Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Finding the right path

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Yesterday's battle of the psyche came from the fact that people and things have been bouncing up and down on my addiction/depression triggers like a very springy trampoline.  Every time I turn around, someone is hitting a trigger that makes me want to reach for my Valium bottle, but inside my head a little voice tells me "No."

I think it's remarkable sometimes how I've lived my life never really saying "no" to anyone.  The only person I've really ever said "no" to was myself.  As in, "No, I need to be helpful,"  "No, don't be selfish,"  "No, don't think like everyone else," "No, don't be a sheep, don't follow, lead."  I often stop myself from doing horribly stupid things by telling myself no, but remarkably, I've never really told anyone a whopping "no" before.

Last night, when I arrived at my Mom's house for dinner (you just have to love Christmas dinner leftovers), I asked her very simply, "Mom, is it ok to tell your friends 'no', that you don't want to do what they're doing?"  She stood quietly for a moment and said, "It's perfectly alright to tell someone 'no'. If they're really your friends, they'll understand if you tell them "no" once in a while.  But to be honest, in our family, we never really have told anyone "no," even when we should have."

Now all of this sprung from a favorite film/topic of mine, yes, sigh with me, we're back to Eat, Pray, Love.  Yep, and one more for the fire, because you know I'm curious as to what her audience is going to do without her, Oprah, and her special on Eat, Pray, Love back in 2007.   When I surfed through the webpage about it, I found this neat little piece of advice from Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love and she said this:

"Learn to say no. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do in one day and one life."

To me, that's poignant.  That spoke to me on such an enormous level.  I am realizing that I have the debilitating inability to tell people "no."  It's the truth.  Lots of people have seen me struggle with it, when night after night, my screen would light up in pink with whisper after whisper in World of Warcraft when people wanted someone to listen to them when they felt ignored, or give them advice or just talk about their day, they always came to see me because they knew I would never tell them "no."

The "Sheri won't tell me no" mindset, that I'm very much responsible for people having (it's because I'm so sweet you, also resulted in 15 different individuals all running to me and talking to me at the exact same time.  You want to talk headache?  Try wading through the thoughts of 15 different individuals simultaneously and giving good, quality answers to each and every one of them.  That was a day from hell, but it also kicks back to Elizabeth Gilbert's idea that I now have to force myself to realize what I can and cannot do in a day.  I've painfully learned that I can't take care of that many people simultaneously because it stresses me out, resulting in a longing glare at the pill bottle.  Tack that on to having to explain the actions, or rather inactions of others to individuals demanding answers to questions I don't know the answer to, and I know you're with me, you'd want that pill bottle too.  It all equals nervous breakdown in the end, in which we remember Barry's wise suggestion about not making other people's drama my own.  Some people just need to be told "not now" or "bugger off"...but I digress...

My inability to tell people "no" has been the source of a lot of my problems.  When you don't say "no," guess what happens?  Everyone assumes that you're a doormat.  They assume that they can get away with practically anything because they assume they'll never be told "no," and don't give a second thought that they may be asking for too much.  It's like a small child saying "gimme, gimme, gimme" all the time and when the "no" finally comes, they kick and scream their heads off because they've been constantly spoiled by always being told, "yes," or "whatever you'd like."

I holler and scream at the word "no" when it comes in the context of being told I'm incapable of doing something, such as being able to cook a meal to perfection or win a One Show Pencil because I'm too old, even being told I can't tank or dps because I'm a girl or because my toon is a druid or any number of cruel things people tell you "no" about because they simply don't believe you're capable of it.  Otherwise, if I'm told "no" about anything else, such as, "can I talk to you for a moment," or "can we try this method," etc., I'm usually very understanding and take it with a grain of salt and drop it.  It isn't a big deal when I'm sincerely told, "no" with valid reasons to back it up.  I'm not unreasonable ya know...

But, if I'm not unreasonable when someone tells me "no," why all of a sudden is it a big deal if I put my foot down and say it myself?  I've got valid, educated reasons for saying "no", so why should it surprise someone if I say it?  Well, it goes back to my usual inability to say "no," which leads to headaches, heartbreaks, drama and all sorts of other crap I obsess about because I didn't tell someone "no" because my heart is too damn big and I never want to be seen as someone who won't help someone else in need.

To be honest, I remember getting the crap kicked out of me as a kid because I told an adult that I "wasn't going to do something."  To be honest, I can't even begin to remember what I did, but I remember it being jammed in my head that you never tell someone "no," that you're "not going to do something" because it's disrespectful, when you're asked to do something, you jump through the hoops to get it done, come hell or high water.  I think that's where the whole problem started, but to be honest, I'm loved and adored by lots of people because I didn't tell them "no."  I guess those folks just asked the right favor at the right time and didn't take advantage of my generosity of spirit.

Last night Mother reminded me that you can't go through life just telling people "yes" all the time because they'll inevitably take you for granted, followed by becoming the proverbial doormat I wrote about earlier.  I have to laugh at that, because Mom said it just right last night, that "people will take advantage at the drop of a hat when you're generous.  They use people and dump all their problems out on you because they've got nowhere else to take it or put it."  They're more about taking than giving.  Part of me says those types of folks are so spiritually bankrupt that they stick to people like a remora on a shark's belly picking up the excess things to feed off of because they have no skills to go out and find life's rich nutritional value on their own, so they feed off of others and wear them out, then move on to another person to do it for them instead of reaching down deep and doing it for themselves.  I guess "parasite" would be too strong of a word, but in a way, all of those people who just decide to hang on someone else because they don't have their own way of getting through life without using someone else to an extreme I guess would be some sort of parasitic tendency.

Since April of 2009, I've been on Emerson's quest, to not follow along like a sheep or take an easy, well worn road.  I'm always looking for the path that isn't there so that way I can blaze my own trail without sorrow or regret.  I've always been a trailblazer, I've never really ever been a follower, and thinking about what Barry said the other day, he's right, I'm a constructor of empires.  I like building huge structures which house brilliant ideas, high moral ground and a family structure.  That's what I do.  I like folks to come together and rely on each other, trust each other and damn it, I want them to believe in each other.  When hurts come, it's the sign to dig in and gut it out, have the fight, finish it with a hug and go back to the business of being a family.

BUT, and here comes the caveat (you know the other shoe had to drop), I build it through the trust I build with others from my unquestioning belief in them.  I have repeated it so many times, I know you know what I'm going to say, "Leadership is about support," amen, hallelujah, and pass the collection plate...gosh, how many times have I preached and lived that gospel?  My support for other folks is always expressed in a "I believe in you," and my "Relax, breathe and pretend I'm Oprah" openness that welcomes everyone in for cookies, candy and all of the rich nutritional value of the good feelings that come from feeling at home.  It's all rooted in my "if you're laughing, you're learning" approach to teaching, when things are fun and the people around you have nothing but good things to share with you, barring the occasional up-and-down movement of life, it all turns out pretty peachy.  After all, isn't life supposed to be fun?  Aren't we supposed to be getting the most out of our lives and just not "getting through it"?  Where is the moment where we blaze our own trail just by standing up and being counted because we have the courage and the fortitude to put our foot down and say NO, yet are still respected for our generosity and our willingness to go the extra mile for others.

Wait, tangent.  "The Extra Mile."  Why are the people who DO go that extra mile so rare?  Is that what makes us into doormats?  Because we actually CARE about other human beings?  If that's the case, that's just sad.  So sad, in fact, that I can't express it without a long string of really bad language.  F'ing pathetic is the first phrase that comes to mind...please feel free to add others...

Back to topic...We all know you can't go through your life telling everyone "no," but you sure as heck can moderate when you say "yes," because it can't be all the time.  Trust me, I've said "yes" so many times when it should have been "no" that it has resulted in never-ending, incessant IM's, whispers, e-mails, and so forth that have worn me down to the nub too many times to count.

That's why I'm so busy on this little journey of mine, trying (which sometimes seems in vain) to find the right path, or rather lack of one, so I can make my own.

The point is, there's nothing wrong with saying "no", just as long as your honest with yourself as Liz Gilbert describes, being realistic about what you can and can't do in a day or in a lifetime.

Not too long ago, I spent an entire evening in WoW with my status set to "busy".  Some of you may remember that.  It was a peace unlike anything I'd ever felt.  I was overjoyed and got so much done I couldn't believe it because I simply put out a blanket "no."  But a blanket doesn't hide the problem any better than sweeping dust under a rug.  It doesn't solve my inability to say "no" to people.  Damn, maybe my heart is too damn big.

I have all sorts of regrets about not saying "no," like the other night when I didn't like how things were going, I should have slammed my foot down, said "no," added a "hell no" along with Barry's colorful explicatives and walked out the door, but I didn't.  I sat there getting trod upon when I should have had the common sense to stand up and call "bullshit" on the whole deal.  I'm more angry at myself for not doing that than I am at the guys who stepped on me.  I didn't say "no" when I should have, to my eternal shame.  I should have said "no" when I was told I had to heal and not do damage in WoW. (I'm a cat goddamn it! LOL)  I should have told so many people to stick it where the sun doesn't shine but instead I helped them right along and smiled as they left treadmarks on my back from rolling over me.  Something's just got to give, but I don't want to be a cast iron bitch either...

