Saturday, August 31, 2013

Who's a good girl?

That would be Charlotte! We went to the vet this morning and she got three shots: rabies and upper resp vaccinations and a shot of cortisone for her allergies.

For all her massive diva behavior at home, she is freaking terrified of the world outside this condo. So today -- the carrier, the cab rides, being handled by a stranger and those three shots -- was especially hard for her.

She got a clean bill of health, except that she probably should get her teeth cleaned this winter and she lost 2 lbs. It might be the better quality catfood they're all eating now. Or she might have the beginning of a thyroid problem. (Another reason for her to return come winter time.)

2013 August Happiness Challenge -- Day 31

Today's happiness: I helped! My oldest friend lost her job earlier this month. She's had a terrible time since moving to LA: trouble with her kids, disappointment in her cousin, broken bones, a car accident, a robbery, emotional isolation … and now unemployment. My heart goes out to her. No good has come from this move. But it's where she is, and she has to make it work somehow. She can't afford to move back here just now and besides, the "here" where she lived is gone. (In the past three years, her home has been sold and naturally, her boss replaced her.)

I've been encouraging her to build a life for herself out there. To reach out and try to make friends. To get out of her apartment and enjoy the ambiance that attracts tens of millions of tourists to Southern California every year.

Sometimes I feel like I've been talking to a stapler.

Well, she does hear me. I am helping! I woke up this morning to an email where she detailed her trips to local public library, how she found a nearby coffee shop to sit and read. She's also signed up for a meet-up in her neighborhood. All things I've recommended, and all things that seem to make lighten her mood.

I'm so relieved that she's doing better. She's a good person and she deserves good things. I'm so happy I could make a difference.

Appreciated it. Didn't like it.

I saw Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine today. Just as the wonderful Match Point was Woody's take on A Place in the Sun, this is his crack at Streetcar Named Desire. I get it.

I just didn't like it.

The script is smart. The editing and story construction are masterful. The acting -- especially Cate Blanchett and Alec Baldwin -- is impressive.

But I think Woody Allen hates all his characters. Even the "good characters" -- especially the kid sister played by Sally Hawkins -- are condescended to by the script and the direction. Her "dumpy" apartment is at least 2BR with a fireplace and an eat-in kitchen, and lots of artwork and books. The woman manages to afford this with waitress and grocery store jobs. And somehow we're supposed to pity her. I admired her.

Woody Allen is immensely talented. He's also no paragon of virtue -- there's a conversation between Blanchett and Baldwin toward the end of the movie that uncomfortably mirrors what we know of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow. And he's 77 years old. Maybe he's been cossetted in Manhattan too long, maybe he's too out of touch with the rest of us.

So while I understand the movie and was impressed by its strengths, I was turned off by how toxic it felt.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Saturday 9

Thanks to AuntieM4Cabs for recommending the Buffett theme

1) What will you be doing come Monday (Labor Day)? I have no plans beyond some chores and watching baseball. And this is just fine with me.

2) This song is about a performer who is "heading up to San Francisco for the Labor Day weekend show." When you think of San Francisco, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the world!

3) As he sings, Buffett tells us he's wearing Hush Puppies casual shoes. What's on your feet as you answer these nine questions? I'm barefoot.

4) So many Jimmy Buffett songs take place on or around the water. When was the last time you were on a boat? It's been forever! I'm off to Tampa this November and I hope that my cousin and I will get a little time in, on the ocean, looking for dolphins.

5) Everyone knows Jimmy Buffett can write music, but he also has more than half a dozen books to his credit. What's the last book you read? Kinsey and Me, a series of short stories by Sue Grafton.

