The Pressha!

So you're wondering what I was going to have in my list of resolutions for 2009--

What do you mean no? You weren't wondering?


Well, dang, at least you could lie about it. Okay, that's better--

*ahem* Oh! Funny you ask! I don't do resolutions. That's right, I don't do them. My resolutions come as the days do--it doesn't matter if it coincides with throwing out a calendar. I come up with things like:

I'm going to lose weight

I'm not buying any more bags

I'll brown bag it at work

I'm going to hit the gym three times a week

I'm going to eat better

Okay, some of these are unrealistic, vague or both. The gym one is proving to be really unrealistic. The weight loss one-it depends. In one year I lost 41 pounds! No kidding! I also gained that same 41 pounds over the course of a pregnancy in the same year, but that's just a minor detail. You were impressed before I gave you the whole story, right? That's what matters.

I don't make resolutions because of the pressure. It's self-imposed pressure, but pressure nonetheless. you are better off "resolving" when you are ready to tackle the issue not because it's new year's eve and oh-my-God you HAVE TO (HAVE TO!) come up with a set of goals for a better you! After all, you have a new year to impress and you don't want to disappoint it! Now put on your party hat and celebrate!

I do better committing when I'm ready. That could be June 12th, it could be March 19th. If I fail, I get back to it when I think I'm ready again.

So, hello 2009, take me as I am.

It’s Just Another Sunday—

My ipod connector malfunctioned, which means I am forced to listen to radio or CDs in my car. I don’t bother with the radio. I couldn’t even tell you the title of a current song. Instead, I prefer my own music collection, which is now reduced to a format that can carry about 16 or 17 songs (yes, it’s a single disk player). I know—I’m so deprived, but somehow I’m getting by.

During the holidays I kept Winter Wonderland by Earl Grant on permanent rotation. This was provided to me by my best friend. You won’t find any “official” CDs as it was produced on vinyl, and then cassette, but it never made the jump to CD. This is a shame. The first time I heard this, I was listening to her first bootleg copy, on tape (in the days when it was unheard of to burn a CD) and stuck in traffic northbound on Highway 1. The only thing keeping me from not losing it was this tape. Hilarity ensued. Who would think to add in a jazzy accompaniment to the otherwise rudimentary sounding Jingle Bells? Who would play a opening beat that conjures up images of wild hogs rooting through the forest (at least in my warped mind) to “The Little Drummer Boy?” Earl Grant, that’s who. Everybody should experience Christmas songs interpreted with flourish and flair via jazz organ, piano, soulful humming and/or Nate King Cole-esque singing. To those who have not heard this album before, check it out. Unfortunately Mr. Grant is no longer with us; I think he had quite a few more gems in him that we will never get to witness.

The other day I ejected Earl from the player (Christmas has 12 days and isn’t really over yet, I know, but keep in mind I have been listening to these holiday songs for about 2 weeks straight at this point) and pulled another from my glove box. “Ooooh, Pure Moods,” I thought, taking a quick glance before I inserted the disc. Enya and the X Files theme are always worth a chuckle or two, but my eyes had fooled me. It was not my Pure moods CD (which is probably buried in my Case Logic CD holder), it was in fact, Paul Simon. I wasn’t in the mood for “Me and Julio Down in the Schoolyard” so I ejected the disk and grabbed another one. It was my “GO 80’s” CD—excellent choice. This compilation includes some of the more well known songs, like 99 Red Balloons, The Safety Dance, and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. It also has an Eddy Grant song(the other Mr. Grant. Who knew I could come up with a post mentioning not one, but two E. Grants?). This song is titled “Gimme Hope, Joanna” which, cleverly enough is not about a girl (We have Kool and the Gang to cover that), but Johannesburg during the years of Apartheid. The young kids will hear that and think “What?” but us old ‘uns will get it.

