Thursday, January 31, 2008

new blog search engine

The black Google "custom search" button on the left is a beta test for a new customizable search engine from Google. Check it!

I'll still be playing around with it to add more refinements and such this week. And next week. Pretty much every week until I develop my own search engine. It's fun! Give the blog directory a whirl, and read posts from some of my "most favoritest" blogs in the blogosphere.

how portland is solving the homeless problem

Portland is getting kudos- and copycats- from San Francisco to Calgary for their Home Again, 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness.

Over the years, when I went home to visit family and friends, I got used to seeing the many homeless people who hang in or around the Portland area. It wasn't too shocking; I've spent a lot of time on the west coast and the homeless problem in Oregon is mimicked in any large city with mild temperatures. But Portland has also suffered from a high street crime rate that's disproportionate to the city's size.

The city has taken innovative steps to resolve the homeless problem, and major cities across the U.S. are taking notice. Street crime rates had plummeted by the end of 2007, as more and more steps of Portland's 10-year plan to end homelessness were implemented. And they managed to do it all without running afoul of homeless advocates. Amazing.

It's a detailed report, but it's worth reading: Portland's 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness.

Monday, January 28, 2008

open-closure

Although most of what we feel when we release someone from our lives, and try to let them go from our hearts is psychological or emotional, the physical effects of missing someone can be quite intense, too.

My own symptoms of heartbreak have ranged from something akin to shock (defined on WebMD as “a state of profound mental and physical depression consequent to severe physical injury or to emotional disturbance”) to feeling sick to my stomach to just plain grieving.

The worst thing is running into someone you still care about after it’s over. Talk about physical pain. There is one person in the greater tri-state area that really left a mark on your fair blogger. Even now, years and years after “it” happened, when I run into him, I feel like someone punched me in the stomach. I’m not kidding. It’s that kind of physical pain.

I have seen him around town and quickly walked away, rather than open myself up to the inevitable, banal chit-chat. The times I have been trapped into a conversation with him (and yes. It really felt like a trap.), I’ve either breezily answered his questions or gave tightlipped, one-word answers. Either way, I think I probably came off looking and acting really weird. It’s an awful mess, and I just don’t know how to straighten it out.

Because, no matter how much we say that we’ve gone on and moved on, sometimes, with some people, there’s still that feeling that maybe, just maybe, we missed out on something really special. That maybe we can still work it out. Open-closure, you might say.

I know it’s childish. I know, in my heart of hearts, those things like that, those happy endings, only happen in movies. And maybe it is my own, silly romantic feelings or maybe it’s because it’s a New Year and I have only good intentions, but… It’s hard to give up on someone when you have given them so much of yourself.

I’ve tried to reconcile with one or two people… a scant few who I really believe are special. People who have touched me the most. And inevitably, I start thinking about how I am such a prickly thing, “hard to know,” maybe, and how unbelievably difficult it is to find a soulmate, someone who really understands me. Someone who really cares.

But it ends up being a vicious cycle.

Of me getting hurt. Of the two of us bickering. Of misunderstandings piled on top of misunderstandings.

And I’m not so sure some fences can be mended.

waiting for greatness


By the time you reach your 30’s, the chances of being “discovered” or becoming famous are pretty slim. We all know how this works, right? The fast track to fame starts at age 18, peaks at 25, and starts going downhill at about 27.

I don’t mean to sound discouraging. But think about it. How many people with worldwide or even national success didn’t hit the tabs, get a mention in Newsweek or make the Today show until they were middle aged?

Sure, there have been a few. Noble Peace Prize winners who huddled in labs in obscure countries until they walked out on stage at 50 to make their speeches. Actor Steve Carell didn’t start appearing on TV until he was 30 or so.

But with rare exception, if it was gonna happen, the rocky road to fame would have already started by the time you reach the third decade of your life. Small, sweet tastes of success. Walk-on roles in movies. Prestigious awards given to young people with promise. Even George Clooney, well-known for late in life fame, did his time on The Facts of Life during his 20’s. And Thoreau left Walden by the time he was 30.

