They Bring May Flowers

April 12, 2010

Before we get into this post, I just want to share what my friend Lee Ella shared with me on my Facebook wall this morning: “Last night I dreamed you and I got in a fist fight at a skating rink. You kept screaming, ‘I must win because I’m wearing polyester.’ You were and you did. Way to go.”

I love it that 1. I won, 2. Lee Ella took the time to share this with me, and 3. Lee Ella has vivid dreams (about me).

It is raining today. The Californians are saying that June Gloom has come early. It is cold, and I am grateful that today is my day to work from home, where I can hole up in my little room, under my fluffy down blanket, and plow through my email inbox. The window is open even though it is cold outside. The smell of the rain feels as though it is refreshing my lungs — it is the same damp musty smell that saturated my dad’s auto repair shop when I was a little girl — and I don’t mind that my fingers have iced over.

I am thinking a lot about time lately. Last night on the phone with my mom, I was expressing some grievances about life. She expressed sympathy, and I said, “It’s okay. When it comes right down to it, someday I will die, and none of this will matter anymore.”

But I have dreams. I have things I want. Lately there is this one thing that I think of, and every time I think of it, my heart just naturally wells up with prayer. It seems that the wanting is rooting deep, deeper each day, and I struggle with how much I should pray, “Thy will be done,” and how much I should pray, “God, I want this.” So, typically, my little in-car or before-bed conversation goes something like this: “God, you know my heart,” and then I throw in something about how C.S. Lewis talks about the problem with us humans is not that we ask too much of God, but that we don’t ask enough.

God must be impressed with my intelligence when I mention C.S. Lewis.

So, needless to say, I’ve been thinking a lot about dreams lately. I love my life and my job — I love the present-tense of my life right now, but being only 27, there is much future-tense to be had.

The other day my dear old high school friend Ryan recorded this. I haven’t seen him in years — he lives in Berlin now. I’m excited to reconnect with him and learn about his life. Ryan is an incredible photographer. He has always been an immensely talented musician, and to hear him singing this was touching. His voice is so beautiful and melancholy, just like Ryan himself. He lets himself feel things. He is a tremendous artist and a loyal friend. So, yesterday I asked him if I could re-post this song for you all, because it resonated with me:

Have you been half asleep
And have you heard voices
I’ve heard them calling my name
Are these the sweet sounds that called
The young sailors
I think they’re one and the same
I’ve heard it too many times to ignore it
There’s something that I’m supposed to be

I have done a lot of things in my life, and I’ve come to a place where, even though things are tough at times, God has instilled in me a sense of peace and purpose. It’s really kind of surreal, given my record of anxiety. I’m thankful. The only way I can explain it is to say that his grace is sufficient for me, and his power is made perfect in my weakness.

The last few years have included a lot of hard decisions — the hardest ones I’ve ever made — and sometimes I am tempted to have regrets. What if I had gone to fashion school right out of high school instead of spending those years at college in Arkansas? What if I had taken this guy or that guy back and married him or him? It would be so nice to have a partner with whom to share this period of my life. What if I still lived close to my family?

It is a sacrifice to live this far away. It is a sacrifice to think about how big my niece and nephew are getting and that I am just this person who floats in and out of their lives during the holidays to get re-acquainted and then leave again. My favorite cousin is due to have a baby in August, and I so desperately want to go to Minnesota during that time, because it’s so, so important when a new person joins your family. It’s beautiful and terrifying all at the same time.

And then there are all these hopes and dreams that well up inside me at random moments. If my life were a musical, they are the moments I would break forth in song. I talked to my grandma on the phone last night. It seems that my life is the time for looking forward, and hers is the time for looking back.

So, I’m not going to have any regrets. I’m just going to strive to trust that God knows my heart and that whatever I’m supposed to be, I’ll be.

So, this happened back in December, and it was really funny. But maybe you had to be there.

I have a brother. He is older than me and lives in South Dakota and teaches at a university. He is a smarty pants, and I miss him. He likes to read books and gave me a book for Christmas called The Ugly American. I thought he was trying to tell me something passive-aggressively. And then he told me that it is about cultural awareness — an area in which many Americans are lacking. Both of us travel to Asia for our jobs. It’s kind of neat to have that in common as adults. Someday I hope we will be able to hang out in India together.

My brother also really likes basketball. He has two kids, a girl and a boy, and I love them. When we were both at our parents’ house in Minnesota over Christmas, my brother was trying to watch a game on ESPN. However, his children were not in support of this decision. They protested, and my brother, being a good father, found a solution for the issue:


2009, Reprise

January 1, 2010

Comparatively, I didn’t post much in 2009. Factors including busy-ness, tiredness, and laziness contributed to the lack of writing, but I also just needed a break from posting aspects of my life online. I needed to live them instead of feeling like I was looking through a camera’s eye — a photographer snapping away at life instead of living it.

