Monday, August 30, 2010

SUPER-DELUXE ULTRA PREMIUM PLUS GUIDE TO MAKING YOUR NEXT MOVE AWESOME

Well, today was a momentous day.  David Strathairn won an Emmy, and spell-checkers for entertainment magazines are thereby going to have migraines tomorrow.  But that's not the momentous part.
Today, more than eighty percent of my dining room floor became visible again, as boxes were unpacked and put in their rightful places.  You know what that means?  The Husband and I are finally getting MOVED IN!

There's something vaguely magical about unpacking in your new home.  Every ear-plundering rip of packing tape as you open a box is worth it when you discover what was hidden inside.  It's like Christmas, only you already own everything, and you already know that the cardboard box you just untaped does not (hopefully) contain a pony.  This pseudo-Christmasy treasure hunt is greatly aided if you resist the urge to label boxes when packing; then you can Forrest Gump it up with every box you open!

I've assembled the following list as an abbreviated guide to moving, in the hope that you may find it useful when planning/executing your next moving adventure.*  Consider it an early Christmas present.  Sorry it's not a pony.

THE SUPER-DELUXE ULTRA PREMIUM PLUS GUIDE TO MAKING YOUR NEXT MOVE AWESOME:

1. Set lofty goals when selecting a moving date.  Don't settle for giving yourself six weeks to prepare if you think it could be done in four.  Give yourself a challenge!  For example, our lease ended on July 28.  We planned to move on July 17, just because we could.  Granted, we ended up pushing the date back to July 24, then to July 27, but we burned off most of the stress and worry in apprehension of the first moving date.  In other words, because my internal procrastinate-then-freak-out clock was set for the 17th, when we gave ourselves the extra ten days, I ended up being (mostly) on schedule!

2. Yes, you absolutely WILL use that croquet set, you WILL make a quilt out of those old t-shirts and fabric pieces, and you WILL scrapbook all of those ticket stubs, programs, and photos.  Don't throw away anything when you move.  You never know when you might need dorm-length sheets again, or that "old-fashioned" tube TV with the twelve-inch screen!  And don't assume that because something has broken and gone unrepaired in your current home that you will not spontaneously have plenty of time/money to fix it after you move.  This stoic retention of all household sundry items may become confusing, as you forget exactly what you own and why you still own it.  This is called Crapatic Amnesia.  By the time we moved, you could have handed me a live armadillo and told me it went in the downstairs bathroom, and I would have tried to fit it into the medicine cabinet.  Judging from my lifelong pack-rat habits, as well as those of my family, Crapatic Amnesia seems to be congenital, hereditary, and incurable.  But non-fatal.  Unless you collect anvils.  Or dragons.

3. Since life events, such as moving, can be stressful, it's best to couple them with additional life events, such as getting married, in order to get all the stressors out of the way at once.  The Husband and I moved our stuff into our first place in Pittsburgh on August 1, 2008.  We were married on August 9, in Columbus, Ohio.  These events followed graduating from college in Florida in May, traversing the airspace between Ohio and Florida during the summer for visits, and completing a thousand-mile roadtrip in a moving truck to get all of our stuff to Pittsburgh.  This time we kept it simple; we waited a whole 48 hours after moving day to bring home our new dog.  Cramming as many stressful life changes into one year/month/week as possible is like hazing yourself into the Fraternity of Adulthood.

4. Replacing light-switch covers and painting walls are home improvement projects for pansies.  If you REALLY want to be an intrepid home improvementalist, pick more ambitious projects.  We had to sand the walls in two bedrooms to get rid of the hideous creative swirled plaster and stucco, and the resultant amount of dust allowed us to make fake snow-angels in the hallway.  The Husband managed to haul about 4000 pounds of concrete and rubble out of our 1950s-era upstairs bathroom, so that it could be re-done from scratch.  Even as I write this, I can look across the hall to our bathroom (which is a forthcoming post in itself), which has no lights, no sink, and no toilet.  Also, no floor.  Aaaand... we moved in a little over a month ago.

5. In all seriousness: look at the potential, not the present.  Moving into a new home is, honestly, quite stressful.  It can become difficult to envision the desired future of stylish decor, relaxing evenings, and home-cooked meals when the present state is one of chaotic cardboard, crushing exhaustion, and cheap pizza.  When I look across the hall (now, not two weeks ago when I wanted to throw lighter fluid on it all), I can visualize how much I will love our bathroom when it is finally done.  When I look at the unpainted walls in our master bedroom, which is currently the storage space for boxes and bathroom materials, I can imagine how nice it will be to collapse in after a hard day, once it's furnished and ready.  And when I look at the fruits of my Crapatic Amnesia, those mountain ranges of nameless boxes that shrink a few inches at a time, I know that we will eventually get them all into their proper place and feel like we have setttled in.  Unless one of those boxes contains a live armadillo.  Or a dragon.

*a lot of this advice is not meant to be taken seriously.  Taking it seriously would probably not work out well for you.  If you do take it seriously and find yourself injured/driven insane/selected to appear on "Hoarders," please don't blame me.

Friday, August 27, 2010

FREE CRUISE RESPOND WITHIN 72 HOURS!!!!!!

Oh, shoot, I hope you didn't think that meant a free cruise for YOU.  It doesn't.*  Sorry!

(*unless you randomly decide to be super awesome and give me a few thousand dollars. THEN I will take you on a free cruise. You're welcome.)

Anyway, I got a thing in the mail today from Caribbean Cruise Lines, informing me that I had been selected for a free two-day cruise for two to the Bahamas!



I spent about 2.8 seconds in a state of glee that would be equivalent to coming downstairs on Christmas morning and finding a live pony with a Play-Doh workshop on its back.  However, I am no longer seventeen eight, so this excitement over the winning of the cruise quickly dampened, as though I had caught my dad leading the pony in from the backyard, instead of Santa bringing it down the chimney like a proper Christmas pony.



I hadn't sent in any kind of sweepstakes application, nor had I done anything else of note that might precipitate such an invitation.  How had I been selected for a free cruise?  I opened the envelope and read its contents thoroughly.  Well, everything was spelled correctly, for starters.  And the fine print sounded reasonable.  They were offering these cruises "for the purpose of soliciting purchases of a vacation ownership plan," but there was no, absolutely NO obligation!  We just would have to sit through a little sales presentation.  There was a $59 booking charge per person, and we might be charged up to $9 per day surcharge if oil prices went up during our trip.  Paying, say, $160 for the Husband and me to take an all-inclusive two-day Caribbean cruise, though, sounded more than reasonable.  There was even a $1300 travel voucher to get us to the port of call!  If they were providing that kind of honesty upfront, then surely they must be trustworthy, right?

PLUS, they had received the 2010 Editor-in-Chief Award from PORTHOLE Cruise Magazine!

