Friday, October 29, 2010

A Video Starring Yours Truly as a Human Saltwater Fountain

My SOS went out via Twitter:


I then proceeded to fall asleep for three hours; when I awoke, I found myself inundated with helpful responses. (Thanks, Twitter!) As a result, I purchased Sinex, Zicam & the grand centerpiece, a NeilMed NetiPot.

If you've never used a NetiPot, here's the deal. It's a small plastic teapot that costs an arm & a leg. You fill it with hot water & saline, & then you pour it into your face. Seriously. Pour it into one nostril, & it comes out the other, along the way cleaning out your sinuses like you're some kind of freaking human fountain. Build on that craziness by adding a few kickers: For example, the instructions warn sinus sufferers like me not to use boiling water for fear of scalding the nasal cavity, which sounds like a fate far worse than a sinus infection. And it instructs you to breathe while you do it, but breathing borders on impossible when you're snorting saltwater. How do drug addicts multi-task?! Color me impressed.


It goes against my better judgment to show you the following video. For one, I'm makeup-less & ponytailed, which is not a look you'll ever see me sporting publicly. But I was sick, & everyone knows that sick days are ugly days. And in this case, funny days. This video is too good not to share:

video

It was an absolutely heinous experience, as you can see, & it took me about four tries to get it right. Of course, even when done correctly, it tasted like wiping out in the ocean - like when you're a kid on a boogie board chillin' in the Atlantic, & a wave crashes over you & you biff into a sandbar & come up choking on enough salt to melt a polar icecap.

Except I think it cleared out my sinuses. So I'm still doin' it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Big, Fat Deal

You already know about it.

Yesterday, Marie Claire writer Maura Kelly posted a haphazard, poorly written piece for the magazine's website titled "Should 'Fatties' Get a Room? Even on TV?" Its premise is Kelly's feelings about the new show "Mike & Molly," which tells the story of a fat couple in love, though the writer admits she's never watched it. Instead, she just wants us to know how she feels about fat people in general, using the show as a thin veil of cover for her fat-bashing. In her column, she rails against obesity & the people living with/suffering from it, going so far as to say that she finds it "aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room." She goes on to condescendingly provide fat readers a few creative, never-before-heard-or-tried weight loss suggestions (sarcasm intended) & to compare fat people to drunk people, among other things.

Plenty of bloggers more eloquent than I - the wise-&-ranty Shine, for one, & the always-honest Lemmonex, for another - have written about the piece & their reactions to it, & I doubt I can say it any better. To be clear, these responses & others like them are not a defense of obesity - believe it or not, there are very few people out there, if any, lauding the benefits of being big. Rather, they write about the cruel sentiments behind Kelly's piece & the societal norm it belies: It's OK to hate on fat people, because they can help being fat.

I'm a bit overweight myself, so of course I'm hurt to see in print - in a popular magazine, no less - what I'm secretly confident others see when they look at me. But I'm a big girl (uh, no pun intended), & I can handle my insecurities on my own. What really grinds my gears about this Marie Claire piece is the utter lack of compassion it displays, the complete disgust of others - & the absolute unwillingness to see people as anything more than the bodies they live in.

Kelly's piece was crudely written & cruelly worded, & her apology, which claims the column was hastily penned, is no apology at all; if anything, it indicates that the words she wrote are, in fact, indicative of her true, uncensored feelings. The Washington Post's recap of the debacle is a shamefully incomplete representation of the conversation surrounding Kelly's piece - not that "fat" has become a four-letter word that we should ban & PC-ize, as the Post suggests, but rather that fat-bashing & fat-shaming & fat-bullying have become societally acceptable, all in the name of caring about one another's health.

Shockingly - or maybe not - Marie Claire hasn't done much in the way of making nice following the outrage Kelly's piece inspired. In fact, Editor-in-Chief Joanna Coles calls her a "provocative blogger," as though bullying & body-bashing is sexy & cutting-edge. As others have noted, had the piece focused on any other kind of people - let's say, lesbians or Asians or Jews - it wouldn't have passed editorial scrutiny (if Marie Claire has any of that, which I'm doubting), & Kelly likely would've been fired on the spot for being racist or homophobic or just generally hateful - you know, "provocative" in a bad way, not in a hot "Gossip Girl" kinda way. What if the piece had told alcoholics to stop being such losers & put down the damn drink? Had told anorexics to stop being so vain & pick up a damn sandwich? Had told diabetics to stop being so picky, or told coke addicts to stop being so needy? Yeah, those condemnations of others' lifestyles & health problems probably wouldn't have flown. And, of course, those analogies completely overlook the fact that not everyone who's overweight is, in fact, unhealthy, which is another kettle of fish altogether. (Is that a phrase? Or did I make that up? Weird.)  But because fat people have the power to "fix" themselves of their problem, as Kelly explains to us, they are perfectly acceptable targets of ridicule & belittling.