6) Jimmy's persona is that of a simple beach bum, but in
reality he's a conglomerate, with his own beverage company, more than a dozen restaurants and a couple hotels. He's so successful he has several homes, including a luxury mansion in the Hamptons! If you, like Buffett, could just take off and spend Labor Day weekend anywhere, where would you go?
Who would you take along? I'd go to Casa Del Mar in Santa Monica, and I'd bring my oldest friend with me. She lives in Beverly Hills, but she doesn't feel very rooted or happy there. I think a weekend stay at this resort by the sea, virtually in her backyard, would make us both happy.
7) This weekend may offer a golden opportunity for napping and sleeping in. Do you snore? Yes

8) Labor Day was introduced to celebrate the achievements of the American worker. Yet this Recession has taken its toll on many of us laborers. Sam's brother, a movie projectionist, hasn't worked full-time in his chosen profession in more than a year. Is anyone close to you struggling with unemployment or underemployment? (If so, they are in our thoughts this weekend, too.) Oh, yes. My oldest friend just lost her job in early August. My best friend has been out of work for a year now. My former boss has given up on marketing altogether and now sells ties part-time at Macy's. My friend John freelances, but hasn't scored even a single interview for a full time, salaried job with benefits and he's been looking for 14 months. It's a cold, scary world out there!

9) Onto something happier ... Labor Day traditionally marks the beginning of the new school year. When she was a kid, Samantha was crazy for her brand new box of 96 Crayola Crayons. It even had a sharpener in the back! What do you remember about preparing to go back to school? If you're a parent with schoolage kids, are they ready? I remember my mom taking my older sister and me to the mall to shop for school clothes. We got the majority of our wardrobe at Sears -- and I always pleaded (unsuccessfully) for a bag of the freshly popped popcorn sold by the exit -- and then we went to the other end of the mall for a couple of "nice" dresses or maybe a new coat at Marshall Field's.


2013 August Happiness Challenge -- Day 30

Today's happiness: Feeling connected. My grandmother, who died in 1997, was a major Cub fan who loved Ryne Sandberg. She proudly wore his #23 jersey on her annual trip to Wrigley Field -- a Mother's Day gift from my cousins. I have that jersey ... my cousin Ryan gave it to me recently.

Today Ryne Sandberg returned to Wrigley Field. He's older now. What hair he still has is gray. And he's wearing a red jersey befitting the manager of the Phillies, not Cubbie blue. But he's still the square-jawed hero Grandma loved.* He took a moment before the game to sign autographs for fans in the bleachers who displayed a massive #23 banner.

When I saw the crowd cheer him when he presented the lineup card to the umpire, I thought of how much my Grandma would love to applaud her "Ryno" one more time and I got a little misty. His new team beat his old team, and I bet she would have approved of that, too.

People who say that baseball is just a game, that the Cubs are just a team and Wrigley Field is just a ballpark just don't get it. Grandma got it, and I got it from her (and my dad). It is in Grandma's memory that I replace Augie the August Happiness Cat with her all-time #1 favorite Cub.

*She used to say he looked like the cartoon of Dick Tracy come to life.

But she's so pretty

I'm perplexed -- how can someone have it all and still be unhappy?

I have a coworker who is a beautiful girl. She really is. Good body, even better face. The men are none too subtle about inventing reasons to hang around with her. She dresses impeccably. Her husband is adorable and, since he's originally from New Zealand, he has the cutest accent. She has a good relationship with her parents. Her boss -- The Chocolate Covered Spider -- is on maternity leave, so she has an opportunity to show upper management what she can do on some high-profile projects. Earlier in the summer, that's exactly what she said she wanted.

So why isn't she happy?

She cuts corners because of the stress. She complains about the stress. She takes days off because of the stress.

She's always going for coffee "to vent" or sitting in one of the guest chairs at reception, looking sad and texting, texting, texting on her cell (presumably to her husband). This post is inspired by her confession that she keeps a "complaints" folder! What does she have to complain about?

Oh, but to be 30, beautiful and thin, with a great wardrobe, a cute husband and parents I enjoy going on vacation with! And to top it off, to have a golden opportunity to show my bosses just what I can do!

It's everything in me to not go up to her, slap her face and shout, a la Cher in Moonstruck, "Snap out of it!"

