Sunday, October 31, 2010

It's the high-five of commitment.

The other morning I woke up with the words "Children's Hospital" in my head. And then, as I was doing my morning reading over coffee, I came across an article about this woman. And then of course I started bawling, because that's just what happens whenever the words "kids" and "cancer" show up in the same sentence.

I had already decided long ago that I would donate a percentage of all profits made from "The Space You Take" (the book I'm currently working on) to Children's of Minnesota. In fact, that is one of the only things that propels me to work on it when everything else inside of me doesn't want to do it. Writing this book has been hard because a large part of it is about Munchkin being diagnosed with leukemia...which is not exactly something that is or ever will be easy for me to talk about. I would give my bones to save another child or family from going through what Munchkin and those who loved him suffered through in those dark winter days when he was in the throes of cancer. But since organizations do not typically take bones as a philanthropic contribution, I guess I'm just going to have to give them money instead.

So as I said, giving to Children's of Minnesota has always been the plan for "The Space You Take." But then I woke up this morning with those words in my head, and then I read that article, and I thought, "Why not now? And why not take it a step further?"

So from today until the end of November, $2 from every copy of HOLIDAY CHICK (available here, here, and here) sold will be donated to the Children's Cancer Research Fund. They are doing amazing things with the funding that they have received...and the findings that have come out of their research allow excellent doctors and nurses like the ones at Children's to better help children and their families.

And if we sell 250 books or more, I'll double that contribution to $4 for every copy sold.

So there you go. Not only will you improve your literary life, you'll also be killing cancer. And, it just so happens that this is the perfect time to buy a copy as a gift for a friend, family member, or acquaintance whom you're trying to butter up for a favor later (also, don't forget that if you buy copies directly from me or from Common Good, your book can also come with a special, personalized message and autograph. Fancy!). It will even make you feel good...like dancing to Hall & Oates, or running to "Eye of the Tiger", or even doing karate kicks to "The Best Around"...only better, because instead of just being champions of great soft rock and an active lifestyle, we're now fighting for children's lives.

Please join me.

EDIT: And now, just in time for all of your bulk-book Christmas shopping needs, you can also buy the book here!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

This is the first day of your life, Part 2

"I think you should just quit. I think you should do it tomorrow!" My friend Erica had exclaimed to me over the boisterous din of Bryant Lake Bowl the night before. We were sitting at the table that connected the softly-lit dining room and bar with the thunder-cracking-loud bowling ally. We were there for two reasons: A., Catch the 2nd week of Ben Weaver's Tramping with Pioneers series, because the first one was astounding and he's the only singer-songwriter who's managed to make me weep in years and he loves Greg Brown so I have to support that, right? And B., to work on a new creative idea that we had suddenly latched on to with fervor.

"I wish," I mumbled, as I typed out an action list. Earlier that night I had discovered a wonderful mishap with my banking called "identity theft", and then, my beloved and long-held Spyphone ("like Zoolander, right? You ever see that movie, Zoolander? Where he has that tiny phone that he holds up to his ear like, hello? Hello?!") died on my way to meeting Erica at the BLB. Insofacto, I was in no position to contemplate total life changes.

Still, I couldn't help myself from recounting to Erica how I had sat in my car a couple of days before, seriously debating the thought of strolling into my boss's office that morning to tell her that I was taking my Mondays back. The relief from the thought - just the sheer release - made me think back to all of those times when I had a boyfriend whom I knew, deep down, I was going to have to dump...and that once I did, I would be able to breathe again, I would have a new lease on life! Yet it was the planning out of doing it, and wishing that you didn't have to, and the secretly hoping, in the middle of the night when you were laying in bed and drifting off, that maybe something would just happen...maybe he would suddenly have to flee the country due to drug smuggling charges...or he would suddenly fall in love with some girl he met at the bar that night and decide that she was the one, I wasn't, sorry, Amber, you're off the hook...or, I don't know, heroically push a kid out of the way of a speeding bus, and not die, but just be in a really long, really peaceful coma for about five years - short enough so that he wouldn't miss out on too much of life, but long enough so that no one would blame me if he woke up to find that I had moved on...

