Little Yellow Slips of Paper

My goal for the past, oh, three weeks or so has been to drag myself to Pasadena City College to make a counseling appointment. Yesterday I finally made it (yay me!) only to be told to come back in the morning. At 8:00 a.m. they will give me a same-day appointment, which means not only will I have to come back, I’ll have to come back twice in one day. Swell.

yellow slip

Dutifully, by 8:02 this morning I’m standing in a very long line waiting to make this counseling appointment. I see people with little yellow slips of paper. The woman handing them out hides in an office as soon as I make eye contact. I choose not to take it personally. Still, I have a bad feeling. All will be revealed at the end of this line, however, so I wait.

As I get closer to the window, I spy the little yellow slips of paper sitting upright on a counter, but I refuse to relinquish my spot in line to snag one. A woman asks the young man in front of me if he has a pen. He does not, so I fish around in my purse and offer her one. As she fills out her little yellow slip of paper, I notice the man in front of me doesn’t have one either. I venture away from the security of the line, acquire two little yellow slips of paper, and offer one to the young man. Someone else in line produces a pen and offers it to him before he can even ask. “Wow, ” he says, “Everyone is so nice!”

A staff member comes through the line, checks little yellow slips of paper and makes sure everyone is in the right place. She arrives at our young man. Turns out he’s a veteran, and doesn’t have to wait in this long line after all:  the Veterans Services office will handle anything he needs.

My heart’s a little lighter watching him walk away with his little yellow slip of paper. The universe was on his side today. He must’ve needed a little boost of kindness to get him through this ridiculous college process. Who knows; maybe if we had all stayed in our own little queue bubbles, he would’ve gotten overwhelmed and left. I would’ve been right behind him.

I make it to the window at about 8:30. The woman says I’m #10 to see the “express” counselor, so I can go have a cup of coffee and come back at 9:45. She keeps my little yellow slip of paper. I spend the hour at my mom’s house eating grapes and composing this blog post.

The bad news: apparently I’m so old, curriculum requirements have changed, so I have to take a few more classes than I thought. The good news: I can do everything else on-line, so I won’t need to stand in any more lines with little yellow slips of paper.

To Be A Prune

“How do you make a hormone?”

“I don’t know, how?”

“Don’t pay her!”


I need to be a prune.

Prunes are dry, devoid of water, fluid, hormones, blood.  They don’t have mood swings.  Prunes are steady: they’re never grumpy or cross.  Prunes are constant.  Prunes don’t worry or feel guilt, or feel bad about anything really.  They don’t have to, because prunes always get it right the first time.

A prune knows it’s place in the world.  It knows its strengths and doesn’t concern itself with weakness.  Prunes to their job and the rest of the world be damned.  Prunes are always on time.  Prunes aren’t vain, ever.  They don’t anguish over silly things like wrinkles: a warm bath and pop!  Instant youth!

A prune is never in it for the attention.  You can take it or leave it, and it really means that.  It never feels the need to rub it in your face.  A prune is mannerly by default because it’s never rude or discourteous.  Whether or not its taste is impeccable is irrelevant:  it’s a matter of choice and it understands that.  Prunes don’t judge.

Prunes never lack self-confidence.  They never torture themselves about being apple-shaped or pear-shaped: they’re all prune-shaped, and that’s good enough, always.

I need to be a prune.

Dichotomy, the Pompous Ass

Last week my writing group had a prompt that tickled me:  “Can you use the word ‘dichotomy’ in a story without sounding like a pompous ass?  Give it a try!”  Psh! I can use any word in a story without sounding like a pompous ass.  It’s my superpower.  As a matter of fact, my superhero title is HRM Queen Antipompousness, Duchess of Downtoearthedness and Lady Somethingerother.  But you can call me Hey Sweetie for short.

Here’s my piece, slightly altered for the masses:

Every time I write, I struggle with the dichotomy of what is brilliant and what is bullshit.  Naturally, I think it’s all bullshit.  Then something miraculous happens:  I share this bullshit, and people react!  They do crazy things like laugh or say, “Wow!”  Then I’m brilliant!  bRiLliAnT!!!  With trumpets and multicolored font!

