opinion · writing

Stormy seas and leaky lifeboats

I am, fortunately, many miles away from the states affected by Hurricane Irene’s angry path this weekend, but that geographical blessing didn’t stop me from riding my own waves of stress and emotion. I’m feeling kind of beached right now and like any self-respecting exhausted whale, I thought I should share.

Two years ago I probably hadn’t even heard of Twitter and I rarely visited Facebook. Fast forward to this week and I’m wringing my hands and losing sleep over people I’ve never met, yet care about in ways I can’t adequately explain. The Internet has created a universal connectedness that has become a blessing and a curse.

Two years ago I would have watched the news with concerned detachment, grateful for the lack of extreme weather in my neck of the woods. Today, my thumbs were poised over my magic phone, waiting for news of everyone’s safe travels through the eye of the storm. The feelings of worry and helplessness made more acute when one friend lost her house, while another couldn’t find out if her horses were okay.

In the twitterverse we call the people we have lunch with, work with, hang out with – RL (real life) friends – but it’s ridiculous to relegate the people I know in Virginia, Maryland and New York that I’ve come to love, as ‘not real.’ The anxiety I felt for them this weekend was all too tangible.

And then a storm of emotions hit closer to home.

My rare venture into Facebook territory last week told me a friend would be delivering the sermon at her church on Sunday. I awoke yesterday morning exhausted from my annual, virtually non-profit garage sale, but determined to go see her. I met this friend years ago as we both worked to build fledgling businesses while navigating the seas of motherhood. (I only have one kid; she has four. I’ll shut up now.)

A couple of years later she informs me of her grim Stage 4 breast cancer diagnosis and I’m wondering what the hell is wrong with this picture. Fast forward again, three years later, to this Sunday morning and I was riveted to her eloquent words on fear and love.

I already knew she was an amazing writer and genuinely kick-ass human being, but her ability to make the bible real and accessible to a cranky bitch like me was a gift.

My heart swelled for her.

Before I could rest in the calm waters of my friend’s health and wisdom, I had another visit to make. I dropped in at a nearby business to celebrate the owner’s retirement. This woman not only helped inspire my art gallery adventures six years ago, but her influence on my town is inestimable.

As I offered my warm thanks and congratulations it became painfully clear she didn’t recognize me. The reason for her retirement was evident.

My heart broke for her.

Whether it’s Mother Nature’s wrath or some senseless disease, we all know how unfair life can be. I don’t have enough room for the clichés and you’d probably think of ten more anyway. But life is also pretty wonderful. So I’m going to swim in this glass of wine and feel particularly grateful for my blessings – health, family, safety and more.

They’re so easy to take for granted. Let’s all make a pact not to let that happen, okay?

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Berthoud Weekly Surveyor · Colorado · opinion

Orange folders and martini lunches

Well, we survived the first day of school, although from the annual photo of my daughter next to the school sign it looks more like she’s facing a firing squad than fourth grade. Fortunately, she was in better humor when I picked her up later.

Besides arranging after-school care, buying new school clothes and reinstating early bedtimes, there’s a recurring ritual that’s become a big pain in my backside. I shared my thoughts in last week’s Berthoud Surveyor. Other parents — in my district or not — should appreciate my frustration. ~ Suz

Do you know how I can tell school is about to start? Besides the morose look on my daughter’s face as though mourning the loss of her favorite stuffed animal, I can sense the end of summer by the school supply list posted on my pantry door. And the noticeable eye twitch I develop each time I walk past it.

School supply lists are becoming the bane of my existence each August.

The first year it’s kind of fun loading up your kindergartner with fat, bright crayons and a Clifford backpack, but by fourth grade it’s taken on a new insanity. The only upside is discovering I’m not alone in my quest for two orange, plain pocket folders.

Yes, orange pocket folders are right up there with the tiny Southeast Asian tarsier when it comes to rare, difficult-to-find creatures. There were 100s of red folders at the local WalMart but red is clearly not on the list. Orange is. While trying to control my eye twitch after the shopping trip, I was surprised and relieved to see several other mothers on Twitter from around the country also bemoaning the absence of orange folders.

The rare tarsier is not amused by orange folders or mill levies. (Photo courtesy of toptenz.net)

Aha! I smell a conspiracy. I now imagine teachers getting together, making up these lists, then sitting back to drink martinis and laugh at parents. How else do you explain the required supplies such as a four-pack of dry erase markers, one box of gallon zip-loc bags, one black felt tip pen (no Sharpies), one pad of 3×3 sticky notes, a box of non-Latex band-aids or three boxes of tissues?