You deserve good things. That was the epiphany I had told her about just a few days before. Sitting up in a hot bathtub a few weeks before, with my hair piled up in a high, loose bun, smoothing soap onto the skin of my left leg and staring at the droplets of water as they slowly sneaked out the faucet, I softly repeated the phrase aloud to myself and felt something shift. It was such a simple thought, yet each time I repeated it, my mind kept bringing up all the things I had been holding against myself. How the other revelation that had occurred this spring - that I may not have been the direct cause of all the grief I had felt in the past 6 years, but that deep down, I felt I had deserved it - had been sinking in, but hadn't really settled down into the core until right then, just that night. I had been playing with the idea, since, that maybe I had another chance, now. I could go back and do all the things I had meant to do, before. All the things I had planned to do, before I lost the energy to do anything, after. But to go back, I had to start believing that I deserved to. That all the things I wanted could be mine, if I wanted them. That the only doors closed to me were the ones I was shutting in my own face.

And that's when everything opened up, began to sing. I'll spare you the rest of the details (mostly because they're part of a book that I'll be charging you $19.99 for in the near future), but I realized, probably for the first time in ten years, that if I wanted to be happy, I could be happy, and I could do it now. And if I wanted the kind of life that I daydreamed about, I could have it, and not just in ten years, but right now. I was smart, I was capable, I was creative, I was tenacious, and I was resilient. And I'm going to get everything I want, I remember thinking. Which was a startling contrast to what I had been telling myself for the past 6 years, which is that this all you're going to get, stop hoping for more, all you have is all that you deserve.

Which, to bring us back to the point, included my job.

It was never supposed to be this way. That's what I would think, when I would catch myself looking back on the 9 years I had been in the behavioral therapy field. It started out as an alternative to working at another gas station - I was still living up north, just months away from England, and I saw an ad in the paper that asked, "Do you want a job that means something?" Yes, I remember thinking. That's pretty much all I want right now. Then I realized that I had a talent for it. Something I was really good at, something I could do almost on autopilot. So when I came home from England, I picked it back up again. But I always intended on doing something else - humanitarian work, preferably overseas, in fact. Something that not a lot of people know about me is that, when I was 24, I had been accepted into a really great international studies program. I even had an apartment lease signed, most of my bags were packed...and then B offered me a job. Private practice, working with Munchkin, whom I was already halfway in love with. And then he got sick, I moved down here, and...I think the part that I really missed when I decided to work at the center wasn't behavioral therapy. It was Munchkin.

But I never really found him again - that kind of love for another client. I aced my CORES and Skills Assessments, kept getting promoted, and soon it just felt like...why not stay. If you're good at this, and things keep getting better, and if you really do love it sometimes, in some form...why not just...stay?

And so, cue the spring revelation, the Summer of My Discontent, and the bathtub epiphany. And then there was that week in August when I was up at my parent's place on the lake. I was stressed out about The August of My Suspended License, about missing work, about making my monthly budget. I distinctly remember sitting at the wooden table on the porch with my parents and my little brother Dan, looking out at the green forest and the rainy sky, and thinking, suddenly, "I could give all of it up." I could sell all of my things, give up my apartment, quit my job, and just...leave. Head out west like I've always wanted to, hang out with my friend Scott and learn how to surf and snowboard and mountain climb and write and take pictures and start over. Why couldn't I, I remember thinking. Why not. And there was such freedom in that thought. That, once the serious consideration of actively giving it all up snapped into my mind, I realized that I really didn't "need it all." And that, more to the point, I no longer really wanted it.

And so I woke up, and the Thirty Year Freakout had begun.

Friday, October 22, 2010

For years we've been talking about this on An Amber-Colored Life.

And now someone finally did it.

The Haunting of Betty White's Box

Last night Katykins and I descended upon the Third Thursday at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

This was my costume. I amended "Your Mom's Box" to "Betty White's Box", because I felt it was more artistic.

Jason was there! At this point I had to hold Betty White's Box because the tape we used was not sticky enough to stick to my shirt for any length of time. So instead I just carried Betty White's Box around with me. She loved it.

