Rendez-Vous New England

Thursday, September 29, 2011

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It's no secret that I don't really have any friends here. So when I read that Alison from Long Distance Loving & Jillian from Cornflake Dreams were hosting a swanky blogger meet-up earlier this month in Boston called Rendez-Vous New England, I decided I'd branch of out my hermit-like comfort zone & join in the fun.

I was nervous, yo. Remember that time I told you about how I have All of The Social Anxiety? It was in full force on Rendez-Vous New England Night. To eliminate the hassle of commuting in & out of the city, I'd booked a room at the unobtrusive-but-still-relatively-posh Charlesmark Hotel in downtown Boston & spent the hour-long lead-up to the evening frantically texting a friend who talked me down from my ridiculously unfounded social phobias. Finally, I headed to the hotel lounge to meet up with the other bloggers, none of whom I'd ever met or, for the most part, read before that night.

Guys, it was great. Lesson learned. I was comfortable & normal, & so were all of the other ladies (& one brave dude) in attendance. Once I got past my initial fear of conversing with (very fashionable) strangers, it was just like I'd known them all along. And I drank one of these, guaranteed to induce happiness & ease fears of social settings:

I also got to check not one but two things off my 101 in 1,001 List: "Go to a blogger meet-up" and "Buy myself a night in a hotel, just because."

Did I mention that there was swag? Because there was swag. Gift bags included earrings from Sheyna Jewelry, chocolate-covered apricots from someplace delicious, antibacterial wipes from Desiree Spinner Events, snacks from Popchips. Yeah, I'm done name-dropping. Except....

...that I won this really gorgeous necklace valued at $121 from Sheyna Jewelry, one of the event sponsors. Um, check this out:

Pretty, yes? And I have worn it almost daily since then, yes? If you're interested in owning one of your own or something similar (you can even design your own jewelry), visit & enter the promo code "kate20" for 20% off. Now excuse me while I go create something splendid.

Photos from: 1, 2, 3, 4
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Hogwarts Heartaches

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

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A conversation with my best friend, Christina, who is basically the world's nicest person (I'm not sure how she puts up with me, either!) following our Pottermore sortings.

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My Letter to Boston Fashion Week (Summary: "Really? You Scheduled it on Rosh Hashanah?!")

Monday, September 26, 2011

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Last week, I received an invitation to attend Fall... In Love With Fashion, billed as "a fun and chic night of fashion at Northshore Mall complete with runway fashion shows, hors d'oeuvres, cocktails & much more!" Sounds fun, right? I thought so, too, & was planning to attend - until I realized that the event falls on September 29th, which is Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest of Jewish holidays.

When I looked further into Boston Fashion Week, with which the event is affiliated, I learned that BFW takes place Sept. 28-30 - the duration of the holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Nice, I know. Would you attend an event on Christmas? No. Nor will I attend an event on Rosh Hashanah, no matter how freaking cool it may be.

Steaming, I shot off an email to the Northshore Mall outreach person who'd originally invited me to the blogger event. Recognizing that it's not her fault Boston Fashion Week is so poorly & insultingly scheduled, I also sent it to the general mailbox of BFW & a few key media folks I thought might like to know about my rage. I thought you might want to know, too, because you guys seem to appreciate my rants. Here you go.
Dear Ms. Brodskaya,

While I thank you very much for your invitation to attend these exciting events at Boston Fashion Week, I will regretfully be unable to attend any of them - because, as an observant Reform Jew, I will be celebrating Rosh Hashanah, which falls this year from September 28th through 30th.

I can't express strongly enough my disappointment that the organizers of Boston Fashion Week felt it acceptable to schedule this high-profile, supposedly all-inclusive event during the Jewish tradition's holiest of holidays. It is inconceivable that any major city would schedule its fashion week to occur on the Christian holidays of Christmas or Easter; scheduling such an event during Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur is akin to such a grievous error.

As you may recall, London Fashion Week & New York Fashion Week have in recent years been scheduled to conflict with the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur - the other biggest holiday of our faith. As both of these (entirely avoidable & egregiously insulting) scheduling disasters made headlines worldwide, I would expect the organizers of Boston Fashion Week to be more sensitive and attuned to the religious calendar and more committed to avoiding similar conflicts. Given the high population of Jewish residents of the Boston area (if you're curious, can give you a feel for just how Jewish the city is!), I would expect Boston Fashion Week organizers to do their best not to alienate this community from the biggest fashion event the city has to offer.

