Monday, November 28, 2011

Pretty Girl

My dog died tonight.

I don't even like dogs. But I loved this dog so, so much - enough for all the dogs, combined.

I grew up with cats, but when I went off to college in 2002, my mom decided a dog was just the right companion to fill her empty nester void. The first weekend I came home for a surprise visit, there was a dog on my porch - a shy little thing that looked like a miniature German Shepherd. She was so quiet & skittish that the folks at the local shelter had nicknamed her "Miss Mouse," & though we hated the name, it stuck. Missy was ours.

She was afraid of men, likely the result of some terrible abuse at the hands of a previous owner who wasn't my mother. Eventually, she came around - she grew to love our neighbor, Chuck, and my then-boyfriend, Dave. She didn't like other dogs. She did like ice cream & all table scraps. She was my mom's vigilant little protector, barking any time anyone came near her - even when I hugged her! And whenever I made it back from college & home for weekends from D.C., Missy was always there, wagging her tail & barking like mad, more enthusiasm for my existence than I've ever seen out of any of the people in my life.

When my mom arrived home tonight from a week away on vacation, Missy was having trouble breathing & was so weak she couldn't walk. She rushed her to the nearest emergency vet, who said there was no chance of survival. She had pneumonia, & apparently it had been building up for a while. It all happened within an hour or two - and then she was gone.

For someone who doesn't like dogs, I sure am crying a lot. Like, there's a river in & around my facial region. My mom saved that little dog, & in return, she saved my mom. I know everyone thinks their pet is the best, but for us, there was no better dog than Missy. She was our perfect fit. She made our little two-person family complete, & it's going to be a tough adjustment to life without her, even from afar.

Rest easy, my pretty little girl.

Manic Monday: A Funny Photo Smorgasbord

Apparently Five Below is the best place for fashion-spotting. Perhaps this is a fashion blog after all! These gems were spotted within five minutes of one another.
Didn't Kyocera used to be in the business of making cell phones? I guess times are tough for everyone, but this sure does seem like a stretch. Cell phones and knives, what a business model!

I just want to know what this sign used to say.

Am I the only one who's uncomfortable with this description of the crab cake sandwich? I get that it's a crab reference, but... well, maybe I'm just a perv. I am glad that the grilled chicken sandwich comes with free love, though. Sure would be a shame if that cost extra.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's a Thanksgiving Miracle!

Let's start off with the obvious: Commenters on the Internet are really, really mean. Period. I don't know what allows people the balls to feel like they can say whatever they damn well please (cough anonymity cough), but it's really painful to read through the comments on, like, 98% of news stories. Whatever happened to human decency?

It's even more painful when the mean comments are directed toward you. Having never been on this side of the equation, I knew what to expect in theory but was still caught off guard reading the 100+ (mostly nasty) comments left yesterday on Consumerist.com when the blog kindly published my lost iPad story (which, as I noted yesterday, was really a crappy customer service story). Among other person digs at me for being "a camwhore" (?) & an idiot, some of the comments included:

  • "Acting like the airline owes you anything is like getting mad at the bartender for letting you go home with the ugly person." (OK, this is funny, though he still misses my point.)
  • "'I recognize that it's my fault...' Judging by all the words following those, I'm thinking perhaps she doesn't" (Again with the point-missing!)
  • "I don't know why she's even bothering to raise a fuss with the airline. This is 100% her fault and her fault only. It's her problem, not theirs. I'd have told her 'tough shit' too." (WHY DOESN'T ANYONE GET MY POINT?)
  • "An alternate title would have been: 'US Airways Employee 'Callously' Reminds Owner of Lost iPad That Not Everyone Has Heart of Gold'" 

And that last comment, my friends, is the crux of the matter. It's clear that the majority of Consumerist posters are heartless trolls - but not everyone is.