When you get down to it, the real subject of the piece is this: Do fat people deserve to be happy, despite their fat? Kelly's piece & too many of the responses in support of it would indicate that no, they don't. That fat people, even just by walking across the damn room, burn society's eyes & offend their senses. That fat people's very existence is shameful, disgusting & offensive to the rest of the world.

I wish I could tell Maura Kelly the same thing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cheese & Google. Best Inventions Ever?

My friends were up to a lot of interesting things last weekend. For example, a number of my former coworkers are in New Orleans for a meeting, no doubt consuming beignets & copious amounts of liquor in their spare time. And many of my blogger friends attended PBandTuna: The Revenge, a party of epic proportions back in the District.

Me? I was cooking.

That's right! The girl who formerly resided in a kitchenless apartment is slowly but surely learning to cook - or dying trying. I'm currently visiting my boyfriend in New Hampshire for the week, & he doesn't really know how to cook either, so we decided we'd try to be the Neelys together, except white & inept & attempting to make food with some semblance of healthfulness (read: less than three sticks of butter per meal).

So we got on the ol' Google & planned out a few meals, & on Saturday, we whipped up our first attempt: mac & cheese casserole. I know, I know. You're all like:
  • Kate, this isn't a cooking blog! I don't carrrre. Get back to doing whatchu do best: being judgy & taking photos of crazy people.
  • Kate, mac & cheese casserole cannot possibly fall into the aforementioned category of "some semblance of healthfulness." 

You would certainly be correct on the first count. And, uhhh, upon my re-checking the recipe's nutritional information, you'd also be correct on the second, though the recipe did include spinach, which is healthy, right? Anyway, this mac & cheese casserole? Was so delicious that I swear I'd be over the moon if it were served to me in a restaurant. Though I can't begin to describe how my happiness tasted, it looked something like this:


Because I love you, I'm going to share with you this heavenly recipe, obtained from EatingWell.com. We changed the recipe up a bit, which I indicated below on the somewhat shoddy "recipe cards" I attempted to create. So... go forth & cook. Eat well & prosper! And please forgive me for the cards' inconsistent font sizes. Which you probably wouldn't even have noticed, but now you will. Shoot. Anyway, EAT WELL & PROSPER.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Take Heed, 'Cause I'm a Lyrical Poet

I have a new car! The word "new" is a total misnomer, in this case, as the car is actually a '93 & is only new in the "to me" sense & in the sense that my mechanic gave it all new insides before selling it to me.

One of the great joys of having a car again - aside from not having to rely on my mother for transportation, a la 1997 - is listening to the radio. For three years, I've been largely out of the Top 40 loop because no car means no radio time means no Top 40 knowledge. I'm not a total troglodyte: I know heaps of a little Katy Perry, & I can keep up with basic Gaga references, but folks like Rihanna, Eminem & Beyonce had fallen off my radar entirely, & bands like The Ready Set & Neon Animals were, until recently, entirely unheard of.

But now. The car. I'm slowly but painfully remembering that the simultaneous best/worst thing about knowing songs is realizing that I don't actually know them at all. Yes, I'm notorious for my lyrical flubs, but I'm in good company; how long has Ellen DeGeneres been singing "monkey hatchet"?! Here, for your comedic enjoyment, I present you/shamefully admit to you some of my very best:
  1. Song: "Like a Prayer" by Madonna
    Actual lyrics:
    "I hear you call my name, & it feels like home."
    My lyrics: "I hear you call my name, & it feels like fall."
    The implications: Withstanding absolute humiliation at the hands of my two closest friends, who laughed so hard they cried when they first heard me make this now-epic mistake

  2. Song: "Rhythm Divine" by Enrique Iglesias
    Actual lyrics: "All I need is the rhythm divine. Viva la musica, say you'll be mine."
    My lyrics: "All I need is the river divide. Viva la musica, say you'll be mine."
    The implications:
    None. The real lyrics are just as stupid as my mistaken ones.

  3. Song: "Whoomp! (There It Is)" by Tag Team
    Actual lyrics: "Whoomp, there it is!"
    My lyrics: "Whoomp, bad ass!"
    The implications: Years of my trying to convince, well, basically everyone that this was a valid lyrical mistake for a precocious 9-year-old to make. Listen to the song! The way they pronounce "There it is" is totally suspect.

  4. Song: "Push It" by Salt 'n' Pepa
    Actual lyrics: "Ooh, aah, push it, push it real good!"
    My lyrics: "Ooh, aah, bullshit! Bullshit real good!"
    The implications: Rather than coughing awkwardly in an attempt to cover up this song's overt sexual implications every time it came on the radio while I was with my mom, I spent my childhood coughing to cover up its dirty language instead. The end result is the same, but I feel quite sheepish nonetheless.

