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...over-educated and under-experienced, or so they say...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Love Is...

Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs.
-- William Shakespeare

Love is like the truth, sometimes it prevails, sometimes it hurts.
-- Victor M Garcia Jr.

Love is friendship set on fire.
-- unknown

Love is the only reflection of man's worth.
-- Bill Wundram

Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.
-- Erich Fromm

Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness.
-- Oliver Wendell Holmes

Love is everything it's cracked up to be. That's why people are so cynical about it. It really is worth fighting for, risking everything for, and the trouble is, if you don't risk everything, you risk even more.
-- Erica Jong

Love is what makes the ride worth while.
-- Elizabeth Browning

Love is all of the sharps and flats, we are the naturals. Without it, our lives would be limited to the Key of C (easy to play, but boring after a while).
-- Pandora

Love is the only light in this miserable place.
-- Pandora

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails...
-- God

Monday, January 17, 2011

Apple Bee's Quality

I just left the grocery store. As the cashier handed me the receipt he said, "You saved thirteen dollars." I cynically smiled as I said, "Thirteen dollars..." And before I could finish my thought he said, "Hey, that's a meal. And not just Burger King quality, that's Apple Bee's quality. You should be proud." I started laughing because, to be honest, I was proud. Thirteen dollars is better than average for me.

I'm every grocery store's dream come true. I am what I call a time saving shopper, not a money saving shopper. I hate the grocery store and, unlike most stereotypical women, I hate all manner of shopping. To be honest, the only store I ever truly enjoy being in is a book store. Most of the time I hate to spend money because I have PTSD when it comes to that. I have had so many years struggling to get by that, even though I now find myself in a somewhat comfortable financial position, I don't like to let go of the dollar frivolously. And I hate crowds of people, particularly people in a grocery store of some kind (don't even get me started on WalMart). And I suppose, given my sentence about letting money go frivolously, one would think that would make me savvy shopper that looks for the best deal but no...

I can't avoid the grocery store. I have to get food and sundries to survive and so money must be spent there and to me that is not frivolous spending, that is a necessity. But time is also of the essence in my life, and, like I said, my need to avoid crowds of people far outweighs my need to find the best deal. To be a savvy shopper requires patience and tolerance of crowds and also requires large amounts of time I'm not willing to spend.

My brother once tipped me off to a website called TheGroceryGame.com (back in the day when I was struggling to make peace with living in the financial red zone). This is an extremely resourceful website for people that are looking to stretch their dollar as far as it can possibly go. The woman that created the site is a Grocery Shopping Superhero. She would do tons of research as to what sales were coming up every week at whatever grocery store, and she would combine those sales with the coupons that were offered in the news papers, and you could take that list along with your coupons and go shopping on double coupon days and save countless dollars on your grocery bill. I took advantage of the site for several months and I admit I saved money in a way that I have never done (either before or after my use of that site). The problem for me was that it took up an entire Sunday just to clip the sticking coupons and study the list and put together what I needed to get and then get myself over to the store on double coupon Sunday (because if I went on double coupon Monday or Tuesday, most of the items were sold out). And the older Hope got the more her schedule started to affect mine, and once I landed a solid career well... time definitely became of the essence. So I eventually stopped clipping and saving coupons and I eventually reached the point where I stopped looking for deals all the way around. (some people are cringing now, I know this)

I just can't take it anymore. I have to find ways to get in and out of that place before I break out into some kind of stress rash because the lady with three screaming kids drives me up the wall and the man in the laundry aisle that smells like he needs to put himself on the permanent press cycle with an extra scoop of Oxyclean and bleach is more than I can handle. I have the location of everything in the store by my house memorized and so I create a list of what I need, I go in and grab the items, and I'm out. I probably hold the record for the fastest grocery shopper in America. Depending on the length of the lines at the registers, I can get in and out of there with a week's worth of groceries in ten minutes, I kid you not. And this, to me, is more important than the dollar I saved. (and more people are cringing now).