This morning, I got a call from a Miami number. Because I don't know anyone in Miami, I ignored it. The voicemail, though, sent me flying out of bed & into a frenzy of excitement: "Hi, my name is Dale Hopta, & I'm a pilot with US Airways. I have your iPad."

I have no idea how this went down. Most likely, a passenger or a flight attendant found it, & this guy offered to try to get it back to its owner. Most likely, he found my phone number in my email signature when he checked around in the iPad for signs of ownership. Most likely, he knew that US Airways' lost & found system is so flawed that if he followed protocol & turned it into them, I never would've gotten it back, so he decided to do it himself. Most likely, this guy is freaking awesome.

So take THAT, all you Consumerist naysayers & the customer service jerk who told me I'd never see my iPad again. I will, because Dale Hopta is shipping it to me this weekend, thus reuniting me with my most frivolous purchase in a virtually unheard-of act of Good Samaritanism.

Here is where I should note that I got really lucky. I have a strong feeling there are a great many people who never see their lost items again, because have I mentioned that US Airways has no lost & found system in place? That, my friends, was the point of my raising such an angry ruckus, something I guess I can't expect Internet trolls to comprehend. But when the system fails, it's nice to know that sometimes you can simply count on the kindness of strangers.


P.S.: Yes, I am sending him a reward, & yes, I am writing a letter to his supervisor. When things go right, I am just as quick to display my appreciation as I am to complain when things go wrong.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Battling US Airways for My Lost iPad

In preparation for my 8am flight out of Boston yesterday morning, I decided not to go to sleep on Sunday night. I pulled an all-nighter, with just a short nap around 2am, and left my house at 4:15 to catch a bus to Logan International Airport. As I settled into US Airways Flight 1231 from BOS > CLT, I planned to watch “Hart of Dixie” on my iPad, so I put it in the seat back pocket until use of electronic devices was approved.

You know where this is going, right? I fell asleep on the flight, and how. I was so asleep that by the time we landed, I had to scramble to gather my things & get off the plane. I did a cursory visual sweep of my seat as I left, but nothing seemed to be left behind. Of course, my iPad was still there, tucked away in its black neoprene case, sandwiched between the vomit bag & the AirMall catalog.



I didn’t realize it until I was already on my next flight to Savannah. Because there was some time before take-off, the flight attendant was kind enough to let me run to the gate next door, where I’d deplaned after my first leg. Another kindly US Airways employee ran back onto the plane to take a look, & he checked with the crew to see whether someone might have picked it up or turned it in. No dice – and I had to run back to my flight before he could complete his search.

I recognize that it’s my fault that I left behind such a valuable item. Still, I’ve never been so frustrated in my life by the customer service I’m received – or not received – from US Airways. People complain about them, but I’ve never had a problem before – cheap tickets, smooth flights, friendly staff. But as soon as you go behind the scenes, past the everyday faces of the airline, it’s a different story. The guy I spoke with last night at US Airways’ main office actually had the gall to tell me, “You know, you’re not going to get it back.” Hey, thanks, man, for your sunny disposition and for all the help.

Every one of the dozen employees I’ve spoken with has told me to do something different – call the Charlotte lost and found office, call the Jamaica lost and found office (where the plane went next), call the airline’s main office, call the airport’s main office, email the airline’s lost & found “warehouse.” There seems to be no actual process for locating, retrieving or returning lost items of value, which is especially frustrating because I strongly feel that no one stole my iPad – that it’s just floating around in the US Airways abyss, waiting to be located by someone who gives a damn & will take the time to notice that my ticket is in the case, making its owner easily trackable. 

So far, I've filed an official claim with the airline, called/emailed everyone I've been directed to (and some I haven't been), found a friend with a friend who works in the Charlotte office to check for me, posted a plea on US Airways' Facebook wall, tweeted like a maniac, emailed myself in case whoever found it checks there, checked the Find my iPhone app (of course, I hadn't connected my iPad to it yet), & taken steps to contact my insurance company in case renters' insurance will cover this. I think that's an exhaustive list.