Jason and his lovely wife Alyssa joined us on the tour of the Third Floor. Organizers of Third Thursday, take note: I was supremely bummed to learn that you could only access the "haunted tour" if you downloaded an app on your iPhone or Android. Not everyone has these phones (don't get me wrong - my phone's pretty cool. Pretty cool without having to be an iPhone or Android), which means that one of the very things you featured as being part of the event, which in fact probably brought out a large number of attendees, now excludes them. Poor form.

And, I may note, the "Art is Alive!" portion was not the same thing as a haunted tour. Really awesome idea - seriously, loved it, and you've got a great PR gem in your cardinal-playing guy -but the only really freaky thing about it was the big-eyed, getting-all-up-in-my-personal-space, very-intense costumed lady in the Georgia room. Jason agreed. She was scary.

Here we are in the Conneticut Room, which I have always hated and was thus delighted when I learned 2 years ago that it was reportedly most haunted part of the museum, because until that time I felt so alone in my aversion to its utter creepiness -

As you can see, Jason is freaking out by how haunted it is.

The only other happenings of note is that Alyssa intimidates me with her amazing fashion sense every time I see her, Jason is very good at picking out the symbolism of baroque-style portraits, Katy's sheer hatred of hipster boys has actually grown since viewing some of the members of Vampire Hands, Katy and I learned for the 200th time that we do not do well in crowds of artsy folk, and there was a guy that I swore was Garrison Keillor but Katy said wasn't, so if it turns out that it actually was, Katy owes me dinner at Chipotle.

We didn't actually bet on that or anything. I just really like it when Katy buys me dinner at Chipotle.

The End.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

'Cause they is.

In the days back when I worked in juvie hall, there was this little shrimp kid, William. William had the classic Napoleon complex, only it was worse because he was stuck in a high-security detention center with guys who had actually hit puberty already and who had gotten into their current illustrious lodging for doing things like car-jacking or robbing homes or assault. Not for doing stuff like stealing girls' underwear from the gym locker rooms and strewing them all over the school halls.

Anyway. William and I did not typically get along because of said complex, but my favorite memory of him is how, in reference to any type of story, piece of news, or minor antedote concerning a white person, William would throw his head back, make a "psst" sound with his lips, shake his head, and then mouth off, "White people be crazy!" It didn't matter what it was about - it could be a story about a white person paying $400 for an iPhone. It could be a news piece on a white man driving his car into a building after suffering from a seizure. It could be me, saying something like, "Hey, tonight I'm going to a movie at 10 when I get off work." Every single time - "Psst! White people be CRAZY!"

One day, when William was being particularly annoying, I called him out for it, asking him if he didn't think that was just a little bit racist.
"Nah, Miss Amber," he replied.
"So you don't think it's racist for me to say, "Ah, black people be stupid!" every time a black person does something to make them end up on the news?"
"Nah, Miss Amber, you can't be sayin' that! That's racist!"
"Exactly my point, William. So why is it okay for you to call white people crazy?"
"Cause they is."
"Your logic is dazzling, William."
"Huh?! What you mean by my "logic is dazzling?!"
"Nothing."
William starts to walk away. "Psst..." he says, shaking his head. "White people be crazy."
"William!"

The best part about this is that it's now become one of my favorite sayings. For instance -

About two weeks ago Katy and I decided to go to Gastof's for their Oktoberfest in an effort to avoid the deluge of people going to the Zombie Pub Crawl. As we were at a nearby gas station, gassing up my car, I hear this one guy start to say to another guy by him, "What?! What she doin'? Halloween? That ain't until, like, the end of this month!"
I turned my head to see what he was looking at and saw a girl in a pink dress with zombie makeup on. "It's for the Zombie Pub Crawl tonight," I called out.
"Oh really?" He asked, still staring at her. "That's cool, I guess."
I got back into my car, and as we were driving away, Katy asked, "What were you talking to that guy about?"
"He saw a girl dressed up in zombie gear and was like, "What? Halloween ain't until the end of October!" So I told him it was for the Zombie Pub Crawl tonight."
"Oh, yeah."
"And then he was like, 'White people be crazy!"
"He did not!" Katy said, laughing.
"I know, but he should have."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The History of Halloween, Updated.

