Friday, September 27, 2013

Breaking Bad Finale Predictions

There are a few things I am very sure about as Breaking Bad comes to a close. Albuquerque, New Mexico, does not have a neighborhood watch program. I learned more chemistry on Breaking Bad than I did in high school. And, all bad things must come to an end.

All bad things must come to an end. All bad things must come to an end. I keep repeating that mantra in my head as I think about what might be as the curtain closes for, it might be argued, the best drama ever to grace the small screen. The tag line says it all. There will be no winners, and there never has been for those who dare to ignore the rules, show no mercy, and take chances expecting no consequences.

So, ultimately, who will the writers define bad? And, what would be a perfect Breaking Bad ending to make us all cringe, then nod at the unapologetic, and perfect, closure to this sad story? An ending that makes us all feel purged or, at least, acceptance? To quote Jesse Pinkman, "whatever you think is supposed to happen, I'm telling you the exact, reverse opposite of that is going to happen." Jesse, the mouthpiece for the mind of Vince Gilligan.

The show has it all ... heroes and antiheroes, sadness, occasional humor, lots of jaw-dropping moments, drug lords, murderous psychopaths, long-suffering wives, children, the elderly, and a storyline that is pure sick genius. I never saw that coming ... I've said it a million times as I tried to catch my breath. 

Breaking Bad gives me mad respect for Vince Gilligan, for Bryan Cranston, for Aaron Paul and for my children who kept begging me to watch it (they do know good TV!) and for others who are on the Breaking Bad bandwagon. We are the Breaking Bad family, living in a state of fear and pity for a man we should hate, but we all love. Thanks Vince Gilligan for making us want to hug a homicidal, vengeful, egomaniacal drug dealer! But, we all believe, have to believe, there's some good in Mr. White. He touches something within all of us; what would we do, when all else has failed, to provide for our loved ones? How far would we go? Where would we draw the line? How much meth would we cook? And, does it come in pink?

OK, so we all are desperate for the finale. Let's recap the loose ends and make a few predictions. We all know the writers like to settle things, so our first prediction is that all will be settled. And the second prediction, I'm probably not going to get one single prediction right. I can't think of storylines this evil. 

Who is still alive and bad?

  • Walter White (aka Heisenberg, cancer victim, father, husband, teacher, friend and meth chef)
  • Todd (crazy blue-eyed psychopath who is half of the sweet love story of Lydia and Todd)
  • Uncle Jack and his merry band of neo-nazis
  • Lydia (importer/exporter, wears Louboutins, and, sadly, she's a mom)
  • Gray Matter founders (Gretchen and Elliott Schwartz who may have stolen Walter's research)
  • Saul Goodman (The man that can't take a punch and has a pretentious office but does offer comedic relief and a never-ending desire to help the needy. And by needy, I mean people with lots of money.)

And, who is still alive and good?

  • Skylar, Walt Jr. and Holly 
  • Marie (it's debatable, she steals spoons)
  • Jesse Pinkman (the moral compass of the show although it's probably not pointing due north)
  • Brock (poor motherless child)
  • Huell (poor clueless security guard)

What are the loose ends?

  • The money
  • Gomey and Hank are still buried in the desert
  • Lydia 
  • Brock
  • Jesse
  • Todd
  • Uncle Jack and his fun-lovin' followers
  • Skylar, Walt Jr. and Holly
  • Marie
  • Gray Matters
  • Walter White 

Random, Completely Unfounded Predictions

Lydia spurns Todd's advances so he calmly kills her and takes her Prada handbag as a souvenir. 
Walt meets her at Breaking Bad's favorite diner where he replaces her packet of Stevia with Ricin. She's then dead again. No matter what, I doubt she survives the finale.

Uncle Jack and his killer crew
Uncle Jack and his faithful southwestern bandidos are killed by Walt and his new gun purchased outside of Denny's.
Something like that. They are going to die, and Walt is going to kill them.