  5. Song: "Ice, Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice
    Actual lyrics: "Ice, ice, baby, too cold, too cold."
    My lyrics: "Ice, ice, baby, dig a hole, dig a hole."
    The implications: Admittedly, my lyrics didn't make any sense, unless Vanilla was about to go ice fishing. In which case... spot-on.

  6. Song: "I'll Make Love to You" by Boyz II Men
    Actual lyrics: "I'll make love to you, like you want me to, & I will not let go 'til you tell me to."
    My lyrics: "I'll make love to you, like you want me to, & I will not let go when you tell me to."
    The implications: My simple mistake here - just one little word - would've made this song rape-y rather than romantic. Somehow, I never held it against Boyz II Men. What does that say about me?!

  7. Song: "All My Life" by K-C & JoJo
    Actual lyrics: "You're all I'm thinking of, I praise the Lord above."
    My lyrics:
    "You're all I'm thinking of, I've raised a lot of bull."
    The implications: None, really. I just thought K-C & JoJo were really apologetic & that this line was terribly out of place & oddly worded. Or that the boys were cattle farmers, which is laughable.

  8. Song: "Every Heartbeat" by Amy Grant
    Actual lyrics: "Yeah, sure, maybe I'm on the edge, but I love you baby, & like I said..."
    My lyrics: "Passion, baby, I'm on the edge. For your love, my baby, I play Gossair."
    The implications:
    This song came out in the early '90s, & my cousin & I spent hours listening to the tape. This lyrical mistake - just one of many on the album - left me with a lifetime spent wondering who Gossair was & why no one else was speaking about such a goddamn romantic.

  9. Song: "Sugar, We're Goin' Down" by Fall Out Boy
    Actual lyrics: "A loaded gun complex, cock it & pull it"
    My lyrics: "A loaded God complex, cock it & pull it"
    The implications:
    My lyrical flub makes this the most mistaken song in my friends' & my history - & mine was the least comical mix-up among them. My friend Annie thought the line "I wanna be the friction in your jeans" was "I wanna be the freak shit in your jeans," & my then-boyfriend thought the line "Drop a heart, break a name" was "Trabajar, break a name." Let's just say it was a funny live show when we saw them in concert. (It was free, don't judge me.)
     
  10. Song: "Alejandro" by Lady Gaga
    Actual lyrics: "She's got both hands in her pocket."
    My lyrics: "She's got gonads in her pocket."
    The implications:
    Suppressed laughter every time the song came on, & a real confusion as to why no one else had commented on the absurdity of this opening line
What lyrics have you flubbed? Please-oh-please make me feel better about myself...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Readin' Good & Votin' for Rockstars

Sometimes I think there should be some sort of IQ test citizens are required to take before they're allowed to vote. But based on my experiences in attempting to vote last week, I wouldn't have passed, by my own standards.

My friend Sean & I decided to avoid the dreaded Election Day lines by voting early at the Summit County Board of Elections, where neither of us had ever been. We Google Mapped it & were on our merry, democratic way.

But when we arrived, the doors were locked. But only because we failed to read a sign that said to use a different set of doors. But those were locked, too. But only because we failed to read three ginormous yard signs, printed in block letters, directing would-be early voters to a satellite location a few miles away. Reading/planning fail.

It seems, though, that the Summit County BOE is eager to make its voters feel welcome - & to eliminate reading problems wherever possible. Case in point: this massive sign. If we'd missed this one, we'd have had a real comprehension problem on our hands. And look! They'd even reserved a parking spot for us! Whew. The joint was really jumpin', as you can tell:


This satellite location was, like, an old Sam's Club or something, a big, echo-y warehouse with tinted sliding glass doors. The kind of place where creepy men take teenage women after they've abducted them. But instead of abuctors or gang members (because shoot-'em-up scenes & bank heist planning always occurs in old warehouses), we entered to find approximately 16 staffers milling about - despite the fact that Sean & I were the only ones casting our early ballots.

The point of this post is three-fold. Firstly, I wanted you to know that I am apparently unable to read. Secondly, that voting is important & that you should exercise your democractic right/responsibility by doing it, either now or come November 2nd. But most importantly, you should do it the correct way. Lucky for you, the Summit County BOE has an easy how-to guide posted in each voting booth:


I hope Janis wins, but she probably won't get enough votes, so, you know, I'm rooting for Ted Strickland instead.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Conversations With My Mother

The following is a real conversation between my mother & me this evening as we made my bed:
"I still have a set of sheets that I had in college."
"I good way to prove you're not a hoarder would be by throwing those away."
"Sheets are expensive!"
"I think you got your money's worth out of those."
"I guess that's true."
"Those sheets are almost 40 years old."
"You're loving this, aren't you? Shut up."
Guess who's who? It'd probably be fine if I were the one with college-era sheets, as I graduated in 2007. And yet...