(Okay, receiving an award from a publication called "Porthole" might make me less inclined to trust them.  It sounds like sailor porn.  Their homepage boasts this little gem:
"Let the pages of Porthole Cruise Magazine answer your cruising questions, entice your senses, and trigger the explorer in you."
Maybe someone should clue them in on the alternate meaning of "cruising."
...


Still, though, they did win an AWARD!)

Each little mini-page had a couple of highlighted or circled items, as though some employee had lovingly taken the time to hand-mark pertinent information, just for me!  Upon closer inspection, however, I could tell that they had actually used fake highlighting and pen-circling through Photoshop or something.  Why do companies do that?  It makes me less inclined to trust them or buy what they're selling.  If the company thinks that your brain is not sufficiently functional to notice that the crooked highlighting is PIXELLATED, then it probably thinks it can place a hidden-cost monster under your bed without you noticing.

Anyway, the Husband came back from taking Riley for a run, and I showed him the paper.  I had scoured it for fine print and finer print, and it sounded like we could actually call, schedule a cruise, sit through a sales presentation, brush off a few pushy salespeople, and actually enjoy a long weekend in the Bahamas!

Me: Isn't this great!  I'm so excited!  I think I'll call them RIGHT NOW!
Husband: Hm.  Maybe we should think about this.
Me: What do you mean?  I read the fine print!
Husband: Hm.
Me: (only marginally miffed that the Husband is not as excited about our super-deluxe fantastic vacation as I am) Well... maybe I will ask the internet if it's reputable or not.
Husband: (sounding relieved that the internet will handle the task of crushing my dreams) Good idea.

Well, consider my dreams crushed like Hawaiian ice.  Here are some of the things said about the PORTHOLE-acclaimed Caribbean Cruise Line:

"...when I was talking to the guy today I didn't expect anyone to answer, but he did and he said all he needed was my credit card number. I asked to call him back so I could talk to my sister more about this, and he said it's a one time call, but after I was about to say I couldn't do this, he quickly said he would call me back in 3 hours. He also asked me how old I am (18) and he told me he'd call me back because I'm young and he likes the young people instead of the older ones or something weird like that..."

(Number of ways in which this is sketchy: 7)

"They took money from a person with brain injury illegally and wont give the money back."

(You mean, there's a way to LEGALLY do it?)

"So, I put down the money, and they took my visa and address and email and phone number and told me that I would receive my package within three days... Three days later, I hadn’t received even a confirmation email, no nothing, so I phoned the number they had given me. They told me that the dates I wanted to go were not available for the price class of room I had booked. My only options for the time would be to upgrade for $350.00 to either a better room, or a 4 day cruise package... I was now getting mad, and disturbed, which further elevated my previous skepticism about this company or ‘sweet deal’ as they kept trying to tell me."

(If they have to keep telling you it's a sweet deal, it's not.)

"There really IS a Caribbean Cruise Line and they really DO offer very low fares to the Bahamas. However, the ship is a rehabbed ferry, the food and service are of low quality... I've read reports from past passengers that the ship is often met by DEA agents when it returns to the US."

(A welcoming committee!  SWEET!  I heard the Coast Guard is bringing a cookie bouquet!)

Well, believe it or not, those scintillating reviews didn't entice us to respond to the free-cruise mailer.  Neither did the "F" grade that Caribbean Cruise Line received from the Better Business Bureau.  I guess we'll just bum around Pittsburgh some more, and maybe go to the Poconos.  At least those travel destinations won't cripple our belief in human decency.

Beware the free cruise mailer, everyone!  You have been warned!  And if someday soon, you get a call from someone offering you a free, no-strings-attached, ridiculously-amazing, super-sweet-deal cruise to the Bahamas... well, tell them to shut their porthole.

Monday, August 23, 2010

QUIZNOS vs. SPENCER PRATT

The Husband and I were on our way back from a car trip when we felt a sudden and severe need for caffeination/food.  We pulled off the interstate to discover a brilliant idea: a DRIVE-THRU STARBUCKS.  I have known of their existence for some time, but for reasons unknown I've never actually used one.  What a fantastic concept, that I can order my Grande Iced Doubleshot without leaving the comfort of my seat, or even turning down my "Awesome 80s" mix CD as we pull up to the pay window!

Anyway, as we pulled around the parking lot, we made a second discovery:

Husband: Oh, look!  The Starbucks is a combination restaurant! With... a Quiznos.
Me: This just became significantly less awesome.

If you are a Quiznos fan, you may want to stop reading at this point.  However... is there really such a thing as a Quiznos fan?  Their "toasty" subs are more like thick cardboard, sprinkled with assorted chopped things and dried in a slow-moving toaster oven to the point of shrivelation.  Quiznos subs taste like unmet potential and iodized salt.  And I've given them several chances, too!  I've said to myself, "Oh, maybe that last Quiznos I went to was a BAD Quiznos..."

No.  EVERY Quiznos is a Bad Quiznos.  Find me a Good Quiznos, and I will find you a six-legged unicorn. 

Anyway, after we glared at the drive-thru Quiznos like it was the awkward taxidermist cousin that Starbucks brought to the party to "make people-friends," I got my delicious Doubleshot and had a caffeine-fueled epiphany. 

Me: I should write a blog post about QUIZNOS!
Husband: ... Really? ... is there that much to say about it?

Well, I got on the interwebs when we got home (as I usually do), and discovered via Wikipedia that there is quite a lot to say about Quiznos; namely that, in addition to their offensively un-tasty food, they seem to be a monstrous, mis-managed, and money-grubbing mess of a company.  Since there is so much to say, I would really like to share it with you!  However, I cannot just regurgitate this information hand-over-fist like it's a spoiled Quiznos sandwich.  I need a benchmark with which to measure Quiznos, something/someone that is just utterly unnecessary, lacking in good taste, deserving of no fame whatsoever, and culturally ubiquitous even though everyone wishes they would just disappear. 

And then it hit me: the perfect Versus for Quiznos = Spencer Pratt.

"But, Inky," you might ask, "How can you compare a subpar sandwich shop chain to an overexposed reality TV personality?  Isn't that apples to oranges?"

No.  It's not.  Behold...

QUIZNOS vs. SPENCER PRATT!!!

