Saturday, October 20, 2012

Tracey Loves John


I hated high school.  I don’t mean dislike.  I mean bonafide loathing.  People who consider high school the best years of their life are entirely foreign to me. I just don’t get it.

My first two years in high school were spent staying aloft in the chaos that was my mother’s life, fighting stress, and taking refuge in dancing school. In my junior year, over the weekend of the junior prom, circumstances with my mother and the psychopath she married got violent, so I left to live with my grandparents.
  
I lived with Thelma and Ed on the other side of town, but still went to Jonny Law High.  Each day when school was over, Miss Connie would be outside waiting to give me a lift to her dancing school where I assisted and demonstrated for the classes she taught. She was special to me. She bought me my first car, an old powder blue Rambler I named Gladys after Judy McIntyre’s grandmother. It took me close to a year to decompress after leaving the flea infested hovel my brothers and I lived in with my mother. Some days, I’d get all the way to school, driven by my grandmother; only to feel so burned out I couldn’t handle it. I didn’t bother going to first period when that happened.  I’d call my grandmother, and she never, ever squawked about turning around and driving all the way back across town to pick me up. 

“Okay, honey, I’ll be right there.”

I felt lost in high school. I didn’t fit there.  I bet many kids felt that way, but the only place I fit was at Connie’s school. I was upset, confused, and ever so full of myself. My friends kept me afloat in that sea of turmoil.  I had some good friends.

I hung out in the school library with Tracey.  She was a diehard Beetles fan and was desperately and very seriously in love with John Lennon. I went to her house once after school and was floored by her homage to the Fab Four. She seemed to have the entire upstairs to herself. One room was her bedroom, and the other room, a little bigger than a walk in closet, was devoted entirely to the Beetles. Every inch of every wall was plastered with pictures. It was the coolest, most profound demonstration of true and obsessive love I’d ever seen, and it towered miles high in devotion over my shrine to Dolly Parton, whom I adored.  I’ve never forgotten that room.

Tracy and I would spend entire class periods hanging out in the library’s private reading room listening to John Lennon and Dolly on the record player.  We were juniors when John Lennon was assassinated.  I was sitting on a desk in Advanced Biology, and Tracey appeared at the door with a black band on her arm and fresh tears of mourning streaming down her face.  She’d lost her first true love.  To this day, Tracey still carries a torch for John, just as I will always adore Dolly. Some teenage crushes never go away.

I completely lost track of Tracey after high school.  I got involved with Leslie, and our relationship moved me 3,000 miles across the United States. We had a baby; we’ve bought and sold houses, and moved across country twice.  I’m still here 27 years later.  A few years back, Tracey appeared on Facebook.  It was crazy to hear from her again.  She gave me hell for changing my name because it made me difficult to find.  We’ve been Facebook friends ever since, reliving old times and getting reacquainted.

Tracey has been married to the same man for years. She got her teaching degree and taught elementary school in Floyd County in between having four incredibly beautiful and well-adjusted children. She’s highly opinionated, politically minded, and is an advocate for the LGBT community in the college where she teaches. She runs a learning resource center, and a bunch of people report to her. What’s more, she loves her job and the people who work for her.  She’s a success story.

When my unemployment ended unexpectedly in mid-September and Leslie and I felt the bottom fall out of our financial security, Tracey was one of the few who offered us substantial help.  I got a message from her on Facebook asking me if I wanted to remotely tutor her students.  There were papers to be reviewed, and things to do!  She offered me a temporary, part-time position that I desperately needed.

I talked to Tracey over the phone the other day, and doing so was a blast from the past. She sounds much as I remember her, but she’s picked up a regional accent that I find delightful. I had trouble expressing my gratitude.   

You know, we grow up with certain people in our lives, and they have so much to do with how we navigate our world.  When I was a teenager, my friends anchored me, kept me from floating away, but I didn't expect most of them to hang around for long.  I rarely look to the past for my solace, and have gotten the hang of living in the now.   That’s what makes Tracey so remarkable to me. She wasn’t content to sit in the past on Facebook.  She insinuated herself right into my present, and she did it when I needed her the most.

Thank you, Tracey.

Monday, October 15, 2012

GUARDIAN ANGELS

Leslie at Linda Mar Beach

It's been a crazy few weeks since discovering my unemployment insurance ran out unexpectedly; a real mash up wonderful and difficult that never leaves us bored or needing something to do. I've come to the conclusion that being unemployed is a full time job, particularly when the chips are down and you're scrambling to pay the utilities and mortgage.

All financial dramas aside, I think we're in fairly good shape emotionally. Elizabeth found her groove in school and seems fully recovered from the problem she had with the Cabrillo Bullies and other Malcontents. She's got a darling new beau, one who isn't in a rush to grow up much like she, and rather than inhibiting her creative nature like she was compelled to do last year, she is more herself than ever, right down to the set of Pikachu Power Cheeks.