As I'm sure you are aware, Jewish designers contribute heavily to the success and flourishing of the fashion industry. Jewish designers include, for starters, the likes of Max Azria, Kenneth Cole, Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Stella McCartney, Isaac Mizrahi and Zac Posen - to name just a few of the most recognizable. Countless Jewish runway models, including Israeli superstar Bar Refaeli, also walk the runway with pride. Asking designers, models and fashion fans to choose between their dedication to fashion culture and their commitment to their faith is insulting, unacceptable and, frankly, surprising.

In the future, I not only hope but expect the people behind the planning of Boston Fashion Week to be more sensitive, inclusive and sensible in their organizing of this otherwise wonderful event. I am disappointed to be unable to participate this year - but I'm even more disappointed that this scheduling conflict was a completely avoidable one that your organizers simply opted to ignore.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Kate B____

CC: Boston Fashion Week, Nicole Kanner (All Heat PR), Rich Barlow (Boston Globe), Gal Beckerman (The Forward), Susan Jacobs (The Jewish Journal), M. Steven Maas (The Jewish Advocate)

Note: Just received a response from the Executive Director of Boston Fashion Week, both via email & in the comments section of this post. Very much appreciated.
Dear Ms. B____,

Thank you for your email. 

Please accept my personal apology for any offense our scheduling decisions have caused this year.

We schedule according to the fashion calendar (traditionally the final week of September), as to do otherwise would conflict with fashion weeks in other cities, an act that would undermine the purpose of holding it in the first place. And although we always take major holidays of all faiths into consideration, we are not always in a position to avoid scheduling Boston Fashion Week at a time when there are no important holidays on the calendar.

I would also like to point out that Boston Fashion Week takes place this year between September 23rd-30th. The final three of eight days are the conflict, so even an observant Jew may partake of Boston Fashion Week and still keep with the traditions of their faith all in the same week. 

You'll be glad to know that I've just checked the dates that Rosh Hashanah falls on for the next five years and fortunately Boston Fashion Week will be able to keep to its established time table without creating any issues for observant Jews who also happen to enjoy fashion events.

All the best,
Jay Calderin
Founder and Executive Director

Photos: 1, 2
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Party On, Party People!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

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By the time most of you read this, I will be headed here:

And staying here:

With about half of them:

Who I haven't since since we were here:

You can probably find me here:

Or here:

Or doing this:

And when I get back, he will be home from deployment!

I think it's gonna be a really good weekend, don't you? Ciao!

Photos: Vegas, Treasure Island, pool, Bellagio, cocktails; all others are my own or from friends
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not imPRessed

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

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Unlike a lot of bloggers, I rarely receive PR pitches. I attribute this to a few things:
  1. This blog is popularish but not that popular.
  2. My posts do not necessarily reflect the most effusive tone, which may, admittedly, scare off PR folks looking for gushing reviews.
  3. I do not blog about any specific niche. It's tough to pitch someone on "Stuff that's just plain funny."

Lately, though, I've gotten a number of PR pitches - from folks who have clearly never even looked at my blog. My first instinct is, "They like me, they really like me!" followed immediately by raging anger at realizing that:
  1. I am not actually special.
  2. They probably sent this email to 100 other bloggers they didn't read.
  3. These people suck at their jobs.

First, let me tell you about the kinds of pitches I'd be interested in receiving:
  1.  A lifetime supply of WB shows on DVD in exchange for writing an in-depth summary of "Dawson's Creek" as a metaphor for real life, complete with pictures of the show shrine I cultivated as a teenager (actual photo to the right)
  2. ....

OK, that's all I can think of. Now, let me describe a smattering of pitches I've actually received in the last few months:
  1. An invitation to a Boston event from a PR chick who "thinks it's awesome [I] spread the word about events and other things [I] love about Boston," which, I should note, I have never done.
  2. An eco-friendly line of hairstyling products... for babies & small children
  3. A Threadless-style designer T-shirt company... for babies & small children

n two of these, the senders got my name wrong. In other words, total suck.