The building blocks to fame.

For the rest of us, I think the jig is up.

You can buy an expensive bag, but that won’t make you Lindsay. Speak eloquently of portentous worldly topics, but you still won’t be Novalis. And there’s not much we can do about it.

I’ve had friends who were struggling musicians, trying to “make it.” This gets a little sillier as we all get older. They obviously feel that way too, because many of them decided to disband their bands. The question I always had for them was would it be so bad to be a popular local band and to just keep playing on weekends, and providing a lot of enjoyment for the people who like you, right here? Is that really so awful? Because from my perspective, it sounds ok.

And for the most part they’d be ok with it too, but along with giving up wistful dreams of fame in their 30’s, for musicians that also includes the cold reality of hauling, set-up, taking down and moving out music equipment. As the idea of fame becomes more and more far-fetched, moving heavy equipment starts to lose its appeal. A metaphor of sorts, perhaps.

At some point, I think it’s time to stop waiting for greatness. To just accept who you are. To be happy with who you’ve become. To feel proud of your life’s accomplishments, and to understand, from this point on, very little will change.

Sure, we’re our own agents of change. And I don’t mean to throw cold water on our dreams. But with self-acceptance, and seeing, really seeing, all of the good things that you have in your life already, without worrying so much about what you don’t have, comes a great sense of peace.

Sometimes, giving in can feel really good.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

thoughtful

My father and I got to talking about one of my nephews when I was visiting over the holidays. The young fellow delighted attendees at a recent sporting event by dancing on court at halftime. We think he just plain forgot that thousands of people were watching him. “His dad’s like that too,” my pop said, in one of his usual en pointe observations. “He gets inside his head.”

Yeah, I know the feeling. Not that I’ve ever danced in front of thousands of people (not that I’ve ever danced in front of thousands of people yet), but I also have a tendency to get lost in my thoughts.

I got “busted” for this all the time when I worked for a large company. Running from one meeting to the next, I’d be gathering my thoughts, or who knows, writing a poem or a grocery list, when one- maybe two- people would call out, “Look up, Lisa.” Not that there was too much to run into, but I suppose it was an odd sight, seeing me scamper through the hallways, head down, deep in thought.

They say to be thoughtful- as in full of thought, not gracious- is a good thing. I’m guessing the people who say this envision great thinkers like Einstein. Coleridge. Nietzsche.

I know they’re not talking about someone like me. My head is usually wrapped around some complicated equation of Lisa + family or Lisa + a relationship or something related to work. Nothing too brainy. And I have to wonder:

Is there a downside to thinking too much?

We spend so much time talking about ourselves. Talking to therapists, family and to friends. Even to complete strangers. That’s the secret to my sparkling conversation skills, BTW. I just ask someone about themselves. Usually, they won’t- and maybe can’t- stop talking, sometimes for an hour or more. And when I say they can’t stop talking, it’s not because they’re so self-involved. I think it’s just because sometimes, we all get a little too inside our heads.

And when it comes to downtime, I like stuff you don’t have to think about too much. This weekend I watched Hackers for the first time ever. Other than my secret passion for old 1984-style movies about computers (weren’t we all so silly back then?), I thought it was just ok. But I still watched it the whole way through.

I always have to do that, no matter how bad the movie is. Like I’ve committed myself and it’s some sort of test to see how much I can take. Dumb. But I kind of enjoyed the flick, mainly because, I didn’t have to concentrate. Look for nuances. Consider every random word as some sort of foreshadowing. Read sub-titles. Practice my rusty French. Actually, I didn’t even really watch the movie. I just looked at it.

And is that really such a bad thing?

Would it be so horrible for any of us to take a time out from stressing out about the things that worry us the most? To not spend every waking hour trying to make ourselves and the world around us a better place?

To take some time to do my favorite thing… and just be?

Or would that kind of slacking off result in total chaos?