It has been the best and the hardest year of my life. In cliche blogger fashion, here’s a list of accomplishments and set-backs:

– I lost a very dear friend to the epidemic called breaking up

– After several rigorous interviews, I got my amazing job working with women rescued from prostitution in India. Also, my supervisor and only co-worker at said job is pretty freaking awesome.

– At that job, I have spent the past year learning, learning, learning. I have been humbled and honored to have the position, but it is a lot less glamorous than it sounds. Like any job, there are good days and bad days.

– I left my life in Los Angeles and moved to Orange County — a bittersweet deal.

– For the first nine months in Orange County, I suffered from the strongest sense of culture shock that I’ve ever known.

– I gained an amazing house three blocks from the beach, with the most fantastic roommates I could’ve dreamt of having.

– I traveled to India in April and October.

– I was a bridesmaid in an Indian wedding.

– I visited the Red Light Districts in Mumbai, Kolkata, and Tenali.

– I rode in a rickshaw, ate food so spicy it made my mouth bleed, felt heat so hot I think I melted a little, became part of a family across the world, and saw and understood love in a way I had never experienced it before.

– I witnessed an argument in Telagu between a pimp, a madam, and the leader of one of the social organizations we work with.

– I saw my family in May, August, and December.

– My brother came to visit in May, and we went to an Angels’ game, saw the new Star Trek movie, ate Indian food, went to the beach, and had an all-around good time in between my work and the conference he came to LA to attend.

– Friend K moved away in May. It was very, very sad.

– I went on vacation with L to San Francisco, Jackson Hole, and the middle-of-nowhere Wyoming.

– I started attending a Wednesday-night church and a Monday-night support group with people who are quickly becoming my Orange County family. After meeting weekly with them for three months, I realized I hadn’t felt a grain of anxiety for about that long. I attribute this to their prayers, support, love, and honesty.

– I lived through three of the most busy months of my life and am thankful my friends have been incredibly understanding about how I’ve neglected them.

– I turned 27.

– My car was towed, and I had to spend a lot of time at the DMV. Thankfully, a good friend came with me and read to me out of the book, How to Make Anyone Fall In Love With You.

– I got an amazing tan.

– My very, very dear friend A.S. and her husband and daughter moved to Southern California in November. I can’t tell you what an incredible blessing it is to have their lovely selves close by.

– I went on several very bad dates, some of them hilariously bad. I desperately wish I could blog about them.

– I started dating a lawyer. A lawyer? A LAWYER. I’m so professional, even in my romantic pursuits. His name is C.K., and, no, he is not a fragrance from the ’90s. He took me out for southern food and mini golf on our first date. Just give me sweet potato fries and a giant wooden windmill, and I’m happy as a pup. Oh, yes, and he is a pretty stellar person as well.

– I went to the ER for the first time in my life with a kidney stone. Said kidney stone is still just hanging out in my vital organs.

The year was a blur of change, grief, and beautiful moments of losing who I thought I was and accepting who I really am — the good and the bad, the strong and the weak, the anxious and the hopeful. Though the difficulties were few, their magnitude was overwhelming. I had to re-learn many things and had to reintroduce myself to myself. I think that’s kind of what happens when you break up with someone you’ve been with for a long, long time. You forget who you were when you were alone, and once you’re alone again, you find yourself with a stranger.

But I have learned who that stranger is again, and I’m a better person because of it. At least I think so.

It’s been an incredible year. And an incredible decade, which included the end of high school, college, various jobs, various living situations, various states, deaths, births, and so many incredible people God brought into my life to carry me through the past 10 new years. It has been a joy to know you all and to experience your grace and love.

There’s a Rock In My Belly.

December 29, 2009

In typical worst-case-scenario fashion, I have been wondering for a while when my minor or major medical catastrophe would hit.  So many friends and family members have already had theirs – Cousin Jeremy had gallstones, Uncle Marvin had a heart attack, this kid I once took care of in day care had a swollen spleen, there was that girl in college with appendicitis, and we mustn’t forget various strokes among the elderly. Relatively speaking (because we were just speaking of my relatives… bwa, ha, ha, ha), I have always been healthy as the proverbial horse. It seemed that I was health insurance’s exception. They should have been clamoring to insure this girl… nary a broken bone, nary a trip to the emergency room, nary an illness that required more than a bath, sleep, liquids, and over-the-counter medication.

It seems, however, that my day has come. As we speak, an 8mm kidney stone rests in the confines of my belly, waiting to be birthed. I am completely comfortable, but drinking lots of pure, unfiltered apple juice and water.

“If you are completely comfortable, how did you discover this kidney stone?” you may ask. That is a good question. Thank you for your inquiry. I will tell you.

