Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Reality Extravaganza: Wifeswap


Are you feeling overwhelmed? Like your life is spinning out of control and everyone has a better handle on things than you do?

Watching ABC's "wifeswap" makes me feel normal and well-balanced. These people are crazy.

Watching "wifeswap" makes me wonder two things: where do they find these people, and how would I fit in?

This weeks' episode was about a high-powered executive mom in Florida and a wife in Wisconsin. The Southern belle dynamo runs a modeling agency and has two elementary school-aged daughters who wear make-up and run from band practice to gymnastics and snorkeling. The husband is a complete waste of space.

On the other hand, Wisconsin Ma has a passel of rather large boys and a daughter. They like huntin' and fishin' and rastlin' and also volunteer as EMTs. They think family time is very important and being average is okay.

With this show (or "Trading Spouses", which is the exact same thing but with a seedy Fox twist regarding money), it seems that the point is to scour the far corners of the United States to find two caricatures of normal families that are completely, diametrically opposed in everything from morals to daily routines. I think the viewers are supposed to side with one family or the other, and feel that, in the end, their choice was vindicated as the better choice.

I must admit, this is the second time I've seen the show. In the earlier one, a glamorous non-working mom from Pennsylvania with a housekeeper and babysitter traded with a Tennessee farmer's wife who homeschooled their 8 kids and clothed the family on $500/year. In both episodes, my life is probably more similar to the city-dwelling moms who hire help and compulsively overconsume. But I can't say that I would willingly classify myself as that.

As someone who will probably have to work full-time and be a mother some day in the future, and having been raised by a working mother, I don't like the insinuation that hiring household help means that you don't care. Or that you don't love your kids if you buy them things and take them to lessons.

I just wonder, if I were to apply for the show, how would they peg me? I clicked on the application to see how the questions were phrased. Scrolling down a bit, I decided they probably threw out most of the application and chose show participants based on the one important question: "What pushes your buttons?"

They could put me in with a family where Dad is the head of the household, no one ever reads, and everyone uses disposable plates and silverware all the time. I'd be sunk!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Reality Extravaganza: Property Ladder

Property Ladder

This is a TLC show where hapless people with a smidge of extra money burning a hole in their pocket buy houses that look more like heaps of falling timbers, and try to fix them up and sell them for a kajillion dollars.

What shocks me the most about this show is that it usually works. The people are almost always inept; they go overbudget, blow their timeline, and spend money on weird things. Like the flipper last night was a 23-yr-old girl who wanted the condo she was flipping to scream "Ashley" (which also happened to be her name), so she painted the bedroom red and got this crazy naked people "artistic" bowl for the bathroom sink. And still, she managed to make a profit of about $60,000.

What I like about the show's set up is that the host has been flipping houses for ten years. She talks to the potential flippers and gives them good, practical advice. No one ever follows it. Which I just don't get. Usually Kirsten does a walk-through and says "don't knock down that wall, you won't get your return on it" or "you don't really need new cabinets and a bar that is on hydraulics that lowers to the level of a sushi bar." And the next scene is the flipper talking to the camera, saying "I know Kirsten won't like it, but I really want the new cabinets and I'm sure that she'll come around." Ummm, she's the expert and this is the first time you've done anything more than change a roll of toilet paper. Maybe you should come around!

And after all of the mistakes and overspending and awful style, they still make money. This is why I feel like Keith and I should get a fixer-upper. These people make it look like there's no way you could lose money. Though I know that's not true, it's easy to be persuaded.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

House Hunting

So we've been looking at houses this weekend. And I have to tell you, it makes my head hurt.

If we had, say, a half-million dollars to spend, this wouldn't be hard. We might have a squabble over indoor or outdoor pool, or whether we needed a 3-car garage or a 3-tiered deck. But overall, I think we'd be able to come to an agreement pretty readily.

Surprisingly, we don't have that much. So the question is: do we get a fixer-upper that we can easily afford? Or do we stretch and get a house that we can actually live in, that isn't falling down around our ears?

Every day I change my mind about which I'd prefer. There seems like there would be something truly satisfying in taking a crumbling hole and turning it into a comfortable home. Not to mention, if we could make a profit off the house when we sell it in a few years, that's not a bad thing either.

But, as this past week has shown, I tend to get a tad bit overwhelmed with all of my many hobbies and interests. What makes me think we can also take on fixing up a house? Something that neither Keith nor I has any experience in. We've changed lightbulbs and unclogged drains and that's about the extent of it.

That makes me really want to move into a house that is already a comfortable home. In which I can come home and simply relax and try to keep up with all of my other commitments. In which the kitchen cabinets aren't falling off the walls and the pipes in the bathroom are actually attached. That's not too much to ask for, right?

I know that we could get it. But I'm also worried about becoming house poor. What if we get a fabulous, big house and we can't even afford to order pizza three times a week, like we do now? That's not a life! That's merely existing.

Part of me is hoping that something happens to make it all clear. We walk into a house and fall in love instantly. It's the perfect price, in the perfect neighborhood, and has both a 3-car garage and multi-tiered deck. And when I live in it, I'll have plenty of time to accomplish all of my hobbies, get 8 hours of sleep, and save the world in my spare time.