So, I've got to learn how to say "no."  To stand up and holler "kiss my a**" (but still offer a positive solution) when I know things aren't right and not always go that extra mile for others.  I need to save that "extra mile" mentality for me, because last time I checked, there are but very few who do that for me.  Why not give myself that little extra mile?  Why not save that pep talk for myself because I KNOW for a fact that the people who do need to listen, aren't.  Why not say "no" to the people who take me for granted and give them  a side helping of "kiss my a**"?  It's definitely not me saying "what's in it for me," it's me saying, "you need to take care of your own business because it's not mine to deal with," or a "take out your own damn garbage" or a "carry your own damn bags, what do I look like, your own personal bellhop?"

KP has been on my butt to say "no" for so long.  I mean the man has chased me up the proverbial tree always telling me, "don't put up with that," "don't let people walk over ya," and so forth.  Moral of the story, outside of first listening to my own heart, rule number two is "always listen to KP and Barry" because they're usually right.

Well, come New Year's Day, there's going to be quite the few people being told "no," if not "hell no."  It's time for me to start cutting that path.  I've always believed in maximizing strengths and minimizing weaknesses, and to me, the best place to start minimizing those weaknesses is by turning those weaknesses into strengths.  After all, the chain is only as strong as it's weakest link, right?

I guess I should warn folks then, I figure it's the only proper and polite thing to do...For those of you who found it necessary to dump all the hard stuff on me, guess what, I'm not doing it anymore.  So the next time your ego takes a beating, don't look to me, because if you ask for an ice pack for your bruised ego and expect me to make everything better and clean up the mess YOU made, you're going to hear only one word...


And you may possibly receive a not-so-kind piece of my mind as a nice healthy kick in the pants bonus.

Because if there's one lesson in life I've learned, sometimes, you've got to suck it up and take care of things on your own because it's not going to get done unless YOU do it.  And THAT is blazing your own path, which, according to Emerson, and a whole lot of other stoic philosophers out there, is a very good thing.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Santa Carl came to town...

At the end of last year, I closed out 2009 with the ultimate horror, my sister on a gurney getting ready to have a double mastectomy.  I was terrified.  My sister, who was my idol growing up, was in trouble and I had no way to fix or help the situation.  Talk about feeling helpless.

But, while I was feeling helpless, my sister had met this great guy.  He was tall, funny, could handle everything that was being dished onto Nan and then some.  While Nan went through cancer, the entire time, standing behind her like a quiet guardian was Carl.

Carl reminds me of that line out of "Eat, Pray, Love" when he might as well have said, "You don't need a protector, you need a champion."  Carl is Nan's champion.

While chemo went on, Carl was there taking care of Nan, he even went onto my "What I'm thankful for list" for this year because let's face it, he backstopped the entire operation of Nan's recovery.  While she fought, lost her breasts, her hair then ultimately began to feel better, Carl was always right behind her.

On Christmas Eve, I spent the night at my parents house.  While I was watching the "A Christmas Story" marathon on TBS and remembering the Christmas where Nan had gotten her first BB gun, it was as if a man in a red suit had knocked on the door with a dog large enough to be a reindeer (Carl's dogs Wrecks and Reese are two very large dobermans who could double as horses they're so large) and had gently said to me, "You know, Carl wants to know what Nan looked like growing up..." because Nan had told me a couple of weeks previously at dinner that Carl wanted to see her childhood photos.

Being that we didn't do the whole mass consumerism deal of giving gifts this year (and believe me it's good when you don't, gives the holiday a whole different feeling.  Instead of consumer driven greed, it was all about family. And if there was one Christmas that needed to be about family, for me in so many ways, it was this one) instead, we just spent time together, had a gorgeous meal and appreciated each other as gifts sitting next to the tree.

So, as I was saying, on Christmas Eve, after having the Red Suited Man epiphany, I got into the old photo albums to dig out photos of Nan as a little girl.  I found photos of us vacationing at South Padre Island, old school photos, prom pictures, the works.  I also found one of Nan with REALLY big hair that could only have originated in the 80's.  If Carl wanted to see Nan as a little girl, there was no better way to show him than for him to see how she always had held my hand, or had an arm around me, guarding me and making sure I was always safe.

I found photos from Christmases past, but most of all, I assembled a collection of photos that showed Carl not only her as a little girl, but how incredibly special she's always been.

On Christmas Day, as Mom and I were in the kitchen preparing Christmas dinner, a knock sounded at the door, one that Mom and I didn't hear, but inexplicably, my very "selective hearing enhanced" father had heard it and yelled, "Come on in!" as if he knew it was Carl and Nan.  Mom ran to the door, and sure enough it was Carl...sans Nan.

Immediately my brain went into overdrive.  What was he doing there without Nan?  Maybe he had shown up early and was going to visit with us while we all waited for Nan to get off of work, but instead, he produced a box out of his pocket and mother and I both gasped.  He looked at us and said, "Can you guys keep a secret because I need y'all to be in on something with me..." it was then that he opened up the little box he was holding to show us Nan's engagement ring.  Mother and I immediately started crying, only for Carl to answer, "Stop, y'all are going to make me cry..."

I jumped up and down.  Literally.  I looked at him and said, "You're really applying to be my real big brother?"  Then it occurred to me, Carl is just a big of a technophile as I am...and then the real meaning hit me, I was getting a geeky big brother, something I always wanted!  He's like Mr. iPhone, he's so technologically fortified, it's like he's a big box of the most nutritious geekified cereal ever created!  I cheered, doing my usual hippiefied, "Yeah, man!" I always do when I'm really thrilled with something.

So, after calming down, Carl put us in on the big moment, having us help him hide the ring in the Christmas tree so he could surprise Nan.  Now what Carl doesn't know is how the communication lines between my mother, my sister and I work.  What one knows, the three of us know.  There is not one amongst us that can hold in a secret worth a flip.  Mother and I looked at each other quasi-panicked, but she and I knew we had to hold this one in.  But, with the ring securely hidden in the tree, Carl left us to go home to wait for Nan to come home from work.  After he left, Mother and I stood looking at each other with looks of happy disbelief on our faces and the one sole quandary that can leave us debilitated, we had to keep a secret.  How on EARTH were we going to hold it in?  We were so excited for Nan neither of us could breathe as we stood in the kitchen, eyes constantly darting towards the Christmas tree.

That was at around 4pm.  Nan wasn't going to get off of work until 6pm.  The anticipation was mounting.  So at around 6:30pm, Nan and Carl finally arrived for dinner.  My brain was doing everything it could not to blurt out the secret.  My shoulders tensed, and my teeth found their way to incessantly biting my lower lip.  My mind was a constant mantra of "hold it in, hold it in, hold it in."

Mother did far better than I did, she was very "business as usual," as she focused on getting the buffet line set up in the kitchen for everyone to help their plates.  I was buzzing back and forth too, first, because it gave me an excuse to pace frantically under the disguise that I was helping out.  When Mom finally called for everyone to help their plates for a third time, I grabbed the plates off of the beautifully set table and jabbed one into Carl's stomach saying, "Come on dude, let's eat," which was code for, "Oh my god, let's just hurry up and get this over with because it's killing me!  I can't hold this in forever!!!!"

My mother had set the table with my grandmother's silver set.  That's right, gorgeous antique knives, forks and spoons which had been used at family dinners since time immemorial.  Before dinner, Mom and I had carefully washed and dried the antique tableware, but being that it's old and had spent the last 30 years in stasis in god knows where, it had a particular smell about it.  Oh gods it smelled old and the kicker was, I washed that stuff with a ton of soap and scalding hot water before it got placed on the table.  All it took was one bite and my father got up from the table went to their silverware drawer and pulled out more recent dinnerware.  Yeah, I took a bite and let out, "Hey, I think Aunt Sissy left something on this one..." after finding out that my grandmother's silver had been used at every Christmas dinner at the big people table at my grandparents house (remember me telling you about those big Christmas dinners?  Yep, you better believe it, the same silverware sitting on the table last night was the exact same cutlery that was on those tables of old some 30 years ago).  With more "fresh" silverware, we finished our dinner with Mom vowing for it to never see the light of day or be eaten off of again.

But, the time was creeping up for the big surprise and wouldn't you know it, Nan just had to step up and wash dishes.  Gods, the dishwasher had already ran six times that day as Mom and I cleaned as we cooked.  Nan's standing in the kitchen visiting with us and remarking how Christmas dinner takes days to prepare and is demolished in a matter of minutes.  Truth told, inside of me, I was thinking, "Good god woman, if you knew what was in that tree, you'd stop flapping your gums and get in there!"  I tried in vain to get her away from that sink.  I tried the whole, "Hey, you've had a long day, why don't you let me do that," only to be told that she was fine doing it, I went on the offensive and said quite bluntly, "You're tired, get the hell out of the kitchen."  Oh no, Nan just wouldn't hear it.  I walked out of the kitchen to where Carl was sitting and said, "Dude, I've tried everything to get her out of there and she won't hear it."  That's when Carl looked up at me and channeled my Uncle Bill when he said, "Don't worry, I'm patient."  Great, he was patient, I sure as hell wasn't!   I'm the one who had heard from my sister just weeks earlier a phrase that stuck in my throat like a lump as she looked at me with a sad face saying, "I'd like to grow old with Carl."  So now you can see why I was going out of my skull!  Nan's in the kitchen washing dishes while I knew that Santa Carl had come to town and was about to give her the Christmas wish she wanted!  I was ready to pull my hair out.

