Shout louder

The year is almost over and if you know me, then you know I don’t have a list of resolutions for 2010. I will do my best to go to the gym regularly (what the hell, I am paying for it whether I go or not) and to not bite my nails. I know it is a nasty habit, and I never claimed to not be a nail biter. If the stress ramps up, the nails are the first to go. The nice thing is that I am not endangering anyone’s health and in a week’s time of not biting my nails, you would never know the difference. I don’t even need to shell out for a patch or a special gum. I either bite or don’t bite but I am pretty sure I won’t ever not be a nail biter (have fun counting the number of negatives in that sentence).

I am still working on a project that has been years in the making. I need to do something with it (well, finish first, but I meant after that). This will involve a bit of self- promotion, and I suck at that. I was lamenting to a few friends that it seems that certain bloggers out there have huge followings, they have actual comments posted after their entries and the kicker is, it doesn’t even matter if it’s a good entry. I have seen misspellings, posts about nothing but them, them, them, and over the top rants (sometimes general, sometimes stirring the pot in some ongoing blog war), and people eat it up! I realize that most of it is because these people aren’t particularly extraordinary, fabulous or talented, but because they do a great job of projecting that image to the world and advertising, networking, hounding people to visit their blogs. As much as I would like mine to be more popular, I started it as an outlet for writing first, so it would be stupid to whine that no one is visiting. I know there are people who visit and don’t comment, and maybe the format doesn’t lend itself to comments anyway. It’s not that interactive. I try to keep each post contained as a small story and it doesn’t necessarily link to anything else. I don’t follow a timeline. You won’t hear what I had for breakfast, lunch or dinner unless it’s relevant to what I’m posting that day.

I am not going to brag that I’m so modest (because isn’t that defeating the purpose?), but self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to me. I would rather quietly work at something I enjoy and am good at and show you that way, than talk about how good I am. This is sometimes a problem. In the matter of the project I’m working on now, I have to convince someone else, who doesn’t know me at all, that it’s worthwhile in order to entice them into wanting to see more. I have to make a mighty promise—it won’t be a complete lie because the work is there, but I have to advertise it first, and this is where I’m terrible. I have done really well on job interviews. I’ve been hired on the promise that I would be able to do something well, and that involves self-promotion first, work later. It’s not such a hard concept and it appears that I have it in me to some extent, but I don’t feel at ease with it unless I absolutely have to do it (as in getting a job so I can pay for my food and mortgage) .

Another problem with self-promoting is that you will inevitably annoy someone in the process. I am not going to flat out label this as “haters hating,” because it’s not that simple. Not everyone is jealous or hating on others—sometimes the complaints are legitimate and those who feel hated upon should step back and consider the criticism. Sometimes it’s annoying to be told something is great when your senses and logic are telling you otherwise. Sometimes you see that what’s in front of you is only there because the person presenting it hustled, and got everyone else they know to hustle on his or her behalf. Sometimes you don’t want to be sold. Sometimes it’s better to discover something on your own without the blaring of “SUNDAY,SUNDAY, SUNDAY!!!" in your ear to garner your attention. Let me find the product I need, not the product someone else wants me to buy.

In most cases, you have to be a self-promoter in order to get ahead. It seems that success not just based on merit but on how loudly you shout and how many people you reach.

Praising Mediocrity

I went to breakfast with the company president not too long ago. I know that sounds like a BFD, but actually I work for a pretty small company now, and their culture is a lot different than the usual corporate gig. They want you to wear whatever you’re comfortable wearing. This means you will see anything from jeans to sweats. Here’s what you won’t see: suits. This means I have several snazzy suits that are now collecting dust in the closet. I hear you will be the object of ridicule if you show up wearing one, so I haven’t dared.

They have a lot of policies like that—I’m still getting used to it, actually. The president emailed me to set a time and date. I had seen him around but first felt unsure about his first name. It seems that every male co-worker has a monosyllabic name. If it had more than one syllable, of course it was shortened to a nickname. The president’s name is no different. I could have said Hi TomGlenNedDanWayneBobJimAl*, and gotten to it that way, but I wanted to make sure I was right first. So he would say “Hi GRC” and I would plaster on a frozen smile and reply, “Hi!” How rude is that? It’s like the Seinfeld episode where Jerry forgets his girlfriend’s name (Except this one doesn’t rhyme with a piece of anatomy, luckily).

We were at breakfast for an hour and a half. I can’t believe how the time flew. Mostly we discussed my background, my interests, and ideas I had for the company. At one point, he told me how torn he is between balancing growth and maintaining a great company. At some level, the more people you hire, the bigger chance there is that it will slide towards mediocre. He stared dead at me and said “I hate mediocrity.” I wished I had told him how much he would have hated it at West Point. As a cadet you are labeled as “the best and the brightest,” but it’s actually mediocrity that gets you through. You are bombarded with so many tasks, some big, and some small, that it’s unlikely that you will excel at any one thing unless you are inclined to do so. I am guessing he didn’t see my transcript because that piece of paper shouts mediocrity from the rooftops. You have to be pretty good to get in, but you have to be mediocre to get through. If you fail every one of your English courses, it won’t matter that you got an A in Thermodynamics, you’re getting the boot, pal. You could have a 4.0 grade point average, but if you don’t pass the IOCT, you can forget about graduating. The entire four years was a balancing act which involved knowing how to do everything just well enough for the sum total to result in a diploma.

Most of the time I resented this. I felt like I spent four years sucking at everything, which wasn’t quite the confidence boost I needed. I still feel like I’m a square peg trying to get by in a round world. I didn’t share any of this with him.

He is a young guy—just over 40 from what I gathered, and in charge of an entire company. That seems like such a huge accomplishment (and he managed to mention that once upon a time he was the president of a company 7 times bigger than ours). It seems like—wow, but then I thought about it. In the Army, it’s not unheard of for a 40 year old lieutenant colonel to be in charge of that many people. Once you leave there, you get used to a different set of standards. The hardest job I ever had was also the lowest paying one (if you don’t count my stint as a library page in high school). I was a second lieutenant in charge of a Patriot Missile Platoon. You won’t find many people in their really early 20’s in charge of 30 people and millions of dollars (said in my best Robin Leach accent)of stuff. It’s not that most people aren’t capable, it’s just that there isn’t enough room for everyone to be the boss, and not everyone wants to be the boss.

It was a good** meeting. He offered some unorthodox ideas (“What if I offered every new employee $10K to walk away if they don’t like the job three months in?”) and it seemed like he actually listened to what I had to say. I totally get his struggle with avoiding mediocrity, but it seems like this world is geared towards averages, and good enough solutions and telling us that it’s okay to not be perfectionists as long as you get the job done. The funny thing is, I am generally okay with being mediocre until you get to something I truly put everything into. Only then will I agonize over the details, which means I never actually finish what I’m doing. If I could be mediocre there, even just a little bit, I’d be better off.
*Actual names of coworkers
**good=epitome of a mediocre word, and the runner up is "nice"


♪ ♫"It's the most pressure-filled tiiiiime of the year..." ♫ ♪

It is December 22nd and I have not sent out a Christmas card. I have the cards, I think I have the stamps, and I have the addresses (somewhere, written down or on labels ripped from envelopes of cards people have sent me), but it seems that my procrastinating tendencies are setting me up to fail once again. I don’t know what the hell is wrong with me, but every year it gets worse. It’s just one more thing to do piled on top of many more. I feel like everything was late this year. We didn’t get a tree until the evening of the 18th, which upset my husband like you wouldn’t believe. The original tree-killing date was the 13th, but it rained, and since it was a Sunday, we figured there wouldn’t be time to get a tree during daylight hours until the following weekend. My husband even threatened to go to a lot with pre-cut trees. This is the devil to me. We live less than five miles from an orchard with Christmas trees. I love the idea of walking through rows of living trees and finding the one you choose to sacrifice. The choosing is sort of done for you already when you go to a tree lot. I don’t like that you have no idea how long those trees have been sitting there, already cut, dropping their needles and drying out like nobody’s business. I don’t really think it’s so awful to get a pre-cut tree, but it reminds me of how my father would haggle the poor tree lot person for a bargain. If it was December 23rd
(yes, we really did wait till the eve of Christmas Eve to get the tree one year) chances were those trees left on the lot were as good as mulch. I remember one year (it was probably the same year but the haggling was an annual event) the tree cost only $20. We waited until late in the game to get a tree and this was done only to ensure that we got a deal. You can’t really haggle when the trees still have their roots and will live to see another year.

There is a lot of pressure during this time of year. I will admit that a lot of it is self-imposed and exasperated because I’m a procrastinator, but there is an expectation that you will send cards and give gifts in a timely manner. You have to be on top of things because there aren’t a lot of places selling “Happy New Year!” cards (and damn it, there should be, but never mind that). Sometimes I can’t deal well with expectations. In September, I joined a snail mail music club. Basically you make a mix tape CD of songs from your collection, mail it out to a selected group of people and in return you receive those people’s music. I signed up thinking, Oh, cool, something new and maybe I will get to hear something I would have otherwise missed completely. Some of the songs are absolute gems and you can tell the sender put a lot of care and detail into their selections. I put mine together and sent them off, and then I immediately felt inadequate. What if my mix was pedestrian? I didn’t use a fancy pants labeling kit, I just drew on the CD with a Sharpie. What if every person who got my CD already had that music? There was no theme or rhyme or reason to what I chose. I just picked a bunch of songs in varying genres and that was it. One person sent a Robot Love story of techno songs and artwork. Someone else’s clearly had a punk rock vibe. Mine was a disorganized jumble (“Eclectic mix!”). I am hoping I don’t become the sender no one wants on their list. I vow to do better next time.