These are all items on various lists throughout the school district. Some of the supplies are even brand-specific so don’t try to be cheap and get the generic crayons. And don’t put your kid’s name on most of the stuff because the whole class will be using the colored pencils, yellow highlighters or school glue (orange cap only, please).

Fine. I’ll go buy all of this stuff even if it takes three stores and a large bottle of wine to find it all, because at least now I know I’m not alone. And at least I’m not being asked by the government to bring a roll or two of toilet paper the next time I have to visit the DMV. Yet.

Anyway, I’m sure once the school district convinces the taxpayers to sign up for a new mill levy we won’t have to buy extraneous school supplies anymore. Then they can go hunt down the elusive damn orange folders.

UPDATE: I found the orange folders at Target for $1 each. The red ones at WalMart were 15¢. There are no more glue sticks in Northern Colorado, in case you were wondering. And sure enough, the Thompson School District decided to put the mill levy issue on this fall’s ballot after spending many thousands of dollars asking us taxpayers what we thought they should do. How about spending that money on orange folders and glue sticks, eh?
I’d like to thank my twitter pal in the know, @5280PRgal, for throwing some gas on my fire as well as enlightening me.

opinion · Reviews

My not-so-violent torpedo of truth

My humble opinion as printed in the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor
My glass is always half full... until I refill that sucker.

I’m normally an upbeat, optimistic person, but recent world events have scratched and smudged my rose colored glasses. The horrific earthquake and tsunami in Japan broke my heart, and it’s true, the inevitable unrest and American involvement in Libya has rattled my equanimity, but I’m referring to the chilling event scheduled for April 28, 2011.

Charlie Sheen is coming to Denver.

Yes, the man who should have committed career suicide weeks ago with his very public gnashing of the hands that feed him, as well as a disturbing defense of his self-destructive behaviors and chemical abuses, is visiting the Mile High City. And to add injury to insult, he is actually profiting from his blatant disregard for sanity.

Sheen is not the only celebrity to crash and burn in the public eye, but he’s one of the few who brazenly flipped the bird to the industry who helped make him among the highest paid TV stars of our day. He was rightfully canned, but rather than beg stress and booze before crawling off to re-spin his image, he launched a twitter account and promptly set a Guinness world record for number of followers in the first day.

Really?!

Shortly thereafter, he plotted a tour of live shows around the country, including Denver. Admittedly, I have no idea what these shows involve – the preferred nostril with which to snort coke? Which “goddess” to sleep with on Tuesdays? – and I don’t wish to know. People who are watching this doomed train wreck of a man are apparently buying the tickets. His debut in Detroit this past weekend was less than “winning” – Sheen’s self-proclaimed status – and witless audience members had the gall to demand a refund.

Explain this to me, please.

Stay in your corner, you greedy, violent narcissist!

Explain to me why a man who sleeps with multiple women while his young children are in the home, and openly brags about said women, who extols the ability to function just fine while abusing drugs and alcohol, who haughtily demands a raise from the very people who wisely fired him – explain to me why this man is profiting from his bad behavior to the nth degree?

I must know.

Could it possibly be because we are the same country who bestows high ratings (translation: dollars) on such flagrant backstabbing, conniving and immature frivolity as Big Brother, Celebrity Apprentice, Real Housewives of Wherever and Bridezillas?

My ass may not be perched on a pious, self-righteous platform, yet it’s painfully easy to see how messed up things are when we’re willing to pay good money – hard-earned, recession-era money – to see a sad, miserable man promote his own inexorable demise.

Actor and writer Wil Wheaton suggests a more sane, logical alternative for that money: donate it to a battered women’s shelter. The wife Sheen choked while in a drunken rage (ironically, not far from Denver) would probably support that.

On a similar note, I find it interesting that Japan’s looting problem in the wake of the devastating natural disasters was minimal. The Japanese people are occupied with day-to-day survival concerns amidst flooding, radiation and destruction. They have exhibited respect for each other and for their fragile neighborhoods.

I find it bizarre and sad that people in our country will trash their own neighborhoods in reaction to a favorite sports teams’ loss/win.

So I repeat, explain this to me, please. How does the most successful, powerful, benevolent country in the world allow itself to be represented by such embarrassingly abominable behavior?

I suppose I should provide a disclaimer to the aforementioned rant. Charlie Sheen’s website reportedly states that a whole dollar from every ticket sold to his “show” will be donated to the Red Cross Japanese Earthquake Relief fund.

Awww.

Total cost of the ticket? Between $49.50 and $89.50. Stick that in your “violent torpedo of truth” and smoke it.