Quality

Qualityqual·i·ty / [kwol-i-tee] adj -marked by a concentrated expenditure of involvement, concern, or commitment: Counselors are urging that working parents try to spend more quality time with their children.

Quality Food and Beverage — 8030 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, CA

…One of my favorite destinations for breakfast on a lazy Sunday morning when I lived in LA. The name said it all: great food, interesting people, and a sugar biscuit to die for (along with the homemade raspberry preserves—sometimes blackberry!). Some of my favorite hours of all time have been spent in an uncomfortable wooden chair at a rickety table in the Mid-Wilshire district, absorbing the serene flow of coffee from a bottomless pot and an endless array of personalities surrounding me.

It’s been awhile, folks, and this redhead apologizes (but not profusely). I’ve been coast-to-coast (not unlike Space Ghost) in the past 3 weeks and climbed almost 3 miles high, so my brain has been preoccupied with many-a-thing. This week, however, I’m back in the swing of things and ready to tackle the topic of quality in Redheaded Fury-style.

There will be swearing.

I will admonish.

There will be forgiveness doled-out, and it’s possible you’ll see me eat some crow. It will be high-quality crow, however.

This past month, I’ve seen my life blessed with components of extraordinary quality. From friends to family, Nutella to nature, and best laid plans gone awry to create surprising outcomes — it’s been one hell of a ride. Allow me, however, to interject a rant to start that has interfered with the QUALITY of my air travel experience:

On my way to Houston to visit my family, I was delighted to have won the plane seat lotto, which potentially allowed me to ride in aisle seat comfort for the duration of my 2.5 hour flight to Tex-ass (yeeha!). After making myself comfortable and sharing idle banter with the older man who won the window seat in our little slice of Continental heaven, we were interrupted by a female voice saying:

“I think I’m in the middle seat.”

One look up, and …

Holy Hippo, Batman.

The passenger in question must have clocked a good 300 lbs on the (Richter) scale, and I simply cannot think of any logical response to her statement regarding seating arrangements other than:

“Uh…okay?”

I got out and stood in the aisle, and the older gentleman by his window to the world grew wide-eyed as she made her way to the seat between us. She promptly raised both armrests surrounding her seat and rang the Sky Waitress call button. I was still in the aisle when “Susie” arrived, and Middle Seat requested (gasp) a seat belt extension.

I won’t tell you the remainder of the story (because I’ll sound like an asshole), but I’m sitting her wondering—am I really an asshole? I’m thinking that her lifting of MY armrest is kinda like my neighbor just deciding to rip down the fence in my backyard one day because he needed an extra ten feet to install his new pool. In my line of work, we call that “encroachment.” I’d have no problem giving a hearty (and probably rather emotionally charged) WTF!!! to my neighbor, but here in avionic isolation, I was having trouble explaining that I’d paid for MY seat so I’D have a place to sit between Vegas and Houston out of fear of being politically incorrect, insensitive (it could be glandular?), or just thought of as the redheaded bitch.

I’ll leave everyone to speculate as to the outcome of Erika’s Adventures in Row 22.

To the Blog-Cave, Batman!

A gift I’ve taken away from my recent journeys is that — as a dear friend of mine reminds me — you can’t take it with you. Choosing wisely where to spend your time and investing the effort to make it time well-spent … I can’t think of a more rewarding, yet tedious task! Thoughts of:

“Can I take the time off work?”

“What will it cost me?”

“I’d have to leave work early.”

“But if I do this, then I shouldn’t do ________.”

“It’s awfully far away…”

Every one of those has plagued my mind. Seriously, take it from the woman who, until this past January, had not taken a vacation in SIX YEARS.

Christ.

Not only was I due for some R&R, but I seemed to have lost the letter R from my language skills set entirely. Why was this? What had me believing that the finance world would implode if I took a 3-day weekend (that wasn’t a federal holiday)?

Fact of the matter is, I’m a recovering control-freak. That’s really the only explanation. I’m a very hands-on, entrepreneurial individual that has been forced to take baby steps towards delegation and trust. It’s working out dandy, and it’s amazing the results when you trust competent individuals to assist you.

These days, however, I’ve swung a bit to the opposite side of the spectrum, having tasted the sweet nectar that respite awards once you suckle a bit at its teat.

(I simply adore the word “teat.” Say it. Say it, goddammit! You can’t say it without laughing, can you? HAH!)

There are days I have disdain for the work that provides for my bread and butter yet interferes with my play, but it’s the work I do that allows me the quality of life I’ve come to enjoy.

I recently spent 4 days in New York City — 100 percent of which was “quality time.” Did I need a day more or a day less? No. It was time spent with a wonderful man where (for me, at least) both conversation and silence had extraordinary value. I enjoyed great company, new sights, humidity to the extent I don’t think I’d ever previously endured, a run around an American icon (Central Park), a walk in the rain, and was thrust into a myriad of different people-watching opportunities in a city far away and unfamiliar. Hell, even losing my luggage was fun (eventually)! Did it matter a damn the cost of a Broadway show, a slice of pizza, or how long it took us to get from wherever we were to where we wanted to go? Not in the slightest. Time well-spent, nothing blew-up at the office in my absence, and I returned to my daily grind with an onslaught of emails letting me know how much I was missed. (and after traveling with me, my partner-in-crime still speaks to me — definite bonus!)