I skipped the most recent round of music mail outs. I knew it would be too much for me on top of all of the other stuff that happens around the holidays. I didn’t want the pressure. I also didn’t participate in Secret Santa stuff this year. I have given up on myself in the Secret Santa category because that is too much work. It’s really sweet what some people put together for gifts, but if you say “Thirty dollar limit, these are her favorite colors, she says she likes silver jewelry and chocolate and picture frames” it’s like I can feel the walls closing in. If I have refused to participate in a Secret Santa thing, please trust me that it’s me and not you.

But back to the tree, and the cards. I just feel like a big fat failure. I should be more into the holidays with a four year old in the house, but I’m not feeling it. Maybe the Christmas spirit will finally hit me on the 26th, in true procrastinator style.


I have a confession to make: there are thirteen hundred and something unread messages in my inbox. Maybe at the time that I post this it will have reached fourteen hundred and something. I don’t even know how many messages there are if I counted the ones I’ve already read. I find the whole thing overwhelming. I know it’s a sign of my own poor organizational skills. To be fair, I check the ones from people I know. I read those and sometimes keep the trail around to reread and laugh about later. The unreads are usually from the following entities:
Amazon, Barack Obama, Monster, Zappos, Borders, Sephora, eBags and anyone else I’ve checked out donated to, signed the online petition for, or ordered material goods from that required my email address. I either did not uncheck the “Please send me every thought and rambling about what is going on with your deals, political gripes, begging disguised as a guilt trip over donating to a worthy cause, and other offers, or I never clicked the itty bitty hyperlink to unsubscribe on the bottom of the email messages I have received.

My email account is the virtual equivalent to the houses on that show Hoarders. Have you seen this? It’s one of those shows I’ve heard about but never sat down to watch, until I had a week away from home and wireless internet access. I streamed two episodes back to back over my laptop. I streamed another one the other day, while folding laundry. These shows inspire me to clean up, organize and get rid of things I don’t use or need. The living conditions are so unbelievable and disgusting, and yet you cannot bring yourself to look away. You want to see this poor person twitch and agonize over getting rid of a thousand empty Pepsi bottles or dusty and broken picture frames and unfinished needlepoint projects. You can’t help but imagine the smells when the cleaning crew unearths a bathroom or a flattened, dearly departed animal. You can’t make sense of how someone could turn their home into a dumpster and a toilet simultaneously.

I want to criticize these people from my perch on the watching end of the screen, but at the same time, I know I will hold on to something a little longer than necessary if I think there’s a chance I will use it in the future. I don’t want to feel regret when I later look for that thing and realize that it’s gone because I donated it. I know it’s stupid and things are replaceable if I need them later--trust me, I’m working on it. When you have too many things, it becomes obvious because suddenly you find yourself low on space and you also find it harder and harder to get the things you need out from under the things you don’t. It’s sort of that way with email messages, except you can use the handy dandy search function if things get too dire. You also don’t run out of space these days. Gigabytes are so cheap that you can practically use as many as you want, not as many as you need. I know I will do a mass purge at some point. Look into my inbox and you’ll know I’m a hypocrite for pointing the finger at hoarders. There are a few messages I probably need to set aside in folders but the rest can go. I’ve done it several times before, and the last time I took a screenshot of the blissfully immaculate inbox and sent it to my husband. Then the inbox stays manageable for awhile, then the mail piles up again, and it just becomes too much of a pain. Plus, email is deceiving. You might have 15086 messages, but your page only displays the latest ones, in manageable byte sized chunks (please kick me for the pun, I richly deserve it), so you don’t have a true concept of what you’re amassing. There are consequences if you have accumulated 6000 teapots, or newspapers, or cats. There are no major consequences if you have 6000 messages in your inbox. No one really cares. You close the window of your email account and it’s out of sight. A show about someone cleaning up the inbox of an email account wouldn’t yield nearly as many viewers as “Hoarders.” It just doesn’t have the same punch. It is completely on you to manage your pile of email without a psychologist or cleaning crew to stand over your shoulder and assist you. It is completely on you, and that, my friends*, is too much pressure.
*Who am I, John McCain?

Partly Sunny Mind

I sometimes think I would be a happier person if my memory wasn’t that good. I love that I can recall certain events so clearly, but the down side is that not all of the events remembered are happy ones. I watched “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” the other day and it made me think. The focus of the movie was a company that provided a service that allowed you to isolate and erase the memories of an entire relationship with someone. The customer would take all of the physical reminders of that person, place them in a box and go to the company offering this service to have his or her memory wiped. Obviously this can only go so far—I can’t imagine this working if you have had kids with this person or you wanted to erase a parent or a sibling, but what if you could erase someone from your past? You could do away with the entire moping/dwelling period and move on, just as innocent and optimistic as you were before you met the asshole erased. Given a couple of recent stories from people I know who dated someone who clearly screwed up things in a spectacular fashion, that sounds pretty good idea to me.
I liked the movie, which is a great thing because it means I was able to get over Jim Carrey’s obnoxiousness. If you haven’t seen it, he’s not too obnoxious in this one, I promise. I actually think he does fine when he’s not making a concentrated effort to be annoyingly over the top, and someone must have liked that over the topness, because it’s what made him famous—it wasn’t me. I will never forgive him or Dr. Seuss’s widow for allowing the travesty known as the live action full feature film Grinch.

The next six words are rarely uttered from me so pay close attention: My favorite Jim Carrey movies are--

(in no particular order)

Dumb and Dumber—

(pauses to let that sink in)
Okay I know, I know, this one is over the top, yet for some unknown reason, I’m compelled to watch it whenever I catch it on TBS. Come on, she says “Austria” and he goes “Well put another shrimp on the barbie!” E? How is that not funny? No? Not even a little?

--The Truman Show

annnnnd (wait for ittttt)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (and how can anyone not love Kate Winslet? If you don’t then please leave now). Now, if you hate Jim Carrey and wish to never read this blog again, that’s fine. My feelings won’t be hurt, too much. Actually that’s a lie. Seeing as there are probably three regular readers, it actually would hurt me some, but I would eventually get over it. Or, I know, I will just have the memory of you leaving my blog erased and continue writing as if I hadn’t been outcast by a Jim Carrey hater.

Anyway, what if this were a real service? I can think of a few things taking up space in my mind that I could probably function more effectively without. It’s not like I’d be wiping out years of my life, just a few days here and there would suffice. I guess I’ve been pretty lucky that there’s not to dispose. Most of it is good, and some of the not so good stuff has been live and learn, sure it sucks donkey balls but it’s character-building sort of material. Given some stories I have heard from the dating side, it’s evident that I am still pretty wide eyed about many things. I wouldn’t say I have “eternal sunshine” but maybe it’s “partly sunny” most of the time.

Now what if the business expanded beyond the relationship erasing services? Perhaps we could just get into deleting some of the more minor memories. The ability to unsee, unknow, unsmell, untaste, unhear, and unremember brief moments—mere seconds, really--would be priceless. With YouTube and people sending out messages to such “You’ll be sorry you clicked the link, but go on ahead, I triple dog dare you” items popping into our lives on a daily basis, erasing those seconds or minutes could be pretty lucrative, and I imagine not quite as messy and drastic as erasing entire memories of other people. Even if some of these things aren’t real, you still store them away. Now at least, can rest assured that the memory of the image/smell/taste/other brain searing negative item will no longer pop into your head at random moments.

So what about you? Would you erase something or someone from your memory or do you have more of a “Facts of Life”* philosophy?
*(You take the good,
you take the bad, 

you take them both and there you have
The Facts of Life, the Facts of Life.


Potty Humor

My daughter (who turned 4 in October) was using the bathroom and I thought I heard her say "Sometimes the toilet gets dessert." So when I was putting her to bed, I asked if that was what she said and she said yes. Then I said "What kind of dessert?" She said "Chocolate" and started laughing hysterically.


Last Christmas

Some people like this as a holiday song. I wonder if they realize the lyrics are bitter and not exactly full of joy? Yes, I am talking about the Wham! song. My last post inspired me to look up some Band Aid photos. That search inadvertently turned up some Wham! photos, and let me tell you, some of those were pure comic gold.

Presenting the many moods of George Michael and that other guy Wham!:



Reindeer games?

Wow, check out George Michael's sack*:

*Sorry, I could only hold back the seventh grade humor for so long.


"Well tonight thank God it's them instead of yoooouuuuuu!"

Does that sound like a line that belongs in a holiday song?

Did you watch it? Didja? Don't you feel old? Look how baby faced everyone was. They were just a bunch of crazy kids throwing together a benefit song. Sure the words were depressing, but it was catchy. I'll even admit that I still like it.

The title of this entry sums up the one line that sticks in my head every time I hear or think of the song. What you gain from watching the video is the not-so-subtle cleverness of the camera zooming in on Sting for the "bitter sting of tears" line. Well done!


"It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year"

Do you see this?