So anyway... this is why I laughed when the cashier made the comment about the savings being better than Burger King quality. And I was pleasantly surprised that I saved thirteen dollars today, because I didn't even check to see if I was buying the deals or not. I simply grabbed things and left, so saving thirteen dollars is almost as good as finding a twenty in the pocket of some jeans I haven't worn in over a month. And I always have my "valued shopper's card" and I always run it through at the register, but there have been times when I ran it through only to find out I didn't have a single sale item in my cart and I saved absolutely nothing. (more people are cringing) And so yes... today I saved enough for a meal at Apple Bee's! Awesome! I need to put this receipt on my fridge as a bragging right of some kind. I saved 13% off my grocery bill!

(I would say this is a record, but I am pretty sure I accidentally saved 21% last month so... I can't really put that thing on my fridge, but still...)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Picasso The Cubiclist

What if Picasso were 36 years old and working in a cubicle on January 13, 2011? And what if he had spent the last two years working on one specific presentation that he had to adjust repeatedly to suit someone else's mood? And what if after two years that someone else decided his work was done and he felt success and relief because that particular project was truly driving him up the wall? And what if that someone decided it was time for others to view the project? And what if those others decided to "improve" on what he had created? And what if they systematically started to destroy it? And what if Picasso's colleague that served as a great support in the past two years of the project walked into his cubicle that morning and said, "Dude! They're ripping this thing to shreds! Can you please explain to me why you have nothing to do with this right now?" And what if there was nothing Picasso could do? What would he do? How would he respond? Oh for the chance to find some wacky new agie and hold a seance and call him up from the other world and ask him, because I'd love to know.

Perhaps he would smile and say, "That project was about to make me vomit anyway." Perhaps he would do his best not to give a shit. Perhaps he would sit there and try to focus on the task at hand while fighting back the urge to drop stink bombs on everyone. And then perhaps he would stop and look up from his work and notice the solar powered plastic flower thingy that's bobbing back and forth beneath the florescent lights on his desk and he'd start thinking about how that's supposed to represent the power of the sun making things grow. And then he'd think about how it isn't the sun that's making that stupid thing bob around, but a man made light. And then he'd think about how it's not even a real flower,just some stupid man made piece of plastic thing with some man made internal workings that respond to the man made light. And then he'd sit there and think about his own body and how nice the sun would feel on it right about now but how, much like this plastic thing, he's bobbing around in the cubicle by the power of the florescent lights. And then he'd make some cynical remark to himself in his head and return to the task at hand.

And then perhaps he'd start listening to the voices around him. And perhaps they'd start driving him a little crazy because his ego is bruised and he's in no mood to listen to Mr. Toenail's personal phone calls from the cubicle next to him. And perhaps he realizes he's about to blow an unnecessary gasket and closes his eyes and counts to ten. And like magic he opens his eyes and realizes he hasn't touched his keyboard in ten minutes and the office communicator indicates that he's away when he's really sitting right there working, but before he can reach across the desk to the keyboard, the aquarium screen saver comes on and he's suddenly immersed in a sense of man made peace. He changes the cursor to the fish food bag and feeds his pretend fish and sits back and watches the air bubbles that make no sound and watches the computer generated fish ignore the computer generated fish food.

And then perhaps he realizes he should eat, so he pulls out his garden salad, chock full of spinach and fabulous veggies to feed his immune system in an attempt to combat all the pathogens that linger around this place. And perhaps as he eats his salad he reminds himself that average people take an hour for lunch instead of work through the chewing,
and so he puts up a DO NOT DISTURB sign and decides to pop the iPod into his ears to drown out the sound of the office and do his best to forget where he is right now. And then perhaps he feels a strange bit of relief as the music tickles his ears. Perhaps he starts feeling a sense of relief in the melodic creativity of others and he starts remembering, as he hears songs that most people don't know, what it really means to be creative -- it isn't the acceptance of the majority that makes it beautiful, it's the act of creating itself and the beauty it brings to the creator.

