Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of my friends and supporters of Stand-Up Librarian!  I am back in Florida with my family, where I am mostly enjoying the beach because it is so hot here.  Instead of a snowman, I had to build a sandman.  I named him Neil, in honor of Neil Gaiman who wrote The Sandman comic book series, but you knew this right?

The sunsets are absolutely incredible here.  This one inspired me to take off my flip-flops and Santa hat to go for a swim.  Until I got to the water and realized how cold it was.  Plus my parents were like "Put your clothes on, Meredith, there are kids out here!"

Then I got hungry and decided to make gingerbread because I am absolutely obsessed with it.  I don't know if this is because I am a 'ginger' or a just a fan of bread, so I did some research like any good librarian would.  Did you know we have Germany to thank for Gingerbread houses?

Instead of taking the next two days to make a Gingerbread Library, I settled on a Gingerbread Cheesecake, which I then topped with Gingerbread men cakes and Gingerbread men cookies.  Each cookie represents a guy I once dated.  Too bad I can't remember their names.

Anyway, if there is one thing I love more than libraries, it is the holidays! Whether walking on the beach, baking in the kitchen, or standing in a wooden wreath all by yourself, there are endless opportunities to give joy.  Writing on this blog always brings me joy, but it is a true Christmas miracle that there are people like you out there reading it!

I hope all of you have a safe and enjoyable holiday season with your family and friends.  It has been an interesting year but I am always aware that the true message of the holidays is to shop at Macy's.  No wait, stupid commercial just came on again.  The message is to BELIEVE.  In Santa.  In God.  In returns without a receipt.  Whatever.  Just believe in something.  We are all capable of anything if we believe...of course there is no guarantee on how long that will last, so that's where your family and friends come in.  After all, sometimes the best gift is just having someone believe in YOU!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Naughty or Nice?

“He's making a list
And checking it twice.
He's going to find out who's naughty and nice.
Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town.”

Looking at the ups and downs of 2011, I keep wondering if I am on Santa’s Naughty or Nice list this Christmas, as it really could go either way.  For example:

Didn’t tell sales associate she undercharged me for dress – naughty
Movie hopped at theater without paying for second film – naughty
Pretended to be wine club member at winery to drink free – naughty
Kept prop used in TV show as a souvenir - naughty
Told waiter it was my birthday to get free dessert - naughty
Volunteered at library – nice

So obviously based on the research, it is hard to tell.  Dang food & beverage temptations get me every time!  I guess later in the week I will find out whether I get coal in my stocking...again.  I kid I kid, Santa would never leave me coal.  I’ve been bribing him for years with my famous gingerbread cheesecake!  Naughty, again I suppose, but you've got to try the cheesecake.  You think Santa got jolly on cookies?  Yeah, right.  Anyway, it got me thinking about what it really means to be “nice,” especially since 2011 is the nicest I’ve been in years because I spent it mostly showing my love for libraries!  Yet here I am without a job and completely broke, while a ton of naughty folks get to keep working jobs they don't even do well (see above examples where I politely kept my mouth shut as not to embarrass them.  So nice of me!)

“Nice” is usually reserved for those people who are likeable.  Pleasant.  Helpful.   They are the people that never seem to say a bad thing about anyone or complain about anything.  They are the folks that smile a lot or tell random people on the street they should smile too.  Then again, maybe those last people are just weirdos.  Anyway, I think these so called "nice" people are also some of our best actors.

Just a few hours ago I was fast asleep, blanket pulled to chin, head resting comfortably on pillow, attending a private Coldplay concert in my dreams, but suddenly jolted awake due to a tap-tap-tap on my arm.  It wasn’t Gwyneth or Madonna but a fellow passenger on the plane asking me if I wanted crackers.  Sure, it was thoughtful of her to be my private stewardess, deeply concerned about my nutritional needs, but I doubt this woman would have been so “nice” had they been giving out diamond necklaces on Southwest Airlines.

Which is exactly my point.  Acting “nice” doesn’t make it true, nor does a "naughty" act make a person bad.  Nice just has a better reputation than naughty does.  A better publicist, perhaps.  

Being called “nice” should be taken like an insult, people!  It is a very non-creative, rather bland and lazy way to define a person, especially when we have such a vast vocabulary to pull from.  I’m nice but regardless of my generosity, love, and kindness, would hardly be described as “nice” because there are so many other colorful words that better describe me, and I don’t just mean the four-letter ones.

