Life is Too Short To Peel A Tomato

I’ve had so many different jobs in my life that I find it easier just to respond ‘I’m somebody’s Mother’ when asked ”What do you do for a living?” I feel as if Motherhood has been the ultimate training ground for dealing with different personalities and authority figures. I was grateful for the experience of working in a hospital because it helped me deal with sickness and not vomit myself when an 8 year old brought up pea soup; I apologize if you are reading this while you are having breakfast, but you get the gist of what I am saying.

I never realized that I was able to deal with overbearing managers because I had dealt with teenagers. Making the boss look good and letting him think it was his idea is a direct result of dealing with a 14 year old girl.  Just hand them a mirror and they’ll forget what all the fuss was about. Consoling a distraught 6 six year old because his frog died is exactly what happens when a co-worker didn’t get the raise they wanted. Sometimes you just have to let them whine a little. Making a drunk superior understand he can’t drive home from the party is almost as much fun as telling your 17 year old he can’t go out with his pants hanging down to the middle of his rear – its dangerous and not anything people want to see.

The question has arisen from time to time as to where I get some of my ideas for columns. I wonder sometimes myself. Sometimes they will just come from out of the blue as I sit in front of a blank screen. It’s as if I’m waiting for someone to turn on my fingers so the words will flow out – an endearment my beloved uses sometimes when addressing the dogs. (“Look, boys!  Mommas got words coming out of her fingers!”)

When I am feeling especially inspired, the story seems to write itself.  The starting point might be a title that sticks in my head, or a group of words that seem to belong together.   I remember reading an instruction for a recipe where it called to ‘peel a tomato before blanching.’   I thought to myself  “What?  Life is too short to peel a tomato!”   That has stuck in my head like a song that continues to play over and over in my mind, and now that I’ve used it maybe it will finally go away.  Or maybe it thinks it’s better than that and should be a book title.   I’ll know if it shows up again tomorrow.

Some friends and I were sitting at the local watering hole the other evening and they tossed out some ‘titles’ they thought would be appropriate as starting points for columns.

But I realized among all their good intentions, there’s one fact I can’t change.   I need to pull the titles from my own heart, my own history and my own fingers.  Thankfully, there’s plenty more where this one came from.


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Minuscule Memories

I woke up this morning thinking about my old job at the bank.  Perhaps it was the drugs I’ve been taking to combat the onslaught of new allergens attacking my system.  Or maybe it’s just what it is, a dream; random thoughts that somehow stay glued to the side of your mind, and are knocked loose to make room for something else just as miniscule.

I’ve been consumed with budgets and all things financial of late, as we settle into our home here in Idaho Falls.  Having only one regular paycheck to count on makes you stretch your mind as well as your dollars.  It has not been without merit, though.  You look at your priorities a little differently, and become much more aware of how lucky you are to have one.

I met a lot of good people at the bank job of my memory, some which went on to become members of “The Ducks” (life-long friends and who I’ve known almost 20 years now) and those who I’d rather forget.   Amidst bank mergers and closures in the early 90’s, I was one of the first to be let go when the departments were ‘focused out.’  That’s what they called layoffs back then; focusing.  In any event, I had hoped their lens wouldn’t locate me and my little job as an assistant to a private banker, but alas, no such luck.  I was not only focused, they used the magnifying glass on my department, deeming me the most expendable.

There was a female loan officer there who wrote the wordiest and most succinct loan proposals for her clients.  Her penmanship was flawless, but she was known for more than that.  Because her proposals were so long, she wrote in the tiniest of letters, sometimes so small you needed a magnifying glass to read the sentences.  But the letters were perfect.  I often kidded her and said she missed her calling, and should have been a neuro-surgeon, performing scar-less operations with the tiniest of stitching.  But she loved banking.

There was another female assistant there who was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma, the very disease my youngest daughter would face 10 years later.  Watching my coworker battle the chemo and radiation treatments with grace and dignity, she served as the example of how to deal with a disease and still go to work every morning.  Watching her, I knew what to expect to happen to my daughter, and to always keep a positive face on everything.

Nearly twenty years later, the bank still stands, although yet under another name.  The miniscule writer was eventually focused out as well, as were many of my friends.  The lens knew no boundaries, and highly paid VP’s were either demoted, let go, or reassigned to other states.   My friend with cancer survived her ordeal but not her job.  It was not a good time to be a banker.

Perhaps the fall of the financial institutions, the mortgage crisis and the debacles on Wall Street these past years were the result of many of these mergers, magnified layoffs and mismanagement.  The ones who were not spared the glare of the lens were probably the ones who were the most aware of management’s arrogance, and called them on it.   Never before had I worked in such an industry where you had to keep your head down and your mouth shut.  The world was changing in more ways than one.

Banking has a vastly difference face nowadays then it did back then.  People are in more control of their finances, and have the luxury of choosing what institution they want to park their funds with.  It’s a competitive market again, one that is constantly evolving and changing.  I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a necessary evil.  Probably, it is both.

I often wonder what became of the miniscule writer and her heart for banking, if she found another job as fulfilling or if her love for creating was crushed.  There should have been more like her.  I know that my desire to write was enhanced by simply reading the scenarios she created in describing her client’s loan requests.