Here’s a good example.  Esther, my writing teacher, says, “Write with the camera eye.”  I suck at that.  I tend to go overboard with adjectives.  I need to pick something simple and write it like I see it.  I can do it! So I choose a moment when I’m in a restaurant parking lot waiting for a friend.  I’m still in my car because it’s hot outside and I can’t bear to leave my AC.

The crap that ends up on paper is not camera eye.  It’s the verbal equivalent of Dora the Explorer as the Virgin of Guadalupe in chalk:  the colors are wispy and pretty but on the whole it’s just wrong and a little uncomfortable.   Here’s my final sentence:  “My heart feels lighter as one turn of my key stills my personal shoebox, and I brave the sear of the blacktop for the sake of time with a friend.”  In other words, my friend has arrived.  I don’t want to get out of my car, but I do because duh, that’s why I’m here.

Esther’s feedback takes up just as much space as the piece itself.  Of course it does.  It should have taken up twice the space.  Who writes that kind of crap?  I do.  So I’m back to the flipside of the dichotomy, waiting to be brilliant again.

Did I fail?  Don’t be afraid to tell me if I did.  I won’t cry in front of you.

Attention Divided

I can’t write today.  I’m too distracted.

I log into Facebook, as I do several times a day out of sheer habit.  I see Esther (Esther Bradley-DeTally, world citizen, writing teacher extraordinaire and a beautiful soul) shared a link.  It’s a blog called Mel’s Madness.  Hey, I have a blog!  I’ll visit Mel for inspiration.

Mel is subscribed to a blog called My Name Is Not Bob.  Why, so is Esther!  I should check him out.

Not Bob shares a story from Bernadette, who had a paradigm-shifting experience when she lost her passport in Peru.  Amazing.  Would I learn a life lesson from an experience like that?  Probably not.  I’d crawl into a hole under a rock and never leave Los Angeles again.  Turns out Bernadette is from Ventura.  Dude, I love Ventura!

Esther posted a link to another blog.  Someone calling himself MiskMask.  Where do people come up with this stuff?  Someday I’m going to break into spontaneous creativity, like a flashmob of good ideas in my brain, and pull out a clever alias like MiskMask or Sorry Gnat or Not Bob.  It was all I could do to chose something-dot-wordpress-dot-com, and it’s not at all witty.

This MiskMask guy used a picture as a writing prompt.  How ingenious!  In five sentences he turned a strange little figure with swirly eyeglasses and a fur coat into a guy named Dan who works on a merry-go-round.  Brilliant!  I need to see more.   I find his previous blog entry, which lists writing tips from John Steinbeck.  Number one says, “Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish.”  I think of the memoirs I’m helping my grandmother write.  Oh. My. GAWD!  I’m never going to finish!!!  Abandon all hope, ye who enter this acursed realm o’ writing!

This is ridiculous.  I’ve got to write.  Watermelon.  I’ll write about watermelon.  Cheap, intoxicating, improperly balled, seasoned with lemon and mint, grilled like a steak, sold from the back of pickup trucks, offered as gifts from Great Grandpa.  I could go on and on about these damn politicians who don’t care about taxpayers as long as they look good on TV…wait, what?

My thoughts have been infiltrated by an old man armed with a web browser.  Swell.

“Look at this:  they’re talking about retirement savings.  There’s no such thing, okay.  You can spend your whole life saving up for retirement, but these idiots find a way to take it from you before you’re even eligible to retire.  Did you read this article about global warming?  Look, if they’re so worried about the polar ice caps melting, they should build an ark like that Noah guy and just wait it out there.  Jeez, look at this lady…”


So, please forgive me for not writing today.  I’m entirely too distracted.

And So It Begins

How in the world do I start a blog?  I opened the account, finally decided on a username and such, but what I really want to know is what I’m supposed to say now?  Do I start like I’m walking into someone’s 12-step program?

“Hello. My name is Janine, and I’m a blogger.”

“Hi, Janine!”

Maybe I should tell my life story.  Perhaps I should pretend I’m the straight man in my life and introduce you to the insane cast of characters around me.  Maybe I should go Classified Ad and start right off with my likes and dislikes.

Nah!  I think I’ll stick with the Bill W. format.

Hi.  I’m Janine.  I’m blogging.