I’ve also been making a huge deal about this via social media in case some Good Samaritan happened to have picked up the iPad somewhere along the course of the day yesterday without turning it into the airline. If you’d like to retweet my plea for its safe return – or make a Twitter ruckus with me! – I’d love to cause such a stir that US Airways has to address why its lost & found system sucks so badly. I don't expect to get my iPad back, but I had to try - and in the course of trying, I found that this system is so broken that I doubt anyone ever gets anything back from them!

Also: If you’re holding onto my iPad as you read this? Please, please, please consider sending it back to its rightful, devastated, slightly irresponsible owner.

_________________

Post script: 
First, a million thanks to Mary Beth at Consumerist.com for republishing part of this post on the Consumerist blog! Thanks also to everyone who's tweeted, retweeted or tried to be helpful in any way.

Second, I think a lot of people are missing my point, which I may not have made clear in my emotional mourning for my lost iPad: I get that the iPad is gone, you know? I shouldn't have left it in the seat back pocket, & of course there are plenty of dishonest people out there, passengers & employees alike, who would've been quick to snatch up such a find. I am disappointed in myself for leaving it behind, & disappointed in humanity that people abide to the "finders keepers" adage. Still, after more than a dozen phone calls/emails & just as many clueless employees, I just think it's sort of amazing that US Airlines seems to have no actual lost & found system in place. There have to be plenty of things that have actually been found, & after this experience, I have to wonder if their owners are ever reunited with them, even after trying really damn hard.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Is it Worth it? Lemme Work It.

I went to the doctor last month, & the number on the scale bowled me over. I've never been thrilled with those numbers, but this time, I found myself precariously close to tears. Though no one knew the exact digits but the nurse & me, I felt profoundly embarrassed: Embarrassed I let myself get this way, embarrassed I was focusing so little on my health, embarrassed I couldn't get a handle on my penchant for overeating.

Struck by the numbers, I recommitted myself to trying to get healthy. I've tried before, of course. I've tried Weight Watchers, calorie counting, running... & I've always failed, quickly, wholly & humiliatingly. It just never clicked. I cared, but maybe not enough. I wanted to be healthier, thinner, fitter, but I just couldn't find it in me to do the things necessary to get there. "Just a few more handfuls of Goldfish," I'd tell myself, & a few more handfuls became the entire bag.

The story I'm telling you now is not a story of instant success. There is no such thing. If you've ever tried to get healthy and/or lose weight, you know this, because you've likely struggled yourself. There is no quick fix, no easy road. It's a slow process, a change in not just practice but in mindset. It's retraining your mind & your body, evaluating all of your choices, and sometimes denying your taste buds the flavors they crave.

After lamenting to one another about our frustrations with our bodies & our health, my friend Lindsey & I began what we're oh-so-creatively calling the 100-Day Challenge, a three-month effort to get healthy - together. Every evening, we email one another a list of what we've eaten that day, which keeps us honest & holds us accountable. After all, no one wants to admit she ate an entire pizza alone. We also text regularly throughout the day to ask for support, confess our failures, brag on our successes, & share tips, recipes, etc.

We're about three weeks into the challenge, which will end on Valentine's Day, & I'm doing my best to drink tons of water, eat healthy foods, ride the stationary bike Nathan bought, & curb my nighttime snacking habit. I don't always do a great job of it, but I'm trying. And hard. My daily menus consist of frozen entrees like Amy's Spinach Pizza in a Pocket and Healthy Choice's Garlic and Herb Shrimp & things I "cook," like quinoa & black beans with sriracha (I can't stop eating thisss) & breakfast sandwiches made with multigrain English muffins, meatless Morningstar maple sausage & veggie American "cheese" slices. I snack on carrot sticks, pretzels, & mango slices, & I've given up Diet Coke entirely, replacing it with V8 Fusion juice & Starbucks Mocha Lite Frappucinos when I need a caffeine kick. I've eaten meat only twice in the last month. I drink about 96 oz. of water a day. I've begun taking a GNC VitaPak daily. I ride the bike three times a week. I fall asleep to guided meditation. I get enough sleep.

