Tuesday, September 24, 2013

But-Less Gratitude

I'm going to be quick ... I know I tend to get long. I always intend to be quick and four pages later ... alright, I'll just stop now.

Last Saturday was World Gratitude Day. Yes, I know it's one of those made-up, Hallmark holidays, but gratitude is so very important for shifting your vibration towards the positive that it's worth pausing for.

While I was at an event, the speaker asked us to pause and think of things we were grateful for. This is when I had the epiphany I am passing on to you:
Think of things that you are actually grateful for.
I know, I'm a genius right?

Seriously, though, every time people do this in a group, people always say their family, their kids, their jobs. And it's always in that tone. That Hermione gets a gold star tone. That "Teacher, you forgot to give us homework." tone.

You'd think we were all running for student council.

Fortunately, the woman leading the workshop asked us to think of things we were grateful for in our heads and not out loud. I am happy to say that I rattled off a list of things so quickly that I was amazed and happy and wanted to keep going.

The thing was, they were things I really was grateful for:
  • the two matching, crystal lamps that brighten up my office
  • the new makeup kit from QVC that turned out to be so awesome
  • the soft, wet, cool breeze of Atlantic Coast Florida early in the morning.  
The problem with saying your family et al is that there's always a but.
  • You're grateful for your family, buuuuutttt they drive you crazy.
  • You're grateful for your job, buuuuutttt they drive you crazy.
  • You're grateful for your friends, buuuuutttt they drive you crazy. (Less than family, buuuuutttt you get my point)
When there's a big buuuuutttt in the thing you're grateful for, practicing gratitude is
  • Not going to shift your energy
  • Not going to make you feel better
  • Not going to bring you all the benefits you keep reading about practicing gratitude ... and that's just going to make you feel worse.
When you make a list of thing you're really grateful for, go Kosher--no butts!

Saying your grateful for your family, your friends, or your job is usually a bad idea if there are big butts in there. 
  • Pretty, crystal lamps (where I got a great deal) - no buts!
  • Awesome new makeup - no buts!
  • Beautiful breeze - no buts!
It doesn't matter how stupid, or silly, or unelectable to the student council your gratitude list makes you. No one has to see it. No one has to know.

The important thing is that you really feel the gratitude for whatever it is with no buts. Family relationships and jobs are too complicated and our feelings are too mixed about them to shift your energy quickly - even if you really are grateful deep down. In fact, when I talk about my day job, "I'm grateful to have it." is the first thing I say ... because I know I'm about to complain.

Now, soft-serve frozen yogurt in white chocolate mousse? All gratitude, no complaining, no buts.

Woohoo, the Water Bill is Here


Why woohoo?

Because I was right and I get to sit in my smugness ...  until my next screw up. And, after the coffee incident, I need as much self-righteous smugness as I can get.

From the day I moved into this apartment, I knew that something was wrong with the toilet; it shouldn't run that often. And I shouldn't be paying $70/month for water on a 600 square foot apartment. Even if holy water blessed by Jesus himself is coming out of my tap, that's too much money.

When I first moved in, I got the repair guy to try something at the beginning and then he said something I can't remember because it involved household repairs and tools. Whatever it was, it boiled down to "let's see how it goes."

Well, it goed and goed and goed. Every 25 minutes, I would hear it come on and shut off. I described this phenomenon  to every one so many times and no one seemed to get it. Sometimes, though, you've just got to let it go and focus on other disasters ... like getting laid off.

Getting laid off inspired me to bring the water bill up again. $70/month is a lot of money when you're living on unemployment checks from out of state. It's a lot of money when I got a job. Point is, it's a lot of money.

I got the same runaround/lack of follow up/ball of confusion then and dropped it so that I could focus full-time on just what the hell I was going to do with no job. Just kidding! Incessant worry was more of a part-time gig. After all, a girl's gotta sleep.

Every month, when that bill came in, I would get so mad. However, anger does not create solutions; it only manifests more anger. I am far enough along on my spiritual path to know that.

The further I go down my path, the more I know what works and doesn't work for me. I can rage all I want in my mind and to my friends (and hey, there's this blog thing I keep hearing about...), but when I vent that rage in situations like this, it never solves the problem and I just feel double-crappy: once for having lost it and twice for still having the problem!