And perhaps he finishes his salad and realizes he still has forty minutes to kill before he must resume the task at hand. And perhaps he sits there staring at nothing while the music plays. And perhaps he starts thinking about that stupid project, and perhaps he starts feeling ripped apart in some stupid meaningless bruised egotistical way. And perhaps just as he realizes that, a random song that came from the iPod's "Genius Mix" strikes a nerve and he starts to write down the lyrics:

I want to forget how convention fits,
but can I get out from under it?
Can I cut it out of me?
It can't all be wedding cake.
It can't all be boiled away.
I try but I can't let go of it.
...can't let go of it. No...

Cuz you don't talk to the water boy.
And there's so much you could learn but you don't want to know.

And perhaps then he laughs at the timing and contemplates getting out from under convention and "getting free from the middle man" and starts to feel the fire of creativity in that small space that confines him. Perhaps he starts thinking about all of the stupid objects in front of him and all of the emotions tied up behind them and he picks up the Sharpie on the edge of the desk and he draws a little something something in the last twenty minutes of his lunch. And perhaps he looks at his stupid drawing and smiles and says, "It isn't exactly art right now, but it's at least something I can take home and work on when no one else is looking." And perhaps he shakes the rest of the dirt off, because lunch is over and there is still a task at hand.

(song lyrics taken from Spoon, "The Underdog," from the Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga album.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Uniball Vision Elite!!!

(...and no, sorry to disappoint you, this is not a humorous masterpiece about how men with one testicle have been blessed with psychic powers. Though, I have to admit, that would be an interesting read.)

A frugal friend of mine recently went on some random rant about pen circulation. It went something like this:

Have I ever ranted to you about the purchasing of pens? I will never buy a pen, EVER! Why? There are trillions of pens in circulation right now. If the pen manufacturers stopped making new pens and we used only the existing, it would take 10 years to use up the current supply. My colleague has 50 pens in his desk drawer that have all come free of charge. Pen marketing is huge! Every time you go to a convention or trade show, there is some vendor handing out pens with their logo on them. In the business world, pen giving is as common as hand shaking. Pens are everywhere!!!! Most pens do not get fully used either. Did you know there are companies that sell high-end pens? Seriously, these pens go for thousands of dollars! WHAT?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?! Are you kidding me? Who the heck is paying that much for something you can find on the ground for free? Ridiculous! This makes me mourn for humanity. Hurry up and get here 2012 and end this debacle! PENS!!!

[insert applause here]
This pen rant made me laugh. And while I do believe his theory about pen circulation may be valid (considering I do have a few pens on my desk that are not what I would normally choose and am certain I absent mindedly walked away with them in my hand from another location), I will always purchase my own pens.

I have very specific pens I use. They are what I consider anti-writer’s cramping pens. (I won’t tolerate writer’s cramp. Writing is too precious to me.) I have the secretary special order my pens (no one else in the office uses them – unless they steal them from my desk). But I use pens until they are empty. I am notorious for holding onto the same pen until it is completely dry. In fact, I recently chided myself for not keeping better track of the pens in my pen cup at home – they were all dry, except one. Not a working pen in the mix there. How could I let that go unnoticed??? (mostly because I type more than write in my notebooks anymore. I used to write in notebooks much more often than I do now. I should probably get back to the notebook writing again. I did some good things in those days.)

People like myself go on a quest for the perfect pen. I had an English Major friend in college that carried his ideal pen in a leather case in his backpack. He only used it to write in his notebook or for essay exams. One time he let me write my name with it. The funny thing was, though it wrote really well, it wasn’t for me. The pen was metal and the weight of the pen didn’t feel right in my hand. So here he was trying to impress me with his ideal pen, and I handed it back to him saying, “Huh. It’s okay I guess.” I don’t know how much he paid for that thing. I doubt it was a thousand dollar pen or anything, but it was certainly more than my Uniball Vision Elite.

The Uniball Vision Elite is my ideal pen. The ink flows out of it onto the page with the slightest stroke of my hand, and there are no ink blots or globs from the flow to the page. The writing is smooth and perfect, just like my black belt pen strokes were meant to be. And it's some kind of lightweight plastic, just heavy enough to feel between my fingers but light enough to feel as though it were simply a piece of my hand. I am one with my pen. Yes… the pen and I are one. I and the pen are one!