2007: The Douchebag costume. Made out of a black garbage bag with feminine douche product packaging taped strategically and artfully across it. The bag was short enough to look cute with black tights and black Mary Janes, saving me once again from a year of having to do the Slutty Occupation (I'm a slutty nurse! I'm a slutty cop! Oh wait, look who it is, it's the slutty librarian who not only loves to read, but also loves to DO IT) type-costume.

2008: 2 Girls & 1 Cup. Two schoolgirl type outfits, split and made into one. A styrofoam cup velcro'd to my chest. It was a play on words.

2009: Nothing. Had to miss Halloween - which was going to include Madison's State Street - due to being sick . It was the saddest Halloween ever.

2010: Everyone in the entire world should come out to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts tomorrow evening for their Third Thursday, where there will be haunted tours, live music by Vampire Hands, and the world premiere of this year's costume, entitled, "Your Mom's Box."


Monday, October 18, 2010

Why Kanye West and I are the same person.

Evidence taken from his Twitter feed from last night:

"I'm actually tweeting at a credenza" - "I hate when I'm on a flight and I wake up with a water bottle next to me like oh great now I gotta be responsible for this water bottle" -
"Is it super lonely and miserable to buy yourself a Cartier love bracelet... well I guess I do love my self lol!!!" -
"I hate when people type LOL next to shit that is nooo way near LOL-able..." - "Banned in the USA!!! They don't want me chilling on the couch with my phoenix! http://twitpic.com/2ykxjk"
I would be upset about this too, Kanye. The banning of a beautiful piece of artwork that is obviously a homage to a South Park episode or a Tenacious D song is outrageous in this country. You truly are just chilling on the couch with your phoenix, and everybody has just got to be okay wit' it.

Monday, October 11, 2010

This is the first day of your life.

Written to my friend Erica on Friday, October 1st:

Okay. So I just quit my job today.

I hadn't been planning on it. This morning and all through the day I had been telling myself that I was going to stick it out. Then, right at the end of the day, I got called into a meeting with my supervisor, center director, and CEO. They were concerned about my commitment and what seemed to be a lack of passion and engagement in the last few months. I was going to have to prove to them that I still wanted to be there. And I thought about lying, about telling them that yes, I understand, I'll try harder, things will get better, you'll see...but then I found myself simply shaking my head and telling them, no, I wasn't going to do that. That after almost ten years in this field, four of which I've spent with this company, the thought of doing behavior therapy for one more day simply bored me to tears. That the company was the wrong fit for me, that I had outgrown it, and that my staying and trying harder was not going to serve anyone. And as I was saying this, I felt my heart begin beat faster, like, "oh my god, what are you doing?!" and then almost just as suddenly, I felt this sense of overwhelming calm and thought to myself, "This is going to be the best decision you've ever made in your entire life."

So I resigned. We decided that I would stay two more weeks in order to adequately transfer all of my current roles and responsibilities, and I punched out and drove to Katy's house. I thought for sure that as soon as I got into my car I would start crying, panicking, hyperventilating - do you really wanna quit, maybe you should just try harder, what about your bills, what about your apartment, your phone just died, how can you quit your job in this economy?! - but it never came. Instead I just kept hearing, "This is going to be the best decision you've ever made." I needed a push, I needed a kick, otherwise I probably would have ended up staying there for another year, and then another.

I thought about that sunny April evening back at The House of Pain and how I knew, if I had to have one more conversation with Roommate Kara about the fucking energy of the house, that I was going to end up killing her; and thus, right then and there, I had decided to move out. And even though there was a ball of stress that entire month about finding a place in 30 days that I liked and could afford, it all worked out in the end to great consequences...and if I hadn't been pushed that night, I probably would still be living in that house, telling myself that I wanted to save more first, wanted to take some more time to find a place.

So I told Katy and picked up the stuff I had left at her house two nights before and drove home towards the setting sun. And I let myself just consider the options...the what ifs. What if I don't get another job in time. What if I have to give up my apartment (that I finally really love, after a summer of trying to shrug it on until it fit me). What if I can't pay my bills. I let my head run through all the scenarios, asking myself what I would do, then. I thought about the setting sun, the ocean, and where I really wanted to be. I decided that, worst possible scenario, I give up my apartment, sell off all my things, pack up my car, and head west. To Washington, where I can hang out with my old friend Scott who promised to teach me how to surf and snowboard when I'm not writing or studying or working at Starbucks. Or to Alaska if I'm feeling brave enough, to get a job in the fisheries like I've always secretly wanted to do. And I'm going to do those things anyway, but the worst case scenario just means that I'm doing them a bit sooner than originally anticipated. And I suddenly realized that, if that's my worst possible scenario?...then I'm going to be pretty great.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Dear Penthouse, I Never Thought It Would Happen To Me...