Rather than raging, I would stare at that $70 bill each month and think,
"There has got to be a solution to this. Angels help me out here." 
Actually, I think it went from,
"WTF??!! Why don't these people listen to me?!" 
to asking Source in a progressively nicer voice with each passing month. From a roar to a sigh to a quiet determination to getting this resolved.

As guided, I started keeping the bills in a stack on top of my fridge. (Well, the fridge part was me, but you know what I'm saying.)

Finally, when the same $70 bill arrived for a month where I had been out of town three out of four weeks, I made another call. And another call. And another call. And a visit to the HOA wherein I discovered that they didn't even know I was living here. Sorting that out was fun. I also received an education on "flapper" technology from the maintenance man ... which is apparently something that flaps ... in your toilet. I tried not to think about it too much.

At this point, I was asking for help from Spirit, Angels, and any one else who would help me. I was very calm when making calls and visits and kept saying,
Which is all I say when I'm afraid I'll go negative. Honestly, when you've got this much sarcasm inside, going negative is easy ... and wordy. So, one word. They know what to do ... or should by now.

So, imagine my surprise, when sitting in my apartment one day, months after the last attempt to fix this, I get a call from the apartment manager about the water bill. Two days later, the fix-it guy shows up with a whole bag of stuff. I do my best to explain flapper technology to which he replied,
"Yeah, that's what I said before..."
Fist of death! Fist. of. death!

No, when you hear the word "flapper" in regards to a toilet, you remember it. No one ever said anything about a flapper...until I did.

Exhale. Slooooowly....

In any case, he fixed it, the leak, stopped, and I just got a water bill for $14 less than the last one. This water bill includes two weeks before the fix and two weeks after.

Sometimes, you just need to let your angels take care of it. The solution might not come on your time, but it will come and it will be so much easier than if you had pushed it.

I hope I'm learning to turn things over faster. The more I do, the faster whatever it is gets resolved. This whole process took 10 months, but it's done.

 I can't wait to get my bill next month.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Burner Busted

Spiritual guidance - you just never know how it's going to help you. And today it saved me from even more unforeseen humiliation regarding "the coffee incident" blogged about previously.

Even a friend had to say to me on the phone yesterday, why didn't you just put it in the microwave?


I don't do microwaves, OK? They freak me out and always have. Even when I was a kid and watching something cook in a microwave, all I could think is, "That's just wrong!"

I have no explanation for this other than my instinctual aversion to microwaves and microwaves food. Worst of all is microwaved water for coffee and tea and anything else. Anytime I go to someone's house and they ask me if I want tea and then put the cup in the microwave, I shudder, and then pretend to drink the tea, thinking, "Angel, cancel, clear, delete ... or something. I don't want to glow all the way home."

Is boiling water that hard? Well, I guess after this and this, it can be ... for me. And, I hope this explains why it would occur to me to put cold coffee in a microwave to heat it up. My microwave is full of saran wrap, tinfoil, sandwich bags, and other kitchen things.

Anyway, the continued fallout of the coffee incident is that there is no saving this burner pan:

And that's where divine guidance comes in. Months ago, I kept feeling like I should join Amazon Prime. At the time, I was unemployed and thought that that guidance couldn't possibly be right.

Well, I followed it, and boy! has it saved my ass more times than I have the time to explain here. Most recently, with the case of the over-burnt burner pictured above. Every time, I turn it on, I smell burning Lavazza and this will not stand.

Amazon Prime to the rescue: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003DA61YI/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Yeah ... that's right!

Amazon isn't just for ordering books you're too embarrassed to check out at the store - cough! Shades of Grey cough! cough! Now, it's for items you would too embarrassed to explain needing to a Home Depot employee.

Given my penchant for telling the truth and over-explaining, I would panic in the moment and just tell the truth ... only to fact that, "who the hell are you?" look I have seen so often in retail settings.

Lastly, through Amazon Prime, I bought a kick-ass convection oven that defrosts and toasts my bagels in three minutes. Take that microwaves!

And, I actually just thought, "Hey, I could put my coffee mug in there." Sigh! Some people never learn...

Friday, September 20, 2013

A Tale of Two Mugs

In case any of you thought I was making up the story in my last post about my favorite coffee mug exploding because I left in on the burner to heat up. Here it is:

The bottom popped off and the coffee went everywhere. All in all, it was a pretty clean break; no shards anywhere. To the right is the burner that still has caked Lavazza in the bottom of the pan. I have no idea how to replace that damn thing. 

