Tag Archives: postaweek2012

Therapeutic Cat-Washing

27 Jun

Yesterday I was so upset at the world that I washed my cat.

I think it had something to do with working a ten hour day and having my boss call me the moment I left the office.  Twice in a row.  And then text me seven times.  Right in a row.

There is something about the beeping that my phone makes upon a new text delivery that I am unable to check that feels like a hamster is nibbling at my insides.  When I know it’s my boss and I’m behind the wheel and helpless to know what the emergency is that inspires her to plague me so, that hamster gets upgraded to a gerbil.  And by the time I got to the grocery store, called her, handled said emergency, drove home, unpacked everything, changed my clothes, and saw that the house was a mess beyond livability, I would have had a more relaxing evening had I just set myself on fire and run out of my office building before it all started.

But I didn’t.  So instead, I took my cat for a walk.

Hobbes is an interesting creature of habit.  Once upon a time, Dave had a pang of guilt about man’s domestication of felines and their tendency to remove their manhood once domesticated.  And so to give Hobbes a taste of loveliness, he took him to the park, where I sang him a lively rendition of “A Whole New World”.   Ever since, when Dave gets home from work, Hobbes paws and meows at the front door until we either let him out or shoot him.

We don’t have a gun.

So since I was at my wit’s end and wanted a breath of fresh air anyway, I decided to kill two cats with one walk and bring Hobbes into the great wide open.  He doesn’t require a leash because all he does is roll around on the concrete like he’s on ecstasy and the concrete is neon silk.  The neighbors tend to stare.

And while Hobbes was relishing the highlights of neon and softness in the sidewalk, I sat beside him stewing about all the work I had to do that evening and how I really just wanted to play video games and eat cookies.   I imagined the carpet that needed to be vacuumed several days ago and the cat litter that I just scooped this morning that already needed to be scooped and the dusting, dishwashing, counter-cleaning and general exhaustion that was about to ensue.  It burned like a fiery pit of filth in my stomach, right beside the once-gnawing gerbil.

That’s when Hobbes’ ecstasy binge led him to a soft pile of dirt and he began to roll in a frenzy, overtaken by the spirit of a chinchilla.

He rolled and rolled.  I’d venture to say it was the happiest moment of his life to date.  It may have even made up for the fact that his ancestors had been torn from the tundra and domesticated into prissy little eunuchs.  

But I was not happy.  My mind was chock full of filthy things needing to be cleaned and even if I did every single one of them, my E-crazed chinchilla was just going to deposit a sack of black dust all over my living room anyway.  And since I had nothing inanimate near me on which to take out my sometimes compulsive cleaning habit, I instead grabbed the offender by the scruff of his neck and the tub of his tummy and carted him to the bathroom.

I think this is where I did the most harm.  Hobbes loves the bathroom.  He loves the sink and the tub and the perfectly Hobbes-sized carpet I apparently bought for him.  He loves the shower curtain and the occasional drip from the tub’s faucet.  He lives like a king in that sacred room.  But he doesn’t like water.  I know this because when, in my fury, I splattered the water all over his dirty behind, his eyes turned to saucers, his tail went stick straight, and he engaged every fiber of his being into actively escaping the porcelain death trap I had set for him.

But I’m a human.  And humans trump cats.  Hence the domesticated nutsack-stealing.

I rinsed about a half pound of black dust and dander down my tub before I started to worry I’d genuinely give him a heart attack so I turned off the water and convinced myself he was clean enough. I smothered him in a towel and then made a note to do a load of laundry because I had just used my last clean towel on my cat.

Freshly toweled cats are hilarious, angry little things.  I highly recommend it on a rough day.

I followed up the traumatic session with a gentle brushing, which was actually in my favor more than his but he’s too stupid to know the difference between a proper petting and a wire brush.  Another point for the humans.  I then nursed the wounds he’d inflicted that, due to my nerdy cat allergies, had swollen to look like boils all over my skin.  Point for the cats.

But I felt better.  I had cleaned something.  Not just that – I had cleaned something that fought back – and I had won.  I mean, I tend to take out my stress on my dirty apartment from time to time, but that’s just a hurricane of cleaning that ends in my sweat and tears.  This! This was fantastic.  Five minutes of cat cleaning and I’m good to go.  I can dust a little, vacuum a little, pick up a few cups and be done.  The filthiest thing in my apartment had already been conquered and it was now so upset at the violation that it was cleaning itself. Perfection.

Therapeutic Cat-washing, folks: I highly recommend it. 

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Flurries and Furries

20 Jun

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a blender.

Okay, I know – I’ve had a blender for a while.  That’s what you’re thinking.  Because obviously you’ve read every single one of my posts and you know that one time, in the year of The Jackie Blog postaday 2011 super festival, Jackie posted about wanting a blender.  And you’re right; I got one.  I called it The Blender of Shame and when I brought it home, I was disappointed that for 20 American dollars, you cannot buy a blender that will uniformly chip and blend ice.

The Blender of Shame post was March 9, 2011; over a year ago.  My blender hasn’t done anything since.   For a year, I’ve thought about things I could do with a good blender:  frappaccinos, alcoholic milkshakes, smoothies and protein shakes of all kinds.  And I wept.

But yesterday I found myself at Target.   But yesterday, I went to Target for a blender.  And while in the blender aisle (there’s an entire AISLE OF THEM), I stared at varying price levels with a multitude of claims.  And because I was upset that I had been duped into a terrible blender a year prior, I bought the most ridiculous one there even though it was a terrible financial decision.  I told myself that it would pay for itself in avoided Starbucks trips and in the number of times I will repeatedly buy crappy blenders until one day I give up and just buy expensive ones anyway.

It’s called the Ninja.  It claims to turn ice into powder, which, at first seems just a bit intense.  But I was mad, so I liked it. I set it up the very moment I got it home.

Actually, once I took it out of the box, I ran into my living room and tried to get my black cat to go in it so I could take a picture of her being a ninja in a Ninja box.