Also, before you tease: Yes, my mom helped me make my bed, & I'm not ashamed of that. Like you wouldn't accept the assistance?! Those hospital corners are tough, yo. Also, she made me a smoothie today. So there. Do your roommates do that for you?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Four Distinctly Suburban Loves

Instead of focusing on how much I miss D.C. - namely, the people in it - I'm trying my darndest to focus on the things I like about Ohio. Luckily, there are a lot of them, though I've found that, for now, I'm finding the most happiness in things that are distinctly different from the District, little things I lived without for three years & am pleased to have returned to. Here's a smattering:

Foliage
This is a gimme. Sure, there were trees in D.C. - more than in most cities (ahemBigAppleahem) - but nothing beats a Midwestern autumn. I've never been much of a nature aficionado, but in the fall in Ohio, all I want is to be outdoors. Except that I'm really, really afraid of spiders. So nevermind. But... where was I? Oh, yes! The foliage! It's pretty!

Leaving things in the car
In the city, life went like this: Want to go to the gym after work? Carry your duffel bag around with you all day. Want to work from a coffeeshop? You'll also have to haul your laptop to the bar afterward. Here in the OH, I plan for the day & load up my car accordingly, stashing all kinds of things in my trunk, including my gym bag, my new laptop bag, & about four garbage bags full of stuff to take to Goodwill. Why my trunk? Well, because I'm always afraid my car will be broken into if it's within plain view. But the point is that no longer have to shlep everything around all day like some urban Sherpa. For this reason alone, my shoulders are thrilled to be back in the Midwest.

This may also be the right time to tell you that last month, the owner of Simply-Bags.com sent me a monogrammed laptop bag. When I moved back home, it was waiting for me - brown & turquoise with my initials emblazoned across the front, all pretty & convenient. It's been attached to my hip - er, shoulder - every day since then, as I haul my many technologies from coffee shop to library to home & back again.

Cheap stuff, especially clothing
Yesterday, I bought a pair of shoes for $2. And yes, I'm unemployed & should thus be clinging desperately to my hard-earned duckets, but could you pass up a $2 pair of shoes? And OK, fine, they might be sort of ugly, I haven't decided yet. But they were $2, didn't you hear me? In the 'burbs, inexpensive shopping abounds - there're the old standbys a la Target & TJ Maxx, but there are also a bevy of thrift stores (the one in my town is not for the faint of heart), WalMarts (if your conscience can handle it), Gabriel Brothers (thanks for the shoes!), etc., etc. If they're cheap, they're here. And I, in turn, am there. And based on the last bullet point, I have plenty of trunk space to temporarily store any shoes & other cheap things I may acquire.

Starbucks drive-thrus
The Starbucks in my hometown has a drive-thru, open until 10pm; this is a beautiful new addition to my life, allowing me to pick up chai lattes & pumpkin scones on my way through town. The truth is that, for now, I'm spending a lot of time inside the Starbucks, applying for jobs & catching up on blogs, so I'm not making much use of this feature - but the drive-thru is, in theory, a total suburban gem. 

*FTC Compliance: I was given a free laptop bag from Simply-Bags.com. I was not, however, required to say nice things about the bag - or to review it at all. As such, all opinions expressed in this blog are my own. As always!

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Great Pumpkin(s) & Having Room to Grow

I'm not a photographer; I leave that difficult work to my much-more-competent-&-creative friend Wild & Crazy Pearl. But speaking of her, I went to a place today that she would've loved - Szalay's Sweet Corn Farm. In fact, as my mom & I wandered around the grounds, I could just imagine W&CP's blog post in the making, if she were the one in my shoes, & I thus felt compelled to take an abundance of photos, as she would do.

I know what you're thinking - "Sweet corn farm?" - & maybe you're rolling your eyes. And I know what comes next, too: A) "How hillbilly!" and/or B) "Dude, it's just corn." But dude, it's NOT just corn. And last I checked, there's nothing hillbilly about the locally grown food movement. Fancy big-city folks are always tryin' to jump on the locally grown wagon, right? But it's tough to farm amidst high-rises. Here in Ohio, where there's farmland a'plenty (I technically live in a city, I swearrr), we've got room to grow.

Szalay's sells everything from gigantron pumpkins to apricot jam to bags of pistachos to imported figs, which are not grown locally (refer back to the word "imported").

 

Approximately eleventy billion people were visiting Szalay's while my mom & I were there, making a slow browse nearly impossible. Still, we made our rounds & loaded up a basket of goodies - cherry tomatoes, a red onion, a huge cucumber, two avocados, a bag of snap peas, a block of pepper jack cheese, a loaf of homemade bread, a bag of Kettle Corn, apple cider &, um, a small caramel that I ate on the spot - for less than $26. Have I mentioned that a trip to the market in D.C. often cost $25 for just, like, crackers, cheese & Coke?

And there were pumpkins! Ohhh, were there pumpkins. My mom, however, seems to have instituted a new Halloween rule in my absence: No pumpkins on the front porch. It's too depressing when they're stolen or smashed, she says, so they only go on the back porch. But carved pumpkins are for showing off! My ego refused to allow me to carve a masterpiece of a pumpkin only to relegate it to the back porch, so I passed them up.