And seriously… can you beat that name??? Vision Elite… I can’t think of a better name to give a pen, particularly a pen that belongs in the hands of a 21st century visionary that no one will pay attention to until after she’s dead anyway. It’s perfect! The best pen on Earth! I will rue the day this Uniball company decides to stop manufacturing this pen. It has taken me years, YEARS, to find it! Stop making The Uniball Vision Elite?!?!?! MAY IT NEVER BE!!!!!

Now, you can buy a pack of 8 Uniball Vision Elite pens for about $12. That’s a $1.50 a pen or something like that. And my frugal friend is probably sitting there saying something like, “...A DOLLAR FIFTY? FOR A PEN???” But for me… this pen is worth every penny in that $1.50. I would pay a $1.50 for this pen way before I would pay $1.50 for a 24 pack of Bic Ball Point Pens (which, until I found this pen, were my pen of choice because I had given up my search for the Holy Grail of pens). It would be a dream come true for me to find a special little leather case to hold my precious Uniball Vision Elite. Imagine it... I would walk into the writer’s work shop with my crazy hair (after the six inches I accidentally gave permission to be cut off grows back -- a story I will have to tell later) and my Celtic jewelry and my flowing sleeves and they would say, “Here is the bardic queen!” And I would sit down and I would pull from my Kathy Van Zeeland purse that my mom gave me this beautiful black leather pen case, and they would all gasp for air in anticipation for the chance to glimpse THE PEN that I am one with, THE PEN of Pandora, THE PEN of The Notorious Scribe! And I would open the case, and I would look over the rim of my new $150 glasses that my insurance paid for, and I would pull forth... a plastic pen from a $12 dollar pack that I got at the Staples on the corner of Southern and McClintock. “YES! YES, Ladies and Gentleman! THIS! THIS IS THE MIGHTY PEN! MIGHTIER THAN ANY SWORD! THE UNIBALL VISION ELITE!!!!!” And they would stand up in great awe and applause shouting, “ALL HAIL THE UNIBALL! ALL HAIL THE VISION ELITE!!! LONG LIVE PANDORA! LONG LIVE THE DIVISION OF THE RUBBERMAID COMPANY THAT MANUFACTURES THIS PEN! HAIL! HAIL! HAIL!!!!”

So… as long as they still make these pens, I will still buy them. And if they stop making pens for the next ten years, I will gather all of my Uniball Vision Elites and lock them up in a safe and carry one in the cleavage between my breasts so that it will never be stolen by one of these office yahoos, and I will leave nothing but crap pens on my desk for the rest of the world.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

2010 Bragging Rights

These are my top ten UNDER achievements of 2010. (and this, my dear friends, is how I start the new year off blogging -- 9 days late)

10. Never Ending Laundry Load: I just never caught up to that one load that didn’t need immediate attention. In fact, I realized that at some point I stopped sorting laundry by color and started sorting by priority. I have priorities 1, 2, and 3 that get done regularly, but 4 and 5 have been sitting there for quite possibly three months or more. Perhaps someday I will have the money to pay some sweet little old lady named Agnes to not only sort the laundry by color, but also by cycle (i.e. delicate, permanent press, fluff air). Until then… priority loads will most likely be the method of choice until my child leaves for college and I retire and change my name to Agnes at some point.

9. Maintenance Staff Neglect: A friend of mine recently lectured me on the only true value of apartment living – the maintenance staff repairing the problem upon request. I have lived in this apartment for nearly three years and there are three lamps in the vaulted ceiling of the kitchen. Two of the three lamps have now burned out and it’s only a matter of time before lamp three leaves me too, but have I bothered to ask maintenance come and replace the bulbs? No. One time I went two weeks without a functioning dishwasher because I neglected to call maintenance (and anyone that knows me and my loath for dish detail can imagine how much I enjoyed washing dishes by hand, particularly after I let the piles grow to enormous size). And the clothes dryer stopped drying clothes sometime in October, but instead of remembering to call maintenance I’ve just been hanging the clothes to dry for the past three months (which is partly what prompted the lecture from my friend, along with the backed up shower drain that I won’t talk about, and it may also explain why laundry priority piles 4 and 5 never get done).