About two weeks ago I was befriended on Twitter by the Graywolf Press, an excellent local publishing company. They were having a tweet-up that Monday, and to promote it, they were doing a book giveaway over the weekend on Twitter. And I won! I used to never win anything. Now I win everything (except for this...which is okay, because, um...look at who they picked?). So if you're thinking about entering some sweet contest or sweepstakes, you probably shouldn't even bother, because I'm probably going to win it.

Thus, I felt like, even though I wasn't going to know anybody at the thing, since they had followed me on Twitter and invited me on Facebook and gave me a free book, I should probably go to the tweet-up. Even though I really dislike tweet-ups in general. Has anyone ever been to a really great tweet-up? I feel like they're all the same: Just a bunch of people standing around in their already-established little cliques, peering at everyone else's nametags and trying to figure out if they should go talk to that person they follow but have never really actually met yet (because what if you talk to them and they end up being insufferably annoying and you start to regret ever validating their now-obvious obnoxiousness with a friend follow? What THEN, Twitta-frenz?).

But, one of my goals this past month has been to be open to new opportunities and experiences. In short, my life is not going to change if all I'm doing is sitting in my apartment, checking Facebook and Twitter for updates on what everyone else is doing with their lives. Also, they were giving out free drink tickets and more free books. So I went.

I walk into downtown Grumpy's and am immediately assaulted by the sight of a large, pretentious-looking crowd who were obviously dressed up for the thee-a-tah (there was going to be a reading by Per Petterson at the Guthrie following the tweet-up). I ambled up to the bar, asked the one nice bartender who works at Grumpy's if the rest of the tweet-up was in the back room. He nodded, got me my drink, and then leaned in close and said, "I think this crowd is some author's devoted cult or something. All of them suck. I hope it's cooler for you in the backroom." And it turns out he was right - they were not Per Petterson's devoted fans, but the clique of a local author who shall remain nameless (aka, I will tell you their name for $5) but looks and acts like a huge douche on Twitter and beyond. (It's not Graywolf's fault. They're masters of finding serious literary talent, not of finding wonderful people that you would want to be lifelong best friends with. If that were the case, they would have wooed me hardcore a long time ago)

So I wander into the back room, where I find a large table stacked with books, raffle entry forms, and various sign-up sheets. I find myself filling out forms next to this guy, who I wanted to introduce myself to but was afraid that saying, "Hey, I love Books & Bars even though I never go" would have the wrong effect upon the future of our friendship. So instead I awkwardly start filling out a nametag, and that's when I hear someone say, "Hey, Erik! How are you?"

I glance up, and all at once, my heart drops to my feet and then shoots up into my mouth, where it subsequently causes my mouth to drop open and my eyes to bulge out. Standing there, right in front of me, is Erik Anderson, the boy I had the most overwhelming, all-consuming crush on while at North Park.

Let me just say aloud what I know we're all thinking: I am incredibly and impossibly smooth at all times and in all things. And I know that you're probably thinking that I did a bunch of super awesome and cool stuff to get Erik's attention, and that it probably worked, and that the only reason why we're not already married is because I decided to be a total badass renegade and drop out of college. You're mostly right...about the part about me being a total badass renegade and dropping out of college. I am that, and I did do that.

However, this is the guy to whom I actually composed a Valentine's Day poem, wrote it in silver metallic ink on a pink construction paper heart, and gave to via his college PO box. All of this was fully encouraged and endorsed by my favorite front desk workmate who looked, talked, and acted a lot like Louis CK...and whom, now that I think of it 12 years later, may have been egging me on simply for his own amusement.

Anyway.