Todd meets his demise separate and part from his Uncle and the gang. Jesse escapes his cage/home and, despite the Ben and Jerry's ice cream that Todd brought him, he hasn't quite forgiven Todd for the beatings, the murder of Andrea, the murder of Drew Sharp (saddest, worst moment ever on TV) and several other bad things so Jesse kills Todd.
Walt shoots Todd as part of the attack on Uncle Jack. Todd can't survive, that just wouldn't be right. And, it would be downright torture to the fans if Hank is dead and Todd lives.

Gray Matter 
As Walt was ready to turn himself in, after harsh and unforgiving words from his only son, he happens to catch a TV interview with his former Gray Matter friends, Gretchen and Elliott. They dismiss Walt as someone who gave them the name of company. Nothing more. And thus they become another loose end for Walt to tidy up. The gunfire will pour upon their heads.
Walt whips up a concoction and blows the Gray Matter building to smithereens.

The Safe Zone

Marie, Walt Jr., baby Holly and Brock are safe. Skylar, although safe, may end up cradling a dying Walter in her arms as the lung cancer finally beats him. But, she will end up with the Walter White lottery payable in barrels of cash. Walt is not going to give up trying to get the money to Skylar, even if Walt Jr. doesn't want it. We can't trust Walt Jr. with money decisions because, like most teenagers, he has never paid a bill in his life and doesn't understand why Skylar might need, or desire, the money. Walt understands this, and we know Skylar has a little bit of bad girl in her. Skylar ends up with some money, whether it is in barrels or a duffel bag.


Jesse probably kills Todd. We all hope he kills Todd. Although Jesse may survive the physical torture, he will be mentally scarred by the loss of all those he has loved. He's unstable. Maybe he kills himself. If he doesn't die at the hands of Todd or Uncle Jack and his posse, he will probably live. The true justice would be if Jesse survives and just walks away. Hmmm, would it make sense for Jesse to walk away with some of the money? Fate, yeah.


Walter has bought a big gun. He will kill people with this big gun which includes, most likely, Uncle Jack and those other guys, some Gray Matter people, and maybe Lydia. He probably won't kill Jesse, although Jesse may end up killing Walt. Walt's primary goals at this final juncture is to seek revenge and give his family money. He is a dying man with nothing left to lose. He may take the Ricin himself. There's no way Walter White survives the shows finale. He is the No. 1 bad thing that must come to an end.

Things That Might Happen

  • Maybe the show begins with the DEA at the desert burial ground of Gomey and Hank. It's a loose end, they should be found. 
  • I can not even predict what happens to Marie. Probably just living her sad, little klepto life.
  • Saul is really living in Nebraska. Or maybe he has ventured on to Vegas. I don't think we will see him in the finale.
  • Maybe they fish Huell out of some reservoir or desert cave or whatever New Mexico has to hide things in. Or maybe he is still just waiting in that hotel room.
There are no happy endings here. There will just be a cringe-worthy, hand-wringing, screaming ride for who those who are tuned in and have the guts to hang on. Vince Gilligan is looking to go out in Breaking Bad style. We might not be happy, but we will be satisfied that the show has stayed true to its nature.

All bad things must come to an end; I wish that didn't include Breaking Bad.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Lessons Learned in a Bridal Store

I've worked in the communications business my entire career. It's a passion I have pursued for a lifetime. When I was in elementary school, I used to write adventure stories about my cat, Charlie. In 1972, my Aunt Geralene bought me the writer's best friend, Roget's Thesaurus. I still have the book in my office. She wrote a sweet message inside urging me to pursue my dream.

So I have. Assistant editor of my high school newspaper, a Journalism major in college, a newspaper writer and editor, a PR professional, and now a corporate communications manager - I really do love my job and I always have. Not many people get the opportunity to actually DO what they want to, but I have been fortunate.