So, finally, the dishes are done, I hand Nan the photo albums for her to share with Carl and finally, after much prompting, we get her to look in the tree for the ceremonial "pickle".  A few years earlier, my Aunt Bonnie had told us about the tradition of the ornamental pickle.  That's right, it's a pickle ornament that's hidden in the tree that people have to find. Don't ask me, I don't know where the tradition came from, but as soon as Carl and Nan hit the door, I was immediately on her to find the pickle.  Ok, here's the secret, we had hidden the ring box behind the pickle ornament.  I nearly gave the whole thing away right there as Mom and Carl shot me looks of "shut up!" but Nan replying, "Oh I already found it."  Gods, getting through dinner up to that point was an exercise of extreme tongue biting as I had already nearly given it away, I was sulling up because I didn't know how much longer I could restrain myself from just grabbing her by the hand and dragging her kicking and screaming to that tree to show her what was behind that damned pickle!

Ok, so now you're up to speed, I'm freaking out, Nan's FINALLY gotten into the living room and we're almost to the big moment.  Everyone is on Nan's butt to find that pickle.  She must've thought we'd all gone nuts.  She walks over to the tree, points at the pickle and says, "It's in the same place!"  Heads went into hands as Carl got up and dragged her back to the tree.  It was then that she found the box and as Carl went down on one knee to propose, I realized one simple thing...he was giving her a wish she had only told me about and I looked up eerily wondering if there really was a Santa Claus.

I guess there is, his name just happens to be Carl.

So, it's my proud little sister moment that I can scream at the top of my lungs...

WAY TO GO NAN!  You might have fought cancer and won, but you got something even bigger out of it, and so did the rest of us.

My sister and Carl are engaged.  Forgive me if I'm selfish but I'm so tickled to death to say four words...


Bar none, it was the most special Christmas I've ever had.  Thanks Carl!

Then I came home and spent the next six hours on Skype with KP, a guy I'd like to grow old Santa, are you listening?

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Perfect Pick-Me-Up

I needed a pick-me-up.

Someone introduced me to a song by Katy Perry called "Firework," which basically is a song that's good for anyone's spirit when they're down.

I coupled the tune with a walk through Uru.  First I went to K'veer and listened to the music there...but then, something in me needed a run, so I flipped on that Katy Perry tune and went for a jog through Uru, visiting various ages until I reached Eder Kemo and the spore plants and fireflies synched with the song perfectly.

The perfect kick in the pants I needed.  And I even took a photo...with a little help from Photoshop, it turned out just awesome...wish I would have caught it on vid, it'd be even more impressive.

Some friends came out of the woodwork after my last couple of posts and also added to the spark inside.  I'm sitting here with this crooked smile on my face and realized that Barry said it perfectly in so many ways...and was just what I needed to hear, hat's off to you pal, that's why we've been friends for almost 15 years.  Another pal called on the phone and even lent his support.

I remembered not too long ago I wrote about how things find their own level...maybe that means something right around now...

Here's the newest addition to the soundtrack, Katy Perry's "Firework."

Thursday, December 23, 2010


Yesterday, I went where I knew no one would find me.

I spent time in Uru to escape everything, and to assure I wouldn't be disturbed, I went to one of the hardest and most difficult places to get to in Uru, the island of K'veer.   You see, you cannot reach K'veer without help from others and the excruciating journey to get there through an age called Ahnonay.

When my heart is troubled the most, I always go to K'veer and last night I sat in front of the large window in K'veer, looking out at the abandoned city.  All of the players in Uru expected so much from that world because it was one that transcended materialistic tendency and never even began to ask the question "What's in it for me?"

I sat looking out that window remembering all the time I spent solving puzzles and helping people.  Walking quiet forests where the quasi-cave paintings told a story of living without pride and humbly serving a greater good, aspiring to achieve noble goals.  How I miss that type of world.

To look out the windows of K'veer and realize that there is no such perfect place in the real world made me sad, and however much I take what I learned out of that cavern and shared it with others, I'd still be left with the overwhelming fact that well, the real world is a selfish, disappointing place with almost little to no nutritional value except when we take the time to search and find it.

I tried to replace the Uru cavern with other worlds, but in truth, they all proved disappointing, none worse than WoW.  Instead of the selflessness I was accustomed to, I found selfishness instead.  I was determined to not allow it to be that way, I stood and braced myself, reaching deep inside to the "deep city" (by the way, "Uru" is the Sumatran word that means deep city) inside myself to weather whatever selfish or prideful things I would encounter.  But, sitting looking out of the windows of K'veer last night, I realized that there is nothing in the world I can do but hold those things as inner strength for myself because most people will never get or understand what that means, much less apply it to every day life.

There have been may days I've sat sorely disappointed in people.  More often, I sit disappointed in myself.  For some reason unbeknownst to me, I expect people to have that same sort of moral inner fortitude that I do.  I don't know whether it's my addictions or my mentality that make me that way, but something inside me always aspires to do more, to be greater than what I am.    I see myself in the mirror as mediocre, so I always long to be something more, something better, to make some sort of difference in the world.  Part of me thinks it's a noble pursuit, other parts of me thinks it's an exercise in futility.

Most of my life I've gone through it thinking I was unloved.  Trust me, it's not a personal pity party I'm having, that's just how it has always seemed.  So, I compensate for it by giving all the love in my heart to whatever it is that I find worthy or worthwhile.  To me, if someone needs to feel believed in and I find that they truly need it, I tell them I believe in them, only for the sole reason that everyone needs to feel that.  I truly believe that everyone needs to felt valued and special for all of their unique qualities.  I know that people aren't perfect because I look in the mirror every day and see my own imperfections, so it does go to reason that everyone does have imperfections, some people have faults far greater than others, but it doesn't mean they are any less special in their own way.

I've been accused of putting people on pedestals.  That's so far from the truth it's not even funny.  No, when I believe in someone it's because I see, or more likely hope, that there is something deep inside of them that needs that special type of attention that only feeling believed in can bring forward. Trust me, it's no pedestal, it's the bar and mark of the standards that I hold them to because I know in my heart there is more to them than what they think is there.  Be it a strength that they don't show but I know they have, or just the simple action of letting them know they're not alone when they face a storm.  It's the knowledge that someone has your back and believes in you.  It's no pedestal, it's my way of doing for them what no one did for me which is push them to be more and to open their heart to possibly show the selflessness that is so rare in a world filled with selfish people.

But, maybe that's wherein my problem lies.  That I need someone to have my back, but in the immortal words of Bob Forrest, "I don't get that."  Fate, as it seems, has left me to fend for myself and forced me to realize the only person who has my back is me.  It's a lonely existence to say the least, but at times, it seems more than appropriate since I've been enabled all my life by the people around me that haven't had the courage or the inkling to realize that I had to do things to learn the lessons that create better survival skills.  Maybe this is fate's way of telling me that I don't need other people to love me, because if I just dig down and love myself that should be enough to carry me through even the roughest of storms.

But now, I'm faced with a quandary.  One that had me sleeping on my couch last night.  Here is my problem, and it's not the first time it's happened.  You see, for me, when I get involved in things, it's like a parade has come to town, the clown I am makes people laugh, pains are seen and soothed, there's dramatic high wire act under the circus big top, there's fun, but then, right in the middle of the fun, someone comes and tears down the entire thing.  Usually it's stress brought about by someone outside of my influence who is either jealous or selfish or some other horrid trait who breaks my heart, damages some 'noble' cause I'm pursuing and brings the entire thing to a halt.  Maybe it's because I try so hard to take care of everyone around me that I finally burn out.

When everything comes crashing down and I burn out, I usually view it as a time to humbly take a bow and then leave town, taking my travelling show elsewhere.  But last night, laying on the couch, I thought about how this is not the first time this has happened to me.  I thought about all of the people who depended on me and who's hearts were broken when my travelling show left for the next town.  I can only imagine how abandoned they felt.  That's what leaves me stuck.

I sat looking at the ceiling last night, thinking abut all of the special people I've known in my life who I've believed in and who have believed in me.  My friends Kathy and Susan immediately spring to mind when I think of the people who have been impacted when my travelling show has left town.  I can only imagine how abandoned they felt and that they don't know how I think about them every day.

Which brings me back to yesterday's post.  Even though people may cry innocent that they didn't do things, it doesn't excuse the fact that they did do the things that caused a mess, and no amount of lying or excuses can ever cover that up. The "Ant and the Boulder" parable is just that, those who think themselves innocent of the destructive things they've done, however unintentional.  However, in their decries and disbelief, they cause the one thing that they perhaps subconsciously wanted, for my travelling show to pick up and leave town.

But that takes us back to the poor innocent people squashed by the boulder in the middle of the road.  In my, "Love is the only truth and worth sharing every day" world, I'm so very tempted to help the people crushed when the boulder landed on top of them, but it leaves me at the quandary of do I help those crushed, or do I keep walking and ignore the whole thing because it hurts me to see people crushed and hurting?  Do I do what is in my addict nature and just push the whole thing away? Take my travelling show to another town and start over again?

All I know is that people keep disappointing me.  Not because I place them so high, but because I expect them to be of greater stature and intestinal fortitude, to be made of the 'sterner stuff' that I seem to have in excess.  Maybe I just keep placing my faith in the wrong people, that who I think are worthy of my belief are, as Tammy says, just not worth it.  I keep hoping in vain that more people will rise to the occasion to help others more than being mired down in their own self interest.