I took a long vacation from work for the holidays because I’ve been working like an ant on drugs for the last three months. I came home to Minnesota to visit my family, and, while getting ready to head downstairs to help my parents clean for the impending family gathering, I noticed a pain in my right side. Being a female used to various stomach pains, due to elements that make child-bearing possible, I thought little of it. A few hours later, however, the pain had spread to my lower back on the right side, and I took some ibuprofen and laid down, hoping the feeling would pass. Mom came in to check on me, and while speaking to my mother has never made me nauseous before, this time I had to jump up and high-tail it to the bathroom, where I promptly vomited. “What did you vomit, you may ask?” I will tell you. I vomited up tomato soup and crackers, of course. Thank you for asking.

The pain in my side became increasingly worse, and even though we were experiencing the first phase of the epic blizzard that swept the nation, Mom and Dad took me to the emergency room, where a doctor rudely pounded on my lower back, which forced me to vomit once more. I got my first-ever IV, my first ever dose of amazing pain medication, and my first-ever experience having a nurse insert dye into my rectum to determine through X-Ray whether or not my pain was caused by a faulty appendix. Did I mention that the only X-Ray nurse on duty was a guy, my age, who used to think I was cute in high school? Also, the other 2 nurses on duty were present the day I was born, so my mother says. Afterward, I called this dashing young man that I’m dating (yes, I’m dating someone), told him the story, and said, “THIS IS WHAT YOU GET WHEN YOU GREW UP IN A SMALL TOWN!” It was my most embarrassing experience since the Great Speculum Incident of 2006, which shall remain off the blog.

A few urine and blood samples later, the doctor came in and announced that we would not have to depart in this crazy weather to the big hospital in the next town to remove my appendix – the X-Rays had confirmed that I had a kidney stone stuck right between my kidney and bladder.

The doc loaded me up with a few prescriptions of really strong pain medication, and I went home, but since the escapade in the ER, I have felt very little pain, even without the medication. I wondered if the stone was still there, but a trip to the clinic to get another opinion from a different doctor confirmed that the stone is still in there, just hanging out, rent-free.

The docs seemed to want me to try something invasive pretty soon if the stone hasn’t passed, but I’m not one to jump to expensive, invasive procedures right away. I’ve never been a girl who likes to take medications. I’m often skeptical about their true effects on the body, and I have this theory that doctors often prescribe things because patients want an immediate answer, an immediate practice they can do to feel like they’re working against an ailment, even if that practice isn’t really helping.  I am young and healthy, so, in most cases of sickness, I find that my body knows what it’s doing. If I have a bout with vomiting or diarrhea (I have become pretty open about these since traveling in India), it means that my body is trying to expel something that doesn’t belong there. As long as it doesn’t become chronic, I’m not going to take something to stop the process. It’s natural and important. I don’t believe in taking medication to stop a runny nose or divert a menstrual cycle. If the nose-running becomes chronic, then let’s talk about what we can do medically. If it’s just a normal runny nose, then let’s let my body use its own crowd control.

At this point, I have no signs of infections, and all bodily functions are normal. I’m not in any pain. So, I’m trying a more organic, natural approach to birthing this stone.

Many people have offered their advice on kidney stone expulsion, but my Aunt Marge sent me a very specific recipe. She says that this potion has worked every time for her, and I’m inclined to believe her. She writes, “Here is the remedy that has worked good here at our house and one I have given to many others. I passed a stone as big as a small hen’s egg one time. It looked like light green plaster of paris.” (I love the way elderly people write.)

So, I am on Day 3 of the process, and it’s pretty simple thus far. The gross stuff comes later. Here is the secret, magical concoction, for those of you who are interested:

–       For seven days, drink at least one quart daily of unfiltered, unsweetened apple juice. Continue to eat regular meals, but eat lighter, preferably mostly fruit and vegetables and no red meat.

–       On the evening of the 7th day, at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., dissolve 2 Teaspoons Epsom salts in 8 oz. of warm water and drink quickly.

–       At 10 p.m., squeeze ½ cup lemon juice and shake into ½ cup pure olive oil. Drink down quickly. (Here’s Aunt Marge’s note… it cracked me up: “Loren chugs his down like candy but I have a hard time making myself drink it. I say that you deserve to get well if you can drink that stuff.”)

–       Go immediately to bed and lie on your right side for at least 30 minutes.

–       Kidney stones should pass painlessly

Besides the small hen’s egg, she says she has painlessly passed several more that “looked like jelly beans.”

I’m hoping this works. It would be a shame to drink lemon juice mixed with olive oil for nothing.

