Friday, October 20, 2006

Golden Girls

I have been very busy at work this week....and the Nation has suffered. For the 3 or 4 of you who actually read this blog, my sincere and heartfelt apologies.

While we're talking about my work, let's talk about an aspect of my job that I have a love/hate relationship with: dealing with old women.

In an ideal world, all older women would be just like Sophia, Blanche, Rose and Dorothy. They would all live together in dusty pink and beige houses, making jokes about menopause, etc. - and they'd be generally happy about all of it. Full of life, full of fun. It should come as no surprise that not all old ladies operate in this manner in the real world.

As I've shared before, my role in fundraising is to solicit major gifts for the non-profit organization I represent. My dollar goal these days is generally between $10,000 and well above. When you get into this category of gifts, you begin to also deal with estate gifts - bequests in people's wills, etc. Enter now the old ladies.

The average woman in the United States outlives her husband by approximately 10 years. Walk into any retirement home and you will find a lot of women. And retirement homes are big business, and there are many different classes of retirement home. In my line of work I am occassionally asked to visit retirement homes - high end retirement homes full of very wealthy old ladies.

This week I was asked visit one of our city's most affluent retirement homes. The museum I work for has started a lecture series there in an effort to share the museum with its older patrons who are no longer as readily able to visit our campus. The whole thing is also a somewhat blatant plea for a mention in their will, to be honest.

The program was to feature a curator from our museum. He was told to present on whatever subject he desired - the only stipulation was that the presentation needed to be slides. The group preferred slide presentations because with the lights dimmed, it wouldn't be as obvious if some of them fell asleep. My job was to be there before the presentation for lunch with the resident who had coordinated the lecture series - Mary Jo.

Mary Jo called me on Monday, Tuesday and again on Wednesday morning to confirm that I would be to the home by 12:30 lunch. I confirmed all three times that yes, I would be there, and was looking forward to meeting her. Her response to this was, "Don't be late. I'll be starving at 12:30."

I arrived to the home at 12:15. As soon as the valet had taken my car (yes, this retirement home has a valet), a short woman with orange hair clad in a red suit with a gigantic silk white flower on her lapel swooped over and grabbed my hand. This was Mary Jo. "You're on time. That's good," was her greeting. As we walked in towards the dining room for lunch, I made small talk. Mary Jo was still holding my hand.

Me: " Well, this facility is really beautiful, Mary Jo. How long have you lived here?"
>> PAUSE <<
Mary Jo: "Have you seen that movie about Queen Elizabeth? The one with Cate Blanchett? I was just watching it in my apartment. It's wonderful."

To make an unbelievably long story short, lunch was not easy. Mary Jo had allotted 2 hours for she and I to eat. We started at 12:30, and the museum presentation was not to start until 2:30. And I can't even really tell you all of the topics that were covered in the conversation - there were just too many to recall. All I remember is that I said very little. Mary Jo talked about her three deceased ex-husbands, she talked about her gay son, she talked about the old woman across the dining room that she hated, she speculated about my age (she guessed 32; I am 29), pondered my single status and asked when I was going to get married. And as soon as I would finish eating whatever was on my plate, Mary Jo would snap her fingers and an attendant would bring something else for me- something else Mary Jo had chosen. Little of it was good. Chicken noodle soup, angel food cake with chocolate sauce, a Caesar salad with stale croutons, coffee, sweet iced tea, and a Sprite.

I can only hope that if I am lucky enough to live to 81, like Mary Jo, I will have a similar spunk. And maybe a little less to say.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Is that a wad of tissue in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

There's a crisp, cool edge to the air today, and a major blockage in my nose - two surefire signs that autumn has officially arrived.

I've got a cold. (sniff, snort)

Without fail, when the air temperature drops, my immune system follows suit. Combine this trend with stress factors such as a recent move to a new job, new surroundings, new schedule - it just all blocks my nasal passages right up. I am not someone who generally shows stress - meaning, the emotional signs of stress don't (generally) show on me the way they do in some people. Stress manifests itself physically with me.

Case in point: As I shared in my first Snake Nation blog entry, I am a classically trained singer and did a lot of performing in college and grad school. In undergrad I was generally fine, but by the time I got to grad school, the stress of an upcoming performance would manifest itself uniquely through my disgestive track. Mentally I was calm, cool and collected - but below the belt was quite another story. By the end of my two years of grad school, my pre-performance routine always included an embarassing trip to the bathroom. This was one of my first clues that the performer's life might not be for me.