The world is so big, there are so many people in it.  Some people have more than others, some people have less, but what is so wrong with wanting to reach a hand out to someone who needs it?  Why are so many people in such a rush to take and not to give?

I guess I just expect too much from people.  I expect them to love and care about others as much as I do.  To solve problems, not ignore them, to step up and do the really hard work of thinking more about how they impact people versus "what's in it for them."  That's no pedestal, that's just called being held accountable.

Gods, how I'd love to pack up my travelling show and take it elsewhere, but the truth is, this time I'm just folding up the big top for good.  The part that breaks my heart is that I love being a part of a team, to contribute to something larger than myself but maybe no one can do that forever.

My heart breaks for all of my sweet guildies.  How abandoned they're going to feel, how they'll never know how much I believed in all of them.  That it was never about their toons, it was about who they were as people and how they enriched my life so much just by being sweet when I asked them, how they stopped cussing when I asked them, and how they shared so much with me every day and helped give me hope when I thought there was none.  They've been the ears when I've needed to talk, I've been the ears when they needed to talk and was the shoulder when they needed a shoulder to lean on.  I'm just sad that they'll never know that when I needed love, they were the ones who shared it every day with me.  All I know is that I feel helpless about it and have not one inkling of an idea of what to do about it.  One part of me says to gut it out, open up a can of "kiss my ass" and go take care of them, the other part of me has lost all hope that I can because the damage done seems so irreparable.  I feel so lost.  But the good news is that I'm doing it without self-medicating.

But enough of this dismal stuff.  It's the holidays.  I'm off this morning to go help my mother with preparations for Christmas Dinner.  Maybe I'll just take all that good positive energy inside and place it towards making delicious food, creating beautifully set tables, breathing in and out, and reside myself to the fact that the only difference I can ever make is the one in my own life.  After all, that's what needs work too isn't it?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Thrown under the bus.

The last several weeks have been an exercise in extreme patience and making adjustments.

First, and most importantly I'm dealing with my own personal issues.  The first in my fear that I've done the proverbial "falling off the wagon" because it seems that now, more than ever, I'm relying on my bottle of Valium to get me through the tough times.  I've had my chronic nightmares return, but instead of being chased by the undead like when I was a kid, now I'm having the same nightmare every night of being prepared for death and being cut into small pieces.  It's a gruesome nightmare, I'm laying on a surgical table in a hospital gown and they bring down a what seems like a sort of chain link set of lasers over my body that cuts it into a fine mesh.  Right before I fall apart, they place a bag over my body so that I don't fall to pieces all over the place.  Right before I die in the dream, I hear them tell me I won't feel anything and I see a hypodermic needle filled with a yellow solution injected into what's left of my arm, the bag is closed up over my head and I die, then I wake up.  Somehow I think it's related to my addictions and how I'm gimping by on valium to hold myself together.  Something isn't right there, but for the last month, that's the only dream I've had.  I wake up terrified usually with anxiety through the roof.

After that gruesome nightmare night after night, I decided to tackle what was hitting my triggers to make me use. Stress is my number one, bar none trigger.  If I feel things are out of my control or if I feel betrayed or any other negative emotion, I jump into my pill bottle.  It's not good and I know it.  But watching Dr. Drew on Celebrity Rehab made me think about a few, have a look, but my point is at 3 minutes 52 seconds into the clip:

Put succinctly, when I have people hurt me or hurt people around me, I shut down.  I've always lived with the fact that if people love me, they're going to hurt me.  That's it, end of story for me, so when I get bombarded with nothing but negatives from people who "supposedly" were supporting me, I want away from them as soon as possible.  Which leads us to the second point:

Second, the game I pay a goodly sum to play and relax every month has become a nightmare.  I'm serious, an out and out nightmare.  Everywhere I turn, it can't get much worse.  My druid class along with every other class has been re-written, ruined or worse.  Everywhere I've turned for advice has always had negativity laced with it and even though I'm trying hard, what I'm doing just doesn't seem like it's enough but I figured that I'd battle through and come out the other side just fine.

But, you knew the other shoe had to drop.  The one guy who I THOUGHT had my back threw me under the proverbial bus and didn't even bother to say he was sorry while another guy decided to put the bus in reverse and drive it over me again.  I've been asking for WEEKS of my GM and Raid Leader when raid season would start every single time a guild member would ask me and I never once got an answer.  The closest thing to an answer I ever got was "The second week of January."  With no firm date stated whatsoever, I told my sweet guildies, who look to me for guidance and support, that I didn't know what was happening quite yet.  It's the truth, even with what they were batting around in our officer forums, there was no clear answer in sight.

So, yesterday afternoon, at seeing that my guild master had only posted a strategy and NO clear date as to when it would be happening, not a "tomorrow night" not jack noodle, I put together a meeting for the people I look after the closest in the raid, my healers.

What do you think happened?  The son of a bitch threw me under the bus, changed his post in our officer forums, then politely allowed the raid leader to make me feel like shit as he's putting together raid invites and pressuring ME and telling me "you knew about this" when clearly I didn't, interrupting the healing meeting I had set up and was in the process of, pressuring me to end my meeting early so they could go raid.  I didn't even get through half of what needed to be talked about on my team and I was being harassed, none too kindly to finish so they could go raid, taking me along for the sole reason that I'm an officer AND I'm one of about 4 healers who are prepared to go.

They didn't slap a date on their plan to raid, all of a sudden from struggling through heroic dungeons, we're supposed to go raid?  I thought it was rude, horrid and completely spineless for them to change the rules of the game until AFTER I had turned my back.  They KNEW what I had planned, instead, they stabbed me in the back and left me to bleed.  Changing the original post from just a raid strat to look at, to a raid composition to be taken in that night is not only foul but downright underhanded.

What's worse?  Oh yes, it's going to get worse folks, because I don't see it getting any better, our wonderful raid leader, the guy I termed as "the tenderheart in a tough guy suit" proceeded to tell the entire guild that how he makes raids is that he's taking people he enjoys playing with, which means his brothers.  Sure, he went out on the limb and said there were a lot of people that deserved to go but weren't, and even went so far as to tell everyone that he was tired of taking people who couldn't carry their weight.  Now that last part struck me as something ironic because it's a brand new expansion, people are re-learning classes that have been skewed, in some cases to extremes almost unrecognizable from what we experienced last expansion, and he has the nerve to tell everyone that, sorry, you're not going, he's only taking people he knows can deliver and likes to play with.  Ok, I can go the fact that wiping isn't any fun and that we'd all like to go with a group that can succeed and we did agree that we weren't carrying people anymore, but the audacity on how he decided on the people who WOULD progress really got my goat.  People he LIKES to play with.  Not who could do the job best, but who he LIKED.  Now, when you're in a leadership position, you don't have much goddamn choice who you like to play with, especially when it's progression on the line for an entire guild made up of over 260 individual characters belonging to around 70-80 people.  He actually is handpicking 10 out of 80 only because he likes to play with them.  Not because they're good at their jobs, but because he plays to relax and he's not going to give the time of day to people he doesn't think can win a fight.  Last time I checked, we all had to learn at some point and with the new Cataclysm changes, I don't see how anyone can go in and think they're invincible.  The worst part of it all, and the part that disgusted me most is that my guild master didn't say a word, he just let that raid leader mow down the entire guild's morale and seemed as if he didn't give shit one and was behind it all the way.

I played my part in all of this, I agreed with them that we shouldn't have to carry people, but I didn't think it meant at the expense of the other folks who knew what they were doing and COULD do their jobs right.  I thought we were going to construct a team of 25 solid players, not screw everyone else over because we didn't "like" them!  I'm just aghast.  I empowered that self-centered son of a bitch in the hopes I could make a stronger team made up of more than just HIS family.  I naively thought that he had everyone's best interest at heart like I did, only to find out, and KP told me, he did, he warned me, but I didn't listen, and sure enough, all of the people I like playing with got left out in the cold, and so would I had the previous healing druid not taken ill and burnt out.  Now I wish he hadn't and hope he gets well soon enough to take my place because I don't want it.

And to think, I actually wanted to go with them at one point not too long ago.  I feel ashamed of myself.  I was being prideful all in the name of progressing and winning fights, trying to hone my toon into something I could be proud of, only to find that guess what, my happiness is being achieved at the expense of 70 other people who aren't being supported and who apparently aren't given a damn about at the highest levels.

When the announcement went down in Vent after MY healing meeting was carefully planned then rudely rushed and interrupted, that they KNEW was planned for a specific date and a specific time, disregarding me and my team completely, they threw their raid together at the last minute.

After everyone was told basically "tough shit," my screen literally lit up so brightly in pink I went close to blind.  I was the one being sworn at, yelled at, cussed out, hollered at and it was so bad that I began to cry horribly.  What's worse is that the people yelling to me didn't even bother to point their aggression at those who deserved it.  I'm not the one who told them that they weren't desired as a part of a team, I am not the one who told them that they'd have to start their own raid with no support.  Yet I'm the one being cried to because no one has the guts to tell those two fellows that they're out of line and that everyone is hurt.

No, I'm the one who took the full brunt of it.  Hell, my raid leader thinks it's ok to get away with arrogance with no repercussion when I'm the one who suffers the greatest from every destructive thing he does.  When people feel left out or ignored, which is more often than I can count and has happened countless times over the last two years, they come cry to me, when the truth is that those two men that I did hold in respect couldn't have given a damn in the first place whether the rest of the people who look to them for leadership suffer.  And I'm the one that's supposed to deflect and delegate when I'm the only one everyone trusts.  Now I realize why I'm the only one in the officer corps that my guildies trust.  I'm the only one that deserves it because I'm the only one who cares about each and every one of them.

