Sunday, February 21, 2016

Tell Me, Mr. Rowe

A handful of things strike my soul deeply. When two of them collide, I take it as the Universe giving me a shout out that things are just as they’re supposed to be.  This happened last night; these are the words I’ve woven together in honor of it.

Australia 1999; me and mum
I don’t remember the first time I heard “Drops of Jupiter” by Train.  It was in 1998, before I experienced Australia and before terrorism changed the world. I was a news producer in Birmingham and survived my first paralyzing heartbreak. Things had to change. I traded in a job for three months Down Under, leaving everything but nothing. I went looking for something - sure that it was hidden in the markets of Tasmania or the waters of Great Barrier Reef or the ruins of Port Arthur.  I danced along the light of day, only to be lonely looking for myself. 

Line for line the song speaks to my soul like nothing ever before and ever since.  It’s my song, its words woven in the fiber of my soul.  When that first cord is played, memories swirl, emotions bubble.  It’s not played in public very often, but when it is, I take it as a sign from the Universe:  this is where you’re supposed to be.

First proof.
I can’t tell you when Mike Rowe’s existence came to me. I feel like he's been part of my life forever. On December 18, 2009, I posted a picture of him – dirty and all – in a Facebook album titled “Things I Love”.  Being a girl sandwiched between two brothers, stories of non-lady-appropriate topics don’t bother me.  Being a former TV producer whipped together with my fascination of non-traditional jobs made me fan of his show.  As years went by, I’d find him magically appearing in places I hadn’t planned to be: a hotel room in DC, on XM Radio, a long-distance/cross-ocean flight.  A sign from the Universe: even though you didn't plan it, this is exactly where you’re supposed to be.
Excited when I found him on TV in a DC hotel room.
When word came that Mr. Rowe was coming to Seattle, I talked myself out of going. I’m saving for a new home, for dog surgeries, for getting out of debt, for trips and travel, for so many things. I couldn’t part with the $70. The show slipped from my mind. But reappeared when Facebook thought I may be interested. As fate would have it, I’d paid off some debt and had the cash for a single ticket. Still mostly friendless, I knew it’d better just to have a hot date with myself rather than relying on anyone else being interested. And when word came that for a mere $100 more, I could meet the man, I took a deep breath and parted with the funds.  Once-in-a-lifetime I convinced myself.  

I’m not obsessed; merely fascinated, appreciative, with a high-level of respect. I admire what he stands for, how he treats all people with decency. He’s a man’s man who loves his momma, respects his roots.  The fact that he’s handsome and funny are just a cherry and chocolate sprinkles on top.  I could sop him up with a biscuit and listen to him read technical manuals for hours.  Maybe mildly obsessed.

Sitting alone in the crowd, I began to scroll through the notes on my iPhone.  There’s a few from my BP/Gulf Coast Restoration days that make me smile. While enjoying the walk down memory lane, the distinct cords of “Drops of Jupiter” poured through the theatre. I kept my head down and let the words swirl my soul.  Tell me … Yes.  Yes to it all.  Yes to Venus; yes to sailing across the sun; yes to the wind.  I thanked the Universe:  this is where I’m supposed to be, even though I had other plans.

Mr. Rowe (I’m still Southern; he’s an older, unfamiliar man, I will call him Mr. Rowe until any of those change) came on stage moments after the song ended. For the next two hours, he delighted the crowd. I sat mesmerized, getting drunk on his words.  It could not have been better; it was something I’m glad I didn’t miss. 

Then came the meet and greet.

My favorite Meeter/Greeter
  Gail Devers
What would I say?  How would I show my appreciation and respect?  Would I embarrass myself?  Would I pee on myself?  Would I let down the Universe?  Would my hair look okay?  Should I powder my face?  Why didn’t I wear my pearls?  Why did I pick this outfit?  What if I give him the flu?   

The VIP crowd was quiet – actually more somber than the train-kills-pedestrian crowd.  These thoughts ran through my mind:  Why aren’t people talking or laughing?  Is anyone else freaking out?  There’s Mike Rowe.  Right There.  RIGHT. THERE.  And, from this distance he doesn’t smell like poop or any other bodily fluid.  We are close enough to smell him.  Not to brag, but thanks to my career I’ve been part of many meet and greets – from certified royalty to Olympians.  I’m that girl who writes the words and fixes the hair before the celebrity takes the mic.  The crowd needed some excitement.  Not my job, I reminded myself.  I didn’t even try to start the wave.