Let's be clear. In the past, I've accepted a couple of paid advertising requests & have done subtle "reviews" (ish) on products received. But these are for/on things I like - boots, magazines, bags, dresses - and they make sense for me, a girl who blogs about... um, nothing in particular, really. I'm a simple gal - but I'm not a gal with small, trendy kids or a deep knowledge/abiding love of Boston.

Is it so much to ask that PR people look at blogs before sending poorly thought-out pitches that are likely to receive nothing but aggravated responses? Are they just pulling blog names out of a hat? Throwing darts at someone's Google Reader? I was a PR person once (albeit only for three months, but... well... shhhh), so I hold them to a higher standard than others bloggers might. Do your research, folks. Earn your money. Don't be stupid. Above all, don't make me hate your product by ticking me off.

I also don't understand why I've gotten three emails from the same woman asking to guest post on my blog by writing a post on relationships. Same rules apply there, but... it's weirder.

    Photos: First photo my own, 2
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    Baby, Baby, I'm Sorry, Just Wanna Tell You Don't Worry

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

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    This is the sort of thing I'd usually just tweet about, but I don't know if 140 characters can do justice to the actual hilarity of it.

    I'm working downtown today, eating lunch at a popular cafe called Popovers before making my way to the Starbucks across the street. It's monsooning rain, of course, & I'm carrying my overloaded purse along with a computer bag that contains, you know, my computer (the heavy one) and my iPad. I'm also trying to maneuver a very ugly, very broken purple umbrella, & the construction workers a few feet away have a good laugh at my expense as I struggle to open it & get soaked in the process.

    And then I hear it. The music. Is it my phone? Is that Micaela's ringtone? She's the only person I'd give this song to because of that time we burst into song at lunch at work a long time ago. But Micaela & I don't talk on the phone. Why is Micaela calling me?! I struggle to locate my phone within the abyss that is my hangbag, & it's not ringing - but the music is still playing.

    Is it my computer? I just put it in standby mode; maybe something is amiss. I pull my entire laptop out of its bag, out of its case, & hold it close to my ear, listening for the music that's now drawing stares from passersby - and laughs from the same construction workers.

    It is not my computer.

    OH, GOD, WHY THIS SONG? I swear I have better taste in music than this. I like Elton John & the Beatles & Selena Gomez &, you know, artists who are good.

    And then I discover it. My iPad, blaring like a stereo. I had no idea it could be so loud. And isn't it supposed to turn off when the cover is on it? What woke it up? How did this happen? Most importantly, how do I turn it off? Struggling to balance my umbrella (because it's still monsooning, naturally), I dig for it. I take it out of the Neoprene sleeve. I open the flip cover. I push buttons. I hit it aimlessly. People are laughing at me. I am soaking wet, but my iPod is safe & dry.

    And, finally, off.

    It's on pause, leaving me vulnerable to future attacks. I am unembarrassable, but today has done the trick. I am awkward beyond awkward. Zooey Deschanel's "New Girl" may cute & full of whimsy, but she's got nothing on legitimate awkwardness of this caliber.

    I don't know if I'll ever be able to hear the Backstreet Boys' "The Call" without remembering this moment.

    Image credit
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    Bridge Over Covered Waters

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

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    When I was a kid, I hated "drives" more than anything. On weekends, it was common for my parents to decide that we should "go for a drive," which just meant wandering aimlessly through the many open roads of Northeast Ohio - in the days before GPS, no less. Even now, I equate these drives with Amish country, where we often ended up.

    But this weekend, I became my parents. I was in Vermont for work & thought it'd be a great opportunity to, you know, go for a drive. Remembering fondly a trip to look for covered bridges with my dad, uncle & cousin when I was 6 or so, I decided I'd embark on a Vermont covered bridge hunt of my own. There was one in downtown Woodstock,  where I was visiting, & I figured the "hunt" would end there. This bridge is the second picture to come up when you do a Google Image search for "covered bridge," so I figured it'd be a good one, & I wasn't wrong:

    Beautiful no? It's right in the middle of downtown Woodstock, still used as an everyday road through town. It may sound silly, but I've rarely felt so connected to my father as I did standing underneath this bridge. Quiet, old, a little bit eerie - I don't know much of my dad, but I knew he would've loved this one. It was just perfect.

    A pair of shivering Floridians took this photo for me. Where is my left arm...?!

