Thursday, September 24, 2015

2005 - 2015: The Day I Moved To Chicago

I moved to Chicago on a rainy Sunday.  It was September 25, 2005.  Ten years ago, tomorrow.

8/24/05 - first day home after surgery
The 10 days prior to that date were filled with mixed emotions.  My surgeon had given me a clean bill of health and I was healing at a fast rate, most probably due to my age and the fact that I was in, otherwise, pretty great shape except for some clogged arteries. So I bid goodbye to my parents, which proved more difficult than usual because we all knew that I wouldn't just be a 2.5-hour drive away - I'd be living in a new city in a different time zone where I would know only my roommate Ashley and this new friend, Kevin.  Visiting my folks now would be more of a production and cost, but I vowed to come back for Thanksgiving that year, which I did.

My sister and brother had driven me back to DC on September 15th.  My 5-week ordeal was finally over and I could now return to my life, although my life would be far different than it had been.  I spent the next several days seeing friends for the first time in over a month and telling them all the stories about what I had experienced.  I showed my scars to those who asked and was amused at the amount of interest everyone seemed to take.  What I found really funny were the rumors that had developed.  Apparently, some folks heard that I had died.  Imagine their great relief (I hope) when they saw me again.

I was also shocked by how many people knew what happened.  It surprised me that I was more popular than I realized.  This was before Facebook, so sharing info en mass was tricky.  Either people really cared about me or they just love juicy gossip.  Perhaps, it was both, but knowing DC, it was the latter.

My recent-Ex had a housewarming party the following Sunday, so I went to see the old gang.  It was fun to hang out with them, but I had a strange sense that I had somehow outgrown them all in that short span of time.  Most likely, I was distancing myself from them, knowing I was moving.  I felt more like a spectator than a participant - a feeling I would keep for many weeks.

Unbeknownst to my family, I planned a quick trip to NYC to see friends before flying to Chicago (my mom would have freaked knowing I was going off by myself into a city of 8 millions strangers, so I thought it best to not share the news).  I met my friend Poodle and his boyfriend, Jeff at Chipotle for dinner.  It was important for me to see Poodle because I had forgotten to include him as one of the people my sister was supposed to update on my surgery when it was over.  Poodle heard about my heart attacks and bypasses after-the-fact, and was hurt that something could have happened to me and he would not have known. He had a point.  So I owed him a visit so that he could see I was fine.

Me and Bam Bam, 2005
I also met my friend, Broadway's Michael Hartney, whom I nicknamed Bam Bam.  We had been chatting on AOL for a few months and this was the right time to meet.  In Bam Bam, I found a kindred spirit who was up for ridiculous fun.  We ate crappy food (which I was still allowed to do in order to get my appetite back) and we had the very touristy excursions of visiting the top of the Empire State Building (in the rain) and toured Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum on 42nd Street.  After which, we went to a bar in Chelsea aptly named "The Bar", where I was reintroduced to what it was like to be social again.  It was all silly fun - and just what I needed.

I returned to DC and finished packing the truck that Ashley would drive to Chicago.  Well, actually Ashley and his friends packed the truck.  I still wasn't allowed to move anything heavy.  On the morning of September 25th, Ash and I stood in front of the house and reminisced fondly about the transformations we had lived through and the fun we just KNEW was waiting for us in our new city.  We hugged goodbye and headed to Chicago - he in a rental truck with all our belongings, and me in United Coach.

I was off into the unknown yet again: I didn't have a job lined up, I hadn't seen the apartment Ashley and I would be sharing, and I wasn't even sure how I would get my suitcase in the overhead compartment, seeing as how I still couldn't lift anything over my head.  But it all worked out.

Once I landed, I called Kevin, who was performing the last night of his family circus show in Evanston.  So I dropped off my suitcase and got on the L to go see him.  I went to a coffee shop across from the theater and called him.  Seconds later, a barefoot Kevin came running across a parking lot and greeted me with all the warmth I'd come to expect from him.  And I knew then that everything was going to be good again.