On Finding a Setting

August 13, 2008

This evening D and I had a conversation on the phone that lasted more than our typical phone conversations now-a-days. Actually, we had an argument, but that’s not what this post is about. In the midst of all of it, during the resolution of the whole thing — the time when we are done with the heightened feelings and adamantly trying to prove a point, when we both re-cap what we need and try to find some sort of compromise — I closed my eyes for a moment and could picture my apartment back in Arkansas so clearly, right down to the feel of my bed and the cat’s tail ticking against my leg and the way my bed creaked when I moved. We spent a lot of time talking on the phone in those days, back when he was the California branch of our relationship.

It’s funny that the very thing the argument began with (our arguments rarely end with what they began with) was the very thing I was picturing: Setting. This post is not about the argument, so I’m not going to go into the details of what transpired. For the past few days, however, I’ve been attempting to put into words a discovery I made on the beach Saturday. But I’ve also been trying to challenge myself to improve my writing style so it’s slightly less amateur and emotive. Today I tried writing a post entirely devoid of “I” as a subject. It just doesn’t work in blogging. This is what I came up with:

“One of the major components that separates a seasoned writer from an amateur is the emphasis on setting. The category of seasoned writers is by no means this girl’s dwelling place, but freshman year fiction writing left me with a better understanding of setting in writing. Heck, this blog nearly tripled in its readership once it took on the personal of a Midwestern transplant living in Los Angeles. Or maybe it was the advertising to friends on Facebook that did that.” Can you say boring textbook? I just need to stop trying to justify blogging with failed attempts to turn this entirely narcissistic thing into something literary. It’s a blog. Of course it’s going to have a high degree of gush.

Anyway, what I really wanted to say is that often amateur writers neglect setting in their work, and they leave their poor characters floating around in a readers’ mind in banal, shadowy places like generic bedrooms, rather than putting them someplace specific. In real life, we live in specific places: not just any room, but my room with the pile of laundry on the bathroom floor and the broken blinds and the stale scent of herbal shampoo. Not just any old park, but the park with the statue of the man who invented the chocolate bar. J.R.R. Tolkien is so fantastic with his settings that I am having such a terrible time getting through The Lord of the Rings. Any time Frodo or the other hobbits think of the shire and how they long for their home, I start crying. Homesickness…meh.

Saturday, le roommates and I went to the beach, and the fact confronted me that I’ve only been to the beach three times in the last seven months even though is less than five miles from my apartment. And by going to the beach, I mean donning a bathing suit with at least a slight intention of getting wet. Saturday was the first day since I moved here that I actually immersed myself in the Pacific. And then I realized that part of the reason that I have been homesick to some degree since I left for college back in 2001, moving away from Minnesota for the very first time, is because I have never given myself a chance to get to know the land in any other place.

If you were to ask me about Minnesota, I wouldn’t just say that I lived in a house there or went to high school there. I would tell you about the countless snow structures we built and how we would hang our mittens and hats and scarves over the radiator in our first house to let them get warm before we put them on. I would tell you about the mulberry bushes in the backyard and how they would become so ripe and juicy that you could bump the branches and they’d fall to the ground, washing it in purple, and how the birds would poop mulberry seeds all over the patio. I would tell you how our family built that patio with bricks and sand and cement blocks, and it all went quite well until the ice that winter built up under the bricks made them explode. Every winter the fire department would flood the park for ice skating, and Jack Frost would paint our windows. I remember how it feels to lie in my bedroom, the exact way the bed fits my body, and how it is to wake up there to the sounds and smells of absolute comfort — to knowing the people you love most in the world are only a wall away. When I was a little girl, in our first house, I could always tell who was coming up stairs by the rhythm of their steps. Mom would always stop at the bottom to pick up toys and bring them up. There were twelve steps at my first house. Sixteen at my second.

I never gave myself the chance to know Arkansas that well. There was the damp and musty feeling of our house on Maple Street, where I lived with 3 other girls, and the sounds of the frogs outside my window in that studio above a professor’s garage. There was the feeling of desperation and sadness when I finished college, broke up with my boyfriend, and moved out of that apartment all in a few days. But the same elements and concretes are not there. I was so busy being productive that I didn’t take the time to memorize the number of steps from the ground to my door. These were merely places, apartments for a temporary life. It’s no wonder they never felt like home.

Sometimes I think that I will never feel at home again unless I get married, have kids, and settle down somewhere. Nothing reminds me of home more than watching my niece and nephew play and seeing again the things that are important to children. For my niece, it is wearing pink, putting on chapstick, and reading books. My nephew just wants to run everywhere with his binky in his mouth. They want other kids to play with, adults to entertain them, and lots and lots of cookies. They remind me of what it was like to grow up with an older brother and what it was like to have such a big living room… what it was like to have a house not just cover you, but protect you. There were all the alcoves and crannies to that place… the towel cupboard you could climb inside and close the door, the secret storage closet in my brother’s room, the turning cupboard in the kitchen corner where breakfast cereal was kept.