It’s funny where you find inspiration.

I hope she found what she was looking for.

In a way, she helped me find what I was.

THE UGLY BEGINNINGS

Well, it’s been an interesting few days leading up to this Fourth of July holiday here in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Awakening with the feeling of swollen eyes, a stuffed nose and a head full of cement, I was quickly reminded of allergies I suffered as a child long ago.   Years of allergy shots had alleviated the symptoms of hay fever and other allergens, and I have been able to live an antihistamine free life for about 15 years.

Apparently, there’s a whole lotta new stuff that I’m allergic to out west.

Narrowing the culprit down to Cottonwood trees and a few wild flowers, it took a few days to get back into determining the right dosage of Benadryl.  Now that I have, things are fairly back to normal.   I’ll probably have to schedule a visit to the allergist here in town, but that won’t be until next year.  I write this with certainty and I know we will probably be living here for a while.

Accepting the fact that I will not be able to find a ‘regular’ 9-5 job any time soon, I have concentrated on freelancing and independent contracting, which has been ok.  It gets me out there and I can contribute to the household, but still not in a way that I could develop relationship with co-workers.

Instead, I have made some good friendships with women whom I work out at the club.  One of my friends back east left me a Facebook message with the equivalent tone of “My God, do you live there?”

In a word?  Yes. 

Yes, I do.  That place has literally saved my sanity.

After living here for nearly six months and not having a connection to anyone or anything really weighed heavily on me.  Without the distraction of somewhere to go (besides Walmart) and something to do (besides go food shopping or to church) it became a constant struggle to even get out of bed.  That black cloud has passed, simply because someone suggested, “Hey, let’s go get a drink.”  How organically simple it all really is.   How easily we are distracted by what is important, and what is trifling.

The holiday weekend continued with our first attendance at the local baseball league.  Basically farm teams for the franchise, the players were young men barely out of high school or attending junior college.  They played with passion and developing skills showed promise as we glimpsed the slow journey towards being professional.   Paid peanuts for now, we know they play simply for the love of the game.

The stadium was a smaller venue than what we are used to, but not lacking in ambiance and stature.  The scoreboard lit up like the pros do, and videos played as the players were introduced during their time at bat.  Commercials were abundant and reflected what the play was.   Any ball hit into the foul zone and disappearing into the street where the cars were parked was followed by the same commercial.  After the initial sound of breaking glass, we heard “If that was your car, call Idaho Falls Auto Glass at 888-443-8875 for a quick repair of your windshield.”  We laughed as my husband (ever the comedian) joked we both realized in New York the commercial would have sounded more like “If that was your car, don’t get glass in your ass as you drive away.”

Hot dogs and beer, popcorn and cotton candy, we sampled it all, just as we did when we were kids.  Clapping and stamping your feet at the arrival of certain players, and standing to sing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” at the seventh inning stretch reminded me of home on Long Island and going to the city to see  a Mets game with my dad.

As I looked around me, everyone was singing loud and proud,  swaying back and forth linked arm in arm.  For a short time hands were on hearts, just as they had done with the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the game.

Several times over the course of the game I thought of my children and how much I missed them, even wishing they were youngsters again and sitting here beside me.  They would have loved this place.   They would love it for their children.

It was a defining moment for me to realize they were adults and had lives of their own, that I had perhaps judged this place too quickly.  Yes, there are cults here there will defy all intelligent discussion; it’s either their way or no way.    I have learned, as others have, how to distinguish them from the norm and not even engage them at all.

“You’re just in the ugly beginnings” a friend wrote to me, reassuring me I would find my way.  She was right, there are so many other things here I realize there is yet to discover.   It’s a good place to raise a family and to start a new life.   I miss the lake, I miss the feeling of completeness and I miss the familiarity of knowing where everything is and what to do when I go there.  My memories were clouding my future.

It took me four months to find a church, six months to find a good hairdresser, and the same six months to find someone to call friend.  I will probably never find a good place to get a manicure or a pedicure and have accepted that.  Some things are just New York and can’t be duplicated.

Overall, except for employment, I realize these issues are mundane.  I am grateful that my husband has a good job, that we have a place to live, and have food on the table.  We are healthier in mind, body and spirit compared to where we were this time a year ago.

Our holiday will be spent grilling out in the back yard, watching the dogs run around and bark at the birds, just like back home.  I will miss my children and my grands, realizing that every day I don’t see them is another stroke on the clock of time that I have lost.  Visits back east will become even more memorable and cherished, and times listening to the lake whenever I am able will forever fill my soul.

I hope that they treasure the time they have together, as I did with them, and drink it all in this holiday season.

But most importantly, to remember what this day is really about and what we are celebrating.  I have the freedom to complain, and the right to moan about the mundane, because daring men declared we were born with the right to do so, and were willing to die for it.  I will return to New York one day, I  know this for a fact.  But I am grateful for the freedom and ability to travel around to discover what life holds in store for all of us.

God Bless America and God Bless Idaho Falls.  The Ugly Beginnings are over.