2013 August Happiness Challenge -- Day 29

Today's happiness: Amazon Vine. With this program, "Amazon invites its most trusted reviewers to post opinions about new and pre-release items to help their fellow customers make informed purchase decisions." In other words, FREE STUFF! I have been a Vine Voice for years now, so I kinda take it for granted. I shouldn't. The book in my bag, the conditioner alongside my tub, and a Leagfrog keyboard I'm putting aside for the community Christmas toy drive are all mine, at no charge whatsoever. Not even shipping/handling. Once a month I get a listing of a variety of products to choose from, and I can take up to 3 -- as long as I keep reviewing them.

You can't "join" Vine, you have to be invited. As I understand it, I was chosen because I review everything I order from them and my reviews get a lot of "helpful" votes. I began writing the reviews to help me remember which book in any given mystery series I've read. I mean, the titles can be very similar! Then I began ordering CDs and jewelry and ... hell, Amazon sells everything now, and I reviewed.

So if you want to get in on the Vine freebies, start reviewing! You can review books you got from the library or the deodorant you bought at Walgreen's. It just has to be a product Amazon sells but not necessarily purchased from them. (I keep trying to get my friend Mindy to begin reviewing -- she's an avid reader and a good writer -- but she refuses to believe me that she can review her library books.) Once you meet their supersecret criteria, Amazon will invite you to be a Vine Voice.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Regrettably in support

As this nation continues its seemingly inexorable march toward involvement in Syria, I have decided I support President Obama. But not because of the President.

Because of Secretary of State John Kerry.

He is, at heart, a pacifist. He referred to Iraq as "the wrong war at the wrong time," and he was right. He was shaped by Vietnam and what he saw of combat and killing there.* As Assistant District Attorney, he made the controversial decision to not request the death penalty, even when his constituents demanded it.

So if he believes this is the course this country should take, I accept it.

I'm also confident he will keep the well being of our troops in mind as he, Obama, and Hagel work this through.

So while conflict always makes me sad, I'm afraid I support this intervention. (Even as the Brits seem to be withdrawing their support.)

*For a serious examination of his service, not the "Swiftboat" bullshit, check out Tour of Duty by Douglas Brinkley.

2013 August Happiness Challenge -- Day 28

The internet. Yesterday, as I was sitting at my desk working, I was able to watch many of the speeches and ceremonies commemorating The March on Washington, live as they happened. With my headphones on it felt very intimate and I was moved. Right there, in the afternoon, at my desk. This technology is something no one could have imagined in 1963.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Thank God for sunglasses

I saw the most beautiful man on the el platform yesterday. He was big as a tree -- 6'5 or so. He was wearing a Cubbie blue faux Izod. (How I love that shade of blue!) It looked fabulous against his skin. I don't know if he was Hispanic or Hawaiian but his skin was this gorgeous nutshell brown. His arms were muscled and firm and were carrying a tennis racket. (Remind me to hang around tennis courts.) His hair was black and thick and (my only complaint about this god walking among us) had too much product and made him look a little too much like Bob's Big Boy.

He stood next to me as we waited for the platform, and I was able to gaze upon him with complete impunity because I was wearing my sunglasses and could pretend I was looking at the sign that gave us the time/temp and said when the next train would arrive.

2013 August Happiness Challenge -- Day 28

Today's happiness: barbecue sauce. This evening I had it on a pork chop, and it was delicious. I don't know why, but unless it's summer, I seldom use barbecue sauce.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sight seen

I don't drive -- never have -- so there's a whole aspect of life that I haven't experienced. Today's observation was a revelation.

As I was crossing Michigan and Randolph this morning, late as usual, I saw a woman stop traffic by getting out of her car. She wanted to see what she'd hit. It was a traffic cone, completely squashed, flat as a pancake. She dragged it out and tossed it on the median before getting back in her car and driving off.

At lunchtime, I crossed at the same spot. The cone was still on the median, but it had sprung back to its previous glory. It was dirty and tire-marked, but it was standing tall and proud.

Those suckers must be indestructible!

2013 August Happiness Challenge -- Day 26

Today's happiness: The new bathroom. The remodeled restrooms at work are just about done and they are amazing. The wallpaper, the sinks, the stall doors are all downright elegant. The sensors on the faucets are a little too sensitive and finicky -- you have to have your hands in exactly the right spot to keep the water running. But in all, it's pretty awesome.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Why aren't I happier right now?