    And the view from the bridge is gorgeous, though it betrays recent flooding in the area from Tropical Storm Irene:

    When I explained to a local woman my interest in covered bridges, she let me know that there were two others in town! I couldn't find one of them, which was badly damaged in Hurricane Irene, but I happened across this one, which is, sadly, shut down because of aforementioned flooding & damage from flying debris. Still, this bridge fared better than so many of New England's historic covered bridges, which were washed away in Hurricane Irene. (For example, this video broke my heart.)

    Seeing my Facebook posts, a friend suggested I head to her hometown to check out the longest wooden bridge in the U.S. (perhaps second only to New York's Old Blenheim Bridge, wiped away during August's storm). It was about half an hour out of my way, but what's half an hour when you've got all day free? I decided to go for it.

    Along the way, I: stopped at a garage surely hosted by a woman storing bodies in her freezer; tried (to no avail) to visit a bakery located in an old firehouse; and wandered through a very, very old graveyard.

    Finally, I stumbled across the Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge when I literally, you know, went across it. It spans the Connecticut River between Windsor, VT, & Cornish, NH, & I spent the duration of my 15-second drive confident that mine was going to be the car that sent the old bridge crashing into the Connecticut. Let's be honest: Covered bridges are a little creepy.

    This view is from the New Hampshire side, which is much better than the Vermont side, if I may say so myself. The Vermont side just looks like... a bridge. Here it is again, with Vermont's Mount Ascutney in the background. Don't you love the fine warning? Walk your damn horses, people!

    I'm cranky to learn tonight that there are three other covered bridges in Cornish, just down the road from where I was. I wish I'd researched this beforehand! I could've scored half a dozen covered bridge sightings in one morning! And yes, I know I might be crazy, but I think I'm just become a covered bridge enthusiast. Anyone else? Bueller?

    And now, in case you couldn't already tell, another requisite New-England-is-beautiful photo:

    And finally, a question. Why on earth does the gas station I stopped at in Vermont carry this much bacon?!?!
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    You Know You Live in the Sticks When...

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

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    I Know You Like My Style (You Like How I Break It Down)

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

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    So, um, I'm trying to be fashionable. Or if not fashionable, at least not a hobo, which is the genre my personal style most often resembles. Have you ever seen "Zoolander"? I often border on derelicte. 

    I'm attempting to embrace my body shape instead of being embarrassed of it; can you tell I've been watching TLC's "Big Sexy"? Plus, I've been reading a lot of great fashion blogs, & I was starting to feel bad about my life. I work from home, so technically I never need to wear pants, but...

    I'm trying. For example, I purchased a cotton maxi skirt the other day, which goes against all of my personal fashion rules. Except that I'm pretty sure all my personal fashion rules are wrong, so I'm branching out. Except that maxi skirts are really tough to style, especially when you are kind of short & relatively lumpy. Observe my vain-meets-awkward photos taken in front of a dirty mirror on a purple phone with terrible lighting. In order, I like to call these looks "Amish Chic," "Boobs on Parade " & "Fauxfessional."
    As you can tell, I've not yet gotten around to experimenting with colors. One step at a time, folks. So far, I've only worn the first outfit out in public, & I felt like a Mennonite version of Annie Camden the entire time, despite reassurance from my favorite Twitter fashionistas that I'd done well. Two days later, I discovered the XL sticker still stuck to the front of the sweater.

    Furthermore, I have begun wearing vests. VESTS. Yeah, I know. Who am I?
    Um, yeah, I don't think I'm into vests, after all. How are you supposed to style ANY OF THESE? Clearly, I have no idea. I'm embarrassed that I just posted those photos.

    Look, I'm trying, OK? But sometimes I get exhausted & just wear leggings as pants, which is unforgivable, I know, & makes me the biggest hypocrite of all of the hypocrites who ever lived. But also the most comfortable hypocrite. Here are the many faces of Casual Kate; please note that I'm only wearing leggings as pants in one of these photos:
    Don't worry, guys. Sometimes I keep it classic/classy.
    Would you judge me if I told you that black dress is from JLo's line...? Yeah, it's OK, I'm judging me, too. The pink dress I wore to Rendez-Vous New England is also from Kohl's - the Elle line, I believe. Apparently, I am 16. Also, this is the only item of pink clothing I own.

    So, uh, how am I doing? What can I do better? HELP ME. But please be kind. My fashion esteem is fragile.