Any guesses as to what it might be? Hmmm?

No, it's not a Magic Eye poster from the '90s, it's not an M.C. Escher piece reenacted with vehicles, it's the Black Friday madness that occurs every year on the day after Thanksgiving. Any guesses on what time I snapped the photo? If you said 5:15 in the morning, you'd be right.

To some people Black Friday is game time. The Type A within comes out fighting for a parking space, fighting to enter the store, and fighting to grab that prized item from the sales flyer before they all disappear. You would think someone like me, who lives in a house across from the shopping Thunderdome would be first in line for that party. You would think someone who frequents Target two to three times a week would be there in the middle of it. You would also be wrong.

It's just really, really not worth it. I love shopping in brick and mortar stores, and I prefer the instant gratitude of picking up an object, inspecting it, and standing in line (well, okay not this part), but I like going, buying and going home with the item all in a span of under an hour. Internet shopping requires a wait. It also involves a degree of risk. If it doesn't fit in the store, you know right away. If it doesn't fit and you bought it online, there is a small amount of hand wringing until your return is processed and the money is credited back to you account. If the alternative is facing the madness pictured above, then I'll take the risk. That image might look like a bunch of cars defying the logic of spacial reasoning. That might look like a welcome challenge to a hardcore holiday shopper. To me, it looks like a glimpse into hell.


Blowing off the dust

I'm still here, I just haven't posted in awhile. I have a new job, but it's not keeping me any busier than usual, it just seems that the longer I stay away from writing, the less inclined I am to write. Every day I think of something I could write about, but then a few days pass and it doesn't seem quite as interesting or appealing anymore.

New job is great. I can not get over some of the perks, even small things like no vending machines in sight because the fridge is loaded with juice and soda for everyone to take. It seems so trivial to get excited about it. I used to not be able to find a plastic spoon on days when I flaked and forgot the spoon for my morning oatmeal. The supply room didn't even have any, but there were boxes and boxes of coffee stirrers for the taking. You either had to improvise or hope that a co-worker would be merciful and share from the secret stash of plasticware in his desk drawer. Oh, and plastic knives don't seem to run out at the same rate of spoons and forks. I forgot my spoon and decided to check out the kitchen at the new place. I opened the cabinets first, thinking there might be some in a wayward box. No luck. I opened the lower cabinets. Nothing there. I opened a drawer and--gasp--they had knives, forks and spoons, there for the taking. Believe me when I tell you I wanted to cry. They had spoons!

I've been driving too. Taking metro has been a source of entertainment for about five years but it's not the best option for me now. There is a station one mile from my job but adding that walk to the rest of the trip--well, it just would eat up a lot of time, so I drive now. It's just me, my car, my music and the million other idiots in their cars around me. I hate seeing the miles rack up on my car. Wear and tear, I think, every time I witness the odometer turning a new number. The nice thing about public transit is that if something breaks, it's not your problem. Yes, I know, I pay my fare, and I pay my taxes, but I'm not the one making the maintenance appointments and paying the hefty fee. I know this is what cars are for--to be used, not to be spirited away behind garage doors like some kind of heirloom, but at the same time I would like to keep my car as long as possible. Enter the beater.

I haven't bought it yet, it's just an idea for now. I want something boring and reliable, but able to keep up in traffic. Something that won't make me wince when I see its first door ding. Something else to take on the wear and tear. The other idea would be to move closer to work. What a novel concept. Stay tuned!

Okay, no, don't stay tuned, it will be months before anything is certain.

I will keep you posted.


The more things change, the more they go back to...

the same derned template!
If you're one of the two semi-regulars who read this, you'll see that I've gone back to the old set up. I am still not happy with the look but I'm too lazy challenged to figure out how to design a new template and the others I've seen online don't exactly match what I have in my head (so, yes, in a way, I would love finding someone who really can read my mind--I'd be set for clothes, music, and basically whatever else I wished for on a whim).
Stay tuned. Or don't.

Vacation, pt. III

7. Sunrise, sunburn

Yes, I got burned. Yes, I brought sunblock and very stupidly skipped a day. I'm shedding my skin like a damned snake.

8. Wedding

Eventually we did attend the thing that was the reason for our vacation. The groom was one of my husband's college classmates and a friend of ours. Their wedding was right on the beach, ditch your flipflops at the door type deal. The guests received rose petals to toss at the bride and groom as they departed down the sandy aisle. I had to throw over three heads (and remember, I am 5'3"). Needless to say, I got a little overzealous and beaned the poor guy next to me while executing my power rose petal toss. Luckily we knew each other, but still--mortifying. I am not athletically gifted in the least, and moments like that allow my klutzy side to shine through.

9. Monday, Monday

We were on the beach Monday morning, and home that night. We saw the photos we took after arriving at the Punta Cana airport and passed on the $9 price (does anyone actually buy these photos?) We had to go through customs at the Miami airport, which was possibly laid out by the late Dr. Seuss. They even seemed to know it was bad as they had paths marked out in different colors for weary travelers. If you were going back to D.C., you followed the giant yellow decal dots on the floor.

10. A new day

My husband had to work the next day, so he really wanted to get onto the earlier flight (we looked up flight times using the wifi network at the Punta Cana airport). We sent off the luggage and somehow Mr. Charmer sweet talked us into an earlier flight. Pessimist that I am, I would have waited it out. Standby usually doesn't go well for me, so I'd rather not get my hopes up. I also know that he mentioned the delay from the other day and his opinion of American Airlines afterwards. The gate agent looked up. "Well, it's a new day," she said as she handed us our tickets for the earlier flight.

Vacation, pt. II

3. Welcome to the Dominican Republic
We arrived in the Dominican Republic at around 10 p.m. Part of the excitement of visiting the Caribbean is flying over the island and watching that midnight blue water go to turquoise. American Airlines, thanks to your incontinent plane, we got none of that! You stole my joy!

We were ushered out of the plane, across the tarmac and to the airport gate. People lined up and there was an assembly line where you took a picture with two women in traditional dress, and then went on your way to customs. I have to say whoever thought up that one was a true business person. I am sure I looked like hell after spending an entire day in airports and on planes, but bless them for trying.

Customs was quick, which is to be expected. What the hell are we smuggling into the DR anyway? Clean underwear? Toiletries? We also had to pay a fee to enter (this was never explained), but I handed over the cash. Everyone knew English. It was "WelcometotheDomicanRepublicenjoyyourstay" (Stamp passport). Unsaid:nowgetthefuggoutsoIcangohome. I'm sure we were the last flight to arrive. Everyone looked tired of pretending they weren't tired.

The trip to the hotel was quick. Some of the other wedding guests were there too. I peered out of the window, but it was dark, so I didn't get to see everything. I just wanted to get checked in so I could go to sleep.

4. The Moon Palace
This place was unbelievable. The scale of the doorways and the height of the ceilings just made you feel insignificant. The hotel rooms had two person jacuzzis in the floors. The bathroom was massive, with a walk in Roman style shower. There was sparkling wine waiting in a container of water which would have been ice had we checked in at our expected arrival time. Everything was grand.

5. The one in which I become G the Mosquito Slayer
The only thing that sucked (you'll get the pun in a second) was when I discovered the swarm of mosquitoes in the bathroom. There were a bunch of them, and they weren't shy. Unfortunately, mosquitoes love me because of my sweet, sweet blood type. Instead of going through the usual pre-bedtime routine, I decided to knock out some of the population before they attacked me for a fresh nightcap. I clapped, chased and stalked mosquitoes. I found a bunch under the sink and when I got tired of hunting them, I went to bed. I had a few more days to lower their numbers. Besides, it seemed for every one I killed, five more would emerge to take over.

By the second day, my husband introduced the towel snap technique. Yes, the locker room trick, which ended up being very effective. I even designated one of the towels just for the purpose of killing mosquitoes. By the time we left, their spot under the sink was a ghost town.

5. Ghost Palace

Speaking of ghost towns, the resort was nearly empty...and I loved it! 1700 rooms and maybe 300 people? You could have an entire pool to yourself. You could hit the beach and see nothing but empty loungers. It makes me a little sad because I know if we go back, it won't be the same. There is something to be said about getting away from it all--especially when "all" includes other people.

6. Flight of balloon boy

We spent one afternoon watching the balloon boy saga. It seems like big things happen when we take trips. When we were in the Bahamas, the U.S. Navy ship was bombed in Yemen. Okay, never mind, that's a truly lame comparison. The balloon boy event was not a "big thing" at all, it's just that the hotel TV was receiving a local news channel from Denver, so we got to see live footage of a mushroom-saucer mylar balloon that allegedly had the boy in it for at least an hour. We watched it till the end when it landed and--surprise!--no one was inside. Hoax, I thought. As more came out about the parents, something seemed amiss. When the boy emerged from the attic claiming that he had hidden and taken a nap, I thought "bullshit." When the police officer decided to press charges on these idiots for wasting resources, I felt a little bit of glee. Okay, no, I felt a lot of glee. I am tired of people mugging for fame and shamelessly dragging their kids along for the ride. It's bad when your 6 year old is the one who tells the truth.

Vacation, pt. I

In between jobs, I took some time off. The time just happened to coincide with a vacation my husband and I were taking. It was something we had recently reserved once we were no longer a one income household (curse you, recession!). Well, little did we know a month later I would be taking the hit (curse you again, recession!)...but anyway, we planned a vacation.