At the same time, I know that my life is here in L.A. now, at least for the next few years, and I need to be investing myself here. I need to pursue the land with the same intention that I pursue the friends I am making here. I need to count the steps from my carport to my apartment. I need to go to the beach every weekend and find a spot to memorize. I need to stop floating around in this generic place and make it specific. I need to find my setting.

Dear Los Angeles,

At first I thought I ought to write something heightened and romantic to celebrate our six-month anniversary. It would be a vulnerable comeuppance, full of all the six-month sentiments I have developed for you in our time together. I thought I should go to a place fitting for this sort of letter, taking my quill and pen to the ocean, for instance, to write to you from the very edge of the continent. Or I could bring my pencil and notebook to the gardens at the Getty and tell you about art and flowers. Yet the more that I thought about the atmosphere for this letter, the more I realized that the most appropriate setting is right here, in the bedroom of my little, messy apartment, full of the every-day noises that are slowly becoming home.

Right now there are six of us living in our three-bedroom apartment, which is quite a change for the girl who used to live alone with her cat, slowly degrading into a life of crochet and watching library movies on her laptop computer. Four of us are legally bound to our place, and the other two are here for the summer, completing internships before they return to their respective institutions of higher learning, both in the South, where it rains. I would not have mentioned the South, except that it rains. I miss rain. You would not understand, Los Angeles. It has been so long since I have smelled the earth.

Right now the closest thing to rain is the sound of E’s shower in the next room. There is also the faint movie mumblings from the living room where M and J are flattened against the couch, watching the TV, and there is the periodic clank of dish and spoon as G washes the dishes. I will never get used to the noise of our little house, nor your noise, Los Angeles. Over my bedroom balcony waft in the noises of the second largest city in the U.S. (I mean you, you fat, fat city) — the distant freeway, the chatting pedestrians on their evening walk, the passing sirens, and the nightly helicopter hover, which I like to pretend is the news instead of the LAPD spotlighting its latest criminal’s rise and fall.

For a while I would miss home at these moments, and I still do sometimes. I miss the kids playing in the lot next to my dad’s auto repair shop, above which my family lives. I miss the dank, musty basement smell of the shop, and having my dad make his living right underneath our home, just a staircase of 12 steps and three rooms away. I miss the quiet evenings and the settling of summer — the stars in the corn fields and the country drivers, my church and my cousins, and the people who have known me longer than I’ve known me, the people who know me because they knew my grandparents. I miss the hospitality, the neighborliness of it all, in the place where all the Thrift Store Owners know me by name.

Do you remember, Los Angeles, a few months back when I left you for the first time in three months? And do you remember how hard it was for me to come back to you, how I cried all five hours back on the plane, and I wondered why I was coming back — why I had to leave my parents and my niece and my nephew and all the comfort of being known? D was busy that week, and I felt so very alone, surrounded by thirteen-million people, coming home each night to this little apartment with a few roommates that I only just met. I think this is what they call culture shock, a thing I only mildly experienced when I moved from Minnesota to Arkansas for college. But after that initial breakdown, things got better. They really did. I think I came to the decision that I was here, with you, and here I would stay. Perhaps I needed that last goodbye, that last purge of what it was like to be a child.

At D’s encouragement, I have recently begun reading The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It has been so very long since I have read a book. I think I’ve been afraid of falling back into my girlhood, where I would hide in my room, reading stacks of books, instead of making friends. It is a lot harder to be an obsessive reader when you have a job. I’m only about 100 pages into the first book, and oh, how I’ve cried. I know, I know, it’s a little early to start crying, but Tolkien has just introduced one of the major themes of the book: Home. Frodo is speaking with Gandalf, and he is first realizing that there is a large and courageous journey he must take, and that no one else is going to do it for him.

He has never left his home, the Shire. He tells Gandalf, “I feel that as long as the Shire lies behind, safe and comfortable, I shall find wandering more bearable: I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.”

I read this after I got off the phone with my mother, after I told her I will not be able to make it home for the Clipperton Family Reunion in August. High gas prices have made it nearly impossible. This is the first Clipperton Family Reunion I have missed in my life, ever since I was 6. And I will be 26 next month. Mark my words, Los Angeles: If you do something to prevent me from going home for Christmas Eve with my family, going to Grandma’s church for the same Christmas Eve service I’ve attended since I was born, I will up and quit my job and move home.

You cannot ruin 26 years of Christmas, Los Angeles. I do not care how big you are.

All my love,

Ann

Once Upon a Dream

April 29, 2008

I left work at mid-day today, struggling with a migraine. I’m not even sure what I told my boss before I left. It probably did not make much sense. I had to stay about an hour later to process a few orders and make some phone calls. Now, after 3 hours of sleep, an overdose of ibuprofen tablets, and a hot shower, I finally feel better. I cannot tell you how much I wish my health would return to me. I’ve always been a naturally tired person (need naps!), but I haven’t felt 100% in a long, long time. I need to start exercising, but I think I might have mono, and I don’t want my spleen to erupt. How’s that for an excuse?