I lead a very exciting life.

I say all this to say: this blender is amazing.  It scares the bejeezus out of me.  Right before I touch the speed button, I get this little rush to my chest because I kind of feel like the blades will somehow whip themselves through the blender lid, into the sky, and directly toward my face.  That, and I’m excited about a good smoothie.  

I’ve already made three smoothie concoctions in only two days.  I think Dave is afraid that I’m going to make dinner and throw it into a blender out of enthusiasm.  And he’d probably try it too.

He’s a good man.

Anyway, I’m telling you about my blender today because I actually want to be telling you that I experienced a fantastical Lollipop Tuesday by going to the Furry Convention held in Pittsburgh this past week.   But I can’t tell you that because it didn’t dawn on me until they were packing up that I should have dressed like a kitten and run down to the convention center to do some insider reporting.

Furries, by the way, are folks who are so into animals that they dress like them.  Sometimes they even act like them.  Some go so far as to copulate when in costume or to never even take off the costume at all.  Here’s a picture for full effect:

 I remember a friend of mine who worked in a hotel downtown reminiscing about the troubles of furries in the hotel.  One furry in particular, deemed it prudent to use the hotel floor as a litter box and did not, in fact, clean up after himself. 

itself.

the furry’s self.

Not all of them do that.  I like to think of those folks as furry extremists.  They can also be people who just like a certain character so much that they associate themselves with it or like to dress up as it.  I love it when the Furry Convention is in town because it’s nice to run into a random raccoon in my favorite restaurant or see a family of small rodents downtown.  Life should always be fun like that.  I also like it because it significantly increases my chances of getting to explain to my boss what a furry is when she asks.

She did.  It was excellent.

But aside from all that, I am genuinely disappointed in myself.  I can’t imagine the absolute wave of inspiration that would wash over me the moment I step foot into that convention center.  It would have been glorious.  But I’m an idiot and by the time it occurred to me, they were packing away their tails and ears. 

Unless they were hardcore.  Then they just walked home or became strays I guess.

Anyway, it would have been easy and wonderful and instead it wasn’t and so instead I wrote about my blender.  And I vowed that next year I would have to continue the blog because by golly I’m not going to rest until I cover a furry convention.

Mark my words. 

How to Drive, Chapter 3

13 Jun

I would like to take a moment to address a woman I met in an intersection this week.  Let’s call her Patty.

You see, I would have addressed Patty in the moment but I was unable to.  I was too busy trying to avoid the mountain of metal she was commandeering so that I didn’t die a painful, car-to-the-head death.  I suppose after I narrowly avoided said mountain of metal, I could have mentioned it but I was too taken aback by the ridiculous face she made, which looked somewhat like this:

Well, that’ s my face doing an impression of her face and poorly cropping it.

This is me.

Also poorly cropped. And in a Yoshi go-kart.  I’m disappointed that this image is not representative of my actual vehicle.

I digress.

Somehow though I was following the rules of good American citizenship and driving according to the details laid out in my Pennsylvania Driver’s Manual, this woman seemed to think that it was my fault she was going to hit me.  And since I never caught up to her to hurdle insults and a driver’s manual through her window, she’ll never know the error of her ways.  In fact, she probably went home to tell her boyfriend all about the idiot she almost collided with in the intersection.

I don’t like fibbers.  And I don’t like to miss teaching opportunities.  I don’t really think I can go on with my life having not taken the time to do my part in educating America.  And though  Patty is probably going to drive around like a moron the rest of her life unenlightened and all her boyfriends are going to think she has terrible luck on the road, it is my mission here on The Jackie Blog to ensure all my readers are not Pattys. So here I give you:

How to turn onto a multi-laned intersection:

Chapter 3 of “Learning to Drive” from the PA Driver’s Manual. Seriously.

Now, the fact that this information is free and distributed both online and in print may surprise you if you’re a Patty.  It’s okay.  Take your time settling in.  That’s a lot of words and a tiny picture.  Let me poorly crop and color it for you.

That’s her in pink in the Birdo cart.  That’s me in green in the Yoshi cart.  This is the way it was supposed to go.  Patty and Jackie want to go west on this lovely roadway, they both have a green light, and so to avoid collision while keeping traffic moving and getting everyone where they need to go, people turn into the same lane in the position as the one they are leaving.  I’m in the left lane.  When I turn, I stay in the left lane.  Patty is in the right lane.  When she turns, she is supposed to remain in the right lane.

However, because Patty is, well, a Patty, she thinks that once you get one tire into an intersection, you enter a portal where you’re randomly assigned a new lane based on how you feel that day.  But she didn’t enter a portal.  She was still in reality, where her car was dangerously close to colliding with mine.   And for what was almost my parting image from this world, I was given with this charming face blaming me for my supposed error:

She also exaggerated mouthing the words “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?!?!?!”  She even mouthed the punctuation.  I saw it.

Regarding a left turn in an intersection, the DMV text states “By always turning into the lane closest to the centerline, you also avoid interfering with traffic coming from the opposite direction making a right turn onto the same street.”  It should actually read: “By always turning into the lane closest to the centerline, you also avoid interfering with traffic coming from the opposite direction making a right turn onto the same street. But stay alert for those who consider the intersection to be a sort of ‘portal’ wherein their brains are scrambled and they are randomly dispensed into a lane of their mind’s assignment.

So hey: if you’re a Patty, please reread this until you’re sure you’ve got it down.  In fact, just reread the whole manual. If you’re THE Patty – welcome to The Jackie Blog; please email me a picture of your face so I can make this more historically accurate.  Please also give your keys to the nearest licensed adult and donate your car to them. If you’re not a Patty at all, please consider sharing this with someone who is.  

It will make the world a better place and may one day make me famous enough to afford a Yoshi go-kart. 

My Declaration of Laziness

6 Jun

I’m in one of those modes again where I don’t feel like doing anything.

