Friday, September 30, 2011

Dear Kobe Bryant,

For months, I've been on the edge of my seat wondering whether or not there will be a 2011/2012 NBA season. While most of my friends and followers don't care (although, if they do, it's probably because it means less cussing in my Twitter timeline - maybe), it's important to me. And while you may not follow basketball closely (and that's okay), let me point out that not having a 2012 season will still impact you financially. Stick with me through the basketball talk and I'll explain.

I'm passionate about a lot of things, but Celtics basketball takes the cake. I was raised to root for Boston regardless of the sport, but basketball has always been my favorite. I've rooted for the Celts since I was knee-high on Lucky the Leprechaun.

That being said, I'm pissed as hell right now at my team and every other player in the NBA. I'm not hopeful that there will be a season at all. It'd be nice if the players would pull their heads out of their asses today and finally make some progress in their bargaining sessions, but in all honesty, I'm not expecting anything. Why?


We're dealing with thirty teams full of players whose egos are bigger than the names they sport on their chests. That's, on average, 400 people who've been told they're the best of the best for years and are paid hefty salaries to back up the claims. They skirt around legal issues and, if we're being honest, moral ones, too, on the grounds that they're untouchable. In their minds, they're worth seven and eight figure paychecks. They've earned it.

This, my dear players, is a reminder that you haven't earned shit, except my respect as a player. I want to see you play ball. Period. I don't care what you buy, how you party, where you vacation or how big of a rock your fiancé wears on her left hand. You're here to play basketball. Leave the theatrics and drama off the court. You weren't recruited for that.

And let's discuss for a moment these salaries you're asking for. Since they vary from player to player and team to team, we'll, for the sake of argument, discuss Kobe Bryant's salary. He makes $25,000,000 per season. That's not counting any bonuses, brands or side work. That's JUST the pay he gets for being a Laker. Broken down, the man makes $6,351 a minute. He's on the court for a minute? $6,351. He's on the bench? $6,351. He's in the locker room? You guessed it, SIX FUCKING THOUSAND THREE HUNDRED FIFTY ONE DOLLARS per MINUTE.

PER MINUTE!!!!!!!!

Do you realize, the average high school basketball coach makes less than $25k a year? Kobe makes that in less than 4 minutes.

And you bastards want MORE?!

Make no mistake. I love basketball and honestly, I don't know what I'll do with myself this winter if there's not a season, but I think it's exactly what these players need to shake up their lives a little bit. However, I'm torn from a financial standpoint, too. If there's not a season, there will be a huge financial impact on the entire nation.

Let's look at Staples Center, shall we?

The average ticket price, per game, is $113 and the revenue the Staples Center takes in just from the Lakers is $214,000,000. Without the Lakers bringing in that money, do you honestly think Jerry Buss and Phillip Anschutz are going to plunk down nearly a quarter of a billion dollars from their own accounts to cover the losses? I don't hardly think so.

So where's that money coming from?

You guessed it: us.

In the form of concert tickets, other sports and non-entertainment related events. Which means instead of spending $120 on those Rihanna tickets, you're gonna be spending $250 (or more). That $8 beer just shot up to $15. Because regardless of what's going on in L.A., the bills still have to be paid. The contracts with concession companies like Levy Restaurants (who handle the concessions for over thirty arenas, not just the Staples Center) are still legally binding. If the Staples Center and Levy  have worked out $X for their service, it doesn't matter if they handle 250 events or 200, they're still paid the same. And, if Levy isn't making money from canceled games due to a lost NBA season, you can bet they've got a clause in the contract that says the arenas have to cover those losses. Bet your $15 beer just shot to $30.

There's also the less-direct impact of businesses in the areas around arenas: hotels, parking companies, restaurants. We also can't forget airlines and other travel-related companies.

This? could be pretty financially catastrophic.

Do you think Kobe Bryant gives a shit? Nope. He's over in Italy right now working out the details for a $3 million dollar deal for forty days of playing ball. He couldn't give two shits about your $12 hot dog back in L.A.

The saddest part about all of this? My opinion (or yours, for that matter), isn't going to change a damn thing. That's the part that pisses me off the most. There's nothing we can do.

(The title of this blog and my choice to use Kobe Bryant, the L.A. Lakers and the Staples Center in Los Angeles was for generalities, not to single out a particular player, team or arena. Blah blah and all that legal disclaimer crap.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Who's gonna stop me?

