worried, because it’s my best friend’s son. I can’t wait to meet my little guy. He’s going to be so loved.

I’ve been reading books on meditation, and I already love my yoga. Taking mini moments to reflect and just breathe, when normally I would just blow up at someone, shows that something is working. Every day is a work in progress, a page in this chapter of my life.

If nothing else, I’m more comfortable with me, and I’m more open to whatever may come. Whether I’m reunited with butterflies or go in a completely different direction, I’m open to whatever may come, and I refuse to force the situation or bend to something that runs contrary to what I want or who I am.

One step, one breath, one page, one day at a time. Woosahhhhhh.

Flake-ish

Are you the dependable one or the flake?

I find that, oftentimes, I am bothered by even the idea that people will say they’re going to do something and then they don’t. Without notice, without a reason, without any consideration for your time. And it could be anything — meeting you for lunch, calling you, going on a trip. Don’t put me in a position where I’m waiting for you, and you don’t even have the courtesy to call.

Worse still, don’t call me at the EXACT minute you’re supposed to be somewhere to tell me you’re running 20 minutes late. You probably knew that 30 minutes ago. At this point, I already know you’re late.

I do my best to surround myself with like-minded people, but it takes time to weed out who I can rock with long term. If you can’t respect my time the way I respect yours, this friendship will be short-lived.

I guarantee it.

Post-Hurricane Musings

So, I’ve officially moved to New Orleans, and (in less than a week’s time) I have experienced my first hurricane.  If you talk to the locals, this one was “only” a Category 1, but it was pretty bad.  More rain than Katrina, the flooding back then was more due to the levee system failing.  This time, a whole town in Mississippi had to be evacuated for fear that a nearby dam would give way due to all the rain.  Lake Pontchartrain (here in Louisiana) overflowed.  How does a lake overflow??  Some folks are calling Hurricane Isaac “Katrina’s Husband.”  Let me just say, I’ll take Isaac any day — I just don’t want his wife to come a-calling.

I can’t imagine experiencing something 4 categories stronger than Isaac, but the actual hurricane itself wasn’t that scary.  The wind howled, which we expected.  The power went out, and there were feet of rain (that’s right, feet — not inches).  Even with all of the wind and rain, it was stiflingly hot.  We watched the wind pull away the awning from all of the covered parking for my co-worker’s Metairie condo building.  Torn to shreds.

Even still, the hurricane didn’t last as long as I thought it would.  Maybe that’s the misnomer of learning about weather systems by watching the news.  All I knew of hurricanes had been learned by watching Katrina and her aftermath.  Isaac sat over us in New Orleans for a full day, but we felt the winds long before he arrived.  It was like he announced his visit.

Longer than the hurricane itself was the power outage.  We were without power for 4 days, but many of my neighbors are still without power (now going on 6 days).  Some folks lost power before the hurricane even officially arrived.  Huge complaints about the main energy utility here in New Orleans — Entergy.  Once the hurricane was over, they dispatched some 10,000 workers to restore power to over 170,000 homes.  By the next day, less than 10,000 homes had restored power (I believe it was actually less than 5,000, but my facts are based on what we could glean from radio reports and Entergy’s tweets).

The president of Jefferson Parish took the strong stance of complaint against Entergy, making blunt accusations that Entergy just wasn’t getting the job done.   We were all driving around, taking photos and notifying Entergy of downed power lines — some of which were still live.  We were doing our part.  But we were seeing crews of 6 or more trucks, just parked and waiting.  Either they were waiting because they hadn’t been given orders, or they were waiting because they just didn’t feel like getting to the job at hand.  By the third day without power, Entergy had raised the amount of workers to 16,000.

When the amount of workers was increased, the biggest question in my mind was why they didn’t start with 16,000?  If each of them is going to have to work to restore power to over 10,000 homes, why not start there?  Why start at 10,000 and make promises of restored power, only to have to come back and say that people would have several more days to wait in the heat?  Mind you, each day without power, the weather grew hotter and more humid.  And many of us had not heard whether our water was safe or contaminated.