Well, I should be more specific.  

I feel like doing lots of things.  I feel like playing video games, eating junk food, taking lots of naps, buying things online that I may not even use in the next three months, and holding long conversations with my cats.  I’m also farting more than usual.  I don’t know what that’s about.   And I’m doing all of these things – while avoiding the absolutely monstrous and ever-growing to do list.

All the things on my to do list are “adult” things.  And adult things are icky.

Adult things like dishes, not adult things like porn.  

Anyway I have a lot of things to do and instead of paying them any mind, I am wrapping myself in cozy blankets when I come home from work and talking to my cats until I pass out with my hand still lodged in a bag of generic cheesy poofs.  I’m finding it difficult to get on top of things with this ritual.  Perhaps I should explain how I got here.

You see, several weeks ago I had reached a sort of Jackie Critical Mass.  Every day I was pelted with some new and hugely stressful thing and though I’m usually really good in those sort of scenarios, I really just couldn’t catch a break.  And I sort of went to the hospital with stroke-like symptoms.

Don’t freak out.   I know I don’t usually talk about anything but video games, Lollipop Tuesdays, cats, and social awkwardness, so you might feel somewhat uncomfortable right now.   If so, go up and read the part about my cats again, who have been mentioned twice in less than 300 words.  Breathe.  Come back when you’re ready.

Anyway, I didn’t have a stroke.  They ran lots of tests and took lots of blood and affirmed that I had a severe case of Stressed-the-Hell-Out.  I guess that isn’t the technical term for it but it should be.  After much arguing and a lot of harassment, I took time off from work to try to mellow out and not die.  I know it seems like a great excuse to get out of work, but I don’t often go to the doctor and when I do, I don’t often believe them.  Not going to work because I’m ‘overly stressed’ sounds pretty stupid to me.  Besides, if I have to use vacation time, I want to use it to go places and do things.  I don’t want to spend it sitting around.  So I tried to come in to work the following day but was instantly sent home because apparently they were serious when they told me not to come in.  I returned to my humble abode and spent most of it cleaning my apartment and catching up on all the things I was too busy to be able to do while I was at work.    

After two days of that, Dave whipped me into submission and I was forced to coddle myself.  I painted my toenails, I played video games, I browsed Pinterest; I was a waste of human flesh.  I actively said no to extra responsibilities, unwanted tasks, and things I usually do out of obligation.  I kept wading through the to do list and pushed everything off my figurative plate until it was squeaky clean and I could hear myself think again.

And that’s where I stayed.  For the past several weeks I’ve just been hovering in a state of aggressive relaxation.   It took a really long time to get here and now that I’ve practice saying no to lots of things and have taken such a liking to it that I fear I may never contribute to society again.  Every day I wake up a few minutes later, every day I convince myself a little more that I shouldn’t go in to work ever again, and every day I’m more at risk for showing up at the desk of a social worker, unwashed and jobless – babbling something about the day everything changed.  

Me. Totally gross. You know, it took me forever to find a larva picture that wasn’t on the move. Apparently they get around. Very mobile, larva. I felt that would be an inaccurate representation of my current state and opted to find a larva curled upon itself; a non-contributor.

I suppose I’ve been in denial for a bit so we can go ahead and call this very public admission of guilt the second step to recovery: I have milked my relaxation far too long and am now simply a lazy, non-contributor of a human being.

Okay, there it is.  I wrote it loud and proud.  That counts as acceptance.  I have to talk myself through this because as far as I know, there are no Lazy Slugs Anonymous groups in my area.  That, and in my state of perpetual do-nothingness, I had no contributions for today’s post and was forced to write the truth.

Now it’s time to get back on the trolley.  I’m pretty sure if I don’t get any sleep until Sunday, I can clear out the massive amount of junk that has acquired during my hiatus.  That’s probably a good way to have a stroke though.  Maybe I’ll just take it one step at a time.  Getting my hand out of the bag of cheesy poofs to write this blog post was a good first one.

And hey: for the last several weeks I’ve been posting my weekly post at the end of the day it is due instead of the beginning (how nice of you all to not mention anything).  But looky there: today I’m bright and early!

Maybe the winds are changing.  

This is Larva, signing off. 

Hypnosis and Nail Biting: An Experiment

29 May

You know, after trying over fifty new things last year, sometimes I wonder how I’ll continue to find fresh and interesting things to try as I maintain my Lollipop Tuesday series.  Luckily, there are a variety of daily deal companies that are happy to litter my inbox with wacky shit to try for a cheap price.  This week, it was hypnosis.  Because nothing says “hey, this is creepy and uncomfortable” like a Daily Deal Voucher for Hypnotherapy.

Happy Lollipop Tuesday, ladies and gentlemen.

As far as Lollipop Tuesday adventures go, on a scale of 1 to awkward, hypnosis ranked somewhere beyond the meter.  It was a prime example of an instance in which I could be murdered (as are almost all instances of leaving the house).  The idea of lone wolfing it into a strange office with a couch to talk about my feelings, get put into a trance by a watch, and to cluck like a chicken is, in my opinion, a likely murder scenario.  Because if someone is willing to do all of those things, they’re also probably willing to go out back to the shed and dig their own grave for you to bury them in.  

Anyway, I spent quite a great deal of time leading up to my appointment by strengthening my mind to oppose any ideas that might lead to my own murder while under hypnosis.  It was a lot like Harry Potter being trained for Occlumency, except I played the parts of both Snape and Harry.

I had no idea what to expect.   I was really hoping it would be like Office Space. 35 dollars for an experience that would result in my complete apathy toward work-related things, a loaded bank account from a scheme that I don’t go to jail for, and a coworker burning down my place of business is a great daily deal voucher indeed.   What I didn’t expect is to be asked what I was coming in for.  I told the hypnotherapist (let’s call him Skip) that I wanted to try something new.  He told me that he likes to focus on something for the sessions and that he would like to know what I struggle with.