In reality, this passenger being “nice” was either a lack of intelligence in not realizing I was sleeping and uninterested in snacks, or a deliberate act with the means to wake me so I wouldn't miss viewing the endless clouds outside my window.  The reason didn't warrant an investigation as I wasn’t about to initiate further conversation out of fear in being trapped into a bored conversation about her love of breeding dogs or coin collecting.  So being the nice person I am, I just said “that’s okay” and pretended not be bothered.  Because the truth is, had I done anything else: told a joke, rolled my eyes, grabbed her crackers and threw them in her face; I would be labeled “naughty” according to the rules of our society, even though I was the one minding my own business!

And this is where us “naughty” people get a bad rap. “Naughty” is defined as being disobedient and mischieveous, however, sometimes we are simply nice people who point out the obvious, offer opinions, or ask questions that not everybody has the answer to.  We are the people that when “nice” people screw up, might point out a solution to correct the problem, or seize an opportunity as a result of the error, which in my opinion, doesn’t make us bad people, it makes us smart!  Sure, sometimes we write jokes or point and laugh at stupid people, but that’s probably only 50% of the time.  And to those “nice” people I’ve met who seem to be looking for approval, acceptance, or conversation on an airplane, read a book!  You might learn something naughty that might bring an even bigger smile to your face.

So the next time you come across a “naughty” person, you better think twice.  Some of us naughty folks are actually pretty nice too.  Unless of course, you wake them when they are sleeping...

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's a Wonderful Lifetime

“You broke the rules of my house and you broke the rules of my office, and then on top of all of that, you lied about it.  The truth is, you saved my company.  Thank you.  
Its Christmas, come on in.” 
Boss lady in “A Nanny for Christmas”

With Christmas just around the corner and no job to go to or car to drive, I have been spending most of my days being entertained by the endless holiday films on “It’s a Wonderful Lifetime,” because if you ever need a Christmas miracle, a marathon of Hallmark movies is a sure way to convince you they exist…if only in unrealistic storylines.

I just finished watching the one about the high-powered career woman who loses her job over a misunderstanding just before Christmas, then gets dumped by her boyfriend/fiancĂ© but ends up meeting the man of her dreams a few days later - first at a coffee shop, then at a soup kitchen - where they fall in love until she learns he lied about being insanely rich so they have a huge fight where somebody goes to the airport on Christmas Eve and then the other follows, where at the gate they both suddenly realize that lying or even knowing each other isn’t that big of a deal, so decide to spend Christmas getting married where somehow everybody’s family is suddenly there and it is snowing. 

Wait.  That sounds just like…all of them? 

But who doesn’t love the one with Tori Spelling as Scrooge?  Or Kristen Chenoweth as a NYC PR executive who gets fired and can only get a job doing PR in Montana.  Or my favorite, “A Nanny for Christmas,” the one that stars the lead actor from “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place.”  No, not Ryan Reynolds, he’s successful.  I mean the other one, what’s his name?  Anyway, he is the love interest of this girl who is an ad executive who gets fired and mistakenly becomes a nanny, then gets fired again because she lied about being an ad executive.  Why did the lady hiring and firing this girl not read her resume?  If she is supposedly running a successful ad agency, I would think reading copy would be critical, but that’s not the worst part, Dean Cain is in it.  Remember him?  Well, “Lois & Clark’s” Superman now has four scenes in a Hallmark movie.  Jeez, I think that is the saddest thing about these silly movies, having to see all of these actors who once had promising careers, reduced to this.

And that’s when it hit me.  A lot of really good-looking people get fired…but we can always count on Hallmark to pick up the pieces.  What is the ad slogan?  “When you care enough to send the very best.”  See, that is probably what Dean Cain’s agent said to get him to do the film.  Well, that and a huge paycheck, I would guess.  The point is, Dean was the best name in that thing!  It is still crap but Hallmark tells us to be the best crap you can possibly be, or something like that.  Anyway, what I am trying to say is that we all used to have careers or jobs that didn’t work out because of a misunderstanding…like refusing to get a cappuccino because you can’t froth the milk, or you backed a Fed Ex truck into a tree trying to make a three-point turn.  So what.  You cared enough to accept the job, care enough to suck at it!  Then leave that job with your head held high knowing you could always wear your uniform at Halloween.