A Wee Bit Behind

So this hasn't been the best week for blogging. I had a minor meltdown Tuesday-ish and never really recovered.

The good news is that I talked to my freelance editor and worked out a less hectic schedule for articles, so I'm pretty happy about that. Speaking of which, my latest article for Trusty Guides is on Scrapbooking, and will probably be up later in the week. I think it turned out pretty well! It made me want to work on my honeymoon scrapbook (so maybe I'm not what you'd call "timely") and I think that's a good sign. Now if I could just get paid about twice as much and work part-time, that would be grrreat. I'll get on that next week.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Linky Linky

Um, so freelancing kind of sucks. It's been sucking away all of my free time ever since I started. I work probably 50-60 hours a week, and yet am getting paid significantly less than Keith. And I do like writing and all, but I also like having 5 minutes to not feel guilty because I should be writing. I don't have time to read or blog or do anything else that is not working, working out, running errands, or paid writing. This is not cool.

So I'll need to think about how to rectify this situation. In the meantime, I thought I'd leave you with some links. On Saturday, my family got together to celebrate my little sister's birthday. (Yay, Erin!) We ended up sitting around Keith's laptop in the living room and saying, "You think that's funny? How about this!" and watching stupid Internet movie clips.


Monday, February 20, 2006

The Day Off Blues

How can having a day off make me depressed?

I think it has to do with the possibilities. When I know I'm going to have a day off work, my mind starts churning. I think of all the things I could do during 8 bonus hours. There's the chores that I could get out of the way for the week: grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, running various errands.

Then there's the fun options. I could spend hours at a bookstore and coffee shop. Or not even leave the apartment, but stay on the couch with a full mug of tea and a stack of books.

And then there's the self-improvement options. These are different from the chores because I've actually brought these on myself. I could workout or work on my freelance article that's due in a few days, write my travel book synopsis, draft a new Chapter 1 for my book, or get started on the long-overdue honeymoon scrapbook album. (I'm noticing that a lot of my possible activities are ones that I've brought on myself ...)

Before I know it, it's 10 o'clock and I haven't done any of these things. I'm still in my pajamas on the couch, but I haven't been reading or writing. I've just been watching TV, surfing the Internet, and generally wasting time. And now I'm feeling my extra day slip away. I start to get stressed about choosing between possibly edifying activities and just pure enjoyment. I spend at least a half-hour mourning the time that's lost.

By lunchtime, I may or may not have left the couch. Or gotten dressed. Or done anything. By the time Keith comes home after work and asks what I did all day, I'm still on the couch. Maybe having taken a nap or watched crappy Lifetime movies, but not actually reading or doing any of the activities I wanted to do. Because I feel guilty for not being more productive, so I don't let myself participate in the activities I'd enjoy.

So Keith asks me what I did all day, and I shrug and say "nothing." He probably thinks I'm lying and actually did something, but I'm not. I didn't. Really. I didn't even make one decision.

At least tomorrow I'll be able to go to work and get a break.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Luv Special: The Final Chapter

And after all the false starts and glorious mishaps of young love, then there was Keith.


When I was telling Laurie I liked Keith, she and I both agreed that he seemed like the kind of guy who would treat his girlfriend really well. And of course I was right (as I always am, unless I'm disagreeing with Keith).

To be perfectly honest, I don’t really have many specific Valentine’s memories with Keith. And I like it that way. This year, he bought me a bag of Valentine’s-colored peanut M&Ms, which I devoured. We ran some errands and Keith made coneys for dinner. (He actually made 3-ways, but I don’t want anyone from outside Cinci to get the wrong idea.)

Rather than make a heroic effort one day a year, I feel like we are constantly making an effort to spend quality time together, enjoy each other’s company, and express our appreciation for the other person. Since Keith doesn’t have a blog and can’t express any contrary opinions, I guess you’ll just have to believe me on that;)

Over the years, I’ve found that certain of Keith’s traits make every aspect of our life together better and richer.

I appreciate how open he is to trying new things and challenging himself. In the 9 years that I’ve known him, he has:

  • Traveled to Europe and Mexico for the first time,
  • Started playing the guitar,
  • Learned how to swing dance,
  • Run a half-marathon (and is training for another one), and
  • Eaten soy crumbles, fake bacon, guacamole, and invented peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.

On the other hand, his enjoyment of everyday events and simple pleasures helps slow me down and makes me realize what a good life we have together. I love how excited he gets over:

  • Anything barbeque
  • Watching “Survivor” or “24”
  • Sleeping in together on the weekend
  • Golfing
  • Going to a UD men’s basketball game
  • Getting new running gear.

He makes chores like grocery shopping, getting gas, or filing taxes fun. (Okay, taxes still aren’t fun, but at least more bearable.) This is an amazing and essential skill for a life partner to have.

Finally, I love planning our life together. From how he talks and acts, I feel completely secure that he is concerned about our future together, and not just enforcing his own needs and wants. It makes me feel safe, and excited for the coming years.