    Photos: Mugatu; the rest my own
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    True-Life "Disturbia," Starring Yours Truly as Shia LaBeouf

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

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    Have I told you about how I think one of my neighbors is some sort of criminal? I do. Guys, this is some "Rear Window" shiz.

    I first met my neighbor, Marlo*, in the hallway of our building. He lives a few doors down, & he introduced himself to me as we discussed whether one of us ought to take in our in-between neighbors' ever-growing stack of packages while she was obviously away on vacation. He seemed nice, if a bit high-strung, & I was pleased to know someone in the building aside from the Tea Partiers across the hall.

    And then one day, I was doing my laundry. Because the first-floor laundry room is conveniently located across from Marlo's apartment, I could easily hear his phone conversation - without trying, I swear! The first thing I heard was a very loud, very sinister-sounding promise: "If you're not happy with how this turns out, Mom, I can take care of him for you." OK, that could mean anything... right? Plus, who talks crime with his mama? Besides, um, the Sopranos?

    Since then, a few things have happened:

    • I heard more of Marlo's initial conversation, which included words like "cocaine" & phrases like "criminal malpractice." He ranted about a local lawyer who should be "disbarred or taken out," & used a tone of voice my mom would likely murder me for.

    • While doing laundry the next week (I suddenly find that I need to do laundry a lot...), I overheard Marlo & some co-conspirators friends discussing someone they hate who "got caught." And also, cocaine. And also, the law. Unfortunately, I again couldn't make out the conversation.

    • I've since spotted Marlo taking phone calls from his car in the apartment complex parking lot. The car is always turned off, he is always yelling & gesturing wildly. He has glared at me menacingly the few times I've caught his eye during these "meetings."

    • I recently heard Marlo scream, "JUST F*CKING TAKE CARE OF IT!" I think this is one of those calls that should've been taken from his Jeep... & I was too scared to stick around to hear more.

    What is my responsibility to act? What if my neighbor is Patrick Bateman? Or Al Capone? Or Avon Barksdale? Or, like, any notorious real-life or fictional criminal?

    So now I know three people in my building - a Tea Party-affiliated couple & a likely criminal. Lots to choose from in case of emergency...

    *Not his real name. This is a "Wire" reference. I got that pannnndemic here! (Anyone?)

    Photos: 1, 2
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    Giving Back, the Democratic Way

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    Thanks to Walgreens for sponsoring my writing. Help Walgreens help others! Visit their Facebook page here to learn about their charitable partners and decide which cause Walgreens will donate to with a quick vote.

    At my old job, we ran weekend seminars to Jewish high schoolers, educating them on current social justice issues & teaching them how to advocate for their political beliefs. Every Shabbat morning of these seminars, one of my bosses (a rabbi) told the same story: It was the story of a town where residents were drowning as they fell into the local river, & the townsfolk were concerned. They set up a guard downriver to catch those who'd fallen it - but still, people died. And then they put up a net to catch those who'd fallen in - but still, people died. Finally, someone asked: "Why are these people falling into the river in the first place?" Only by addressing the root of the problem could they come up with an effective solution.

    The same is true of social justice work. Sure, food pantries need donations & soup kitchen need volunteers. Kids need tutors to teach them to read, & Planned Parenthood needs escorts to shield its patients from angry protesters. There is always immediate work to be done, & of course, immediate work helps immediately, in the moment. But what it doesn't do is address the root of the problems - it doesn't save people from drowning in the first place.

    I'm a firm believer in social justice that focuses on the root of the problem. My first job out of college was with the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, a Jewish social profit organization that advocated on behalf of more than 60 vital issues - reproductive choice, economic justice, LGBT equality, gun control, a two-state solution, education policy, health care. That job taught me the importance - nay, the necessity - of making my voice heard.

    Let me be clear: I am not wide-eyed & innocent. After three years in D.C. & a lifetime of sarcasm, I know well enough to be jaded. I do not believe that the government is necessarily effective - but I do believe in the importance of trying. While at the RAC, we were told by Congressional staffers that one phone call to a member of Congress represents the views of 100 constituents; one email, 10. That's how few people are reaching out to their elected officials - so few that each person who does counts for dozens more. And while speaking up may not have an effect, I still believe it must have more of an effect than never saying anything at all.

