Kelly In Catty

This blog is Kell's attempt to keep in touch with friends far away who complain that I don't e-mail nearly enough.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Value of Free

Years ago, I decided to try my hand at teaching. I developed a curriculum that focused on Television Evaluation, designing it for youth groups, school kids, and whomever would want to listen. I eventually got invited to present to a group of adults over three sessions. Because I hadn’t really developed my materials fully – I offered to teach for free. In my eyes, I needed experience, and really needed to see what materials helped people.

When I was finished, I got a thank you note from the group. Inside the card, they sent a “little thank you gift” - a check for $25. I know this is going to sound odd, but to be honest, it kind of pissed me off.

I was reminded of this event when I agreed to photograph engagement shots for a co-worker. Before I get too deep into this story, I have to tell you that I don’t charge co-workers when they ask for photos. I am a longtime photo professional, and my time as a photographer is valuable (mostly because it takes me away from the little free time I get to play Solitaire online…) – but I have come to understand that free is far better than dealing with the issue of “value” that a co-worker might place on the work.

In other words, if I charge, and the co-worker is feeling jilted somehow, my life in the office will be miserable. The point is, I don’t care who at work asks for photos. They can have them. There’s no charge, and I’m happy to do something nice for them. (note, I am not available for their weddings - because I will only attend as a guest - but if they want a portrait with their dog - or their kids, I'm all theirs.)

I must also note that this co-worker and I are strictly professional. We don’t hang out. We don’t really talk that much – and we’re probably feeling fairly neutral about each other. We don’t NOT get along – but we haven’t exactly bonded, either.

This co-worker, however, found my offer of FREE hard to swallow. She said, “My fiancé and I would like to take you out to dinner- really nice dinner…. You can bring Dave.”

A small flag popped into my head, but whatever. She seemed sincere about it, so I accepted.

We had a really great photo session. The photos were fun – and my co-worker seemed to like them. She promised we’d go to dinner soon.

A few weeks later, we were out together, and had to travel about an hour to see a client. We stopped at a diner and ordered a quick lunch. I think I ate a burger or something. When the check came, she immediately reached for it. “Since I’m moving next week, I doubt I’ll have time to take you to dinner, so I’ll just pick this up for the pictures!”

I have to say - and I'm not proud - but I was really annoyed by that.

Ok. I know what you’re thinking. “But Kelly, you said you’d do it for free! What gives? You got a free lunch (and a check for 25$!!!)

Here’s the difference. Yes. I offered my services for free. Without help or influence, I decided to give of my time, expertise, and resources to deliver a product. I am totally cool with that. I am totally cool with a thank you card.

I am not, however, cool when someone else places a physical value on my free gift.
I am especially not cool when someone places a value on my gift – and then downgrades my gift to a six-dollar diner lunch. All I can say is “Thanks, but no thanks.”

It was more fun when I didn’t have any expectations.
Postscript I: If I’m being snotty here – just say so – but honestly – why not let me do my thing? I’ve always loved giving more than getting… Is that so difficult? I mean, I don’t think I’m the one-eyed monster here…

Postscript II: I did headshots for another co-worker’s son the other day. It was fun. We all had a good time. The next day, that co-worker came in, showed me the shot and said “Kelly – I really appreciate this. Thank you.”

It was music to my ears.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Weekend Notes

I once wrote a song with a lyric that said, "I've been holding my breath for so long, there's worship in the exhale..."

I had an exhale today that I wasn't expecting. I was driving to see an old friend of mine... Ruth was my junior counselor at summer camp when I was eleven. I know this is unusual, but we've actually kept in touch all these years... Not too frequently -but I got an e-mail from her the other day that surprised me, "Kelly, I've been carrying your Christmas card from last year (with my e-mail address) for the longest time. I've just been too busy to e-mail..." She went on to explain that she's moved to an area not all that far from me - about an hour and forty-five minutes away.

This was really cool news. She doesn't live all that far from my parents, actually... Anyway, I think we've kept in touch all these years because we have such similar sensibilities. I almost forgot until today - we got to talk for awhile on the phone (we had to cancel our visit because her daughters have colds...). All of the sudden, we had the best chat about dating, life, crazy people...

I'm so glad to have you in my life, Ruth! Can't wait to see you!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Just taken

I did some head shots for my friend's son... The little brother, noticing some props in the studio, decided he had to get his photo done as well... Gentlemen, start your engines!


