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May I Brag about My Brother?

sibling rivalry turned pride

My brother won an award, and I feel like bragging about it. This is a big deal.

The award is a big deal, sure. It consists of recognition for teamwork – and a designated parking space – at the hospital where he works.

But the biggest deal about the deal is that I’m genuinely happy for my brother – and not jealous at all.

Anyone who grew up in a house peppered with sibling rivalry, heady competition, and racing to see who could do what first might know how absolutely glorious it feels to actually be happy – instead of jealous – when a sibling does something cool.

Sibling Rivalry

I’m not sure when our sibling rivalry began, but I’m guessing it was the day my younger brother was born. I don’t recall being pushed aside for my new baby brother, but I do recall thinking I was the queen of the world. That meant anything that had the potential to take attention away from me could be cause for alarm, whether the potential was actually realized or not.

While you might expect rivalry from a batch of sisters like the Kardashians, where they’re all competing for fame, fortune, and the biggest butt, it’s not something you would necessarily expect from me and my brother.

That’s because we:

  • Are four years apart
  • Have totally different interests, dreams, goals, styles. He kayaks. I paddle board. He paints saints. I paint skeletons, dogs and spiders.
  • Are pretty much on opposite sides of the personality scale (aside from our matching sarcasm and wit)
  • Are fans of different football teams
  • Took totally different paths in life, with totally different results. He went to college and medial school immediately after high school and eventually became a surgeon. I hopped on a Greyhound bus bound for New York City and eventually realized my dream of making a living through writing, art and creation.

Despite our massive differences, I still felt the need to compete. I wanted to be the first to call Mom on her birthday, send Dad a Father’s Day card, book my plane ticket for a family visit, or get dibs on the last corner piece of deep-dish Buddy’s pizza.

Competition seemed to always be part of our relationship, at least in my head. This competition sometimes reared up mightily enough for me to turn into underlying envy. I’d look at everything my brother had, which included many things I didn’t, and want to use some of that sarcasm on him.

When I heard about this latest award, however, my heart didn’t harden with jealousy. It opened with love.

What the Heck Happened?

I can pinpoint several factors that are likely to have contributed to this glorious change of heart. They include:

  • Keeping a daily gratitude list for the past year, which makes me grateful for what I have instead of what I think I lack
  • Realizing there is enough God, love, money, fun, and everything else in the world to go around for everyone to enjoy, reassuring me that I won’t get less if someone else gets more
  • Being part of a supportive community that actually cheers for people to succeed rather than secretly hoping they’ll fail
  • Stopping the dang comparisons. Someone will always be smarter, younger, richer or have fewer dental fillings – but only I can be me.

No doubt I’ll be keeping up the above practices. The daily gratitude list comes with illustrations, has spawned several art projects, and consistently obliterates negativity. The realization that there’s enough of everything for everyone helps me revel in abundance.

Supportive communities that actually cheer you on are like getting a big hug every time you’re in their presence. And stopping the comparisons helps ensure we’ll enjoy the unique person we were born to be.

Not only that, but I can merrily brag about my brother and his award, instead of groveling and wondering why I didn’t win one. I can be happy for who he is, what he does, and that he’s my award-winning brother. But that still doesn’t mean I’ll ever give up dibs on the last corner piece of Buddy’s pizza.

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COLUMN: Ryn: Flushing out germs

Peeing in the shower can be a good thing – as long as your drain works, you don’t have some disgusting urinary infection and no one is in the shower with you.

It helps saves the environment by flushing with water you are using anyway, it can help kick athlete’s foot and, according to the highly scientific Glamour magazine, urine is sterile and nontoxic.

In these germ-o-phobic days of swine flu where surgical masks are often designated outerwear, it’s only fair to clean up some germy myths.

Like public restroom toilet seats give you gads of diseases. Quite frankly, they are one of the cleanest parts of the restroom, at home and in public.

“There are no butt-borne diseases,” said Charles Gerba, a University of Arizona microbiologist, garbologist and well-known “germ guru” who has studied such stuff for several decades.

“People are scared of toilets, ” he said, which is one of the reasons they are so germ-free. Folks clean the crap out of them.

“There is more fecal bacteria in the kitchen sink than there is in most toilets,” Gerba added. “That’s why dogs drink out of the toilets.”