However, sometimes something else peaks your interest. A few years ago, I was seriously addicted to the TV show "Say Yes to the Dress." I still love it. I also watched lots of bridal shows in general and blogged about them. I loved the sweet or funny or even obnoxious brides. I loved the bridal consultants. I loved the idea of a job where almost everyone who you came in contact with was in a happy place. Women love to shop for their wedding dresses! I imagined tears and laughter, grateful patrons, fun co-workers, a place where The Carpenters played in the background while the bridal consultants made dreams come true. And, for the first time in my life being really happy in love myself, I embraced the idea of being around like-minded women whether they were half my age or not.

So I decided to apply for a part-time job at a nationwide bridal chain store near my house. I won't mention the name. I felt like I had to sell myself to get the job so I submitted my resume trying to focus on my interpersonal skills and ability to relate to others thanks to my PR expertise. Turns out they didn't really care.

The managers wanted retail experience. So all of my years of working to pay my way through college as a waitress and rental car agent and resident assistant AND all the years focused on writing, editing, creating websites, conducting research, planning PR events, and coordinating communications strategies meant nothing in the bridal world. They didn't care. I was a newbie who knew nothing. That was actually true.

I got a phone call right away, an interview and a job offer. I didn't know it at the time, but they have a hard time finding and keeping help. I thought I was a good catch and was hoping for a job as a part-time bridal consultant. Not so fast. I got a job offer, but not as the consultant that I wanted to be, due to the lack of experience, but as a "customer representative" ... a glorified greeter, but I didn't care. I still took the job. Turns out there is a "bridal season" just after the new year and into April. That's why I got a job offer. That is when most brides shop. Who knew? They hired several girls, and I thought WAY too many, but they know their business better than I do. There were six of us that started training together, and after about one month, I was the last one standing. The job pays worse and is a lot more difficult than I could ever have imagined. The other girls just went and found another low-paying and under-appreciated job, but this was an experiment for me.

I worked exactly one year in the bridal store. It was completely exhausting and completely demeaning. It was sad and happy. It taught me many lessons. I was humbled by it. My appreciation for my current education, career and co-workers eventually proved overwhelming. I just had no idea.