NAME RECOGNITION

Quiznos: Largely negative.  Also, contains the word "No," which should be a warning to you right there.  Founded in 1981, the company seems unable to decide whether there is an apostrophe in ITS OWN NAME:

Spencer Pratt: Almost universally negative.  Or perhaps even worse, no name recognition at all; when I suggested to the Husband that I compare Quiznos ('s? s?) to Spencer Pratt, he responded with a blank stare and "Who?"  Plus, his last name is Pratt - that's British for "idiot."
QUIZNOS 1, SPENCER 0

SELF-PROMOTIONAL ABILITIES
Quiznos: Absolutely dreadful.  They have tried a myriad of marketing campaigns, ranging from the risque to the bizarre.  Recent Quiznos commercials seem to have made by stoners for other stoners with the munchies, as evidenced by THIS:
Spencer Pratt: Love him or hate him (but almost certainly the latter), it must be admitted that this man-boy knows how to promote.  He has built a, er, "career" out of publicity stunts, including handing out copies of his wife's Playboy issue, being baptized by Stephen Baldwin on a reality show, and threatening to release his wife's lesbian sex tape unless she calls off their divorce.  Probably not the best way to win her back, champ.  He even "wrote" a "book" called How to Be Famous.  Is anything this guy does actually REAL?  Regardless, the Pratt gets this point simply because he keeps finding horrendous new ways to eke a few more seconds out of his fifteen minutes.
QUIZNOS 1, SPENCER 1

 MENU VARIETY
Quiznos: A decent variety of sandwiches and salads, about which the KreepyKats above could doubtless tell you more than you ever wanted to know.
Spencer Pratt: However, as stated above, the Garbage Di-Spencer seems to have a neverending supply of, well, garbage, at the ready to chuck at anyone who will read a headline or gawk at a video.
QUIZNOS 1, SPENCER 2

CURB APPEAL
Quiznos: Limited.  When you see a Quiznos, you tend to think, "Eh, Quiznos.  Isn't there a Subway up the street?"  And again, there is that little issue of them not knowing whether they have an apostrophe or not.  Srsly guys?  Just pick one way or the other.  Then I might not have to rely on Advil PM to get me through the night.
Spencer Pratt: Well, if I saw a Quiznos, I would evaluate if I'm really THAT hungry and wander away to somewhere else (anywhere else).  However, if I saw Spencer Pratt, I would run screaming in whatever direction promised the most distance between his mouth-breather mug and me.  Unless, of course, I happened to have a tomato.  In that case I would throw it, then run.
QUIZNOS 2, SPENCER 2


(All matched up here!  We need a tie-breaker!)
FINANCIAL SOLVENCY
Quiznos: Has reportedly LIED to franchisees about how profitable the company is, with 25% of Quiznos franchises defaulting on their small business loans, and up to 40% of Quiznos not turning a profit.  See wikipedia for more.
Spencer Pratt: Always finding ways to earn money... but also always finding ways to spend it.  Like financing THIS
NO point awarded.
QUIZNOS 2, SPENCER 2

(Hmm... what's another comparison that might pull us out of this dead heat?)
CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENTS
Quiznos: TOTALLY wins this one!  They've had Jared, and Jon Lovitz, and Michael Phelps, and - oh, wait.  Those were all Subway.  Never mind.
Spencer Pratt: Endorsed by... his wife?  ... I'm completely kidding.  No one endorses this guy.
NO point awarded.
-1 SUBWAY for using Jon Lovitz as a spokesperson.  Really?!  HIM?  That is not what I want to picture when I'm about to begin a meal.  Or at any other time.
However, +5 SUBWAY for using Michael Phelps as a spokesperson.  THAT's what I'm talking about. :)
QUIZNOS 2, SPENCER 2, SUBWAY 4

(Okay, I got it!  I know we will crown a winner with this one!)

OVERALL TASTE
Quiznos: No matter how bad Quiznos' (Quizno's'?  AHHH!) food may taste -- this category is no contest.
Spencer Pratt: Has absolutely no taste.
QUIZNOS 3, SPENCER 2, SUBWAY 4

Way to go, Quiznos!  You pulled it off at the last moment!  Believe it or not, I was actually rooting for you. 

However, there is a bit of bad news... you placed second to Subway.  Ah, well, I suppose you're used to it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Friday the Thirteenth, Part Deux

Well, I apologize -- I didn't intend to make you wait this long for the exciting conclusion of what happened to me on August 13th, 2004.  Hope you didn't think that I got attacked by a falling piano or an anvil or something, or that the Friday the 13th swallowed me up like the Bermuda Triangle.  None of that happened.  I just took some Advil PM last Thursday night to help me sleep with the Husband gone (so that if a strangler broke in, at least I wouldn't be woken up before I was strangled), and I apparently OD'd slightly and overslept.

I didn't oversleep until NOW -- that would be quite a feat! -- but I overslept until after work started on Friday the 13th and found myself rushing through the day, flinging around files and emails with reckless abandon as I tried to get my office into shape before leaving it for a long weekend.  I somehow managed to get to the airport after work with time to spare.  I even had time to shop at The Gap in the airport and buy jeans!  I never really need an excuse to buy jeans, but I was totally covered because A. They were having a sale, and B. I had forgotten to pack jeans.

The trip was fantastic!  Iowa is a magical place where the number of ears of corn in the fields is outnumbered by the number of stars you can see in the night sky... which in turn is outnumbered by the number of insects that will attack you while you admire the corn and/or stars.  There were many adventures that I would like to share, but this post is supposed to be the exciting conclusion (see earlier post below) of Friday the 13th, 2004; so let's get back to that, shall we?  It was a dark and stormy night...

Well, it really was.  Don't hate on accuracy.

So I had just hung up the pay phone in the airport, having confidently assured my mother that I would absolutely survive the storm of doom that was hurtling towards me.  However, having no idea what a hurricane was like or how to prepare for it made my insides feel like a maelstrom of airplane peanuts and terror.  I called for the shuttle and made my way to the Orlando airport Clarion, an attractive hotel with a glass atrium lobby full of potted plants and demure furniture.  On my way there, even as scared as I was, I couldn't help but bounce in my seat to see the palm trees and pale stucco buildings.  I was going to go to school in Disney-town!

I checked into the hotel on my own and lugged my luggage (is that why they call it that?) up to my very own room, feeling like quite a big girl.  This was around 4pm.  I turned on the TV, checked the weather channel, which told me that Hurricane Charley was probably going to hit in Tampa and stay along the Gulf Coast (good news!), and then watched "That's So Raven" or something.  At about 4:30pm, it occurred to me that I had not had lunch and was famished.  I grabbed the information folder and called Papa John's to order a pizza.

"Hello, Papa John's - we are limited to pick-up because of the hurricane - can I help you?"
"I guess not." I said sadly, and hung up.

I went down to the lobby to eat at the restaurant.

"It's closed." The girl at the front desk informed me.
"C-closed?" I repeated.
"For the storm."  She said.
"Will it be open tomorrow?"  I asked, beginning to panic as I realized that it was not a hurricane but hunger that would be my end.
"Probably not."
Resisting the urge to ask if she had ever helped anyone EVER, I instead inquired, "Is there anywhere that I can get something to eat?"
"There's a Seven-Eleven next door."
Resisting the urge to congratulate her on being marginally helpful, I sped out the door to the Seven-Eleven to stock up.

