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January 31, 2009

January wrap-up

Not only is it already the year 2009, which is right before the year TWENTY TEN (!!!), but it is also January 31st, which is practically almost February and I need to slow down and breathe or all the sudden it will be summer and I'll be wondering when my New Year's resolutions will start and why is another year gone already?

Because I think 2010 -- TWENTY TEN!!!! -- is going to be a really great year. That doesn't say much for the year we are currently in, year not-twenty-ten. Is it just me? Or does 2009 feel like a gap year, where there's so much housecleaning and hard work you have to do?

I am not sure why I am so fixated on this. Maybe it's because even though I have opted out of the recession there is still a part of me subconsciously soaking up the gloomy news about 2009? Or maybe it's because I know how busy and full this 2009 is because I have a calendar and eyesight and I am already tired from looking at it. It feels like I need an attitude adjustment but I don't even know where to start.

So I decided to vacuum. At 5 a.m. I love to vacuum, which probably makes me weird and perverted in ways I don't even want to acknowledge. But it's so fulfilling! You can actually see and feel and smell the difference as you're doing it. Taking vitamins and exercising are supposed to be fulfilling but you don't take your multivitamin and feel instantly better. And maybe you love the way you feel after exercising, but I just feel sweaty and in dire need of a bath. But vacuuming is like nerdy nirvana -- one minute you see the cat litter trailed onto the carpet and the next minute it's gone! Eradicated! Vanquished!

The floors aren't the only things I vacuum, either. I use all the attachments and I dust my keyboard, clean the slats in the wooden shutters, remove dust off the air vent in the hallway. Vacuuming feels like conquering, I can see my progress as I go.

There's something incredibly gratifying about having a clean house. It makes me feel like I have my domain under control, like I can at least count on getting one thing right, that knowing where all the pots and pans and shoes go and having things in their place is some kind of internal order which might one day spring forth and vomit into my daily life of disorder and chaos. Anyway, it's a good theory, achieving order by osmosis.

The biggest dilemma I seem to have right now is finding a way to be completely at ease (if that's even possible) with uncertainty. So many things are uncertain and aside from knowing where the shoes and pans and silverware go (and aside from my neurotic love of vacuuming), not much else feels very stable or permanent or real. So it's as if I have arrived at this big crossroads -- no, not a crossroads, that's too poetic. This is one of those huge freeway intersections with multiple on-ramps and off-ramps and detours and some road construction thrown in, and it's poorly marked and oh, it's also rush hour -- and my choices are:

1) Become completely panicked and freak out. Then make some random decision that has no basis at all in reason or meaning but is a DECISION. The Decider!
2) Find some way to be at peace with the knowledge that I am not sure which route to take and have no idea how I managed to find myself at this intersection. And just keep moving toward whatever seems better and hope it all works out OK.
3) Pull over on the side of the road and pray for wine.

I'm a naturally inclined optimist so I am going to select Choice #2 and hope it all works out, because it always seems to work out somehow. I just want to find that peace that lets a person be OK with not knowing, peace with uncertainty. In the past when I got all messy and chaotic and "how did I get here where the heck am I going?" I used to make decisions just to do anything at all, because doing something seemed like a plan, like action, like a solution. But all it meant was a change of scenery, usually, or a new boss or boyfriend or house or whatever, and it became just a method to distract me from driving the car of my life.

Sometimes instead of deciding some random thing on my own, I would stop and ask people for directions. I would actually let other people tell me what they thought about my life and what I should do. These were people I probably wouldn't take actual driving directions from! Funny. Sad. Thank God I stopped doing that.

So anyway. I'm not taking any real action, unless you include vacuuming. I'm not asking for opinions. I am not even sure where I am, except that it is the tail end of January, 2009 which feels a little murky and I know there is some stuff that needs to be worked out and I don't want to panic on the freeway. So to speak. I'm just trying to be still from time to time and listen.

Maybe the whole point of all this is to teach me how to be at ease with the rapidly moving current of uncertainty and instability which is commonly known as "real life." Maybe this is that time people talk about in their lives between where they used to be and where they are going. It's an in-between place. For me, I think that in-between place is 2009.

Just in case though, it still wouldn't hurt to pray for wine.

Posted by laurie at 12:23 PM

January 28, 2009

You can skip the dream analysis portion. It won't hurt my feelings.

First, if you are an American Airlines AAdvantage member and you haven't signed up for Netflix, which as you all know I have not because so many damn people insisted I sign up now! immediately! that I decided I would never sign up, anyway. If you want to get 3,000 frequent flier miles, sign up for the $8.99 subscription and you can cancel after a month. If you hold on for three months you get an additional 500 AAdvantage miles. But this offer is only good if you sign up before January 31, so there's just a few days left.

I did grudgingly sign up for Netflix because 3500 miles is a good deal for an $8.99 subscription, plus apparently you can watch some movies on your computer. I don't have a Netflix lifestyle, meaning that if I miraculously happen to have a blank two-hour time slot for a movie and I have a hankering to watch something, it is rare and requires instant gratification. (See: The Bodyguard.) But I finally broke down and signed up for Netflix mostly for the miles and because they have a good documentary section, some that are hard to find through On Demand or at Blockbuster. We'll see. My movie queue is all stuff about mountain climbing and the Holocaust, go figure.