Over the course of the last few weeks, I've been inspired more than once by @CynthiaOccelli, whom I saw, but didn't get the chance to meet at Sherri's wedding. She's a woman of amazing substance and between you and me, this is one woman who has her shit together.

Today she tweeted,
When I was 19, I was a 9th-grade-dropout, welfare mom who lived in a garage. When I was 29, I was a law school graduate (with honors), successful business owner who'd just finished building her dream home. Want to know the secret to my success?
I didn't listen to the statistics, family, friends, news reports or professionals who told me I couldn't do it. I listened to my inner knowing that God doesn't make mistakes, the Universe is friendly (ask Einstein), and all things are possible for one who helps oneself. This is as true as it ever was.
This went along perfectly with a conversation I was having with a friend at almost the exact same time she posted this. We were talking about jealousy and what a wasted emotion it is. I explained that because of the opportunities I've been afforded in life that I've collected a handful of people who would rather spend their time being jealous and hateful than doing something about their own situations. "I'm nothing special, I'm not gifted in any certain areas, I don't know any secret handshakes, don't have a genie in a bottle. I'm just me. I've gotten what I've gotten because I'm myself....well, that and I decided a long time ago that I wasn't going to take no for an answer on anything."

And that's the absolute truth. I'm not a rule breaker, but I am a rule pusher. I put myself out there and yes, many times, I'm shot down when it comes to getting what I want. All it does, though, is just give me reason to come up with a way around that no and turn it into a yes. My ex-husband would argue that I'm manipulative and spoiled. I don't agree with that observation at all...I'm resourceful and determined. I think there's a big difference.

This quote seems to say it all:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Power of a Woman

Growing up, though I didn't consider myself popular, I didn't lack friends. Like every girl in the history of time, we fought. And often. But at the end of the day, my best friends were always there. They still are.

My elementary years came before the AIDS scare, so like idiots, we were out there on the playground with cotton balls, rubbing alcohol, needles and the promises of whatever being a blood sister meant to us. We spared each other in tag and underdogged each other on the swings at recess. We drank out of the same Coke bottles and shared our Snak-Pak's at lunch. How we didn't end up with some incurable disease is beyond me, but we didn't. 

Junior High wasn't much better. We shared brushes, curling irons and clothes on those impromptu sleepovers. We swapped spit with boys in the neighborhood and probably shared a few punches, too. Boys were dumb. At least that's what we told each other when one of those little bastards would play tonsil-hockey with the slut down the street. We always had each other's backs, unless of course our enemy was bigger than our best friend, then we were on our own. Seriously? Who the hell was gonna go up against Large Marge or The Gooch? 

High school is when things became a bit different. We still had each other, but as we developed more of our own interests and personalities, we also developed hormones. Your best friend may be your best friend one day and your worst enemy the next. And you never knew from day to day which day it would be. I made a lot of friends during these years, but I lost a lot, too. As graduation drew near, we seemed to mend fences, though and swore to keep in touch no matter what the future held. Or at least that's what we wrote in our yearbooks.

But we didn't always keep in touch.

In fact, some of us lost touch on purpose. We went off to school or careers or marriage or families - sometimes all four at once. Regardless, those girls who knew us better than we knew ourselves were left in the past. We developed new friends and relationships. As we grew older, we became "couples friends" with neighbors and coworkers. We did things as families instead of with our girlfriends. Hell, by the time our thirties rolled around, we didn't even have girlfriends anymore.

Somewhere along the way, though, I realized that wasn't good. My only identity came from those around me - _____'s wife or ______'s mom. So-n-so in accounts payable. What's-her-name from next door. That gal who teaches children's church. I no longer had interests for myself - music was whatever was on the radio, tv shows were whatever Disney or Nickelodeon offered, clothes were whatever fit and wasn't (too) dirty. My hairstyle became a ponytail. Every. Day. Of. My. Life. Even photography and scrapbooking was focused around my family. Who the hell was I anymore?

Nobody I even recognized.

I always thought that "contentment" was what I strived for in life. And truly? I was content. I loved my husband, my kids and the things we'd accomplished in life. But something just didn't feel right. Almost like something was missing.

Oh yeah. ME!