Us, 2005
Maybe more than any other day in my "2005-2015 Retrospective", September 25, 2005 was the day that really changed everything for me.  In a year that would create ripple effects for the rest of my life, this day is the one that has given me the most reward.  I left behind the old life and started a new one.  And I have never looked back.  Moving to DC in 1995 was a smart thing for me to do.  Leaving it and moving to Chicago in 2005 was even smarter.

And tomorrow, exactly 10 years later, I board another plane - this time to visit Europe for the first time with the man I have been lucky enough to spend the last 10 years with.  

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Dreaming Of Granny

Lately, oddly, my grandmother, "Granny" as I lovingly named her, has been on my mind, or should I say in my dreams.  For the past three nights I've had as many dreams about her.  This seems strange to me because the anniversary of her death was 3 months ago and her birthday isn't until December.  So it's not like she's on my mind right now.  But for some reason she is appearing to me in my dreams.  I love it because I love her, but it makes me wonder.

I tend to remember my dreams quite vividly, so let me share them with you:
In Dream #1, Granny was mostly just a bit player.  It was a disturbing dream in which Kevin and I got divorced.  It was originally my idea and he balked at the suggestion.  But some time passed and when I went back to him to tell him I had changed my mind, he said he'd had time to think about it and it was actually a good idea.  So I moved home and was greeted there by Granny.  She was wearing a plain, navy blouse, a navy blazer, and a long dark purple skirt - none of which I had ever seen her wear in life.  She gracefully descended a grand staircase and gave me a warm hug.
 In Dream #2, Granny played a much more prominent role.  I had decided to take her to see a movie.  I picked her up at her house and she was wearing a long, plain black dress with thin shoulder straps with a black lace shawl and a red rose in her white hair.  When we got to the theater, she asked for headphones to hear the movie, but then started talking to my mother on them which I knew was a sign of dementia of some kind.  When the movie started, she complained that she couldn't see, so I switched seats with her.  She then got up and opened a door in the theater that led to a mechanical closet.  I approached her and she said she was looking for the bathroom, so I walked her out to the hallway, which then turned into my old high school.  She started wandering off by herself and I got pulled away from her and couldn't get to her.  I watched her walk away and disappear around a corner.
In Dream #3, there was no color.  The dream seemed to be in sepia tone this time.  I was in her house with some friends.  One of them started speaking in German, and Granny, who's mother came to America from Germany when she was 3, started speaking in German as well.  Tears of happiness welled up in Granny's eyes as she spoke to my friend.  She then gave him a hug and I was filled with joy that she was happy.
These dreams have occurred the last three nights.  I'm lost as to their meaning, but I love that she is so present in my life, still to this day.  She was perhaps the first great loss of my life and her death rocked me for a long time.  If anyone out there understands dreams or is able to interpret these for me, please let me know.  Until then, I'll be seeing Granny in my dreams.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Moving To DC in 1995

Me, September 1995
It was exactly 20 years ago today - September 17, 1995 -  that I decided to finally grow up and be an adult.  On this day, two decades ago, I moved out of my parents' house for the last time and into my own apartment 150 miles away in Washington, DC.  I was 29 years old.  

I had spent the previous decade starting/quitting/restarting/graduating college, coming out to myself, working something like 21 jobs and living in almost as many apartments/dorms/houses over the years.  I'd spent most of the time with my two best friends, learning about myself and life in general.  There was a scientific belief, then, that gay people went through two pubescent periods:  the first in their teens as their bodies changed and they learned how to interact with each other, then again in their 20's having to unlearn the "straight way" and learn it all back over the "gay way".  There was a different set of rules to follow back then.  It's not like now where high schools have gay clubs and kids aren't waiting until their 20's to come out.  