In our wedding vows, we said how much we were looking forward to growing old together and getting to know the other person throughout all the stages of life. I feel that way more than ever, and know that I am incredibly lucky to have a partner as wonderful as Keith. Well really, how lucky I am to have Keith.


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Luv Special: Frat House Hijinx

"I just want to have someone to kiss."

Or at least, that's what I proclaimed to my girlfriends the week before Valentine's Day, freshman year at UD.

Actually, that wasn't true. A truer statement would have been, "I want a specific someone to kiss." At this point, I already had a crush on Keith. We hadn't talked too much in person, but we'd had a really funny, creative e-mail exchange going. I can't remember all the details--something about cowboys? that's all I know--but his responses were witty enough that I wanted to learn more. I was, shall we say, intrigued.

Unfortunately, Keith was smart and wayyyy too savvy to saddle himself with a girlfriend the week before Valentine's Day. (Cowboy pun intended.) When I hinted around, he said that he was hanging out in a "love sucks" fest with some other single guys.

I was bemoaning my Valentine's Day outlook to my friend Jill, who proffered the perfect solution. She had a high school friend who was at Ohio Northern. His fraternity was having a Valentine's Party this weekend—we could go, have a good time, he'd introduce me to some of his frat brothers .. and I would have someone to kiss.

Except, of course, I didn't actually want to kiss someone other than Keith. So this standby, whoever it may be, was not going to lasso my heart. And it went downhill from there, in predictable Valentine's fashion.

For the 97% of my readers who have never been there, Ohio Northern is in the middle of a field. Seriously. I was pretty nervous when we got there, since Jill and her friend were taking the plan to find me a man a little too seriously. I could probably count on one hand the number of times I drank freshman year, but that night I was ready for the strawberry margaritas I could hear being blended in the kitchen, to ease the tension.

Except we got to the kitchen ... and discovered that the margaritas were alcohol-free. That's right, a dry frat party. In case you were wondering, frat boys lose much of their charm sans alcohol. Not that these guys were particularly charming to begin with.

Jill and her friend did find a guy for me, who I then could not shake for the rest of the night. The low point that really makes this the worst Valentine's Day ever was when I saw a strange configuration of drinking straws hanging from the ceiling. When I asked a frat brother what it was, he laughed a real, actual geek laugh and explained that was the molecular configuration of the frat drug. Wait for it, wait for it, ... caffeine.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Luv Special: Multiple Beaux

It was junior year of high school. My hair had finally grown past the afro stage, and I was on the stage in my first role that consisted of more than dancing or saying, "Look, here he comes now!", and then dancing.

In the Fall play, I was typecast as a ditzy bimbo working in a mad scientist's lab. One of my fellow actors, Mike, left a note in my home mailbox (flattering? or a smidge stalkerish?) saying he'd like to go on a date sometime.

We did go on a double date, although the sparks just weren't there. To me, the date was most memorable for what happened immediately before it. During my indoor soccer game, I had fallen (been pushed by one of those nasty Westside Stars, if you must know the truth). I suspected my wrist was fractured, both because I had broken my wrist once years ago and because I am a horrible hypochondriac.

After the game, I started whining about the pain until I remembered the date plans for later that night. I shut up, popped some aspirin, and went on my date adorned with a stylish white ice pack bandaged onto my right wrist.

Nearly 6 weeks later, I was auditioning for the big Spring production with a grungy cast on my arm, since my wrist had, in fact, actually been fractured. I thought the graffitied, ratty cast might affect my portrayal of a young, eager teacher in an inner-city school, so I was more than pleasantly surprised when I got the teacher role—the main lead in the play.

Drama Club is an incestuous little group, and Mike of broken-wrist double date fame was cast as the principal. A cute newcomer named Beaux was cast as a member of my class and we hit it off right away. Beaux and Mike were friends, and we all hung out (me flirting with abandon, because that's what teen-aged girls do) before and after play practice.

By Valentine's Day, it had pretty well, sorta, for sure, murkily been established that Beaux and I were interested in each other. Not officially dating—just focused flirting, I guess you could call it.

At our high school, scads of girls got loads of red roses and oversized teddy bears. But by far the best and most coveted gift was a singing telegram. They were "delivered" during specific class periods by the 4 best choir members of the opposite sex, adorned in elegant evening wear. This was the best gift because:
  1. it was extremely ostentatious, and
  2. it was expensive and everyone knew it.
Because Beaux's sister was one of the serenaders, I was hoping she'd cut him a discount and I might be one of the select few to be publicly acknowledged as being worthy of another's love and adoration.

And I was, but that's where it went all Twilight Zone.

Two of the 4 male singers were out sick, so the women delivered all of the telegrams. If the object of your affection is a guy, it feels a little off to be hearing sweet, feminine voices. (By now they probably let senders choose which gender of serenaders would be most appropriate for the individual relationship.) Add to that, Beaux's sister was eyeing me malevolently as she sang, and the warm, loved feeling was a little lacking.