All that aside, I love my apartment. It was a glorious day, and now the wind is blowing through the palm leaves and into my bedroom through the balcony door. I especially love the night-time. Summer evenings are some of my favorite things. I can’t wait to return to Minnesota for a family reunion in August. We’re totally camping at this hoe-down of a fair called the Threshing Bee, which celebrates old methods of farming. My grandfather built a windmill on the grounds where the Bee is held, and one of his tractors, an old green  and yellow John Deere is one of the focal points of the train, tractor, and antique car parade. It’s a great ol’ time of threashin’, blue grassin’, and barbeque-in’. I am trying to convince D that it will change his life. We have been dating two years this July, and he has still not been to my hometown. He has still not met my dad. Send him nasty notes, please.

Speaking of D, the other day someone googled “my boyfriend is a model,” and it led them to my blog. It showed up in my stats, and I felt this amazing breadth of anxiety fall from my weary shoulders BECAUSE IT’S ABOUT TIME. IT’S ABOUT TIME SOMEONE ACKNOWLEDGED THAT MY BOYFRIEND IS A MODEL.

(thank you)

And also speaking of D, I am going to be single this weekend. D is going to a retreat for a class at school, and that means plenty of margaritas and inviting the pool boy up to my bedroom to fan me with palm leaves. It also means that I am going to spend the whole weekend sleeping, eating ice cream, and looking very, very closely at my cuticles. Oh, and I’m hoping to go to the one and only Newport Beach community garage sale to see if I can find, among other things, a bicycle built for D. That, and a Free Box full of Gucci bags. Oh wait. I am not really looking for that. That was just what I dreamt about last night. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure if I actually have a pool boy.

Friend AA came to visit from Arkansas last week, and oh, what joys we had. I have pictures. But for now, you cannot see them. I can’t find the cord for my camera. And anyway, I should wait until AA sends me copies of her photographs because they will be much better than mine.

Sunday night AA, G, and I went down to La Mirada to have dinner with D and his roommate B. We like to call our dinners together Family Dinner. We consumed the usual inexpensive and easy spaghetti with meatsauce and garlic bread, and our dinner conversation was as entertaining as it was humorous. At one point during the meal, D mentioned that he and B had earlier discussed a prank B had played on some girls while he was getting his undergraduate degree. They never mentioned what the prank was, but apparently it involved the girls moving a bookshelf.

“Then we started talking about what would have to fall behind a bookshelf in order for a girl to move it,” D said.

“Like an Anthropologie catalog,” B said.

“A designer shoe,” D said.

“A copy of a celebrity gossip magazine or Vogue,” B said.

“I wouldn’t move it for that,” AA said.

“I’d move it for Vogue,” I said.

“A girl would move it for a rich man,” B said. “Oh, I think I dropped my rich man behind my bookshelf–”

And then G said the thing that has had me laughing all week: “And then she moves it, and out walks a family of Jews.”

Later I admitted to D that I have a Pre-Celebrity Crush on this starving actor I know who happens to be British. I told D because it doesn’t mean anything — I just think the guy is highly date-able, and my crush on him is mostly accent-related. Heck, I barely even know the guy. But those shy Brits, descended from the line of Hugh Grant and Jude Law… men whose whole faces smile when they smile… Gah. Who could resist wrinkles at the corners of the eyes at the moment of smiling?

After I told D about the Pre-Celebrity Crush, G said, “Now you should talk in an accent to her.”

D turned to me with a mouthful of spaghetti and said, “A-llo, Ay-an,” in the worst cockney accent I’ve ever heard. And then I remembered why I’m with D and not some Celebrity Crush… D makes me laugh until I cry, as he did at that moment, at the dinner table, and I nearly choked on my spaghetti. Indeed, D nearly killed us all.

Speaking of G, the other night while conversing with the same group of people sans G (he was on a date with a lady-friend), I made the assertion that no matter what I say, G could say the same thing and be funnier. G is just a funny, funny guy. So, at the dinner table, we tested my theory. B said, “Ann, say, ‘G sucks.'” I was giggling when I said it, and my declaration was met with mild to moderate laughter. Then G had to say it. And indeed, what is funnier than hearing a funny guy say that he sucks in the third person?

Probably only the image of a family of Jews walking out from behind some sorority girl’s bookshelf after hiding for 60 years.