Here are the things I learned in no particular order:
  • Working in retail is very, very difficult. You are always on your feet. It pays poorly. The hours are horrible. It's hard to find a full-time job in retail.  Most of the employees have other jobs.
  • A bride is just a regular person and not extra happy like I thought she might be. She actually is a little bit spoiled and hyper-sensitive. She has no time, no energy and no empathy for anyone else. Basically, she's a regular little bitchy person who is NOT in a happy place but in a it's-all-about-me place. 
  • Another thing about brides. I am now pretty sure there is someone for everyone. Especially if you are not that picky.
  • People, whether they are a bride or not, are not nice to people who work in retail. They treat you as if you are an idiot. No one had any idea about my education or my current career in management. They looked right past me. Talked down to me. Were exceptionally rude. The rule of thumb at this place I worked was that all customers deserved one-on-one attention. You were supposed to greet, follow up with and almost harass everyone who came in the store. Supposedly, it helps sales. I discovered that this usually just pisses people off. One girl stormed out of the store and complained that she "can't shop like this" after I tried to help her more than once. That was just one of many immature brides I was in contact with.
  • The company I worked for only carried certain gowns. If it is not online or in the brochure, it ain't there. Some brides would literally demand a certain designer or certain dress. It was difficult for them to get in their heads that this store was not the Burger King. You got it our way or not at all. Some brides would pout or storm out if we couldn't meet their demands. Oh my.
  • People do not have much money. Whether they worked there, or shopped there, they had no money. They couldn't pay their bills if they worked there. They couldn't afford the dresses if they shopped there. And this is a bridal store for the masses, not some high-end store. I felt rich. I used my pitiful earnings from there to occasionally treat some of the girls to lunch, buy them a coke, or bring cookies. I felt sorry for them. And, in the year that I worked there, and with all the credit checks I ran to approve credit at the store (usually $500 or less), never ever was any person's credit approved. Not once.
  • Most of the girls I worked with were college students, some used this job as a career path, a few were my age and this was their second job, and some just worked there. One of my best friends there was a high school student. How sad was that for me? However, I liked her and she worked hard and she was friendly. Most of the girls were NOT friendly to me, and didn't have a clue that I might have some influence in the business world, in a place they might want to work some day. They treated me poorly. They didn't try to get to know me, although I tried to be friendly and ask questions. I'm not sure what they thought about me exactly, but I'm pretty sure they didn't know me at all. They thought I was quiet and I'm not. They thought I was very sweet and I'm very outspoken. They thought I was stupid, and I hope I'm not. They were right about one thing, that I didn't understand retail and bridal stuff. Now I don't even want to know about it. I didn't like working in retail. I didn't really like the people who worked in retail or the people who shop retail. However, I was nice to everyone. Lesson here for everyone ... don't burn bridges because you never know who can help you down the road.
  • I'm sure it's difficult to manage a retail store. Staff turnover is incredibly high. They can't pay people enough to keep them. And, they don't have a budget to make the workplace a warm and welcoming environment. They barely had any copy paper. Although I didn't like the atmosphere, I did actually like the managers; I felt for them. It is not their fault that it was a terrible place to work. They did their best. By the time I had been there a year, I was a senior staff member. In my current CAREER and company I work for, no one ever quits. I've had my same staff for seven-plus years. It is possible to create a working environment that attracts and keeps people. 
  • The break room was the lunchroom was the coat rack was the whatever you wanted to be. Staff members didn't even have their own restroom. It was uncomfortable. The dress code was ridiculous ... low-cut strapless dresses were acceptable but capri pants were not. 
  • The store managers answer to the regional managers who answer to the corporate executives who answer to the stockholders ... now I know what that really means. Governed by profits and sales, customer service was not a priority ... moving those dresses was a priority. They advertised dresses in their brochures that were never available in the stores. Typical bait and switch. They offered $99 dress sales where there may have only been 5 or 10 dresses in tiny sizes. The computer system was antiquated, like straight out of 1992. No joke. Customers would actually make jokes about the computers. The phones were SOOOO old, and dirty. The lack of innovative technology slowed down the sales process and made it difficult for the employees. The carpet was filthy and outdated, as was the decor and everything about the store. Corporate didn't care. They have made it very difficult on the managers to boost sales with low pay, outdated working conditions and very little support from corporate. They made it very difficult on the bridal consultants to sell dresses when the goal was to sell the dresses in the store, not sell the dress the bride wants, or have the dresses available that are being advertised ... just sell what you have. How is that making customers a priority?
  • One time the regional manager actually got onto me because a customer got past me at the front desk as I was busy helping someone else. She was there observing. That was a no-no. She came and asked me something about "why did you let that happen?" I said, "Um, I didn't see her as I was busy elsewhere." She then said, very condescendingly, "You aren't going to let that happen again, right?" I said, "No" and she made me repeat it like I was a child. I was furious. I told the local manager, whom I did like, that I wouldn't work again when she was there. Who talks to employees like that? I would never treat my co-workers with such little respect. 
I am terrible at retail. I know that. I could never be a sales person. I know that, too. I've picked the right career. I've also picked the right company to dedicate my career to; I work for a company that cares about its employees and its customers. I'm very lucky.

My year in the bridal industry was an experiment gone wrong. It was not what I thought it would be. Sometimes a dream might be better just being a fantasy. I'm sad that I've ruined my happy thoughts about bridal dreams and dresses, and replaced it with the reality of poor wages, poor working conditions and corporate greed.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Suffering With HHD

I know just a little bit about suffering.

I have a disease called Hailey Hailey Disease (HHD). It's very rare, and most people (even doctors) have never heard of it. It's also known as Chronic Benign Familial Pemphigus. It's hereditary and affects families without regard to ethnicity or gender. There's a lot of medical terminology that I could use to explain it, but that's just jargon.