When the last note died away (very quickly, because they had a lot more telegrams to deliver), they handed me a card from the sender. I eagerly opened it to discover it had indeed been sent by Beaux ... and Mike.

Ummmm, doesn't something seem wrong with that? If two guys are supposed to be competing for a girl's affection, wouldn't that rule out mutual collaboration on a gift?

But, believe it or not, that was not my strangest Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Luv Special: Middle School Crush

In retrospect, sometimes I feel sorry for Brian. He must have felt like prey, a harmless little chipmunk crushed in the jaws of my ferocious middle-school girl crush.

One day in 5th grade I decided I had a crush on him because he was smart and had freckles. From then through 7th grade, he was a crushed, helpless chipmunk.

I did the usual middle school girl things. I sat in study hall and wrote "Megan Maguire" "Mrs. Maguire" (I would like to note, however, that even then I was not "Mrs. Brian Maguire"). I carefully penned notes to my friends with heart-dotted i's and copious amounts of exclamation points that were then carefully folded into intricate shapes. The notes usually said things like:
He passed me in the hall today and he didn't even say hi. What does that mean? Yesterday, between 5th and 6th period, I was going to math (ugh, math! Mrs. May is sooooo mean!!) and we passed and he was wearing a blue shirt that matched his eyes. I know because he actually LOOKED at me!!! Our eyes met across the hallway and we made eye contact and I think I smiled at him. I'm not really sure because I was soooo excited!!! But now, today, NOTHING. I can't believe it.
These same friends poked and prodded him into dancing with me at Friday night dances with enough space between our poker-straight arms for the Holy Ghost and everyone at the Last Supper to fit between us. The best was when we danced to Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares." That song is, like 20 minutes long! It was heaven. *sigh*

Sometimes I try to convince myself that I was a confident young woman. I knew what I wanted and I was going after it. Naysayers be damned. But when you're determined to date Brian and Brian is one of the naysayers, that does kind of put a damper on things. And make you look a little more like a stalker than a feminist.

I believe that, with Brian, I also started my curious habit of adapting my interests to my current love interest. With Brian, it was golf. I took lessons so that, if he ever did actually speak to me in the hallway, I could toss around terms like "club" and "ball." I was so awful that I never made it off the practice range and onto the course. And I never got a chance to impress Brian with my knowledge.

After Brian, there was Taylor (soccer, which actually stuck), and Darren (tennis, which I play now but I don't think I can attribute to Darren's influence), Todd (James Bond novels), and more. The peak (or rock bottom depending on your viewpoint) of my teen-aged dating years was when someone actually took up a hobby to impress me.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Luv Special: Political Allies

You all will be getting a special treat this week—not that reading my blog isn't treat enough on its own. But this week, in honor of Valentine's Day, I'll be sharing with you some of my choicest, most embarrassing moments in love.

I think I've been a little boy crazy for as long as I can remember. In kindergarten I had a crush on Rob, who lifted up his shirt in show-and-tell. He wasn't very subtle, but I liked his confidence. I was young and fickle, though, and that crush lasted only about a day.

In first grade, it was Marty. He had red hair and the cutest smile. The way Mrs. Hicks set up our desks, they were arranged in two rows. Each row was composed of desks facing each other. Really, she should have known better. Marty and I were across from each other; it was fate!

I remember when we read the Scholastic news about the presidential election of 1984. Marty and I both agreed that Mondale should win, and bonded in our sorrow over Reagan's landslide. Although this love affair lasted slightly longer than in kindergarten, after about a week Mrs. Hicks moved us because we were talking too much.

And thus ended my first great crush. Marty, however, paled in comparison to middle school and Brian Maguire...

Friday, February 10, 2006

A Fleet of Servers

Last night Keith and I went to Dewey's Pizza with our friend Dan. Dewey's has really good pizza—I like the variety of their toppings and the fact that they offer at least 5 different pizzas with mushrooms. Their big "thing" is that you can get half-and-half pizzas, so you need not commit to one flavor, which is nice.

However (you knew it was coming), here's what I don't like about Dewey's. They have about a million servers. I don't understand it. It cannot possibly be efficient or better service.

The first time I ate at Dewey's was when they opened a restaurant just off campus in Dayton. I think I counted fiver servers throughout the meal. Keep in mind this is a pizza place; we ordered drinks and pizza. By the end of the meal I thought I was going to float away because my drink was refilled practically every time I took a sip.

I thought that this strange phenomena of a fleet of servers was particular to the Dayton restaurant. But apparently not, because we ate at the one in Oakley for the first time last night, and it was the same thing. One person seated us, then Misty took our drink orders. Then Candace came and asked if we were ready to order yet; we were, so we did. Bud brought us our pizza, Misty freshened our drinks, and then Candace stopped by to check that everything tasted fine.

When it got really ridiculous was when we were down to only two slices of pizza. At regular 60-second intervals, Misty, Candace, But, and Flo all stopped by to ask if we were going to finish the pizza or if we needed a box. Every time we told them we didn't need a box. How many times will we have to say it?!? Finally, Dan took the last piece off the tray so they would stop asking and Candace swooped in two seconds later to take the tray away. The restaurant was half-empty on a Wednesday night, but it felt like they were running out of pizza trays and needed that one stat.