For lunch I had tuna and crackers, applesauce and a pudding cup. I worked out. I spent very little money and behaved in a healthy way.

Yet I really, REALLY wanted something gooey and cheesey. And a beer would have been nice ...

Why is misbehaving so much tastier than doing the right thing?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

2013 August Happiness Challenge -- Day 25

Today's happiness is "another good stage reached." So read the update to an online journal about Carol, a woman I know who had a massive heart attack on June 30. It wasn't that long ago that Carol was being kept alive by machines, and now she's about to begin physical therapy! A miracle!

Maybe it was the movie, maybe it was the anniversary

I began this morning watching a special rerun of Meet the Press -- Dr. King appearing on that program on August 25, 1963 ... just days before the March on Washington and his "I Have a Dream" speech. I wasn't aware of how frightened the white establishment was, how many predicted violence, for the mall that day. But there it was. Newsmen were asking King and the NAACP's Roy Wilkins questions about violence right there, in real time.

One interviewer then even asked King if "Negroes" have been "pushing too hard and too fast."

Because the March is so often referred to as a great moment in American history, I don't ever consider how it was thought of before it happened. And Meet the Press was a sobering time capsule.

It was with that still ringing in my ears that I saw The Butler. It's the story of Cecil Gaines, a fictionalized black man who served in The White House as butler from the Eisenhower through Reagan administrations, and who got to meet President Barack Obama.

Therefore, it's the story of all of us. Unlike The Help, it's told exclusively from a black character's POV, and is more sophisticated about how it addresses race. Dr. King vs. Malcolm X ... an interesting observation about domestics as "subversive" rather than "subservient" ... and that pesky accusation about "Negros pushing too hard and too fast."

It left me tired, and weepy.

I was thinking of my mother. She was 70 years old when she voted for Barack Obama and was proud and moved by casting that ballot in ways she couldn't articulate and I didn't understand.

I was thinking of Trayvon Martin, and how young black men still have to be careful about living in the white world. And how today many white people still don't even want to acknowledge that this is true, much less talk about making it better.

I was thinking of that other 50-year anniversary coming up, of JFK's assassination. His real voice is one that's heard over the closing credits. It was his June 1963 address that framed civil rights as not a legal issue but a moral one. "Now the time has come for the Nation to fulfill its promise." (To be honest, I don't know if that sentence is actually heard on the soundtrack. I was on my way to the exit as soon as I heard his voice and recognized the speech. I don't like to cry in public so I had to get out of there.)

It was a dizzying mix of emotion. Disgust at our history and pride in how a movie like this could be made and literally applauded by a theater full of people. I mean, hey, Edward Snowden, a movie like this about and by Russians simply isn't possible.

So it's hard for me to think of this movie as just a movie. But the movie lover in me was able to make these observations: Yes, Oprah can act. She's in the movie a lot and after a while, she disappears into her character … Yes, that really is Mariah Carey at the beginning … The filmmakers should be applauded for their attention to detail: Jackie Kennedy is shown smoking and they got HR Haldeman's haircut right … LBJ still suffers, in movie terms, by following JFK. There are some cheap (accurate but unnecessary) observations about him that diminished him and I'm not sure belonged in the movie … Nancy Reagan should feel very good about the controversial casting of Jane Fonda.

So see it. Definitely see The Butler. But bring a tissue. The fact that we are willing to watch ourselves at our worst IS us at our best. So you'll leave the theater feeling patriotic.

Sunday Stealing

Young at Heart

1. Are you a young heart or an old soul? The older I get, the younger I feel. I'm not kidding -- my soul felt far heavier when I was 16 than it does today.

2. What makes someone a best friend? Accepting you as you are, and a willingness to invest the time required.

3. What Christmas present do you remember the most? Blaze, brought to me by Santa the Christmas after I'd just turned four. First I saw the TV commercials, then I saw him in the Sears Christmas Catalog, then I met him in the toy department of the Sears store, and I knew we destined to be together. Blaze is all I asked Santa for that year. I will always remember coming down the hall and seeing him beside the Christmas Tree.