You know how people say that you should not go grocery shopping when you're hungry, because you will impulse-buy so much more junk than you need?  That condition is compounded by not knowing when you will be able to buy food again, and by buying your groceries in a Seven-Eleven, where the food groups revolve around Doritos and beer.  Fortunately, I had a mini-fridge and a microwave in my room, so my options were a little more open.

Unfortunately, the Seven-Eleven had already been ravaged by other hotel guests and locals, who must have finally exhausted their Y2K stockpiles and needed to refill on Spam and Twinkies in time for THIS apocalypse.  I grabbed a basket and began filling it as quickly as I could, before the current wave of shoppers snatched up everything but the motor oil and copies of Red Book.  I managed to grab a huge bottle of water, a jumbo bag of Twizzlers, Pepperidge Farm Milano Cookies, two Stouffer's frozen dinners, kettle chips, Snickers bars, three 20-oz bottles of Diet Coke, and a few other gems.  Looking guiltily over my unchaperoned grocery basket as the checkout clerk silently judged me, I tossed in a few apples and some sugar-free gum.

I slogged back to the hotel by about five o'clock, and the wind was starting to pick up.  The sky was filled with unfamiliar clouds.  I went back to my room, took a shower, changed into my pajamas, and checked the weather again.  The Gulf Coast was about two hours to the west of Orlando, which meant that we would get hit with something called "feeterbands," the outer arms of the hurricane that would hug us with rain and high winds; but the "eye" of the hurricane, the most ferocious part, would miss us by at least eighty miles or so.  I breathed a sigh of relief, popped in a Stouffer's dinner, and called my mother to tell her the good news.

Being informed that the hurricane was not going to personally swallow up her daughter must have been a relief, but it enabled my mother to return to those more familiar parental worries, like Norman Bates possibly having the hotel room down the hall from me.  I reassured her that I had the door locked, the deadbolt locked, the chain on, and the dresser wedged in front of the door (which may have been a slight exaggeration), and that I had enough food to last me at least until she could get on the next flight to Orlando, which would be Heaven-knows-when.  Her last words before we hung up, other than "I love you," reiterated that I should under no circumstances leave my room, for ANY reason, ESPECIALLY AFTER DARK.  I returned to my frozen dinner and watched some more Disney Channel.  I was a mere ten miles or so from Disney World, and every commercial that showed some bit of the theme parks had me bouncing again with excitement.

I checked the weather again at about 6pm, when rain really started HITTING the window. 

"Hurricane Charley has turned.  It is a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of up to 150 miles per hour, and it has made landfall in Punta Gorda.  Charley is expected to reach Orlando shortly after sunset."

























At that moment a piece of paper was slipped under my door, almost causing my arteries to implode from stress and fear.  I scurried to the door -- had the Grim Reaper left me a confirmation number? -- and read the paper.  It wasn't from Death, actually, but from the hotel management.  They would monitor the weather report, and if deemed necessary, they would either knock on doors or call rooms to herd us all into the windowless ballroom for the night.  If we failed to comply, they said, we did so at our own risk.

Well, the next couple of hours were kind of a blur.  I called my mother back and told her the bad news, at which point she told me to UNblock and UNlock my door, in case I needed to get into the hallway in a hurry.  When you being confronted by a Norman Bates-like murderer scares your mother LESS than an alternative, you know it's bad.  I rotated among trying to watch TV, praying, and contemplating the fate of Mickey Mouse and the rest of the Magic Kingdom.  I don't know why, when confronted with a potentially life-threatening situation, I felt the need to concern myself with how Disney World would survive, but I did.




















It started to get dark just as the lights went out.  I huddled in the bed farthest from the window and waited, listening to the winds growing stronger and the rain smacking harder.  There was a knock at the door, and I opened it carefully, hoping that it wasn't a strangler. 

An innocuous, tired-looking hotel employee, with several flashlights in his hands, informed me that it was time to go to the ballroom, or face the storm monster alone in my rapidly-darkening room.  I wasn't sure what to bring, so I grabbed my Bible and a pillow and put everything else into the bathroom.  I padded down the dark hallway and joined a growing stream of harried guests clutching pillows, valuables, and children.  We stepped cautiously down the dark stairway, wondering why there were no emergency lights.  The skylight in the stairwell had fallen open, allowing rain to tumble in upon us as we hugged the walls and slipped around it. 

As we hurried across the lobby towards the ballroom, a horrible, soul-crunching noise echoed from somewhere far above us. 
"What IS that?!"  I asked no one in particular.
"That," replied a wizened old man, "is the screws in the tin roof.  The wind's pulling them out."

Oh.

I picked up my pace into the ballroom and staked out a spot as far from any exits as possible.  It occurred to me at that point that I had not brought a blanket. A kind family from Wisconsin offered me their extra comforter, and I huddled up against the wall with it in true Linus fashion. The wind got louder and fiercer, even as we shut the heavy ballroom door. No sooner had everyone settled into the room and heard a shouted message from the hotel manager than a terrible smashing crush echoed through the air. Someone decided to be the Sheriff of Ballsville and open the door to the lobby.


The floor of the lobby was covered with what looked like rough diamonds. They had fallen all over everything, from the potted palms to the sedate furniture, and they were quickly being drowned in sheets of rain. The entire glass atrium had blown in. And the wind was still growing louder.

We all waited pretty quietly after that, just listening and talking in low voices, until the winds outside sounded like a freight train was about to charge into the ballroom... and then there was nothing at all. We were in the eye of the hurricane. It was like the eerie silence in a horror movie, when you know the monster is on the other side of the door -- you can see his shadow on the floor -- and it's only a matter of moments until he lurches forward and swallows you whole. Thinking about the clearly evil, all-seeing eye of the storm itself, I half-expected Sauron and an army of orcs to creep around the corner, but figured that they were probably too busy razing EPCOT to the ground.

One bit of hope clung to my hurricane-addled brain, and that was the knowledge that as soon as the hurricane's eye passed over us, the winds and rain would start to gradually decrease. The worst would then be over, and I had managed to not be in the glass lobby when it exploded. When the winds came roaring back with a vengeance and nothing collapsed on me, I sighed with relief and prepared to hunker down in my makeshift bed for the night. However, it occurred to me that my poor family had no idea what state I or the building surrounding me was in at that moment, and I ought to find a way to let them know that I was still breathing. I tentatively approached the kindly Wisconsinites who had lent me a blanket, when I saw cell phones in their midst.