That’s a little personal, but hey: I’ll roll.

As many avid readers know, I tend to take out my nervousness, boredom and/or general mood swings on my fingers.  It’s not just my nails; in fact, now it’s all cuticles.  I go at them with the vigor of a rabid mongoose as if in a trance and when I come to, I’m staring at something from Grindhouse.

Skip seemed happy to address my nail biting issue but the gravity of my scenario didn’t seem to hit him until I was on the couch in his office and he was talking to me about my “feelings”.  I didn’t really anticipate the couch treatment.  I don’t know why, but I thought we would just casually chat and then he’d put me in a trance.  Instead, he asked me about my history with my hands and when it started.  I told him I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t do it.

He got real serious on me then.

He started asking me how I feel when I do it, what the scenarios are that make me do it.  I told him I’ll revert to it when I’m bored.  If I’m forced out in social situations and I don’t want to be there, I’ll often just take out my angst on my hands.  Skip asked me what I meant by angst.  I explained that I didn’t really like to be around people.  He asked me what I do to cope and I said sometimes I’ll put on a character to just get through the night and pretend I like it.  I started to explain the concept of Mindee when I realized something very serious about myself:

I sound like an effing loon.

Really, I sound like I should be institutionalized.  I don’t like to leave my apartment because the idea of running into people I know or being forced into social situations with people I even call my friends makes me so angsty and upset that I often put on a character in order to cope? 

Suddenly, the nails don’t seem to be the problem.

I tried to casually wrap up conversation on the crazy nesting in my head and he said “I think I’ve got a good amount to work with here” and told me I could have a seat in the enormous  La-Z-Boy to his left.   Skip explained that the session would consist of an active relaxation technique in which he would guide me through a visualization using repetition and reaffirming statements. I would close my eyes but I would not sleep.  By the way, there were no watches involved.

Sounded simple to me.  You do a lot of strange things in theater school and lying on the floor, pretending to be somewhere else while music played in the background was certainly one of the tamer ones.  I told myself the worst part of the session was over.  I can do visualization.  I’ve rolled around on the floor in front of twenty of my peers using only the terms ‘glitter’ and ‘kitten’ as my guide; I can take a mental walk with a Hypnotherapist as my forest guide.

He guided me through relaxing all my muscles and thoughts and did the stereotypical “deeper and deeper” repetition to help get me into my happy place.  All I really did is go to my skeptical place, because in those theater classes in voiceover recordings and I was really unimpressed with his lack of vocal variety.

I imagined skeptical Jackie was not welcome on the forest walk so I tried to leave her behind and instead heard Skip reading aloud the Mad Lib we had created together earlier.   I was a wood nymph, headed to a pool of water on the forest floor and when I looked into the pond I saw someone with beautiful hands.  And that from then forward, I would feel (insert mad lib word from couch session) when I looked at my hands instead of (insert mad lib word from couch session).

It was kind of hard to get into it since his techniques were so obvious, but it was even harder when he kept accidentally incorporating cue words from a beach visualization into my sacred forest glade.

Apparently a lot of people order the beach for their getaway.

I wasn’t sure what the effects of bouncing between a beach and a forest would do to my inner psyche but I’m pretty protective of my napping hours and I don’t want Skip getting in there and messing things around.  I thanked him for his time, the recording, reassured him that the beach/forest mixup was no biggie, and went on my merry way.   He awkwardly wished me a happy future with beautiful hands.

Immediately after my session, I went to get a manicure.  All that talk about my ugly and/or beautiful hands made me want to spend twelve dollars on my digits.  And though I think it’s much more a result of paying so much attention to the issue and not so much the Hypnotherapy, I must admit that it’s been a week and I have yet to tear at myself so viciously.  Don’t get me wrong: I still do it every single day, but I’m sparing the nails now and only going for the cuticles and when I attack my fingers, I snap out of the daze and stop the violence a lot earlier.

I think that had a lot to do with Skip’s eye judgment and insinuation that I’m an addict out of control.  I didn’t like how quickly he made me feel like a lunatic with his hypnobabble mad libs and his alarm at my social anxiety.  I don’t want to say Hypnotherapy worked, but to be fair I have to admit that my nails look better this week than they have in quite some time.

I think my record for such achievements is two weeks.  In three, I’ll likely get a visit from my inner mongoose.  I’ll keep you posted. Until then, I’ll keep playing the voice of Skip walking me through the beach/forest and I’ll keep reimagining the rousing game of psychiatric mad libs on a leather couch.  

So far, so good.  Just don’t make me go back to the couch. 

The Trojan Unicorn

23 May

I’ve come to you this week in a bout of confusion and ecstasy.     

Seven short days ago, I was at work having a rather terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.  Honestly, that’s usually the case if it’s a weekday and between the hours of 8am and 5pm.  All times outside this window are sprinkled with pixie dust and merriment.   But seven days ago was different.  Because as I was encroaching on the final hour of my workday, I received an email from someone I didn’t know with an attachment I instantly loved.  And it changed the course of my life’s trajectory forevermore.

Well, maybe just for the remainder of the workday. But that’s still pretty epic.

At first, I was hesitant.  Typically, if I don’t recognize a sender or if there’s no subject line I instantly trash the message.   But I was feeling adventurous and clicked on the note in a bout of carelessness.  There was a name and a non-spammy looking email address and what looked like a hand-drawn attachment (dear non-gmail users: gmail lets you thumbnail preview attachments. come drink the google koolaid). And since I just couldn’t stop my rabid curiosity, I opened it and found this:

I have no rights to this image except that I adore it. If you own the rights, please email me back. WHY WON’T YOU EMAIL ME BACK!?

Yes – that’s a baby unicorn being tickled.  And it’s amazing.