I skipped some of the songs (do you remember trying to do this with cassettes—if you didn’t like the entire album you were screwed. Fast forward—oops, too far—rewind—oops, crappy song again). Yesterday morning, though, I hit one of the unfavorites, “We Built This City.” Don’t tell me you don’t know that one. It’s by Starship, which is the group formerly known as Jefferson Starship that was formerly known as Jefferson Airplane. Can someone please tell me what the hell this song is about besides vague and sinister "Corporation Games?" (Depeche Mode did it better with "Everything Counts") I remember riding in the car listening to the dreaded radio when my dad, who was driving, heard the lyrics and declared “This is a DUMB song.” And it still is, but knowing that, I let it play out, thinking, why not revel in the glorious badness of it all? Behind the shield of my tinted windows, I sang what I remembered of the lyrics. Most of the words came right back to me. And yet, I remember pretty much nothing from the two college semesters of Russian (or pretty much anything else I spent numerous hours of my life learning). Funny how that works. Maybe if I had learned these things with the aid of heavily synthesized repetitive lyrics, my brain would have held onto them longer.


Dream a Little Dream

There’s a dream I’ve had in the past few years that always disturbs me. I’m back in college, starting out for the semester and while I know there is a certain required course on my schedule, I can never remember what day and time I have to attend the course, or in the instances when I do remember, I can not find the classroom, or else I've missed so many classes that there's no possible way to catch up. Sometimes this missing course is English, sometimes math--but the subject never plays a huge factor. Despite these variations, the outcome is always the same: I don’t complete the course, which means I can not graduate on time.

The closing scene is a review by the academic board. Somehow I make it all the way to right before graduation before anyone catches the error. By then the answer is that I have a few days to catch up on a semester’s worth of course material or else I just won’t graduate. Given the time crunch, there's no way for me to catch up. Will they take pity on me or give me the boot? Let me skip a few lessons in the interest of time or make me suffer for being an idiot? Or will honor come into play as I am fully aware that I've missed the course and yet I tried to deceive everyone around me into thinking I had taken it? Who knows. I never find out my fate before I wake up. I emerge from the dream in limbo.

I know this is a completely unrealistic scenario. If I can’t find the classroom, I can ask someone before an entire semester passes me by. If I don’t remember the day and class period, I can pull out my schedule and verify it. If I miss the class, the professor can contact me. There is no way that at West Point a cadet could go without being missed for one class period, never mind an entire semester’s worth of lessons. It just wouldn't happen (not without extreme consequences, anyhow).

Knowing this, I still wake up feeling like a fraud. As if four years of courses (and three summers of making up for failed courses) did not result in a legitimate diploma. As if the ring came from a Cracker Jack box. As if the dream (with its inaccurate academic building layout and multiple variations) somehow trumps reality.

It happens like that sometimes. There have been times when I’ve woken up dazed and it takes a few minutes to accept that what I remember either is not how things happened or that those things never happened at all. Sometimes it takes longer. Have you ever had a dream where you witnessed your significant other cheating on you? “What’s wrong?” he or she will say in the waking hours that follow. “Nothing” you mutter in response, though you want to say "How could you?" Despite knowing it was only a dream, you're absolutely disgusted with them. Disgusted!

Imagine my surprise when I received an official looking envelope from West Point’s department of admissions. “Oh no, it’s a letter revoking my degree” I thought when I saw it there on my dresser. I looked over at my husband’s mail pile and noticed that he did not have a similar envelope. Well, duh. Of course he didn't get one! He’s not the fraud.

Heat rose through my chest and throat as I tore it open.

Inside was an update on the numbers of minority cadets in the current and incoming class. And after that, a request for me to volunteer to be a field minority recruiting representative for the academy.


Candies of a Lesser God

Do you remember coming home from a night of trick or treating with a bag loaded with candy? What was the first thing you did? Right—dump it onto the floor for a quick inventory.

The first things to get weeded out were the apples and pennies. After that, you could get down to business. For me, the ranking order went something like this:

Top Tier candies: m&m’s, Blow Pops, Twix, Milky Way, Three Musketeers, Jolly Ranchers, Mounds, Nestle Crunch, Nestle Alpine White, Hershey Milk Chocolate, Skittles, Butterfinger, Lifesavers

Middle Tier:
Tootsie Pops, Candy Corn, Snickers, Almond Joy, Peanut m&m’s, Smarties, Now and Later, Milk Duds, Whoppers, Candy Corn, Nerds, Dots, Jujubes, Starburst Fruit Chews, Mr. Goodbar

Lower Tier: Dum-Dum lollipops, wax lips, Sunmaid Raisins, Baby Ruth, Bit O' Honey, Sugar Daddies, Chocolate coins, those strawberry hard candies with the gooey insides and Bazooka Joe bubble gum

Utter Crap (the dregs of the Sugar-Based Universe): Good & Plenty.