4. Tell me a movie/song/TV show/playbook that has changed your life. Saving Graces by Elizabeth Edwards. The subtitle is, "finding solace and strength from friends and strangers." She talks about how the kindnesses of those around her have sustained her through political losses, breast cancer and most wrenchingly, the death of her teenage son, Wade. Until I read this book, my response when friends offered help was always, "No, that's OK." Now I understand that we are meant to help one another, that it should and must go both ways.

5. Name one physical feature that you like about yourself and one that you dislike. I like my green eyes. I don't like my fat ass.

6. Can money buy happiness? Happiness? No. Security? Certainly.

7. What’s more important in a relationship: physical attraction or emotional connection? Yes. (I'm greedy -- I want both!)

8. Is there anyone close to you that you know you can’t trust? My older sister is a beast. She's made every aspect of dealing with our mother's passing more difficult. I cannot wait until I no longer have to deal with her.

9. Where was your favorite place to go when you were a little kid? The movies. The first movie I saw at the theater was Mary Poppins, and I still remember that moment when the big red curtains opened and I saw the rooftops of London. The movies remain my favorite place to go.

10. Have you spent a night in the hospital? I had surgery two years ago.

11. Do you enjoy being only with 1-2 friends or with a large group of people? 1-2

12. Have you ever been bullied? Remember the sister I mentioned in #8? She's been trying to bully me since my birth.

13. If your partner wanted to wait until marriage until having sex, would you stay in that relationship? Wow. Never been in that position. I think I'd prefer to drive the car around the block before I buy it.

14. Do you believe in God? Yes

15. Out of all the social networks in the world why use a blog? I like the longer form of communication.

16. What is your quirkiest habit? I happen to know that the toilet paper is supposed to come OVER the roll, not under. I have been known to correct the situation wherever I find it.

17. What is normal? Are you normal? As my best friend likes to say, "I don't even know what 'normal' looks like."

18. Someone close to you is dying! You have the choice to let this person live for 10 more years but if you do you cause the death of 10 strangers.  I don't see a question here. Did I miss something when I cut and pasted?

19. What is one thing you could never forgive? I have a hard time when someone intentionally hurts me.

20. When you’re alone in your own home, do you talk out loud to yourself? Yes

21. Who is your favorite super hero? Batman. And that would be Adam West as Batman. I accept
no substitutes.

22. Could you be in a long distance relationship? I was. We talked every day and saw each other every month. It suited me quite nicely.

23. Do you know what makes you happy? In the moment, yes.

24. Who was your first crush? Our next door neighbor's son. He was in his 20s, I was in kindergarten. I used to visit with him when he'd come over to wash his car in his parents' driveway and he promised to marry me. I was really pissed when I learned he not only wasn't really waiting for me, he was already engaged. AND MY PARENTS MADE ME GO WITH THEM TO THE WEDDING! Her name was Sandy and she wore so much hairspray I could smell it! Unfortunately, he had an undiagnosed heart problem and died before he was 30.

25. Where is your favorite place to go out and eat? My new favorite is Pizano's. Love their deep dish pizza.

26. Are you an early bird or night owl? Night owl.

27. Give me an unpopular opinion you have. We should reinstate the draft. I think parents would view our adventures in foreign lands differently if their children would have to do the fighting.

28. Do you believe in giving kids medals and trophies for participation? I'm sorry, but I don't really care.

29. What song best describes your life right now? "Don't Rain on My Parade"

30. How do you express your creativity? I'm a writer by trade.

31. Describe your neighborhood. Ethnically diverse and easily walkable.

32. Give me the story of your life in 6 words. Good friend. Good writer. Animal lover.

2013 August Happiness Challenge -- Day 24

Today's happiness: rib-eye steak. It's by far my favorite dinner, and I thoroughly enjoyed it Saturday night.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

7 pairs of slacks and 3 handbags

It was almost a year ago that my mother died, and after her death I rescued some of her clothes.