Now, as my longtime readers will recall, I have a doppelganger who lives in California and who has an email address that must be strikingly similar to mine because I frequently receive emails that are intended for her.  She is a constant source of frustration in that she won’t email me back and is apparently friends with a bunch of people who don’t feel inclined to say thank you or sorry when I reply to kindly let them know they’ve reached the wrong person.  That’s why when I received a receipt for 25 of her students to attend mini golf in California, I considered grabbing 25 of my friends and going to mini-golf in California.  But it wasn’t really fiscally responsible.  And I guess a little vindictive.

Anyway, it is quite possible that this ticklish baby unicorn was meant for her.  

But those longtime readers will also remember that California Doppelganger Jackie is the antithesis of Jackie Blog Jackie.  She likes to go places and do things and run and has blonde hair and tan skin and surfs.  I don’t like any of those things.

I only actually know about half of those from the emails.  The others I intuited.

But given that she is so far away from the core of my personality, is it really possible that we both share a love of this uncontrollably ticklish baby unicorn?  I think not.

There is, of course, every possibility that someone doesn’t like me, reads my blog, has gathered that I harbor a love of such things, and forwarded a “Trojan Unicorn” if you will, that has downloaded a big awful virus to my computer.  That’s entirely possible.  Which is why I have saved this baby unicorn in several places in the event that my computer is wiped out.  I will win, Trojan Emailer.   You can take my files but you cannot take my newly acquired baby unicorn.

I’ve also considered the possibility that this person reads my blog and actually likes me.  Or is indifferent about me and just hopes I’ll blog about their unicorn and make them famous.  There’s no way for me to know because I ran the full Jackie Stalking Program on this email address and I came up with a whole lotta nothin’.  There are profiles similar to this handle, but no actual content to the profiles or followers associated with them.  A reply to the email containing the attachment resulted in complete 7-day silence.  So with nothing to go on but my imagination, I’m spinning my own stories.

It could be possible that this *was* indeed intended for someone else and this person is embarrassed that I intercepted something so adorable and unicorn-y.  

…Or maybe I’m looking at it wrong and it’s baby unicorn porn.

Well, look at it.

I mean… it could be. It really could be.

Now it feels a little dirty, doesn’t it?  With the Lisa Frank 90’s treatment and a little Marvin Gaye on in the background, it’s downright criminal.

It’s a baby, after all. It should not be sexually exploited.

Anyway, enough about baby unicorn porn.  My point is that I love it and that no one has claimed it.  So instead of hoarding this random wonderfulness to myself, I have bestowed it upon the unholy magical Interwebz.  May it find a home.  Or an owner.  Or millions of adorable-loving fans.

But hopefully not baby unicornphiles.  That would be criminal. 

A Day at an Inner City Public School

15 May

Last Friday I found myself standing in the stall of the faculty bathroom of a local public school, wondering what would happen if I just didn’t go back to class to teach.

Happy Lollipop Tuesday y’all.

If you’re new ’round these parts and you don’t know that today is a semi-holiday (it’s okay, I didn’t get you anything either), mosey on  up to the “What’s Lollipop Tuesday?” tab at the top of the page.  You’ll hear all about my adventures in sucking at new things, and all about why I couldn’t just stay in the bathroom stall and wash myself in my own tears.

Now, back to my personal hell.

For this installment of Lollipop Tuesday, I signed up to be a volunteer teacher at a local school.  It’s a program that was offered through my workplace, where instead of going to the office for a day I head out to a school and teach a pre-set curriculum from a kit that is provided to me.  

All my colleagues chose to teach kindergarten.  I figured the older, the better the slot on my resume looked.  So I dove right in to the the highest grade available: 8th.

I don’t know why I did that.  That was stupid.  Because when I was knee deep in immigration in the 1800s and the California gold rush, my colleagues were across the hall drawing farm animals.  And I wanted so badly to be drawing pigs instead of talking about Abe Lincoln’s plans to get Americans to settle in the West.

As it turned out, farm animal art wasn’t in my kit.  Instead there were 6 lessons I was expected to cover throughout the course of the day.  Each was a combination of a lecture and an activity.  Except the lecture portion wasn’t an outline.  It was a summary of to-dos.  It said things like “Explain to them that the Gold Rush was…” and “Be sure to mention that….”  The margins were full of little bullet points to include if we could work them in and at the end were a bunch of additional activities.   The course book was a hot mess and if I could get my hands on the person who laid it out, I would have to resist doing very violent, unChristianly things to them.

After getting a few bullet points from the school coordinator, I went to meet my 8th grade class only to find that the first thirty minutes of the day are a mandatory reading period.   Except no one was reading.  I took a look around to find three boys playing  a game on the class computers, one girl bouncing a basketball at the front of the room, and two kids in the back on the cell phones beside the teacher, who was also on her cell phone. I started to morph into a very angry taxpayer when I was distracted by one of the boys rapping (which was the closest thing I’d seen to reading thus far given that it at least involved words).  

I started to wonder how I was going to get through the day if it was all going to look like the first half of Sister Act.  I tried not to panic and walked to the teacher’s lounge to make some copies and sit in the bathroom stall, giving myself a pep talk. I reminded myself that my colleague came to work hungover today.  I saw the yellow skin and her right arm cradling an electric blue Gatorade.  If she can teach kindergarten when she feels like a hell demon has possessed her insides, I can Whoopie Goldberg these 8th graders like a champ.

I went back to the class to hear the bell ring and watch them all leave.  Apparently, I was to follow them from class to class, but I didn’t have a schedule of where they were headed or how long I had with them in each room.  I tried to get a little context from the person who facilitated Rapper’s Delight Hour and she reluctantly told me the next location.  I packed up all the things I had spent the remedial period setting up, and hoped the next classroom had a bit more structure.

When I arrived, the teacher didn’t acknowledge me.  I stood at the front of the class holding my kit, trying to assess how I would hang my visuals, where I would put  my activity book, and how I would arrange the students most effectively.  He cleaned up after their remedial period, which actually seemed to involve use of their cerebrums.  When he was finished, he told the students to pay attention to me and handed over the floor.  Boom: go time.