Following New York, I set out for Seattle to endeavour upon Mt. Rainier (a personal as well as philanthropic goal). I’d booked this trip in February in the throes of some personal bullshit, almost more of a “fuck you” than a vacation initially. I got over the “fuck you” part in short order and got pretty amped-up about the trip over the next 6 months. I find a lot out about myself when I’m climbing — it’s the silent solitude where you have no choice except to evaluate (or not) your current circumstances and in my case, my path always becomes more clear. This trip proved to be a blissful four-day rambling through quality time at altitude. When you spend your days in the presence of views like this:

rainier

four days away from the office seems a negligible sacrifice to make for priceless moments that money can’t buy. I had the opportunity to learn about 10 other people on my trip and laugh in a tent, on a glacier, in crampons, tied to a rope, sitting on a rock, and at the summit which peeks out of the clouds at 14,410 feet above sea level. People have laughed in much higher places, but this is one summit I achieved by my own two feet. Laughter at 14,000 — makes me look forward to laughter at 18,000 … and someday, even higher. Point being, if you can’t laugh when you get where you’re going, why the hell did you head there in the first place?

My final “around the world in 30 days” destination was a turn & burn to Houston the weekend following my Rainier climb to see my family. It was a first in 2 years to have all the Jensen/Smejkal clan together in the house we all called home through our formative years. Honestly, I was mildly dreading the visit on account of those inevitable differences between siblings, parents, pets, and religion/food preferences. Someone always thinks I’m too skinny, should go to church, swear too much, or that I spend too much money. There’s a point with your family, though, where you just have to wish for everyone’s happiness on the path they’ve chosen, regardless of what they think of yours.

This 36-hour marathon at the matriarch’s abode (shut mah mouth) turned out to be a sheer delight, however. I saw my niece and nephew for the first time in 2 years (and can’t believe how they’ve grown). My niece is my evil twin, and she and I shared some delightful conversations regarding hamsters, cheese, and kitty cats. Apparently, she is not old enough to drive yet and does not have a boyfriend. She’s five going on sixteen, and I’ve promised my brother-in-law a shotgun for her 11th birthday.

My nephew is a beanstalk, tall as anything. It’s incredible to see how he’s changed since I’ve seen him last—he’s mildly autistic, and my sister has made incredible strides with his therapy and communication skills. While I can’t touch him (as “strangers” touching an autistic child are a no-no) and it breaks my heart, it’s amazing to see his mind work, faster than mine probably ever did or ever will, and speak enthusiastically about Star Wars, since he just saw it for the first time last week.

It’s the first trip home in I can’t remember how long where I didn’t get a dose of Jesus, a judgement on my life’s happenings (probably because I haven’t gotten married or divorced again as of late), or a pang of “why the fuck did I bother to make the trip?” I had a great conversation with Mom—whom I’ll always consider my best friend, caught-up on some sleep, ate 2 pieces of key lime pie (dang straight!), and saw my entire family in the course of 36 hours. Tag, I’m out—quality time, all of it.

While this week’s blog is bordering on novella-length, I’ll wrap it up in short order here.

We spend our days wasting an inordinate amount of time on what amounts to complete bullshit, and then seem to complain that we don’t have the time to do the things we want. I set out on a path this year to live my life instead of watching it pass by like the waitress at dinner every time I need a refill on my iced tea. I’ve had a month where I’ve been blessed with time well-spent, and it encourages me to do more spending in the right direction and on things that pay me some serious life dividends. It’s definitely true that you can’t take it with you, but I’m really interested in what I’m leaving behind. If I can share the world through my eyes and adventures with anyone who cares to take a peek, it’s only fair that I make the time they spend looking at my life feel like time well-spent, isn’t it?

Quality — it’s probably why I’m a fan of little text messages and unexpected laughter. It’s why I prefer face-to-face conversation over obligatory phone calls. It’s why my life moving forward is never about the money spent, time taken, work days lost, or what others will think. When you place yourself in the position to be present in your own life, it’s wondrous how much you can come away with … time be damned.

Time well-spent rewards me with the moments I cherish, the memories I’ll keep, the people I’m truly fortunate to share my time with, and the peaceful feeling of having accepted the beauty that’s been brought into my life. There’s not a lick of time wasted that generates those feelings. Now, if I can only find a way to spend more quality timeat the office while I’m conjuring-up ways to spend more quality time on living!

I’ve gone on long enough for this week, but I’ve delivered what I promised. I admonished, I swore, and I’ve eaten crow about my previous addiction to control. I’ve even had a surprise “asshole” incident!  More importantly, I hope I’ve gently enumerated the gifts as of late in my life and related them to my perspective on quality.

There are moments we all have that we wouldn’t trade for the world. I’m just grateful to have had a month full of them.

My cup runneth over (and I’m loving the stain it’s leaving on the fabric of my life).

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