Monday, January 22, 2007

Breakup Dreams

Today at lunch, I had a conversation about dreams – and what we’ve discovered about ourselves through them. I believe dreams help identify moods, and our psychological state- but mostly, I think dreams are a cool way our subconscious peeks out to say, “Hello, have you noticed this?”

I have some patterns in my dreams. For example, I know I’m feeling out of control in real life if I dream about crashing a car. In happier news, I always have a breakup dream after ending a relationship. I think they’re great because after I have them – I know I’ve moved on.

Here are a few of my favorites:

-After ending a relationship in college, I dreamed that the boy and I were going on a bus trip together. He forgot his guitar – and said he was going to go get it. As soon as he left, the bus arrived. I sat in the front seat and opened the window. The bus wouldn’t wait for him – and after a minute or so, pulled off the curb. At his moment, the boy came running after the bus. I watched him slowly fade into the distance.

-After a particularly annoying breakup (In retrospect, I’m really glad about this one…), I dreamed he and I walked hand-in-hand to a cemetery. There, we approached his gravestone and lit a candle. Seeing his name on the tombstone didn’t seem at all awkward.

-After breaking up with a boy none of my friends approved of, I dreamed he and I sat in bed together in my sister’s bedroom at my parents’ home. I was feeling really awkward with him there – as people kept passing by the door. When my Dad walked by, I jumped out of the bed, ran to the bathroom, and returned, handing him a black toothbrush.

-After a short dating stint, I broke up with this man I honestly didn’t know very well. I dreamed he and I stood at the bank of a river and waterfall. I walked off the edge of the waterfall and floated away, leaving him on the bank.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

H - E - Double - Hockey - Sticks

Last night, I turned my DVD player on (to watch "The Station Agent.." Has anyone seen it?) - I blinked twice and immediately shut my DVD Player off again. When I switched it on again, it did the same thing. The display - which normally reads "Hello" - clearly said "Hell." with no "O"

"Dave look at this!"

I turned the machine off, then on again.

"Hell," read the DVD Player. It was kind of funny, actually. So funny, I went to photograph it for you this morning...

But my DVD player was apparently in a better mood, and greeted me with the normal "Hello."

Oh,, I mean, Oh, well.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Boy's Logic Sucks

Last night, during band practice, Scott and I had a discussion about travel. "I always start packing a week before my trip," said Scott. I have to admit his news surprised me. I don't know why - it's not like I've known Scott to be particularly uncalculating - or even overly spontaneous... I guess I can't imagine anyone thinking so far ahead. "My wife always packs the hour before the trip," added Scott.

"I'm with Andie," I answered. "I never pack early. I hate packing."

"You might change your mind when I tell you this story," challenged Scott.

Apparently, Scott and Andie were getting ready for a flight out of Baltimore. Scott was packed. Andie wasn't. Before she could change that fact, she fell and broke her foot.

Scott drove her to the Emergency Room at the local hospital, promising he'd pack for his wife.

"There was no way I could pack for her. We were going to a wedding. That meant that I had to get the dress, the shoes and the jewelry... Everything..."

"How'd you do?" I asked.

You could tell that Scott wasn't quite over this terrorizing memory... "She said bring the tan sandals. Apparently that doesn't mean Flip-Flops.... She was really mad at me. I picked her up at the Emergency room - and we had to get to the airport quickly... When we got there, we had to go to the mall because I got everything wrong."

While I was thinking it was kind of cute that Scott even attempted to pack for his wife, Dave's mind was clearly spinning. I looked at Dave, "What would you pack if that were me?" I asked.

Dave shrugged before directing this comment to Scott: "You couldn't possibly get something like that right," Dave said. "It'd make your wife question your relationship...."

All I could think to say was, "Boys' logic sucks."


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Like Jacob Marley, It Might Not Be True, But It Certainly Is What Happened...

I had an interesting conversation with a woman who is conducting some research on local ghosts. She asked if I had any stories.

Honestly, the only encounter I’ve ever had was in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I lived in an 1890’s French-style home, and became friends with my upstairs neighbor. One evening, we sat in his living room, talking about music… (Or whatever we talked about back then) – In the corner of my eye, I detected movement. I was a little startle by it, so I quickly turned my head toward the windowsill… Just in time to see…. absolutely nothing.

My neighbor, equally startled at my sudden movement said, “WHAT?!!” He looked toward the window.

I was now pretty embarrassed. The neighbor and I didn’t know each other very well – and I wasn’t sure how to explain that I thought I’d seen something – but it was nothing.

