nesting * geeking * critiquing

Posts tagged “friendship

Blind Date #My5Days

As I approached the unassuming entrance to the restaurant, I couldn’t deny the overwhelming rush of anxiety that pulsed through my veins.

It’s a scary thing, meeting someone for the first time; far scarier than plunking out an email and hoping it’s well received. MA and I had exchanged a few photos over the years, but the vast majority of our interaction revolved around the written word. Never had I heard the timbre of her voice—outside of how I imagined it in my head—or seen the mannerisms that accompanied the smooth cadence of her communication.

Did I look okay? Was my eyeliner drawn on too thickly, causing me to look like a tramp? What if I chose the wrong kind of flowers and they triggered allergies or suddenly dropped their petals? What if I didn’t live up to the expectations she had accumulated over our last 3 years of correspondence?

Miraculously, my feet managed courage beyond what my nerve-wracked mind could spare and we ended up at the hostess’ station to announce our arrival for the already-seated party. “I don’t know how people go on blind dates,” I squeaked to my mom. (What, you don’t drag your mother along for an engagement some 350 miles from home?!)

And so, we followed the nice young lady around the corner to our fateful meeting…

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I first learned of Edmond Sun newspaper columnist Marjorie Anderson in June 2013 when one of her articles caught the attention of our corporate intranet’s “Buzz About HaIMG_0663llmark” feature. More often than not, the “Buzz” was little more than a mommy blogger’s review of a product we had sent her for free; those posts didn’t get the satisfaction of my click traffic. This particular post, though, caught my attention and held it for many hours as I read through entry after entry of Ms. Anderson’s “As I See It” column.

With tired eyes, a fresh jolt of inspiration and an overwhelming desire to express my appreciation for this dear woman’s writing, I emailed the newspaper editor. “If there’s not already a published collection of these columns,” I urged, “there needs to be one! Marjorie Anderson is a national treasure, and these entries deserve recognition and preservation!” (In truth, this is but the essence of what I penned—the actual message is long since lost to the tragedy of 60-day automatic mail purge.)

Within hours, I was reading a response from the editor with Marjorie Anderson herself copied. Armed with her personal email address, I embarked on what has become one of the most fulfilling campaigns of my life: a budding friendship and digital pen pal connection with a writer whom I greatly admire.

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There she sat, in the flesh, before my very eyes. Even with a handful of photos lodged in my memory, I hadn’t been entirely sure what to expect of my octogenarian friend. What I found was a saucy and sweet, bright-eyed lady with rosy pink lips and cherry red fingernails. A woman as tiny as a little bird but not the least bit frail looking, quite possibly even better coordinated physically than yours truly, who happens to be some 50 years her junior.

I set the vase of flowers on the edge of the table and reached out to join hands with MA. She looked full on my face and asked in astonishment, “Is it… is it really you?!” And I’ve never felt so honored and astounded to have someone ask me the words that were mirrored in my own mind.

We settled into the booth with my mom sitting across from Brett Barney, MA’s son, and I across from my mythical-turned-even-better-in-real-life confidant. The anxiety I’d carried quickly faded in favor of warmth and familiarity as our conversation flowed effortlessly from topic to topic. We touched on the journey from Kansas City, MO, to Edmond, OK; the similarities and vast differences between MA’s teaching and my mom’s career in school administration; and how we had all arrived at this very place. I’ll admit I found it hard to concentrate at times with the ridiculously delicious honey-pepper bacon burger on the plate in front of me. If you find yourself poking around the Sooner State, it’s worth your time to seek out an Interurban restaurant.

After lunch, we followed Brett and MA to meet with the writers’ group, and Su-the-weenie-dog(!), at MA’s house. IMG_0666While the group usually meets on Thursday afternoons, a special exception was made for my attendance. A tremendously talented author named Paul Gaines joined us and shared some of his short stories and character studies. Like our mutual friend MA, Mr. Gaines is utterly charming and endearing; I’m honored and delighted to have met him!

There can’t be many better ways to spend an afternoon than sitting around MA’s kitchen table, nibbling on cookies and hearing pieces penned by the group members read aloud. The group shares feedback and suggestions, and I wish I had prepared something to take along. Perhaps one day before too long I will repeat the trip with the express purpose of gaining some criticism on one of my works…and getting some more “kisses” from little Su.

As the sun did its best to scorch the earth in high-afternoon Oklahoma fashion, we decided it might be time to go on our way. I’ll fondly remember this beautiful experience and hope I can one day make such an impression as Ms. Marjorie Anderson. It’s wholly fitting that she signs off on her correspondence with “smiles, ma” because smiles are precisely what she brings to this world!

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Me, Su & MA (8.19.2016)

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I’m approaching my 8th anniversary working for Hallmark Cards. When I was brought on board as an on-call proofreader, I never imagined I would transition to working as a technical editor and eventually a bona fide writer (though not one who writes the card sentiments). I’ve been blessed with editorial opportunities I’m not sure I could have experienced anywhere else in this amount of time.
Hallmark is not exempt from the marketplace changes and various challenges that face corporations today, but the Creative division is committed to ensuring we stay the heart of Hallmark and find new ways to help facilitate emotional connections for our consumers. This year Creative decided to start at its core by giving each employee 5 days to use (apart from regular PTO) for finding inspiration and tapping into creative outlets that may not be leveraged in our everyday positions. A day for a trip to Oklahoma to meet MA was at the top of my wish list, and it did not disappoint. #My5Days

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What About the Bad Guys?