Me: Um. Could I maybe use your phone? My mom is in Ohio, and she probably thinks I'm covered in rubble.
Kindly Wisconsinian: Aw, shur! Go right ahed noh! (hands me her cell phone) The cell toher might be dohn, tho' -- there seems to be a layg in the signal.
Me: Thank you. Um, a what in the signal?
Kindly Wisconsinian: A layg. Like when yoo talk and it echoes in the phone.
Me: Oh, a lag! ... I'll watch out for that.

I called my mother and quickly told her that I was alive ("Are you OKAY?! The idiots on the weather channel said Hurricane Charley was POUNDING Orlando!"), that the eye had gone over us but I was all right ("The EYE?!?"), and that I would call again as soon as I could, considering that there was no electricity and thus no land line phones ("Okay, but call soon!").

As I closed the phone and handed it back to the kindly Wisconsinites, I saw that it was 12:23am. The eye was long gone, and the winds no longer sounded like Mother Nature wanted to heap destruction and misery upon us. Friday the 13th was over. I snuggled under my borrowed blanket on the hotel ballroom floor and thought quietly about what might lay ahead in the next four years of college. Would UCF be everything I hoped? Would the people be nice? Would my classes be difficult? Would Cinderella Castle rise from the orc-savaged ashes?

Years later, I can say that UCF was everything I had hoped for, that the people were very nice, that my classes were appropriately difficult, and that Disney World was (miraculously) spared by Hurricane Charley. After that first night and the initial move-in as I waited (for four days) for the Orlando Airport to open and receive my mother, college seemed almost easy by comparison.  That first night might have made me wary of Friday the 13th, but it sure gave me a heck of an introduction to self-reliance!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday the Thirteenth

Well, the Husband has left me.
Not permanently, of course. He knows he’d never get away with that. But he’s flown on ahead to the Iowa family farm, while I go to work tomorrow like a supposedly grown-up person (you might say… a “so-called grown up”? haHA!), and then fly out to Des Moines after work. In the meantime, however, it’s just me and you, Internet. I think I’ll just go… slip into something more comfortable.

On second thought, I’m already sitting down, typing, and it’s kind of a lot of effort to go into the other room to change into something else, that isn’t actually more comfortable at all. It WOULD be more comfortable if I could put on my fuzzy slippers and frumpy pajamas, but it’s about thirty-four degrees TOO hot for that in this house, and anyway, I’m guessing that’s not what you had in mind, is it, Internet? IS IT? Your mother would be ashamed. I ought to call her up right now and tell her so, but she’s still on dial-up.

(Maybe if I didn’t use that same line of reasoning with the Husband, he wouldn’t have flown out so early. Hmm…)

Anyway, I will be flying tomorrow evening, and I have to say that I am a little bit nervous about traveling on Friday the 13th. Not because I am a superstitious person – I pick up tails-up pennies all the time, and I walk under ladders, and I had a pet black cat named Lucky, of all things – but because the last time I scoffed at traveling on Friday the 13th, rather dreadful things happened. Namely, THIS:




Maybe I should back up a little bit. Let’s imagine that you are me, six years ago. It is August 2004, and you are about to trot off to college for the first time. Considering that you have lived all of your eighteen-and-one-half years in Ohio, save for four weeks that you spent in Normandy (two of which were spent largely in battling gut-wrenching homesickness), your mother is justifiably concerned that you have decided to go to college in Orlando, Florida. But you are going, and you are equal parts petrified and rapturous about the future. You and the family chuckle a bit about the fact that you are leaving on Friday, August 13 – the dorms don’t even open until Sunday, but you, your sister, and your mother are going to enjoy the weekend in Orlando before you move in.

You get an earlier flight than your mom and sister, because your ticket is one way, and theirs are round-trip. You hear on the news in the couple of days leading up to Friday that there is a tropical storm somewhere down around Florida… but Florida’s a big state, and the little projected path on weather.com shows it going somewhere else entirely! You’ll be fine. You finish packing. It’s the night before you leave, and you’re too excited to sleep! So you stay up and watch re-runs of Laverne and Shirley while imagining your incalculably awesome future:



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
You go to the airport, leave your mom and sister (and half your luggage) in the Columbus terminal, and board your Southwest Airlines plane to Orlando.  You buckle your seatbelt and wait.
 
"This is your captain speaking. Uh.... facing some weather conditions down south... uhhhh... with any luck we'll land this thing in Orlando in about two hours."
 

Well.  You can't really do anything.  The plane is in the air.  So you eat your peanuts and wait.  Sure enough, the plane lands in Orlando without a problem, and you breathe a sigh of relief.  The worst is over.  You de-board, gather your bags, and settle onto a bench by the information desk.  Your mom and sister should be getting in around 2:00.  It's 1:40.

You check your watch (because it is 2004, fool, and you don't have a cell phone yet!).  It's ten past three.  They're probably about to land.  You engage in some disinterested people-watching.  Twenty minutes later, you check it again.  And ten minutes after that.  And every ninety seconds after that.
 
At about 3pm, it dawns on you that you are, after all, sitting right by the information desk, and they might actually have something resembling information.  You inquire about Delta flight ####, and the gentleman behind the desk shakes his head.  His lips move, and it looks like he's saying something like "CANCELLED."
 
You are quite shaken.  You drag your heavy bags behind you as you frantically locate a pay phone and call home.  Your mother answers, which cannot mean anything good. Apparently, Delta's finest informed her that they did not consider it safe to fly.  They told her this AFTER your flight was already in the air.  She's a little on edge.  Oh, and that little Tropical Storm Charley has turned into a Category 4 Hurricane.  It should hit Florida by nightfall.
 
So what do you do?  The only thing you CAN do.  You tell your mother that you're all right, and that you will take the shuttle to the hotel and hunker down there.  You can only hope that plan will work.  But when you hang up the phone, it's not a good feeling.
 
 

 
To Be Continued ...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Feel Inadequate Much?

Remember what I was saying about the Average Age of the Ridiculously Successful Person taking a dive? Well, it turns out that I was one-hundred-and-seven percent right:





While watching this video, I alternated among feelings of awestruck admiration, rabid jealousy, and "about to burst in tears."

I'm going to go get a Merlot refill and watch it again.  I recommend you do the same.

The Eco-Fairy

Remember how I mentioned the Puss-in-Boots stare-downs on the morning commute?  The Husband and I didn't have one of those today (although there was a MAJOR one yesterday -- still not sure who won), because we talked about macroeconomic/ecological theory instead.