Oh yes, I KNEW the raid was going to happen...riiiiiight.  Liars.  The both of them.  They dismissed my efforts and walked over me to achieve their own goals.  I'm disgusted with both of them right now and  I'm so ashamed I supported them.

You know, I hope they just gkick me.  I'd be happier that way and I'd have an insta-guild of my own because there are but few who wouldn't follow me.

I'm tired of being thrown under the bus and being treated as a mere afterthought.  I've been through that all of my life and I'm sick and tired of it.  I'm tired of being brushed off, abused and treated horribly.  Worse, is that I can't stand seeing all of the people I like to play with get left on the sidelines.  The group I was in I couldn't stand because they weren't people I liked to play with, but I sucked it up and did my job, crying the entire time.

After two hours of wiping, gee, surprising isn't it from a group of folks still struggling through heroics, I went to talk to the two guys I like to play with most.  They wouldn't even talk to me because they view me as one of the people who betrayed them when I only went to do my job.  I logged out disgusted, ashamed and worst of all, with no desire to ever play WoW again.

I built a team, one that believed in each other, and all it took were a couple of guys to destroy it all in a matter of seconds.

Boys, thanks for throwing me under the bus.  My addiction trigger really enjoyed it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Semester wrap up, complete with level 85.

Wow, what a week!

Finals were fun, NOT, but I got through them.  I've not received my final grades for the semester yet, but it's all done, finished and through and all during the opening week of Cataclysm.

For those of you who don't play WoW, let's put it this way, when a new expansion comes out, it's a race to the highest level.  This time around, Cataclysm only gave us five extra new levels, so now, I'm proud to say that after finishing my finals, and a lot of late nights since, I've hit the magic number.  Rel's 85.

I have to say it did suck having Cata come out on the same week as finals.  I was torn between books and game and while everyone was busy pushing the envelope on Tuesday night, I was behind the books and baking.  By the time Wednesday came, I was a full level behind everyone and oh did it suck playing catch up.

But, before I completely geek out on you, let's wrap the semester in Sophomore style.

Environmental Science 101 was a suck fest.  It was a gimme class, but the way it was organized and administered, it was horrible.  But, I made it through.

Journalism 101 was a triumph, coming out with a 92 on my final exam, which I was most pleased with.  I'll be working with the instructor from 101 in Journalism 475 (Global Media) this spring.

Journalism 102 rocked.  Sad news though, due to the tight funds in the university system, Prof. H. is going back to the private sector.  The man rocked this semester and he made it so much fun to write on deadline AND do it in AP style.  Have y'all noticed how much my punctuation has improved?  That's Prof. H.'s handywork and I have to give him major kudos and props for getting me straightened out there.  I just find it quite sad that a professor like that won't be teaching anymore because the school can't afford to pay him.  Sad, sad, sad.  The man is a whiz and an authority in the newsroom.  It was a privilege to have him as my teacher for it.  Keep rockin' Prof. H.  I'm behind you all the way!

So, with nine more credits added to my name, I'm a happy junior resting and relaxing before I take on 13 credit hours this spring.  But all in all, I did get two more classes toward my major out of the way and I'm thrilled for it.

So, I finished another semester with relatively minor distractions, KP's on the scene (except he's camping this weekend with the kids), Chance has his toon holed up in Uldum (the Egyptian themed zone in WoW) while he's off doing some clinic for his job and Jim, Jason, Stephen, Jeff, Chris, Ryan, Rob, Suzi, Tammy and the whole gang are on board leveling, cheering and doing what KVN a great family.  But I'm sad as I'm looking around and not finding Heidi or Isaiah anywhere....Santa must be waiting to hide them in Rel's Christmas stocking.

As a special note, I have to give props and kudos to a lady who's left behind a legacy of teaching me how to boss in proper, rest her soul, is Aunt Sissy's Birthday!  Even though she died several years ago, she still lives in my heart and she is the source of me being able to put my foot down, do things right and boss people around like a real pro.  Seriously though, she was a very wonderful woman who loved me so much and was the very first one to accept me for who I was, recognizing the fact that I walk to the beat of my own drum.  She's the one who taught me that it's not only ok to be different, but it's a must.  Happy Birthday Aunt Sissy, I love you!

So that wraps up the Fall 2010 semester.

My plans for the holiday break are to read the Wall Street Journal and a magazine called The Week as prescribed by Doc Fish to prep for 475 and enjoy the beginnings of a new raid season with KVN, the world's best guild in WoW.

Tron: Legacy is coming up on the 17th and of course, I'll be with Mom and Nan tomorrow baking up more Christmas confections...woot!  It's the holidays!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Baking and Studying for Finals

Tonight, I am spending my night baking and studying for finals.  Why bake while studying?  Easy.  Prof. H's birthday is tomorrow and I promised him a batch of my new experimental holiday cookie for him to munch on while all of the students take our finals.

Ok, so as I've been reading chapters out of "News Reporting and Writing," I've been at the mixer whipping up a batch of Oatmeal-Craisin-Pecan cookies.

I'm a huge fan of oatmeal cookies.  Underneath the sweet goodness of an oatmeal cookie lies something healthy, oats.  Yep, they're low in cholesterol, high in fiber, boring plain, but put in a cookie, delicious.

I've always baked oatmeal raisin cookies.  I've never been crazy about raisins though.  So, I've usually just baked plain oatmeal cookies with lots of cinnamon.  Either way, thanks to my Grandmother, I've got this incredible touch when it comes to baking.  Everything that seems to come out of my oven, whether it's a cake or cookies or some kind of candy, they always delight the tastebuds of everyone who's ever tried them, and they've all come out with one word, "Yum."

However, with my grandmother's touch with cookies, baked goods and confections, I also come with her curse of being terrible with meats.  That's right if I can overcook it, I do.  Roasts that are tough as rawhide are the bane of my existence and the usual result of me trying to make a roast.  My pork chops, however come out juicy and succulent, so I guess it only goes to roasts that I'm terrible at.

But life is all about maximizing strengths and minimizing weaknesses, right?  So tonight, standing over my mixer, I could almost hear my grandmother as she told me just how long to cream together the sugars and butter.  Then, adding the eggs and vanilla, beating them into the sugars until they turned into this creamy golden goodness which told me to turn the mixer off again.  After that, I put together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a separate bowl and stirred them together.  I turned my mixer back on to add in the flour mixture, adding it in a tablespoon at a time until it all coalesced into this beautiful golden dough.  I then measured out three cups of oats, savoring the smell, then added them to the dough, turning on the mixer long enough for the oats to be stirred in.  Then, came the point where I knew I was living dangerously.

Raisins are one thing, but craisins (cranberry raisins) are another.  They've got a sharp, tangy, yet sweet taste which I had never seen added to a cookie before, but I decided that life is all about calculated risks, so instead of the cup full of raisins that were dictated by the recipe, I used a cup of craisins instead.

Then I really jumped off the edge.  I've rarely heard of an oatmeal cookie with nuts in it before, but if I had gone that far by adding the craisins, then a half cup of pecans would do just fine.  In they went as I looked up at the ceiling imagining my grandmother and hoping it would all turn out ok.  Never once has my grandmother's touch let me down when it came to baking, so I figured, if all else failed, I'd bake up another batch.

Well, as I finished putting together the cookie dough, I dug a pair of tablespoons into the dough and started laying them out on my cookie sheets, hoping everything would come out delicious.

Ten minutes later, the timer on my oven went off and the first dozen came out.  With the words, "Here's to you MaMa," (read "Maw-Maw") I grabbed a cookie and took a bite.

Yum.  Now I'm kind of sad I didn't make these earlier.  The unique thing about these cookies is that the cranberries kind of stay with you as this refreshing, tart aftertaste that is leaving my mouth feeling clean, yet sweet.

And for all of you who want to see what they look like, here ya go.

Now it's back to the books and more studying with the delicious smell of freshed baked cookies filling the air.

While I'll miss my guildies tonight, the cooking and books have to come first.  Finals tomorrow!  Onward!


It's been a long night.  First to my local Best Buy to pick up my Collectors Edition of Cataclysm, then it was home to install it and then get in and check on my guildies.

You have to understand one thing when it comes to the relationship between me and the 60-someodd people in my guild.  I adore all of them.  They're great people and since I've spent the last three months prepping them for this day, I was like a mother seeing her kids off on their first day at school.  I wanted to be in there with them for their first moments, showing them instance entrances, where trainers were and share the wonders that I spent three months testing and taking notes so their first moments of this expansion would be not only fantastic, but unforgettable.

I've run two instances, quested to the point that I got my seahorse, but the rest of my time was spent answering questions, fighting for quest mobs to kill and towing guildies to the vortex that leads to the Abyssal Maw.

Since Cataclysm launched at midnight, I've had a wonderful time hearing the gasps, the laughs and more prevalent, the yawns, with sheer joy in their voices as they tackled new challenges and saw new and wondrous things late this evening and into the wee hours.  I can't express the sheer joy I got just from being there with them as they saw it for the first time.  While they may have made level 81 far before I have, it's absolutely worth it to see them enjoying themselves so much.  It made all of the days I posted tips, videos and put in so much work to get them ready so very worth it.