So, maybe I had a little fun waiting.
With the grace of a Southern woman and the class of a well-mannered professional, I approached Mr. Rowe with my right hand extended, and said the typical Southern thing:  Mr. Rowe, I am Allison Gregg and it’s so good to see you.  We posed, the pictures were taken and I said a hilarious comment about the depth of my beauty before I turned to him began my rehearsed lines:  I work in construction, which I know is odd coming from a girl that looks like me.  (He smiled and said, “No, no.”)  But creating a pipeline of qualified welders and construction workers is so vital to our field and I just thank you for all you’re doing.  We really appreciate it. (He nodded and said it was great to hear that.)  I took his hand (which was unbelievably smooth) and shook it again, firmly and said, “thank you” before walking away, being sure to not monopolize his time.
Working in construction ...
creating jobs! 

I did not pee on myself.  I made my momma proud.  This moment wasn’t about this moment – but about all those unplanned moments that led to the things being exactly as they are. 

In life you will land in places you didn't plan. Because the Universe has greater plans.  As Train puts it, you have to be willing to lose yourself while looking for yourself. No matter how lost I’ve gotten in that search, Drops of Jupiter and Mr. Rowe bring me back to me.  The song reminds me that I’m a girl who has lived a complex but blessed life; that I will continue to evolve.  Mr. Rowe reminds me that hard work is good work and to believe in your work.  Continue to grow.  Follow your gut/heart/soul. Love your dog(s).  Speak your mind, write your words.  These are my truths that will never change.

I am one lucky duck.

As I move forward, those brief moments with Mr. Rowe will be held closely.  They are created by my grace, my words. They could not be more precious.

The Universe will provide you certainty of your place.  It's your duty to honor the journey with all the respect you've got. And if all else fails, enjoy the dance along the light day.

I forgot how to BigCity

The flu took more than a week to make its way through my system.  For six days I camped out at the house, watching TV, working, playing games, blowing my nose and coughing up a lung.  Along came Friday (Day 7) and I had a 9:30 a.m. meeting at work. 

Leaving the comfort of the house was exciting, but required caution.  Taking it easy is not a strength.  But this time would be different. 

However, after just five hours out of the house and through a series of mundane events, I realized I forgot how to BigCity. 

First, the news was a constant companion during my lock-down.  I knew Justice Antonin Scalia passed.  But seeing the town flag at half-staff caught me off guard.  “What?  What is that about? … Oh yeah.  That’s what it’s about.”  I fancy myself a flag at half-staff observer.  Why it was so weird to see it that time was because after being locked up for so long reality didn’t feel real.  Or at least the news didn’t feel real.  Nothing felt real.  The days of sequester were a fluid space of time when things ran together but didn’t have consequence.  Until I saw that flag.  Then I realized the real world really happened while my life stood still.

Second, the absence of commuting brought a sense of calm.  I don’t drive into town.  As a public transit user, I’m a slave to the availability of parking. The alarm clock starts ringing at 4:45 a.m. and I’m on the road within an hour in hopes of getting on the sixth/top floor of the closest train station parking deck.  The 20-minute drive is full of panic and stress. There’s one spot from the highway where you can see the parking deck (which here in the PNW is not called a deck, it’s a garage). When I get to that section of road, my eyes examine the situation and adjust my panic level appropriately. Once parked, it’s down six flights of stairs and then standing in line – in the cold, dark, rain, etc. that comes with a PNW winter.  When the train comes you angle for a seat – any seat because men here don’t stand for a lady.  For five days, I didn’t endure this daily stress.  I worked from home and got more done – and put in 11 hours each day – all from the comfort of home.  You don’t know how bad things are when you’re in it.  When you get some separation, you see the truth. Not commuting was a blessing.  I will cherish the absence of that daily panic – and accelerate my move-downtown plan.

Third:  elevators.  Once I got to work (I did drive into town), I rode not one, but three elevators, two of which required key cards for access.  The swipe/beep/swoosh was a familiar comfort.  The rides were slow and made me miss the home-based office.  Most days I take about 10-14 elevator trips and need key cards to get places.  At home:  no elevators, all access and no clothing standards.

