Live Each Moment Like Your Last

Sometimes, something happens that yanks you back away from the petty drama of everyday life, makes you rethink things, makes you stop and see how you felt and how you are and realize that it’s not really important in the long run, that it’s not who you want to be.

For me, that something was the murder of a friend of mine.

Kat and I met years ago when we both worked for Verizon 411. Over the years, we hung out, had way too many good times to count….and then moved on with our lives and fell out of touch. No bad blood, our lives just moved in different directions, there were new jobs and new cities and new friends, and we didn’t really maintain contact.

I found out this morning that she’d died. At first, it didn’t really sink in. I thought that it must have been a mistake, that the woman in the newspaper article couldn’t be the same funny, outrageous Kat that I’d known. But more and more friends started mentioning it, word spread, and the likelihood that it wasn’t her depleted. I’ve felt like crying for most of the day, trying to push what happened to her out of my mind.

It really made me think about how short life is, and how people we love can be gone in an instant. It made me wonder why I was wasting time worrying over things that don’t really matter, why I had, all too recently, allowed a misunderstanding to screw up a really important friendship with someone I care about and why I was waiting to make it right (or try to), why I hold back and don’t say what I think or tell people how I feel.

On Saturday I heard a lot of talk about the end of the world. While I don’t believe Doomsday is looming, Kat’s death made me see all too clearly that the world could end for any one of us at any time. Why wait to say what we think, why hold back? I’m not trying to be paranoid or say that I’m terrified that people I love are going to die, but really, everyone will die from something, some day.

I don’t want to live with regrets. I’ve been lucky so far, I haven’t lost anyone close to me when we’ve been on bad terms. I honestly do believe that the closer you are to someone, the more their opinions matter and the more likely it is that someone’s going to irritate someone, and a fight’s going to break out. The mistake I’ve made is staying mad.

I suddenly feel like I’ve been given a totally different perspective, that I’m seeing things differently. I guess I took for granted that I’d have tomorrow to do the things I wanted to do. Tomorrow I’ll tell that person I love them. Tomorrow, I’ll explain what really happened and we’re going to sit and drink iced lattes and laugh about what a silly quarrel we had over it.

No, forget that. Today.

I hate cliches, but because I’m freshly grieving a lost friend I see some value in this one. Pretend there is no tomorrow. Don’t put off important things. Don’t waste your time. I’m not saying I’m going to pack it all in and spend my final days on a beach somewhere, because that’s silly. I’m going to go about my normal routine, go to work and pay bills and do all the things I normally do. I’ll spend time laughing with friends, snuggling my kitties, relaxing with Paul. I’ll tell the people who matter to me how I feel. I’m going to stop wasting my time on pettiness, on having the last word or the final say. It’s not worth it.

Life is way too short not to fill it with happiness.

The Book Signing

I just had what could only be classified as one of the coolest nights ever.

I met Jen Lancaster.

Who is only one of my most favorite authors in the whole world.

My friend Keri recommended Jen’s writing to me, back when Keri was living in Yuma and I’d just moved into the new house with Paul. I remember very clearly that Keri was so excited about the author, she actually grabbed the book right there and read me a passage over the phone. I was in stitches, I almost toppled off the bed and onto the floor, I was laughing so freaking hard. Awesome bestie that she is, Keri sent me her books by Jen as soon as she finished them. I devoured them and bought my own copies. I was hooked. I was a Jen Lancaster junkie (a Jenkie? who’s to say?).

Keri and I lost touch last year when I moved to Washington and she moved back to California. I miss her terribly and I keep hoping that one day she’ll get a Facebook account, or try my cell phone number, or email me. I know she had a lot going on in her life at that point and probably still does. I haven’t heard from her since September. She must have gotten a new cell phone number because the one I have for her isn’t hers anymore.

When I found out that Jen Lancaster was coming to Seattle as part of her book tour, I immediately put in for the afternoon off work and knew that I had had HAD to go to the event. I wish I could share it with Keri.

I got to the event, which was held at a bookstore in Lake Forest Park. I saw where Jen would sign books and thought, oh I’ll just hang out here, then I can get in line right away. It was only about fifteen minutes before the scheduled start time when I figured out how this thing actually worked. Fans were to gather in an auditorium-like space near a little food court, where Jen would read a passage from her latest book and then take questions. After that was the signing, and groups would be called. If you bought a book there, you got a ticket with A, B, C, or D group, depending on how early you bought. Only after those people went would those who brought their own books be allowed a turn.