My favorite part of the afternoon was when a little girl, about 9 years old, took a seat atop a massive pumpkin & yelled out to her father, "I FOUND THE PERFECT PUMPKIN! It's only $32." She yelled it about four times before her dad came over & sighed one of those deep, fatherly sighs: "We can't..." He starts again. "It's a good one! But... we can't even fit that inside the car. No, let's pick one out over here." Nice try, kiddo. (I totally remember attempting the same let's-get-a-giant-pumpkin maneuver on my own parents at her age.)


Of course, like any kitschy Midwestern joint worth its Halloweentime salt, there was a faux graveyard, this time complete with a skeleton band. Just beyond it was a corn maze, complete with screaming children (which are my own definition of scary, no Halloween needed).

In all? We had fun:

I recognize that this post isn't exactly bringing in the high entertainment that I promised I'd continue to deliver post-D.C. But come on. THERE WERE PUMPKINS.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Home of the Brave

Did you know that today marked the ninth anniversary of the start of the war in Afghanistan? I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I don't remember the beginning of the war. I was a senior in high school, less then a month after 9/11, but I haven't the faintest recollection of learning that a war had begun. I do, though, remember fear: fear that a draft would be instated, fear that my friends, just months from graduation, would be the first to be pulled into service.

The draft never happened, but some of them still made the voluntarily decision to serve. A program booklet at our commencement listed graduates' post-high school plans; the list of those headed into military service wasn't long, but it was substantial. In a small Ohio town, it was the best opportunity some of them had to make lives for themselves. And others? others had spent their whole lives dreaming of it.

Before I left D.C. last month, I made a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, where some of our country's most dedicated servicemembers are buried. I'd been meaning to go for awhile, in part because I think every American who has the chance to do it ought to, out of respect. And in part because I once knew someone who's now buried there.

We weren't friends, not really. I couldn't claim to have been his friend - the biggest contribution he made to my life was teaching me the meaning of a verrrry unsavory slang term - but I remember him well, a loud, redheaded football player with big ideas & kind words. When Student Council elections came up, he ran for president; if he didn't win, he said, he'd be graduating early & shipping out for the Marines. And when he didn't win, enlist & ship out he did. He died four years ago this month, at age 24, of injuries sustained while defusing a roadside bomb. He was serving his third tour of Iraq.

As one of the few people from my high school living in close enough proximity to visit, I promised myself I'd make it to Arlington to pay my respects, not just for me but, I liked to think, partially on behalf of a city devastated by the death of a hometown hero. I was, in a word, overwhelmed. Rows & rows of headstones, as far as the eye can see, in all directions. Total verbal silence from visitors, even the smallest of children. Endless names of real people, of men & women who died for what they believed in.

The headstones at Arlington are numbered from the back, & when you head into the visitors' center, you can print off a sheet of paper with a number & a map telling you exactly how to get to the headstone you're looking for. I came upon his grave from the back, just rows from where a few members of the military were paying their respects to a recently buried comrade. I was afraid to be near them, afraid I didn't deserve to be there while they were. After all, what have I given our country? So I made eye contact with them, somewhat embarrasedly, & nodded in their direction, hoping it would convey the respect & deference I felt. They nodded back; I sat in the grass at my old classmate's grave to cry, to take it all in, to realize with shock that he was two years younger when he died than I am now. And then I left a rock atop his headstone, because that's what Jews do, & I walked back to the Metro in silence, & carried on with my everyday life - went to Starbucks, hung out with friends, applied for jobs. Kept being me.

I don't agree with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Still, I balk at accusations that those who oppose the wars are by default disrespectful of those who serve in them. From the bottom of my heart, I respect our members of the military - the work they do, the reasons they do it, the sacrifices they make. It's a funny thing to say, I guess, a line most people reserve for Jesus, but to me, it makes more sense in a place like Arlington: They died so that we may live.

[In other words: Have you thanked a servicemember lately?]

Duh?

I just wonder how many people had to attempt to return their damaged purchases before Goodwill decided to bite the bullet & hang this sign on their door.

Daydream Believer: My Mental Vacation

Cheerios® is giving you the chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, your ultimate family vacation. As part of a paid promotion for their “Do What You Love” Sweepstakes, Cheerios® is sponsoring my post today about what my ultimate family vacation would be. Read mine, Enter the Sweepstakes for a chance to actually win your own fantasy family trip or one of a bunch of other great prizes.

I go on vacation, like, never. And while being unemployed (screw that "[f]unemployed" business, this shiz is not fun) may appear to be vacationesque, the fear of not being able to pay my bills keeps me from really being able to sit back & enjoy the view. Because, you know, vacations aren't supposed to be brokedown & stressful.