I introduced myself and got down to business.  I put the key words on the board, breezed through a Jackie-style mini lecture on immigration on the 1800s and actually surprised myself with how well I was handling it all.  By the time the activity portion rolled around, I acquired what I referred to as the “Sleeper Table”, a table full of kids who pulled their heads inside their hoodies like turtles and hid from the knowledge I was bestowing upon them.  The teacher noticed and ignored them so I chalked it up to a regularity and decided to be thankful that they were all at least gathered in the same area of the room.

I had just finally summed up the Homestead Act and put them in a few scenarios to see how they would handle the decision to move out west when the bell rang.  It was mandatory art period – I had 40 minutes to myself.  I was also informed by the teacher of a career fair that was to take place at the end of the day, knocking a total of two more sessions off my lesson plan.  I cut the ‘transportation of the 1800s’ off the list.  I figured it was kind of common sense anyway.

That was, until after the mandatory art period when all the kids returned (I had packed up all my things and moved to a different room again).  When I was introducing the section on human, capital, and natural resources, one of the students asked if there were cars in the 1800s.  I used it as a teaching opportunity and threw in some of the pointers from the transportation lesson.  I asked them all to shout out what they thought were forms of transportation in the 1800s.  One student eagerly shouted “a windmill!!”

He was very disappointed when I told him you can’t ride a windmill.  In retrospect, I suppose that was closeminded of me.  You can certainly ride one; it just won’t get you very far.  I wrapped up my combination of transporation/business resources session and was glad I could fit them in together, else that poor boy would have gone into high school thinking he could hop on a windmill and ride it into the western sun.

I was changing lives.

By the final session, it was clear who my winners and losers were.  I had a very engaged section of kids on my left, a sleeper section on my right, and a girl right in the middle who flatly refused to do anything at all.  She had a posse.  And since that reminded me of the posses from my high school experience, just looking at her pissed me off.  At one point, she threw her pencil on the ground and told me to pick it up for her.

At the beginning of the day, I might have done it.  But by the end of the day, I told her she had two hands and that I’m sure she could manage it.  She copped an attitude and asked me if I was a mother.  I took it as a compliment.

By the final session, I was pretty exhausted.  Actually, I wanted to sprint out of there.  I spent my whole day guessing how much time I had left in my lessons because there was no schedule provided to me.  I didn’t know how many students would be in each class because though the bulk of the group remained the same, there were always a few faces added or subtracted and I had no idea where they came from or went to. I had packed up my things three different times and spread them out three different times, and had worked so hard to make the material interesting to a bunch of kids who would rather be on their phones or sleep than learn that I would have been just as happy to set myself on fire and run tearing out of the building.  I headed to what I thought was the last 15 minutes of the day and used the time to hand out the certificates, letters for parents, and complimentary DVDs.   But when the teacher handed them out to the class, they chucked the DVDs across the room like frisbees and instead of correcting the behavior the teacher decided to forgo handing them out.  She asked me if I had anything prepared for the final 35 minutes and I told her I was informed it was 15 and wanted to hand out the materials during that time.  She pushed me to wing it; I pushed her to shove it.  

I was really rather frustrated with the lack of information and I was so exhausted and over the day that I really just wanted to go have  a stiff drink.  Coincidentally, I found out later that around this time my hungover pig-drawing kindergarten colleague was depositing 32 ounces of regurgitated electric blue Gatorade into the faculty bathroom toilet.

Could have been worse, I suppose.

The whole experience really made me appreciate our teachers.  I  mean, I thought I appreciated them before but I didn’t truly have a concept until I stepped foot in the shoes of an inner-city school teacher who has to fit in several lessons in the course of a day despite system-wide mandatory periods designated for other things .  And all of it in an environment where not all teachers are still fighting the good fight.  Some are content to let kids rap and play basketball and sit on their cell phones when they should be learning – and there are teachers who have to try to maintain their attention in spite of that and get them to zero in on things as boring as the Gold Rush, The Homestead Act, and Immigration in the 1800s.  

In that environment, I might come in hungover as well.

So here’s to our underpaid, unrecognized, and overtired teachers.  If I were in your shoes on a regular basis, I’d probably be tossing up Gatorade in the faculty bathrooms.

Next time, I’ll take the farm animals. 

Am I the Next Eleanor Abernathy?

9 May

Eleanor Abernathy, better known as the Crazy Cat Lady, is a mentally-ill woman who always surrounds herself with a large number of cats. She usually screams gibberish and/or throws her cats at passersby. – Simpsons Wiki

I think I’m approaching my limit for feline adoration.

Look, I love cats.  I’m pretty sure every fifth post on here is about them.  I also love dogs, and cows and baby seals and unicorns.  Animals are wonderful and I’m delighted when it’s socially acceptable to domesticate them.  Even more so when we breed miniature versions of them.

The celebrity teacup pig trend was a beautiful thing.

I am currently the proud owner of two cats.  I say currently because it’s only a matter of time before I collect more. I promised Dave I would stop bringing them home but honestly, the first time I see an all-white fluffball wandering the streets without a collar, I’ll be three cats deep in a two person apartment.

I believe that’s called an infestation.

But for now, just two. One is dressed in a permanent tuxedo and the other is always sporting white tube socks.  They’re both fluffy and quirky and adorably overweight.  And lately they’ve been really pissing me off.

I don’t know if this is a temporary thing or not.  I’d like to think that my love for them is eternal and that my frustration is fleeting because it gives me hope that someday I can still make a decent mother.  The idea that I can just wake up one day and decide I’ve had enough of cleaning up after helpless, chronically needy creatures doesn’t exactly bode well for my motherly aspirations.

The good thing about kids is that at least they grow up to contribute.  I know this because my father made good use of me as soon as I could walk.  If I could hold a crayon and I could wobble about the living room, I was well equipped enough to fetch him a Pepsi.  And you know what? That used to really get on my nerves.  But now that I’m grown and working and generally tired and not smitten with the monotony of everyday life, I think I could really get into having a fleet of little servants.  And since it seems manufacturing humans from the fruit of your loins is the only socially acceptable way to get a few manservants these days, I’m probably going to  hop on that wagon sooner or later.