- - - -

New Jersey just arrived, and he announced to the whole office, "I officially hate Los Angeles."

He was stuck in traffic because the eastbound 10 is closed down from a wrong-way driver accident. Those happen more than you'd imagine, although I swear I'd never heard of anyone driving the wrong way on the freeway until I moved out here.

"But it's sunny outside," I said. "And it's going to be 78 degrees today. In January. That should make you happy."

"I just spent two hours driving twelve miles."

"Sunny! Warm!"

It's a hard sell.

- - - -

One of the most boring things you can ever do is tell people about your dreams. I once dated a guy who did this all the time and it was really snooze-inspiring. So I am not the least bit offended if you skip this next part and go get a coffee instead.

In my dream night before last I was at the market with my mom and my friend Corey and we were walking out of the store to my Jeep and also, I was carrying my cat Sobakowa. Because it makes so much sense in a dream.

So then I noticed one of the flaps on the Jeep's soft-top was loose so I handed Soba to my mom to hold onto while I snapped down the canvas top. But she put the cat down on the ground and the cat walked off a bit and then some random girl who was walking out of the market grabbed MY CAT and took her. So of course I hollered and took off running after her. I caught up to the girl and her friend and now they were both sort of standing in some kind of line (???) and so I walked up to her and she had the cat hidden under her shirt. She was really blonde, like almost platinum blonde, and she was wearing a big plaid long-sleeved shirt that I knew concealed my cat. So I confronted her.

"Give me my damn cat. NOW."

"I don't have your cat," she said.

So then I grabbed her hair and I guess I had some monster dream-enhanced vice grip because I really had a hold on her, so she let go of my cat and I picked up Soba and walked back to the Jeep except now we were getting on an airplane, one of those small prop planes, but on the inside it kind of looked like my parents' motorhome. The people in the dream had kind of changed, too, and as we left and flew over the countryside it was so pretty, I noticed all the green pastures and the beautiful blue ocean and there were horses, one of the horses was bright blue with a white mane (yesterday at lunchtime I told this dream to Corey, because I am exceptionally boring as a friend, and she said, "Oh my God! You dreamed about My Little Pony!" and she thought this was very funny. Which serves me right for boring anyone with my dreams.)

So the plane was gliding along and then the pilot, who was a woman, decided to set it down on the side of a mountain but there was a tunnel just ahead and it sheared off the wings. Which she didn't seem the least bit worried about until the road we were on, hugging the side of a mountain, began to spiral uphill instead of downhill. And I knew we were going to crash majestically so I had to plot my way out of the airplane because I had to -- get this -- save my cat Sobakowa, who was still in this neverending crazyass dream.

And that's when I woke up to my alarm clock and noticed that the Sobakowa was laying on me and I was petting her and she was staring at me. Like somehow she controlled my mind and made it into my dreams. And it kind of freaked me out.

The point is, I am starting to be a little afraid of the Tortie. She's manipulating my thoughts! And also maybe I shouldn't eat Mexican food before bedtime.

The end.

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Posted by laurie at 9:29 AM

January 27, 2009

Birthday Bro

Today is my older brother Guy's birthday. This is a picture of us when we were little, during the finite window of time in which I was cuter than him:

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Later everything changed and I got braces and had my hair fried by perms and massive amounts of Sun-In, and he morphed into some golden god that all my junior high school girlfriends would swoon over while I made dramatic and loud barfing noises.

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The metamorphosis has begun.

The best story I have about my brother Guy was in the summer before eighth grade. School was just about to start and we had cheerleader practice every day at Acadian Elementary School and all of us soon-to-be-eighth-graders took it very seriously, with our herkies and clapping and hollering about touchdowns. It was very Important Work.

My family lived way out on the bayou back then and it was a pretty long drive to the school so sometimes (probably as punishment) my dad would make my older brother pick me up after cheerleading practice. He had this giant gold Monte Carlo that he loved and he spent long hours that summer working on his car with his buddies and they had all become brown as little raisins from being in the Louisiana sun all summer in just cutoffs, talking about radiators and gaskets and subwoofers.

One day at cheer practice we got done early and the whole squad sat on the front lawn waiting for all our rides to come get us, talking and gossiping and carrying on. Up drove my brother in his Monte Carlo, windows down, a tape by The Doors blaring from his stereo. A hush fell over the entire group of chatty gossipy cheerleaders, I looked at hem because OH MY GAWD YA'LL IT'S JUST MY STUPID BROTHER, but before I could say anything it dawned on me that every girl there thought my brother was the coolest human being to ever grace the face of the earth and he was in their presence. And the were awed.

So instead of faking barf noises like usual when ever my brother was near, I just got in the car all smooth-like, as if his unbelievable coolness could rub off on me by proximity and familial ties alone and he peeled off in a screech of tire rubber and gas fumes.

He didn't talk to me -- I wasn't cool enough -- but he just looked at me and laughed. He gunned it down the bayou road and turned the stereo up all the way. I remember that day as clear as if it happened yesterday: my brother all tan and lean and young, with his head out the window of his hot rod, singing along with Jim Morrison, "Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel..." Of course it helped that after that everyone at school thought I was unbelievably lucky (barf) to have Guy as my brother and could he take them home on the way, also?

And so he's kind of frozen in my mind that way. My brother, the Golden Teenage God, driving down that bayou with his head out the window with the sun on his face and wind rushing through his hair singing, "I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer... the future's uncertain but the end is always clear... let it roll, baby, roll..."