 My kid sister was in charge of clearing out the house, and I knew at the time that she was planning to have a sale of some sort, but she was overwhelmed. I filled a box with some of Mom's clothes, as well as some of my cast-off handbags that she'd liked. I thought removing a box of her stuff would help my sister feel as though some progress had been made in clearing my mom's home (yeah, that would still take months and months) and I'd planned on taking her clothes to the resale shop in her neighborhood (which suffered a devastating electrical fire and never reopened).

So that box of her clothes has been sitting in my den for nearly a year. Until today. When I packed it up and took it to Goodwill.

I estimate that the fair market value of these items is $42.75, so each of my sisters and I can declare $14.25 on our 2013 income taxes.

Some of the slacks still smelled like my mom's bedroom. I recognized the scent immediately. I remember how it felt for my mom to hug me.

But I didn't cry. I haven't cried. I'm not sad.

I am ready for this part of our relationship -- hers and mine -- to be over. The reverse mortgage company will go to court in early September, just after Labor Day, to take a major step toward taking legal possession of her home. Soon I'm going to close the books on the finances and cut my heinous older sister a check for about $700. And then it will be done.

I want to remember her as my mother. Not as a financial responsibility or a legal matter.

So today felt like a move toward healing.

Saturday 9

1) This song is about a heartbreaker who just can't commit. Have you ever fallen for an "easy lover?" Yes. He broke quite a few hearts before he knew me and went on to break a few more after we broke up.

2) This song is one of Crazy Sam's "earwigs." Each time she hears it, it bores in and stays in her head forever! (Hear it here, if you dare!) Do you have a song like that? "Home" by Phillip Phillips. American Family Insurance uses a little snippet of it on their commercials, and once I hear it ("I'm gonna make this place your home ..."), the song keeps running through my mind for hours.

3) Both Phil Collins and Philip Bailey* have stars on The
Hollywood Walk of Fame. Have you ever visited Hollywood? Yes, at least twice. I've acted like a total tourist each time, strolling with my head down, checking out the stars. "Look! It's Robert Vaughn! I loved him on The Man from U.N.C.L.E."
4) Hollywood is the movie capital of the world. What's the last movie you saw in the theater? It was a little indie movie starring Steve Carrell called The Way, Way Back. Completely charming. If it ever comes to a theater near you, see it.
5) Phil Collins was a child actor in his native England,
appearing onstage in musicals like Oliver! Can you think of another child performer who went on to entertainment industry success as an adult? Former Mouseketeer Ryan Gosling springs to mind. I think he's grown up exceptionally well, don't you?
  6) Philip Bailey joined Earth, Wind & Fire while still in college, so he's been a performer throughout his working life, as well. Have you ever been tempted to try your hand at show biz? No. I hate my voice.
7) Is there a profession that you never, under any circumstances, want to try? Food service. I think I would have a hard time being as polite and patient as a good waiter has to be.
8) What are you looking forward to right now? Eggs for breakfast! I have a massive craving for eggs right now.
9) Do you suffer from trypanophobia (fear of needles/injections)? Or can you bravely donate blood or get a shot, without freaking out? No. And this reminds me I really should donate again. I am a rather rare type (AB+) so Lifesource needs me, and I keep ducking their calls.

*Well, Earth Wind & Fire has a star.

Friday, August 23, 2013

2013 August Happiness Challenge -- Day 23

Today's Happiness: Walgreens Back to School Drive. Four folders -- 2 red, 2 blue -- will go into the backpacks of some kids in need, courtesy of moi. It's a lovely feeling. The back to school drive runs through tomorrow, so there's still time for you feel the happiness, too.

2013 August Happiness Challenge -- Day 22

Today's happiness: Peapod. The grocery delivery service. I'm so happy when they handle those 24-can cases of Coke and the big bags of kitty litter for me.

If you dodge the bullets too many times, eventually you'll get hit

Wednesday night, we hit a snag on a major project at work. We were getting ready to send the files off to production -- so that the letters and brochures could actually be printed and assembled in envelopes and sent out to over a million consumers. A MILLION. (I have been doing this a long time, and the number of people my work touches still has the power to impress.)

The client changed the dates on us, requesting at the last minute that we have everything ready to go to press by 8:00 AM Thursday rather than first thing Monday. That meant our work had to be done Wednesday instead of Friday. As we were getting ready to go Wednesday night, our internal production department had a rather significant technical question about how the files had been created on the computer.