I had brought my book, having bought it from Target and enjoyed the thirty percent off. However, I didn’t want to wait until very last. I’m terrible at waiting. It makes me fidgety and cranky. I also didn’t want to spend twenty-seven bucks after tax for a book I already owned. So, genius that I am, I purchased a third copy of Jen’s first book, “Bitter is the New Black”, because I decided it would be cool to have a signed copy of her original memoir. This earned me a D ticket, which wasn’t great but was better than dead last.

The reading and Q&A were awesome. People asked really great questions, from how Jen’s dog Maisy was doing (she was diagnosed with doggy cancer) to if her grandmother was really as scary as the grandmother in the latest novel.

When I got my turn to meet her, Jen seemed a lot like, well, a normal person. We chatted about our animals and our love of pit bulls as she dutifully signed my books and posed for a picture with me, a picture that is now my profile picture on Facebook, thankyouverymuch. I acted calm, cool, collected….until the very end when I lost my brains and blurted, “I’m glad I didn’t totally geek out!”

“No, you’re cool,” she assured me.

I sputtered some other very cool things (NOT) as I collected my books and camera and waved good-bye. She is super awesome. We could totally be BFFs. Well, okay maybe not. But it was still beyond awesome to meet someone whose work I idolize, realize that she’s totally down to earth and kickass, and that she seemed to geniunely take an interest in the people that wanted to talk with her.

I’m only sad that I can’t call Keri and rave about it. Some day, I hope she walks back into my life, and I can tell her all about it.

Vacation So Far

We’ve been in California since Saturday, and it has been a trip of pure delight.

The weather is gorgeous. It’s warm and sunny and perfect. Monday afternoon, I sat on the Parkers’ back patio, drinking iced tea and reading a book. The sun was warm and toasty and relaxing, and every time I started to feel that I might be just a little too warm, the breeze would flutter across the patio and cool me off. I’ve been in shorts and t-shirts the last few days, and am completely comfortable.

I know I am romaticizing my life in California big-time. There were reasons why we left. But I have to admit, there are also things about our old life that I loved that I truly miss. It’s nice to have dinner and play cards with our families. I miss them all fiercely. Luckily, my parents will be able to come to Seattle in July for mine and my dad’s birthday, and Washington is beautiful in summertime. I think they’ll really enjoy it.

Last night my parents had a barbeque. My whole family was there, and my mom invited her best friend Debbie and Debbie’s husband Frank. Everyone went and sat outside. Steve, Dad, Paul, and I hid by the grill while the other women in the group gossiped about the royal wedding. I couldn’t really participate, as I’d spent so much time being indignant about the wedding that I knew no details. We also played with Maui, my parents’ boxer. She really likes Paul and kept bringing him a stuffed alligator with a squeaky inside for him to throw across the yard for her.

 I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so much food. Dad grilled chicken and steak, making sure to grill different pieces of steak to various levels of wellness so that everyone would be happy. Paul and I like our meat rather rare, while my sister won’t touch it unless it’s charred. Mom dipped slices of sourdough bread into melted butter and Dad put them on the grill. I love the taste of grilled bread. There was also Mom’s famous (well, in our family anyway) potato salad, beans, salad, vegetables, fruit, cheesecake, and what my sister calls cookie truffles (they’re cookie dough dipped in chocolate). We ate until stuffed, then sat around and talked and snacked on the cookie dough.

I had planned on spending the morning with my brother Steve, but he got called into work last-minute so I spent the morning helping Paul and his parents work in their front yard. Earlier in the week, Paul constructed a border around a large gathering of his mother’s beautiful roses, and now we are putting in pink rock all in the area he enclosed. Before we could spread the rock, we had to put down weed tarp to keep the area from becoming a mess of weeds poking through rock. While his parents unloaded bags of rock from the back of the truck, Paul measured and cut weed tarp and I helped him spread the rocks in each area when he was ready. It felt great to be outside, working. I was hot and sweaty and loving every minute of it.

We ran out of rock way before the project was completed and headed to Lowes for more bags. Back when we were homeowners, Paul and I spent many hours at Lowes while in the midst of different projects. I love Lowes. When I was little, my parents would take us to home improvement stores, and my mom once explained to me that these stores were like Toys R Us for adults. Now, I totally agree. There’s no limit to the wonders of Lowes. When we went there yesterday, I discovered (and snapped a picture of) a large display of pink flamingo yard ornaments.