It all started in June 1995.  I had moved in and out of my parents' house several times when life didn't work out, so I found myself living at home once again.  An old college buddy and I decided to spend a weekend in DC, running around to the bars and having the type of fun 29-year olds have.  We were walking down Connecticut Avenue and stopped in The Gap.  While we were in there shopping, my buddy had a revelation:  "Let's move here!  Let's get applications and jobs and move to DC together.  We can share an apartment and really do it!"  I was more spontaneous back then, so I agreed.  We asked for applications, tucked them in our shopping bags and went on our way.

A few weeks later, I learned through friends that my buddy had taken a job on a cruise ship without telling me.  He did these kinds of things.  Often.  And one night a few weeks later, I came home from a bad day at work and found The Gap application tucked away in a desk drawer.  I filled it out and mailed it in.  Two weeks later, I received a call from Tom, the District Manager for Gap in DC.  I drove to the store in Georgetown, had a great interview, and was offered an Assistant Manager position in the Connecticut Avenue store the next day.  It seemed impossible, but I decided to do it.  On my own.

After a frantic search with a considerably low budget, I found an English basement apartment on The Hill on Lincoln Square at 1310 Massachusetts Avenue, SE.  I moved in and started work the following day.  I remember there were times when I'd sit in my little, sparsely-furnished apartment and say to myself, "Wow, I'm doing it.  My rent is paid, my phone bill is paid, my car insurance is paid - I'm doing it.  All by myself, I am doing it."  It was incredibly empowering.  Oh, there were definitely times of struggle, like when I would order 2 for 1 large pizzas on Sunday night and make them last as my dinners for the entire week, or when I would walk 30 blocks home from work at night because $2.50 was too much to spend on Metro fare.  But I was too stubborn to let the city I loved defeat me.  Somehow, it always worked out.

I'd spend the next 10 years in DC, learning more about life and people, the ways of the world and how I fit into it.  I allowed myself to try just about everything and learn from the experience.  I would have wonderful moments like having a deep conversation with a complete stranger while sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at 2AM, and seeing the pink cherry blossoms color a gray dawn at the Tidal Basin, and shopping on an autumn Sunday at Eastern Market, and biking along the Potomac River through Georgetown, and walking through the streets of the city with thousands of others during the very first AIDSwalk – all things that could only be experienced in DC.

I would get involved in 3 relationships a
nd make a countless number of friends and acquaintances. Near the end of my time in DC, people would remember meeting me 10 years prior. I know it had just about everything to do with the fact that I have an interesting name, but to my vanity, I would like to think that I left some kind of lasting impression on them, as everyone I met had on me. 

Me, September 2005
It's funny now,  looking back, at how important all those people were to me and how I expected - no, KNEW - that we would always be close friends.  And now I never talk to them, not even to the two best friends I spent thousands of hours with.  It's funny/sad how important they were to me then, and how little I think of them now.  A precious few remain, though.  Life really does move on.

It was a full, 10 wonderful years in DC when I moved from there in 2005.  It would have been impossible for me to imagine then how life could get any better.  Little did I know.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Melmac Holiday Dish Set

Melmac Holiday Set
I've been on a quest for the past several years to find a complete or near-complete set of Melmac melamine dinnerware, specifically the Holiday collection (left) which combines the then-trendy-but-now-retro colors of red, turquoise, yellow and off-white.

Finding an entire, complete set is a task which is proving difficult if not impossible.  I've been outbid on eBay several times over the last few years.  But I will keep looking.  It's out there . . . somewhere.

There's still lots of Melmac out there.  And there's lots of stuff out there that LOOKS like Melmac, but isn't.  Aye, there's the rub.  Melmac is easy enough to identify because the manufacturer's name is written on the bottom of the plates, cups and bowls.  Easy enough to distinguish, if you think to flip the stuff over and check before you buy it.

Why Melmac?  I could pour over the wonderful history of vintage melamine dinnerware, how it got started, what it's worth and how difficult it is to find.  But this website has already done it for me, so I won't create the wheel.