    I'm not discounting soup kitchens or Goodwill donations; hell, there are three bags of clothing in my own trunk waiting to be dropped off at the Salvation Army. I believe in the power of money, of donating to organizations that work for the values I believe in. But I believe in something bigger, too. I believe in personally demanding that Congress pay attention to the overwhelming need in this country. I believe in involving myself in politics - even when cut-throat, dirty &, as 2011 would have it, ignorant politics are the last thing I want to deal with.

    So where do you begin? For starters, think of an issue that matters to you. For example, one of my top concerns is civil rights, in securing justice for minorities. So I found the leading voices on these issues - organizations like the Human Rights Campaign & the NAACP - & I became a dues-paying member. But beyond giving money, I pay attention. I fill out their action alerts & tell my members of Congress when there's an issue on the floor that matters to me. I subscribe to mailing lists of others organizations whose missions resonate with me - organizations like Save the Children, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, J Street and NARAL - & when they send requests, I don't just click "delete." It takes all of 15 seconds, at most, to send a letter to Congress, yet I'm willing to bet that a vast majority of people have never done it. Sometimes I wonder if the staffers in my Congressman's office sit around laughing at me, the constituent they hear from every two weeks, if not more, when no one else is writing. But that's not stopping me from doing it.

    I urge you to keep giving back to your communities in whatever way you're most comfortable with - but I hope you'll push your boundaries, too. Even if you don't consider yourself "a political person," I urge you to recognize that politics, like it or not, makes the world go 'round - and as members of a democratic society, we have the opportunity to contribute to the national conversation. Isn't that the ultimate way to "give back"?

    Don't forget to help Walgreens help others! Visit their Facebook page here to learn about their charitable partners and decide which cause Walgreens will donate to with a quick vote. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

    Photos: 1, 2
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    You're STILL So Vain...

    Monday, September 12, 2011

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    Part One is here. Part Two is much more impressive, I promise.

    I included Maine plates this time because the Pine Tree State served up some darn good ones. Must be a New England thing, not just a New Hampshire thing.
    Which is your favorite? I'm particularly fond of "DANUBE" & particularly creeped out by "IVIDEOU."
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    The Same Story: 10 Years Ago Today

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

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    My story isn't special. It's the story of millions of kids across the country 10 years ago, the story of now-20-somethings who watched together in terror, confusion, utter lack of understanding. We are older now, we know more; the age on our faces betrays the decade passed, but how can that be? Wasn't it just yesterday that it happened?

    I was 17, a senior in high school. Mrs. Hardy's AP English class. Another teacher ran in & told us there'd been "an accident;" class went on. My friend Marisa & I made our way to third-period A Cappella, where a small, black & white TV was turned on but fuzzy, antennae held up by my sophomore-year boyfriend. I remember a reporter saying fear had spread "like mold in a wet basement;" what a stupid analogy for such a serious tragedy.

    We watched the towers fall together, cried together. One girl began a prayer circle for her fellow Christian students in the hallway. Another girl, whose uncle worked at the Pentagon, was in hysterics. And the quiet Chinese exchange student who worried her home country might somehow be responsible. Concern for a friend attending school in Pennsylvania, where the other plane went down, & for a family friend who was working on Wall Street - he saw the towers fall out his office window. We were seniors, 17 & 18, the perfect age for a draft; the perfect age for a war. What would happen to us? Would our male friends be sent away? Selfishly, we cried for ourselves.

    The day went on. They wanted us to pretend it never happened, take exams & carry on with our lives. At the last bell, I rushed home, turned on the TV until my mom joined me, then kept doing the same; we sobbed, without shame or any attempt to stop, in our living room, for hours. I wrote more than 15 pages in my diary; I wish I had it with me now, to go back to those emotions. I was most affected by the missing people, the corkboards full of fliers, the children holding signs asking their fathers to call home. A secondary explosion caused a tangential building to fall, & broadcaster Ashleigh Banfield reported as she ran - the moment I decided I wanted to be a journalist. Went to bed with a headache, with nightmares; woke up hoping it had been one of them.

    You know what I remember about that day, more than anything? Arriving early to school, congregating in the cafeteria with friends before the morning bell rang. My friend Nikki, wearing a shirt emblazoned with a glittery New York skyline, towers & all. My friend Kevin saying: "Today is going to be a bad day. I can feel it."

    A day we could never forget.

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    Thursday, September 8, 2011

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    Last night, I scolded my cat for peeing on my bedroom floor.