I won't say we haven't done anything in the past few years. He and our daugter went to England to visit family earlier this year. I've vsited my best friend a few times. We went to California last year for a wedding, and we also did our trek to Vegas. It hasn't been all work and drudgery, but we haven't been to a beachy place with drinks that require mini umbrellas in a long time (okay, four years). Luckily we both love the beach. I know some people don't (yes, it's true), but we do.

Our destination was Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. Neither of us have been there but a friend was getting married and it was close to our ten year anniversary (which is actually today, no applause, thank you) so we decided to celebrate with them.

1. Getting there is half the fun

Who came up with thise phrase? I would like to personally beat that person about the head. I can't see how it's even a tenth of the fun unless we're picturing the Hot Chocolate number from the Polar Express, and even that can grate if you're not in the mood for a spontaneous song and dance routine. And don't even talk to me about a cruise. Trapped on a boat on the open seas with a million strangers with only a few hours to hop a through bunch of ports? It sounds like a nightmare. I like to go someplace and stay.

Our flight connected in Miami. My limited experience with this airport was when we flew to the Bahamas for our honeymoon. I remembered that the layout made no sense. We landed and saw that our connecting flight was delayed by 40 minutes. No big deal, I thought, I will grab something to eat and wait it out. Eleven dollars spent, a greasy ham and cheese sandwich and subpar flavored hot water (because I can not bring myself to call it "coffee") consumed, we sat at the gate and waited. The plane was there, they just needed some extra time to clean the bathrooms. Woowee, take your time, I thought, knowing that our seats would be near the back.

When they started offloading bags, I realized this was not something a plunger and Formula 409 could fix. The explanation expanded to include "leaking" and "new plane" and "4 o'clock departure." Then it included "No other flights" and "Ten dollar vouchers." Just looking out of the window revealed a giant puddle beneath the plane's midsection, and the dripping from the belly wasn't exactly a comforting sight. We were off to a great start.

We were relocated to another gate at the far end of the E terminal. This involved getting onto the tram and trucking it the rest of the way. People were sprawled over the seats, napping. There was a little jewelry counter. There was a huge window to look out at all of the planes that would be arriving AND leaving before ours. One of the people at the gates announced that there would be a water salute for a firefighter that died. Have you ever seen one of these? I never have, so I figured, why not?

A bunch of other people watched too. I staked out a space where I could see (this is critical when you're barely 5'3") Not long afterwards, a giant of a man stepped right in front of me.

"Excuse me." I said.

He swerved so he was squarely in front of me.

"Excuse me, I'm standing here." I said.

He glanced down with a look on his face that could best be described as "bemused."

I wanted to punch him, but that's not really appropriate when watching a ceremony that honors someone's life, is it? A few other people ushered me in front of them to shut me up and give me a better view. I am guessing the dude didn't speak English, but rudeness is a universally human thing, isn't it? Most of the time you don't really need to speak the same language to realize when you've done something rude to another person. How can someone stand directly in front of another person and not be sorry? I don't get it. I'll have to add that to the ever growing list of mysteries of the human race. A lot of good my degree in individual psychology did me.

2. Dead Headphone society

I am usually good about packing spare headphones, but this time I only had one set. As luck would have it, this set had lost a speaker. It was the first time this pair had failed me, and I used them daily for my workouts. I twisted it around in the jack and chalked it up to a faulty armrest. Remember when the headphones were specific to the plane? The sound was pushed through a two pronged airhose, and you had to pay for these technological wonders that ONLY worked on planes? What a racket! The first time I watched "Splash," I watched it with my sister on a flight to Italy. We (our dad) did not buy the headphones. Instead, we raised the armrest, turned the volume WAY up, and tilted our heads so we could watch the screen and hear the words. Just paying the two bucks for the headsets would have saved hundreds in chiropractor bills. Just jokes, folks. My back is fine, but my neck...

Anyway, my husband forgot his headphones. During our extended layover at Miami, he bought a pair for the high, high price of $19.99. Yes, they sucked. Yes, we got free ones in the plane. I figured my one sided speaker dilemma (it wasn't a faulty armrest, I tried them in my iPod and they still didn't work) was solved, but as soon as I stuck those freebies in, the plastic casing fell apart and the wee little speaker popped out. Oh well.

New gig

I started a new job last week. I was fortunate enough to have more than one offer after being unceremoniously "let go" from my last company. There is more on that, but it may be a few years before I can recount the story without reflecting too much bitterness over it. Maybe I could even eke out a brilliant but dark hearted comedy--but then again, it's already been done (See: "Office Space" and if you have 7 1/2 hours to spare, check out the BBC version of The Office. I just watched that--hello, Netflix instant watch--last week. Why didn't anyone tell me? Okay, people did make it known, I just never checked it out till recently, therefore I will just pretend that no one told me. I like the American Office too, but I relish the complete awkwardness of the British version).

I don't really work in a cool place anymore. I used to work in Crystal City in Arlington, VA. It had its own metro stop. It had restaurants galore. It sounds cool too, right? Crystal City. Say it! It's like Emerald City from the Wizard of Oz. With all of the defense contracting companies in one spot, I'm sure there are more than enough wizards working behind curtains than you could count. It even has its own website! You could buy anything from puppets to shoes to overpriced Hallmark cards. It was all downstairs from my building in a convenient underground maze. If the weather was awful or you didn't want to go outside, then guess what? You never had to. I loved it!

I also got complacent. The new job puts me back into the crappy DC traffic mix. I have been doing alright with that...so far. I have new perk too. No more suits. In fact, apparently *they* make fun of you if you wear a suit. The rule is that you wear whatever you feel comfortable wearing on the days you work at the company office. This doesn't mean I plan to show up in pasties and a G-string (it's not that kind of establishment). I am thinking more along the lines of jeans. I can ditch the heels. I can wear Uggs! (yes, I recognize that this is not a victory for the more fashion conscious out there) I saw running shoes, sweatshirts, jeans and flip flops on my first day. People were actually in good moods. There were bagels and fresh fruit in the kitchen and not just because someone brought them in. Those things are there every day. There are no vending machines, but the fridge is fully stocked with juice and soda. At my old job there was free coffee (presumably to keep the worker bees fueled up, but everything else was about fending for yourself and hoping no one took your meager lunch from the community fridge). I am not saying any job or company is perfect, but this is a vast improvement. I will keep you posted.

Technical difficulties

I set up the new template but my little navigation bar at the top is gone, which means I have to log in to the blogger site from scratch and post from there--I can't do it from my blog link. Or maybe I can, but I am too lazy impatient to figure it out. Have I mentioned that I am somewhat technically challenged? Let's just say that the six computer science courses I took in college weren't exactly my finest hours.


Terms and phrases that I don't understand

1. Baby fever

2. Runner's high

3. Staying late

4. Low carb

5. I don't like cats


Under Construction

I got tired of the old generic set up, so I'm experimenting. I'm not sure I like this new layout, so don't be surprised if things shift again--


Shut in

After a long day at the office, people generally like to head out to the local watering hole with a few coworkers and hit happy hour, true or false?

True for some, false for others.

Every few months, the West Point society of D.C. arranges for alumni to meet up at a local bar to socialize. I’ve gone to a few, but in general, I suck at these types of things. I stink at small talk and I don’t know how to work a crowd. I don’t like being the center of attention and I can’t handle more than one drink at a time. Whenever things like this come up, I consider going; it’s as if I completely forget that I don’t actually like these things. I’ve gone to a few now, and instead of networking, I wind up in a tight circle with a few people I already know—which is to say I’m totally missing the point and purpose of the function.

After a grueling day at the office, I hopped the metro with the intent of attending one of these shindigs. The bar was 2 blocks from the stop, a quick walk over, and I figured it would be busy, but not too busy. I was wrong. The host navigated me through the packed bodies to the rear corner of the bar. I signed in on the attendance list, penned my name on a sticky label, and promptly left the bar. I know, I know, but I couldn’t breathe and the weather was still really nice.

I waited in Farragut square until my friend arrived. I had other things on my mind to consider, so I thought of those things and worked on my Word Fu skills. Once my friend arrived, I joined her and we entered the bar together. I slapped the sticky label with my name back onto my shirt and we mingled.

There was a ’73 graduate whose looks betrayed his age. He looked fantastic! I know black don’t crack, but this man looked no older than 45, 50 tops. By my calculations, he had to be 58 or 59 years old. He also had a daughter who was a 2006 graduate. It is always strange to see the younger grads. You generally feel like you’re the young one when you see people with 8’s and 7’s after the apostrophes, but when you see class of zero-something, you realize you’re kidding yourself.