I'm already feeling the effects of my efforts. I'm less tired. I'm less sickly. I have fewer headaches. I have fewer gastrointestinal problems. I'm less angry, less moody, less self-loathing. I feel good about what I'm doing, not just because I care how I look but because I care how I feel. Am I doing an amazing job? Not necessarily. The other night, I ate half a bag of sweet chili rice crisps (not as healthy as they sound), & I regularly go over my recommended caloric intake by about 200 calories - but at least, rice cakes aside, it's healthy food. It's quinoa & applesauce & string cheese & strawberries instead of... God, what was I even eating before? I can't remember, but I know I felt like crap on an everyday basis.

Since that day in the doctor's office, I've lost seven(ish) pounds, but I haven't set an actual weight-loss goal for these 100 days. I just want to feel better. I suppose it's possible that I'll always be a slightly chubby girl woman with obnoxiously big boobs, & it's possible that this is just the body I'm going to have to live in, accept & love - but I want to give myself a fair shot. Together, Lindsey & I are giving ourselves that shot, & we're supporting one another in the process. Our 100-Day Challenge will end on Valentine's 2012, which is fitting, I think, as this challenge is all about caring for our bodies & treating them well. I guess self-love doesn't make for as many cheesy Hallmark cards, but it sure is making us feel good.

Images: scale, water, bike, sleep, quinoa

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Passion for Bad Fashion, Pt. 2

The great & powerful fashion designer Mugatu says I am qualified to write this post. No, really!

 

"Obey my dog."

All right, ANYWAY. From time to time, I like to photograph particularly egregious acts of bad fashion. Please join me in this act of public shaming.

Let's start out slowly. If "slowly" is a seizure of mismatched patterns with Crocs to top it off. Dude, you're, like, 25. You can NOT be reeling in the ladies or the job offers in a get-up like this.

Are you a cartoon villain, ma'am? A Playboy bunny, perhaps? A go-go dancer? A marching band majorette? No? Then there's absolutely no excuse for white patent leather boots. Oh, unless you're a fembot. Which you may actually be.

The final outfit, spotted in Orlando, is today's crowning glory. It is absolutely unacceptable - I repeat, absolutely unacceptable - for any woman over the age of 12 to wear such an outfit in public. And frankly, even if you were 12, you shouldn't wear this in public. Because this is pajamas. (Of note: This woman was approximately 35.)

And just for kicks, here's a bonus photo of a guy carrying a rifle through a store. Live free or die!
 

"I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!" 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

I've Got Friends in High Places

My friends are always fantastic, but lately, they've been even cooler than usual. How? Because they've been FAMOUS. And while that may be a bit of an exaggeration, I would like to take this opportunity to brag on them because I can.

  • My good friend Ben, who was fellow RAC legislative assistant in 2007, is now a jack-of-all-trades reporter for Congressional Quarterly. If you've never heard of it, fear not - it's only because you're not a political wonk like Ben is. CQ is well-known on the Hill, read by all the most powerful folks in the game, which is probably how Ben ended up on Greta Van Susteren last week talking about Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac. Do I understand the conversation? No. That's why Ben is being interviewed, not me.


  • I like to imagine that everyone who lives in Los Angeles is best friends with a celebrity. That's true, right? My friend Danit really does get to meet celebs, maybe because she has a sweet gig as a marketing person in West Hollywood - but it was her Halloween costume, not her swanky job, that landed her in last week's tabloids! US Weekly dubbed her & "Gossip Girl" star Chace Crawford "pals," even if the truth was that she just grabbed him for a photo opp because they were both dressed as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She didn't even know he was famous!