    (Could you be mad at that face for long?)

    I'm sorry, little guy. I should have known you'd never, er, piss me off that way. Turns out, it was an issue of leakage, but not the bladder-related sort. When I hopped into bed last night, the carpet squished under my feet - one step, then another, then another.

    I escaped Irene, but I can't say the same for yesterday's rainstorm. Apparently my apartment is in a "low spot," which means the storm water crept in & saturated my bedroom floor. As a result, I woke up to a room that smelled like a swamp & was nearly as wet.

    Kudos to my landlord for sending the maintenance guy out immediately; contractors are coming back tomorrow to re-carpet & to seal the leaks. In the meantime...


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    Much Ado About Chicken (& Waffle Fries)

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

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    Right now, I'm really up in arms about chicken.

    Yeah. Chicken.

    I don't even remember how the conversation began, but I started chatting with some folks on Twitter about Chick-Fil-A, arguably the best fast food chicken joint in the game. Let's be real: Chick-Fil-A's food is delicious. But their evangelicalism? Less so. It's not like this is anything new or that I'm saying anything special. It's just that the more I think about Chick-Fil-A, the more frustrated I get.

    As advertised on a plaque at corporate headquarters, Chick-Fil-A's company mission is to "glorify God." OK, that makes me a little uncomfortable (is an atheist any less qualified to serve chicken than a believer?), but if that were the only issue, I could get over it. As it stands, that's not the only issue.

    There's also the fact that the company's founder asks all Chick-Fil-A employees to adopt Christian principles - at least while on the job. "You don't have to be a Christian to work at Chick-fil-A," says founder S. Truett Cathy, "but we ask you to base your business on biblical principles because they work." To encourage this value set, many franchise owners host in-store Bible studies that offer free breakfast to attendees - and at some stores, bringing in your church bulletin will get you a free sandwich, too. Did I mention that the company prefers married workers because it feels they're more "productive"? (One in three store owners attends a relationship-building seminar at a Christian college, funded by the company.) And that they screen prospective franchise owners' family members to ensure that their store owners are effectively managing their households? Relevant, I know.

    Cathy, an evangelical Baptist, must be onto something, because the store's employee turnover rate is a mere 5% a year - but that doesn't make me any more comfortable with the concept or the fact that he regularly refers to Chick-Fil-A as "His gift." That's a capital H. Of course, sometimes there's turnover - like in 2002, when a Muslim manager was fired after refusing to participate in a prayer to Jesus at a company training workshop.

    Furthermore, while I love me some waffle fries, I don't want my waffle fries funding inequality, which is how Cathy spends a good chunk of his fortune. Earlier this year, a Pennsylvania Chick-Fil-A store made headlines when it catered (for free) a blatantly anti-gay marital seminar- but that's nothing compared to the fact that Cathy & Chick-Fil-A both tithe a percentage of annual income to WinScape, the company's charitable institution. WinScape's top donations go to the National Christian Foundation, which then makes grants to other groups - including Focus on the Family, Family Life, and the Family Research Council. To add insult to injury, Chick-Fil-A recently partnered with Focus on the Family to distribute copies of an FoF's radio show (Bible-based, of course!) with every kid’s meal. Would you like some proselytizing with those chicken nuggets? Chick-Fil-A has said it will no longer donate (directly) to groups with political agendas, including those that are anti-marriage equality, but that doesn't mean WinScape won't - with its Chick-Fil-A money.

    Things you might want to tell me that I already know:
    • Chick-Fil-A isn't the only company making controversial donations (see also: Target, Best Buy).
    • Chick-Fil-A does plenty of good, too, like, donating to education programs, foster programs & anti-homelessness initiatives. 
    • Everything I've read about Cathy & his family lead me to believe that he's a pretty good guy - who is, in my opinion, making some pretty offensive choices with his business.
    I also understand that we're all entitled to our own beliefs, & that it's likely that many of you won't agree with me here. It's just... how can some of these things not make you angry? I want to eat chicken & waffle fries; I don't want to fund bigotry or promote religious intolerance, inadvertent or not, while doing it.

    My soul, it hurts.

    Did I mention that there's no Chick-Fil-A within an hour's drive of me? It makes my decision easier. This is purely a rant.

    But, but... the waffle friiiiies.

    Photos: 1, 2
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