I only have to look around my place to give you one possible outcome: command central (e.g., the home office) looks as ADD as ever, with unread magazines and books (including several on organization, harrumph), unopened mail and every other kind of detritus taking over. Clearly, I’ve spent far too much time in my head lately.

With no great thoughts to show for it, either.

Friday, January 25, 2008

have a heart


Since my crush and I recently broke, chances are, I’ll be on my own for Valentine’s Day this year. Sigh. That’s a big sigh, readers. But before I start feeling sorry for myself, I have to remember, I don’t much care for this sticky greeting card holiday anyway. At least not since elementary school, when we hung oversized heart envelopes onto our desks in anticipation of the valentine exchange, have I gotten excited over V-day.

I’m not so impressed by chocolates and flowers. Don’t get me wrong. I like candy. And I love fresh flowers. But I just never went in for that whole slinky-seduction scene. It always struck me as silly, and rather contrived.

I’ve received some pretty impressive gifts from admiring swains over the years. But you can’t put a price on them.

Once in high school, a boy “bought” me a Greek slave on Latin Club day. The poor kid had to trail me from class to class for an entire day. Once I got over my acute embarrassment, I quickly saw the benefits of my first-ever employee and put him to work carrying my books and cleaning out my locker.

Another time, a boy handcuffed himself to me, to show me how much he cared. It was all fun and games until he couldn’t locate the key. I dragged him from class to class too, much to his embarrassment, until he remembered how to let me go.

One young fellow even scratched our initials inside of a heart on a tree. Probably not the most eco-friendly gift, but incredibly memorable all the same.

And in my adult years, I’ve had songs written for me, meals cooked for me, poems dedicated in my honor and in recent times, heartfelt emails and even blogs that I suspect were written with me in mind.

I treasure them. Somehow, in some small way, they transported me back to a time when a valentine was a real valentine, no matter when it was received. I felt joyous, and thought fondly of sweet longings in a faraway classroom. Visions of chalk clouds clapped from erasers and long afternoons spent gazing wistfully out the window at the green, green grass.

If you’re thinking of giving a valentine to someone you admire from afar, love deeply or just like and respect a whole lot, I offer some words of encouragement and some heartfelt advice:

Be bold. Take a chance this leap year and do something different; something unexpected. Show the person you care about that you really do care. Make it memorable and make it sweet. Make up for all of your wrongdoings with one honest, romantic gesture. Most important of all, make it something you know that they’d love to receive.

Wherever you are in the world on February 14th, I hope you’re happy, loved and well cared for. That’s all any of us can hope for.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

daddy’s girl

“My dad said I can come and live with him,” she said, tossing her hair. “My dad wants me there.”

Really? I thought, but didn’t say. Because when you told the court about the bad things he did, that effectively ended any possibility of ever living with him. Much less visiting him or even seeing him again.

Your dad’s a big loser. That’s what I felt like saying. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t tell her the truth. Because I knew how much it would hurt her.

He loves to drink. He treated her mother terribly. Was abusive to her. Lied. And lied to me when I called there, never passing along my messages. Kept all of us apart for almost a year.

A selfish, selfish man who cares only about himself. He’ll die alone, in that sad, lonely apartment. Missing out on the best years of her life. A shambling drunk, with only vague memories… A ruinous ghost who stumbled in and out of her life. Never really taking part. Missing out on everything, even when he was there.

He doesn’t just hurt her. He hurts me, too. He knows that she can’t live with him. He knows it will never happen. So it’s easy for him, making more and more promises that he will never keep.

How could such a loser sire such a beautiful girl? That sparkling, quick-witted, adorable child… It seems impossible. When she does something wrong, I’m quick to say it’s a trait from her father. It couldn’t have come from her mom.

Go back to the bar, I want to tell him. Leave us alone. And let us have some peace, let us enjoy our family. I wish he would fall off the face of the earth.

But I didn’t say it. I didn’t say any of it. I couldn’t say it and be the one that breaks her heart. She’ll understand what he is one day. She’ll understand everything when she is older.