  • I was excited & confused to receive an email last week with the subject line "A pair of new shoes with matching laces," which I hope you all recognize as a line from the song "King of New York" from the best movie in the world, Newsies. The subject line was a reference to my friend & former roommate Jason's big moment: He was published in the Washington Post! His letter to the editor on juvenile justice appeared in the Post's Oct. 31st print & online editions.

I'm kvelling! (That's Yiddish for "bursting with pride.") I look forward to many more opportunities to brag about the people I love, as I'm sure a great many of them will go on to do a great many awesome things. What about you? Got any pseudo-famous friends?

Friday, November 4, 2011

Libi B'Mizrach: My Heart Is In The East

Yesterday I made a Twitter announcement that I would soon be making a Twitter announcement. Meta and/or cryptic, I know. I had received great news but was waiting for all the details to fall into place before I could officially make my news known. Of course, this meant I also had to qualify everything with, "But I'm not engaged or pregnant!" including a voicemail to my grandmother. Awkwarrrd.

Today, my news became official: I was selected to lead a KESHER Birthright trip to Israel in February! As you may recall, I went on a Birthright trip as a participant in January of this year. Birthright is a partnership between various Israeli agencies & organizations that come together to fund free trips to Israel for Jews across the world ages 18-26. To date, Birthright reports that it has sent more than 250,000 young Jews to Israel through this program - and did I mention that it's free?

I never wanted to go to Israel. Like, literally, I had no interest. Having worked for a Jewish public policy organization, all I knew of Israel was politics - the conflict, the conflict, the conflict. I had no interest in being a part of that conversation, & I had even less interest in putting up with the "Never say a bad word about the Holy Land" view that so many Jews seem to hold. Israel, I maintained, was not for me.

Except that it was - and I had to be there to recognize that. Conflict aside, there is so much more. Israel is falafel & sunshine & history & mountains & democracy & marketplaces & architecture & countrysides & music & the ocean. Israel is more than the conflict that surrounds it. I came home refreshed, renewed, rejuvenated, all of those wonderful "re" words that indicate a shift in attitude & worldview. I came home happy.

And now, it's official: I get to do it all again, & even better, I get to help others go through it for the first time. I can't wait to help usher other young Jews through their inaugural experience in Israel, to help ensure that their trip is everything mine was & more. I can't wait to spend the day at the Dead Sea, atop Masada, wandering the shuks, to spend the nights in Bedouin tents & dancing in Tel Aviv. I can't wait to test my own leadership abilities, to serve as a role model, a friend & a guide to students who are just experiencing this magical place for the first time.

I can't wait. I can't wait. I can't wait.


Image from my friend Jen

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Frigid & Boring?

I love Starbucks' red cups as much as the next caffeine monster, but is it just me, or does the sweet sentiment printed on this year's cups not exaaaactly convey the holiday spirit they're intended to?


I get it, in theory, but...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Somewhere, In Another Story...

I'd like to introduce you to someone.

This is Dave.


Perhaps it's not my place to make this link available to you. But it's on the Internet, so it's fair game, right? Because the world will never know any more of the beauty of Dave's writings & personality than they knew of him at age 20, I want to make sure people still have the opportunity to hear his voice, to know what a beautiful soul he was.

Last month marked 10 years since Dave & I first began dating. We met during a chilly outdoor fire drill, exchanging witty remarks & trying to decipher whether the other was interested. Our first phone call, just a few days later, was hours long. As a result, every autumn feels like "Dave season" - even now. If you've been here for awhile, you know our story. And if you don't, you can find it here. Or here.

It has been nearly seven full years since Dave killed himself, & it's been even longer since he & I were an us. I am 27 now, in love, a real adult, eons away from the emotional state of my 17-year-old self. Still, even now, I can't help but where Dave & I would be had he made it. There are infinite variables, of course, including the fact that if he had made it through his dark place, I may not have made it through my own. But in a perfect world, if everything else remained the same except for his death, I wonder what would have become of us. We dreamed of getting an apartment together in New York City, listening to the city below as we stayed warm & contented inside. He dreamed of being a teacher, & I dreamed of being an author. We dreamed of being in love forever.