Inspiration

April 8, 2008

Yesterday evening one of my favorite art bloggers, Emily Martin of The Black Apple, posted a link to a podcast of an interview on Craftsanity. The interview is a long one — over an hour and a half — but inspired me at this I-don’t-know-what-I’m-doing-with-my-life period because Martin took something that she loved and made a successful business of it in just a few years. I listened to part of the podcast last night before going to bed, and while I enjoyed hearing about the process of her business, I was struck by how similar her experience living in Brooklyn for a few months was like my recent experience moving to L.A. Martin says that when she moved to Brooklyn, people never asked her what she was doing in Brooklyn — the moving to Brooklyn in and of itself was the large accomplishment. I’m not patting myself on the back here in saying that moving to L.A. was some gigantic feat. It’s just that what Martin said about it resonated with me. It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that anyone besides my mother asked what I DO at my job. A year ago when people would ask my parents what I was doing, my parents would have to tell them that I was working at a church in Arkansas. Now they can just say, “She moved to L.A.,” and that is interesting enough. Perhaps it is such a huge accomplishment because of the sacrifices one must make to live in cities like New York or L.A. or Chicago or San Francisco. The cost of living is so high, the traffic is so crazy, parking gives you ulcers… I paid $400 a month back in Arkansas for my huge one-bedroom apartment with two walk in closets and abundant parking. Now I live with two other people and pay… well, that’s my secret. It’s shameful for a mid-western girl to admit how much she pays for rent in L.A. I’m doing all right though. Working at a church for a year back in Arkansas and getting paid on the non-profit organization level taught me a lot about what my mom likes to call, “living on a shoe string.” Plus I’m not too far removed from the student stage of my life when having $60 in my checking account was a solace.

So, what do I DO here? And more importantly, is this job contributing to the big scheme of my life? Well, I work at an organic juice company in Santa Monica, as I’ve stated before. It’s a small start-up company, but it’s quite successful, and the products are high-quality and sold nationwide. The company has grown 50% in sales since last year. It feels weird for me to be talking about all this because business never really interested me until I took this job. My official title at said job is Administrative Assistant, but I mostly assist on the financial side of things. This is a new realm for me, and even though the thought of entering numbers and searching for missing pennies and balancing accounts once sounded like prison to me, I have to admit that I sort of like it. My last job was almost entirely creative, and while I loved it, my creative energy was completely sapped at the end of the day. It’s kind of nice to have a job that is one giant formula, so all I have to do is plug the numbers in.

And the real reason I am kind of liking my job is because I’m learning a bunch of things about running a small business. Now, I’ve only worked there a few months, but I did grow up in a small business as well, so I’m catching onto things pretty quickly. And even though this job isn’t the answer to my quarter life crisis, at least it seems to be leading somewhere. Which brings me to another somewhere:

Today I signed up for a beginner and intermediate sewing class. It’s an adult evening class at a nearby elementary school. It starts April 21 and will continue for 5 Mondays, 6:30-9:30 p.m. I know how to sew already at a rudimentary level, but my skills need some refinement.

And this class, small as it may be, fills me with excitement. Maybe I’m not doing exactly what I want to be doing right now, but in some ways I believe this class may be the beginning of something very fulfilling.

Emily Martin’s podcast

A couple of weekends ago these hands touched a public payphone for the first time since, oh, probably the summer of ’03 when I went to London and Ireland for five weeks. Now, London and Northern Ireland, because they both belong to the UK, have cool payphones, payphones which are so asthetically pleasing that one can almost forget the germs festering on the handle and buttons and the advertising for naughty massages papering the inside.

 

payphone_1.jpg

Since the summer of ’04, I’ve been a mobile-r and have joined the throngs of distracted multi-taskers who will likely develop brain tumors in our seventies because of constantly cuddling an electronic device to the sides of our heads. Next year California is supposedly banning drivers from using cell phones without hands-free devices, and who can blame them? According to the journal Quarterly Factors, “Cell phone distraction causes 2,600 deaths and 330,000 injuries in the United States every year.” My cell phone has caused headaches, neck aches, facial break outs, and cost a total of approximately $2,380 since its acquisition in May of ’04. Not to mention the panic… when dropped. This past winter I dropped the beloved cell phone (let’s call her Bess, shall we?) from a high table bar stool in a restaurant. She crashed to the floor, and her battery shot out, sliding across the linoleum to land underneath some lady’s foot. Thankfully, she did not step down and crush the battery. Because of this instance, I was forced to exclaim a near explitive in front of a room full of elderly people getting their afternoon coffee at the podunk cafe; spring lithely from my seat and rush to kneel on the floor where I scooped up Bess’s parts; and crawl on my knees on a restaurant floor, underneath a table, with my rear sticking up like a stretching cat in front of all, just to retrieve a stupid battery.  

Sometimes, I admit, I’ve even had the thought, “Why doesn’t Grandma just get a cell phone? It would be so much easier to text her this question!” Grandma just turned 82 in January. Heaven forbid that I should actually have to call my grandmother on her land line and have an actual conversation with her.