So I gave him the poem. And a few days later, he came up to the front desk in his dorm, where I worked part-time, tucked his shiny black hair behind his ears, smiled and told me thanks, that was really cool. I responded by looking and acting like a deer-in-dream-boy-headlights and mumbled a "yeah, thanks." This scenario would repeat itself at least two times throughout the rest of the year - he would see me, smile, and say something nice, and I would respond by staring at him with a horrified expression and then mumble something unintelligible.

Flash forward about 6 years. I am now an ultra-cool DJ at a public radio station who has her own radio show on which she can play whatever the fuck she wants. I am also a member of MySpace, already super deft at tracking down past crushes like a totally-non-creepy-internet-stalker. I somehow mysteriously stumble across Erik on MySpace and discover that he now has a band with a couple of other fellow North Park Alumni, and that the band is actually really, really great. I order a CD, making sure to impress him with my ultra-cool DJ status and hoping that it will ease the humiliation of knowing that he's probably going to remember me and my amazing love poem. It does, he even writes me this really nice letter that he sends along with the CD, and I play the CD a bunch on my show to great listener response.

Flash forward about another 6 years. Now I am standing at a reception table at a tweet-up, and Erik Anderson is standing right across from me, by a booth filled with ladies. This is not the right time to reconnect, I tell myself. So I go and hang out at a table nearby, pretending to write some incredibly important thoughts and notes as I wait for Erik to finish his conversation so I can pounce on him and prove to him that I am TOTALLY NORMAL, a VERY COOL PERSON, and INCREDIBLY SMOOTH AND SOPHISTICATED.

While this is happening, I get approached by a super sweet 19-year-old intern, Paul. I really, really, really wish I knew some cool 19-year-old girls I could set him up with, because the boy is seriously cute. He sat down at my table and we talked about books and writing and his internship, and it was a very lovely conversation. Until Erik stood up from the booth, and it became obvious that he was leaving. I had a choice to make, dear reader. Do I interrupt sweet and earnest Paul while he is in the middle of telling me his life dreams and ambitions to go talk to Erik and risk making Paul feel like a total tool and possibly ruin his trust and respect for attractive, accomplished, and only-older-in-age-but-not-in-energy-and-vigor women for the rest of his life? Or do I allow Erik to slip away and simply let him always remember me as that total dorkatron who slipped a Valentine's Day poem on a pink construction heart into his PO box, solidifying any doubt that I might be a 19-year-old virgin who spends most of her nights in her dorm room listening to Tori Amos and Jewel? And just an FYI, I already know he's married, but that's not even the point. The point was that this was the guy...the English Lit major, the skateboader, the singer in a band, the boy who could have long hair without it looking gross, the actor, the super funny and nice and yet at the same time mysterious pinnacle of my 19 year old heart, the only boy that I've ever written an actual poem for and went out of my way to look like a total fool just to get his attention. And even though seeing him again probably means that I'm going to die soon and this is the universe's way of tying up loose ends for me before it happens, it still happened.

But I did the right thing, reader. I sat there and smiled and continued to listen to Paul. And then when Erik won a book during the raffle after he had left, I briefly contemplated offering to deliver it to him since his address was on the raffle form, but I didn't, because that would be creepy and stalkerish and even though I thought about it doesn't mean that I would actually do it. Or do it and tell anyone about it.

And yes, I will be showing up at more Graywolf Tweet-ups, but mostly because my new friend Paul will probably be there and the two girls who organize them, Marisa and Erin, are completely lovely and did a fantastic job of putting on a tweet-up that was actually super great.

The End.

There's always my little brother Daniel, I guess. It's not like he'll have anything better to do when he gets out of college.

My best friend Katy informed me today that, despite it being a goal of mine for the past ten years, she will not be accepting the position of being my personal assistant when I get rich enough to buy her life for my own personal gain. "I think it would ruin our friendship," she explained. To which I explained that I didn't see how being my little bitch and running to get me coffee and magazines whenever I wanted could possibly ruin our friendship. If anything, she'll just be getting handsomely compensated for doing all the things she should already be doing for me for free.

I can't wait until I'm rich enough to just make people do whatever I want. It's the dearest wish in my heart right now. "Someday soon I'm going to be rich enough to make people do whatever I want," I like to murmur softly, in the night, smiling a little to myself right before I drift off to sleep. My dreams of worldwide domination are always sweetest, then.

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