Fourth:  Starbucks Mobile Ordering.  I rock this app.  With 12 minutes before my meeting, I placed my mobile order, navigated down the elevator and to the Bucks (Does anyone call it that?  I’m going to see if I can make this a thing.).  I waited and waited.  Mobile orders came and went.  People came and went.  Experience taught me that it takes 5-7 minutes from hitting “Place Order” until the order magically appears.  It didn’t magically appear.  The Partners know me, so I asked if my order was ready.  I then pulled up my phone – and sure enough, I never hit “Place Order”.  Of all things BigCity about me – this is the top of the list.  I can order anything from my phone and it magically appears.  Did all those days of being a Suburban Sicko wipe away what 20 months of BigCity training?  It did.  I was embarrassed – an amateur move at best.  Then, for the first time in many months, I got in line at Starbucks and gave my order to the Partner working the register and stood there waiting for it to come forth.  (It’s not magical when you have to order in the store).  It arrived and off to the meeting I went.  My cup had no printed label – just my name misspelled.  Amateur.  At best.

Fifth:  meetings.  That meeting I thought was worth climbing out of the house for – was not worth it.  We were cramped in a small room and the technical issues were over my head.  Technical issues are not my strong suit.  Telling people how to navigate the delicate world of relationships is.  You don't discuss those things in meetings.

Sixth:  communications consulting.  After the meeting my colleagues sought out my advice on how to deal with the hotter topics, my favorite thing ever.  Genius advice came from my being.  It was so genius that I even mic-dropped before exiting stage left to my cubicle.  My creative juices were flowing as fast as the mucus.  It was great.  And then I hit the wall and went home.  Seinfeld taught us to leave on a high note. 

Yeah, five hours back in my BigCityLife showed me how easy it is to forget the familiar.  As I prepare to head back to the real world and face a five-day work week, I am already worried about the commute and the technical issues.  I’ll miss working from home and watching the news. But just like I always do, I’ll find the balance and solider on through the adventures that come with being BigCity.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

My Dogs Pen a Note

Preface:  I’m taking part in a month-long “Share the Love” program.  Today’s lesson is to write a thank-you note to yourself.   As I thought about what I’d write, I thought, “What if I wrote myself a thank-you note from my dogs’ perspective?”  That is what follows. 

Jake Ryan’s is first.

Dear Mom,

Thank you for putting your hand on my head and petting me.  I’m thankful that when I stare at you, you know exactly what I need.  You know if it’s potty-time, treat-time, or just pick me up and snuggle me time.  Thank you for always snuggling with me.  I wish we did it more. 

Remember that time I was pooping blood and throwing it up too?  Thank you for taking me to that place that fixed me.  I missed you so much when I was there, and I was so scared I’d never see you after you left.  But you came and got me.  Thank you for making sure that never happened again.  Thank you for the medicine that keeps me healthy.

Thank you for all those long walks on Monte Sano, along the secret beach, on city streets, through the abandoned golf course, and at all the State parks.  Thank you for letting me run and chase squirrels.  Thank you for saving me from drowning that time I thought I could catch a heron.  Thank you for taking me to the lake and on boat rides.  Thank you for letting me see the stars from so many states.  Thank you for playing fetch, even when I forget to return the ball.  Thank you for always getting the ball. 

Remember that time we got separated?  You started screaming and crying?  But then I came running down the street?  I’m sorry for that.  I’m also sorry for:  eating all your Frango Chocolates every Christmas, chewing on your shoes (but I was young, I didn’t know any better), how I act when I’m getting groomed and that you have to over-tip because of it, and for shitting all over your favorite ottoman.  (Are you proud I know the word ottoman?)

Thank you for all the people who took care of me when you were not home.  Thank you for the walkers, for Grammy, Aunt Mary and Uncle Chris, Clover, Amanda, and all of the people who made sure I got treats.  Thank you for living next door to Mr. Vickers.  I miss all the Vickers.

Thank you for coming home and telling me about your day.  Thank you for walking me when you’re tired.  Thank you for taking me out to potty when you’re asleep.  Thank you for picking me.  Thank you for making my dinner and giving me treats.  You can always give me more treats, especially chocolate.  Thank you for bringing me home in a box and never sending me away.

Lastly, thank you for taking Poncho back.  I know it hasn’t happened yet, but it’s going to – any day now, right?

Thanks for being my mom.

