Sunday, September 14, 2008

Making lemonade

This would be figuratively, not literally. The way my weekend started, it could have been a total disaster.

Friday afternoon while at work, my cellphone rang. It was the fraud prevention unit from my bank calling. The automated voice asked if I had recently tried to use my debit card, or had authorized someone else, to make a transaction in the amount of $102.50. Ummm nope. So I hit the button to indicate my answer of "No." Then the music started while I waited for a real person. After a couple of minutes, I decided to pull my account information up on the computer. WTF?!!! Someone had made two withdrawals of $202.50 from my account earlier in the day. Not pending transactions. Transactions that were already posted to my account. It gave the address so I looked it up online. A gas station to which I have never been. More music playing. At this point, I was freaked out to say the least. I stayed on hold for about 25 minutes. And then I was disconnected. I called the bank back. I was on hold for about another 40 minutes on this call before I got a live person. She once more asked about the transaction for $102.50 as well another attempted transaction for about $150. I explained to her that I had not authorized either of these transactions. She said that she would cancel my card -- that was still in my possession -- and issue a new one. I then asked about the two that had posted to my account. She put in for a provisional credit for those two. And then told me that the money would be back in my account by the 19th. The thing is that I had already sent out some checks to pay some bills. And my current account balance? It was not going to cover all of those checks. She said that if the checks hit my account before the bank had returned the money to my account, then yes, the bank would be returning them. But they would reverse any fees incurred because of this. Really assuring. I tried my best to think happy thoughts. OK. So the wine I picked up on my way home helped some.

Saturday morning? I had resolved to get through the weekend on my credit card. And so I got up to take my car to the shop so that they could complete the repairs. Last weekend, I had been told that it would take two hours. I had brought a couple of books with me for the wait. Right before I headed for the waiting area, I asked how long it would take. "Two hours for each part. Four hours." This would be when I felt like crying.

And then I remembered all of that stuff I had written in the last week. I reminded myself that I had updated my iTunes software on Thursday night and the software on my iPhone on Friday night. So I put on my headphones and tried out the new genius playlist feature. I chose "A Beautiful Mine" (Some of you may know this as the theme song to "Mad Men.") as my first song. And that little genius in the software? Came back with a mix of some of my favorites including NWA, Public Enemy and EPMD. And so while I read my book, I found myself chuckling at Chuck D. saying, "Most of my heroes don't appear on no stamps." I smiled when I heard a guy talking about, "A girl who's shooting up this world like Shaft." From the first time I heard this song, I always imagined that I was that girl. By the time that I heard EPMD say, "Relax your mind...". I was well on my way there. And I threw in a little "Woo sai" to be safe.

I started thinking that my luck had turned around when I drove over to the Berkeley Public Library and instantly found a space in front. I thought to myself that my unwillingness to give into the negative had led me to this parking space. And then I went inside and discovered that the self-checkout machine was not handling DVD or CD rentals. Just my luck. I had scraped the change out of my wallet to pay for the meter fee. Fortunately I was out before my time expired.

I still had that residual daringness left from "Looking Out the Front Door" left in me though. And this is what made me daring enough to try something that only an insane person would do -- go into Berkeley Bowl in the middle of the day on a Saturday. And unfortunately my list was too large for a hand basket. So I got a cart and "ditched" it at strategic moments -- like when dealing with the produce section. I left the cart at the periphery in these instances and walked my finds back to it.

After sitting in the chair in the car dealership waiting room, my lower back pain had returned. Did I mention that I walked into Thursday's belly dancing class with this pain? And that it was still present on Friday morning? But by Friday evening it was non-existent. But by Saturday afternoon, the pain was fully raging. And so as I maneuvered the narrow aisles of Berkeley Bowl, I silently prayed that no one would bump into me.

All was good until I got in line at the checkout. The family in front of me had "that kid." This kid kept weaving his way through the various carts for entertainment. And if your cart was in his way? Well, he just pushed it out of the way. Now I must admit that the majority of the time while this was happening, it was just him and his dad. I figured that dad was clueless so I forgave him. Then mom showed up and I changed my mind. Especially after the kid started picking up my stuff from the conveyor belt while his parents were being rung up. Hello, people. Your germ-ridden kid is touching my stuff. It's moments like these that makes me want to slap entitled, oblivious liberals. (Oh, and did I mention that PMS also kicked in this weekend. Ummmmm. Yeah.) Instead I gave the kid "that look." He dropped my stuff and fled back to his parents, never to be seen in my personal space again. Oh, and this was the only kid with them. I dunno. I figure that two adults and one kid? One of the adults should be able to keep the kid in check. So all this crap happened but I was determined to keep the positive things I had planned for the weekend going.

And so I give you moussaka -- once more. With ground lamb this time. Because early last week I realized that I had not consumed any eggplant the entire summer. And there was also that change in weather. Except for yesterday, most of this week has had a distinctly fall kind of feeling in the Bay Area.

But the moussaka in many ways took second stage to this. The chop is from a pork rib roast that was brined before roasting. (And so could not be eaten on Saturday.) On a bed of polenta. With braised Swiss chard. You can thank the fine folks at "Bon Appetit" and Zoomie for this menu. The article was about local foods, I believe. And this particular dish was about how Southern meets Italian. The recipe said that you could use Swiss chard but it was originally made with collard greens. Love me some collards. Just didn't feel like cleaning them.

And so food is what got me through the negative. Even if I did have to put it all on my credit card since I no longer had any cash. But that's the positive upon which I chose to focus. What if I hadn't had room on my credit card to get through the weekend? That would have sucked completely. However, I did. And while it is not my favored method of payment, I was still able to do the things that I had originally planned for the weekend.

And then I thought about Taoism. This is precisely the kind of situation that Taoism speaks to. Sometimes life hands you a bunch of crap. It's all about how you deal with the situation. You can freak out and say, "Poor me." Or you can move on. Because true happiness comes from realizing that things happen and not trying to fight the crap but instead managing to move through it all -- with yourself intact.*

* Yes, I have been reading The Tao of Pooh once more. I told y'all that the book keeps me grounded.

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