8. Stalker Elusion: I can’t take responsibility for eluding the stalkers on my own. It just so happened that at four different points within the past year I was stalked for a week or two by some random men that work at my company (this is a very large company so… you apparently never know who’s watching you). Just as I was starting to feel uncomfortable at each time, it just so happened that, due to the economic downturn, each of those individuals was let go in one of the four waves of company layoffs we had here. Awesome… I was saved by recession and the unemployed stalkers had no additional income to help fund and improve their spying techniques.

7. Automobile Goo: Last year my daughter had some crazy science project she had to put together for the Spring Science fair. We had done all of the research and gathered all of the materials to build the project, and I enlisted the help of one of my engineer friends in the actual construction of the project. We had a small window of opportunity in which to meet this fellow and get the construction of the project completed. On our way to his home out on the far east side of town, we stopped at Jamba Juice and got ourselves a couple smoothies. Hope, with her propensity for accidents, reached for her smoothie and somehow squeezed the Styrofoam cup just a little too hard and the top came flying off and the entire smoothie came flying out with it all over the car. Obviously, in the midst of driving, I had neither the tools nor the ability to clean up the mess. And even when we got to the fellow’s house we were so busy working on the project, I had to let the small smoothie mishap stay put. Several months later, I am proud to tell you that goo still sits in the car. Not only that, it has changed from it’s beautiful shade of Peach Passion Orange to some Toxic Brown Broohaha that is sure to frighten you with the threat of disease (if you’re not one of the inner circle, that is). At this point I’m not even sure if there’s a point to trying to wash it off. It seems to be going through its own decomposition process of some kind. I swear… the stain has gotten smaller. I’m no scientist, but I think there may be little microbes of some kind eating itself up over there. If I wait long enough, no ooze or goo or any hint of such a thing will be anywhere in that spot. I believe it was March of 2010 when that happened, so I’ll have to wait until March of 2011 (just a little more than two months away now) to see if my “self-eating” theory is correct. If not, I’ll break down and get the car detailed or something.

6. Going Postal: Despite my sweet little blog post about the lady I know that was kind enough to send me a nice letter and some pictures in the mail (which she did recently as well, thank you very much), I am still terrible about getting the mail from my mail box. In fact, given all of the holiday hoopla, I’m pretty sure November and December were my worst months for mail gathering. I have this feeling that aside from the last week of December, my mail was sent back to the post off and ultimately returned to every sender at least four different times. Yeah… I really hate the mail. Sorry all… it’s truly a waste of trees, if you ask me (aside from my one friend and the good juju she sends on paper).

5. Speaking Of Trees: I’m rarely one to go off on paper and waste and recycling and saving trees and the Earth. I don’t really rant about things like that much. The way I see it, why should I? Every nimrod in Hollywood is doing it for me so… what does the Earth need me for, right? I will say this though – why the heck is the phone company STILL updating phone books and leaving new ones on my doorstep every three to six months? Seriously… this is so annoying! I can’t remember the last time I used a phone book. And I got so tired of the stupid phone company leaving these Tree Death Tomes under the guise of phone books on my door step, I just finally stopped bringing them into the house. “What?” you say. “What do you mean you just stopped bringing them into your house?” you say. “What good would that do?” you say. I say, it did a lot of fricking good! It’s like leaving the faux Hoot Owl on the telephone wire so the mice don’t come and chew the line the death. I swear to you! I had two phone books left on my doorstep and I NEVER picked them up and for two whole years I NEVER saw a new phone book get left on my doorstep. Why? Because they took one look at the dead disheveled weather beaten book of phone numbers that no one had even bothered to throw in the garbage and they walked away in horror and disgust. Who would do that? Who would just leave the pile of book covered trees just lying there to suffer? I would! ME! Pandora! I would so you could see all the lovely rain forests you’ve destroyed in black and white on my patio! (not that the poor soul delivering the things at minimum wage had anything to do with rainforest destruction, and not that I really had that much of a purpose behind my choice to leave them there, but still…) Anyway, the point is, I left those things there until they really were a bit of an eyesore but they seemed to keep the new phone books away so I continued to leave them there for over a year. Unfortunately for me, someone got wise to me and left a new phone book for me right at the end of November 2010. “Really?!?!?” I yelled, and then I picked up the new book and the two phone books of the dead and threw them in the dumpster.