“Nothing… I just thought I saw something,” I stammered.

“It was a cat, wasn’t it?”

My jaw dropped. What I had seen was indeed, a cat, jumping from the windowsill to the floor.

“H-----h----how did you know that?”

“I see him in here all the time.”

When I tell this story, I always toss out a qualifier… “I’m not saying that my life has been changed because someone confirmed what I saw… I’m just telling you that I saw a ghost-cat jump from the windowsill… I'm just telling you what happened.”

Back in the room with the ghost-researcher, I asked if she’d ever heard stories about animals as ghosts. “Oh sure,” she said, “Horses, dogs, cats… You name it.”

She then mentioned that she believed HER house was haunted. She said she had heard some strange noises… and found out that the man who had built her house years ago had loved it very much, and had died from a tragic accident at a young-ish age. She felt he was pleased with her – because she was taking good care of the house – and making renovations.

Weeks went by. I stopped at her house one morning. She gave me a tour of the house, and told me about her plans to remodel the kitchen. She has great taste in decor - and I could tell her work kind of oozed into her home.On her mantel, for example, sat a Jacob Marley figurine. Considering her research, it was kind of cute. In the middle of our conversation, I asked about her ghost. “Oh, I wish he’d show up a little more. As it stands, he only really shows up when I have guests. He apparently doesn’t like company…” We talked for a few minutes, when out of the blue, something in the next room crashed to the floor.

She investigated. A holiday candle light had fallen to the floor with a crash.

I’m not saying I believe the ghost made an appearance that morning… I’m just telling you what happened.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

LET(-7) Me Down

A guest speaker delivered a sermon at my church this morning. I'm always interested in this guy... His name is Elliot Tepper, and he's an unusual man. He has a few big degrees (One from Harvard), and so forth. Today, he's the head of an international drug treatment center. He gave up a career as an economics professor (among other things) to help people who need help badly.

Anyway, he was disucssing his work among AIDS patients and drug addicts - and eventually got into the ethics of science and medicine (It's interesting. Let me know if you want to hear more about that). He made me think, when he mentioned science has found the LET-7 gene... and when they removed that gene from earthworms, they lived in perpetual adolescence. The actuality of such a find astonished me. My mind was spinning. Could science actually reverse the aging process? Would they want to? What would it mean if that technology landed us with a perpetual leader like Duvalier? Hussein? Bush (I just thought I'd throw that out to all my democrat friends out there, even though we'd only get 8 years of him at the helm)? HITLER? Elliot brouht me back down to a level we can all understand, "Does anyone want to be a teenager forever?"

In a room of four hundred people, no one indicated that they'd want to go back to that age.

Later, I told Dave about the LET-7 gene- and how earthworms can be perpetual adolescents.

Dave said, "Kinda like men?"

Who needs science? We've apparently found the Fountain of Youth... It's a chromosome.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Full of Beans in The Windy City

In downtown Chicago, there is a sculpture of a gigantic, highly polished chrome bean. It’s beautiful, reflective, and… well, made us wonder why a sculptor would plop a large bean in the middle of the city.

“Well, Chicago IS ‘Bean Town,’ right?” asked Jeremy.

“I think so.” It sounded kinda right...

“Why is it called ‘Bean Town?’

I pondered aloud that I believed it had something to do with baseball… But to be sure, I called Dave, expert on all town nicknames.

As it turns out, both Jeremy and I were… well, full of beans.

Dave said, “Kelly, Chicago isn’t Bean Town. Boston is Bean Town! You’ve heard of Boston Baked Beans, right?”

“Oh, yeah. I guess I knew that. Chicago is the Windy City.” I was so embarassed…

“Have you been drinking?” asked Dave.

“Not yet…”

Later that evening, Jeremy and I found ourselves on a very rainy Michigan Avenue. We stopped in the Ghirardelli Chocolate shop (the rest room at Borders was under construction). While we were drying off (and munching on samples of 60% dark chocolate), we asked directions to the restaurant where we were meeting a friend.

Apparently, we weren’t far.

A young employee offered to take us through the back of the building. He led us through a maze of hallways and back of store entrances. We thought how nice it was that a sweetheart of a guy knows it’s cold and raining outside, and wanted us to be dry, safe, and well on our way to dinner. "Thanks, Buddy! We really appreciate this!" we gushed.

The employee answered, “Anything to fill the space between now and quitting time!”