That's how I think of my brother, even though we spent most of our lives beating each other up with the blinding hate of a thousand fiery suns. There's nothing like an older brother to make your life a living hell one minute, and the next to make you the coolest kid in the entire eighth grade.

Happy Birthday, Guy!

Posted by laurie at 9:14 AM

January 26, 2009

This cat tells jokes.

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Posted by laurie at 10:06 AM

January 23, 2009

TGIF

I'm not sure how ALL my deadlines seem to converge at the same time but they always do. Must be a conspiracy to make me go crazy... oh! by the way, it's working!

When I am really overworked and tired and stressed out I do unique things such as put the remote control away in the refrigerator. Or my old tried and true -- getting into the shower with my socks still on. However, I can tell you who is NOT the least bit stressed out:

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The Sobakowa, who sleeps in a ray of sunlight with her little head on a giant pillow. Nothing under 1000 thread count sheets will do.

Speaking of animal farm pictures, my parents have been calling me trying to find out why I haven't commented on the cuteness they sent me via email why why WHY. But my email is broken and I have been too busy all week to spend seven hours on the phone with tech support to discover this new and exciting reason why I am locked out of my mail server, so all I know is there is something very important involving the puppy wearing a hoodie and if I don't see the pictures soon I might get excommunicated from my own family. No pressure!

- - -

Remember last week when an airplane landed in the FREAKING HUDSON RIVER? I was at work and I was in the elevator on the way to a meeting -- we have little TVs in the elevator which usually I think should be tuned to something happy like the Food Network -- but they show news all day and usually it's either talking heads blah blah blahing about politics or it's news of yet another financial collapse, sky is falling, etc. Of course the best times are when you're in the elevator with your boss or say the SVP of Compliance and you are both held captive in the elevator with the loud volume and the TV is playing an erectile dysfunction ad. Yup. Good times.

So anyway, I was in the elevator with a VP from Product and we're staring mutely at the TV when it both dawns on us that is an AIRPLANE sticking out of the RIVER. The next night I was watching the ABC World News because a PLANE was in the RIVER and I saw this woman:

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Ya'll, she and I went to high school together. I am not even lying. It's like that time I was watching that TV show "STUDS" and I saw a guy I worked with participating on the show, trying to be one of the STUDS.

Anyway I never knew her that well but as soon as I saw her face I realized two things. ONE: I was glad this person I hardly knew was still alive, and TWO: Some people have aged perhaps better than others and maybe I won't go to the reunion after all unless I discover a fountain of Botox in my backyard. Or win the lotto. Because rich trumps cute any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

- - -

While I have yet to discover the Botox fountain in my yard, or the money tree, you will be shocked and awed to know my poor orange tree which the old gardener Francisco used to prune down to the trunk every spring is now a hearty real live actual tree with green leaves and this year it has multiple (read: more than one) oranges! Real bonafide eatable oranges!

It is my greatest accomplishment to date and I had virtually nothing to do with it at all. And while I don't even like oranges that much but I have been going outside in the DARK of morning and picking one each day to take to work and I have bored all my coworkers silly with the rhapsodizing about my abundance of greenthumbery as I peel and eat my orange each day:

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- - -

One last thing...

On the way home from work a few days ago I got behind this behemoth truck with Alaska plates and a bumper sticker that made me laugh:

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The bumper sticker had been half-peeled off and the driver was a woman, so I couldn't help but wonder if maybe some previous owner had stuck it there and someone had tried to get it off, bumper stickers have a history of their own, I guess:

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I know it's hard to read in the picture but the sticker says, "MY CAR DRINKS JET FUEL AND EATS ASPHALT."

That is so 2008!

Posted by laurie at 9:02 AM

January 20, 2009

January 20th, 2009

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It was so exciting to see everyone at work crammed into the conference room watching the TV, watching the new President of the United States be sworn in, listening so intently to his inaugural speech.

And it was crazy and exhilarating to see people lining the streets and pouring into Washington D.C., hundreds of thousands of people really excited to be an American, I have never in my entire life watched that many people come together and shout out the President's name, over and over again like a mantra. I was astonished, really, because I can't even remember watching an inauguration before this one (except on TV later that night, as part of the news.) But this one I started watching as soon as I got up, I drove into work so I didn't miss a minute listening to it on the radio, and later we all watched it together at work and cheered.

Even if you didn't like the guy and didn't vote for him, I'd imagine you have to be amazed and surprised at how he's bringing people together to feel good about our country, even on a cold January day (well, cold in Washington D.C. I live in Los Angeles where summer started two weeks ago and people are wearing flip-flops and tank tops.)

Later, Corey and I met in the breakroom upstairs to eat our lunches and when were done, we got in the elevator to go back downstairs. The little TV screen in the elevator showed the new President and the new First Lady getting out of a limo for the traditional Presidential parade. So we rode the elevator down to the lobby and back -- three times -- so we could watch it on the TV. I can't imagine doing that for anyone else!

What an exciting day. So full of hope!

Posted by laurie at 1:39 PM

January 15, 2009

Gorgeosity

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Pretty little Frankie!

