Monday, April 28, 2008

I'm a winner!

natalie dee
I'm a little revved up tonight; I'm not sure why. Not wanting to spend the ENTIRE evening playing PS2 I decided to go through my ever growing garage sale pile and starting sorting and labeling things so I'm ready to hit the driveway in early June to hawk my wares. In my frenzy, I marked more nearly $100 worth of unused and/or unwanted stuff in my apartment. And I have another $50+ worth of items currently posted on Craigslist.
I find selling things that were once loved and now no longer needed to be exhilarating in the same way that winning the lottery or scoring the jackpot on a slot machine is exhilarating. Garage sale earnings feel like getting something for absolutely nothing. "Someone will definitely want to buy this hot cocoa set still in its original packaging so they can give it to a friend or loved one," I murmur to myself, slapping a $2.00 or best offer sticker on the bottom. "Ohh! I remember when Joan gave that hand crafted dresser tray to me," thinking back to the ceremony where I received the token of gratitude from a former boss. "I don't need this anymore to recall those good feelings. How about $0.25?" And so goes the work.

I purposefully price things fairly low with the goal of creating the opportunity for someone to "find" something that they can brag about later. Have you ever had that experience - finding the perfect gift/purse/knick knack and feeling as if you got it for a song? It is a good feeling - and I like that I can MAYBE make that happen for someone else, all the while "earning" money for something I will enjoy.

Many of the things for sale are mementos from my life with Gabriel that I'm now ready to part with, housewares from the period in my life when I was still figuring out my "style", and gifts that I've received and never used. I have individual cut glass salt bowls I pilfered from my grandmother's stash after she passed away, Christmas ornaments I'll never use, a coffee maker that makes the drip brew I loathe, CDs that were long converted to electronic formats, and piles of gingham checked linens from kitchen tables long ago set. There is one backpack, two laptop bags, and a car trunk carrier for storing more stuff in your car.

I'm happy to part with all of it. I never use any of this stuff, and I am expecting to move out of my Laverne and Shirley Basement Dream Apartment by August for sunnier pastures. I am so energized by this exercise that I want to turn the apartment over looking for new things to sell at the as of yet still unscheduled garage sale.

Interestingly, what I'm finding is that the less stuff I have, the more I feel emboldened to realistically look for a new place to live. Perhaps it is the psychological impact of releasing things from a now done part of my past? Or maybe it is the simple fact that there is less to pack, and a clearer vision of what I need to fit into a new home?

I don't know what it is, but I feel like I've already won.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


I have a serious crush on the guy who sings on the "Free Credit" commercials. He's the cutie on the driver's side of the car in the picture here, the one with the shaggy light brown curls and the sweet round face. Haven't seen the TV commercials yet? Click here to see a YouTube version of it. Or click here to see a YouTube version of the OTHER one. Isn't he cute? And he makes me feel GOOD about getting a credit report.

I was reading USA Today while on vacation last week, and learned the object of my affection is a French Canadian actor who doesn't even speak English. (He fakes it really well on the commercials.) I also learned the following from ASK THE AD TEAM.
Eric Violette is the lead "singer" in three commercials (in a third, he sings about his "dream girl's" bad credit). Violette and his buddies do songs about how it (NOTE: the bad credit) has affected their lives. Violette, a French Canadian, sings and plays guitar in real life and has a following on the Web. Because he speaks little English, however, he lip-syncs the song in the ad, which is performed by a studio artist. The songs were written by David Muhlenfeld. The "band" in the ads, by The Martin Agency, is a group of actors.
So he really is just a pretty face - he isn't even really singing. Part of what I like is the singing with the cute face. When I search for "Eric Violette" on YouTube I find he is a little scruffier and his music is bluesy and far less happy than on the commercials. Seems like the bubble on the crush is about to be burst, yes?

Nope. I don't have to listen to Eric Violette the French Canadian actor/blues guitarist/performer. I can just watch the commercials over and over again, which I do, now that I've bookmarked them in my browser. Yee Ha!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Dream #6

Last night I dreamt I was cleaning a city pool in my hometown of Syracuse, NY. In my dream I was in beautiful Onondaga Park, but it wasn't actually Onondaga Park. Anyhow, my oldest sister wanted me to go swimming with her, but I wouldn't because the water was so dirty. There was a film of oil covering the top, mounds of sodden leaves filling large swaths of the pool, and pieces of clear plastic floating everywhere - broken measuring cups, utensils, egg drop soup takeout containers. I was maniacally cleaning the pool using one of those pool net cleaning things - getting progressively angrier because the pool was in the poor part of town, and did not have a dedicated cleaning crew paid by the City. My sister and all of the other people in the pool kept splashing me, encouraging me to swim, but I couldn't swim until it was clean. But, it seemed as if the pool would never be clean because (a) you cannot clean oily water with a sieve, and (b) every time someone jumped in, a new mound of leaves would get stirred up.