Do they not realize that having 10 people ask us "Are you done yet?", "Are you done yet?" "Are you done yet?" counts as harassment? Not helpful. Harassment. Maybe it's some sort of scheme and they're hoping that, if you get asked enough times if you're interested in dessert, you'll break down and say "yes." Or you'll feel guilty because you've had a million servers and feel like you should leave a bigger tip.

I'm sort of scared now that, if we order delivery from Dewey's instead, it'll be like a clown car with a dozen delivery guys scrambling out from every door.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Best Wishes!

So one of the many, many things that I found intriguing about all of these self-published books is the autographs.

Keep in mind, these books have been sent to a magazine publisher as entries in a self-published book contest. You would think that they would want to seem as professional as possible, right?

I don't know if maybe they see it as part of the published persona, but a lot of authors have signed the front of their books. And they don't just sign their names. They put things like "Best Wishes" or "Hoping you find success" or "Reach for your dreams!"

Personally, I find this odd. Who, exactly, is this meant for? This isn't a book signing. I didn't walk up to her table and say "I admire you so much, can you please sign this for me? Write something special!"

One of the books was written by a cancer survivor, who wrote that she wanted her readers to find strength and hope. Okay, that I get.

But many of these books are genre fiction. Romance, murder/mystery, cookbooks. And the authors say "I hope you find success in life!" I'm sorry, but how are you qualified to wish this for me? How will your book help me learn what I need to achieve success?

I know I'm not supposed to say this, seeing as how I do enjoy writing, but writers can be really weird. I think it's kind of like acting in that it takes a certain amount of ego to assume that people are going to want to spend time and money on your creation.

Oh! That reminds me, the author bios are always very interesting, too. One of my favorites listed the author's professional accomplishments (I think he had a law background) and ended with "And he writes beautifully, too." I would argue that if you have to tell people that, perhaps he doesn't write as well as you say.

Ahhh, self-published writers. A lesson in human psychology.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Self-Published Ramblings

I've started a new task at my temp job. Today I was opening entries in a self-published book contest.

Self-published books have been around for a while, produced by the less flattering title of "vanity presses." In essence, if you crapped on a page, signed it and sent it in, these presses would be more than happy to take your money and "edit" your masterpiece, make 100 or so copies, and "market" it so the masses are informed of your marvelous work. Needless to say, those at traditional publishing houses looked down their long, glasses-pinched noses at vanity presses and authors who published with them. It could actually hurt your career to be self-published more than to have no publishing credits to your name.

But then, the computer and Internet revolution affected even print. Nowadays, places like authorhouse and iUniverse make it easy to put out a self-published book that looks very professional. The printing is of a decent quality and the publishers ensure that the proper copyright info, ISBN bar code, etc. are all there.

But, while self-publishing is now cheaper and easier to do than ever, that certainly does not mean that the writers who are drawn to self-publishing have changed.

I would say that, in general, there's two types of books that get self-published. Ones that would appeal to a very small niche market that it might not seem profitable for publishers to take on. (I can see us producing Grandma's journals like this. Mom—we'll have to talk.) And the others.

The ones that should fit into the mainstream. Either they've been rejected by all the publishing houses big and small and the author thinks the manuscript is perfect, publishers be damned. Or maybe they don't want to deal with the process of editing and revising to actually sell the manuscript, so they just publish it themselves. Whatever the reason it's self-published instead of published by a big company, I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's not very good.

I know, I know—there's always exceptions to any rule. There's a few books I know off the top of my head that were originally self-published and have sold extremely well and been picked up by major publishing houses—Laurie Notaro, What Color Is Your Parachute? and Chicken Soup for the Soul, just to name a few. But these are the exceptions.

In general, if you want to be published, you want to be published through a large publishing house. They have real editors and marketing and distribution. Most self-published books cannot be found in bookstores. If you frequent bookstores, you should be thankful for this.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Ill-Timed Good Intentions

Why do I always decide to get back on the wagon at the wrong times?

First of all, I think that we can all agree January 1 is a stupid time to make a fitness resolution. You write your resolutions with firm strokes, in dark black ink. This year it will really happen! You look up from the freshly drying ink to see a blizzard. Not good.

But, even though I made a resolution, I didn't actually start to follow through on it until February. You would think that might be a little bit safer, right? Umm, no. Not in Cincinnati.

This was going to be the week. Keith and I have already paid our registration fees for the Flying Pig—he's running the Half-Marathon and I'm running the 10k the day before. It's only 3 months away, and I've maybe run from the couch to the door when the pizza arrives. Oh wait—I make Keith do that. So yeah, I have a lot of work to do.

I dredged up the schedule I had made in late December, ripped off "January" and dove back in. Saturday we checked the weather for the week.

January had been unseasonably warm. February? You guessed it. Unseasonably cold. I don't have what they call "proof," but I'm firmly convinced that the cold front swooping in coincided directly with when I renewed my promise to run around outside like a ninny.