Leslie is hanging in there.  Being in this transitional place regarding home finances has got to be her least favorite place in the entire universe; yet to her credit, she remains poised and engaged.  There are times when, like myself, she feels like her head might explode, but rather than lighting the fireworks, she simply goes to lie down for a while. Suffice it to say this unemployment adventure has forced us to mature in many unexpected ways.  She and I, and indeed Elizabeth as well, are more a team than ever before. What buoyancy we have in the family is due to efforts by all of us to remain upbeat and positive despite the obvious.

Me?  I'm doing alright. Still losing weight although it's slowed down because I'm not working out much lately. I've been incredibly focused on getting work with little time for anything else, and some opportunities have come forward.  Without getting into details, let me say that Pacifica and it's Art Guild are peppered with Guardian Angels and a very giving spirit. Between that and the Guardian Angels residing on Facebook, I feel incredibly blessed by people who are watching out for us and contributing to our well-being in a substantial manner.

Leslie, Elizabeth & The Joker
I'm still in a holding pattern on the BIG JOB in Redwood City, the one that will pay for Elizabeth's braces at the expense of my somewhat reluctantly re-entering Private Sector servitude.    Until I am thrust back onto that Merry-Go-Round, I'll continue to enrich myself at SAC, doing what is highly rewarding intellectually.  When the irons I have in the fire grow flames, I'll have a better idea of where we stand and perhaps sleep better and have fewer disturbing dreams.

The Art Guild continues to be a source of constant pleasure, and as what I'm doing at SAC naturally intersects with it, it becomes doubly satisfying.  Some members are becoming friends in a truer sense, surpassing mere acquaintances to become something richer. I'm doing alot of writing for the Guild and had a press release with my name in the by-line printed in the Pacifica Tribune recently.  That made me so happy!  Opening night of AGP's Member Exhibition and award show was last Friday, and all three of went and had a great time.  I got a lot of compliments on my piece, and those who didn't recognize my work congratulated me on the article.  It was just what I needed.

Gonna be Pikachu for Halloween!  Woot!
I've said it before but I'll say it again.  We'll be in this place, no matter how difficult, until we are released, and in the meantime, we'll do the best we can with it.  It's a lot like surfing.  Each wave is another economic challenge.

Still, if it weren't for our Guardian Angels and their unending support, it would be so much harder.  Maybe too hard.  Offering the kind of help that my parents and extended family never did (with the exception of my maternal grandparents), they reinforce my faith in the human spirit.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

If It's Not All Well, Then It's Not The End


The last time I blogged I just found out my unemployment insurance was exhausted.  Don’t ask me how something that important could possibly be unexpected, because I’m still wondering that myself.  My head absolutely exploded as Leslie and I teetered on the edge of a very precarious cliff, neither side of which guaranteed any mortgage payments in our immediate future.  Crisis mode!

Since then, a few things have changed.

Immediately after hearing the bad news mentioned above, I sent out an S.O.S. to everyone I know in Pacifica.  I sent them my professional resume and asked if they would share it with work connections, etc.  And one of those people came back with a wonderful little opportunity for part time contracted work at the local art center. This is the place where the Art Guild has most of their shows.  I’ve been attracted to this place ever since we moved to Pacifica, and the woman I’m working with is at a super busy time of the year and feels that I was sent to her.  Kismet!  I’m learning all about running a gallery, and how to keep artist studios rented and full, and how to run their non-profit business.  It’s the kind of work that is good for the spirit, but not so good for the pocket book.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting to hear on another part time opportunity brought to my attention by an old high school chum who was kind enough to respond to the post-crisis freaking out I did on Facebook.  I mean, this really touches my heart.  She’s a fun, crazy person who has raised four gorgeous, smart and talented children, but I’d sort of lost track of her.  Finding her on Facebook (actually, she found me) was a blessing, and we’ve had a lot of fun with one another on-line since. 

Then, a job I applied for in a mid-size accounting firm, one that pays very well, began to gain traction immediately after my employment insurance fiasco.  I found this position through a placement agency.  My resume was put in front of them over a month ago, but I hadn’t heard anything. I thought for sure it was a done deal.  Then, they called me in for an interview, the kind where you sit in a conference room and meet one person after another.  I prepared for two days, so my interviews went very well. I’m hoping to be called back for round two.

Leslie and I find ourselves in the uncomfortable transition between crisis and resolution. While it would be much more comfortable to know precisely where the money for the mortgage will come from, instead we must have faith that all will turn out.  What do they say?  All will be well in the end, and if it’s not well, then it’s not the end.
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