Fortunately today I pretty much just get colds. But there is still a pretty significant embarassment level. When I get a cold, it's severe. Over the counter cold symptom treatments, like DayQuil - they do nothing for me. My colds are hearty and robust - and they won't be supressed until they've realized their full potential. A lot of sneezing goes on with my colds - and I have a big, borderline obnoxious sneeze. Days with a cold, for me, are spent snorting and blowing my nose - constantly - and sneezing - constantly. This morning I sat in a meeting with 4 other people around a boardroom table sneezing and snorting, and I know I was grossing them out; I was grossing myself out. And what do you say, "Sorry I'm gross and can't control all this stuff going on in my nose"...? There's nothing to say.

I have a wedding to go to tomorrow night, and needless to say I'm very concerned about making a sneezing scene in the middle of it. But, it is a wedding - so for once, the wad of tissue in my hand won't look so conspicuous.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Would you mind getting out of my space?

I don't really like MySpace. I have a profile, I sign
into it almost daily - but I don't really like it. I
have included multiple pictures of myself, toyed with
the page layout (it's currently purple) - I mean, I
put some effort into it. But I don't really like it

Friends from college got me hooked on MySpace
initially. We each made our profiles, searched for
other random names from college. But once we got over
those first moments of , "oh! did you see so-and-so's profile!!?", the thrill quickly faded. Nobody cares much anymore. I know I sure don't.

After a few months of MySpace involvement really all I am left with is this: contact with people I probably shouldn't be in contact with. That sounds bitchy, but let me elaborate. My best example of this is Melissa. Melissa is a girl - well, now woman - that I went to high school with. I haven not seen or spoken to Melissa in 11 years. She lives in the city I grew up in - a city I've also not lived in for 11 years. She found my profile in the "friends" section of another schoolmate of mine, Jill. Jill and I grew up together, in addition to going to high school together - so it would make sense that we would be "friends" on MySpace. But with Melissa it's somewhat different. Sure, she seemed like a nice enough person. But I wouldn't know that for sure. In fact, I actually can't remember Melissa's last name. I had one class with her, 10th grade U.S. History. In 11th grade Melissa got pregnant and dropped out of high school - thus putting an end to the part of our life paths that would cross.

Until MySpace.

Anyone who has been a MySpace member is familiar with the awkward and occasional "friend invite" from someone you don't know very well. They are an acquaintance, at best. But you "know" them just well enough that it would feel rude to "deny" their invitation. So, you
add them to your "friends" list. And usually it's left at that - their profile lingers in your
"friends" area, your profile is in theirs, but you never actually communicate. But again, with Melissa it's different. Almost weekly I get a message from Melissa that usually goes something like this: "HEY GIRL!! HOPE YOUR DOING GOOD UP THERE! WRITE SOON!!"
Sometimes it will go a little deeper, more along the lines of: "HEY GIRL!! ARE YOU COMING TO TO TOWN SOON? LET'S CATCH UP!! WRITE SOON!!" These messages are pretty
much always in ALL CAPS and with multiple exclamation marks, so I envision her - as she looked in high school - yelling these comments in my face. But I'm a total pushover and always write back some equally meaningless response like: "Hi Melissa! I'm doing well. Not sure when I'll be visiting - I'll let you know. Take care!" And mind you, at no other moment in
my life would I sign an email "Take care!". Nor would I end it with an exclamation point. Only with Melissa.

I imagine I'll hang in there with My Space for a little while longer. Maybe I can reconnect with Sarah - the girl I shared a gym locker with in 8th grade.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


Seems like just yesterday it was a hot n'sweaty summer afternoon in August. Next thing you know, it's a hot n'sweaty pseudo-fall afternoon in October and time to start considering all that lies before us with the arrival of the Halloween season.

I love Halloween, and I haven't outgrown any of the trappings of the holiday. Once a year it's totally acceptable for people to put gigantic, garish displays in their homes and yards. Well, people do this at Christmas too - but it's different. With Halloween, at least where I grew up, it was anything goes. The word "tasteless" found its true meaning in the month of October. I remember my aunt and uncle putting an elaborate faux cemetery in their front yard, complete with the token plastic foot or hand reaching up from at least one of the graves. Headstones were made out of styrofoam and personalized with black markers. Year after year my Uncle Fred put the same thing on his: "Fred is Dead."

Now, as a single gal living in a condo, I'm not really able to unleash the tacky Halloween decorator that lives within me the way I might like to. The only place I might be able to make any sort of display would be my office. And I can't do that. I'm not in a work environment that lends itself to a cackling witch recording going off every time someone walks through my office door. But I absolutely have to decorate a little. I will probably end up buying a sophisticated fall trinket of some kind to sit on the edge of my desk. Maybe from Pier One. Or Michaels. Maybe a boring basket of mini pumpkins, or something. I would, however, much prefer this.