For the second time that evening, Jeremy and I were full of beans... Right there in the Windy City!


Saturday, January 06, 2007

Alphabet Confessions

Thanks to Trixie and Sarabeth for this:

A is for Age: 36 years old. Hard to fathom, isn't it? Somedays I feel more like 50, and others, 12.

B is for Beer: Westmalle Tripel. No one makes beers like the Belgian Monks. Also, taking a cue from Fran, guitar player extraordinaire and beer guru, I now drink better beer only from the proper glasses... The air apparently makes it taste better. So much for my "Neon Armadillo" boot mug!

C is for Career: Where I enjoy the job(s) I have, I must say that life starts off the clock.

D is for my Dog's Name: Samantha Pudding. She died when I was in college. To this day, I love telling stories about this mutt... She had more personality in her tail than most people have in their entirety... It's not that I don't like people - it's just that she was a remarkable dog.

E is for Essential Item I Use Everyday: Coffee Mugs.

F is for Favorite T.V. Show: I've been watching "The Office" when I can... I'm also a fan of "Arrested Development."

G is for Favorite Game: Tormenting Dave.

H is for Hometown: Canadensis, Pennsylvania. Betcha haven't heard of it.

I is for Instruments I Play: I play a mean rhythm guitar. Okay. The term "mean" is both untrue and terribly self-congratulatory of me.

J is for Favorite Juice: Yes. Ok, Orange. Fresh.

K is for Whose Butt I’d Like To Kick: Any Hollywood Stylist who hasn't beaten down Britney's door and begged her to be their client... Further, any Hollywood stylist who hasn't offered services to this white trashy, beatdown, nappy canvas of a farce for free, just to free the tabloids of some very, very bad choices.

L is for Last Place I Ate: Downstairs, on the Purple Couch.

M is for Marriage: I believe in marriage.

N is for my Name: "My name ain't baby, it's Kelly. Ms. Jackson if you're nasty.

O is for Overnight Hospital Stays: I've spent weeks in the chair next to my nephew's bed...

P is for People I was With Today: Had breakfast with Dave... And after business travelling, am thrilled to be spending a little quiet time at home.

Q is for Quote: "Inhale Pink, Exhale Blue!" (T. Ullman)

R is for Biggest Regret: I have a few.

S is for Sport: Horseback Riding.

T is for Time I Woke Up Today: 6:30 AM... Because two days ago, I was trying to convince a co-worker that the alarm on my phone isn't working. He set it, and we sat down to breakfast. It didn't go off. This morning, it finally did.

U is for Current Underwear: Oh, please. This reminds me of the goofy cliche's that used to call me up asking, "So. What are you wearing?" What? Do I look like Britney?

V is for Vegetable You Love: Most right out of the garden.

W is for Worst Habit: Berating myself for not being as cool as I am in my head.

X is for X-rays I Have Had: Teeth, chest, fingers, spine.

Y is for Yummy Food You Ate Today: Coffee. Mmmmm.

Z is for Zodiac: I was never much for the the Zodiac. I can't figure out why twins, born under the same sign, are so very, very different.


The Meaning of Life

I was working out of town last week. During this time, a strange convesation tanspired between the makeup artist and the rest of the people in the room.

The makeup artist, it is worth to note, was a woman in her late 40's - wearing clothes clearly from her daughters' closet - a short black dress with black tights and leopard skin shoes. She had an interesting personality - kind of quietly sarcastic and dour (I always like these kinds of people. They're straight shooters, and I suspect, fallen idealists). The first thing she noted upon entering my hotel suite (my makeshift green room), was how neatly I'd made my bed. "Was the maid here already? Kind of early!" The second thing she told me, as she pointed out the window, was that she used to be a lawyer. "See that building? I used to work there... I did mergers and aquisitions." She apparently hated it - and after doing makeup for her childrens' school musicals, she traded legal bullying for beautification.

Anyway, she was a wonderful makeup artist - and a funny person. When she finished her job, she noticed someone in the room reading "Man's Search For Meaning" by Victor Frankl. She then had a conversation - nearly with herself:

"The meaning of life? What does it say the meaning of life is?" (reader glances at her) "The meaning of life is that life is meaningess. Have you ever read 'Sidhartha?' It states clearly that life has no meaning. It's really true. Life is meaningless. Absolutely meaningless."

Another woman in the room spoke up. "Who wrote Sidhartha?"

Makeup Artist: "Hermann Hesse... The Existentialist."