Did you catch that last one? Good & Plenty. Remember those? Does anyone actually eat and enjoy them? As an adult I never intentionally buy or consume Good & Plenty. I don’t even like black licorice (go ahead and call me a racist, I don’t care) and Good & Plenty is based on black licorice and covered in a shiny white or pink sugar coating. If you separated the colors and carried these around in sandwich baggies, they would kind of look like illegal substances. Who designs a candy in the shape of a drug capsule?

This year I got great gifts from my husband. He is generous and usually does well when choosing gifts but he needs some help in the candy department. In my stocking this year was a package of the aforementioned Good & Plenty. Let me say this again: NEVER have I intentionally bought or consumed Good & Plenty.

What's worse is that this is the SECOND TIME he has bought this as a stocking stuffer. Apparently I used to get it “all the time” when we went to the movies. “Oh, you must be remembering some other girlfriend, because it wasn’t me.” I said. He was so offended I would say such a thing, but how else you could explain the confusion? He misremembered?

Here's a short list of what I would willingly purchase and consume:
milk chocolate---no peanuts, please, but I will accept chocolate involving peanut butter, cashews, almonds or hazelnuts
Twizzlers (NOT those horrid Red Vines, they are Not The Same)
Hot Tamales
Gummi Bears
Jolly Ranchers

Yes, I know, it is just candy but it stings a bit. As one of my friends said, this is what makes men and women are so different. A man would shrug it off and laugh. "What made you think I like these?" he'd say. She'd answer with something and that would be the end of the story. He might not even remember if she repeated the mistake the following year. A woman? She would would take this and run with it. “You don’t know me!” her mind would scream upon discovering a gift that in no way lines up with her tastes. She would make a mental note and file it away as ammunition for any future offenses. You see, it’s not about the candy; it’s about feeling like someone is not paying attention to what I like, and to someone with a sweet tooth like me, candy is a B.F.D.

***disclaimer***--I am not really that upset, I just had to get this out someplace. Thankfully it is just candy and not, say, a new household appliance or season tickets to the Redskins games or a bowling ball engraved with his initials.


And Now For A Moment Of 7th Grade Humor--

This morning while riding the train, I read my little freebie Washington Post Express newspaper.

Right there, on the cover, was a photo of Ken Salazar and Barack Obama, shortly after Mr. Obama made the announcement that Salazar would be the next head of the Department of the Interior. "Obama Taps Salazar To Head Interior." read the headline.

Hmmmm, I thought. That looks might-TEE familiar. Where have I seen this, or something similar to this before?


Then it hit me.


The Saga of THE BOOTS

For two years I stalked a pair of boots. Yes you read that right--boots. Online I discovered the perfect specimen—leopard print calf hair, check, sexy spike heel, check, Platform sole, check. They were gorgeous and woefully higher than the price I was willing to pay for animal print ankle boots.

Last fall they went on sale, but even 49% off of ridiculously expensive still ends up being too costly to justify, so what did I do? I went to a store and bought what I considered to be the next best thing at a fraction of the cost.

Sure the cut of the shoe and coloring of the leopard spots weren’t quite the same, but they would have to do. How closely do people judge leopard print anyway? If that person isn’t me, chances are they don’t really care all *that* much. So I had some boots—not THE boots, mind you, but a compromise that would help me get over not having the exact ones I wanted.

The end. Right?


Despite buying the substitutes, I kept checking out those boots online. All you had to do was type the magic word into Google (“Mercurypipe”), click your heels three times, and voila, the first link to come up took you straight to Zappos. Sometimes the boots were 10% off. Sometimes more. They had been on the site for so long that I took their presence for granted. If I happened to be browsing for something else on Zappos, I could always click around and check up on the boots. They weren’t going anywhere, right?