Posted by laurie at 11:05 AM

January 14, 2009

Three-hour tour

The bus ride into work today was completely fascinating. The 101 was backed up like nobody's business and so the bus driver got off the freeway somewhere around Sunset and within about 15 minutes it became clear to me that she was perhaps a little unsure of where exactly we were headed.

After passing the same furniture store on Western about three times, it was clear to everyone that the bus driver was really lost. I got to see all sorts of Los Angeles I'm not familiar with, such as beautiful historic Filipinotown. Did you know we had a historic Filipinotown? And that it is spelled that way on the sign, with an F? No? Neither did I! What a great thing to learn about my city! Although perhaps not at 7:30 a.m. while my boss and office and job reside in central downtown.

The really fascinating thing about the bus ride was how different people responded to the unscheduled sightseeing tour. Some people were just listening to their ipods and looking out the windows at parts of Los Angeles we don't often visit (I was in that category, along with four or five others.) One guy who was working frantically on his laptop seemed actually relieved and hunkered down with what appeared to be a pie chart.

But some people got kind of fearful and lost, you know the "Where are we going? Why is this happening? Where are we going?" folks. A few of them needed to talk it out with each other, come up with possible scenarios, try to guestimate where we were.

And some folks were downright nasty. Rude, belligerent, angry. You could tell when it started just with their body language and posture. I wasn't really freaked out by the three-hour-tour, the way I saw it at least the bus wasn't on fire and I figured as long as we were still in Southern California we were fine. If we started seeing signs for Bakersfield or Yuma, I would probably make a phone call. But those anxious angry people started making me a little anxious. It's funny how one dark cloud of a human can turn the mood in a room (or a bus.) Two women in particular just had a field day on the poor bus driver, who was already anxious and worried about being lost herself. The weirdest part was how one of the angry ladies seemed to just blow up with rage like she was feasting on it. I've been taking this bus for a long time and have seen her do that kind of thing before -- once about the parking and once about some other bus malfunction.

It's as if her default setting goes to HOT RAGE in an instant. She's probably in her early 60s, this lady, and I don't know anything about her other than I just avoid her whenever possible. But today I had plenty of time to see her in action. It made me feel kind of bad for her, because it sure sucks when your life is so tight that any detour sends you into rage -- Lord, I have been there -- and it made me glad that somehow I have managed to tone down the rage in my own life. I saw her and saw myself in her, I used to get so angry at just the smallest thing! I remember once about six or seven years ago practically instigating a riot over a parking spot at the Burbank cineplex. I'm not proud of that, I think back on it with some shame, but at least I managed to somehow someway deflate the rage out of my life so that these days it's no longer my default go-to emotion. Sometimes I still get angry but it's nowhere near the old intensity. It's like I'm not even the same person. Usually I don't even get really mad, just frustrated, and it passes so much faster.

Rage ages you. You can see it in this lady's face, in her whole demeanor. I tried to think back on the period in my life when I was angry all the time and pinpoint what caused it (listen, we had a LOT of time on the bus this morning for navel-gazing, ok?) and all I could figure out was that I was angry because my life felt out of control and that's how I reacted to my own chaos. I've gotten a lot of the crap out of my life and so maybe I'm just no longer so tightly wound up, always ready to break apart.

It feels so much better to be one of the people looking out the window and discovering Historic Filipinotown than to be one of the ragers, boiling up with anger at the slightest thing, yelling at the driver, making angry phone calls you want everyone on the bus to hear so we can all bear witness to your outrage.

And of course we made it to downtown and everyone lived and we were a little late, a lot late, but the world kept spinning on its axis. Just another day in Los Angeles.

Posted by laurie at 9:26 AM

January 12, 2009

Alex, I'll take "Opting out of the recession" for $200, please.

Isn't this pretty?

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I found it yesterday at Target on one of those jumbled end-of-aisle displays of clearance stuff. I love finding one little treasure, it was $2.49 of something so pretty and I put it in the cart even though it's not something I NEED. I have votive holders at home (and I don't light candles very often anyway) but then I decided in this new year I want to light candles more often, because everything is prettier in candlelight. I remembered that I already have a pack of beeswax tealights at home I have yet to use so I added the little glass candle holder to my basket and later when I got it home I was so happy with my purchase. It was small and non-essential, and I recognized it as both and made the decision that I wanted it, it was obviously not going to cause me dire financial hardship at under three bucks and it makes my coffee table pretty.

I'm glad I have finally figured out the difference between shopping for essentials and that other shopping -- out of boredom, sadness, anxiety, feeling unfulfilled, trying to buy a better life.

Last year I decided to stop buying all non-essentials for most of the year. I needed a break from consumerism. I wanted to build up my savings a little (and the best way to keep the money that comes in is to stop spending it on junk). I wanted to take a time out from spending, I wanted to keep my credit cards empty, I wanted to enjoy what I have instead of accumulating more stuff. It gave me time to think about my relationship with stuff in a whole new way. And then a few months into my no-spend, all the financial insanity started and I felt really glad I'd dropped out of shopping voluntarily.