That is one of the only aspects of this project I am not involved in.

I can explain how the offers were chosen for each target audience. I came up with four of the five creative concepts that we're mailing, so I'm certainly familiar with the background on how the headlines and photos were chosen. I worked with the client's legal department on the fine print, so I can point out how one paragraph of tiny type is different from another.

But I DO NOT build the computer files! That is up to the art director.

Who is on vacation this week. Before she left, I specifically asked her if the art director chosen to fill in for her had everything he needed for this project. She assured me he was.

He wasn't. When the questions started flying in Wednesday -- at 4:30 PM -- he had no answers. All she had really given him was her computer password and access to her files. NO explanation for why she made any of the decisions she did.

By the time we discover this, it's after 5:00. Our boss has gone home. The client has gone home. We catch her in her car, driving to pick up her kids at daycare, and ask her what she wants us to do. GULP!

She was very gracious, saying that she realized we must be feeling the stress of losing two days of the schedule.

Except that wasn't it. We fucked up. Even if we had until Friday, we still wouldn't know what we were doing on our end because the responsible art director is still on vacation through Tuesday.

One of our internal staff officiously said he wouldn't send anything off until THE GAL HERSELF signs off on it. Rather than reveal to the client that no one is in charge, I just said "sure, of course, certainly."

After we hung up, I went, "OH, SHIT!" I don't know how to say this more plainly: I have no involvement with how the computer files are built. You might as well ask the security guard at the desk downstairs. And now here I am responsible for signing off on it.

The next morning I brought my boss up to date on all of it. He blamed the client for chopping two days off the schedule, not the art director for not explaining herself anywhere.

I didn't accept that. The art director has been working on a "process document" for what she does SINCE MAY. She not only didn't leave it for her replacement, she's never even finished it!

This has to change. It just does. For while we were operating under cover of the shortened timeline, there are critical errors in our internal process and if we continue to operate this way, we're going to get burned.

And I don't want to be responsible for giving my approval to anything I don't understand anymore. If I'm to do that again (next time the possibility will arise is December -- if I still have this job then), I need an explanation from the art director as to why she made every decision. And I need it IN WRITING.

My boss finally promised me that this won't happen again. He gave me his word that the art director will have her process document done "in two weeks."

It was hard for me to do this. I know that the company is looking "at efficiencies," which means trying to decide who and how many to lay off, so perhaps this wasn't the wisest moment to become a squeaky wheel.

But there's a fissure in our internal process and we have to fix it. The consequences we're looking at are scary.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

2013 August Happiness Challenge -- Day 21

Gone with the Wind. Spent the evening the with Scarlett, Rhett, Melanie, Mammy and the gang from Tara, Twelve Oaks and Atlanta. I've seen it so many times that it goes by very quickly, and they do feel like dear old friends. I feel like re-reading the book, but my TBR pile is so deep that I dare not.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

2013 TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon: Suddenly, Last Summer

For decades – beginning with National Velvet (1936) – Elizabeth Taylor was a major film star. One of the things I admired most about her was that seemed to regard “movie queen” as her job. She accepted her status, seemed comfortable with the perks and demands, and often used her power very wisely.

Because her multiple marriages and health problems were so notorious, Taylor's work is often, unfortunately, overlooked. Look at her films of the late 1950s through the late 1960s, when she was at the height of her bankability and celebrity, and you’ll find quite a few that were more daring than typical box office fare. Many of these movies would not have been made if Elizabeth hadn’t signed on early and fought for them. These films entertained, provoked and challenged both the actress and her audience.

During this 10-year period – the high-water mark of her long career – Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is far and away the best film. But there were also Raintree County, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, BUtterfield 8, The Comedians, Reflections in a Golden Eye, Hammersmith is Out and Boom! These provocative movies tackled adult themes like race, sexuality, prostitution, child abuse, infidelity, mental illness and political barbarism. They didn't all end successfully (she herself would dismiss some as "turkeys"), but each began with an impeccable literary pedigree -- coming from works by the likes of Tennessee Williams, John O’Hara and Graham Greene -- top-notch costars and a talented director.