Once upon a time, I worked a job that was soul-crushingly awful. And “soul-crushingly awful” describes only the good days. The bad days were akin to sliding face-first down a giant razor blade straight into a vat of boiling acid. It’s not a huge exaggeration to say that there were days when I left feeling like the Gestapo dude whose face melts off at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Those days sucked, and they surfaced far too frequently.

Admittedly, there were a few perks: the pay was pretty decent for my first gig out of college, and a handful of my coworkers were fantastic. One of those associates was named Amy.

Ultimately, the positives failed to outweigh the negatives, and I abandoned the company just shy of my 2-year anniversary. As it turns out, my departure helped pave the way for an infinitely better work environment—the greatest offender came face to face with a pink slip based in large part on my exit interview feedback. I was lauded as a heroine, the provocateur who sparked a revolution towards emancipation. But I digress.

Amy left said company several months prior to my departure to devote time to her photography business (she’s phenomenally good!). Thanks to the magic of technology, we kept in touch via email and, eventually, social networking. Her family relocated to the Seattle area, so we made plans to visit this time around. Some 7 years after parting ways, I finally saw Amy again!

Amy and her husband Justin have fantastic kids: Luke, Ella & Matthias.
We’re not much of kid people, but these three almost converted us. In addition to their fun little personalities, they all dig Star Wars. Luke is a fan of facts…and Luke Skywalker. Ella crushes on Qui-Gon Jinn and Yoda (hey, the heart wants what it wants haha). And Matthias, well, he loves it all—a youngling after my own heart.

‘Thias buddied up to us pretty quickly, a rarity in our childless world. He asked to ride in our car, so I gave him my iPhone to look at pictures of my SW room.
He noticed all sorts of little details that would’ve been lost on most people. One of the more obvious things he commented on was my shelf that features Darth Vader and Stormtroopers.

In his adorable first-grader voice, Matthias asked, “Why do you like the bad guys so much?”

Imagine the sound of crickets for a moment, because that’s what was happening in my head. I had nothing. I’d never given much thought to the idea that I even do like the bad guys. So the answer I gave, the answer that needed the least explanation and self-evaluation was, “I think they look cool.” And they do.

There was a little sigh from the back seat, followed by Matthias’s emphatic response, “I think they look cool, too…but I don’t want them to wiiiin!”

And that’s what reminded me that Star Wars is so much more than the collector-y thrill that it has largely become for me and many other adults. At its core, Star Wars is a character study on the dichotomy of good and evil, of flux and fealty. Fantastical creatures and places and escapades are the proverbial icing on the cake. {Side note: I ADORE cake & icing!}

I loved the SW toys when I was a kid not because they looked cool but because they were a tangible piece of the Star Wars universe. With action figures in hand, I could live out scenes from my favorite adventures. The characters literally became part of my world.

It didn’t matter that I was an only child; most of my SW toys weren’t games that required multiple players to make them fun. It didn’t matter that I was a girl; my SW toys ranged from Ewok stuffed animals (they call them “plush” in the industry today) to action figures that I could “girl-ify” if I so chose—I crafted clothing for Princess Leia using flower petals and scotch tape. My SW toys went hand in hand with my imagination, which paid no mind to the societal constraints that loom in adult consciousness.
Perhaps that’s why I’m still so drawn to toys: they take me back to a time when the world and its worries were no concern of mine.

At some point in my life, I guess I sold out a little bit. I lost sight of the whimsy and gravitated towards what was deemed cool.

For those who’ve forgotten (or weren’t alive yet), there wasn’t much about Star Wars that was still deemed cool by the early ’90s. As I recall, the franchise was all but extinct in the public’s consciousness. It wasn’t until word began spreading of production for the 20th-anniversary “Special Edition” theatrical re-release that the tendrils of SW began to poke back into the collective pop-culture mindset.

The ‘steroid series’ of Hasbro figures launched in 1995, to the mutual delight and chagrin of toy enthusiasts. The classic heroes looked ridiculous, which played into my affinity for the darker characters. The “bad guys” still managed to look cool.

Also responsible was my age and resultant awareness. After a war in the Persian Gulf and bombings at the World Trade Center and Oklahoma federal building, the world around me seemed less gentle. Even fashion and music had trended edgier, more alternative (thanks, Kurt Cobain!).
I began to accept the inevitability of growing up, acknowledging the more melancholy aspects of life as well as the tumult within myself. And yet, I held to the hope of a happy ending.

One needn’t squint too hard to see how that is reflected by Lord Vader, even all those years before we learned of Anakin’s petulant twerp tendencies.

So, that’s why I like the Star Wars bad guys. It’s not just because they look cool, but because they embody the notion that life isn’t always neat and tidy. Were it not for bad guys, there would be no reason for “good” people to rise up and defend honor or virtue. Plus, they are a steadfast reminder that any of us, even the most vile, has a chance for redemption.

On the last night of our Washington stay, we had dinner at Amy’s house. I was treated to a lightsaber battle, a thorough examination of action figures, a cross-examination about SW trivia (most questions starting with, “Do you know…” or “Guess what?!”) and episodes of The Clone Wars and The Yoda Chronicles.

The Force is strong with these friends of mine!

Luke & Matthias

Luke & Matthias, Halloween 2012