So, as my eyes fight me to stay open, I'll leave you with the song of the day, from the Cataclysm Soundtrack, the Night Elf Ballad, "Nightsong."

For all of my readers in KVN, with a sniffle and a proud tear of joy in my eye, I love each and every one of you very much, I'm proud of you and most of all...

Welcome to Cataclysm.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Hottie of the Day, #9

Well, as we're adding to the list of hotties as we go along, and since I'm about to hop out the door to pick up my Collectors Edition of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, I have to add a hottie to the list.

Number nine comes to us in the form of the man behind the voices of so many iconic WoW characters.  He's Thrall (woot, go Thrall.  I want a bumper sticker that says I <3 Thrall, which is odd because the majority of my toons are Alliance).  He's also the voice of the Terran Battlecruisers and Marines in Starcraft 2.  But, he's also the creative powerhouse behind the lore and storytelling inside of WoW.  The man, just from an intellectual gamers point of view is a total swoonfest, not to mention total eye candy.  While some girls think Zac Effron is hot (I'm not one of them, don't worry gals), I'm a big fan of #9...

So without further adieu, I give you the man who makes being a geek look hot, the one and only, Chris Metzen.

But for all of you gals who haven't heard him speak and get swept away by this charismatic geek, I give you his opener from Blizzcon 2010:  "Geek Is..."

And for a gal who does voices for fun, to entertain and ultimately communicate, his range of characters is one that makes me proud I can "Hooray" like a gnome one moment, and give the sexy eastern European accent of a Draenei the next.  That's swoon points you can't deny when it's a skill you have that you can see in someone else.  From Blizzcon 2009, the Q and A session where he talks about doing voices.

So to Chris, I tip my hat and that's what makes him the newest addition to the hotties list.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Relax, breathe and pretend I'm Oprah.

Yeah, that was a line spoken by Rosie O'Donnell in the film Exit to Eden (based on the Anne Rice novel).

Do you know how many times I've repeated that line to people?  A lot.

But it seems as with all the buzz going on around Oprah putting her final season on the air, leaving the airwaves after 25 years, I began to wonder about something.  What are people going to do after she leaves?

I'll be the first to admit, I don't watch Oprah.  I catch an episode every now and again, but I don't go out of my way to watch her show.  I never really have because it just never meant that much to me to hang on every word of her opinion.  To me, she is just another person out doing good things and sharing her nutritional value with the rest of the world.  That's a good thing, and it's the same stuff all of us Sophomores are taking to heart and taking to the streets every day we walk out our doors.

Millions of people tune into Oprah every day, and I don't blame them, she gives away cool stuff, she has guests people want to know about and between her philanthropic work and the numerous careers she's helped launch, you can't really help but admire her.  Her public image is one where everyone kind of looks at her and points going "that's a good person."  Her generosity legendary, her fan base astronomical, she's a honest-to-goodness icon.  But I can't help wonder, what will happen to all of her millions of adoring fans after she says goodbye?

I have a reader who calls my blog her "online crack."  I guess you can say it's an addictive thing when you can pull up the page and see someone else coping with something you've gone through too, it helps you heal and most of all it reminds you that you're not alone.  That reader has actually helped coin a phrase, "Crackmore," yes, a person who tunes in every day just like they would to listen to Oprah.  To be quite honest, my favorite Crackmore has brightened up many a day for me because she reminds me that I'm not alone either.  (And I'm an old egotist, it feels good to know people are interested and reading along.)

Yesterday, as I was cleaning up around my apartment, I imagined the day far in the future where I'll be talking about graduating from school.  At that moment I felt uneasy and very disconcerted thinking about what I was going to do with my blog after I finished school.  It was akin to Oprah finally putting her show to bed after 25 years...what am I going to do then?  But I think (and as Jim often reminds me) it's kind of like putting the cart before the horse, it's nothing to get too excited over because we've still got lots of ground to cover and lots of potholes to bounce through.

Oprah and her icon status reminds me of the times I've spent in online worlds like and Uru.  Someone actually told me once I was an icon in There.  Talk about bizarre.  When I heard that, I looked up at the ceiling and said, "But, I go to the bathroom like everyone else, and I most certainly don't crap marble," referring to a Charlton Heston quote I heard once.  Icons are only, I think, temporary.  They come and go with the fickle nature of consumerism and society in general.  Ever heard of OD'ing on a song or hearing enough about celebs like Lindsay Lohan?  Yeah, it happens.  Icons only last so long until we tire of them or they step on their whatevers so hard that we cringe at the sight of them (Mel Gibson anyone?).  It's true.  Icons are a temporary beast at best.

But, the Oprah phenomenon isn't that far removed from being interviewed by Barbara Walters (who I do a great impersonation of by the way). Remember the Barbara Walters interviews? (Link goes to her final Oscar special.)  Oy, I remember the way people talked about them, how she got her guests to cry and so forth.  Barbara and Oprah are an example of two gals who KNOW how to interview.  They know how to ask just the right question and so forth, helping our butts make their way to the edge of our seats. As a result, they're both pretty big cultural icons.

I remember when Barbara interviewed Oprah for the first time and Oprah said that she always knew she was born for greatness.  Big words, but she made it the truth.  I wish I could be as arrogant to say that!

But for years movie stars, authors, politicians and celebrities of all types have sat and talked with those two women without hesitation.

For me, it's a screen lit up in pink.  It's the corner of my screen in World of Warcraft.  Like the expression goes, "Everyone, at one time or another, comes to see Mama Rel."  And damned if that isn't the truth.  In, it was constant bars coming up from the bottom of my screen saying "X avatar is IM'ing you," and it would have 'yes' and 'no' buttons on the right hand side where I had an option to answer it like a phone call saying, "Hello or Hey you," or just pressing the little button that said 'no', followed by me scribbling on the notepad next to my mouse writing down all the names of folks I had to call back when I had a moment.

Unlike, in WoW, it doesn't matter, if someone wants to talk to me, all they have to do is type in the phrase /w Relyimah and tell me what's on their mind.  I don't have an option to turn it off or decline it, it just comes through as lines of pink in the bottom left hand corner of my screen.  For all the times I've said, "Relax, breathe and pretend I'm Oprah," there have been ten times that amount of whispers, IM's, messages, letters and so forth.

I remember not too long ago getting hit with 15 simultaneous whispers all at one time.  To be honest, I thought at that moment I was going to lose my mind.  I had 15 people all at the same time wanting my attention.  It was to ask my advice, say hello, ask a question about something, requests for crafting, you name it, it has come up on my screen.  For the last seven years, no matter the online world, when people have asked for my attention, I've always tried my best to give good advice, make my words kind, gentle and tasteful, be tolerant and most of all, when folks just needed to talk, I've sat for hours smiling and nodding.  I've put up with the world's largest horse's asses but also have been around some of the kindest people I'll ever meet in my life.

It's one of those things I guess, whether it's being well-known for giving away goodies or being an exceptional interviewer to being a kind teacher, a mentor, a friend or if you're lucky enough to be known as the sticky stuff that holds a group of people together, being a great communicator has it's upsides and down.

I remember when I finally said goodbye to being a teacher and administrator at the University of There.  Through some hard work, a little group of us pulled together enough clout to make some millionaire invest in our little project and give us a big piece of land in that virtual world.  It was toured, taught at, more importantly, learned at, and it became this sort of cultural hot-spot that said that the sum was greater than it's parts.  When I left, I remember being told horror stories about the mad dash for power a few people made to try to fill the gap I had left by taking my travelling show somewhere else.  I remember it being characterized as taking a load bearing beam out of a house's living room.  From what I saw and heard, it seemed as the roof decided to collapse in on itself for a bit until someone stepped up to the plate and cleaned house.

I got a whisper in a panic the other day.  It was a hunter in my guild who was VERY concerned over what was going to happen to me this upcoming Tuesday when Cataclysm opens up and we welcome back the fella who used to do the officer job I now hold in my guild.  He was very upset.  He said, "They can't replace you!"  I laughed and told him that the fella I stepped in for was a 100 times better healer than I'll ever be and that he's a wonderful guy, but that hunter wouldn't hear it.  He said, "But is he a better guild mom?"  I had to laugh at that and while one of the greatest druids I've ever met may come back and take my titled job away, well, I don't think he'll ever say, "Relax, breathe and pretend I'm Oprah."

That's the good part about being the sticky stuff...and while Oprah and Barbara may enjoy all that free time on their hands, they might have forgotten about one thing...we do a necessary job, we make you feel better and like us or hate us, we're the ones who keep things moving forward by inspiring, sharing and making sure that YOU feel valued and important.

For today's song of the day, let's go with something bubble gum and fun, and the one reason people like me do the things we do, because we've got an endless amount of love.  Bottlefly's "Got 2 B Luv."  Besides, it reminds me of all of my precious guildies...those nerds.  LOVE YOU GUYS!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gutting it out.

This evening, on my way out the door to get some more ink for my printer and supplies for my final Journalism 102 project, I stopped to check my mail.

I'm a big fan of the proverbial "snail mail," especially when it's from a friend.  Otherwise, it's just filled with the prerequisite bills, junk mail and ads.  Along with tonight's wonderful buffet of bad ads came a letter for my ex from "Jared, the Galleria of Jewelry."  Oh yeah.  It stared me directly in the face.