I’m tired.  And sometimes I don’t want to get my own Pepsis. That’s what I’ll tell my children when I regale them with the tale of their births.

But neither of my cats can get me a Pepsi.  And seeing as how neither of them has realized that the purpose of cat litter is to cover up their foulness and not for recess time, it’s unlikely we’re going to be able to progress to human capabilities any time soon.  In fact, my cats contribute absolutely nothing to my life.  I’ve asked H0bbes (the one with the socks) repeatedly to get a job but he never responds.

Adolescents, amirite?

I guess that’s not entirely fair. There are plenty of studies that show pets lower your blood pressure and increase your life expectancy and quality of life.  But then again, I’m pretty certain those numbers are in counterbalance to how often said pets throw up all over your belongings, hide hairballs in pockets and rarely-utilized compartments, and lie directly on whatever you’re going to wear in five minutes, thus rendering your outfit plan null and void.

I kid you not, last week Dave was relaxing on the couch after work and found a lone, semi-dry cat turd wrapped in the blanket on the couch.  But it had a little bit of litter on it.  Which suggests that it was once in the litter box, was dragged out by one of them, and carefully placed in the blanket for our discovery later in the day. I’m not even sure how that’s possible without opposable thumbs or a highly developed cerebrum.

Surprise turds in blankets tend to raise my blood pressure, not lower it.  I don’t see that in the studies.

I’m also incredibly allergic to them both and convince myself that their cuteness and overwhelming need for me should take priority over my itchy throat, watery eyes, and constant sneezing. So that probably undoes the whole ‘increase my life expectancy bit’.

The only real, semi-tangible plus my cats bring to my life is the inspiration to nap.  Since they don’t have jobs, don’t bother to clean themselves, and just yak up wherever they’d like, they don’t have much need for mobility.   When I go to work in the morning, Lola (in the tux) is always asleep on the corner of my bed.   And when I come home from work, she’s in the same exact place.  Don’t tell me she gets up and moves around and just lies back down before I come home because it’s not true.

And when I come home and I see how perfectly curled up they are and how their chin rests ever so gently on their paws and how the sun is coming through the window and keeping them warm and cuddly, I, too, am inspired to take an epic nap.  It doesn’t matter how paralyzing my to do list is or how full of anxiety I am that I’ll never amount to anything in life; when I see a comfortable, perfectly positioned cat in the middle of a deep, sunny sleep, I curl up beside them and pass out.

Technically, inspiring me to also be a non contributor is not a mark on the pro side of this argument.  But it’s all they’ve got going for them so I’m going to let it slide.

After all, they’re just so stinkin’ cute.  And fluffy.  And warm. And those permanent socks… 

Oh for the love of Hilary Duff on a stick, just throw another cat on the pile and call me Eleanor.

I’m weak. So weak. 

Close Encounters of the Awkward Kind

2 May

photo by jake.hester on Flickr

Today has pushed my human contact meter to the point of explosion.  I went out, I saw humans, they were unimpressive, and so I am back indoors.

Safe.  

I haven’t always been a homebody.   I used to go places.  I  used to have lots of friends.  I was the kid who was in so many clubs that I had to attach an extra sheet on my college and scholarship applications.   In fact, in one of my college interviews I was asked “how did you do all the things you listed?”  Because I drank awesome sauce for breakfast, that’s how.

Actually I just never slept.  I got mono my senior year and awesome sauce couldn’t cure it.

But now things have changed.  I was pushed into the workforce in the context of cubes and pointless meetings and forced elevator conversation.  By the time 5pm rolls around, I’m so over humankind that I just want to go home and pull down all the blinds. Sometimes I walk there  instead of taking the bus because if I’m afraid that if have to endure one more forced encounter, I’ll commit a crime of passion.

A lot of times my distaste for the outside world has to do with people themselves. Their loudness, their ignorance,  their blatant lack of respect for others, etc.  But just as often my aversion is tied to my own incapability.  

You see, I lack basic social skills.

People sometimes disagree with me on this.   They’ll cite a specific night or a particular encounter in which I was engaging and mildly entertaining in a public place.  But those moments are usually flukes or the result of pumping myself up the entire day so that I can get through the marathon.

Eye of the Tiger isn’t just for sports training, my friends.

My main problem isn’t conversation.  I can do conversation if I have to; it’s just that I’m not very good at it – sometimes I’ll say ridiculous things or I’ll just make things up without thinking about what I’m saying because I get ahead of myself and I’m too nervous.   But I can live with those.  After a good amount of kicking myself and rehashing conversations once people leave, I’m ready to put those encounters to rest.  The real problem is forced conversation.  Like elevators.

I have a particularly hard time in elevators.  A little steel box that stops on every floor with the possibility of someone entering that will force me into conversation.  It’s just awful.  You see the same people a lot but you don’t know their names or where they work or what they do for the company.  You could try to get to know them but with other people constantly coming and going and all the beeping and the abrupt exit, it’s just one big panic attack waiting to happen.  I could be asked how I am and not know how to respond because I know that deep down they don’t care about the real answer but I don’t want to lie.  I could have to endure a joke about how it’s Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday or Friday or Summer or Spring or how it’s raining or WHY DO OFFICE PEOPLE ONLY TALK ABOUT THESE DAY OF THE WEEK AND THE WEATHER!?

Today I tried to be charming when someone was in the lobby already and the elevator got there just as I did.  It dinged right at the moment I stepped up.  I said something to the effect of thanking her for calling the elevator for me and she said something about how sometimes it takes so long to get to the top floor.  It seemed like she genuinely wanted to connect with me in the post-5pm cooldown so I tried to keep going.  But then all the stupid fell out of my mouth.