Jake Ryan Gregg

Dear Mah,

Remember that day you became my Mah, in a Cracker Barrel parking lot in Tennessee?  And I was so scared that I peed and pooped all over myself?  And not only did you become my Mah, but also you cleaned me up at Walgreens (also in a parking lot)?  And then we got home and I found out I was a little brother?  Do you remember all that, Mah?  That was the best day.  Thank you for that day, Mah.  Don’t ever take me back to a Cracker Barrel parking lot in Tennessee.  I don’t want another Mah.  Aunt Mary is a good Mah-option, just in case you didn’t know.

Mah, thanks for my big brother, Jake Ryan; I love him so much. 

Mah, thanks for always making sure I had a pillow upon which to sit.  I am the Crowned Prince of Fairfax and can’t sit on just the couch.  Remember when I was littler and I’d sit on socks so I didn’t have to sit on the floor?  Yeah, thanks for not always doing your laundry so that I could sit on it.

Also, remember all those times I got sick, too?  From chicken pox to a broken pancreas and so much more?  Thanks for fixing me.  Sorry about when I came home and all those worms came out of me.  I was so sick when you became my Mah.  But you always made me better.

Thank you for never making me play fetch.  Crowned Princes don’t play fetch.  And we don’t like clothes. So just stop with that.

Thank you for Aunt Connie – and tell her I’m sorry I was hiding on the porch. 

Mah, I’m so happy and confident and loving.  That’s because of you, Mah.  You taught me how to be like that.  I love to play and run and snuggle.  Thank you for always doing that with me.

Mah, thank you for being my Mah. 

Thanks Mah, I love you,

Poncho Charles Gregg

Monday, February 1, 2016

Today I Ran

Today I ran.  It’d been nearly a month since I ran outside and six more months since I ran five miles.  But.  Today I ran.  Five miles.  Today I ran five miles.  And it felt fantastic – when I was done.  During the five miles, it went from pure joy to self doubt to torture to regret to pride to self doubt to regret to holyfuckingshit, I ran five miles.

It wasn’t fast.  It wasn’t pretty.  But it was needed.  After a three-day pity party complete with a cocktail of pain meds, muscle relaxers and rest, I realized running is my first athletic love – more than tennis and cross training.  Those endorphins that (eventually) get released when you run take you through the mental roller coaster laid out above.  But they leave you with a sense of accomplishment not found anywhere else.

My sister-in-law and I discussed doing another race – a 5k and 15k that’s in about six weeks.  The 5k would be a no-brainer for me – even with the limited running I do, I can push through a 5k in about 30 minutes.  But the 15k – nearly 10 miles – that would be a real challenge, something I really wanted.  I talked to a co-worker, an avid running always scouring the web for her next half marathon.  If she’d do the 15k, I’d do it with her.  And wouldn’t you know it – she agreed to do it.  That’s when I scoured the web for a training program that would help me manage the challenge.  Counting the weeks led me to see I’d need to run five miles today – and add miles every weekend – just to catch up to the training program.

I mildly doubted myself; mildly because I know this body.  At 42, it can take be pushed and will recover – plus there’s still an ample supply of muscle relaxers.  Reverting to my glory days of running, I mapped a route that included hills (up and down) and hit the road.  Just the same as my glory days of running, music filled my ears and the pre-planned route was abandoned for a bigger challenge.  One hill brought me to tears and other forced me to walk quickly/run slowly. 

Today I remember why I love running.  The post-run ritual of taking a full glass of water and a towel out to the back put a cap on the adventure.  Stretching and rehydrating were followed by praising this body and thanking the universe for the abundant athletic ability it’s bestowed upon me.  I apologized profusely to both for not being good care takers of the gifts.

Running isn’t about one foot in front of the other – and having a pocket full of witty comebacks when people say stupid shit like “I’d only run if a bear was chasing me” – it’s about pride and humility; challenge and accomplishment.  Yeah, it’s horrible.  Once you get past that – once you allow yourself to believe that it’s actually awesome - you'll discover that it really is awesome. 

Tomorrow I’ll be sore – I’ll ache and need water.  I’ll take some pain relievers and a hot bath – and soak in them both.  I’ll also soak in the glory that running brings.  You see, once you run a few miles (or a few more than that), a sense of accomplishment follows you everywhere you go.  It’s not like a bear – you can’t out run it.  You run toward it.  So run to it.  Run toward the amazingness that it brings.  Today.  Run today.  Once you navigate the mental roller coaster, you’ll end up farther ahead than you ever imagined.