Ok, for those of you who may be new or for those who know this but can't remember, my ex bought jewelry for the Bassett Hound Faced Bitch (his mistress) at Jared's.  Yeah, while I was begging for replacements for underwear with holes in them or maybe a new sweater so I wouldn't freeze my ass off in winter, my ex was paying top dollar for her to have an array of new jewelry.  From $250 necklaces, $300 for a ring and so forth, she was being given jewelry while I was having to beg for the most mundane of necessities.  New socks aren't too much to ask for, are they?  While I was being told no to getting new socks, she was wearing new jewelry provided by my ex without even a second thought to me.  Trust me, after I found the jewelry receipts I asked him point blank, "Did I even cross your mind as you were doing this?"  He replied with one word.  "No."

Before he left, I was suspicious when the ads from Jared's started arriving, but I figured those showed up because my ex was on some marketing list that Jared's bought so they could do some direct mail advertising.  No.  I find out later through a stack of receipts that he had been buying her quite the bit of jewelry.

After he left, the ads from Jared's just kept coming.  I yelled, I cried and I begged him to get those to stop showing up in my mailbox because every time I saw one, it was another slap in the mouth.  I told him to write, call or do SOMETHING to make it stop, but alas, he did nothing.  (And this is surprising, why?)

It's ok to hate him.  I do and it's just one amongst many horrible things that man did over ten years.  But, I've moved on, I've done great things and he's the last thing on my mind usually.  To be honest, a day spent where I don't think of him is a happy one.

But, looking in the mailbox tonight, what do I find?  Another ad "letter" from Jared's.  I stood at my mailbox looking at it, once more having the knife shoved into my gut and maliciously twisted.  It was at that point that I said out loud, "I've had enough of this shit."  Oh, let me tell you, I saw red.  I ranted, "I don't get screwed over any more, thank you very much, and I'll be damned if I allow some dickless wonder who ran off with a detestable tramp to shit on another single one of my days."  I had officially "had it." I decided right then and there it was high time I went on the offensive.

Being that I was on my way to Office Depot for some supplies and Jared's is in the same shopping center, I threw the mail into my passenger seat and hit the gas.  If that loathsome, lying, cheating, worthless son-of-a-bitch wasn't going to take care of it and put an end to it, I was.  I sat in my car, a million thoughts running through my head about how I'd feel walking into that store where that bastard had brought his little hussy to spend our rent money, what I was going to say, how I was going to say it and most of all, how I was going to put an end to the endless stream of gut-wrenching reminding I've taken about what my sad sack of crap ex has done to me.

At the corner nearing the store, some bonehead decided to cut me off.  Oh, that fella picked the WRONG night to mess with me.  I laid on my horn and went ballistic.  I've had enough of getting crapped on!

So, ad letter in hand, I parked the car in front of the store and walked up to the door I had dreaded passing every single day since I found out about the screwing I took.  I grabbed the handle, walked in and sat with my jaw open over the fact that my ex not once thought of me when walking through that same door.  I started to feel sick, but it was a defining moment, it was one of two choices, I either went back to my car and cried or I would gut it out and put a stop to it.

I gutted it out.  I walked into the store to be met by a nice young salesman named Andrew and politely asked for the manager.  The manager was busy, but since Andrew was the assistant manager, he'd have to do.  I put the letter on the counter and said, "Hi, I just got this out of my mailbox, but see, there's a problem."  He said, "It's not your address?"  I said, "No, it is my address and on the front of the letter IS my ex-husband's name.  The only problem is that he never bought me jewelry from your store.  He bought jewelry for his MISTRESS from your store.  While I was begging for new socks so I could throw out ones with holes, he was buying that woman jewelry from your store."  The young man's face went ashen.  "I said, that's right.  Every single time your ad comes to my house, it's a reminder of what that son of a gun did to me.  Now I know this isn't your fault, but I really would like it if you could do something to make it stop."  Andrew grabbed the ad letter off the counter and went straight to his computer.  He recited all of my ex's contact information and even his cellphone number.  My gut hit the floor.  I said, "Yes, that's him, but he's packed up and moved to Kentucky, so he won't be buying any more jewelry from you here.  Please, can you do something."  He said, "I've made sure that there is no more mail being sent to your address from us."  I thanked him and left.

I got into the car, shaken from what I had just done.  The tears were starting to come up, but it was then I realized something.  I put a stop to something that the ex had done.  I gutted it out and I came out on the other side.  I started the engine of the car, put it into reverse and sped away from the store, proud of myself that I confronted the problem and fixed it.

I then went over to Office Depot, got the stuff I needed and took myself to dinner.

I gutted it out and I'm proud of myself.  One more thing off the radar that I won't have to think about again.

But let me tell you, if another single piece of mail comes to my house from Jared, The Galleria of Jewelry, someone's going to get it shoved clean up their butt.

Today, Seether's "Rise Above This" seems appropriate.

Monday, November 29, 2010

I'm a Junior!

Today at school was a wonderful thing.  I went to my 102 lecture to get the study guide for my final exam, then I stopped by Prof H.'s office to ask a few more questions that I had forgotten about during class.  Prof H. is a class act.  He not only helped me but he gave me some crucial insight into what I needed to be thinking of as far as my final project goes.

Well, sufficed to say, I didn't get published this semester, much to my dismay, but it was my own fault.  I didn't step on it quick enough to make the semester's final edition of the Rebel Yell.  They'd already put it to bed, so I missed my chance.  Oh well.  Lots of opportunities to come I guess.  But, I did get to talk to the director of the campus radio station and I now have in my hot little hands an e-mail address for the student program manager. Now all I have to do is pitch what kind of show I want to do.  (I'm keeping it a secret for now, so don't ask.)

Then it was off to the journalism school's academic advising office.  Up to now, I didn't know how many credits I needed to become a junior.  Well, the magic number is 60 and your favorite Sophomore is now at 66.  Yep, I'm a junior!  Exciting, huh?  Along with getting my junior status, I also got to get my waiver signed to get into, get this, Journalism 261 and 475.  261 is Introduction to Integrated Marketing Communications and 475 is Ad Copywriting!  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!  I'm SO excited for spring!  I've got two to-die-for classes!  The other two for spring are a social science class called "Personal Growth," and just imagine the blog posts that are going to come from THAT class...and a history class to fulfill my undergrad requirement.  In total this spring, 13 credit hours.  My lucky number.

So, on the way home, listening to the Nickelback song, "Far Away," to which I usually think about KP when I hear it, I actually thought about it this time in terms of self-love.  (Sorry KP, no disrespect intended.)  Now what is so poignant about this moment is that simply, I missed myself for a long time.  We all remember the days of me not knowing which end was up, constantly worried about what other people said and thought of me. Well, as I was driving, I realized something.  Who gives a damn what anyone else thinks?  This is MY life.  Not anyone else's.  This is my life where I sleep alone, I eat most meals alone, I play my video game with my fantastic guildies for social time and to get down to the nitty-gritty, outside of a 90K a year job, I don't want for much.   This goes back to the summer where I had written about how much I needed to engage my life and not just sit and watch as it passed by.  I've written so many times about "picking yourself up by the bootstraps and keep on walking," but until today, I really didn't grasp WHY we do things like that.

Survival skills are second nature to me.  I know how to survive, but I don't really know how to live.  It was in the car this afternoon that I realized the reason I didn't know how live was because I have always stupidly concerned myself with the acceptance and approval of others, only to be met with disappointment, anger and frustration.  Ok, let's go brass tacks.  I have spent my life, up to now, being the square peg trying to fit myself into a round hole because all of the other pegs in the box around me were round and I was giving in to the notion of actually "fitting in," when in truth, there are tons of square pegs out there.  It was when I thought of another axiom, "The cream always rises to the top," that I finally figured it out.  I'm the cream that's still swimming lower down in the milk jug, I'm just now starting to rise to the top, that's why I haven't really found any friends here in town to spend time with.  Another axiom, "Everything always finds its' own level" came to mind as well.   But one overall thought hit me, "I'm not done yet."  Truth told, not by a long shot.  It was then I realized that there is nothing wrong with me, I know who I am, I just haven't found my place in the sun yet.

Jeez, you know, you'd think by 39 I'd have this figured out already.  I'm a late bloomer.  That's got to be it.

But there's something else I thought of too, it doesn't matter if we're 19 or 99, we're always learning, we're always growing and it's all a part of the human experience.

For those of you who are curious, the name of the blog is NOT changing.  It's a branding thing.  Besides, even though I'm a junior now, I'll always be a wise fool, that's why it's called The Eternal Sophomore.

And this one is for me:  Nickelback's "Far Away."  Finally feeling my feet digging into the dirt and gaining traction feels good, I missed me.  I was far away from this point in my life for far too long.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Trees, Lights and family traditions.

I just got a call.  It was Nan telling me that we're doing Mom's Christmas Tree tomorrow.  I'm due at Mom's at noon because as is tradition, I've been handed the job of doing the lights on the tree.

For my immediate family, our tree always got decorated on Thanksgiving day, after all the food and dishes had been put away, we'd start right to work on our tree because we'd have a few weeks to enjoy it until our pilgrimage down to my grandparents house for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  But, the job of decorating the tree has never been taken lightly, so to produce a high-quality tree, the job is always handed down to a young person to handle the job and give the folks who had done it in the past a rest.

