Monthly Archives: September 2011

funhouse receives wrong mirror shipment, house of horrors missing reflections


ok, fine. i have to get in here and write something before the amount of aggravation in my bloodstream overwhelms my sarcasm gland. today is one of the ones where people keep expecting me to deliver things i’ve promised and meet deadlines who clearly have plenty of friends already, as evidenced by how well others meet with them on a regular schedule.

i’m also having a very passive-aggressive day with my various forms of electronica. i’ve been taking things very personally…like slow response times from my laptop and its inability to prevent all operator errors and/or to stop the release of curse words embedded in various programs designed to frustrate me. i’m wasting precious time trying unsuccessfully to concoct a plan to hurt my computer’s feelings the way it’s hurt me today. i’m accepting all suggestions, short of the Office Space stomp.

in other words, i’m cranky and it’s obviously someone else’s fault. i started out ok this morning, but so far i haven’t been able to pull together the perfect, flowing work day that then translates into the perfect, flowing week-long routine, or the perfect, flowing lifestyle of grace and fitness, comfort and ease. what the hell is wrong with me??? i’ve had 4 whole months since my divorce, a good 20 years of adulthood, 2.5 years of motherhood…certainly no interruptions, life changes or setbacks to speak of…why aren’t i and all my days perfect and exactly how i want them to be? ARG!

breathe, breathe. am i alone on this one? how am i suppose to succeed without keeping myself to impossible standards? i look around my world, and for many folks, they don’t seem like impossible standards at all. i see them everywhere…people who are happy, fit, balanced, hardworking, successful, kind, nurturing, magnanimous, consistent, on time…these people volunteer, love the outdoors, train for marathons, raise special-needs quads, work on their third masters degrees, publish short stories and academic papers in their off-time, remember everyone’s birthday and still send christmas cards in november, right after daily yoga and at least an hour of meditation.

but see…here’s the thing…i know better, intellectually speaking. i just need to feel it. so i’m spending a lot of time today trying to be happy with my imperfect performance in this life. i’m trying to take my own advice, and to stop looking at myself through the funhouse mirror of losers in my head. i’m here blowing off some perfectionist steam so i can stop blaming everyone and everything else for all the reasons i’m not happy, fit, balanced, hardworking, successful, kind, nurturing, magnanimous, consistent, on time….all the time.

shake it off, trish. we can fail at things and not be failures. we will always fail at things, so i really, really need that to be true. i’m in a giant hall of funhouse mirrors today and i’m ready to get to the funny-looking reflections instead of these creepy portraits of self-loathing. ok, self-loathing is a bit strong…most of the time. the funny thing about negative feelings, self-images, grieving, fear and pain is that no matter how much we intellectually understand their role in the human experience, they still suck at the time. even this little aggravating, sneaky hate spiral kind of thursday morning stuff.

breathe, breathe. laugh, laugh….(i’d seen this some time ago, but was reminded yesterday of its brilliance…thank you best friend and the Universe…you knew i would need this today):


“it takes a genius to whine appealingly” (F.Scott Fitzgerald)…my brilliance explained


my daydreams are partying in back of my head like kathie lee and hoda…like i left the dream TV on after watching some important stuff with coffee. now as i start work and a fresh day, all i can hear is them jabbering away back there, laughing and drinking away the a.m. hours. they act like i’ve nothing more pressing to do than think about travel destinations, sample world wines and talk in perfectly reasonable tones about doing the mediterranean on a budget. (whose budget?)

so this scowly american working girl sits here on a couch, heming and hawing at her calendar, distracted, sitting far from the imaginary studio audience now oohing and awing at all things leisure. she glances up from lists and emails, staring longingly at the daydream screen and the villas showcased in her favorite romantic writing towns. she drifts momentarily into the smokey, swirly vision of herself, pen (or laptop) in hand, staring out of an ages old window onto a lush, rocky, watery greek landscape. she’s got a pair of traveling pants from a soul sister somewhere in her suitcase, a tow-headed angel giggling in latin with cute little black-haired children in the tiny yard behind the apartment she’s rented, her inamorato in the kitchenette heating water for rich, foreign coffee beans….