Or maybe she won’t understand. That’s what I hope, anyway.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

the sleepwalker

When I was a little girl, I would often sleepwalk. My mom told me this and of course, I was full of little girl questions: Did I walk around with my arms in front of me, zombie-like? (No.) Were my eyes open? (Yes.) Did I talk? Reveal answers to the questions of the ages in my sleep-filled stupor? (Yes. And No.)

Apparently, I didn’t do much when I was sleepwalking, other than mumble answers to questions and wander around looking at our house until my mom hustled me back into bed. Weird. As an adult, I still sleepwalk. Sometimes I’ll go to sleep in my bed and wake up somewhere else. It still seems strange. Like some other person is in possession of me during the night. Some other person that I cannot control.

And for the last year, I’ve found myself sleepwalking during the day, too. Due to a variety of personal and familial heath-related issues, I’ve had a pretty high stress level. Working for myself has had its usual ups and downs. But when it comes to relationships, I see now that I have been drifting along, dream-like. Sleepwalking. With no ringing alarm bell to wake me.

It’s funny. When I was younger, I always thought that things would work out so perfectly. So storybook. I would finish college, have one year of freedom, then settle down and marry the man of my dreams.

Yeah, right.

Now that I’ve been out of college for more than a decade, and there’s no man of my dreams in sight, I look at things a little differently. Well, I try to look at things differently.

If you follow the blog, then you probably know that I spent last year mired in a couple of unhealthy relationships. Surreal “relationships” that went exactly nowhere. I didn’t tell you everything. And I just wrote about the ones that mattered most. But looking back on my writing now, it’s easy to see that I was searching for some kind of wake up call.

And as always, I’m left feeling like I must have done something wrong. Something that made me deserve to be treated so badly. And I still miss the friends that I lost. But, I see now... I see everything. I think that what for me was an important friendship was really just a dream. And it is my fault. For stumbling along blindly, like a sleepwalker. For not asking the right questions or getting more clarification on things that were said, and left unsaid. That was my fault.

This year, I’m making a resolution, as much as I hate that word. I’m going into new relationships with my eyes wide open. I’m not going to drift along in a dream-like state anymore. And I’m going to be more careful about who I allow into my life. For the first time, I can really see how I can do that.

Finally, I think I might be coming around.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

open forum at police headquarters tonight

There's an open forum at Covington police headquarters tonight at 7 pm. You'll have the opportunity to air your grievances to Covington Police Chief Lee Russo, and maybe, just maybe, see some change as a result of your attendance.

I wrote an open letter to the police chief almost exactly one year ago and not too much has changed:

The suspension bridge is still unsafe at various times of day or evening. I still maintain, put a bicycle cop on there for an hour or so during peak times every day, and you'll clean it up tout suite.

The girlie bars are still going strong. I haven't seen as much activity outside in the street this past year. Luckily, the hookers on Madison have been around to pick up the slack.

Potential properties for the new Kenton County jail site are being considered this month. Does anyone know what they'll do with the old building? It seems like the cells could be converted to cubicles with little to no effort. And keeping the toilets would prevent people from taking too many unscheduled breaks.

The open forum begins at 7 p.m. tonight at police headquarters, at 20th Street and Madison Avenue.

Monday, January 14, 2008

i kind of hate you

If you receive requests for something of a business nature and you can’t help but you know someone who can, but you kind of hate that other person, should you still send them the business?

I’ve been struggling with this question for a while now. In the past, I’ve always thrown work to other people. Sometimes I asked for a referral fee, sometimes I didn’t. I’m a big believer in supporting other small businesspeople. So whether or not I get something out of it, I want to help others out. I love the network. I’m a huge networker and I enjoy helping people, whether it’s finding a good used car for a kid just out of school or throwing work someone else’s way.

In addition, I truly want to help the people who come to me looking for someone who can help them. Since I often feel overloaded with work, I sometimes have to take a pass on a new project. In the spirit of goodwill, sending new contacts to someone else that can help them out has always been a natural solution.