Today, we got the rock, loaded it into the truck, and took a lunch break at El Pollo Loco. I miss El Pollo Loco! The fresh food tasted so good. I savored each delicious bite. I wish we had those restaurants in Washington.

After lunch we went back to the house, took showers, and headed over to my parents’ house to play pinochle. Years ago, I remember my mom mentioning that she wished she could find people to play pinochle with. She’d tried explaining the game to me, but it sounded complicated. Now, Paul and I both know how to play, his parents taught us, so we were able to play two games. First, Mom and Dad paired up against Paul and me, and we lost. Then Dad and I paired up against Paul and Mom, and we lost. We did pretty well, though, I think. Even though I lost both games I had a lot of fun. Mom has to go back to work tomorrow, and Dad has to leave in the evening to go back to Ojai for work, so we left right before dinner so she could relax and rest and get ready.

We went to see our old house last Saturday. It was so weird, peering in the windows of the place I used to live in. It’s still for sale, still vacant. A lot of the plants in the front yard have died but a lot of them lived, and they look (and smell!) great. I miss living in that house. I don’t hate our townhome in Marysville at all, but it definitely isn’t as grand as that beautiful house. There was definitely a part of me that felt very sad, and I had a pang of wishing we still lived there. Maybe getting out and looking at the house wasn’t a great idea, but I’m not sorry I did it. I know what I left behind. Life’s not about second guessing your choices and living in the past, it’s about accepting the path you’re on and moving forward.

California and Seattle. Being back, I definitely feel torn between the two places. California has our families, great weather, my whole childhood and so many memories. But it also has a terrible economy, no jobs, no way to move forward or do anything different. And Seattle has the opportunities I’ve enjoyed at work, green everywhere, new friends that I have grown to love dearly…..There are good things about both places.

I’m having such a good time being back. Every minute of this vacation has been exactly what I hoped it would be, and I’m sure the next few days will be wonderful as well.

The Car Story

I was leaving work at dusk. I walked out with my coworker Richard, we rode the elevator together and then parted ways. We didn’t talk much, just mumbled a few things about complaints we’d dealt with during the day.

 My car was parked in this hideous cement basement at my office. It was dark and gloomy, not an inviting place to be at all.

 I got in the car and switched on the lights, trying to figure out how to get out of the basement. I didn’t remember parking there or how I got in. Mine was the only car in the dimly lit room. I decided that all I could really do would be to circle the basement, scanning the walls with my headlights until I found a way out. It seemed to take a very long time to consider this and decide to act.

I wasn’t scanning the walls very long before I discovered an opening. It was littered with papers and boxes, and it wasn’t very wide….not the sort of opening that seemed to be meant for cars. I looked around again, but didn’t see any other way out. So I eased the car forward, slowly, deciding that even if I scraped the sides of my car as I went through the opening, I probably wouldn’t hurt the paint too much. If I just went slowly, I could probably buff out any scratches I might get.

The car went through much more gently than I expected. It connected with the walls, but just barely, nothing too bad. But as I came through, I noticed a concrete pole in front of me. Oh well, I decided, I’ll just bonk into it, there’s no other way to get out so I have no choice. I cringed as the front of the car connected with the pole. The sound was worse than I thought it would be. Once I was past the pole and had freed the car, I got out to inspect the damage.

Even though I hadn’t been moving fast, and even though I thought it hadn’t been that bad, the car was in terrible shape. The headlight was broken. Stomach lurching, I walked around the side and saw that the back roof of the car had been crushed down and the right side was caved in. I didn’t stop to consider how that had happened. I knew I couldn’t drive the car all the way home, so I called Paul.

“It doesn’t sound too bad,” he said when I told him about the damage. I was terribly embarrassed that I’d done this and did not tell him that I couldn’t find any other way out of the basement where I’d parked. “I’ll come take a look and we’ll get it taken care of.”

“It’s pretty bad,” I told him doubtfully, looking back at the ruins of my beautiful car.

And then I woke up.

It was Saturday morning, my alarm was going to go off in fifteen minutes, and it would be time to get up and go to the airport to leave for California. I rolled onto my side, mind swirling as I tried to process the dream I’d just woken from. Common sense had not played a very big part of the dream. How would I have gotten my car into a basement? And how would it be all smashed in just by rubbing up against a pole?  Silliness.

What a strange dream.