…and back here in the states (real and mental), she’s got a Blackberry reminding her she has a full time job to do today, insurance companies to call, brakes to budget for and a two-year old whiner where a winery would be in the daydream version of mommyhood. that scowly american working girl is me, with a pain in my neck, a pain in the attitude, and a leak in the “fuel for stuff i don’t wanna do” tank. actually, it sounds like i’ve got a 39 year-old whiner whose tone could easily be corrected by the proper placement of a winery in her real life. (…and back to fantasy land i go….)

sigh. so i’m trying to shake the I Must Have Nothing To Do Today Show images out of my head and replace them with visions of real responsibilities met, boxes checked, plans made, ambitions forwarded. i’m trying to pull my head away from a frantic search for shortcuts. i’m trying to do it with less whine, and without resorting to morning wine. yeah.

it’s all about hard work, trish, even for action figures. that’s right. that’s what gets the early worms, the spoils and the right to use righteous quotes about working hard. i suppose that an end vision of leisure and sloth is not exactly the motivation one needs to slog through the lean years. i suppose that vision won’t win me any admiration awards. no one exalts a life of sloth in memorable, oft-quoted eulogies. i suppose i could call my loftier purpose a goal, and my villa in greece a daydream…and i can imagine that if i do enough good and difficult things, i will catch glimpses of that mediterranean view from time to time in my life. i really do admire people who find their passion and work at it until they die…who work to affect something, learn something, teach something, give something…i sometimes daydream that i will do all of those things.

but not today. today i need a mute button and some gratitude for the chance to work at all…(grumble, grumble)….mimosa anyone?

banner air-conditioner harvest this year…the almanac says it’s almost time!


well, i played like a rockstar and ended up driving last Wednesday in nighttime rain and fog and glare and not much traffic at all. i did just fine. turns out that working my procrastination muscles pumped up my eye muscles until no strain or weather could stop me! i forget the power of procrastination sometimes…its mysteries are endless.

the neighborhood in Portsmouth, VA where i stayed was way sketchier than any road i took to get there. this whole gig quickly began to feel like an indie movie or stephen king novel…for so many different reasons.

i stayed in a historic Olde Towne Portsmouth hotel, right at the intersection of High street and Heroin road, down a couple of blocks from Hooker’s Corner, the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, and the oft-photographed, colonial era Going-Out-of-Business district, according to my in-room tourist map. i arrived late night, dragging luggage and expensive equipment from my rental car in the alley behind the hotel, over the broken glass and gravel path, onto a single patch of concrete sidewalk, through the front doors, up the stairs (with desk guy blandly watching my struggle the whole time), across the baroque Lobby of Grandeur, all the way up the elevators to my 3rd floor room with a view and a broken deadbolt. comforting.

i wedged my suitcase under the door handle and strolled over to the two curtained windows overlooking the steeples and historic brick apartment buildings of Portsmouth. The floodlight outside the window next to my bed made it a little tough to see the night skyline, but really illuminated the beauty of the rooftop air conditioner garden planted in tidy rows, already waist high at the end of a hot, damp summer. i could tell it was recently watered and well-tended…each row of equipment with its own irrigation pond. it’s clearly been a fruitful year for the air conditioner growers in the tidewater area.

as i added up the odd details of this little American locale, i felt more and more removed from the eastern seaboard i’ve come to know and closer to the strange new england towns that so often open odd, foggy, quirky tales of horror and intrigue. there was little i could do but laugh and start taking notes. for all my best intentions heading down south with workout clothes, there was no gym at the hotel…drat! (yay!). despite all the words i planned on posting, the internet was down, always reported by the front desk as “up in a few more hours.” power surge? empty promise? a cover for false advertising?