While none of the above was safe fare, the one farthest out of the mainstream was Suddenly, Last Summer. It was released in 1959, but even if this story was made today, it would leave the movie going public in shock.

I can just imagine audiences -- who were watching I Love Lucy and Bonanza at home and listening to Dion and The Belmonts on the car radio -- filing into theaters over that last Christmas holiday of the Eisenhower 1950s. To them, Suddenly, Last Summer probably seemed like a safe bet for a few hours of quality entertainment. After all, it boasts sure-handed direction by Joseph L. Mankewicz and an amazing, Oscar-recognized cast – Katharine Hepburn, Montgomery Clift, Mercedes McCambridge and, as the tormented Catherine, Elizabeth Taylor.

But what this film delivers is anything but safe. Suddenly, Last Summer takes us into a Southern Gothic world fueled by greed, corruption, deception and lust. I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s just say that it starts out with a wealthy New Orleans matriarch (Hepburn) trying to bribe a doctor (Clift) to lobotomize her inconvenient niece (Taylor) … and it gets really dark from there.

Exactly how weird is the plot to Suddenly, Last Summer? Let me illustrate by sharing a true story. I once had a boyfriend who was not a classic movie fan. (Honestly, he thought Audrey and Katharine Hepburn were sisters.) Yet somehow he had a better cable package than I did. I’ve always been fascinated by Suddenly, Last Summer, so when the opportunity arose I asked him to tape it for me. “What’s it about?” he asked. I hit the high points: cannibalism, procurement, insanity and sea turtles. To which he replied, “No, really. What’s it about?”

Okay, now we’ve established that Suddenly, Last Summer has to be seen to be believed. So give it a chance. It's an enthralling, eccentric nightmare where no one is as they seem but everyone speaks so beautifully … a world populated by heavyweight acting champions, where Monty Clift officiates as Taylor and Hepburn go toe to toe, and Kate’s the one who blinks.

TCM will show Suddenly, Last Summer 
at on August 23 at 10:00 PM (EST).
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Melancholy observation

As the baseball season slowly winds to a close, it occurs to me that this is the first season of my entire life that I haven't watched a Cub game in the living room of my girlhood home.

2013 August Happiness Challenge -- Day 20

Don. Don is the age-appropriate man at the health club who insisted on talking to me today. He has heavily-lidded eyes (Italian?) and slight balding at the crown. We were on the elevator together as he was leaving the gym and I was beginning my workout. We joked about how we'd both do better to use the stairs, to make it part of our workouts, but we don't. Then we talked about our exercise routines ...

At any rate, he was flirting with me and it was nice to not feel invisible. So many of the men at my office are young enough to be my children. Men that I pass on the street seem to not see me anymore. Some of it is my age, much of it is my weight.

If I never see Don again -- and in a city this size that's very likely -- it made me happy to flirt again.

Another day

I'm beginning to assume that my job is safe for now. I think our new management -- both internationally and in Chicago -- are getting to know one another before deciding what to do.

It's mind boggling to think of all the change that's happened in the last two months: we were part of a multinational merger, with tons of talk about "conflicts" and "efficiencies"* … one CEO resigned and the very day it was announced a new one took his place ... our top creative resigned, leaving on the 31st, and a search has begun to replace him. And I thought summer was traditionally a slow time!

Of the 375 people who work in this office, approximately 90 of us are creatives. So I suppose it's possible that if cuts come, they will come from other areas.

What does all this mean? Hell if I know.

I guess I just have to try to roll with it. "Rolling with it" is not one of my natural gifts.

*Corporate speak for layoffs

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

This year's Christmas card

"May the warmth of the holiday season
be with you today and
throughout the New Year"

I love that American Humane promotes the cards in advance, and that they arrive in August -- typically our warmest month. Sometimes in summer (borrowing from Mame here) we need a little Christmas.

If you would like to help American Humane "ensure the welfare, wellness and well-being of children and animals," as you send happy holiday greetings to friends and loved ones, click here.