4. Stress Queen: Did you realize that if you don’t find a healthy way to handle your stress it can actually break down your immune system so badly that these happy little proteins inside your body called Heat Shock Proteins (HSPs) will start to work overtime every time you have a stressful moment of some kind and you will break out in a rash all over? I didn’t either until I spent the last year breaking out into some crazy rash every time I tried to stay calm cool and collected on the outside while knowing I was screaming on the inside. How ‘bout that? I can’t hide it too well anymore. Come to my cubicle to tell me something and I’ll break out in a stress rash while I do my best to pretend your halitosis isn’t driving me up the wall. Awesome… Padded cell, take me away!

3. Massage Envy: I think that’s an interesting name for a company. I guess it means that since I have a monthly membership there, you should all envy me as I take advantage of stress relieving massages and the health benefits they present to me as I embrace a healthy approach to coping with stress. I’m starting to think, however, that the name actually mocks me as it stares me in the face and reminds me that I’m paying $50 a month to get a massage to help me cope with the stress in my life and I’m so busy and consumed with the stupid minute details of life I never take the time to use what I’m regularly paying for. I drive past the place and become envious because inside there are people that have taken the time to treat themselves to a mere sixty minutes of relaxing silence and release of tension in the muscles that push and pull at the bones that will soon be aching from the muscle’s inability to relax. Yes, I am envious. I'm pretty sure I've paid for an entire year supply of monthly massages and I've never used one. (...bet those people aren’t breaking out in stress rashes...) Guess I need to see myself as a never ending pile of laundry and make the stress load priority one before it kills me.

2. Christmas Past: I always put the Christmas tree and Christmas decorations up the Friday after Thanksgiving and I always take everything down on New Year’s Day. I don’t know what happened to me in 2010, but I left the Christmas tree and all of the decorations up until Easter, which I think was sometime in April 2010. Now I know for a fact there is someone out there that’s got me beat on this one, but still… that was way overdue (even by my lackadaisical standards) and I have no idea why I let that one ride for so long. Christmas is only fun during that November – December stint, after that it’s just annoying clutter and has no business sitting in your living room reminding you that life isn’t as cheery as all those lights and sugar plums would lead you to believe (although I’m pretty sure some dudes could possibly make the case for why The Nutcracker might be a mainstay in their daily life year round, but I suggest they go see a marriage counselor for that one). Anyway, as of right now, it’s 10:50 p.m. on January 9, 2011 and I still have not taken down the Christmas d├ęcor in here. I fully intend to get to it sometime this week, as I will not be convincing myself that this year’s Easter Celebration consists of the symbolic disassembling of the Christmas tree.

1. Slack Ass Blogger: And finally… Not that you don’t already know this, but 2010 was actually the worst year for me, blog wise. I was going to give myself some extra points for content, but then I went back and skimmed through the entire last year and well… August was apparently my best month due to the Salad Bad Ass and my lemonade detox diet attempt, but … the rest of the year was a lot of whining about work and my inability to think creatively in the cubicle (which is pretty apparent from what I see here). And I counted everything up -- from the time I started this blog in 2008 to now, 2010 was the most inconsistent writing year I had, topping out at 27 posts which I even beat in my “novice” year by one with 28 posts.


I guess I owe those of you who still subscribe some serious thanks. I don’t have many of you, but for some reason you keep hanging in there with me and you keep hounding me and encouraging me because you actually believe I have something entertaining and perhaps even valuable (at least at times) to say. I would like to promise that I will do better, for myself as much as for you, but promises are a guaranteed deal breaker so… how about we just leave it at that, take a gamble and see what happens, eh? I know what I’m dreaming up in my head, it’s just a matter of making it happen.