But perhaps the biggest reason I am attracted to this specific dinnerware line is because my grandmother had this set of dishes when I was a kid.  When she died, I didn't want anything that belonged to her in  order to remember her, but in hindsight, I really wish I would have gotten those dishes.  My Uncle Tom was living with her when she died so he rightly assumed ownership of them, however I recently found out that he sold the whole set a few years ago.

So the quest continues.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

That Time I Saw Queen Elizabeth II

It was July 7, 1976.  I was 10.

My mother's older sister, Kay, and her family (husband Bill and son Jeff, who is my age) were visiting from California which, in those days, only happened once every 4 years.  And perhaps since it was also the Bicentennial, my grandmother chartered a tour bus to take everyone in the family to Washington, DC for the day.  My mom took my three siblings and me.  My dad had to work and couldn't (or probably wouldn't) take the day off.  I remember my mom telling me on the bus ride home that she missed him.  He was the only person, out of a busload of relatives, who did not go.

Anyway, I remember it being a really great day.  I recall driving into DC by way of the George Washington Parkway and seeing The Washington Monument suddenly appear in the distance through the trees.  It was magnificent.  Perhaps I told my 10-year old self, "I'm going to live here one day".  Or perhaps not.  In any event, I was struck by the city.

We visited all the sites: The Capitol, the Washington Monument, The White House, and The Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials.  But it was an experience that lasted just a few moments that I will remember my whole life.  Our bus was sitting outside the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue.  Back then, Penn Ave was a thru-street, not closed off as it is today.  Our bus driver came on the loudspeaker and told us all to go to the left side of the bus, that there was "something coming you will definitely want to see."

I was sitting in the front seats with my Aunt Mary Lou and looked out the window.  Immediately, a parade of cars lined up in front of the White House gates.  The car that stopped beside our bus was a black car with a glass roof.  And inside, looking up at our bus, sat Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip.  They sat for a few seconds as the White House gates opened.  She was wearing a light blue hat and matching coat/dress.  She smiled slightly, and I thought she was beautiful!  I fell in love instantly.

Then just as suddenly, she was gone - driven into the White House grounds to meet President and Mrs. Ford.  It was one of the most memorable experiences of my childhood, a memory that has stayed with me for almost 40 years.  I'll never forget her face and the awe I felt when we made eye contact for just a split second.

Today, I send my congratulations to The Queen on the day she becomes the longest reigning monarch in United Kingdom history.  Sixty-three years and 7 months, surpassing her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria's reign; a record which generations no doubt believed would last forever.

I hope Her Majesty continues in good health for many years to come.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Pink Slipped

So I am back in the job market again.   AGAIN.

Last month - and for the first time in my career - I got laid off from a job.  The agency in which I was working had been steadily declining during (and even before) the time I was there.  The most recent round of layoffs unfortunately included me.  It was a weird experience for me.  I've been on the other side of the table many times, having to terminate an employee for one reason or another.  And to be honest, I'm not sure which side of the table is more difficult.   Of course, nobody wants to hear that they are about to lose their job, but it's also pretty hard to tell someone that very same thing.

Over the years, I would guess I've terminated about a dozen or so people, which is thankfully a small number.  My strategy is typically to somehow convince people to quit before I have to fire them.  But I'll admit that I've actually gotten quite good at terminating employees.  I'm no Ryan Bingham, but I've adopted a technique that has worked well for me by making the termination conversation less about the employees losing their jobs and using it more as an opportunity to discuss their strengths in order to help them figure out what they should do next.  Using a 60-minute time frame as an example, if a termination conversation is an hour, the actual termination part is only 20 seconds of that hour with the rest of the time being devoted to rebuilding confidence and figuring out strengths and goals.  I've found that it helps restore hope.  And maybe the termination can be taken less personally.