But like a lot of people, some of my work life is mixed up with my personal life. So instead of sending someone to a reputable writing company or a talented retailer, I’m instead looking at a network of failed relationships and ex-boyfriends who I don’t want to talk to, let alone help succeed. Well. I sort of feel that way.

It’s harder than you might imagine, blowing someone off who wants advice about who to hire or where to shop. I don’t like to do it. I want to help. And I know all about the struggles of being self employed, so in general, I want to help others.

But what do you do when your network suddenly seems full of people who have let you down? Have betrayed you, lied and generally tried to make trouble for you? In fact, one person even took work away from me after we had a disagreement. That’s messing with my livelihood, man. So why should I help them, when they’re so unprofessional?

Why? Because I’m a nice person, I guess. That’s probably the biggest issue I have with trying to be firm and not help other people, no matter how poorly they have treated me. Even as I’m writing this, and saying I don’t want "some" people to succeed, I know it isn’t true. Of course I want them to do well.

See what a sap I am?

But do I have to be the conduit for someone else’s success if they haven't been good to me? What is my moral and karmatic responsibility here?

Friday, January 11, 2008

99 swing thoughts

A dear family friend has a new book out. About golf. If you love the game, check out I've Got 99 Swing Thoughts but "Hit the Ball" Ain't One: Pick Up the Pace to Pick Up Your Game by Christopher Smith. I don't golf, but my dad read it cover to cover when I was visiting over the holidays and he swears by it.

Christopher Smith is a leading speed golfer, a hybrid sport I also knew nothing about until recently. It combines cross-country running with golf and it's becoming increasingly popular. Just reading about it wears me out. Is it nap time yet?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Portland condo sales have dropped from 100 a month to eight a month.

At the store this morning, I spent $40 on groceries… It looks more like $20 worth of groceries.

Coming off of a three-week trip, I have approximately two more weeks until I get paid.

I am thinking about returning a cashmere sweater that I bought on sale. I could use the credit.

My dad’s credit score is almost 100 points higher than mine.

Sound familiar? Then you might want to check out Geezeo. They have a place where you can post your money confessions online. Or just read what others are posting. Trust me. It will make you feel a lot better about your money problems.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

lost and found


One of my guy friends was recently complaining to me and repeating a kvetch I’ve heard many times before. He was telling me how his friend Jeff had virtually dropped him, and everyone else he knew, after Jeff got married. I was amazed… but only that my friend was so surprised.

This happens a lot when friends and family members find new relationships. And it’s as it should be. Couples need time to, well, be a couple. And often, once married life begins, someone who wasn’t all that social to begin with finds their niche in a quiet home life.

It’s easy to blame the other person, and for some reason this often falls on the wife, who’s somehow perceived as the culprit for hubby’s absence by friends and family. As if she cast some strange spell, hypnotizing him into becoming a hermit. What no one really wants to admit is that their friend (in this case, Jeff) probably just doesn’t want to make the effort to hang out with his friends.

I’ve lost a couple of friends who got married. In one case, a woman who talked about nothing but her desire to get married finally got engaged. I wasn’t angry at her for being absent, but after some unreturned phone calls, I figured she’d call me when she had time and let it go. I only heard from her one other time, when I missed her bridal shower and she called to tell me where she was registered. That one was a write off.

For all of my other married friends, it hasn’t presented a problem. If anything, we’re closer than ever before. I spend time with the couple, and sometimes get one on one time with my friend. It works.

When we’re in a relationship and blissed out with happiness, we often don’t have time to see friends… call friends… or email them. In other words, you can lay all the blame you want on the wife. But it takes two really happy people to draw the blinds and turn off the phone.

And like I told my friend, you should be glad your married friends are so happy. I know it can be frustrating. But the couples I know who actively spend time trying to avoid each other, and who have plenty of time to hang out with friends, also seem to be the ones who chat openly about their deep-seated unhappiness in their marriage. It’s a sad thing. And it’s not what you want for your friends.