This was not necessarily a good idea, as I hadn't had my coffee yet, and I was in the process of applying my make-up as we motored along toward campus in our car, so I couldn't really devote my full attention to the discussion at hand.  I'm not sure if it would EVER be a "good" idea, actually.  Anyhow, we were talking about organic farming, because we are going to the Husband's family farm in Iowa this weekend and he's going to talk to his uncle about getting the farm certified as organic.  Our (abridged) conversation proceeded something like this:

Husband - Y'know, I heard somewhere about this guy - can't remember his name - who had some sort of theory about how if every farm was organic, then there wouldn't be enough food for everyone in the world, and a bunch of people would starve.  He won the Nobel Prize for his research.
Me - ... huh.
(apparently they give away Nobel prizes for just about ANYTHING these days.  Maybe I can win two in one year after all!)
Me - I remember there was some theorist in my economics book who said the same thing, only he was talking about food in general and he lived in the 1600s or something.*  He said we were all doomed to starvation.
(I instinctively hug my legs to my chest, because I referred to Freakonomics)
Husband - ... yep.
(three minutes of silence)
Me - Well, that was depressing.
Husband - (laughs) Well, mphemmmphpmsnmnmnsh... (maybe I was a little more focused on my mascara at this point)... Ecological Fairy.
(I snap to attention at the word fairy)
Me - WHAT?
Husband - mperhmmsmndsh Macro-Ecological Theory.
(I slump back, disappointed)
Me - Oh.  I thought you said something about a fairy... BUT WAIT.  WHAT IF THERE WAS ONE?
Husband - ... What if there was what?
Me - A Macro-Ecological Fairy!  A fairy that flew around, telling us how to take care of the earth!

And we were off to the races.  How much better would the world be, if we had an Eco-Fairy to take care of us all?  Not like a Captain Planet with a grass mullet and some magical rings kerfuffle.  That is so 1991.  No, we need a strong, independent, stylin', mighty Eco-Fairy for the 21st Century!  What would such a fantastical being look like?

Our first thought was of Recyclops:

























Then for some reason, we thought of Hector the Stalker:

















(ZOMG, I never realized the Stranger-Danger Kid was sitting next to him!)

Imagine these two personas melded into one, serving the planet Earth as the benevolent, metrosexual, socially-backward, overly-intense
ECO-FAIRY!

If the environment was protected by THIS, I think we would all sleep a little better at night:
























... Then again, maybe not.

(*Thomas Robert Malthus, 1766-1834. I was a little off on the timeline. But his theory is depressing and hasn't come true yet. So I win, Thomas Malthus, and you lose. Actually, you were an economist, so you double-lose.)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

DOG vs. BABY

Like many twenty-something females, I have started to get an increasing biological-clock urge to begin procreating. I’ve always known that I want to have children, preferably several (or many), but this time of life seems to pull that desire right to the forefront. Babies and pregnant women are all around me – three of my friends had babies this summer, and a couple more are due before the end of the year. It also seems like there have been more baby-centric ads on the intertubes and televisions lately, but that could just be a result of my trolling baby-name websites for fun (please tell me I’m not the only twenty-something female that does this).

It should also be noted that in every Facebooked baby photo and Gerber ad, you never see/hear the piercing wails, poop, and sleep deprivation that come along with every adorable bundle of joy and cuteness. You just see THE CUTENESS!!! So what do you do? YOU WANT ONE.

However, like many twenty-something females, I have a male counterpart who is not so easily swayed by THE CUTENESS. Whenever we see an adorable baby on the bus, I look at the Husband with Puss-in-Boots eyes, and he responds with a Shrek shrug and a grimace. Not that he doesn’t also find them adorable; he does, but he seems to have a sixth sense in looking at babies – a sense that is constantly attuned to the sleepless nights and poop-filled mornings lurking behind the giggles and onesies. And deep down, I know that the Husband does want an adorable baby in a couple of years, and that I should probably break my addiction to school before attempting motherhood.

Fortunately, my deep-rooted maternal instincts have always managed to manifest in socially acceptable ways: taking care of younger siblings, baby-sitting, being a dorm RA, etc. Having outgrown those options, and not wanting to introduce a new dimension of creeptastic oddity into my marriage by getting a Reborn Doll or something, I suggested to the Husband that we consider getting a pet after moving into the new house. He was amenable to this (especially since it might mean less Puss-in-Boots stare-downs at eight in the morning), and through a truly serendipitous set of circumstances that deserve their own blog post, we found ourselves with a sweet, lovable 18-month old Huskador* named Riley, two days after we moved into the new house.

(*A Huskador is a Husky-Labrador mix; at least, that is the proper name according to Google. Riley has white-blond fur and blue eyes!)

We are now about ten days past that point, and I’ve spent the interim evaluating our decision. Again, Riley deserves his own blog post, and he shall get it in due time, but this post is really about Dog versus Baby. How do they stack up against each other, in terms of introduction into the life of a twenty-something? I’ve compiled the following list in order to compare:

EASE OF CARE
Dog: feeding, cleaning up after him/her, occasional grooming, limited training, taking for walks.
Baby: feeding, cleaning up after him/her, constant grooming, extensive training, teaching to walk.
DOG 1, BABY 0

NOISE LEVEL
Dog: may bark at people, other dogs, squirrels, leaves, garbage trucks, and occasionally at nothing at all.  Also may howl, growl, or snarl at any of same.
Baby: may scream and cry for a cornucopia of reasons.  Also, WILL bang on any object that makes a loud noise as soon as gross motor skills permit.
DOG 2, BABY 0

EASE OF ACQUISITION:
Dog: you go to the pet store/shelter/website and pick one.  Sure, there is some personality matching involved, and a vet visit to get the shots and a snip-snap, but you basically can say, "Do you know what I want?  A DOG," and it probably won't be that life-sucking to find one.
Baby: pick your poison: nine months of life-force-draining as you incubate a brand-new human, or many months/years of paperwork, trips, and interviews to adopt an infant or child.  However you choose to become a parent, it is NEVER easy.  Worth it? Yes.  More difficult than obtaining Unobtainium? Yes.
DOG 3, BABY 0

(wow, looking like we made the right call so far!  GO TEAM DOG!)

DESTRUCTION CAPABILITIES
Dog: immediate and immense.  Among teeth, claws, and bodily waste, Dog's capabilities to physically decimate house and home begin as soon as it bounds through your doorway.  Or through your door itself, depending on the dog.
Baby: eventually, capacity for destruction may surpass that of Dog, but at least until Baby learns to walk, damage is generally limited to clothing and linens.
DOG 3, BABY 1

TRANSPORTABILITY
Dog: loves to ride in the car, but can't sit in it worth a darn.  Also, there are many places that Dog cannot go: supermarkets, restaurants, airplanes, movie theaters, offices, churches... and if you're planning on going anywhere for longer than a day, Dog needs to be boarded.
Baby: car seat is a hassle, but Baby can go just about anywhere.  Additionally, for places that do not appreciate Baby's healthy lungs (and resultant Banshee-shrieks), there are often nurseries and babysitters available.
DOG 3, BABY 2

CUTENESS
Dog: they don't call them "puppy-dog eyes" for nothing...
Baby: but really, this is no contest.  What's cuter than a baby?  TWO babies, that's what.  The only real way to make something cuter than a baby is to add another baby. (Don't tell TLC, or they'll roll out a new show called "Baby Math" or something.  Actually, I'm going to go reserve that domain now... just in case.)
DOG 3, BABY 3

(hmm, Team Dog is losing steam.  What's a good tie-breaker?)