This just proves dogs can sense certain things, such as ghosts, upcoming storms and fecal bacteria.

Gerba also admits there may be some credence to the belief that dog saliva is fairly clean, but he’ll still shirk from getting a wet one on the face by a well-meaning canine.

“I don’t like being licked by any animal that uses its tongue as toilet paper,” he confessed.

The most germ-infested item in a hospital may also surprise you. It’s not the bathroom door, the toilet bowl handle or the call buttons.

It’s the television remote control.

“In the home, too, it’s at the top of the list,” he said. “Everybody with the flu jumps into the bed with the TV remote.”

Other germs thrive in the soft fibers of the carpet.

“Carpeting builds up a lot of bugs,” he said. “We started working with UV lights and were surprised how much E. coli is in there.”

The original thought was it would be too dry for such stuff to thrive, but Gerba said food festering between fibers might be doing the trick to entice bacteria.

“It’s like a Happy Meal for them.”

I shudder to imagine the banquet going on in my vintage 1970s orange shag rugs.

Ugh.

But even carpeting and the TV remote cannot compete with the germiest thing in the home – the kitchen sponge.

“Every time you wipe it around, you’re giving bacteria free ride,” he said.

Replace the sponge once a week, throw it in the washing machine or nuke it in the microwave for 30 seconds or so.

Other places that could use some washing are found at the workplace.

Like that nozzle in the office water cooler. Gerba didn’t bring this one up, but Assistant City Editor Mark Evans reminds us often.

He stands in the break room while folks fill up their water bottles and asks them, “Do you know how many germs are on that thing?”

He then steps forward to fill up his own megatumbler.

Telephones, desktops, keyboards and the poor old computer mouse are the germiest things in the office, Gerba said.

That, and the first floor elevator button. It’s good Tucson doesn’t have many buildings that stretch above one floor.

While I hate to admit this, Gerba also said women’s desktops are much germier than men’s.

No, men aren’t necessarily neater, he said, but women have certain habits.

“Seventy percent of women store food in their desk,” he said. Again, it’s an E. coli playground. At least I am proud to say there’s no food in my desk.

The mice that prowl around the office went and ate it all.

As long as they followed the dogs’ lead and washed it down with toilet water, I guess it’s OK.

This column originally appeared in the May 8, 2009, issue of the Tucson Citizen newspaper.

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist and Tucson Citizen reporter who intends to to steam-clean her vintage carpet. Listen to a preview of her column at 8:10 a.m. Thursdays on KLPX 96.1 FM. Listen to her webcast at 4 p.m. Fridays at www.party934.com. E-mail: rynski@tucsoncitrizen.com

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COLUMN: Ryn: I wonder if they’re hiring in Madagascar

Job hunting has always been a full-time endeavor. In this fine economy, the hunt entails double time, triple time and often being on call like a doctor.

Is anyone hiring doctors?

With the Tucson Citizen going under and the rest of the country following suit, I am not alone trying to find a new job.

More than 15,700 folks across metro Tucson and 116,500 across the state have been laid off since the end of 2007, with more surely on the way.

As I am not alone in my hunt, I am also not alone in the way the job hunting process unfolds.

It starts with panic. We e-mail everyone we know, from each boss we ever had to our kindergarten teacher.

We even include that dude from 21 years ago who eventually joined us after we ran away to New York, since he recently found us on Facebook.

No matter that he’s back living with his parents in Michigan and, if we recall correctly, used to keep moldy green pizza under his bed.

“Hey buddy,” we e-mail, “you got a job for me?” Perhaps he can pay us to regularly clean beneath his bed.

The hunt moves to desperation. We scramble to all the job sites and blanket the Earth with our résumés.

We apply for each position we come across, regardless of pay, hours, location or even working conditions.

“Perhaps it might be cool to be a corrections officer,” we think. “Maybe I am cut out for Border Patrol.”

This stage includes a lot of typos, weeping and often sending out wrong versions of our résumé, like the one that hasn’t been updated since we were a salad bar girl at Bonanza.

We also apply for stuff for which we aren’t even qualified. Who cares if our only medical experience was dissecting a frog in high school? We apply for that surgeon job in the Virgin Islands.