Yes, there should be a balance. Your married friends will find it. There are plenty of dynamic, happy, loving couples who really welcome the intrusion of friends.

It just takes time.

Monday, January 7, 2008

cut off your nose

I’m often amazed at how spiteful some people can be. I mean, it’s shocking, really. But then again. Nothing much surprises me anymore. Very few people end up being what you thought they would be when you met them. And sometimes that’s for the best. But sometimes… People can be really petty. Very small. And I’m left to wonder: how does it make you feel inside, knowing how you hurt other people?

Or do you mostly just hurt yourself?

For New Year’s this year, I thought about writing the anti-resolutions. Where I would say things like, “To people who think that messing with someone’s life is a game, well. May it all come back on you onethousandfold. Friend.”

But, like always, upon some self-reflection (and you guys Know How Rare That Is for Me. Ha.), I decided not to do that. I still haven’t capitulated and become the angry blogger. Stripped off my clothes except for a bunny costume head and bunny feet and started firebombing. Well, at least I haven’t started doing that yet. For now, I’m going to forgive the people that have wronged me this past year. And it’s straight from the heart:

You shouldn’t have started all of the unnecessary drama. And, in your heart, you know you shouldn’t have involved me. But you did. And I’m not angry. I feel bad for you. I’ve forgiven you, for everything.

And now, I’m going to forget you.

I started already, at the beginning of December. You probably didn’t notice. Didn’t even feel it when I started to move on. Or maybe you did. Maybe you felt the cool breeze of my disregard. A hitch in your step that you attributed to a crack in the sidewalk. A funny happenstance that you wanted to share, but on the heels of the thought was the knowledge that you have no right to contact me. And as time goes on, forgetting just gets easier for me to do. I hope it gets easier for you, too.

Happy New Year, dear readers. I hope it’s filled with new beginnings, new challenges and most of all, new friends.

the story teller


There’s one thing that holds me back from really throwing myself into a new relationship. It’s never been hard for me to meet people. Make new friends. Talk to men. I’m fine with all of that. The one thing that I really hate, and that I am not looking forward to now, is telling my story.

You know. Our stories. All of those sad, happy and strange tales that make up the whole of your life. That made us into the people we are today. I should have my story down by now. Edited and encapsulated into a breezy 10 minute conversation.

But I always hate when starting over with someone new, and telling them all about me. Telling them that story.

This is a big reason why I’ve been known to recycle old boyfriends, I think. They already know my story. They understand all of my odd quirks. Why I get mad when I should be crying. Why I sometimes drink and when I do, why I wander off like a lost alley cat. Why I often worry or overly fret that I may have done something wrong. They don’t judge me for any of it. And there are no long explanations afterwards. It happened, I’m sorry, now it’s over. Bliss.

The times I’ve met someone and understood, like I always do, that he just wasn’t the one, I didn’t even bother telling him my story. I just made something up that sounded relatively sane. Perpetuating normalcy. Nosir, no skeletons in my closet. Yes, it was all just fun and games when I was growing up. Normal.

Whatever that means.

Now that I’m considering new relationship possibilities, I’m wondering… Along with red flags, perspectives and filters, wouldn’t it be great if we could just make up little cards that told our stories? And then hand them out to likely prospects?

This is how my story telling card might read:

Lisa
Hobbies include: wrangling angry drunks, putting my foot in my mouth and tripping over my feet when I am drinking. I have the scars to prove all of it.
Likes: Picnics in lonely orchards, writing, reading, daydreaming and self-made men.
Dislikes: Country music, math and grabby people who don’t know me.
Goals: Huh?

Even on my own card, I have no idea how to sum up what’s next. That figures.

Flipping my switch on, my friend Robyn calls it. That “available” switch that lets others know, that yes, I’m receptive to having a relationship with you.

I’m thinking about flipping on that switch. I just don’t want to tell that story.