I resolved last night to join Weight Watchers again. I've gained more weight than I'm comfy with, and do not want to buy bigger clothes. So, when I get back from vacation, it is off to beautiful Twin City Plaza on the Somerville/Cambridge border to begin the process of counting points and being cajoled into weight loss by the fear of having the Weight Watchers ladies be mad at me each week when I weigh in. I think this dream is about my body being polluted, and my unwillingness to let myself play in my skin until it is "just right."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Regret #2

In ten years, I have paid off 50% of my $90,000 student loan bill, the result of seven years of education at expensive private universities. I don't regret my two graduate degrees - I know they have opened doors for me professionally. What I do regret is that I insisted on attending private colleges. I believed they were better than public institutions of higher education.

I came by this misperception as a result of having grown up in a family that struggled financially. My wanting made me believe that studying in old buildings with ivy covered walls filled with expensive books and lab equipment would negate the fact that my family purchased clothes in thrift shops and bought groceries at the discount market in the "ghetto." And I believed earning a degree at a public university was like buying my sheepskin from K-Mart.

I am smart and earned scholarships and, due to my parents' career choices, was eligible for significant financial aid. But I still finished my last degree $90K in the hole.

My monthly loan payment of $550 is a monkey on my back. I feel like I can't do the work I want in this world because it doesn't pay enough. I am afraid to buy a home for fear it will put me into bankruptcy. I am hampered by this debt in a way that restrains me uncomfortably.

I have worked in public higher education, and in a K-12 system since finishing that second graduate degree. And I've learned that public education is no different from a private education, except it is subsidized by the government in an effort to make academia available to more people. I respect this, and am sorry that my youth was so clouded by my internalized classism that I could not see this.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Regret #1

I woke up on Saturday morning thinking about regrets in my life. I have a handful of them, and the one on my mind as I lazily crawled out of bed at 10:00 in the morning was the de facto decision to not join the Peace Corps.

I interviewed for the Peace Corps when I was a late junior, maybe early senior in college. I was a Sociology major with minor courses of study in Women's Studies and Biology. I wanted to go to Central America, in part (I think) because an influential teacher in high school had been a Peace Corps volunteer in that part of the world. I had a terrible interview - with my interviewer essentially telling me that I was ill-prepared for life in a patriarchal third world nation, and my job (if I was accepted) was NOT to export American-brand feminism. The interviewer concluded that I needed to talk with returned volunteers to hear more about their experiences serving overseas in order to get a reality check prior to jumping in. So, I did this. My mom helped me set up interviews with our Congressman and a friend of the family who had both served - with difficult tours of duty. After reporting on my interviews and affirming my interest in the Corps, I never heard from them again. I never received a "hooray you are in," or "we still think you suck but good luck" letter. Nothing. So, I assumed I was out. And I was righteously indignant about it, likely to mask my sadness about not being accepted when I thought I was a shoe-in - if those shoes were hurraches (which indeed I owned, along with a par of classic Birkenstocks).

So, I made other plans, taking a really fantastic job as the Director of the Center for Women's Studies at Colgate University for the not-so-enviable rate of $12,000/year.

While I was home, waiting for my new job to start, I received a letter from the Peace Corps telling me that I had been given the assignment of working on an aquaculture project in Guatemala, and would I please sign this letter indicating my acceptance of the assignment. I can still remember what the icon on my assignment letter looked like - the black and white symbol indicating that my project was a fish farming project. And, between the fog of my indignation and my fear of disappointing the potential mentor who would be my boss at Colgate, I chose not to go.

And I woke up on Saturday wondering how my life would be different if I had gone. Could I imagine myself with "international fish farmer" on my resume today? Would I still be fluent in Spanish? How would the experience have influenced my politics, my living situation, my self-esteem and feelings of efficacy? Would I have been able to be bulimic in Guatemala? Would I have unconsciously felt the need to become bulimic in Guatemala? So many questions - all theoretic because I did not go.

What function do regrets serve? To stimulate emotions such as sadness, shame or anger? To make us generally feel bad about our current station in life, or alternately to prohibit pleasure or contentedness? To give us a handle for trying to understand what makes each one of us fundamentally unique? To help us refocus on priorities and goals unmet as of yet in our lives? I went through this dialogue internally. And quickly - it was all over in the 10 minutes it takes me to stretch awake, totter into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee, and then hop into the shower.

As a general rule I'm fairly content with my life. I also believe that my path - like so many paths on this journey in life - is circuitous. There are so many experiences that have made me who I am right now. If "international fish farmer" WERE on my resume, it is likely I'd be a different person that the one sitting here on the Pilates ball typing on a food splattered laptop. But, I'd still be me, only me.