And Hallmark also tells us that romance is all around!  Who hasn’t met somebody at an airport, a coffee shop or soup kitchen, secretly hoping they might be really rich and sweep you off your feet?  And so what if that rich guy ended up being a homeless guy in a donated Ralph Lauren sweater.  He probably used to be but you were just too late and some other golddigger beat you to it.  Everybody makes mistakes and Lifetime is right, it is a wonderful lifetime because life is full of wonderful mistakes, misunderstandings, and times with people who both stink and don’t stink.  There are Christmas miracles happening all around us, you just have to believe…and having a ton of free time on your hands certainly helps.

For example, just the other day I was standing in line for coffee and this guy says to me, “I’ve never met anyone like you.”  I couldn’t believe it!  It was the exact line from the ten Hallmark movies I had seen, plus because I had recently lost my job, this was obviously the part where I was meeting the man of my dreams!  I adjusted my plaid holiday scarf and reindeer antlers and turned to meet my Dean Cain.  I suppose he was kind of like Superman.  They both had dark hair, but this one was frowning and holding a snowman mug over his head like a weapon.  I guess I had cut him in line and he wasn’t pleased, but how was I supposed to know?  This stupid antler headband is like wearing blinders.  You can’t see a thing.  Oh well, so he wasn’t “the one” and unlike the films, didn’t want to laugh about it and go ice-skating in the park.  I mean Sabrina the Teenage Witch kidnaps Slater in “Holiday in Handcuffs” and they still ended up together, so I don’t know what this guy’s problem was.

Oh well, no need to panic.  I don’t leave for the airport till the 19th so I’ve got plenty of time to fall in and out of love before rushing off to my plane, where Dean Cain will suddenly appear at the gate to prevent me from going.  Hopefully we will live happily ever after…in a galaxy far, far away.  Shoot.  That is “Star Wars.”  I really need to stop watching TV.  

Or if this doesn’t work out, be a nanny. 

Link to It’s a Wonderful Lifetime:

Link to Hallmark Channel holiday movies:

However, if you need some help this holiday season...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

MINI Problems

The first picture of my Mini after getting it in November of 2006.

Saturday night I ran a quick errand.  Little did I know that it was the last time I would be driving my beloved Mini Cooper.  The transmission died as I was exiting a parking garage at Hollywood & Highland.  I was hurrying because I didn’t want to pay more than the already overpriced $2.  Later, the mechanic would estimate that a new transmission would cost around $7,000.  With not even seven hundred dollars in the bank, seven thousand was going to be impossible.

While the Mini is obviously just a car, it has however, been a dependable friend throughout my five years in Los Angeles.  I could always count on my ‘Silver Bullet’ to be there for me and get me where I needed to go.  It was security.  It was freedom.  It was also the first thing in my entire life that I handled completely on my own from the initial purchase to payments and insurance to gas and repairs.  I was always proud that regardless of my money troubles over the years, I managed to remain responsible in my decision to buy and care for it.

I bought the silver 2003 Mini Cooper slightly used from a Lexus dealer in November of 2006.  I had just moved to Los Angeles in September to focus on acting and comedy while finishing my library degree.  I’d been driving a rental car while I figured out if I wanted to stay.  After swearing that I would never do PR again after 2003, I caved and accepted a position working for a man who was paying me a ridiculous amount of money to take him to red carpet events so he could be “famous.”  I hated it, but I was making good money and knew it was temporary until I got a librarian job.

I remember that first test drive in the Mini.  It was dark, probably around eight at night, and I was speeding down the PCH.  The windows were down, the sunroof was open, and the whole time I was thinking, I did it.  After leaving NYC in 2004 confused and disappointed, I spent the next 2½ years repairing myself and getting out of debt.  I had accomplished a great many things and was enjoying the moment.  I knew the car was just the beginning of the many successes I would find in LA.  I knew this time, I would find lasting success and happiness because I was a different person now.  I was grounded.  I had experience.  I was going to be a librarian who told jokes.

That Mini took me to places I never imagined: countless jobs that didn’t last; auditions where I didn’t get the part; comedy performances where nobody came; and moved me in and out of five different residences.  There were several road trips too, the most important being in November of 2009 when my brother and I drove it back to Florida so I could finish my Masters degree, where a year later, my dad and uncle would then drive it back to Los Angeles, because I was too busy with jobs to do it myself.  The battery would die along the way, perhaps an indicator that trouble was on the horizon.