So I don't think about vacations much. Except when I do, which is actually fairly often, because I want to know: What does "vacation" mean, anyway? What are the criteria for a vacation?
  • Does a staycation count? What if you end up doing household chores like cleaning the air ducts & reorganizing the closets? That doesn't seem like a vacation to me. Do you have to go somewhere, do something?
  • What if there's no beach, no ski resort, no cruise, no hotel? What if it's just you & a friend hopping on the train to NYC for a weekend? How about camping? Is that a vacation? 
  • How long do you have to be away for it to count as a vacation? And that sentence assumes that you need to be away in the first place. Please refer back to my "staycation" question.
And so on & so on, ad infinitum. Yes, I think about these things.

I tend to think vacations are supposed to include beaches, but I don't even like the beach. I know, I know. "What kind of freak doesn't like the beach?" I only went on one college trip with friends, one wild & rowdy Spring Break that wasn't wild or rowdy at all. Just me & two friends wandering the boardwalk in Virginia Beach, visiting with a few sailors & writing silly things in the sand, all while wearing jeans & hoodies because it was too damn cold to be near the water. Fine by me; I don't like the water at all. I was never going to be a Cancun girl.

And I'm not that big on sightseeing-style traveling, either. I've never been off the continent, save a high school cruise to the Bahamas, & while it'd be nice to see the world, I'm not exactly clamoring for passport stamps. For me, traveling has never been about the places; rather, it's about the people in the places. I'd always rather visit an old friend than a new place, but traveling is expensive, kids, so unless I can buy a $20 Megabus ticket, I'm probably not gonna make it.

What, then, does my ideal vacation look like? Am I even allowed to think about vacations while I'm unemployed, living on my mom's dime & desperately trying not to fritter away my meager savings? I feel guilty. But vacation is a state of mind, right? Maybe I deserve that daydream now more than ever. Ain't no shame in a (free) daydream.

So where would I rather be, the girl who doesn't do beaches & can't ski & hates Vegas? My ideal vacation is the same place it's always been: the cabin in the Pennsylvania woods where we go every year with family friends, where we've been going since I was a baby. The one place in the world where this suburban-cum-city girl gets down with nature & sleeps in a cabin too often graced by the presence of bugs & woodland creatures. Where I swim in a lake, for crying out loud. Where there are no bikinis (OK, fine, there are never any bikinis in my life, period) & no gambling & no cruise ships & no fancy hotels. Just me & my mom & the family friends who've simply become family.

We went out there this summer, when I sold an MGMT ticket in favor of making the six-hour drive so that I could instead roast marshmallows & fall asleep around a bonfire & shoot three clay pigeons (!) & finish a book & gorge myself on my uncle's brunch & even try ribs for the first time. It's my happy place, the place I think of when everything else is going to shit. It's never fancy & never for longer than a long weekend, but when August rolls around, rarely do I feel the need to vacation anyplace new. When you love one place so much, why waste your precious vacation days elsewhere?

And now, back to my regularly scheduled lack of daydreaming. Haven't you heard? I've got a job to find, y'all.

Don't forget to enter the “Do What You Love” Sweepstakes, for a chance to win your own ultimate family vacation. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do. [Photo from weheartit.com]

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going

I got my first two pieces of mail at my new/old place - one was "No Country for Old Men" from Netflix, & the other was a card from my grandma. You remember her, right? (I know. How could you forget?!)

In this card, my grandma expressed a concern that seems to be common among some of the readers of this here blog:

Yes, a number of you have asked me if I plan to stop blogging now that I'm out of D.C. Whew! I guess I did a good job of working the city-living angle, huh?

But let's back up. In 2007, I started this blog as a space to tell stories about my crazy new life in the capital. Stories like:
I guess I'm a story-teller by nature, & I wanted to put all of these to paper so I could look back on them fondly later on down the road. Maybe "fondly" isn't the right word for death threats. You get the idea.

The blog became a place where I wrote about other things, too, like my battles with feisty vermin such as centipedes & roaches, my sometimes-wacky trips home to Ohio & to other places like Philly & California, my love/hate relationship with D.C.'s constant gaggle of tourists, & a few serious things, too, like my dad's cancer & my ex-boyfriend's suicide. And, of course, I still tell stories. Like the time I lost all my pants. But they're stories about all kinds of things, not just D.C.'s many quirks, because I have a tendency to stumble into ridiculous situations, no matter the city.

The fact that so many people feared I'd shut down this space after leaving the District actually comforts me; it means I've done my job well, steered this blog in the direction I'd aimed for, made it look like I had some sense of purpose. It also means that I'm not speaking into a black hole, which is, you know, really nice. Thanks for liking me, seriously.

But you can't get rid of me that easily.