NET USEFULNESS
Dog: watches for burglars.  Keeps you in shape with early morning walks.  Makes an immediate, excellent, faithful companion.  However, has to be let out for "business time" every so often.
Baby: immediate usefulness per se is limited, other than maternity leave and being invited by strangers to please cut in front of them at the supermarket.  However, long-term applications are endless and include: sense of purpose, feelings of pride toward your spawn, and reassurance that somebody will hopefully, eventually take care of YOU.
DOG 3, BABY 4

Well, shoot!  By this incredibly scientific inquiry, it seems that the Husband and I should have gone with Baby rather than Dog!  I feel like I just played Deal or No Deal to the last case and ended up with 75,000 dollars instead of the million that was in the other case.  I'm still mildly ecstatic, because it is 75,000 dollars, after all; but I could have had a MILLION!

Oh, well.  I know we will get there eventually.  In a few years, we will unite the forces of both Dog AND Baby, and we will be UNSTOPPABLE!  Until then, I'll just keep trolling baby-name websites and drooling over Gerber commercials.  And the Husband will just have to get used to this.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Freakonomics

About 18 months ago, I decided that a year was more than enough time to be out of school.  Yarn and “The Biggest Loser” were pleasant enough, but I needed to feel like I was working towards something besides finishing a blanket and cheering on a group of shrinking people towards svelte-ness. I had graduated in spring 2008 with a double-major, but the double programs had precluded me from taking a lot of "fun" courses, like writing and language courses. I intended at the time to go back for graduate school in Political Science, but I didn’t feel like waiting a whole additional year. I wanted me some school RIGHT THEN, DARN IT!

Fortunately, working for the university means I get to take classes at the university. So I applied as a transfer student to earn a second B.A., in French. I love everything about the French language – the irregular verbs, the copious silent letters, the way you can sound bored while talking about almost anything… it’s beautiful. Plus, French majors get to do all sorts of other fun things, like eat cheese and drink wine, and watch films, and study abroad in awesome places. PLUS, in case you weren’t aware, French is not only the Language of Love, but also the Language of the Ridiculously Successful!

(A Few Ridiculously Successful People Who Are Fluent in French: Alex Trebec, Robert DeNiro, Michelle Obama, William Shatner, Elton John, Halle Berry, Jodie Foster, Kevin Kline, Meryl Streep, Mick Jagger, Emma Watson, Sting, Morgan Freeman, the Entire British Royal Family, Tina Turner, etc.)

Anyway, I thought that perhaps I ought to balance the French with something a little more… sciencey. Something that would bolster a Political Science grad school application. That was why I decided that I should pursue a minor in Economics alongside the French degree. I thought, “Only six courses? No problem!”

The French courses were all full for summer term, so I would have to start those in the fall. I decided to start by taking a politics class and Macroeconomics, the basic intro-to-econ course. As if to make my life even easier, Macroeconomics was offered as a “self-paced course” over the summer! All I had to do was take the first of three exams before the end of the term, and I would have a whole year to take the other two! No homework! No papers! No required class time! I positively hugged myself with glee after hitting the “enroll” button.

From this point onward, it’s probably easiest to share this story in a timeline (some dates are approximates):

May 15, 2009: Summer term begins. I occasionally leaf through chapter 1 of my Economics book to get a sense of what I’m studying.

Mid-June 2009: “Wow, my politics class is great! This Economics minor is going to look great for my graduate school application!”

July 1: I begin studying Economics in earnest, in order to ace the first exam and take the second one before summer term ends.

July 3: I discover that I utterly hate Economics.

July 7: I realize that it is too late to drop the course without a penalty.

July 10: I “take a break” from studying, because I really only need to take the first exam before the end of the summer.

July 28: I find my Economics book under a pile of crap on my desk and panic, because I have to take the exam sometime in the next five days.

July 28-August 1: I am miserable. I re-name this field of study, “Freakonomics.”

August 2: I take the exam. It goes reasonably terribly. I expect to score MAYBE an 85?

August 8: I receive my score in the mail. I get a 78. :-(

August 14: After recovering from this ugly news, I decide that I will simply space the other exams out over fall and spring. With a full semester to study each unit, surely I will understand the material well enough to earn “As” and receive a good grade in the course.

September 2009-May 2010: I do not study Freakonomics. I occasionally have panic attacks about the fact that I am not studying Freakonomics:

“OMG I HAVE TO TAKE TWO MORE EXAMS ON THIS STUFF AND I GOT A FREAKING C+ ON THE FIRST EXAM AND THAT’S GOING TO DESTROY MY GPA AND WHY DIDN’T I DROP THIS STUPID CLASS BEFORE AND I HATE THIS I HATE THIS I HATE THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

But mostly I just do not study.

May 14, 2010: Summer term begins.  It occurs to me that I have twelve weeks to complete Freakonomics, or I will get a grade of ~28% in the course.

June 11: I intend to go to the University Testing Center and take Exam 2. I do not.

June 18: I intend to go take Exam 2. I do not.

June 28: I gather my book, pencils, and calculator, intending to take Exam 2. I go to Starbucks instead.

July 9: I bite the bullet and go to take Exam 2. I forget my calculator, but the kind fellow at the testing center loans me one. I actually feel good about the exam as I turn it in!

July 9-14: I wait semi-excitedly for my score. “Wow, I think I might have gotten an A on this one! Maybe this Economics stuff isn’t so bad!”

July 14: Never mind. I get an 84. Freakonomics sucks worse than a broken vacuum.

July 15: I decide to give myself “a few days off” from studying (ignoring the fact that I probably will not do better on the next exam if I study LESS, rather than more).

July 29: I realize that I have to take Exam 3 by August 9. It covers 6 chapters, of which I have skimmed one and a half. I weep.

July 30-August 5: I alternate between internally weeping and studying with the focus of a sleep-deprived squirrel surrounded by disco balls.

August 6 (today): I have 72 hours before I have to take the test. Rather than weep (or study), I write a blog post about it all.