I've done it before -- cut out all non-essential spending -- but back then it was because I was dead broke and barely able to pay the bills. I wanted to go on a spending moratorium again but I wanted it to be a choice, not a dire necessity or a punishment. Last year was good. I still bought gifts for other people, and went on a few vacations, and I did blip and buy two pairs of (non-essential) boots and a few sweaters at Christmastime. Oh, and I still bought books, I love books and I love supporting authors by paying for them. And without so much shopping I had a little more time for reading on the weekends. For the most part of 2008 I succeeded at my goal -- I opted out of consumerism for a while and I got used to spending less, making do with what I already have, enjoying and feeling happy about the stuff (and clothes and shoes and linens and on and on) that I already bought and paid for. I liked taking time to pare down only to what was essential. There's less stuff to clean and maintain and vacuum. There's less clutter. There's less waste.

Right now things are so weird. I work at a bank, and we get the dour financial news every day all day and of course this industry doesn't feel very secure anymore, anything could happen at anytime. Like everyone else, my 401(k) is now a 101(k). Nothing feels solid. The news gets grimmer every day -- more jobs lost, the Dow is down, on and on and on. And for a while I have been participating in it. I would read all the headlines and watch all the news and look at the market anxiously and then I started not sleeping again, which is just delightful.

And one day I arrived at work after yet another sleepless night and it dawned on me that I could turn off the news, stop reading the financial reports and I would have the exact same amount of influence on the economy and job security and the recession as I did the day before -- which is to say, none at all.

I decided to experiment. I stopped watching the news, just fast-forwarding on Tivo to see my Dallas Raines give the forecast. On the weekends I don't watch the news at all, just the weather channel if I need the outlook. I stopped waking up to KNX 1070 because for some reason I always woke up to 1) the financial report 2) the freeway report saying the 101 was closed and/or on fire or 3) a sad story about a dog. What a depressing way to start the day! So I changed the channel. I canceled all my email alerts from Bloomberg and Forbes and CNNMoney. I did all this and the only thing that changed in the world and the economy and in my life was that I felt a little less anxious. And since that was better than feeling crazypants, I just decided to opt out of the recession altogether.

So I am not participating in the recession! There, I have said it out loud. I'm not going to fixate on it and worry proactively about it and watch all the news and read all the in-depth coverage and so on. I am not going to wake up each day feeling worried about my job or worried about your job or worried about everyone else's jobs and worried about deflation and stagflation and staycations because my obsessive worry has NO EFFECT AT ALL on the outcome! How's that for crazy! Waste all that time and energy and have NO POWER to change it!

The economy doesn't call me each day to see how I feel about it. If I choose to think about something else, like green beans and herb gardening and vacuuming the house, the economy doesn't get worse. It doesn't get better either, in fact I have no control at all over any of this! All I can control is how I choose to see this whole thing. So I am choosing to opt out of all of it. Whatever's going to happen is going to happen whether I freak out or not.

So, no news, no financial reports or consumer indexes or quarterly outlooks. I'm going to dump the poverty mentality and just focus on being happy with what I have and grateful for everything that's going right. (There's a lot going right -- my parents are healthy, my cats are healthy, I have a place to live, I have a job, there is wine in the world.) I'm going to focus on what is in my realm of control -- prudent spending, saving what I can, keeping my paid-off Jeep well-maintained so I can keep it alive a little longer, staying healthy, keeping my thoughts tuned into good things so I can sleep at night.

I realize that this will have zero effect on the economy. It will make no difference at all in the outcome of anything, just like me sitting at home worrying and following the Dow and reading all the new Bloomberg unemployment forecasts had no effect on the outcome of anything. But things always turn around. I'm just going to concentrate on that, and think about the things that are already great. Like the weather, it's gorgeous outside today. And tea, I love tea. I'm going to make a big pitcher of tea tonight when I get home. And my candle-holder, which is so pretty and cost me less than a Starbucks coffee and made my whole living room sparkle:

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I know it's not logical, and that plenty of people will think I'm being an ostrich and burying my head in the sand and so on. And these same people will have long explanations defending their unhappiness, explaining why you have to be worried, why you have to obsess over the bad news. Why it matters that you pay attention and feel bad about something you cannot control.

But I'm not interested in it. I'm opting out of the recession! I love saying it, it feels great. I am not participating anymore! I don't plan on one minute more of useless anxiety and worry and the uncertainty. I am just going to be OK with the uncertainty. I keep telling myself that lots of things in life are uncertain but they usually work out fine. I tell myself, trust that things will always get better (they usually do) and focus on other stuff! So I think about planning an herb garden this spring. I think about trying to furminate the cats tonight. I think about re-arranging the living room. I think about visiting my folks in the spring.

It has the same exact impact on the economy as if I worried all night long: No impact at all.

But I already feel better. And herb gardening will be so much more fun than growing mutant zukes this year. I'm thinking basil, and cilantro and oregano. A whole backyard of basil! It's 2009. I think it can be a really good year, it's just all in how you look at it.

Posted by laurie at 9:43 AM

January 9, 2009

Thom Filicia, I love you. Earthquakes, not so much.

I want to marry Thom Filicia. He's the host of Dress My Nest, a TV show where he saves the day all superhero-like with his powers of color and lamp selection and pillows. He's so CUTE. And FUNNY. And as Faith and Charlie and Jane and Shannon and everyone else on the planet made a BIG FREAKING DEAL of telling me, he is also not likely to marry me, a ladyfriend. But I think they are wrong and I love him and want him to dress my nest.

What I do not love so much is the earthquakes. Last night I was splayed out on the sofa with a Frankie on my leg and a Soba on my feet and I felt this little rumble, like it could have been a big truck driving on my street. That kind of rumble. Only not so much.