"We made plans to be unbreakable; love was all we knew. 
No insurance for the unthinkable, blindly get us through."

And yet, Dave & I were not on good terms when he died. In fact, I can't even remember whether we were on speaking terms at all. I suspect I've pushed this memory into some dark, cobwebby corner of my mind, not wanting to bring more pain upon myself than I've already experienced in Dave's name these almost-seven years. I remember vaguely the last time I saw him, at some concert in town (Lovedrug, was it?) when I spotted him across the room. The purple lights of the concert venue (where were we?) shined down upon him in such a way that he looked both regal & unreachable, beyond the boundaries we used to have. He wasn't mine anymore. I wrote a poem about it, about those lights, but it's long since been lost, which is probably for the better; I can't imagine my poetry was any good at 17. Still, I remember those lights over him. They were beautiful but sinister, somehow, & looking back, those lights & that poem feel foreboding.

I don't know much about psychology, but I know enough to recognize that I am still broken, in so many ways, by this first relationship & the baggage I carry from it. During the recent series finale of "Friday Night Lights," I cried & cried, not because my favorite show was ending but because I could never be like Tyra & Tim. I would never have that happy, contented reunification with my first love in which both parties happily share stories of their new, evolved lives, with all past misdeeds forgiven in the name of foolish youth. I still live with those misdeeds, & though they continue to fade with time, they have wounded me enough to have created hardened scars that I fear may never fully disappear.

I hurt Dave, & Dave hurt me. We were 17 & fragile, a mess of emotions in a time that celebrated the concept of "emo," of being so in touch with our feelings that we could hardly function. We were not unbreakable, after all. But for better or for worse, forever or not, he was my first love - and because he died much, much too soon, I find myself stuck in an unfortunate situational limbo, placing more importance on the sentiment of first love than I ever would were he still here, were we a normal, faded high school love story.

Dave was a musician - and in happier times, before everything imploded, he was madly in love with me. He once wrote a song in which he speculated of our wedding invitations, of a time when we were old enough & comfortable enough to share something as simple & intimate as brushing our teeth together. It ended with this line:

"Do we have the strength to make it there? 
Would you think less of me if I said yes?"

I think of this line & I like to imagine that in a perfect, parallel universe, somewhere beyond this one, Dave & Kate made it through. I hope they are happy - but I know they are.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Just Another Day at the Office

The following is a real conversation, as word-for-word as I could transcribe it while it happened, that occurred at my downtown Starbucks. Please imagine, if you will, that the star of this conversation is a 60-something (Jewish?) woman with a high-pitched, nasally voice & an accent that's a cross between Boston & the Bronx, resulting in what can only be described as "Fran Drescher Does 'The Departed,'" with a bit of "Coffee Talk" thrown in for good measure. Tawk amongst y'selves.

*****

Woman: "Y'know that guyyy? Buble, somethin'? His name is Buble? I don't know his first name. I think it's Rahhhbit. You know who I'm talkin' about?"

Barista: "No, sorry, no idea."

Woman: "You know, he's got that song, the one about the girl he hasn't met? I think he's singin' it on a bus, maybe, to this girl he doesn't even know. And it's amazing, he's a real singer, he'll met your heart."

Barista: "Well, he's a dude, so I don't... I don't know if dudes can melt my heart."

Woman: "This guy! This guy could. But you know who I mean? The Buble guy? Is his name Rahhhhbit?"

Me: "His name is Michael."

Woman: "MICHAEL! MICHAEL BUBLE! That's him, yeah! And he's singing about this girl, but he never metta. He sounds a little bit like Sinahhtra. This guy's somethin' else, man, Jesus.I have to go to Canada, that's where he's from. He's probably got a million girlfriends. I wish I could meet a guy like that."

*****

Note: If you're not familiar with this song, here's a video of my mom singing it.

Image source
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