Woman: "I hardly think you can extract the meaning of life from Existential philosophy..." (long pause) "You should try the Bible."

Makeup Artist: "I'm going shopping."

With that, she sashayed out of the room. I'm trying to draw some meaning from this little bite of life - but so far, it seems best just to let y'all have at it.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Do This In Remembrance of Me

I used to hate working with a woman I'll call Carly. Carly was one of those women who worked her entire professional career at one company... and was therefore entitled to certain respect (wether or not she earned it). To be honest, she was a pain in the butt to deal with. I hated working with her, yet I found her interesting as a human being (She kept 19 cats in her home... She wore so much perfume, she could never hide from anyone... She once told me, "Kelly, I know this may sound odd, but when I get home from work, I can eat an entire stick of frozen butter. I just love it.").

She became less of a co-worker and more of a person the year her husband got cancer. He was dying, and it was horribly sad to see it happen. I felt badly for her. It's not easy to lose someone you love.

Anyway, she called me at the office one day, and told me a sweet story. "Kelly, you know those peanut butter cookies with the Hershey's Kisses on top?"


"They're the only thing my husband asked me to make for him at Christmas.... I just opened up the oven door, and it looks like the cat shit all over in here..."

"Um," I suggested, "You might want to put the Kisses on the cookies AFTER you bake them."

She paused before thoughtfully saying "Oh."

Where this is the funniest story I have about Carly, it at least showed me she was a real person... Even though I hated every minute of working with her, at least she was, down deep - trying hard to do something nice for someone. It was one of the first moments I held any real respect for her.

Anyway, later that year, I met Ardath Rodale, CEO of Rodale Press, publishers of 'Men's Health Magazine,' 'Runner's World,' and 'The South Beach Diet' Books. I was interviewing her for a story I was doing about depression survivors. As I got up to leave, she signed a copy of her latest book for me.

In it, there's a story about the anniversary of her son's death. Instead of moping about, she invited all of his friends to her home, and served them all of her son's favorite food. She reported a lovely evening of remebrance - a celebration of her son's life.

The next year, Carly's husband died. I didn't know what to do, so I wrote her a note, summarizing Mrs. Rodale's story - and attached it to a tin of peanut butter cookies with Hershey's Kisses. I felt like it was the least I could do.

She called me immediately, "Kelly, I have no idea how you could possibly remember that my husband loved these... but thank you."

That may be the funniest part of the story.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Celebrity Playlist

Ok. If Kellie Pickler gets to do an iTunes Celebrity Play list, so do I!

Kellincatty's Celebrity Playlist

Love Song (Bruce Cockburn) - One of the lovliest songs I've ever heard - "In your heart where the world comes from, there you will find me."

Take On Me (A Ha) - Cheesy, maybe, but in Highschool, I just loved this song.

Beautiful Day (U2) - What a great anthem... If life needs a soundtrack, U2 must be paid handsomely.

You Are My Sunshine (Kell's dad) - Who sang this to me when I was little

Cry Me A River (a lotta divas) - I just like this one. It's got attitude.

I’ve Been Waiting For You (David Bowie) I think Neil Young did this song originally, but I like this version a lot.

Old Man (Neil Young) - I'm facinated at how many people relate to this song in different ways.

Cactus (The Pixies) - It's a song about good love.

Top Of The World (Karen Carpenter) - This is another song from my childhood that I never get tired of. I know - it's unfashionable, but if you don't like it, write your own celebrity Playlist.

Thunder Road (Bruce Springsteen) - I love story songs - and this is one of the best I've heard.

The Night Won’t Last Forever (Charlie Peacock) - some of my favorite stuff to groove to... and some of Charlie's best work.

The Ocean (The Choir) - When I'm alone in the car, I sing this at the top of my fool lungs.

Round Here (Counting Crows) - Adam Duritz? If you're reading this? I think you're one of the best song writers to come out of pop music today.

Barcelona (Queen) - The first time I heard this song, I was in my car. I almost had to pull over. I think I listened to it 5 times in a row!

Downtown Train (Tom Waits) - I will always be grateful to Tom Waits for this song. Note. It was not written by freakin' Rod Stewart. Rod put it on the map - but I promise it's well worth listening to Tom's version.

Carolina In The Fall (Jens Kruger) - A beautiful song from a Swedish Banjoller.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year!

Last night, I traipsed around O Little Town of Bethlehem (Pennsylvania, that is) - and wondered why on earth I felt the need to stay up all night.