On Sunday I lifted weights and did some yoga, which was sort of a compromise because I did work out, but still avoided the great out of doors.

But today was the test. High of 38, low in the frigid 20s. Goal: 2-3 miles. I tried to avoid thinking about it all day, because I knew that somehow I'd convince myself that I already had pneumonia or my leg was actually broken. Or my old standby is that, because I'm always sleep-deprived, it's actually healthier for me to take a nap on the couch than it is to wear down my body with physical activity.

Shockingly, I did it. I changed as soon as I got home from work and forced myself to march out the door, hiding the couch from view as I passed by. 2.75 extremely slow miles, but no walking.

If it's still cold next week, you'll know that I've stuck with it that long, at least!

Monday, February 06, 2006

What Passes for Casual Conversation

Bob had suggested the other day that I blog about the Super Bowl commercials, which I thought was a great idea. And yet, now that I've seen the commercials, I'm not that inspired. I thought that the Magic Beer Fridge was funny. But otherwise not too many commercials stood out for me. Some of the funny ones (careerbuilder.com chimps) were based on commercials from last year, so they were amusing but not a huge surprise. And some commercials were just, well, commercials.

So, sorry Bob, no discussion of the Super Bowl commercials. Instead, I'd like to share with you a few details of my trip to get my oil changed yesterday. It's one of those tasks that I put off for as long as possible, and then for a few more weeks, because I just don't want to deal with it. I know it's not that big of a deal, but for some reason I avoid it like spandex and leg warmers.

Well, let me clarify: before we went to jiffy lube , I couldn't really put my finger on what I disliked about going to a car service place and being trapped in a waiting room. But now I can say with assurance that what I dislike is what passes for casual conversation.

Keith and I had come equipped with our books—Keith had the new Stephen King and I, of course, toted Great Expectations. We wanted to pull in the car, sit in the waiting room for 15 minutes and not even talk to each other.

We were foiled by the flushing and replacing of the coolant. I guess you could say it was my fault because I asked for it to be done. But it was on the schedule—what could I do? So we waited 45 minutes instead of 15. And she came in to chat.

We'll call her Mary Sue. That's not her name, but it seems appropriate. I would say that she was in her mid-40s, although I'm not ruling out the possibility that we were actually the same age and it was just her hard-knock life that dried her frizzy blonde hair and creased her face with lines. I just couldn't say for sure.

What I can say is what she talked about. I won't bother trying to insert any comments from Keith or me, because we didn't say anything. Just picture us occasionally nodding our heads or saying "That's nice" or making a face of mild surprise.

Some Mary Sue gems:
"Wow, it sure is cold out there today! I tell you what, working here just gives me more appreciation for having a car. I can't wait until I get my license back! It's been suspended. When it first got suspended, I didn't even know it! I had been living at my mom's but she passed away and I'd moved and they'd sent the notification to my mom's old house.

So then I get pulled over on my way to the old job. And the police officer is like, 'What are you doing driving?' And I'm like, 'I'm going to work.' And he's like, 'No, what are you doing driving?' and I'm like, 'I'm going to work!'

So he let me off with a warning, but then he pulled me over 4 more times in the next month while I was still driving suspended. Can you believe it? Five times in one month!

So they gave me 60 days. And that's what made me stop driving, because I'm not really cut out for jail. I was in with this other girl, and she told me that she was in for oral sex on the church steps. And I was like, 'Isn't that like, blaspheming God's name or something?' Can you believe that?"
We met Mary Sue at 3:30, were gone by 4:30, and in that intervening time she had shared with us a sordid little slice of her life. I shudder to think what I would have learned if I had also asked for my tires to be rotated.

Friday, February 03, 2006

My Perfect Weekend

I wouldn't say that it hinges on laziness, exactly. But I think my perfect weekend would need to have the time available to be lazy if that's what I wanted. Not every possible minute planned with activities and errands.

Friday night we'd stay in. We'd order pizza and watch a movie or TV. Mostly just decompress from the week. Somehow, all of the chores would have been miraculously done during the week so there wouldn't be any dirty laundry bursting out of the hamper or clean laundry strewn about the living room, waiting to be folded. I wouldn't spend the night thinking about all of the tasks I should really be doing over the weekend with all of my free time. I'd just relax and hang out.

Saturday would definitely require sleeping in, but it's a delicate balance. I want to feel the luxury of a "long lie" as the Brits say, but if I sleep too late I get mad because I've spent half the day unconscious. Which is totally different from getting up and deciding to sit around, due to the element of choice. Saturday afternoon would involve some sort of challenging yet fun physical activity. Hiking and a picnic, or a long run. (Did I mention that, if it's the perfect weekend, I'm in excellent physical condition and sweat gives my skin a radiant glow?) Saturday evening we'd go out to a concert or a movie or some other form of entertainment. I wouldn't get annoyed by the 7-ft tall man who came and shoved in front of me right before the concert started or the cell phone talker in the movie.