I looked at my cats who are animals and according to urban legend are supposed to be the delicate and sensitive antennae of NATURE and there they were, asleep, Bob snoring lightly on the cat toy by the TV and the other two warming themselves upon my personal heating furnace (Frankie stretched out along my thigh and Soba curled up on top of my feet) all totally unaware. TOTALLY UNAWARE WE WERE EXPERIENCING THE EARTH SHAKING.

It felt like the world went drunk all at once, and I watched the wine in my wineglass start to move slowly from one side to the other. On the other side of the living room the big mirror on the wall was undulating. This was no heavy truck passing by for two minutes!! We were having an earthquake. I believed it to be official (later proved right -- it was a 5.0 south of San Bernardino, later downgraded to a 4.5, but we felt it all the way up here in the Valley.) The cats, however, were totally unimpressed and were in fact completely irritated when I disturbed their sleep and got off the couch and looked for a doorway. And a paper towel for the wine sloshing.

Poor things. I am so disruptive to their sleep cycle.

So we had an earthquake, AGAIN, and I am well and very tired of them and unless they plan on breaking my old big square TV so I can buy a new fine flat screen thing I wish they wouldn't even bother. I even set my old hugeass square TV on a rolling cart for more shake, rattle and roll when the "Big One" hits, but I am still firmly ensconced in non-HD territory over here. Why can't I be like normal people and upgrade? Why am I so insistent on waiting until that TV dies? People! It could live 27 more years!

Also all that stuff about animals having a sixth sense and knowing when earthquakes are coming may be applicable for YOUR animals, but for mine it is just total hogwash. You have never seen three more relaxed and overfed felines in your life. They snored and dreamed of Greenies as the earthquake rolled ever onward. We could have been thrown to the equator and they would have just been irritated for being jolted out of beauty sleep.

I bet Thom Filicia could have sensed it coming. I bet he could recommend an earthquake-proof design and a flat-screen TV. I BET HE COULD MAKE EARTHQUAKE PILLOWS.

I am just saying is all. Also, I need a vacation. Work is hard and stuff at home is undulating. Really people. Send wine.

Posted by laurie at 8:53 AM

January 6, 2009

Donde esta el coffee? Abajo el perro.

So I spent most of the New Year's holiday with this character:

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More specifically, I spent my New Year's Eve doing this:

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Truly, he was the best date I've had in years! You know I don't really ever talk about dating much on this website but maybe if I were writing another book, maybe, I would throw in a funny story or two. Or ten. Just because honestly some of the goofiest things that have ever happened to me happened in the company of strangers posing as datable men.

I did have an epiphany recently though, about how you have to be responsible for your own happiness and spend time and energy getting to know yourself and not pin your hopes and goals and dreams on some other poor unsuspecting human. Well, honestly, I figured out that part even a few years ago, but the epiphany addendum I had recently was that you must only spend time on other people who are responsible for their own happiness. It's awful being the source of someone's highs and lows, it's too much pressure having someone look to you each day to make them happy. Don't you agree?

Except animals, of course...

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That's my parents' dog, and he's so cute and goofy. I love animals. I sometimes used to worry I was one of those eccentric weirdos who like animals more than people and now I have just fully embraced it, because animals are happy. They make you laugh and studies say they lower your blood pressure (and then combine that with the wine studies that make you healthier and we're in business!)

My cats had a field day when I got home sniffing my clothes and making a big dramatic deal out of my socks and the shoes the dog had slobbered all over. Sometimes I look at my cats and I'm so surprised that these little strange creatures live in my house and eat and breathe and sleep (and do not forget poop, oh there is poop!) and we all cohabitate and they're so fluffy and different from each other. Anyone who says animals don't have personalities has never truly loved an animal.

My folks are just nuts about their little dog, and his personality is definitely spoiled rotten. I love how he perks his ears up when you say his name, and he knows words! Like "outside" and "go" and "eat." Dogs are so different from cats but equally happy-making.

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That's the cuteness right there.

Posted by laurie at 9:27 AM

January 2, 2009

The future's so bright, I gotta wear an Excel spreadsheet....

MONEY!! Spending! Debt! Foreclosures! Bankruptcy! Bailouts! The crash of the stock market! No matter where you turn, the economy is on every channel, every headline, it's the news that makes the news.

Um, it's not been really good news. It hasn't been exactly confidence-inspiring. People are freaked OUT. There aren't a lot of jokes. Well, I keep joking that my 401(k) is now a 101(k), and my dad says his IRA is an IOU these days. But they aren't funny jokes.

And as this new year starts and people find themselves staring at their finances (and the finances stare back) it's a good time to start exactly where you are. You're there, after all.

It's almost quaint and dorky now, my little resolution back in May to stop spending money on buying non-essential stuff. That was still long before the market tanked and before banks started closing their doors and before the $5/gallon gas, even. And now of course I thank my lucky stars I had the good sense to stop, drop and roll quarters before stuff started getting hairy. (Have I mentioned lately that I work in the banking industry?) By the time the world was getting intimate with the Fed Chairman, I was already used to basic cable and picking the longest line at the grocery checkout so I could peruse magazines without buying them.