My friend moved on to another group, and somehow I found myself separated from the herd. While we were talking to the ’73 graduate, I glaced up and noticed a guy staring at me. It was not a casual glance, it was look that said: “Imma wait until I have your full attention. I see you’re busy, but just know I’m here, watching…waiting…always waiting.” He moved in as soon as he saw I was alone. I saw his tag and ’84 and we started the usual talk—where do you work, what do you do, how long were you in, and so on. Meanwhile I was chowing down on a mini slice of some sort of pizza, which was the first thing I had consumed in about 6 hours. On top of that, 84 man’s breath was stink stank stunk. And on top of that, the place was already loud, which meant he was extra close, and with every word, I got a fresh dose of hot garbage breath expelled onto me, my food and my tumbler filled with water. This is why I hate coming to these things, I thought. I was cornered with this guy with no room for escape. I could have artfully dodged to the ladies room, I guess, but I had my leather tote and a big handbag with me. It would not have been graceful. The guy was going on about how his kid was at the Citadel and how that is sort of like West Point. Here's what I kept to myself: we looked down on the Citadel. Once, when they played us in football, there was a spirit poster with one cadet kicking another’s ass, and the caption: at least we don’t pay for it! We liked to think of how those who had parents paying for a Citadel education were also paying for our educations, thanks to the federal tax system. Then he started in on how he had a master’s degree when he became and officer. Then he mentioned he went to OCS, which was the best way to do it, in his opinion. So let’s get this straight—not only was he basically insulting my route into the Army's officer Corps, this dude is not a West Pointer and he’s going to partake in our happy hour? Granted it is an open invite type event, but why would you want to go to one of these if you’re not a grad? I guess the whole networking thing is attractive, but this guy was blowing foul carbon dioxide in my face as I tried to nod and smile with scarfing down a wee slice of pizza and trying not to inhale. This wasn’t networking; it was torture. Then when we got to the subject of his daughters, he made sure to mention how much he adored him. When he added “I don’t feel that way about their mom, though,” I thought, “Eject, Eject!” Did he not see the wedding-engagement ring combination on my left ring finger? Did that not matter? Did he think I wanted to discuss ex-wife/baby momma/woman he intensely dislikes drama with him? Shoot, go stake out a chair and harass the bartender with those woes. If I don’t know you like that, then please realize that don’t want to hear it! Shoo! Be gone.

Thankfully my friend saw a break in the conversation, grabbed my elbow and rescued me. From then on, I was in listening mode. I only started to feel better when people began clearing out and there were a handful of people I knew who were either
a) classmates
b) people talking to classmates
c) people I have already met in passing

In college I used to make fun of people who were socially inept—guys especially. I would snicker with friends about the dude staring at me as if he had never seen a woman before in his life. In all honesty, he had seen me but I looked so(!) different (!) out of uniform (!). This was always said to me as if it was a compliment. You're dog-assed ugly in uniform, but wow, with your hair down, in jeans and a flattering shirt, you actually look like a normal girl. Wow(!) Also made fun of: the ones who sent out greetings sight unseen, using the cadet email system. You know—it’s not that hard to find someone if you’d like to meet in person, but if you want to ensure you have no chance, send them an email that says something like this:

Hi you don’t know me, but I’ve seen you around and I would like to get to know you better.

It is the email equivalent of “Do you like me? Check yes or no.” notes from elementary and junior high school. I will be smirking as I hit the delete key.

In retrospect, I am the socially challenged one. While in my cadet company (Go Zoo!) every member receieved a “zoo” name based on their personality and an animal. I hoped for something cool—cat, maybe. I was mysterious, stealthy and independent—why not? I didn’t attend the ceremony (of course I didn't), but later heard that I had been dubbed “turtle.” Fantastic. “They” say you always dislike the things in others that you dislike in yourself, and I guess it’s true—I don’t like that I’m not comfortable in social settings. I try, though. Even with people I know, I search my brain for conversation topics so we’re not sitting there in silence. I go to these happy hours with a surface smile and a deep seated sense of dread. It’s just other people, but the entire thing is draining.

The thing is, I assume everyone else is good at this stuff. West Pointers tend to be great at networking and excelling. The two things go hand in hand—being an extrovert is valued in this society. It’s because someone who is comfortable being the star of the show is someone who other people gravitate towards. Those who are not like this are seen as rude—not wanting to engage—or even worse—snobs. I only discovered this well after I graduated. “You think you’re too good.” Was what one guy said—a ROTC graduate who attended the same officer basic course and had heard from his friend—my classmate—that I had my nose up in the air. Um….what?

So I’m working on that through going to these happy hours, friending people on Facebook and working through lame small talk in hopes that I don’t look like I’m trying to fade into the background.

Another one of my classmates revealed that he was the same way. It was hard for him to sit in the bar surrounded by noise and people. “It’s draining,” I said. “It took ten years for my husband to realize I don’t hate him when I ask to be alone.” But this person was the last one I expected to understand this. He drove a noticeable car while we were at school. He had a nickname. He was well loved and even now people know him at a glance. If he’s the same way as I am, then I guess I’m not so much of a freak after all.

My husband is another one. He was supposed to go to this thing and he really didn’t want to. This was a guy who was in sales for nearly 8 years. People love him. More people recognized him at my own class reunion than me! “I’m a homebody.” He said. “Tell Mike we flipped a coin and you won.”

Flipped a coin to go to a happy hour? Yes, married life is that exciting, folks. No we didn’t really flip a coin. He just wanted a valid excuse for Mike (his classmate) who had expected him to be there. Could you think of a cornier explanation? I joked. Tell him we drew straws.

Well, it turned out that Mike wasn’t there after all. Maybe more of us are closet introverts than I ever imagined.


At risk

So last week I was notified that I was "at risk." It sounds kind of fun, right? Risky business and living on the edge and all that. It sounds exciting until you realize what's at risk is actually your paycheck and that you may not be able to afford boring things, never mind the fun things.

There have been some interesting happenings on the job front. I won't get into it just yet, as to protect the guilty and my job. When I'm a few months or years removed, you may get a "Nine days a week" type post out of it after the dust settles, but right now, like the Kanye West jokes about Patrick Swayze that came out the morning after the man's death was announced, it's just too soon. Suffice to say, I am making mental notes for future reference.

It's strange when you know you're leaving one job for another. You have to clean out your desk--decide what's worth taking, what can be left to others and what belongs in the recycling bin. I brought a lot of things to my current desk. I thought I would be there for a good long time, and in this case that was over two years. It was mostly good while it lasted. Now I have to figure out the best way to shuttle home the things I want to keep. I feel a bit like Andy Dufresne from The Shawshank Redemption, loading small piles of stuff into my bag and carting it home, the same way he carried a tiny bit of his prison cell wall in the cuffs of his pants every time he went into the prison courtyard (Can't you just hear Morgan Freeman's voice narrating this entire post? No? Okay.).

I've been getting back in touch with people, sending out the obligatory "Hi, hope you're well, here's my resumepleasepassitaround, kaythanksbye!" type messages. I try to stay in touch when I don't need a job so it's not too awkward to catch up with people when I do need one. I've also hit a couple of job fairs. Even though calling it a "fair" implies that this would be a fun event, a job fairs is not the type of venue where I shine. They tend to overwhelm me. After I printed a thousand copies of my resume, slapped on the "Hi, my name is:" label with my name in Sharpie ink, and set foot into the maze of booths, I feel a bit lost. It's kind of a "Now, what?" feeling. Some booths have lines. The prestigious companies, the ones everyone knows, generally have the biggest herds of hopeful employees, like sperm gathering around the egg cell, hoping to be let in. Even if you have a kick ass resume, there seems to be at least one guy at the booth looking down his nose at you. "Ha! As if!" he seems to say, "You've got a Top Secret clearance? Well, all of our jobs require Top Secret with a polygraph! No hope for YOU!" is the message and you're sent away feeling like Ralphie from a Christmas story, when the department store Santa Claus shoved a boot squarely into his face, dismissing poor Ralphie before he could state what he really wanted for Christmas. Ho, ho HO!


The Hangover

Last month I ordered a bunch of dresses online. I generally don’t order clothes online because you can’t try them on. You have to wait for the precious to arrive, try it on, look in the mirror and be honest about what you see. If it’s not a good fit, can it be tailored? Is the hassle of tailoring less of a pain in the ass than the hassle of finding the receipt, shoving it back into a package, and waiting (while hoping the package doesn’t get “lost”) for your refund? Or, if the dress does fit, are you really going to wear it? Do you see yourself wearing it, or will it require complimentary accessories? Can a safety pin keep a potential peep show neckline in check? If the safety pin is a no go, would the camisole totally ruin the effect?

As you might have guessed, I have been into dresses this year. It all started with Target’s Merona Collection line. Then there were a few others I was stalking online from another company. The full priced dresses were out of the question, but when I checked back a few months later, the clearance fairy had visited this summer's fashion line. I filled up my virtual shopping bag and placed my order. I was so pleased with my initial choices that I went back for more. I figured my credit card could take the hit until I actually saw my statement. Then when the last few dresses arrived, I had a sobering realization—the sizes were off, I was still not done losing weight, and I couldn’t see myself realistically wearing any of my selections. They were all cute dresses, but I could live a perfectly fulfilled life without them. Then I had to start culling, which involved grabbing a few from the closet (no, I haven’t worn them out yet, come on, I’m better than that!), finding the receipts, checking the return policy and marking up my reasons for the returns. It’s sobering—and not nearly as fun as filling a virtual shopping bag.

Sometimes things are just too easy; they’re too accessible. You get high on the idea of something and the next thing you know, you’re the proud owner of a bunch of shit you never really needed and didn’t actually want in the first place. Then you wake up and face the reality. Ohhhh…I shouldn’t have had the double bacon cheeseburger with the large fries and 32 ounce chocolate shake. What the hell was I thinking? Why did I need to have it? Nobody needs all of this stuff.