No matter how much grief this small, red device has caused me, my cell-love never manifests itself until the sans-cell phone situation emerges. A few weekends ago, D treated me to some lovely date-time, in which we decided to go see a movie. We drove separately from my apartment so he could leave to go back to his place from the mall. It wasn’t until we were about to enter the parking garage for the mall that the horrific truth arose:  I had forgotten Bess at home.

Mall parking on a Sunday in LA is never easy. One will rarely find a parking spot in the garage next to one’s party. One must simply hit the gas and zoom toward the closest spot available, whether it be on the second floor or the tenth. On this particular occassion, that special spot meant for me was on the seventh floor. By the time I parked Mable the Sable and hopped the elevator, D was nowhere to be found. Well, my naive small-town self said, I’ll just wait until D rides the elevator down, and we’ll meet at the bottom.

Half an hour later, I finally figured out that there are several entrances to the parking garage. I took a few loops around the area, paying specific attention to the movie theater. No D. Maybe I should go wait for him in the philosophy section of Barnes and Noble, my romantic side whispered. I made a comment to D a few weeks ago that I’d like to know how much time we’ve spent in the philsophy section of Barnes and Noble in the course of our relationship. A pay phone loomed in the corner of the courtyard where I waited, but two problems reared their ugly heads:

1.) No change. What savvy city girl goes anywhere without quarters? Give me a break. I grew up in population-4,000 town in Southern Minnesota, where paying for parking is merely a legend and you could more easily walk to someone’s house than dial their number.

2.) No phone number. Yes folks, now is the time to sheepishly admit that D and I have been dating for nearly 20 months, and neither of us know one anothers’ phone numbers.

My mission became clear in an instant. Find quarters. Call any number I have memorized that might know D’s number. Call D.

Finding quarters seemed like it would be easy in a mall. Except that California mall clerks don’t have the wholesome helpfulness that Minnesota or Arkansas clerks do. D and I went to a high-end mall called The Grove. The thing has its own trolley tinkling its little bell through the cobblestone streets. The only remotely lower-class store I could find was J. Crew. I went in to get some change and ended up having to purchase a $6 plastic barette so the cashier could open the cash drawer.  It was the cheapest thing I could find. I had previously recoiled when picking up a $26 coin purse.

The accrual of change brought me to the next step: Calling someone I knew to find D’s number. The deposit of four quarters affords a pay phone patron a mere 4 minutes of conversation. First, I called my friend A in Arkansas. She got her cell phone back when I didn’t have a cell phone and still memorized people’s phone numbers. I got her voicemail and left a frantic message. “Hi, A. I know I haven’t talked to you in a long time, but I need you to do something for me if you get this in the next few minutes. I’m going to call back in five minutes. I’m on a payphone in a mall in California, and I need D’s phone number. I thought you might have it somewhere, and you’re the only friend I have that I actually know your number. So, please pick up when I call back.” I called back three times. No avail. My parents weren’t home — they were spending the afternoon at my brother’s house, but I figured it was worth a shot. Mom is one of the most prepared people I know… the type who will carry wadded up plastic bags in her purse, just in case. I thought I might know her cell phone number. I dialed. It was dad’s.

“Hi, Dad. It’s Ann. I’m calling from a payphone in a mall in L.A., and I need your help. Does Mom have D’s phone number?’

“You don’t know his number?”

“I don’t. You’ve got to hurry. I’ve only got four minutes until I need to deposit another dollar.”

“I’ll ask her.”

Muffled voices in the background. “She’s checking,” Dad said.

“She has G’s number.” (G is D’s twin brother.)

I pause. “Why does she have G’s number?”

“I don’t know. I’ll ask her.”

“No, it’s okay. G’s number is good. Give me that for now in case we get cut off before she finds D’s number.”

We got cut off before I had a chance to say goodbye. Mom didn’t have D’s number, but for some reason she had G’s. So, I called G.

“Hi, G. It’s Ann. I’m calling from a payphone at the Grove. I need D’s phone number.”

“You don’t know his number? You’ve been dating how long?”

“I know, I know. I only have four minutes. You’ve got to give me the number. You’ve just got to!”

G hooked me up with the digits I needed, and my triumphant “Hi!” to D when I finally heard his voice on the line an hour and fifteen minutes after we parked our cars was enough to turn the heads of several by-standers. We met in front of the movie theater. “I’ve been walking around this whole area,” he said when I hugged him. “I guess we just missed each other. I thought about going into the philosophy section of Barnes and Noble.”

“Really?! Me too! This is our plan if this ever happens again. We’ll meet in the philosophy section of Barnes and Noble.”

And so, we went, hand-in-hand into the movie theater to purchase our overpriced confections and find our seats.

About seven minutes before the end of the movie, entitled Definitely Maybe, we got evacuated from the movie theater. But that, my friends, is a story for tomorrow.