Then we get mad. “Heck with you if you don’t want to hire me to clean beneath your bed,” we write to the Michigan pizza man. “You don’t know what you’re missing. I’m the best dang moldy green pizza cleaner in town.”

After we completely sever any contacts that may have helped and torch bridges we haven’t even crossed yet, our anger morphs into self-pity.

“Woe is me,” we lament. “No one wants to hire me.”

Here come thoughts of being worthless, unemployable and destined to live in the Rillito riverbed, like that guy who eats graham crackers for dinner at his camp beneath a tree.

To offset this pity, we vow to be constructive.

So we go get drunk. If we happen not to drink, we can always escape through meditation, long walks around the guy’s riverbed camp and frequent, lengthy naps. My nap record was eight hours the other Sunday.

Once we sober up or wake up, we begin our stint of wild dreaming.

Here’s where we shoot off résumés to Hawaii, Australia and Paris. Costa Rica, Madagascar, Rome. It doesn’t really matter what types of jobs are open in these places; we just know they will take us far away.

As we check for phone messages every half-hour, our e-mails every five minutes and our Facebook every three seconds to see if anyone posted a job opening on our wall, we slowly sink into surrender.

“No one is hiring,” we say. Or at least not for jobs that would tickle our fancies.

Thus the fun begins. We get innovative. Recalling how we once traded artwork for a sandwich during our early New York days, we break out the paints.

We gather up our markers and hook up a sign that says: “Will create for food.”

We dig out our tattoo guns, dust off our flute and research how to start a business selling wacky yard art. We practice haircuts and pedicures on our dog.

We still may not have found a job or even been offered a sandwich, but at least the dog looks cool with a Mohawk.

And if anyone needs a haircut, tattoo or wacky yard art, you just may find me working as a surgeon in the Virgin Islands.

Ryn Gargulinski is an artist, poet and Tucson Citizen reporter who nearly showed up for corrections officer training a few weeks back. Listen to a preview of her column at 8:10 a.m. Thursdays on KLPX 96.1 FM.

This column originally appeared in the Feb. 27, 2009, issue of the Tucson Citizen.

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COLUMN: Gargulinski: Hot spot puppy playgrounds

Some people make fun of it. My parents find it weird. A dear friend told me, in all earnestness, the practice was quite unhealthy.

“You spend way too much time at the dog park,” she said, urging me to go to a movie, a gallery, the highly touted Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

“But I can’t take my dog,” I said. I’m not alone making the dog park, specifically the one at 2075 N. Sixth Ave., a heavy habit.

Lola Handzel regularly trots in with Chavo, Roxi and Jebediah. Walt, last name unknown, shows up with the chipper Chester. Joan Visconti and Shree are as constant as a sunset. And a day at the park would not be complete without Zane the Great Dane, with his people, Sally and Jerry Michaels.

“It’s more than just a place to hang out,” Visconti said. “It’s a community.”

While these regulars frequent the Sixth Avenue Dog Park, the five other dog parks around town have similar connections.

People bring lawn chairs to hang out at the Reid Park Dog Park, 900 S. Randolph Way.

District 2 Councilwoman Carol West said the folks who frequent her district’s dog parks – Udall Park, 7290 E. Tanque Verde Road, and Palo Verde Park, 300 S. Mann Ave. – form committees, hold grand openings and socialize.

“It’s really something special,” Visconti said. “We live in cities and often even don’t know the name of the person who lives next to you. It’s nice to have a place where you can develop friendships.”

The friendships start at the park, sometimes tentatively with dog conversation, dog connections and friends breaking up fights that may start between other friends’ dogs.

They can blossom to chats over coffee, creative collaborations and more.

Catherine Goodrich and Tim Hubbell ended up getting married after first meeting at the Sixth Avenue Dog Park.

They could not be reached for comment, but their answering machine recording said: “Please leave a message. Our dogs are listening.”

“Dog people understand each other,” Handzel said. “They don’t wonder why I can only go out until a certain time on Friday because I have to let the dogs out, or why I can’t meet them until after I take the dogs to the park.”

“Right there you have a kindred spirit.”

The spirit shone brilliantly the past two weeks at the Sixth Avenue park when an orphaned, injured pit bull puppy limped his way into the hearts of parkgoers.