One thing I learned (that I hadn’t even considered before) is that everyone fills their tubs with water before a hurricane comes.  The water is used to flush the toilets if the water stops, can be boiled and is safer to use if the water in the pipes does get contaminated, etc.  In our venture to stay cool, we would drive around with the a/c, practically refugees in the local Whole Foods (one of the only grocery stores with power, where we could buy coffee and a warm meal).  While we waited for news about our power and the water, we went without showers.  We finally heard that the water was safe late into our third day, and we were forced to take freezing cold showers because the water heater was electric.  Mind you, the cold showers felt wonderful since it was so hot out, but the extremes from hot to cold were a big shock to the system.  Imagine taking a freezing cold shower and then stepping out of the water into 90 degree heat with 98% humidity, immediately breaking a sweat all over again.  Needless to say, I now have a cold.

If you ever find yourself caught in a hurricane situation, some essentials you might need (that I did not have on hand since my belongings hadn’t even made it to town yet) include:

  • batteries
  • unscented candles and holders
  • matches
  • battery-operated phone charger (apparently they’re cheap at Radio Shack)
  • a sturdy ice chest with wheels and a drainage spout
  • ice
  • bread
  • peanut butter
  • jelly
  • fruit
  • crackers
  • tons of water
  • multiple flashlights
  • fans (old school, accordion looking fans that you have to operate yourself… yes, i know it seems like expelling energy to cool yourself would only make you warmer, but it’s actually quite nice)
  • plenty of reading material and/or a craft project
  • wine (worked wonders for us)
  • a sleep aid (for when the wind starts really howling, it can be tough to sleep when you can feel the house shaking and hear things banging around outside)
  • a generator to keep your refrigerator running (only if you live in a place where the generator can be kept outside in a well-ventilated area… you can’t have one in an apartment or garage — think carbon monoxide poison and fire hazards).
  • shorts
  • mosquito repellent
  • camping chairs (sometimes it’s more comfortable to sit outside hours before or after the hurricane — at least you can feel a breeze, and they’ll continue to be handy to sit outside if there’s a prolonged power outage)
  • extra phone or laptop batteries
  • DVDs if you have a portable system (you will get a little stir crazy)

Some things you may need to do before a hurricane comes:

  • empty your freezer (everything will melt and make its way to your floor… it’s gross, it smells, and it will suck for anyone living below you)
  • fill your tub(s) with water
  • close your blinds/drapes
  • pay close attention to the news, as a late evacuation is possible
  • fill up your gas tank, since you could still have to leave town
  • put some money aside if/when you can for this purpose (hotels are pricey and they’ll charge a big premium for pets, you’ll probably want to buy food/ice and supplies whenever one is coming, and who knows what will happen during the storm)
  • water your plants
  • move planters and other items from outside and bring them in/put them in the garage (they will break/blow away)
  • have a bag packed in case you need to leave, make sure you know where your important documents are

There’s literally no way I would have thought to do/buy most of these things — this is all hindsight.  Even now, knowing that we’re in “hurricane season,” I’m not mentally ready to prepare for another one if it’s coming our way.  The scariest part is that I checked the NHC’s website (National Hurricane Center), and there are already three other tropical storm systems being monitored.  Doesn’t mean they’re coming anywhere near here, but it’s stressful just to think that we could have another one so soon.  I’m not ready, Isaac took what little money I had left after the movers took the rest, and half of my neighbors still don’t have power as it is.

I literally started work last Monday, and three hours later we were rushing out to get supplies and get situated.  Flooding and outages have been so bad that they closed my office until after Labor Day (thankful for paid leave).  Downed trees and debris are still everywhere.

Certainly glad to say I’m a survivor of a hurricane, but I’m hopeful that the rest of this season is pretty quiet.