just for effect, there was an almost complete lack of cel phone coverage in my DeadZone of a room. i had better contact with the mainland when i was in Japan than in this hazy little harbor town. then there was the 350lb half-naked, cigarette-smoking, staring man hanging out of a 5th floor apartment window across the rusty way, the young morning desk clerk with her proud 4-toothed smile, the dusty fake plants in my room that coordinated nicely with the maroon, light-blue and gold bedspread from a 1985 overstock sale, the randomly selected bathroom amenities like shower gel and conditioner (but no soap or shampoo), the booklet in my room featuring ads for a hotel restaurant that no longer exists (or that perhaps is only visible through the eyes of the criminally insane)….the fact that one of my students reminded me of Brick Tamlin but with less humorous non-sequiturs…the ice-spitting air conditioners in the conference room taking aim at students and expensive laptops…i’m sure there’s more that will make it into my novels and novelties one day.

but i want to be clear that i’m not complaining. i didn’t get any Hilton Honors points for this stay, but it made Portsmouth far more interesting to my quirk-seeking eyes than a free USA Today or Crabtree & Evelyn soaps ever could. i’ve stayed in worse, even when worse just means boring. i can easily say i was less impressed by the hotel room i booked in the parking lot of an outlet shopping mall in Charleston, NC, even with its free hot-breakfast buffet and immediate access to chick-fil-a and lightly discounted lucky brand jeans.

of course, as always, the people i taught and who hosted my stay down there helped make the whole thing terribly delightful and funny. we quickly established a sarcastic rapport, found a beir garten to wash down some hilarious observations after class, and stumbled to the perfect spot to watch my saints lose their NFL opener. on day two, we all laughed heartily, after grinding our teeth a bit, when the lunch cafe we frequented began a brick-drilling project during our final meal together. in two days this group of 9 already had inside jokes enough to call us a clique (a funny one, not a bitchy one).

so once again for me, it’s the interesting, the unusual, the out of place, the unexpected, the unnatural, the unanticipated, that make the colors and scents and sensations of a place mark a spot in my memory, my heart. there is romance in crappy maid service, hilarity in irregularity, a story in every strange character’s face…especially the ones who don’t wear chain-brand name tags, the ones still holding on to more glorious times, the ones without much to lose who will converse with a traveler and give her a taste of this beautiful patchwork of people, perspectives and purpose…the taste of portsmouths and pittsburgs and point lomas and patuxents…a proper portion of all places, each perfect with imperfect personality.

my travelin’ bone is tired, but resting comfortably, next to my alliteration bone…they will both be up for more itchin’ and walkin’ and talkin’ in a few short weeks. san diego, here i come, boring and bland be gone!

i’m squinting over a four-leaf clover…of brake lights and rain glare…man i’m gettin’ older


my night vision, at least in rain like we have here on the east coast right now, is getting crappy. i’m actually taking eye strain and safety into account in decisions about my potential departure time today. i’ll be driving, probably three hours or so. on the route i’m traveling, the length of time it takes depends largely on factors that involve traffic…rush hours, rain volume, tractor trailer stability, mercury’s position, sun glare and/or extra-interesting tire-changing displays can make the traffic here into tremendous traffic. so i want to miss said traffic as much as possible, which is easier to do at night than in the afternoon. i’d also love to see my daughter one more time before i leave. but then…(big sigh)…i catch myself concerned, ticking off the safety checks in my head, the tirednesses in my brain…i tell myself i have to work early in the morning tomorrow, there could be night construction traffic too, seeing my daughter would probably upset us more than comfort…but really, if i’m honest, i just don’t feel like driving with my crappy wet-road night-vision the whole time.

i’ve driven some incalculable number of miles, in every conceivable driving condition, beautiful and extreme. i’ve ridden shotgun for as many miles as that. i’ve put more than 300,000 miles on the cars i’ve actually ow(n)ed. lord knows how many on some rentals and friends’ cars. and then there were my parents’ cars. surprise, mom and dad! except that i’m sure you noticed the odometer, didn’t you? i thought i was so slick. you’d think after the 45th play of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, it might have occurred to me that my parents probably noticed i’d driven 60 miles when i said 6. but i was so much smarter than everyone. mind meld, mind meld.

so at 39 my driving habits are changing. i’ve slowed down a little, mellowed out quite a bit, and cut down on risk-taking a LOT (at least on purpose). that’s all happened in the last couple of years, corresponding predictably with the insertion of another legal liability in the vehicle. that whole “baby on board” thing has some merit…not the little signs…but for the driver and new mom, it does feel a little weightier emotionally to chance a risky right on red. so yeah, i still wish i was driving a station wagon-cloaked indy car sometimes…but that’s what those rentals are for…hehe.