Parkgoers “adopted” the injured pup, now named Jebediah, with Handzel acting as foster mom. She took him for treatment of his shattered and infected leg.

So far the medical bills have come to about $400 and Jeb’s going to need a costly operation. Park regulars held a bake sale last weekend to raise funds.

“Every time someone gave money, I cried,” Handzel said. “It was so heartwarming.” One woman from the dog park, who was visiting with her huskies but wished to remain anonymous, handed over a check for $100.

“We rally,” Visconti said. “We watch out for each other’s dogs.”

We also don’t find it strange or unhealthy to spend “way too much time” at the dog park.

Award winner: This column was one of a collection that won the Don Schellie Award for best feature column in Arizona from the AZ Press Club.

This column originally appeared in Sept. 20, 2007, issue of the Tucson Citizen newspaper.

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COLUMN: Ryn: Job fairs: The great compression

Cattle generally have it better than folks who stampede through a job fair. And the cattle get shot in the head.

My friend Bart used to work in a slaughterhouse, and he told me plenty of grisly tales about the air guns.

No one was shot during Tuesday’s massive Jobing.com fair at the Tucson Convention Center, but I may have volunteered to be put out of my misery.

Something about being in a room stuffed with thousands of people vying for a mere handful of jobs tends to make me weak and weary.

Others weren’t quite as depressed about the job fair, though I tried to make them say they were.

“It doesn’t make me depressed, no,” said Luis Gomez, 53, who was looking for computer-related work. Self-employed for some time, he said business was down and he needed some part-time income. “It’s a source of hope, not depression.”

Kristen Nyboer, 22, who is trained in working with autistic and developmentally disabled kids, also felt pretty positive about the fair. Until she saw that the line was longer than those for the Porta Potty during a beer fest.

“I’m still not depressed,” she said, “but maybe a little less optimistic.”

Even Stephanie Jamison, 37, who has been to every Tucson job fair in the past several years and only once got a job from them, had uplifting things to say.

“No, it doesn’t make me depressed,” she said. “It gives me encouragement to know Jobing.com is doing this to help people.”

No matter who runs them, job fairs have always left a bad taste in my mouth, not unlike drinking coffee while eating tuna fish.

To be fair, I’ve only attended one job fest prior to Tuesday’s packed event. It, too, was a jammed event, but at New York City’s Javits Center, a four-level behemoth of a building large enough to host floor hockey games and international motorcycle shows – complete with the latest lines.

I recall being pushed, shoved, smushed and drenched in sweat, wearing an ill-matching pseudo suit that was much too big for me.

Sure, I’ve come a long way since those pre-college days, and now even have clothes that fit, but I still tend to get morose when I feel like I’m at a cattle call.

Job fair volunteer Tyler Evans, 24, shared my lack of enthusiasm for the event. He was collecting the little registration papers some people actually threw in his general direction.

“Only about 10 percent of these people will get a job,” he said of those hoping for an offer after the fair.

Part of that was because the applicants far outnumbered the available jobs. But another part was due to people’s attitudes.

“They sabotage themselves,” he said. “They go into it like: ‘Hi, my name is so-and-so and I don’t want to work for you.’”

Meanwhile, he continued, the employers are often paying attention to the long lines and the person behind the person they are supposed to be interviewing.

“I wouldn’t go to this,” he said of the fair, “I’d go to a business personally to get a job.”

Yes, Evans is employed. He’s training to be a nurse. It’s not a position he nabbed from a job fair.

I didn’t think my luck would be so great at the fair, either, despite my matching and fitting clothes.

Not necessarily because of my attitude, not because I felt like bursting into tears, but mainly because I didn’t hand out any résumés.

I simply couldn’t.

As much as I wanted to embrace the attitudes held by Gomez, Nyboer and Jamison; as much as I wanted to be grateful for the chance to meet a host of employers under a single roof; as much as I loved my little matching winter suit; I couldn’t bring myself to smile and hand over a single résumé.

My thoughts lingered, instead, on the air gun.

Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist and Tucson Citizen reporter who is not expecting any callbacks from the job fair. Listen to a preview of her column at 8:10 a.m. Thursdays on KLPX 96.1 FM.

This column originally appeared in the Jan. 30, 2009, issue of the Tucson Citizen.

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