Listen, I'm fortunate. I have my job and then there's the writing stuff and I'm not upside-down in a mortgage or staring at $35,000 in credit card debt like I was a few years ago. I remember after my divorce -- it was right in the middle of the real estate market explosion -- people would tell me all the time I was "wasting money" by renting a house, "throwing money away" by not buying.

"But I owe so much in debt," I would say. And folks would say you can still buy a house and home equity lines and blah blah blah. "Think of the tax write-off you'd get!"

"But even if I could get approved, I can't afford a down payment," I said.

"You can get a loan with no down payment!" How many times did I hear that in 2005, and 2006 and even in early 2007? And people would tell me all about 0% down and interest-only and so on and what a fool I was for renting a tiny ancient house in the valley when I could buy! Buy a house! It's a great investment!

I was so overwhelmed by credit-card debt at the time that the very idea of owing ONE MORE RED CENT made me want to hide under my bed with a bag of Oreos and a flask. I think about all those times when folks at work or friends of mine or co-workers

Posted by laurie at 3:29 PM

Happy New Year 2009!

Los Angeles is cold and shrouded today, a big thick blanket of heavy fog is just sitting on downtown and the valleys and it feels toasty inside and wintery out. New years start out one way and end another... but this one especially, I think. This year is starting out with fog (metaphorically, too) but by the end of 2009 we could be anywhere, most likely we'll all be someplace better than we are right now. It's kind of exciting to know anything at all could happen. It's kind of exciting to think the stock market might go back above 9000 or that the side-ponytail could come back in style or that California might go bankrupt and the Valley could secede not just from Los Angeles but the whole state and think of all the jokes we can tell about that one!

The beginning of a new year is exciting anyway just because it's such a nice way to mentally dump the old stuff that's broken and not working, and take on some new stuff that feels hopeful and possible. Usually at the end of the year I make a whole list of resolutions, I love them, I love lists. I waited until the year officially began this time around, mostly because I've been traveling and busy and visiting with my family and working and so it took me a while to find a stretch of uninterrupted time to just sit and think and write about my hopes and ideas and wants for the next year.

People are so funny about New Year's Resolutions. Some folks think they're laughable, some folks get really stressed out at the mention. Me, I just love goals and lists and thinking of changes to make. Goals aren't really what they used to be -- I used to check things off on a list and wonder why I was still so unfulfilled, so unhappy. Now my goals are just a way to move me through life, from here to there, and when I get "there" I already have new goals, new things to do and see and think about. Nothing ever really gets finished and thank God! Because it seems to be working -- I mean I'm still alive, still coming back for more, still making lists!

So this is my Big List For 2009. It seems to be largely cliche-based, which is funny since I do love a finely tuned platitude. I think 2008 was the year I learned that common sayings are common for a reason -- eventually they come true, they come to mean something real.

Big List of New Year's Resolutions 2009

1) Listen to my instincts. They're always right.
This is something I already knew of course, but in 2008 I got a whole new complex addendum to the "listen to your instincts" cliche. When you are faced with some kind of challenge in real life and you have to weigh your instinctual desire against the conflicting desires of others, you get an opportunity to know yourself real quicklike. One way or another.

There was that whole magazine incident back over the summer, where I felt myself getting cornered into something I was not at all comfortable with. And in the end if I had just listened to myself at the very beginning and not tried to please others, not tried to be The Good Girl, or be so polite, or be so focused on what others want I probably could have made than incident last a few short minutes instead of drag out mercilessly over the span of weeks. Lesson learned.

And later in the year it happened again, a situation where I should have listened to my instincts but I tried to talk myself into something. Dumb, really. I met a guy and just a few months into our relationship something happened that set off my radar. And I should have just listened to myself, just ended it right then and there. But maybe I liked the idea of the relationship, and I made some excuses for him ("We just have different styles of communication, I guess...") or maybe I thought I was being too hard on him. "You're not a very forgiving person," he said to me, when I confronted him about the incident. And of course when people are trying to talk you into something, especially by trying to guilt you into a thing, that's a dead give-away you should proceed with extreme expediency to the nearest available exit.

But did I listen immediately, trust myself without fail? Oh Lord. Would we be having this conversation if I did? No, I fell for it, I wanted to be such a Good Girl like usual, be a nice person, give him the benefit of the doubt. And as usual, my gut instinct was right on target and it was only a few more weeks before I wanted out so completely that I couldn't believe I had ignored my own instincts again.

It's not that dramatic of a thing, really, just some goofy thing with some guy. But had I ended it the moment it felt wrong, I sure could have saved us both a lot of trouble! Just like the magazine interview, just like so many other things that are too numerous to list all in one day. My instinct told me what to do and I ignored myself because ... why? To be pleasing? To be nice? So people would like me? So I wouldn't feel bad for saying no, or saying good-bye or saying what I wanted? That is INSANE.

What a pain in the ass all of these incidents were -- but they taught me everything I need to know about listening to myself. I have taken that class and now I am done, I do not want to repeat Remedial Instinct Listening 101 -- again. And so it's my job to listen to myself and follow my instincts and stop doubting myself. Which brings me to 2009 Resolution #2...

2) Ditch the doubt.
Drew keeps reminding me that doubt is about as useless an emotion as you can come by, because it just robs you of happiness. But I am so naturally skilled at doubting and worrying that it has taken me a long while to realize that perhaps I could do without it. Perhaps I should perfect some other skills, like yodeling or eye-shadow application. They'd be about as useful for life skills.