Once in awhile my whims result in a success. I bought cowboy boots for a decent price. The pair I had been stalking were on sale, but still too expensive for me, but I found an alternative pair that I liked, and these were on sale. “They look like they’re made out of Shrek’s skin” my husband said, commenting on the color. Hey, maybe that’s why they were on sale, but damn it, if anyone could make pea green leather cowboy boots work, it’s me. I felt especially smug when I checked them out online after buying them, only to find that the price had shot up to two and a half times what I spent on them. Don’t you really feel like a winner when stuff like that happens? Sure, you’re still a little bit more broke than before, but hey--you're not as broke as you could be! It’s a warped kind of logic, but it makes you feel better.

I’m still waiting for one dress to arrive. I will probably open the package, fish out the receipt, and without even taking it from its hermetically sealed bag, I will add it to the other rejected dresses to be sent back to the land of misfit purchases.


None of my business

I’ve written about being accosted by a Mary Kay sales rep while innocently browsing the racks at T.J. Maxx. I’ve also had a sales pitch given to me on a train ride home, while collecting my things after a job fair, and after receiving a request for an interview while jobless. Many, many businesses are based on one person selling something to the next, and it’s not about the product, it’s about “joining the network.” It’s about buying the idea that you too can have your own little business empire if you persuade enough people to be a part of your team.

I hate it.

I could also never do it.

Sometimes the sellers are charming. They’ll throw a compliment your way and the next thing you know, you’re being herded into a room with twenty or thirty others, believing you were there for an interview, and not knowing until that moment, that you would be subjected to a presentation.

‘The first time it happened, it was Primerica. Some people call it “Crimerica.” If you run across someone who works for this company, they won’t tell you the name at first. Instead they tell you “it’s a subsidiary of Citigroup…”

Then you get to the office and you’re escorted into a room with a bunch of chairs. A couple of people are talking to each other with smiles and enthusiasm. Then the lights go down and someone pops in a video. What follows is a bunch of commentary about people doing well and making lots of money. Then the video is off, and the star of the show, rumored to be pulling in $45K a month struts in. “Make your money work for you,” is one of the lines you hear. All you have to do is recruit three people, and then they recruit three apiece and you’re on your way. If you don’t have a job and you don’t realize there just aren’t enough people in the world for that plan to actually work, you can get sucked in.

After the presentation, the person who invited me pulled me into her office. I’d be selling life insurance and investment plans. The big draw was that you could get a plan done for you for free. The catch was that you had to find other people and drag them in for the song and dance. While that may not be hard for some, the thought of scouring town for unsuspecting candidates was daunting. I can barely ask someone for directions. Am I really going to recruit people to join my business? For a short while, I believed I could.

The second time I got roped into a presentation, I drove an hour and ten minutes to an office, again, thinking I was going in for an interview. Instead I got to hear about selling supplements, shampoo and yes, in home water filters. It wasn’t long until they got into the development conferences around the country, or how someone was “on track” to make beaucoup bucks that year, or that every business is structured like a pyramid, if you think about it. I politely sat there, knowing I would not get that hour of my life back and then I tried to make my exit when the person who invited me cornered me.

“It’s really too far of a drive,” I said, hating that I couldn’t just be honest and say “It sounds like a sham.”

The person’s eyes filled with a combination of annoyance and desperation. “It’s not that far!” she snapped.

I extracted myself from the office before the rest of her cohorts surrounded me. After arriving safely at home, I looked for dirt on the business and found plenty. Not only did you have to buy your own inventory, you also had to buy business cards at a ridiculous rate, rent your desk, and pay for the “training materials.” Renting a desk? What kind of job doesn’t pay for these things? No wonder the interviewer was desperate. She had to find someone to help her pay for her to make money.

Fool me twice, shame on me.

The third time this happened, I got the interview scheduled, went into the room, saw the rows of chairs and promptly turned around and left. See? I’m learning.

The worst is when friends do this. Thankfully I have been left alone. I witnessed a Mary Kay rep bogart a friend’s Facebook status the other day. The status was something along the lines of not getting cupcakes and balloons for her one year anniversary at her job. It was a joke, intended to make people laugh at the visual of someone receiving fanfare for a year at the same desk. In pops the Mary Kay rep: You should join Mary Kay! We do that for real!

Can’t you just hear the sound of a record scritching to a halt?

I added to it, encouraging the friend to join because she’d be great at it while knowing this person had zero interest in such a thing. No, make that below zero—she had -1000 interest in such a thing. We have joked about it before.

Mary Kay didn’t get the joke. She kept on, explaining that her skin looked great, she won pearl earrings and even a watch!

Okay, none of those things are enough to sell me. I tend to go with the skin treatment that works, and if it can be found at the Target across the street, even better. Earrings and a watch? Well, I already have those, several of each, in fact. Let’s not forget that the famed pink caddy is also a great way to draw in the cops.

Here’s another one—Ardyss. What is that? The name tells you absolutely nothing! If anything, it sounds like someone who was trying to get creative when naming a baby girl. Ardyss. It’s a body shaper thingy—or, you know, what people used to call a girdle. “Lose 3 sizes in 10 minutes!” is the hook. “Whaaa? You think, that’s unpossible. But it got you thinking about it.

Every single one of these things is meant to advertise something you don’t have now but that you should want. Vacations! Pink Caddy! Pearl earrings! Cupcakes! Balloons! A skinnier you! A healthier regimen! Endless wealth! A better life! Then you’re supposed to believe that you can’t attain this without that product, or business venture. You’re supposed to feel bad about yourself and then be motivated to learn more. That makes sense; it’s a very basic sales method. If someone isn’t convinced that they need what you’re selling, then you’re out of a job.

The thing is, sometimes people get so aggressive with it, that it’s gone beyond selling and veering towards bullying. If you say no, you’re told that you didn’t really listen, or that you have to hear a story about some success story, or how you’re just being closed minded about this whole thing. If bullying proves to be ineffective, I imagine there’s a handbook out there endorsing chanting and reaching out zombie style as the next step.

Balloons! Cupcakes! Pink Caddies! Skin’s never looked better! Buy Mary Kay! Sell Mary Kay! Join us! Be one of us! One of ussss...!”


Father knows Best

Occasionally I peruse my spam folder to see if there are any new messages alerting me that I've won 500,000 pounds in the (Chinese, Hyundai, Microsoft, and so on) lottery, or messages from:
-ailing widows that wish to donate their life savings to me
-deposed Nigerian princes who need a safe haven for their currency
-soldiers who have dug up millions of Saddam's loot and are sending it to the states
-lawyers settling estates for wealthy, heirless plane crash victims

Most of the time the messages are ho-hum. Once in rare while, you hit gold.
This is the first time I have been informed that I have a (dead) brother and also scolded by the sender--or rather, "slammed by the spam."
Dear Sir/Madam,

I am very surprised that you never cared to respond to the letter I sent to you by Post.It has been over three months now,that the bank has been on my neck to produce the heir apparent to your late brother.

Presently,the bank had given a 21 days ultimatum for me to present the Next of Kin,so that the inheritance sum ($ be paid to the bona-fide beneficiary.Please,I would like you to acknowlegde the receipt of this mail,so that we can file for the claim and release of these sum to you.Already,I am to send to the remittance department of the bank your details.
Kindly re-confirm to me the following:

Names :
Address :
Telephone Number :
Occupation :

As I stated in my letter to you by post,you are not required to spend any money for the claim process as your late brother's financier had promised to assist you to ensure that the bank does not confisticate your late brother's wealth.Further information would be made available to you as you provide the above informations.

Based on the urgency, of this matter at hand,if you failed to get back to me Asap,I would not hesitate to arrange for a more competent person for the claim of this funds,since I would not be alive to watch the bank confisticate this Estate,instead,I would make arrangements to donate the funds to the charity.

If you are confused,get back to me on my private email (revfathersamuelbest@yahoo.fr) with your information and for clarification.


Rev.Father Samuel .J. Best


We're number 1!

We're #1

In under 24 hours I have had this emailed to me twice, and I've read the headline multiple times via classmates on Facebook who shared links to the same article. I have never seen so much pride.

I guess everyone wants a little validation to counter the Princeton review's yearly ranking of West Point as one of the top twenty "Stone Cold Sober" schools.


1. Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

2. Wheaton College, Wheaton, Ill.

3. U.S. Coast Guard Academy, New London, Conn.

4. College of the Ozarks, Point Lockout, Mo.

5. Grove City College, Grove City, Pa.

6. U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colo.

7. U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md.

8. Wellesley College, Wellesley, Mass.

9. Thomas Aquinas College, Santa Paula, Calif.

10. Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich.

11. U.S. Military Academy, West Point, N.Y.

12. Wesleyan College, Macon, Ga.

13. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, Needham, Mass.

14. City University of New York-Queens College, Flushing, N.Y.

15. Webb Institute, Glen Cove, N.Y.

16. Berea College, Berea, Ky.

17. Agnes Scott College, Decatur, Ga.

18. City University of New York-Baruch College, New York.

19. Simmons College, Boston.

20. Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pa.