To be honest, Sunday really is about laziness. Lounging on the couch to watch football or TV or just stare off into space. Maybe do one or two errands, but be out of the house for an hour, max. Of course, with a perfect weekend, I wouldn't have to work on Monday because the knowledge of getting up in the morning for work taints Sunday evening, but maybe that's cheating.

Best Day of the Week?

There's a certain category of topic that I like to ponder while at my temp job. You see, my current temp job requires a minimum of thought. I collate a few papers, pack boxes, and ship them. Then I do it all over again. And then I enter names and addresses into a database. Not mind-bending material.

So to distract myself, I listen to NPR and think about the kinds of questions that have no answer. Like, if your house was on fire and you could only save 3 things, what would they be? Or, if you could live in any other time period, which would you choose and why? My left brain and right brain could debate the merits of the Age of Enlightenment vs. Colonial America all day! I never actually make a decision, but the 8 hours pass much more quickly.

So this is the question I was thinking about yesterday: What's my favorite day of the week? I was thinking it partly because I was convinced it was Friday, which always sucks when you realize you have to get up for work again tomorrow. For me the question hinges on what you appreciate more—the actual weekend or the delicious anticipation of a Friday afternoon when it stretches out before you, 2 and a half days of relative freedom.

I tend to be the type of person who enjoys the anticipation. I like Christmas Eve better than Christmas Day. I like planning and packing for trips. I like researching big purchases almost more than actually having the item.

So this would make me lean toward saying Friday is my favorite day of the week. (Sorry, Tuesday. I'm sure you're a very nice day and all. It's not you—it's me.) But that seems kind of crazy. Can I really say I like anticipating good times better than the actual enjoyment of them? What a weirdo! And then I argue myself back toward saying Saturday is the best day, or even the laziness of a Sunday afternoon. Lately, I've really been enjoying our bargain Tuesdays—seeing movies for a discounted rate at the Mariemont Theatre.

Tomorrow's topic of distraction: If I could be famous for anything (acting, writing, winning the Nobel Peace Prize), what would I choose and why?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

My Magnetic Car

So apparently my car was surrounded by a magnetic force today. Every time I parked and went in a building, when I came back out the car next to me had parked perilously close. First it was a great white boat of an automobile that was actually over the line into my space. Into my parking spot! I had to turn my car to get out of the space without getting white paint on my adorable little silver Neon.

Then, I went to Panera for lunch. Granted, I was a little overly conscious of the proximity of other cars. When I parked, I got out and walked to the back of the car to survey the distance between myself and neighboring vehicles. Although the SUV on the driver's side seemed a tad close, that may just have been because it was a hulk of metal and appeared larger than life sized. After several moments of surveying with my head cocked to the side I straightened up, satisfied that we were all parked within our spaces and my car's magnetic force had not pulled anyone closer.

I went in and, for the record, got Chicken Noodle soup and a Sierra Turkey sandwich. (Perfect soup day in Cinci, today!) I read Great Expectations which, to my immense surprise, I'm actually really enjoying. I shouldn't be so surprised, because I know Dickens is one of my dad's favorite authors, but I still let myself get intimidated by people saying that his novels are too long and difficult. Of course, I always reserve the option to change my mind in Chapter 50 and take it all back.

But, back to the matter at hand. After nearly an hour, I too felt the magnetic pull of my car and went to head back to work. When I got to my car, I discovered that the massive SUV was gone and, in its place, a compact car had pulled in—of course, excessively close! I had to turn sideways to squeeze past the car to my door, and do the thing where you hold on to the door while getting in because if it swung out at all, it would hit the car next to you.

If it was just the first car, I would blame it on the fact that it was raining this morning and it must be hard to pilot that whale into the average parking spot, etc. But two cars in a row?!? It's obvious that my car had special magnetic powers today.

I think it had something to do with the weather, which was quite gray and overcast. Maybe there was some sort of electricity in the air that my car channeled. I wonder if I stood next to it with my hand on the hood, would my hair rise straight up in the air? Perhaps if it storms overnight, when I go out in the morning there will be a hub cap and empty pop can stuck to the doors. Having a magnetic car is a pain.

Best Wishes for a Felicitious Furry Marmot Day!

I know that you know what I'm talking about. You've been waiting for this day with breathless anticipation for 364 mornings in a row! It's Groundhog Day! (Happy Birthday, Klein!) (Not that Klein's a groundhog. She's actually a nice, relatively normal human who was born on February 2nd.) (Sorry if I intimated in any way that you're a rodent.)

Ahem, so yes, it's Groundhog Day again. I briefly considered looking up the history of Groundhog Day so I could relay to you the quaint customs and where they began. But then I realized that, if you are reading this blog, you can easily look it up for yourself. Instead, I will now make up my own history of Groundhog Day.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. And the groundhogs weren't going to take it anymore.

The year: 1523 AD. Less than one hundred years after Christopher Columbus first set foot on the New World, and already the humans were chasing the groundhogs out of their fields and away from their homes. If only the rodents could have warned the Native Americans ...