This morning, I bought my new favorite mug. Pretty fitting, don't you think? 

It's the same basic shape as the old one, 

so, I foresee a long and happy life together.

And, of course, there's this:

What can I say? I still have some of that Lavazza left.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Practical Solutions for (Somewhat) Spiritual Bloopers

Or, how to redeem a really stupid, fancy coffee purchase at a "high vibrating" store. By now, you have probably read this hilarious article about Whole Foods by Kelly MacLean over at the Huffington Post. True dat, Kelly.

Reading that article and a kitchen incident involving my coffee this morning that I would rather not go into inspired me to share this useful information.

Alright, alright, I put my coffee mug on the front burner to warm it up, I stepped away, and it exploded. I had left the burner on high, because I heard the ping on Lync from my work laptop and knew it was my boss. So there.

Also, funny story, I'm out of paper towels.

These are the joys of working from home. You run out of paper towels (and toilet paper) on a regular basis and always have that moment of confusion as to why. "I'm at work. The paper towels never run out at work." And then you remember, that you're also at home and you have to buy the paper towels. Just like when you were a kid and realized that an endless supply of clean clothes don't just spring forth from mom's arms; there's actually a process.

Anyway, watching the burnt coffee ooze all over the stove and floor with no practical way to wipe it up made me think about the coffee itself. It was like a zen meditation except it brought to the memory of buying that coffee instead of my inner Buddha or whatever.

Much like Ms. MacLean, we all get seduced by fancy stores like Whole Foods or Some Guys Gourmet Repast places and we buy things we can't eat or use that were really expensive. Hence, the coffee now oozing down my kitchen cabinet.

At one Jim Bob's Fancy Gourmet Crap store or another, I purchased the fancy coffee. The coffee in a tin! Imported! A favorite of some European country! Whose flag waves at me from the front of the tin! Of course, I should buy it. So I can be fancy and European and have the bestest, most gourmet-ist in life.

Those fancy coffees were the illy and the Lavazza. As opposed to the illy and the Odyssey. Well, let me tell you, the Odyssey of the illy is drinking it. It will take you all around the world and then back home ... and straight to the bathroom.

Lavazza is much, much worse than illy (much worse!), but they are both pretty brutal. Maybe it's their country of origin (Italy) but both of these coffees taste like the metal shavings and rust bits that come out of your radiator when it's flushed. And the experience of drinking it is like having your ... ahem ... radiator flushed. (Seriously, it's liquid Colon Blow.)



It was $15 a pop! That is a LOT of expensive coffee you can't drink. Damn you fancy stores for making me think that fancy coffee makes me fancy!

So, what do you do when you find yourself in possession of fancy, yet undrinkable, very expensive coffee? Mix it with good coffee.

Here's a tip for your Whole Foods (or Chef Blah Blah Blah's Rustic Kitchen) recovery:
  1. Go to the grocery story and buy Dunkin Donuts coffee (Literally, the best coffee in the world ... and I am using "literally" correctly. Look it up.) for $7 or $8.
  2. Dump a significant portion of the fancy coffee in the garbage. The portion should be proportional to how painful it was to drink.
  3. Dump a significant portion of the Dunkin Donuts coffee into remaining metal shavings - oops! - I mean coffee in the tin and shake.
This saved the illy ($15!) but the Lavazza might just be irredeemable. 

So there you have it: a practical solution to the stupidity brought on by the weakness and intimidation of expensive, gourmet stores. And the aftermath of those, "I deserve the best" thoughts. 

I hope we've all learned something:
  1. Never put your coffee mug on a burner.... unless you're going to watch it. (Y'all know I'm gonna to this again, so I had to put a disclaimer in there.)
  2. Never buy or drink Italian coffee - especially Lavazza. Unless you need to torture information out of a suspect.
  3. Always, always buy more paper towels than you think you need. (And more toilet paper, especially if you're gonna drink the Lavazza.)

(No, I mean it, really. Why else would I be offering such helpful tips?! At my own expense?)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How to Stay Alive...And Not

When I first started my blog, it represented a commitment to myself to be more creative. The problem is that my life is ... sucking the life out of me.

I am so tired and worn out lately that there's just nothing funny in the tank.

I have outlined several ideas and sometimes think of funny things, but when I get to it, I'm so spent that ... it's just not funny at all. I'm afraid to work on my great stories because they'll come out dry as a desert.