Will the focus change? Sure. Then again, it's always changing. Do I have any what I'm going to write about tomorrow? No, especially because I plan to spend the day locked up in a back room at the library applying for jobs, which isn't the stuff titillating blog posts are made of. But that's not the point. The point is that, you know, I'll still be here. And I'll still be telling you stories, even if they're not D.C.-centric anymore. And I hope you'll stay with me.

All that said, I'd love to hear what you want to hear from me. What do you wish you read more of on Suburban Sweetheart? Let me know in the comments or in this fancy poll I'm quite excited to have created. Even you lurkers can play along! The poll is 100% anonymous, so I have no way of knowing you've stopped by.  Your anonymity is safe (& maybe creepy, but I respect your Internet-assured right to creepitude).

Anyway. Tell me stuff. Me love you long time.




Monday, October 4, 2010

Pantless in Ohio, or "How I Learned to Respect Lady Gaga & Worship the GAP"

"I'll be home in 15 minutes," my mom tells me, & then we'll go look at a car she's been eying for me. (For now, I'm entirely dependent on her transportation schedule & my own two feet.) When she gets home, I'm not ready. "We have a problem," I announce somewhat frantically. "I can't find any pants."

Unpacking is a boon, sure, because you don't always pack the way you want to unpack, making things difficult to locate. But still, I labeled my boxes pretty clearly. I should be able to find a pair of trousers, right?

Wrong.

We're short a suitcase. WE'RE SHORT A SUITCASE. Commence freaking out. "Where could it be?" I shout repeatedly, because I'm quite sensible & helpful in situations like these. Though, to be fair, I've never been in a lost-all-my-pants situation before.

"Could you have left it on the loading dock? Or in the yard?" my mom asks of The Missing Suitcase. No & no. NO. Right? "I can't leave the house!" I scream repeatedly. Again with the sensible & helpful.

In a moment of sanity, I pick up the phone & dial my now-former roommate, Jason. "Do you have my suitcase?" I inquire, somewhat impatiently. [Sorry, Jason: I want to know how your own move went, I swear I do, but pantless me had no time to waist waste.]

He's quite sure he doesn't have The Missing Suitcase. But oh, wait! "Gavi, is this your suitcase?" I hear him ask, followed by an unzipping sound. "We have your suitcase." Cue cheering! HUZZAH! They promise to mail me said suitcase on Monday, bless their hearts.

But... I'm still not wearing any pants. And FedEx ground takes a couple days, at best, which means I'm either wearing flannel in public or I'm housebound for a few days. It's too cold for dresses when my tights are all lost in the packing abyss, & I refuse to wear my mother's pants. Mostly because she's 4'11" & I'm 5'5", which feels like a logical, not-too-vain reason.

And then I find an old pair of GAP ankle pants with a giant hole in the crotch. They used to be my favorite until, you know, they developed a giant hole in the crotch. Giving them an old needle-&-thread go, I diligently patch up the crotchal region & slip them on victoriously. "We can leave the house now," I announce, prepared to wear them for the next week.

And then I remember that I've long had a coupon to the GAP for a free - free! FREE! - pair of jeans. "Where'd you get this coupon?" the GAP employee asks enviously as I cash it in for my gratis pair of skinnies. I tell her I attended a brand party more than a year ago. I was skeptical at the time, but it turns out that that coupon, almost literally, saved my butt. "Holding onto it for something special?" the employee asks.

Special indeed.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Ain't No Trip to Cleveland

Well, folks, here I am: The big O. (Ohio, that is. Get yer minds outta the gutter.) My mom rented a Ford E-150, the kind of van that sketchy old men abduct children in on "Law & Order," & we hit the road for a seven-hour trip, which I live-blogged by taking notes on my iPhone's notepad feature because, uh, there's an app for that. Nearly 48 hours later, here's the somewhat delayed recap:



8:00am - I wake up begrudgingly, propelled only by my excitement at sleeping in a bed & not on an air mattress later that evening.

8:22 - Showered & ready to be ready, I say my final goodbye to Jason, my roommate & one of my best friends. While reading the eloquent goodbye card he wrote me, I let approx three tears fall, as I know more will squeeze their way out throughout the day.

9:53 - After loading the rest of my stuff into the massive cargo van my mom rented, we're ready to leave. I wave & cry another goodbye to my other roommate, Gavi, & sob as we make our way up Connecticut Avenue. Sometime in the early 10 o'clock hour, my mom makes me stop at Firehook in Cleveland Park for breakfast; I cry through my bacon & egg sandwich.


11:01 - Our first roadtrip discussion: an argument about the merits of credit unions (I can't find any).

11:29 - My chai latte sets in, & we take a break at a Sheetz. Ladies: If you leave pee around the entire perimeter of the seat, you're doing it wrong.

12:06pm - Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" comes on. I car-dance a bit & promptly burst into tears, reminded of my DC BFF. Whinegrumblesigh.

12:14 - Outlet malls remind me why I love suburbs.