Gender Bend

Crossdressing is generally addressed with smirks and laughs because the term generally conjures up the image of a man dressed as a women, down to falsie eyelashes and fishnet stockings. The transition is a convincing one and you’re faced with a glammed up uberwoman, taller, louder and more made up than any woman you’ve ever seen in your life. Or else, it goes the other way and you end up with what is obviously a man, playing a joke by wearing women’s clothes.

When women crossdress, people don't care. I guess it’s because our wardrobes are broader than mens’, we can wear trousers and dresses, pants suits and button down shirts. No one considers those things out of the ordinary. We simply take whatever men’s clothes we like, and we wear them. When men do this, it's rarely a success.

Even if we take men’s clothes, we still put our own twist on them. Yes, you can just buy the man version and keep it moving, but it seems the clothing manufacturers have caught on to this trick. Back in the ‘90’s, Levi’s came out with “boy cut jeans for women.” Yes, that is really what they called them, and sucker that I am, the name alone piqued my curiosity. I hit the Levi’s outlet looking for these mythical “boy cut jeans for women.” Why I wanted boy cut anything when I had hips and thighs is another subject. I never found the jeans, but I also never forgot the name.

Last month I received a Fossil catalog (apparently people still use catalogs in the internet age) and among the watch selection was the “boyfriend watch.” You can’t just buy a man’s watch and remove a few links to fit your feminine wrist, you have to buy a women’s watch that just looks like a man’s watch. There are also boy briefs for women, complete with a sewn up pee flap. No, really, I’m not making this up.


On my mind

As the title pretty much tells you with the subtlety of being hit on the head a thousand times with a mallet, his post covers several items that have been on my mind recently:

1) "Quote unquote"

why don’t we use this like the actual quotation marks in writing? Here’s what I mean—“He said everything in the speech was a quote unquote joke.”
Why not “everything in the speech was a quote joke unquote." Ignoring that any use of the term “quote unquote” makes one sound like a tool, doesn’t that make more sense? (Aside from that, when writing "quote unquote" do you need additional quotation marks? Somehow it seems wrong not to have them there)

2) “Don’t let the car fool you, my treasure is in heaven” bumper stickers
After the initial impression that the driver believes he or she is somehow entitled to this so-called treasure (apparently it’s not enough that the driver thinks he or she is going to heaven, upon arrival, there must be treasure too), why is it that these are most likely to be found on a POS car? When I think “treasure” I think Ferrari…Porsche…maybe even a Mercedes. Oh, right, because it's really unlikely that cars like that will have $3 bumper stickers slapped onto on them. And what else is just as unlikely? That a bumper sticker is going to fool me into thinking that the 1982 Honda Civic hatchback with rust eating away the wheel wells is a treasure.

3) Vehicular sandwiches
If you see one sort of car (let’s say a Ford Explorer) parked between two other cars of the same make and model (let’s say VW beetle) what do you think? That’s right—sammich! But what kind of sandwich would you say it was? If you answered “VW Beetle” I’d have to disagree. On what planet do you name a sandwich after the bread? Think about it. In this case, the VWs are the bread, and the Ford Explorer is the filler--make that order a Ford Explorer on VW beetle, please.

4) A trivial question

Q: How do you know when a band’s fanbase is aging? A: When they sell fanny packs

5) Spell and speak
There is no “h” at the end of the word “height.” I really wish people would stop adding one.

6) Not-so-original thoughts
Have you ever thought up an invention only to learn that someone else had that same original thought before you? Here’s my invention: glow in the dark gloves for the hearing impaired. How else would you talk in the dark? My husband’s invention? Scrolling message board for cars. Yup, that’s been done too, and there’s even a license plate frame version. When he learned about it, he was just as pissed as I was about the gloves. Well, here’s an invention I’ll bet you never envisioned: Handerpants. If you're thinking, "I know, glow in the dark handerpants!" you can stop right there; I've already applied for the patent.


Catching up with Depeche Mode

Earlier this week my husband took me to the Depeche Mode concert. The one I really wanted to go to was in 2006, but the baby was still a baby and I was still feeling pretty housebound, so when I heard about this tour, I decided this would make up for it. They even had a new album, which I have yet to download, but I figured I’d know most of their songs if they stuck to the bigger hits.


I knew maybe 25% of the set list. It didn’t matter though, unknown live music is always better than the song you know played on the same old speakers anyway. You get the visual of the person actually singing, dancing and playing the notes (or at least the illusion of it) and you can feel the thump of the beat from the stage to your seat.

Last year we went to the Cure concert. There is some overlap in the fans. I couldn’t help but notice that I spotted only one other black person in the massive crowd. Generally I don’t care and being the true minority doesn’t bother me much because I’m pretty used to it. There were more brown people in the Depeche Mode crowd.

They played from their list and left the stage. Then the crowd kept cheering for an encore. I really hate this part of concerts. I guess it’s a game, or a test to see how much the fans love the band, but it’s sort of silly, isn’t it? So they came back, played more songs and then disappeared again. More cheers. Came back, more songs, bowed and left, for real this time.

I wanted to hear Personal Jesus and they played a great live version of it in the second encore. I was not disappointed

I don’t know most of the songs that happened after "Violator" and before "Playing the Angel." That covers about 15 years of music.

I hope I’m in the same physical shape as David Gahan when I hit 47 or so. Half of the time it seemed like he was channeling Richard Simmons in the aerobics instruction.

Martin Gore has more guitars in his collection than Nigel from Spinal Tap, but unlike Nigel, he actually plays them.

The fans rose for the popular songs. The FANS stood for all of the songs. At last year’s Cure concert, I was a FAN, but for this one, I was a fan.

Martin Gore would look so much better if he lost the eyeliner. Apparently no one told him it’s a Glamour don’t to outline your entire eye, especially if they are close set to begin with. Ironic, considering the group’s name translates to “Fashion news.”


Pity the fool

For people that know me personally, it’s probably not a secret that I’m not the best swimmer. In fact calling me a swimmer at all means you’re using the broadest definition of the word. I had lessons when I was 4 or 5 (I vaguely remember being dropped off at the community pool for lessons but it still didn’t make me a swimmer). I got by mostly through staying in water where my feet could touch bottom and by doing a mean dog paddle.

Then came West Point. Everyone who arrived during that first summer had to be categorized by ability so we could be placed into the right class level once the academic year began. This initial test established me as a rock, a classification which shouldn’t require any further explanation from me.

Rock swimmers stuck together. We all had our issues with the water, and we all had requirements to achieve, first to pass the course, but also to graduate. I got through these, hoping that would be the last time I’d be required to swim as a cadet.

It was not the last time. I got snagged for the intramural swim team my junior year. This is the part where it sucked to be a woman at West Point—most of the co-ed teams required at least two female members. Even if you signed up for Wallyball, you could be pulled for swimming just so they had the right ratio to be eligible to compete. Even if you were a shitty swimmer, it meant you were getting into the water and competing. Even if it meant certain humiliation, you jumped in. The only thing worse than drowning was being labeled a quitter. If you drowned, well, at least you tried.

Something happens to me when I know I’m competing against others. I might do fine by myself, but when the adrenaline’s pumping and some kind of prize is at stake, my entire body reacts, and not in the good way. This is also why I stink at video games. If my mind is geared to compete and my fingers are not intuitively adjusted to the game controller, I’m crashing into a wall, or getting shot up by aliens, or getting run down by the other team. If I had gone to the pool on my own, it would have been okay, but knowing that I had to race seven other people with a slew of others watching from the tiled surroundings was the equivalent of dropping me into Lake Superior with ten pound weights fixed to my ankles. I would finish the race out of obligation, but I would be last every time by minutes, and I'd do so knowing that every eye of every person was on me, and in every eye of every person was this: the look of pity.

Do you know how it feels to be on the receiving end of this look?

It’s the worst feeling in the world.

You’d think I would never swim again after that experience, but I still do. In fact, I will even go into the ocean. We went last weekend and hit one of the beaches on the Delaware shore. If you stay in the water long enough, the waves will make you so tired that you’re guaranteed a decent night’s sleep. I made sure to go far enough into the water that I wouldn’t have to deal with the waves breaking. Sometimes I had to adjust, and rush towards the wave so I wouldn’t get caught under it. The first time I was out there, I was with my husband. The second time I went on a solo mission because I knew after that, we would likely be heading home and I wanted to enjoy one last dip in the water. I bobbed around in the waves, marveling at how peaceful it was, relishing the simple joy of a cloudless sky and the taste of salt on my tongue. I could do this all day, I thought as I watched the water roll in.

In the distance, I saw a huge wave swelling up as it approached the shore. As it came closer, I realize I was beyond its breaking point. I attempted swimming towards it, but as the water curled above my head, I knew I wasn’t going to make it.

Do you know that feeling?

It's the second worst feeling in the world.

I turned around and promptly felt myself slam into the sea floor. At some point my head was clearly below my feet. I hope I don't get a spinal injury, I thought as my chin connected with the sand. The water retreated, pulling sand and rocks into my bathing suit. I started to stand up, but knelt back down when I realized some of my body parts had shifted out of my top. My chin stung. I coughed and ran a hand over my sand saturated hair. Then I stumbled out onto the beach without an ounce of grace.

“You really need to go rinse your hair.” My husband said, his eyes widened.

“Hell no.” I thought, while saying “I’ll just wash it out in the shower.”