Here is what it means to me. On a daily basis. For a lifetime.
  • My skin doesn't heal quickly or normally. Small cuts or scrapes or bug bites usually turn into full-blown sores. Sores that won't heal and usually get infected. I may have these sores for months. Even antibiotics don't help that much anymore. I really believe I've become immune to them. 
  • Sweat or stress or friction makes this disease worse. It aggravates the skin and causes it to break down. It splits and tears and blisters and itches, and it damn well hurts!
  • The only drugs that REALLY help are problematic for your bones, your liver or cause weight gain. And other body parts that I don't even know about. I've tried lots of different drugs, drugs that require regular blood tests and all sorts of other invasive tests.
  • Some of those with HHD swear by vitamins or diet changes. Those things haven't worked for me, although I am glad they have worked for them. I don't think this disease affects everyone the same way.
  • Some people suffer all the time with open sores in their groin area or armpits. I usually get it wear my clothes are causing friction ... waistband, bra straps or on my neck (if I make the mistake of wearing a necklace). Sometimes it is on the backs of my legs. It makes it hard to sit down.
  • It's painful. It gets infected easily. It may "drain" sometimes.
  • It's depressing, and it affects your personal life.
  • Clothes can be very uncomfortable. I work in a business office and I'm required to wear business-type clothing. Some days, by 5 p.m., I am literally in tears and the pain is almost unbearable. And I feel like I have a high tolerance for pain.
  • It keeps me from exercising like I want to. Again, the sweat causes the skin to break down. And it hurts to do anything sometimes.
  • It changes the type of clothes I wear. I have to be comfortable, and I have to hide any scarring. 
  • It's very painful. I hate it.
  • I do not have it all the time, but maybe 75 percent of the time. I'm grateful for "clear" weeks.
I am not comparing this to HIV or cancer or other life-altering diseases. I know there are many horrible diseases out there that really change or destroy lives and futures. I am just explaining that when you have a disease that is this rare, nobody cares. Not the medical industry or pharmaceutical industry or research firms. Not even family or friends. No one understands the pain. I just want to vent.

I want to be better. I just don't know what to do next.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

All Good Things Lead to Stress

I know just a little bit about stress. I've been a worrier my entire life. And, I even have a disease that worsens with stress. Type A personalities should not also have diseases worsened by having a Type A personalities.

And, the things that make your life better also make your life more stressed. No wonder everyone wants a therapist or Prozac or Pinot Noir.

Most studies point to a death, illness, loss of job, or moving as the most stressful things in life. I'm talking about those things that are stressful every single day.

Work. If you work hard, get a good education, and start a promising career ... the better you are at that career, the more work will be piled on and the job becomes more and more difficult. And, it's true that being efficient, hardworking and diligent on difficult projects will just lead to MORE overwhelming projects with higher expectations. The other choice is just suck at your job, but that might lead to not having your job and again ... stress. So, maybe being mediocre at your job is the answer?

Kids. If you have children, you probably feel like they make you complete and happy and you can't believe you love them so much ... but having children also begins a lifetime of worry, heartache and actual terror like you never imagined. You want to protect them from bumping their heads and losing their lunch money; from the pain of not making the football team to the disappointment when they don't get their dream job. This is a battle you will lose. You will not always do or say the right thing. They will be mad at you when you try to do the right thing.They will accuse you of being a "smother." They will swear you do not trust them. They will call you a bad mom. They will say things about you that have never crossed your mind and you have never even heard about. And, you can't protect them from everything. There will be broken arms. There will be "mean girls." There will be failures. And that hurts way more and is way more stressful than if those things happened to you.

Relationships. Parents, family, friends, significant others, kids, co-workers ... all these can bring expectations. Call more often. Make the Christmas turkey. Plan the get together. Pay for this THING I have to have. Coach the team. Meet the deadlines. Give a presentation. Be happy. Make me happy. You know what I mean.