Imagine my surprise when I caught them at 59% off. I immediately checked to see if my size was available, but the only size left was 10. I could get away with a 9 if I stuffed the toe, but 10 would be pushing it. I filled out the form to be notified if my size miraculously became available but I knew it was futile. Deep discount + one size left meant I had missed my chance. Not only that, but the designer had a new style of leopard print boot at full price, which meant the ones I had stalked were officially old news.

Panic struck. How could it be? I had the other boots, sure, but we all know those were Not The Same. Those were meant to tide me over until the day came when I no longer wanted THE BOOTS. And that day never came. The day that came was when THE BOOTS were no longer available.

I know, I know, it’s just stuff—a material thing you could very easily live without. I have so many shoes more practical than these, so there’s no way to even say that I needed them. They squarely fell into the category of “superficial unnecessary want”, and with another quick search, I was able to figure out what had become of the arsenal of boots that had once been on Zappos.

Bluefly bought them. Sure, the name of the style had been tweaked a bit, but the photos indicated that these were the same boots—same exact, down to the stock photos used on the site. There was no free shipping, but the 49% off sales price was there. I checked the sizes—all were available except my exact size—8. But they had 8 ½. I could get away with a little extra toe room. I bit the bullet.

Am I doing the right thing? I asked myself as I typed in my ordering information.

"Sure you are," I replied. "You looked at these suckers for two years. Why not give yourself an early Christmas gift? Go on. You deserve it."

I could save that money. I could buy someone else something nice. I could give it to charity.

"Are you crazy?"

Well, no, but how can I justify spending--

"But the boots." I replied. "THE BOOTS. You let them slip away on Zappos, and now that you’ve found where they went, you don’t want to lose them again!"

I pressed the “Complete order” button and waited for my confirmation to pop up.

I felt a little sick at the amount (because 49% off of ridiculously expensive is still expensive) but if I brought my lunch to work for a month, I could defray the cost. And if I kept that up, I could save a lot of money over a year. Bringing in lunch was the answer. Why, if you added it up, I was buying the equivalent of THE BOOTS (at 49% off) in lunch every single month. That was worse than just buying THE BOOTS once.

Early the following week, I tracked the shipment. “They should get there soon,” said a friend, “the warehouse is just down the road in Virginia.”

When Wednesday rolled around, I came home and checked the front step. Nothing. I went upstairs and checked my computer. “Delivered at 4:55 p.m.” read the UPS note.

They were already here!

I checked the front again, but there was still nothing. I went to the garage, opened the door and—there, in the corner between the house and the garbage can was a box. The return address was Bluefly. I retrieved it, closed the garage and whisked the package upstairs to my room, where I prepared for the unveiling. Would they be everything I had hoped for, or was the idea of having the boots better than the reality?

I pulled off the packing tape, pushed the stuffing paper out of the way and uncovered the purple Stuart Weitzman box. With a deep breath I pulled off the lid.

Angels sang. Beams of light rained down from the heavens. It was...beautiful. (Sidenote: why do I look like Tobey Maguire?!)

Okay, just kidding. But there they were in the “flesh” (in the leopard printed calf skin? How do you describe it when you “meet” an inanimate object?) It is kind of gory and creepy if that object is made from a once living thing.

I pulled them out and tried them on. By now I was in pajama pants, so it wasn’t a good look, but this was more of a test for fit and feel. The soles of the shoes were—stiff. The heel was a bit higher than I was used to. I hobbled down to the guest room to check them out in the full length mirror. I wasn’t sure if I had pants long enough for these, but I’d figure something out. I would make them work.

After I took them off, I studied the workmanship. Each boot was made of two pieces of material. The hair was like silk. The color was rich. Even the suede on the platform resembled velvet. These made the substitutes I bought last year look like utter crap. They were expensive—the most I had ever spent on a pair of shoes, but come on, you’re paying for QUALITY. I still felt guilty about the cost but it was a one time deal. I’d get over it. Besides, I never had any of this buyer’s guilt before having a kid. For some reason being a mother makes you think of all of the different ways you could have spent that money for OTHER PEOPLE. If it’s for you and strictly for you, somehow it seems wrong. (Oddly enough, men don’t seem to have this problem.)