Now, let's set the way back clock for about 40 years ago. Mom somehow inherited the huge job of decorating  the Christmas tree at my grandparents house from Aunt Sissy.  Who Aunt Sissy inherited the job from, I'll never know.  One day Mom just stepped up to the task and when Aunt Sissy walked in and saw Mom decorating the tree, she said, "Thank goodness, someone's taken the job," and Mom became our family's chief tree decorator, a job that lasted until I was 11, when my grandfather moved from the house on Pate Lane (yes, my family had a road named after it, besides, it was the only house on the road) to his new house in town.

As I remember, there was always a morning where my grandfather would go out with a couple of other family members and cut down the tree himself.  Yep, that's right, it was a live, sap-filled cedar tree that sat in the great room of my grandparents house, and there Mom stood in front of it with strings of lights (and remember this was a while back, so the lights weren't the high-tech fancy ones we have today).  Now, in her job as tree decorator, the biggest hurdle of all time was the daunting task of putting the lights on a 7-foot tall cedar tree that fit in the room with only an 8-foot-tall ceiling.  Thinking back, I have no earthly idea how Mom got the lights in the top of the tree, but I'm guessing there was either a ladder or a tall chair involved, but nonetheless, those lights got up there and oh, she always did such an amazing job with the difficult lights she had to deal with.  I really never saw her decorate the tree because us little folks were always kept out of the "big room" during the holidays before Christmas morning.  We'd go and peek in there, but it kind of went without saying that you didn't go in there, besides all of the action at my grandparents was always in the kitchen, so it kept us distracted over what was going on in the "Christmas Room."

But looking back, I can remember Daddy and one of my uncles always struggling to get that tree in the door, but I can only imagine Mom standing on a chair reaching up into the tree putting the lights on, getting her hands covered in sap and humming a Christmas carol or two while she was working.

I also remember the decorations she had to work with.  Oh lordy, you want to talk ewww?  Yeah, she had to deal with those cloth ornaments that were basically a Styrofoam ball covered in a weird sort of synthetic, plastic-y string on them that if they snagged on anything, from the tree to a calloused finger, it would pull apart.  When I think about them, my skin kind of crawls, but much less to say, Mom made it work and she made it work beautifully.  There were a few glass balls that she'd put on the tree, but mostly a lot of the ornaments were either those Styrofoam balls from hell or they were ones that us littleun's made for our grandparents.  

After all the decorations would go on, then came the garlands and the icicles, those little pieces of stringy tinsel that you place on the branches.  Yep, there was a lot of stuff that went on that tree.  As I recall, the trees themselves weren't ever that great, but when Mom got done decorating it, it might as well have been the tree in New York's Rockefeller Center.  It just turned out that good. 

Another family tradition was "The Candy Box."  This neat little invention came by way of my Aunt Sissy as well.  See, Uncle Bill owned a pharmacy so they'd save up pill bottle boxes and they'd become our candy boxes.  You want to talk having your eyes bulge out of your sockets?  Try this one...

The candy box structure was rather unique.  If you would cross-section the foot tall by about a foot-and-a-half wide box, it would look like this:

  1. Unwrapped goodies, such as small toys, Barbie clothes, or a coloring book or crayons.
  2. Fruit, consisting of a couple of apples, oranges and a banana or two (no doubt this was Mom's doing).
  3. Candy.  Lots of candy.  Individually wrapped peppermints, butterscotch, mini-Snickers, mini-Almond Joy, mini-Mounds, rolls of Lifesavers, individually wrapped Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey's kisses, mini-Hershey's Chocolate bars...Gods, there was so much in there, I can't even remember it all...but think about it this way, if there was an individually wrapped type of candy, it was in there.  SO much candy it makes my teeth hurt just thinking about it.
  4. Nuts 
  5. and a small piece of aluminum foil at the bottom.
Now if you imagine it in just the way my little list is written out, you'll get a really good idea what those candy boxes were like.  Seriously, that numbered list and how the item about the candy is written out, no joke, that's how much candy was in that box.

I mean these things were HUGE!  Imagine a 6-year-old, 50 pound Sheri walking in to see that on Christmas morning.  As a child I remember my eyes bulging out of their sockets when I saw that.  A couple of times I even found stuffed animals on top of my candy box.

Now, how the candy boxes were constructed, I have no idea.  All I remember is my mother taking me out to the mobile home (that Uncle David had brought out to my grandparents house to put us up for the week), and putting me to bed around 8 p.m.  This is apparently when the "elves" being my parents plus the rest of Dad's family would get together and do the boxes.

Ok, now's the time to explain to you how big my family is.  In my family you have to talk in Star Trek's "Borg" designations.  Remember Seven of Nine?  If you do, you're with the program.

Dad is Fourth of Five.  That's right, he's got three older sisters and one younger brother.  Putting us all together, including my grandparents, it totaled 22 people in one house.  Go ahead, give the "Oh Sh*t" that inevitably comes with me telling people how large my family is. I have nine cousins.  NINE.  So imagine my grandmother's long kitchen table covered in boxes, foil, bags upon bags of candy, fruit and nuts.  I remember my parents coming in long past midnight after they had finished visiting and laughing putting together the boxes.  After the boxes were finished, everyone went home, only to return the next morning at 7 a.m. 

Christmas morning was always amazing.  It was when we'd be treated to breakfast made by my grandfather and my Aunts.  Aunt Bonnie's AWESOME scrambled eggs, my grandfather's special orange juice that was always SO amazing, sausage, bacon, toast, sweet rolls, anything we wanted, and it was laid out in this huge spread.  We ate our fill and if we finished before everyone else, we were watched closely because NO ONE got into the big room filled with Christmas presents until it was time.  The adults literally assigned a door monitor for the room.  If we little people got too close to the door, we were immediately herded back in with everyone else in the kitchen.  There was no such thing as peeking.  You didn't have a chance to peek because when you were a little person, you were tasked with working the room and saying good morning to all of your aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.

22 people under one roof for Christmas...phew! To me, that's a lot.  After we'd all had breakfast and the dishes were washed, we'd be lined up for the big moment, the opening of the big room for presents.

The tree my mother so carefully decorated sure did get a workout because beneath it's branches was modern-day consumerism gone wild.  There were presents extending from the base of the tree to easily four to five feet in front of it.  Wrapping paper of every color and description covered boxes from tiny to huge.  So many presents it was a wonder all of us fit into the room as well.

The big room on Christmas morning was divided by family.  My sister and I, along with my parents were nearest the door.  Then around the room went my Aunt Bonnie and Uncle David with their sons, Aunt Ray and Uncle Chester with their son and daughter, then Aunt Betty and Uncle Lonnie with their three if they were in town for Christmas, then came Aunt Sissy and Uncle Bill with their son, then ultimately my grandparents.

The first thing we always saw were our candy boxes.  With our name written on them, we could find our basic seating assignment and we all flopped down in front of our "loot section." Wrapping paper flew off of presents, loot was held up for display and inspection, and it was a good solid two to three hours we went through everything.  At this point, just describing it, I can only imagine how exhausted all of the adults were.  After looting and pillaging, we were sent to the showers to get pressed and dressed for Christmas Dinner.

Now imagine all of my aunts and my Mom in the kitchen on Christmas Day.  For my family, there was no such thing as "eating out" on Christmas, that just wasn't done, so you had my grandmother (when she could still walk) along with my four aunts, Mom, my cousins Anne and Ginger, and Nan all helping out.  My grandmother's kitchen was the size of my current apartment's living room and kitchen.  Still, with all those people in it, I just remember it being very cramped and every piece of counter space was at a premium.  So that meant little people like my cousin Mark and I were basically banished or told to keep from under foot while they made dinner. 

When dinner was finally served, it was a spread unlike anything I've seen before or since.  As we've gone over, there were 22 people in the house, so the "Big 12" consisting of the parents and our grandparents were at the "Big Table" in the dining room and the children all sat in the kitchen.  My cousins Sam and Mike were the eldest so they kind of acted as our ranch hands keeping all of us in check and behaving so the adults could eat in peace.

If you can imagine the holiday food, it was on those tables.  Turkey, ham, stuffing, giblet gravy, regular gravy, sweet potatoes, green rice, green beans, baked beans, oh holy lordy, if I try to describe it all, we'll be here until next week, but sufficed to say, there was SO MUCH FOOD.  After our mom's would come in, help us help our plates, the entire house became the sounds of chewing and conversation.  Down at the end of the kitchen table would be Ginger, Nan, Drew, Mark and I.  Being the two youngest in our massive brood, Mark and I were a pair of Christmas Day clowns.  We sat there stuffing our faces and inevitably, someone would have helped our plate to some black olives.  Mark and I sat at the end of the table cackling our heads off with black olives stuffed onto the tips of our fingers.  We'd be laughing, playing "See Food" and sitting there eating the olives off of our fingers.  I remember all of the bigger kids rolling their eyes and laughing at us, but we'd always have a hoot of a time.

And it all goes back to the one simple act...Mom up on a chair or ladder putting lights up on the Christmas tree.

Now, it's my job to do the lights and effectively kick off the Christmas season.  Truth be told, I'm now my family's official tree decorator.  I just hope I can hold up the tradition to it's fullest.  A beautiful tree decorated at the beginning of the holidays really does set up for the following three weeks of holiday cheer.

So for all of you decorating your trees, remember, every poke, sap covered finger and broken ornament has a reason for doing just as it did, it's there to make a memory, ones that will last a lifetime.