Technology. I absolutely love technology, but it adds this constant buzz in my head. Between my iPhone, my iPad, my laptop, my Mac ... I can't get away from work or the news or friends or family or anything. I'm stressed out blogging right now. I should be napping or drinking a mimosa.

Doing the right thing. Whether you are trying to bake cupcakes for your daughter's third grade class Halloween party or planning an anniversary party for your parents on their 40th, someone is going to make you feel guilty. One time I brought doughnuts to my daughter's class party. I did the easy thing. It was an early party and I had to get the kids ready and get to work. Another mom made eggs, bacon and a whole freakin' breakfast buffet. So ANOTHER mom, who brought nothing I might add, made a comment to me about how the short-order-cook-mom was just so awesome and maybe I shouldn't have brought doughnuts. Ouch. I got JUDGED. I kept my mouth shut, but I wish I had said something to both of those moms. Like maybe they should have called the ROOM MOTHER first, so I would have known the plan. So being a good person LIKE A ROOM MOM and KEEPING YOUR MOUTH SHUT is stressful.

So WORK, KIDS, RELATIONSHIPS, TECHNOLOGY, BEING A GOOD PERSON, are all things that are good and bad. Fulfilling and stressful. I guess I am OK with that.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Life Changers

There are always those instances that are life changing.We ALL have moments or events that changed us, created a new outlook, or made us think ... wait, what the hell was that?

I can point to specific things that have changed me for either the better or worse. If you asked my family and friends, they would probably say that I don't like change, and I get fussy about new things. Fine. I can take that. But they are all crazy haters. And, I only like change that is for a good reason. I don't like change just to be changing.

Besides discovering the Croc and learning that you can "oven fry" chicken ... there are other moments below that created this ME. Not in order by date or importance.
  • The day my dad moved out of our home when I was about four years old. By the way, I'm not crying about it; it was for the best for him and my mother. 
  • When I got my college degree. The first in my family. I really do feel like my education, my sacrifice, my working years have paved the way for future generations of strong women. My great-grandmother, who lived in a time when women just didn't have many choices, longed for something different. She was just so uneducated, poor and removed ... she knew she wanted a different life but she had no way or means to get it. So, she did what she was supposed to do and got married. Granted, she was 21 and a spinster by any standard in those days, but she still finally married. She had loved school so much that she went through the 8th grade four times. She desperately wanted something that was just out of her grasp. She lived before women's lib, before a sexual revolution; she was one of those women who laid the groundwork for the rest of us. She just didn't know it. More on her later.
  • When this same great-grandmother, whom I connected with and adored, died. Now, that was sad.
  • When my dad remarried, and then a few years later, my mom.
  • When my mom and stepfather moved me and my brothers to Arkansas.
  • When my children were born. But that's too easy. So ... when I brought my son home from the hospital and he was crying in the middle of the night, and I kept sleepily thinking, "Someone should pick up that baby" and then set straight up, jarred by the realization that that someone was me. When my daughter watched me drive away from the daycare when she was 2 years old, hugging herself and blowing in the air. "Blowing my mommy hugs" she would tell the caregivers. There are lots of moments of realization and clarity where my children are concerned. 
  • When I found my real, true love. I know that sounds trite and, almost, self-serving, but I can't find the word. Or words. He really is that to me, although if he heard me say that, he would probably just sigh and whisper something under his breath about "annoying." He always, always makes me laugh.
  • And when I went through the difficult process of a divorce but regained what was lost to me during my marriage - my self respect, myself and access to the green, overstuffed recliner.
So I am recommitting to blogging, no longer about reality TV, but about whatever calls to me on that day. And this I promise: No recipes. No exercise tips; No Pinterest-type inspirational messages; no embarrassing photos or confessions. There's so much of that. I'm committing to just blogging about stuff.