Being an HR professional, I saw my layoff coming (I'd be a pretty pathetic HR professional if I couldn't spot a problem).  One of my duties in my discipline is to spot trouble before it escalates and gets out of hand.  I started putting 2 and 2 together about six weeks before the actual conversation date.  I even had a hunch what day it would take place.  The only thing I didn't know was who would be involved in the conversation.  I expected my direct supervisor.  I didn't expect the participation of the CEO.  Her presence threw me and was, frankly, unnecessary.  But the conversation ended up being pretty textbook.

Being laid off is just being fired through no fault of your own.  The company failed somehow and now you have to pay the price of that failure.  Whether laid-off or fired, the end result is still the same:  out of a job.

I am trying to convince myself, as is my husband, that this situation is in no way going to mirror that which happened in Miami.  My real fear of being unemployed isn't that we will experience financial difficulty, but rather MY unemployment will somehow prevent my husband from being able to pursue something he would otherwise want to do.  This is all crap, of course, but I can't help but think this way.  And one can ONLY think this way if you've gone through this situation.  The thing that is different this time as opposed to Miami is that there is movement now - lots of phone interviews and in-person interviews and interest, which I had none of in Florida.  So I at least feel better, more hopeful.

So I spend my days on LinkedIn, Indeed, NPO, TheLadders, and about 10 other HR sites.  I even stick my nose on Craigslist now and then.  And in-between I am assuaging my conscience by mowing the lawn, doing the laundry, cleaning the house, and doing the shopping and all the errands.

So if you know of anyone looking for a great HR person....

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The Problem With "The Walking Dead"

Kevin and I are BIG fans of "The Walking Dead" TV series (more he than I).  Every Sunday night during telecast, we are poised in front of the television, yelling at the characters, hiding behind pillows, and wondering who Carol is going to heartlessly kill next.

While slightly far-fetched, the producers of the show do an amazing job at making people and situations seem realistic, or at least within the realm of possibility.  It's highly possible that some kind of airborne virus could infect all of us, rendering us zombie-like.  But in TWD's quest for realism, I've noticed something about the characters that bothers me.

No one wears glasses.

By now in the series, those who had worn contact lenses are certain to have ditched them because it must be near impossible to stay stocked up on saline solution in a post-apocalyptic world.  I mean, if finding a can of peas is cause for celebration, locating a fresh bottle of Bausch & Lomb would cause downright euphoria.  So by now in the series, those with contacts would have undoubtedly switched to eyeglasses.

And when I say "no one wears glasses" I mean very few when compared to the real national average.  According to the Vision Impact Institute research, 3 our of 4 people in the U.S. have vision correction, and of those people, 71% wear glasses and 22% wear contacts.  When looking at the TV series character WIKI page, I counted only 9 of the 192 characters as wearing glasses.  Just 9, which is actually only 4.7% of 192.  And none of them are considered a main character or even crucial to any of the story lines.  There is a vast difference between 71% and 4.7%.  One would expect more than just 9 people to be wearing vision correction.

Milton, Woodbury weakling
Now, one could argue that perhaps people have lost their glasses while running, foraging, etc, which would certainly make those people easier targets for walkers since those with compromised eyesight would  be slowed significantly.  I would most likely be one of those people.  If I was out in the woods and my glasses would fall off my face, I'd pretty much be done for.  It's one of the reasons I'm not a big fan of camping.  The first time we see ANYONE on TWD wearing glasses is when the show arrives in Woodbury in Season 3, which is 19 episodes into the series.  No one up to that point is wearing glasses.

Remember Milton (left)?  He's the first character in the series with glasses we meet.  Apparently, there is a LensCrafters or something located in that town because almost half (4 out of the 9) of the series' bespectacled characters live in Woodbury.

I'm not really looking for an explanation; it's just something I noticed, probably since I am a glasses/contacts wearer.  This has only reinforced my belief that I would most assuredly die in a post-apocalyptic world, sooner than later.  I'll be running through the woods, a tree branch will whack me in the face and my glasses will fall into a leaf pile.  Or I'll step on them while rummaging for them.  Either way, I'm a zombie smorgasbord.

Sorry, bun.  Save yourself.