It's just life sometimes.

I work in writing for a living. Nothing fun or creative. I write for information technology or "IT" if you are in the biz. "IT" technically stands for "information technology," but more often than not it really means "idiot train." So, I write for the idiot train and I am desperately trying not to let it suck all the words out of me.

I went to write for the idiot train years ago precisely because it wasn't creative. Actually, technically, I boarded the idiot train because
  1. People kept telling me I was a good writer. In fact, I remember reading all the recommendation letters from college and they all said "great writing skills" or "good writer," which mystified me ... and still does.
  2. I desperately wanted out of the secretarial pool. If ever there was a person who shouldn't be answering phones and fighting with the copier, it's me.
  3. A test told me to. 
As unbelievable as it sounds, a test told me to be a technical writer. In my mid-20s, in a new city, barely paying my bills, and wondering just what the heck I was ever going to do with a Philosophy degree, I signed up for a class about what to do with the rest of your life. 

For the life of me, I cannot remember the name of the course or where I found out about it, but I remember that it was in this old building at Queens College. Six weeks of personality tests, skills tests, aptitude test, and a bunch of other crap that I can't remember, and BAM! career options. 

At the end, the proctor handed us a sheet with the top three careers that matched all our test scores. Mine were:
  1. Translator
  2. Technical Writer
  3. Model
Now, #3 kind of told me how much time and money I had just wasted in that stupid course because, last time I checked, it's not personality that makes someone a model. Somehow the whole Inner Beauty magazine concept never took off. Imagine that. Truth be told, the the fact that "model" is even in the mix of possible careers makes the whole enterprise null and void, but what the hell else was I gonna do? That money and time was spent and I didn't have any other options at the time. 

As for #1, French was my best subject in school, but that had long since faded from memory. So #2 it was. Only. What the hell was it?!

When I discovered that technical writing was writing instructions for technology, I thought it was the best shot I had at anything. All those "good writer" comments flashed before my eyes and I thought tech writing and me might just be a good match after all. 

Also, and here's where it gets ironic ... at least I hope here's where it gets ironic. Ever since the 90s, I'm never sure what's ironic or not. Now, THAT'S ironic ... I think. But, as I said, I have no idea.

In any case, the possibly ironic part is that I have never considered myself a good writer, not creatively anyway. I don't have fictional characters speaking to me and I have no dreams about writing the great American novel. I don't even like great American novels that much. I ran from English class in favor or Philosophy because...well, that is a whole other blog. 

The point is, I have never been a writer in that arty, "I just need time to let my art flow and write" sense. Ironically(?), I've always been surrounded by writers who are always talking about their writing projects -  short stories, plays, books, screenplays - but never me. 

I've been to writing groups or, should I say, I've been dragged to writing groups by the aforementioned writers in my life and ... just wondered what the hell I was doing there. I felt like such a fraud because we were all supposed to be connecting through writing and I ... had ... no writing. And, even more importantly, no impulse to write. Nothing to say that I thought anyone wanted to hear.

Back to the test results, all those "good writing" comments were still spinning around my head like a Cuisinart someone left on low when along came the test results and technical writing with them. It seemed like a great way to use a skill I apparently had but without the pressure of being creative, which, as I said, I have never been. Also, I might not be creative but I had to stop doing time answering phones. 
"Hello, this is XYZ company, Jessica speaking. Kill me now, please."
So, it's been a lot of years and a lot of writing since (note that my last post was about a writing injury) and it's mostly been good. The idiot train is as idiotic as ever and not slowing down any time soon, but I think it was a good choice overall. 

So along comes this blog. My first shot at being creative, only my day job - the one I though would be perfect because I could write without the pressure of being creative - is stealing all my words! I show up to blog - more often than there are blogs to show for it - and I just don't have much in the tank. 

Is this ironic? It seem like something Alanis Morisette could sing. Why not? Her lyrics never rhyme anyway... or do they? I can never tell. 

Speaking of a musician, there is a really good reason that creative people often work as waiters and ... other basic labor while trying to "make it." Those jobs take your time but not your mind and that's really important when being creative, I have just discovered. 

What a pickle I've gotten myself into, huh?

I'll keep keeping the faith and trying to write funny things. For now, you'll have to just settle for honest because the funny is currently out of stock and on order. Hopefully, the factory will call soon.

I'll keep writing ... 

but probably not ironically.