12:30 - I broach an important subject with my mother: "What TV shows do you watch? This is a serious question." I plot out our DVR schedule; we pass a hitchhiker waving an American flag & wearing a bald eagle vest.

12:35 - A political discussion arises. "Tom Ganley is a sleazebag!" my mom proclaims. I agree. This conversation foreshadows my decision to volunteer with Rep. Betty Sutton's campaign for reelection upon my return home.

12:57 - "Love Song" comes on. I cry a little behind my sunglasses as I'm reminded of yet another D.C. friend.

1:00 - My mom asks me if I'd like to move to Pittsburgh. Let's finish one move first, OK?

1:03 - We pass through Breezewood, the Mecca of rest areas, but don't stop, to my dismay (I love their 50 States Gift Shop). Having hit the almost-halfway mark, The Fray's "You Found Me" comes on; I'm about to cry when "Margaritaville" comes on, making it a little tougher to embrace sentimentality.

1:04 - I fall fast asleep.

1:21 - Freezing, I awaken & contemplate digging my Snuggie out of my luggage.

1:49 - I wake up to my mom freaking out about a near run-in with a FedEx truck. I am awake just long enough to spot a license plate that reads "incub 8," which I text a friend about before falling back asleep.

1:57 - We pull into a rest stop in North Somerset, Penn., where I spot a John Deere sticker on a pick-up truck, hear a man speaking in a bona fide Tracy Jordan voice, & am annoyed to see that a rest stop in North Somerset, Penn., sells D.C. postcards. My mom & I nap in the parking lot until 2:18.

2:21 - I receive a voicemail from Gavi that goes like this:
"There's a picture of a fish in one of the paintings. Fish scare me, so I'm gonna turn it over now. Let me know what to do with it. K byyyye."
3:18 - The cargo van is rattly. So rattly that it wakes me up from yet another peaceful vehicular slumber.

3:23 - We pass a cattle truck. "There's something alive in there!" my mom announces as a calf eyeballs us through the gates of its moving pen.

3:42 - I spy my first haunted house billboard, a key sign of the Midwest.

4:01 - I spy my first fireworks factory billboard, a key sign of the Midwest.
4:02 - Going through a toll booth, I drop my phone in the abyss of our giant van.
4:05 - My phone is still lost in the abyss, which means I can't take a photo of the Ohio sign as we cross the border. But here we are! My phone is retrieved less than a minute later.

4:19 - "Walkin' in Memphis" comes on. I cry a little behind my sunglasses.

4:23 - "Teenage Dream" comes on. Again. I cry a little behind my sunglasses. Reprise!

4:29 - While flipping through radio stations, I nearly settle on a Nickelback song. Ashamed of my momentary lapse in taste, I settle instead on Train.

5:03 - How did I never notice that there's a butter factory two towns over from my hometown?

5:11 - We pass a trailer parked in someone's front yard with a sign on the front: "4H is for you!" No. No, it isn't.


Sometime shortly thereafter, we arrive home; I have no idea when because I'm too exhausted & emotional to notice. I spend the next hour unloading our abductor van & canceling my plans for the evening in favor of wearing flannel pajama pants & eating oatmeal. Because relaxation? Looks the same in any state.

Stay tuned for "Pantless in Ohio," the next installment in my "Oh my God, I'm home" series. And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go do a little unpacking so our house stops looking like an episode of "Hoarders."

Friday, October 1, 2010

All My Bags Are Packed, I'm Ready to Go

"The time has come," the walrus said, "to talk of many things. Of travel & trips & moving boxes & of whether pigs have wings." Wait, what? That's not how the "Alice in Wonderland" poem goes, you say?

Oh.

Well, the time has come nonetheless.

First, an admission: Yesterday I had something of an "OMG who have I become" moment when I passed a spinning rack of tchotchkes at CVS & contemplated purchasing a silver keychain with an engraving of the Capitol building on it. And then, 15 minutes later, I talked myself out of shelling out for an "I <3 DC" tote bag from the memorabilia seller near the Metro who caters to Zoo-going families & sells panda paraphernalia galore. I'm going to miss this city, sure, but thank God I stopped myself from becoming a damn tourist about it.

Clearly I'm a little brain-addled as a result of all this moving business.

Today, for example, while I waited for my mom to arrive, I made this very emo video on my new iPhone 3GS. Do you love the still shot that YouTube chose to go with the video? Oh, me too, it's really flattering. Shouldn't I be embarrassed to be putting this video up on the interwebz for the world to see? Yes, probably. Alas, I'm shameless:

 

Moral? Thanks for tuning in & bearing with & all that other good stuff. I promise more upbeat posts are on their way, hopefully after trips to places like Wal-Mart, which are always guaranteed to result in some wacky Midwestern stories.

So without further ado or moping, this is your Suburban Sweetheart officially signing off from the capital. Next time, I'll be coming to you from the actual suburbs of the Buckeye State, home of the burning river & that traitor LeBron James! It's been real, D.C., but:

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