TO BE CONTINUED.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

My Inner Elderly Person

In addition to the general growing pains of adulthood (responsibility, money-that-is-in-my-bank-account-but-not-really, showering), I have some unique qualities that make me seem old before my time.  I have no intention of curbing my inner elderly person, but these quirks may be sabotaging my attempts to achieve ridiculous success before age 30!  I'm at a loss for what to do -- I just can't imagine giving up all of THIS

1. Crocheting/Knitting - I love, love, love to make things out of yarn.  Not just cutesy little scarves, but severely time-devouring projects like blankets and tablecovers.  I'm like an extremely productive and dexterous cat.  You could leave me alone in my family room with a box full of yarn and a bottle of wine, and I would be good for about three days.  For the first Christmas with the Husband (then-boyfriend, age 19), he gave me Disneyworld tickets.  I crocheted him an afghan.  While my siblings received iTunes giftcards and video gaming equipment from our relatives last Christmas, I got a sweet hand-me-down knitting machine.  I will post a picture of this thing later, because it is the most in-your-face piece of crafting machinery you've ever seen.  It's made by Toyota.  Crochet hooks + yarn = euphoria, but knitting machine + yarn = universe-bending awesomeness.

2. Baking - No mixes or frozen doughs for me!  I bake my muffins, scones, brownies, and cookies from scratch!  I bake as often as possible.  And then I give the baked stuff away to people.  Like a girl-scout grandma.  Do you know any other twenty-something that bakes scones for fun? 
... really, do you?  Because I could use a new recipe.

3. Mary Maxim - not to be confused with Maxim, the "gentlemen's" magazine, Mary Maxim is a catalogue filled with all sorts of little-old-lady crafts, like needlepoint tablecloths and toilet-paper-roll-covers.  You can find everything from a Knotted-Cable Poncho to a Gay Pride Sock Monkey.  I love it all.  If I won the lottery, I would spend a shamefully large percentage of my take at this website.  Or, you know, if I won Publisher's Clearinghouse.  Because one of these days they ARE going to pick my name and bring me the huge check.

4. Glenn Miller and his Orchestra - nothing gets my foot jiggling for a dance like hearing a few bars of "In the Mood" or "Chattanooga Choo-Choo."  I have a Big Band station on my Pandora account, and I periodically consider quitting my job/s to start an Andrews Sisters tribute troupe.

5. Old Movies - some hipsters think it is "vintage" or "chic" to profess an affinity for classic cinema, and many girls who have never seen "Breakfast at Tiffany's" have that iconic Audrey Hepburn picture framed on their wall because they totally know who she is, and she's like freaking AWESOME! 
This is not what I mean by a love for old films.  I just mean that I would much rather watch "Casablanca" than "Avatar."  I genuinely enjoy Cary Grant, Spencer Tracy, and Katharine Hepburn.  Try to imagine a Katharine Hepburn/Katherine Heigl act-off.  Heigl would probably melt into a quivering heap of arrogant-yet-vulnerable jelly, while Hepburn received yet another Oscar nod and barked at Heigl to grow up.  They don't make films, or actors*, like they used to.

*exceptions: Kate Winslet - you are stunning.  Abigail Breslin - you give me chills.  And Zac Efron - I truly believe you've got it in you somewhere.  Keep trying, pal.

6. Game Shows - Not stupid game shows, but REAL ones like Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune.  I often yell at the TV during these programs, and occasionally I have my dinner on a tray while I watch.  They also make great background noise for while I'm crocheting.

7. Various likes and dislikes - I ADORE bingo.  I HATE driving.  Coupons are almost better than money.  Anything with a lowercase "i" in front of it (iPod, iPad, etc.) intimidates me, as does anything with a touch screen.  Loud, abrasive music and unshaven, long-haired young men bother me.  I would choose going to an orchestra concert over a hip dance club.  I avoid swearing whenever possible.  Letters in the mail are SO much better than emails.  And the early-bird special is a brilliant gift to mankind.

These abilities, habits, and preferences, which make me seem much older than I am, may indeed be obstructing my quest to be ridiculously successful. Unfortunately, I like most of them too much to give them up. That might just be my elderly stubbornness, though.

Age and Success - a preliminary theory

Recently, I have found myself wondering about what it means to be an adult, and whether or not I am being a reasonably successful one.  After all, I've only been at it for a few years.  While living through college, my wedding, homebuying, and the beginning of puppy parenthood, as well as a work schedule that severely inhibits watching re-runs of "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," I occasionally ask myself where those dreams of winning a Pulitzer, a gold medal, an Oscar, and three Nobel prizes (in one year) went.  I intended to be ridiculously successful by the time I finished school, so I wouldn't have to pick a "career"! 

With every epiphany of adulthood, a little bit more of my childlike side withers. Not that the husband and paycheck are anything to sneeze at -- but how do you compare them to summer vacation, drama club, and Nickelodeon? Some of those childhood memories are tough to let go, though:
When I realized that every female gymnast in the Summer Olympics was younger than me, it became time to give up my dream of winning a gold medal by way of learning to do something remotely athletic.
When the entire cast of the Disney Channel was suddenly younger than me, and admiring the Jonas brothers felt a little awkward, I had to let go of that lingering wish to be a Movie Surfer and guest-star on Lizzie McGuire.
When I recently discovered that 90% of the contestants on "The Bachelor" were within spitting distance of my age, something gave me a chill -- it was like waking up with my teddy bear after drooling on it in my sleep, leaving it damp and cold on my pillow, instead of comforting and snuggly.
Names like Selena Gomez, Taylor Lautner, Justin Bieber, and Youtube-kid-who-plays-the-piano-and-sings-like-an-even-more-neonatal-Justin-Bieber are constantly mentioned everywhere.  The seasoned older generation of entertainers (with the lovely exception of Betty White) seems content to fade into obscurity, hawking memory-foam mattresses and sports bars.   Therefore, the average age of famous, successful people seems to be dropping at the very time that my age is rapidly increasing.  Don't bother arguing with my logic -- I made a graph:



(Please note that my standards are not overly high.  I'm not shooting for JK-Rowling-level fame here, nor am I trying to become more famous than Twilight and Chuck Norris combined.  I hope to be slightly more famous than a teenager who can't seem to remember how to wear clothes properly and a chick who stuck a money sign in her name and attempted to rhyme "clothes" with "phones.")

If this trend continues, I will soon pass that critical threshold of finishing school forever, attain multiple degrees in things that are useful but not especially high-profile, and miss my last shot at youthful fame and fortune, resigning myself to things like a "career." "Maturity." "401k." "Metamucil."
The problem is that I am running out of time.  How am I ever going to leap from this current bypass-of-fantasticality into that desirable fame lane, especially when my knees seem to be growing more arthritic by the moment?
Well, I thought a lot about it, and a blog seemed like a better/cleaner/safer path towards prominence than reality television, politics, or an escort service.  Which are all pretty similar, when you think about it.  For the record, however, maintaining a blog of genuine anecdotal humor will require MUCH more effort than any of those other career avenues.  So you're welcome.  And thank you.