Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year

Izzy is psyched.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Did you?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween. Love, Photoshop. (Volume 2)

GenV: "I hate you in a hundred different ways."

Izzy: "I really don't see the problem here. How can you possibly not feel like a rock star right now?"

GenV: "First of all, you made me into an even lamer sidekick than last year. Who recognizes Little John? Who stops Little John on the street and goes, 'Hey, you're totally that guy! Will you sign my tunic?' Nobody."

Izzy: "That is clearly the public's loss."

GenV: "Do you know how many times I've been stopped today and mistaken for an Ewok?"

Izzy: "I think you're overreacting."

GenV: "You should just be thankful I don't have thumbs, because I'm surrounded by pointy things and I'm not particularly attached to you."

Izzy: "You were perfectly welcome to choose our—"

GenV: "I CHOSE! I chose to remain costumeless!"

Izzy: "And so you obviously forfitted your vote."

GenV: "..."

Izzy: "Who wants candy?"

GenV: "You're like a nightmare that I can't wake from."

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Praying or preying?

I haven’t seen a praying mantis since I was very young, and even then, I think it was in an aquarium in biology class. I knew precisely three facts about the mantis: a) it can change color like a chameleon, b) the female will bite the head off the male after mating, and c) a gigantic one ate an entire Eskimo village in a movie once, and could totally kick the collective asses of all those ants in Them!

In later life, I’d also heard that a mantis is a symbol of something or other (good luck, probably), but by that point it had been a long time since biology class and I sort of forgot they existed.

Until recently.

At the barn last weekend, I arrived to discover a praying mantis sitting quietly on my white saddle pad, as if it had been there since the beginning of time. I won’t lie: I jumped gracelessly backward about four feet when I saw it, since it resembled a tiny alien that I could only imagine wanted to crawl inside my ear and eat my brain. A couple of deep breaths reminded me that mantises exist, and (unless you’re Mr. Mantis) they’re not particularly aggressive. Since my saddle pad was a rather integral part of that day’s plans, I gently scooted the grey bug onto a nearby bush and watched in fascination as it turned a perfect shade of green. Immediately, I fought back the impulse to go grab a plaid saddle pad and determine the true potential of the bug’s color-changing abilities.

It was fascinating to be reminded of such a unique species that I hadn’t seen in fifteen years, but by the time I finished my ride, the experience was long forgotten.

This evening, I left my yoga class and approached my car in the dark, rainy parking lot. I had just shuffled my keys out of my purse and opened the driver’s side door when I realized that I was directly eye-level with another praying mantis. No, holy jumping Jesus, there were TWO of them! And they were large, easily twice the size of last week’s visitor. They sat—still as ever—on the roof of my car amidst the beads of rain, approximately eight inches from my face. Looking at me.

I froze and looked back at them, wondering if they were calculating the best moment to fly directly at my eyeballs. Where did they come from? The dance studio where I take my yoga class is in the middle of a busy intersection, nowhere near an abundance of trees or even a grassy median. My car was in the middle of a whole row of other cars, and I could not see, to the best of my ability, any other vehicles covered in gigantic insects. The two mantises did not appear to be interacting with one another at all, so that somewhat allayed my fears that there was about to be a passionate beheading on the roof of my Camry. They simply sat. And watched.

There were still a couple of other girls waiting nearby under the dance studio’s overhang, and I thought it might look strange if I just stood there, staring at the roof of my car for very much longer. I didn’t really know what to do about the bugs, so I opted to do nothing. I lowered myself quickly into the driver’s seat and shut the door, desperately hoping one of my new friends hadn’t stepped off the edge of the roof and into my hair on my way in. I guessed I would just start to drive, and see if the mantises stayed with me or not.

During the drive home, I pondered the significance of the creatures. I knew a visit from a praying mantis was supposed to mean something, symbolically, but I had no idea what. After fifteen years of nothing at all, what had I done to deserve three visits all of a sudden? It’s a strange, unsteady time in my life right now (I’ve been laid off from my job, am trying to figure out where to live, and am preparing funeral travel for the sudden death of my uncle this week), but does that mean I have had spiritual insects dispatched to deliver me some sort of message? Because, with all apologies to the dispatcher, I have no earthly idea what that message is. I am not fluent in bug. I never even made it past Spanish 2. And really, the dispatcher should probably know that I am a little bit insect-phobic and have seen far too many horror movies to be all that receptive to a creature that looks like this:

(You're welcome.)