In the most recent battle between human and woodchuck, the groundhogs had lost decisively. They tried luring the humans by pretending to play dead and then launching themselves at the humans' faces. This backfired, however, both literally and figuratively, because the groundhogs had not accounted for the muskets in the men's possession. They needed to be more wily.

In a tribal meeting that lasted all night, the groundhog elders argued furiously about how best to best the settlers. Finally, in the first rays of early morning light, they came to a consensus: they would wage mental warfare.

The next night, they snuck into the village and stole paper, quill, and ink from the stationer's shop. Because, back in the day, groundhogs knew how to write. Oh yes! It's true. Although cuddly looking and with a tendency to be ticklish under the chin, they are formidable opponents in battles of wits.

With another all-nighter, they composed a letter to the village that supposedly came from the governor of the colony. It explained how the groundhogs had magical powers to predict whether the winter would last another six weeks. So be kind to the groundhogs because who wants another six weeks of winter? Not this governor!

The groundhogs delivered the letter before dawn, slipping it under the door of the village mayor and chuckling to themselves as they scuttled away. Of course, the villagers fell for it and groundhogs and people have lived harmoniously ever since.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A Successful Reader So Far

Speaking of being a reader, I know that you have all been wondering, "How's that New Year's Resolution thing going?" And even if you haven't, my goal is to milk old posting topics until they're dry like desiccated ancient mummies .... So I thought I'd update you on my reading list for 2006.

If you recall (and I didn't—I had to check) my goal for 2006 was to again read 50 books, but this time they would include a minimum of 12 classics (as defined here) and a maximum of 10 cheesy romances/chick lit.

So far, so good on the overall count and the romances. I've read no romances so far (I'm hoarding the brain candy for when things get more stressful). I also finished 5 books in January, for which I patted myself on the back and poured a large glass of red wine. They were:
  1. The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss
  2. Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire
  3. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (I'm a little irked that it's not on the 100 best books list, but what can you do?)
  4. The Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory
  5. Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs
The only area in which I'm a wee bit deficient is that I've not read a classic yet, but I just started Great Expectations today. I'm honestly not that excited about it because I've seen a couple versions of the movie and I know the basic story, so it won't be that much of a surprise. But I also thought that might make it an easier book to start with than, say, Metamorphosis.

So I'm taking the easy way out for now. But it's early days yet. I can only avoid the difficult, obscure classics for so long.

If you're looking for recommendations, I would recommend all of the above books depending on what mood you're in. But then again, I can probably count on one finger the number of times I actually put down a book without finishing it because I just thought it was that awful. (Gone with the Wind—I couldn't stand dealing with Scarlett anymore!)

If you want to be ...
  • shocked and amused, read 1 or 5.
  • certain the world is coming to an end, thanks to George W. Bush and the religious conservatives, read 3.
  • disillusioned about the happily ever after of childhood fairytales, read 2.
  • grateful that at least you're not being burned at the stake for your religion, read 4.

And the Wee Gold Statue Goes To...

I love the Oscars. I'm not really sure why; usually I haven't even seen most of the nominees. I think that, like most of America and certain species of birds, I am entranced by shiny, sparkly objects. People or statues, either way.

I don't remember the last time I actually sat down to watch the entire show, though. Too long, too much of the same "I want to thank everyone that made it possible ..." pause to stifle tears, hands waving rapidly in face (Is that supposed to dry the tears? Or distract you from crying?), "I am so honored..." until the band starts playing.

And they always go over. Why? Are you telling me some number-cruncher couldn't analyze the data to come up with a good estimate of how long the speeches will take? I think that there's a formula somewhere, if you take the length of Oscar speeches for the past 30 years, divided by the number of award winners, multiplied by how much more seriously we take our celebrities these days and how much more seriously they take themselves, and subtract from that the square root of the winner's degree of separation from Kevin Bacon and--bingo!--an awards show that finished on schedule.

Of course, this year Brokeback Mountain is the shoe-in for Best Picture. And I may not be a film critic, but I am perfectly happy to criticize films from my layperson's point of view.

I didn't really like Brokeback Mountain ....

I wasn't really convinced that Ennis had changed by the end. I've had it beaten into me that, for a story to work, the main characters need to show that they have changed. They've had a moment of epiphany and life has changed irrevocably for them.

Jack Twist did die, right enough, and that's a pretty defining moment. But if you consider Ennis to be the main character (as the Academy must have, since they gave Heath Ledger the best actor nomination and Jake whatshisname a best supporting actor nomination), I don't know that he really changed. He'd always maintained that he and Jack couldn't be together, and they weren't.

I don't know yet who I want to win for Best Picture. I've seen 3 of the 5 nominees—I still need to see Crash and Munich. I guess I'm okay with either Capote or Good Night and Good Luck, although it's all a moot point because the gay cowboys will take home the little golden naked man.

And why do they call it "giving a nod" when the Academy nominates someone? That sounds very threatening and mobsterish, like it belongs with "cement shoes," coming out of the mouths of men with pin-striped suits and bristling with guns and/or brass knuckles. What's that about?

Wow. When I started this blog, I thought it would be all about how much I love the Oscars. Huh.