When New Kids on the Block announced their reunion tour, it gave me an excuse to get in touch with old friends from high school who'd shared my love for the group. We called, emailed and visited each other for the first time in over a decade. They gave me a reason to find my inner "girl" again. We reminisced about the music and the videos, but we also recalled the times we spent together as kids just being silly. And we became silly again. We became US again. College-educated, stable, well-established in our relationships...we found ourselves smiling and laughing about things that had nothing to do with our husbands, kids or careers. 

We started spending time together without our families. Dancing. Dinner. Movies. Drinks. Road trips. Weekends away. We rekindled relationships with each other that we'd left behind years ago. And in all our adventures, we'd met and developed relationships with new girlfriends. We share our lives on a daily basis. We vent, we joke, we plan, we support, we love. We love. We love.

Some people I know would like to think that I'm immature or need to get my priorities straight. That I'm cheating myself and my family out of time spent together. They don't understand what it's like to have everything you ever wanted and not have it be enough. They don't get that being a mom and wife is a full-time job all by itself. Sure, there are good times. But overall, you're too busy doing laundry, grocery shopping, or wiping butts, noses and counter tops to really enjoy it all. All you want is some semblance of the life you had before you did those things....before your life went somewhere....else. 

The strength of a woman's abilities are immeasurable, but for God's sake, don't doubt the power of a friendship with one, either.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Summer and the City

I'd be a lying sack of crap if I said I was going to miss summer.

I hate summer. I don't like being hot. I don't like to sweat. I don't like the beach (unless I can see the bottom of whatever body of water it's touching). I don't like the bright sunlight in my eyes. I don't like bugs. I don't like planning every meal of the day for the family because school isn't in session. I don't like school not being in session. I don't like heat indexes and sunburns. I don't like high pollen counts. I don't like the neighbor kids traipsing through our yard from sun-up to sun-down (and beyond).

I'm a cool-weather baby. Give me crisp leaves that crunch when I walk through them. Give me warm tones of gold, orange, red and brown in the trees. Give me the scent of apples and cinnamon mingling together in their intoxicating aroma. Give me hot chocolate and mittens at a football game when you can see your breath at the end of the third quarter. Give me the window cracked juuuuuust a bit to allow the brisk fresh air to settle into freshly laundered sheets.

That being said, when I went with my husband to Kansas City for the day today, sitting outside in the sun was exactly what I did. And it was the perfect ending to my summer. He had a meeting with some clients in the area, so he dropped me off at Country Club Plaza at the 4-level Barnes and Noble, aka Utopia.

It's rare that I'm in a bookstore by myself with time to kill. Usually I've got a purchase in mind or someone with me and because I know how long I can spend browsing, I am usually overly self-conscious about not wasting time when I've got someone with me. Today, however, I wandered aimlessly, perusing shelf after shelf of books I added to my fall reading list. I found some great gift ideas for myself (my family is always asking me "What do you want for Christmas?") and came up with some ideas for friends and family, too. I've always been able to spend days in a bookstore. Honestly, I could've walked out of there today with a good $200 or more in books to read. But I didn't. I picked up the latest Candace Bushnell I'd had on my list since spring, made some small talk with a fellow writer who worked there and left two hours after Hubs dropped me off. It was fantastic.

I'm not much of a shopper, especially when I don't have much money to spend, so I stayed on the straight and narrow, not allowing myself to become distracted by the great shops the Plaza has to offer (I'm so sorry I neglected you today, Anthropologie. Next time, sweetheart. I promise). Well, I almost made it through, that is. I did stop and pick up a cupcake at a little shop off Wyandotte before making my way to JC Nichols Parkway to sit fountain-side and enjoy my newest indulgence.

As I sat in the sun, eating my cupcake, I caught up on Twitter messages, chatted with a friend who called and enjoyed the solitude. In trying to become a better writer, I'm trying to focus on things that can't be seen. So I sat there surrounded by people who'd also sought salvation in the park with my eyes closed.

I breathed.

I listened.

I absorbed it all.

I'm an autumn girl, but as far as I'm concerned, today was the perfect day for summer and the city.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

On the anniversary...

In 2001, my family and I were living in southeast Iowa. My husband worked full-time, my kids were in preschool and kindergarten and I had returned to college. My everyday life was completely separate from anything happening on the East coast. But it affected us just the same.