Whatever you end up doing -- or deciding, or choosing or making -- gets you to where you are and it's always where you're meant to be, somehow or another. So why spend time and energy doubting every single step along the path?

Instead of doubting my choices and ideas and instincts and decisions, in 2009 I'm going to just lean into my life and see what happens. When I start doubting my choices I've decided I will deliberately switch the topic in my mind, immediately and with great fervor. I know myself -- I can think thoughts so obsessively that they start thinking me! So I picked a little mental fantasy that I just love, and I decided every time I start doubting myself and my decisions and my words and my blah blah blah on and on and on... I will switch deliberately to my little mental fantasyland picture and stay there until my doubt seeps out and is replaced by something else. Or I will read a book or watch some really engrossing movie or go for a run or anything at all to change the channel of doubt and worry I can get on. This is the year I switch that channel off for good. I'm just so tired of preemptively worrying about things that never get solved from worry and doubt anyway. It's time to move on.

3) Financially: keep on keeping on with good choices!
Last year I made the decision to drop out of consumerism. I have had many periods in my life where I was so broke I just couldn't shop or spend -- you know when you're too broke to even window shop? That was me after my divorce! So in the years that followed my divorce I worked so hard to get out of debt that once I finally got out I decided I wanted to stay debt-free. Forever.

Last year in May I made the crazypants decision to buy no more nonessential stuff for the rest of the year (you can read about that here and a little more about it right here). I think I did pretty well, overall (and I'll write more about this another day next week, because finances are a big topic for everyone this year.) My goal for 2009 is to keep up with my new spend-less-buy-less habits. I would much rather save my money and spend it on travel and seeing the world than buy magazines and dishes and clock radios and doodads. I am hugely fortunate to have my job and my savings and my money choices in the past few years have been good ones. I'm really proud of myself -- I'm not perfect, there have been new shoes from time to time -- but for the most part I have really managed to stick with my spending moratorium and it feels great, it feels sustainable, it feels like the right thing to do for me.

4) TRAVEL!!
All the travel analysts and news sites claim that 2009 is going to be a great year for travel deals and I can already see how right on these predictions are. I search for travel deals like some people search for dates on match.com, and I can tell you that prices are down almost by half from where they were just six or eight months ago. If you do have the means, this is a good year to get going and see some new things. I want to try something new this year, something adventurous and who knows where I'll end up. I love traveling by myself -- it's so much fun to just do any old thing YOU want to do and not spend all that time focused on someone else's wants or needs or preferences or schedule or stomach or tastebuds or anything at all. I know there are folks out there who cannot imagine traveling alone. I used to be one, and now I cannot imagine why I waited so long to do it!

5) Focus on well-being, even if everything else gets pushed aside.
Last year I got very, very sick. It started in 2007, really, and by the end of my book tour I was so worn down and worn out that I started suspecting something might be amiss. I think I knew even then it was something more than just being tired or over-worked. It took almost an entire year to figure out what the issue was, and by the end of July of this past year I was sicker than I've ever been, and exhausted, and depressed and scared half to death I was falling apart. In late August I finally found out what the HELL was going on with my body and since I've made some changes to my lifestyle and my diet I've seen the craziest turnaround ever. I had felt so bad for so long I didn't even know what feeling good meant, and so when I started getting healthy again it was like the daylight arrived in what used to be a very dark and depressing room.

I don't share a lot of private stuff online (well, my whole divorce, but I was crazy then and no one was reading), and anyway my health situation wasn't something I wanted to talk about with anyone, even in my real life, and I had no intention of gabbing about it on the innernet. But now I feel so much better that I just want to keep it fresh and first (or fifth) on my New Year's List. I want to continue getting healthy, I want to appreciate the body I've got instead of fighting with it, I want to take care of myself and never let my own health and care come last again. I want to stay healthy and get healthier and be strong and well.

And I've learned that when something feels wrong with your body it's more important to address that challenge than anything else on your list. The commute, the job, the commitments, the bills, the housecleaning ... all of that stuff is just details, they're just topics. Your health is your gift to yourself. Everything falls into line when you're well. Even the crap that doesn't fall into line is easier to deal with when you're well! Every day I wake up and feel grateful that the light came on, that I found my way to feeling good, that I made the changes I had to make and am still doing it. I like this vantage point a whole lot better than the sick and sad one. I plan on staying well and getting even better.

- - -

So that's my list. I feel really optimistic about 2009, and of course you know I have lots of to-do lists and goals and little things, too, scribbled in my notebooks and on post-its and in binders of lists. My headstone will be a list, ya'll know it's true.

But I decided not to make 2009 about details and topics and logistics. For the most part I just want to focus on hope and health and prosperity (which means something new to me now, it doesn't come from a mall) and I want to lean into my life with a little trust that I'll do the right thing without so much time wasted on doubt and worry. In 2008 I learned that even if 100 things are going wrong you can still find one thing going right. And when I would think about the 100 screwed up things I would feel bad, and worried and anxious. But when I just thought about the one thing that's actually working, I would feel better. So I stopped making lists of what was broken and started making lists of what was working. It didn't fix the 100 broken things, but they seem a lot less urgent, a lot less scary.

Just find one thing that's going right and run with it, that's what 2009 will be for me.

Happy New Year!!!

Posted by laurie at 2:31 PM