There is, of course, the possibility that mantises are simply infesting the greater Omaha area like a plague of locusts, but I prefer to not to pursue that train of thought.

At any rate, by the time I got home this evening, one mantis remained on the rainy roof of my car while the other one presumably experienced the biggest and scariest water slide ever. The remaining mantis is currently enjoying a very dry evening in my garage. I didn’t stop to think about how it would get out of my garage, but I will be interested to see where it is (or isn’t) tomorrow morning.

When I got home, I googled the symbolism of the mantis, and came up with this:

The praying mantis is the oldest symbol of God: the African Bushman’s manifestation of God come to Earth, “the voice of the infinite in the small,” a divine messenger. When one is seen, diviners try to determine the current message. In this culture they are also associated with restoring life into the dead. “Mantis” is the Greek word for “prophet” or “seer,” a being with spiritual or mystical powers.

The praying mantis shows the way. In the Arabic and Turkish cultures a mantis points pilgrims to Mecca, the holiest site in the Islamic world. In Africa it helps find lost sheep and goats. In France, it's believed that if you are lost the mantis points the way home.

"Follow Mantis" means putting that core aspect of yourself, your foundation of Spirit, at the helm and let it direct your intellect and ultimately your life.
The mantis comes to us when we need peace, quiet and calm in our lives. Usually the mantis makes an appearance when we've flooded our lives with so much business, activity, or chaos that we can no longer hear the still small voice within us because of the external din we've created.

After observing this creature for any length of time you can see why the symbolism of the praying mantis deals with stillness and patience. The mantis takes her time, and lives her life at her own silent pace.

These traits have lead the mantis to be a symbol of meditation and contemplation. In fact, in China, the mantis has long been honored for her mindful movements.

The mantis never makes a move unless she is 100% positive it is the right thing for her to do. This is a message to us to contemplate and be sure our minds and souls all agree together about the choices we are making in our lives.

Overwhelmingly in most cultures the mantis is a symbol of stillness. As such, she is an ambassador from the animal kingdom giving testimony to the benefits of meditation, and calming our minds.

An appearance from the mantis is a message to be still, go within, meditate, get quite and reach a place of calm. It may also a sign for you to be more mindful of the choices you are making and confirm that these choices are congruent.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

What do I do now?

I lost my job three weeks ago.

Immediately afterward, I had exactly one question on my mind, so I did the only reasonable thing a person of my generation, resources, and sense of irony could think of. I Googled, "What do I do now?"

The fact that the first search result I clicked on yielded an "Access Denied" page was neither encouraging nor unexpected, but it made me smile and I felt like that was the right answer. I didn't click on any other results.

Even the internet, it seems, wants me to figure it out my own damn self.


When I started at my job nearly three years ago, I was excited. I didn't know much about insurance (by which I mean I knew absolutely nothing at all, and bordered on knowing negative amounts of information), but it didn't really matter. I had a job that didn't require me to wear my name on my shirt. I had a career path. A beginning. Fancy pants and all.

It didn't take long for me to pick up the intricacies of the insurance industry, and it took a coincidentally similar amount of time for me to learn to despise it. That industry is no place for a creative person.

By the time the executives made the decision last month to institute company-wide lay-offs, I was looking for a release—and at least half of me was hoping this would be it. My job gave me too many headaches, and I had already injured my jaw from unconsciously grinding my teeth. I couldn’t think of a single thing that I liked about my job (except for a precious few coworkers) (and perhaps my shiny, shiny MacBook Pro—may it rest in peace, Amen). When my alarm would go off every morning, I’d get a very cold feeling somewhere in my stomach that even my favorite Starbucks baristas couldn’t make go away.

Still, no matter how much you’re ready for it—no matter how much you’re hoping you’ll be let off the hook with a little bit of severance to smooth things over, no matter how glad you will be to leave your little cube-shaped prison and go frolic in the sunshine on a Wednesday afternoon—it kind of hurts to not be wanted anymore.

It was a little bit of a punch to the gut. Only the punch was cruelly drawn out, like a slow motion fight scene in a Tarantino movie. I was called by my Des Moines-based boss at 9:30 in the morning and asked to be in a meeting at 12:30. In HR. Oh.