I met the love of my life in that Mini, where two years later he would also break my heart, ironically just before he was going to drive it across the country without me.  It was like the Mini knew before I did that my relationship was really over, and the time spent repairing myself hadn’t made a difference to him.  Perhaps one day when my heart heals, I will once again be open to driving in the carpool lane.  Sometimes traffic is easier to take when you have someone to ride with, but until then I will enjoy cutting off men in Porsches.  I mean, if you are going to get in an accident, make it a possible love connection, right?

So you can see that the Mini was never just a car to me.  It was a symbol of freedom and protection.  I call it the ‘Silver Bullet,’ not because I like Coors Light, but because I kind of thought of the Mini as my protection against the many monsters in Los Angeles.  No matter how many times they tried to take me down, I could fight them off by putting up the windows and taking a few deep breaths.  The Mini was also my way out.  When things would get to be too much, I would drive down to San Diego or over to Big Bear and see friends who would tell me I was strong and should keep fighting.

Sadly, the damages to the Mini are just too large for me to repair this time.  Like that car, I will finally admit that I too am broken.  The body looks good but under the hood is years of wear and tear, resulting in a much bigger problem that can’t be fixed so easily.  At this point in my life, I just can’t afford any more bumps in the road no matter how clear that street seems to look on certain days.

It’s like when you are on a road trip and you know you should stop for gas but keep telling yourself that if you can make it 10 more miles, you get the exit with the Wendy’s.  Then you see a sign for an In-N-Out, which is only 20 more miles, even better, you think.  Then there’s a sign for Red Robin in just 40 miles?  Jeez, you are caught up in so many reasons why you should keep going that you ignore the reasons you shouldn’t – YOU ARE OUT OF GAS! 

Most of the time, your procrastination doesn’t really change the course of your trip in a major way, but once in awhile fate steps in and your car slows to a stop.  You are now in the middle of nowhere and there are coyotes approaching the vehicle.  You kick yourself for liking hamburgers and seeing the signs but not paying attention to what they were really saying.  A burger would be awesome but there is no guarantee you will ever taste them.  And of course, sometimes in life, we just run out of gas.

Had it been another nail in the tire, a dead battery, or coolant hose, I would fix it and probably continue down this same road that I have been driving for the past five years.  Seriously, this road has a ton of potholes but I keep driving and buying tons of crap I don’t need from stupid gift shops thinking it is going to make the trip more exciting so when I finally get to my destination I am going to look fabulous!  Listen, nobody needs 75 T-shirts when you never leave the car.  

Anyway, I think my Mini is trying to help me one last time.  It is saying STOP. 

Without a transmission, a car cannot go backwards or forward, it just sits in neutral until somebody is annoyed and pushes you out of the way.  You can make the decision to remain in the car knowing that you won’t be going anywhere, or you can turn the car off, open the door, and get out.  I am choosing to get out while I still have the strength to continue the journey on foot, or bus, or rickshaw, or whatever. 

As usual I have no idea where I am going.  It might be a rest stop, it might be a racetrack, and it might be back to NYC, a place I have always regretted leaving (that also doesn’t require a car.  Hmmm.)  What I do know is this - the higher power I am trusting to take the wheel of my life will not leave me stranded on the side of the road.  That's why I have AAA (and something called faith.)

***In addition to the Mini, my library studies were the only other stable thing I had during my time in Los Angeles.  I thought of quitting on numerous occasions, even took a semester off or two, but it was in graduating with that Masters degree that gave me the confidence to try Los Angeles this second time.  I think it is fitting that my Mini was in Florida so I could drive it to graduation - probably the most important trip of my life.  I am therefore thankful that the two things that cost me the most money – my car and my Masters degree - ended up paying off in some great adventures and many life lessons.  Plus without them, I doubt I would have lasted this long.  I also want to mention that while a car only loses value over time, a college degree will do the exact opposite.  Invest in your mind and you will truly have the freedom to go anywhere…

Taking the Mini down Lombard Street
in San Francisco, November 2008.

My brother and I just before we drive the Mini
back to Florida, November 2009.
Using the Mini to move out of a bad living
situation, November 2010.

The Mini's transmission dies and is hauled
to the garage, December 2011.