We didn't have television at the time of the attacks, so in some ways, we were blessed not to have the images of September 11th bombarding us every time we went into our living room. But at the same time, not having television also makes the day seem somewhat far off and surreal.

I visited Ground Zero in 2009 for the first time and was so overcome with grief and sadness that I couldn't even speak. That's unheard of for me. And as I sit here tonight, still in Iowa, my heart is heavy. I suppose it always will be, no matter where I live.

My love is with those who died on that horrible day in 2001 and the loved ones they left behind. Your sacrifice will never be forgotten.

9/11 Revisted

Never. Forget.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A good cause

I don't remember when I found out my best friend has polycystic kidney disease, but I do remember my reaction. There was no hesitation. No question. No doubts. No concerns. It was automatic: "Fuck it. I'll give you my kidney." That's what sisters do.

Now, I don't know that my kidney's a match. It may not be. I trust that it is, but reality may slap me in the face when the time comes to be tested and I won't match, but until then, I'm counting on PKD affecting me as much as it will affect my "sister."

Polycystic kidney disease affects 12.5 million people, yet most people don't know what it is or, furthermore, have never heard of it. That's where we need your help. On September 18th, Ann Marie and I will walk in the annual Walk for PKD in Des Moines. We're asking for your support. There are several ways you can do this:

1) Walk with us. It's free (although every donation helps) and there are no requirements or minimum donations needed to participate in the walk. Register now.

2) Spread the word through RTing our Tweets on Twitter, sharing our links on Facebook or sending the link to this blog to people you know. The more people aware of what we're doing, the better.

3) Donate. Donate a dollar. Donate a hundred. Donate a set amount each month. EVERY. PENNY. HELPS.

The day will come when PKD will make life hell for my sister, but I'm hoping it doesn't get to that. The only way to stop it from happening is to spread the word and find a cure.

Monday, September 5, 2011

12 o'clock and all's well

It's been a rough week. I won't go into it, except to say that the things that have happened have made me question my competence as a mother. I'm sure that would make some people very happy to hear, but when you're in the midst of it, it's a horrifying fear that I hope no parent has to deal with. Unfortunately, I think at one time or another, we've all been here.

This morning, however, put almost everything back into place. It started out with breakfast in bed, which my darling Midget made for Hubs and me. He and I laid there afterward just talking about the chaos of the week - he's been gone quite a bit with work, hobbies and other obligations that hasn't allowed us much time to talk about it all. After we'd talked for a while, we pulled Midget in and the three of us laid there talking about stuff. I asked her some questions about what she thought - about us as parents, about the situation from this week, about the potential move. She surprised me straight across the board. I'm not easily surprised, so I was caught a bit off guard, but in a good way.

If she had given me a report card about the job I'm doing as her mom, I think I'd be making the grade. She asked her dad and me to play more video games with her, but overall, she's happy with how much time we spend with her. She's got some reservations about the move, but overall, she looks at it as an adventure. And the situation with her brother? She's hurt over it. I think she carries a bit of guilt because he said what he said to me because he was "standing up for her." She thinks it's her fault. I reassured her that she had no reason to feel guilty - everybody does what they do for their own reasons, right or wrong.

Bottom line, her brother's problems are not her issues. And knowing that, makes me feel better.

Now, I'm off to beat the pants off of my daughter at Crash Bandicoot, but before I do that, she's got some apartments she wants to show me.

Have a great Labor Day!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Crack of a spine

If you know anything about me, you know how hard I've fought against the e-reading trends. I've been a huge advocate for the physical book all my life. I don't like reading stories online. I don't want to read what's going on around me on my newspaper's website. I took online courses in college about ten years ago and didn't like that either. I will admit that I have downloaded a Kobo reader for my Blackberry, but have resorted to it only when I've forgotten to take an actual book with me or I've found myself waiting somewhere unexpectedly.

I want a physical book in my hands. I want to underline phrases and highlight words and dog-ear my pages. I want to feel the paper between my fingers. I want to hear the creak of the spine when you first open a new book. I want to smell the age of an old book. I want to be able to flip back to a certain spot if I forget something. 

And when I've loved my book too much, I want to smear rubber cement on its broken spine, glue the cover back on and wedge it between the others on my bookcase where it will dry. You can't fix a Kindle with glue.