Have you ever been physically hurt and realized that you’ve gotten to old for that shit? It’s not like when you’re a little kid and you skin your knee, cry for a second and then pop back up and keep going. Your pride sort of goes with the territory too. You got your ass kicked, and it shows, not only in the scrapes and bruises, but in your eyes that bear the look of defeat.

I studied my scrapes in the mirror on the back side of the sun visor in the car, thinking, “I got my ass kicked by the Atlantic Ocean. My neck hurt. I ran my tongue through across my teeth and sifted out grains of sand. My shoulder felt pinched. I had scrapes on my chest that burned. I stared at the marks on my chin and wondered how I could twist them into jokes.

“I went for some natural dermabrasion over the weekend.”

“I had a shaving accident…”

Or there was the option of letting someone else notice the scabs and ask about them. Sometimes that’s best. If you’re lucky, no one will say anything.

I arrived at work and one of my coworkers asked about the weekend.

“Oh, we went to the beach, “ I said, “And I got knocked down by a wave.” Then, in case he missed it, I pointed at my chin. So much for the clever jokes.

“Oh no,” he replied, and there it was on his face: the look of pity.


Unsolved Mysteries

Something has been on my mind for a couple of weeks now. It’s nothing of extreme importance, just an enigma that has been interrupting my thoughts during the slower moments of the day. What I'm wonder is this:

Just what in the hell is going on with Jermaine Jackson’s hair?

You know, Jermaine, possibly the second most famous male sibling of Michael, who put himself back into the spotlight. Every time he was in front of the cameras, instead of listening to what he had to say, I squinted at the screen, attempting to figure out what part of his hair was real (if any) and what was going on with the rest of it.

I have a few theories:

Shoe polish—this made for a great option for dyeing Barbie’s hair, it might work on real people too.

Latex paint: If you tape off your borders, it could work

Tattoo: Expensive and painful, but this saves hours of time getting ready in the mornings. People do this for eyebrows and permanent eyeliner so why not hair? Is Sy Sperling is purposely keeping this hair loss solution from us so he can stay in business?

Joe Gigolo wig: This seems to be feasible, though I imagine a head could get hot under that thing.

And what about the top—is it real hair? A toupee? A lid from a jar of Jif, painted black?

I am going to confess here: Dynamite was the second album I bought with my hard earned allowance (After Cyndi Lauper’s “She’s So Unusual.”) I wasn’t a Madonna or Michael fan so I blatantly went for the alternative options. Now, looking at that album cover, it’s clear that Jermaine wasn’t so much an alternative as he was a knock off, shamelessly copping his brother’s style. So maybe the hair thing is an extension of that, the way we wondered about Michael’s face, we wonder about Jermaine’s hair.

Or not.


Revelations from Facebook

1) Some people will send you multiple friend requests despite multiple rejections. Conversely, your feelings might be a little hurt when you send a request and don't get any response. "But I know that guy!" you think, "and he knows me!" You also know it's not that deep, but it still hurts a tiny bit.

2) Certain people will use this strictly to brag about the latest vacation, workout, kickass home made meal, kids, school, etc. You will never hear about a loss at the blackjack tables, a food poisoning episode, a missed flight or a flat tire from these people. It’s all awesomeness squared, all the time. Their lives are golden.

3) You will also hear about parenting. Some of these stories will make for good birth control.

4) Friday is a big deal people! TGIF!

5) And stemming from #4, we can all agree that Mondays suck. And weekends go way too fast.

6) Apparently Facebook serves as some kind of free advertising platform for some people. There’s a reason Facebook puts the advertisements along the margin. People don’t go to Facebook to read a sales pitch.

7) Sometimes it’s a political soapbox and I have to ask: is this really effective? All I see is that people either comment in agreement or get pissed off. Can't we all just get along?

8) People have a lot of time for games, quizzes, throwing things, passing out drinks, giving out poker chips, and so on.

9) High school didn't end with graduation.

10) You wonder if wishing someone a happy birthday really counts because you had the reminder on your page of said person’s birthday. You also wonder if you should wish the people you consider more acquaintances than friends a happy birthday, or if that would be entirely too phony.

11) You feel a momentary sense of dread when you get a notification that someone tagged you in a photo.

12) “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey” are popular for status updates.

13) You censor yourself. Someone might say, “Wow, this is a great photo. I wonder where that guy is now.” “Oh,” you think, “you mean the same guy you said looked like he had been hit in the face with a sack of nickels? That guy? Hm. No idea where he is.” Yeah, don’t post that.

14) 10-25% of the people on your list are logged on regularly. The rest know how to log out and live life offline.

15) Sometimes you want to comment on a post or a photo, but if it's one of your more popular friends, you skip it because you don't want receive the eleventy million notifications about other people that comment after you.

16) The pencil treatment is a useful tool. You can hide people’s posts without them suspecting a thing. “Unfriending” someone is also a-okay. Blocking is another handy dandy option if you find the person intolerable.

17) It’s not so easy to conduct the actions mentioned in #16 in real life.

The Harsh Truth of the Camera Eye

I have never been into exercise. Lack of physical fitness was pretty much my Achilles heel through four years of West Point and on, into my time in the Army. I never did sports in high school, aside from the basic requirements in mandatory P.E. class. The emphasis in my house was always on studying and good grades, not so much on making the cut to play on a team.

I ate what I wanted without any concern about how those calories would manifest themselves as body fat. At West Point, I worked out, and continued not thinking about what I ate. It just didn’t occur to me. I didn’t have any “problem areas.” I wasn’t thin, and I don’t have the body to be naturally thin, but I was never fat either.

Have you ever seen a picture of yourself and thought, “wait a minute, that’s how I look to the rest of the world?” It’s a tough moment, isn’t it? It’s not at all like looking into the mirror. When you’ve gained weight, you tell yourself that your clothes just shrunk in the wash, or it’s a bloated day for you, and you can convince yourself that everything’s okay. Until you see the photo.

The camera doesn’t lie. I wish it did, and there are tricks you can do to position yourself to create the right illusion, but these are not the honest photos. The honest ones are the candids, taken in a split second, when you’re caught off guard and not quick enough to angle yourself into a flattering pose. They might even look okay in the small display of the digital camera, but when you plug in the camera to upload onto the computer, the big screen reveals the truth. My moment of truth came from a photo of me in the cockpit of an airbus, a photo op offered by a dreamy pilot. I’m smiling, but all I see is an arm. I know, big deal, right? To be fair, it is the closest thing to the camera in the shot, so it looks even larger, but on me, the arms and upper body in general are the last to gain. Once those go, you know you’ve lost the battle. So there I was. My arms and I. There are many variations of this, depending on where you carry your weight. The chin and I. Gut, butt, and me. And so you sit there, in horror at what you’ve become and what it took to get there.

“Oh, my.” You think. “Wow.” And finally, “I need to lose weight.”

The days of eating anything I want without consequence are long gone. I put my gym membership back to use. That’s right, every month I am paying for a gym membership and not using it. I’m one of those. Even worse, the gym is only half a mile from my house. They have a dress code and it’s family oriented. This isn’t a meat market Gold’s Gym where people hang around the equipment sucking in their abs and flirting. It’s a for real, for real gym. They have a pool. A full basketball court. Racquetball courts. Two separate areas with cardiovascular machines. Free weights and weight machines. A spinning room. A sauna, steam room, a hot tub and did I mention the sauna? They even have classes that you can attend through your membership. I’m paying for the upkeep of all this stuff and not using any of it. For shame!

So I went back to the gym. I bought a swim cap from Target and pulled out my speedo so it at least looked like I was serious. I got into the pool and did several laps of my specialties—the sidestroke, the breast stroke and a modified backstroke. Notice something here? All of these swimming methods can be done without submerging your head under the water. I don’t got rhythm, and therefore doing something like a freestyle stroke would likely end with me choking on water from breathing in when I should have been exhaling. The nice thing about this gym is that no one really cares. Most of the people are as skilled in the water as I am, and the “deep” end is only five feet of water anyway.

The other thing I did was buy, “30 day shred” on Amazon. I am not a Jillian fan. I spent almost a month just looking at the DVD in its wrapper. I have rolled my eyes at Jillian’s tough girl act many times while watching “The Biggest Loser.” I will overlook my annoyance if it means losing weight though. Last week I opened the DVD and started on the level 1 workout.

My husband asks how much I weigh. Numbers are a powerful tool to keep him on track, but I just get discouraged. “I just want to wear a bikini again,” I said, dodging the question. Then, later, I stepped onto the scale.

The scale is another thing that doesn’t lie. Aside from when I was carrying a whole separate human being, I have never weighed as much as what I saw on the scale’s display. Oh my.

I worked out a bunch of times last week. I know this is a little brag, but I am trying not to be righteous about this. Just two weeks ago I was an non-exercising fool. One week does not make you into a workout guru. One week does not give you the right to look down your nose at anyone else not doing as you’re doing. One week of solid workouts means there’s still plenty of room for you to fall off the exercise wagon. For now I’ll shut my mouth and keep at it. Yes, I'm doing it for health, but let's not kid ourselves, vanity is involved too. You don't want to run into someone who knew you way back when and have them come to the realization that you've become the person who has let herself go. You don't want people talking about you, shaking their heads and saying "What happened?"

Later this summer I will weigh myself, do my workouts and hopefully wear a bikini again. Hopefully the “Oh my’s” that result will be the positive kind.