I had three hours to stare at my computer and process the 99.9% probability that by the end of that meeting, I would have absolutely no idea what my future held. I don’t know if that time helped calm my nerves or just tied them into a French braid inside my ribcage, but by the time I got to the meeting I had run out of things to think about.

I made very poor small talk with my HR representative as we waited for my boss and my boss’s boss (my Grandboss?) to phone in on a conference call. I think she asked me about the weather. There was a lot of awkward silence.

The phone call itself was a soulless recitation of whatever formalities my Grandboss had drafted earlier. Downsizing, reorganization, position eliminated, etc. Presumably, he had been reading this same speech to several people that day, one after the other, substituting names and job titles where appropriate. All I heard was an overview of a predictably laughable severance package and the words, “go home for the afternoon and come back tomorrow morning.” My own boss was silent throughout the call.

I was fine, or would have been if my damn HR rep had not looked so unbelievably pitying. I blame her for my having to fight back tears on the walk back to my cubicle. Thanks a lot, HR.

Though my last official day of employment was not for another two weeks, I was only required to work another two days and wrap things up. I packed up my cubicle in a couple of very stereotypical paper boxes, wiped everything off my computer (may it rest in peace, Amen), and wrote a couple of goodbye emails. I got a lot of astonished visits to my cubicle from well-meaning coworkers and spent exhausting hours placating people who were scandalized by my termination. I hugged people I never quite imagined hugging before.

On my last day, my boss came in from Des Moines to take me to lunch, say kind things about me, and confiscate my MacBook Pro (rest, peace, etc). I half-joked about keeping it as a gesture of goodwill and she half-joked about looking into it. I think her half was bigger than my half.

A couple of days were all I needed to get over the little bit of hurt. By the time I walked out the door of my office building for the last time, all conflicting traces of gut-punch were gone. I really was glad to be leaving. I practically skipped to my car.

What has surprised me maybe more than anything in the wake of this event has been how easy it has been to let my schedule and discipline fall away. In a perfect world, I had always said, when I wouldn’t have to work all day, I would have the time to accomplish all the things that need accomplishing. I always scoffed at those people who would find themselves unemployed, sitting in a slovenly room eating Twinkies and watching TV on the couch all day. But, wow. That’s a really easy place to find oneself.

It snuck up on me, too. My first free day, I had no idea what to do. I looked around my apartment and couldn’t figure out which things should keep me busy. I was normally at work, and it felt strange not to be there. I spent a lot of time on the phone with well-wishers. I started many things and then stopped them. I started this blog entry, in fact. The first line was: “I lost my job yesterday.”

Then I just stopped doing things. I didn’t answer emails. I slept in. I watched whole seasons of television shows on DVD that I had been meaning to watch. I read more books than I have had time to read in three years. Periodically, I’d go over to my computer and alter the always-open Word document that was supposed to be my blog entry. I changed the first line to: “I lost my job three days ago.” Then “a week ago.” Then “two weeks ago.” And now here we are.

At first it was because I told myself that I was entitled to some “me” time. I still think that’s true. I went to Lincoln every single day of my first “me” week and rode my horse until I couldn’t think of any reason to be unhappy ever again. That was undoubtedly the right thing for me.

But I had always intended to pull myself back into productivity by the second week, and get going on the whole resume-job-search-find-a-way-to-pay-the-rent thing. I didn’t expect that the second week (and third!) would be so lethargic and…depressed. I had so many things on my To Do list, and dispiritedly ignored almost all of them. I let my blog entry Word doc sit untouched. I put off responding to friends’ emails until “tomorrow,” always tomorrow. I kept stepping around a giant stain on my kitchen floor that I meant to clean up whenever I got around to cleaning my apartment. I was that person I used to scoff at.

I’ve begun to come out of my stupor, though, I think. I’ve made a conscious effort to do one thing at a time until I’m suddenly doing things again. First I scrubbed my kitchen floor, and then things started fall into place. I took care of some documents for HR. I filed for unemployment. I wrote this blog entry. I wrapped up some freelance things. I took an outplacement course. I updated my resume. I do get waylaid by TiVo or a good book now and then, but I’m getting back into the swing.

I still have a lot to do, but at least I have new question now. Instead of “What do I do?” it has become “What’s around the corner?” I find that I’m rather looking forward to the answer.