that’s what those rentals were for…until i noticed how much i can’t freakin’ see if it’s raining at night. it’s real. damn. my whole body wants to delete this post, deny this entire observation. i can say i like getting older as much as i want, but i can see (though it’s blurry), that some of it will suck. i can make it suck hilariously at least. and i can look at the bright side of everything right through some cataracts if i have to. i can take it with grace and make things easier on myself, make choices that mean i don’t have to push and push, just because i can…until i can’t. if i sit here writing this post instead of getting ready to go, i will be forced to test my residual rain driving skills and vision. the real test then, of my concern and of the death of my prideful obstinance, is how much more i write.

one, two…feel the burn…this coffee’s hot and my travel mug was not designed for aerobics


here i am! head swirling, eyes tearing, coffee soothing…it’s tuesday! hmmm. this morning starts strangely, but in one happy development, i’m here tap-tap-typing away. i’d had some silly action figure idea that i’d be able to post regularly from the road…and, “hey AFT, throw your workout shoes in that travel bag while yer at it, and start you up a morning routine…you can squeeze it in between coffee and the part where you write and work a full, 10-hour teaching and technical day!” yeah. that was my internal aerobics teacher talking…you know, the one whose enthusiastic little voice i could slap right outta her mouth most days.

so i’m writing a smidge, instead of the daily beating i had scheduled in the event that i was too sleepy or too late to write anything. i was pretty convinced that i was too sleepy this morning, but my restless toddler once again altered my perceptions and plans for the day.  i found that i was fairly well wide awake after my 5:30am meltdown in response to her 5:15am meltdown. she witnessed some of my sleepy boohoo tantrum, felt bad for me, and agreed to try to get a little more sleep, since i so clearly needed it.

sneaky me, i let it buy me some coffee time and a little catch up moment, plus time to clear my blubbering, sleepy otolaryngology…and hey, i’m slipping a post in where wimpy, whiney self-flagellation was supposed to be…and trying to learn how to say otolaryngology in some way that sounds natural and less like i have a bucket of nickelodeon slime in my mouth. oh coffee my coffee. a half carafe left is my only hope today.

i’m doing the ol’ touch-n-go, driving out of here tomorrow night for another short trip. again, i humor myself thinking, “maybe…since i just taught this class…it will go magically and smoothly, efficiently and effortlessly…enough for me to carve out time for that new fitness hour and get a post in before class starts at 8am.” you know, because technical problems and environments are so predictable…just like student’s learning abilities and attitudes. snort. trainer humor. (nerd flag).

actually, in this case, the attitude part is more predictable than it would be for many of my students. now that i’ve jinxed myself, i will go on to say that i’ve been working on my favorite project, my baby…my fickle, unorganized, never sleeps through the night baby. i’m training professional candidates from the AbilityOne program, a group of non-profits for the Visually Impaired and/or Severely Disabled. like many organizations doing something new, there are still some acts of a keystone cops drama to get through at the top of the food chain before things run smoothly for us middle logistics managers. but no matter what it might have taken to get computer equipment, training materials and a qualified trainer to one site at the same time, inevitably my students walk into my training room ready and eager to learn specific technical skills and anything else i can teach them, technical skills they will add to their federal contracting training and their Bachelor’s degrees. their attitudes and gratitudes are inspiring, and they are mostly all funny as hell. it’s a regular Improv event everyday, student and teacher all yukking it up…and learning stuff too.

just writing about them this morning swells my chest a little. it gives me inspiration for my wednesday night drive outta dodge. it makes me grateful for all of the people in this world for whom kindness is their first value, with determination and humor trailing closely. kinda makes my meltdown this morning feel a little more pathetic…but i have to say it’s worth it sometimes to just let it out in one big bawl. my little fit of tears and self-pity got my daughter two more hours of sleep that i know she needed, and gave me a little time to look for my actionfigure shoes and the rest of my superhero gitch. i didn’t have room for it in my carry on this last go round. let’s see how she travels on a road trip.