So the next thing was preparing for the Debut of THE BOOTS. Holiday party? Nah, that involves too much standing. Dinner out on a weekend? Possibly. They would be cute with jeans. Work? That involves a lot of sitting, but that might be better. I would have to make sure the rest of my outfit was subdued though. There would be no coordinating animal print scarves, belts or bags (though I own some of those as well). I wasn’t trying to represent the entire animal kingdom. I was just going for interesting little accent piece. You know, kind of a plain outfit—oh that’s a nice silk jacket, oh there are some black pants and then WOW! Did you see those boots? That’s what I was going for.

So I wore them yesterday. It took some adjustment, but seeing the world from four inches higher than my usual perspective was strangely empowering. If I walked short distances they were moderately comfortable. I could do this!

A friend asked if we could meet for lunch. “Sure,” I said, picking a location not too far from my own building. I could strut down there without having to change shoes, I thought. When she called to let me know she had arrived, I thought, Well, so have I! THE BOOTS and I have arrived.

Okay, no, I didn’t think that. I’m not that much of an asshole. I just told her I’d be there in two minutes. I grabbed my bag from my desk, took a step and whoops

I looked at the floor first. Was there a hole? Had I tripped? I stepped down again and whoops

Something wasn’t right. I balanced on one foot, bent my knee and sloooowly lifted the other foot. There. The heel was--bent?

No! It was broken. Clean off! I had to study it for a few seconds to fully process what happened before I pulled off the heel in disbelief. Five slightly bent screws protruded from where the heel should have been. What in the world? The first day I wear them and THE BOOTS didn’t even make it to lunch time? I’ve had payless shoes that stayed intact for years, but the most expensive shoes I’ve ever bought don’t even survive a few hours? Quality my foot.

I felt a little sick inside, but it would be okay. I put on my spare shoes (kept in my desk drawer), grabbed a plastic sack and stuffed the boots inside and continued on to lunch. There was a cobbler and he could probably fix them. In fact, I took both boots in the event that the other one had a similar flaw.

After lunch, I beelined it to the cobbler's shop.

When he pulled out the pliers relief washed over me. There was hope after all. Suddenly he stopped. Shaking his head slowly, he said those awful words.

“They can’t be fixed.”

"Can't. be. fixed?" I echoed.

He explained that part of the main screw had broken off inside of the heel which meant there would be no repair.

"I'm sorry." he said, obviously reading the anguish on my face. It was curtains for THE BOOTS.

Now was the time to panic. I returned to the office, sat through my meeting while wondering what Bluefly’s return policy was. If they wouldn't take them back I'd have to break out the Liquid Nails and try my hand at shoe repair once I got home. After the meeting, I went to my desk and checked online

“Footwear returns will be accepted on unworn shoes returned in the original shoebox (without postal labels).”

Well, that didn't sound good. It was time to call a human being and plead my case. I called customer service with my sob story (emphasizing that this was the first day I had ever worn them) and Tiffany the customer service rep told me I could send it back noting that there was a defect and I would get my money (or credit) back.

I exhaled.

“They’re still available in your size if you want to buy another pair.” She offered.

“No,” I said, “I don’t think so.”

“I understand.” Replied Tiffany.

I’m sure there’s a lesson in all of this. Priciness does not equal quality? All that glitters isn’t gold? It is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all? Who knows; I’m still trying to figure it out. I even pulled the substitutes from the closet. The calf hair felt like sandpaper and there was a seam down the toe, but they were still in one piece and had survived their debut wearing. Even if they hadn't, I didn't spend nearly as much on them. Sure, they were Not The Same, but they weren't so bad.

What I'll remember most was that feeling of disappointment and the horror of holding the dismembered heel in my hand. Never again will I insist that paying the extra guarantees that what you're buying is better than the cheap-o version.

Stuart Weitzman, you're dead to me. Dead!

(well, at least until these go on sale)