I agreed that it can take a long time and started saying something about how it can be particularly awkward to wait for it when there are high-level folk waiting there with you and you have to try to make conversation but I realized I was talking to one of the highest level people in the organization.  So instead I stuttered a lot and stared and the number on the elevator and prayed to baby Jesus that the elevator would go faster while my brain exchanged ‘ higher level people’ with ‘people you have to, you know, hold your posture a little straighter for…it can…be…you know, awkward to talk to them and wait and….OHTHANKGODTHERE’SMYFLOOR.”

Her look was a mix of confusion and that face you make when you think you just smelled a fart.   

I picked apart the encounter until I reached my front door, where I found a delivery guy struggling to reach a tenant from the call box outside.  After giving him a while to make his own life decisions, I asked him if he wanted let in.  The answer was no, he’s a general manager, and he doesn’t break the rules by piggybacking into apartment complexes.  I told him I just didn’t want to seem like a jerkface and I don’t really care if he wants in or not; I was just offering.

But then I realized he said he was a general manager and he was out delivering food so I asked him what that was all about.  It led to a discussion on his workload, the region he oversees, the bad economy, and his ridiculous rent.  And his mother’s ridiculous rent.  And how he’s “not a racist, but his black &%*@# of a landlord needs to go away”. 

I was opening my mouth to suggest that perhaps he’s actually a little bit racist and that someone’s &%*@#ness is not tied to their blackness anymore than his &%*@#ness is tied to his whiteness.

But in the amount of time it took to formulate the thought, he had somehow fastforwarded to the 5 stores he had to get to this week and the people who stay behind to oversee the team in his absence and how it’s a rough world out there right now and that’s why he’s delivering food when he’s a general manager.  Then he walked back to his car.

Video footage of the encounter would reveal that I spent the entire ten minutes looking a bit confused and a bit like I had just smelled a fart.

I finally entered my apartment, weary of the world and thankful to be rid of it.  I also pondered whether one could take a day off work due to weariness from human interaction.  Then I remembered I have to go to a bachelorette party this weekend.  Someone somewhere even mentioned karaoke.  

The worst is yet to come.  I can’t give in now.

But until then, I’ll be in my cocoon.  With my cats.  And Eye of the Tiger. 

Happy Primary Election Day, PA! (A Canvassing Tale)

24 Apr

Photo Credit: Beezwaxxx on Flickr

Hey, I’m posting on a Tuesday.  What could that possibly mean?

It means it’s Lollipop Tuesday y’all.  Strap in, cuz this one’s uncomfortable.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, jump on the bandwagon by clicking here.  Or just be lazy and keep reading.  You’re bright; you’ll catch on.

I must admit I’ve been rather lax about my Lollipop adventures as of late.  Last I checked in, I entered the macaroni and cheese contest (and surprisingly, took first prize).  But that was quite some time ago and without the challenge to do something new and uncomfortable, I’ve been getting settled in my old, hermity ways.   That’s probably why the idea to go Canvassing scared the bejeezus out of me.

You want to know what Canvassing is.  Basically, you go knock on people’s doors and ask them a few questions keyed toward the campaign you’re representing.  You can also call, but I went balls to the wall on this one.   I went representing the Obama campaign and the Obama folks wanted an answer to four questions: are you going to vote in the primary, who will you vote for, do you have a valid ID, and are you interested in volunteering.

To understand the sheer terror coursing through my veins at the thought of such a task, you have to understand that I don’t even answer my own front door.  When I order food, I ask Dave to answer the door and pay.  When the the adorable 3-year-old boy upstairs comes to knock on my door to ask Dave to come out to play, I don’t answer it.  True story: I saw my landlord pay the complex a visit last week and since Dave wasn’t home, I ran to my bedroom and turned the music all the way down on my laptop.

Needless to say, it was going to take some serious willpower to work up the Jackie Mojo to knock on the front doors of 60 strangers’ houses and try to hold a conversation with them.  I had no idea what to expect or what I was doing.

I showed up at the location at 11:00am and was greeted by some Obama enthusiasts (let’s call them Obamathusiasts). I signed in and was given a packet with a map of the neighborhood that pinpointed houses of registered Democratic voters.  It also contained a script and a list of everyone’s name, age, gender, and address at those houses. Creepy.

Before I knew it, I was seated and talking to a Obamathusiast veteran who was role-playing a front door scenario with me.  I was pretending she was Cara Brentley, Female, 48 years old.  I got the main points of the script and improvised my way through a pleasant conversation in which I answered the questions required of me and everything was glittering with unicorn sparkles throughout.

It’s times like these that Acting degree really pays off.

But I knew it wouldn’t be all unicorn sparkles out in the field.  People are mean.  And they don’t want to be bothered.  And they certainly don’t want to talk about politics.  Did I mention this was on a day the Penguins had a crucial playoff game? I was going to get stabbed by some anti-patriot hockey mom hermit and never going to be seen again.

When you’re afraid of the outside world, every encounter with humanity has potential to end in your death.

The Obamathusiasts broke us up into teams (one for the even side of the street, one for the odd), generously loaded us up with granola bars and water bottles, and drove us to our starting locations.  They were very generous with the food.  So generous, in fact, that I started to wonder if I could get stranded and die out there.  My volunteer shift was only four hours.  Why did I need so much food?  I chalked it up to the likelihood that someone would kidnap me and torture me with hunger in their basement and headed out into the Great Blue Yonder.

Only about one third of the houses actually have someone answer the door.  One was a 92-year-old lady who told me she wouldn’t vote because she’s too old to get out of the house.  I reminded her to get an absentee ballot for November, but she was mostly just concerned with me being sure to close her gate when I left.  I didn’t blame her: leaving it open would eat up at least an hour of her day.  

Surprisingly, for every person who wanted to kick me off their porch to get back the Penguins game or wanted me out of their face because they’re tired of what a joke the political race has been so far this year, there were people who were truly grateful people were volunteering their time to make sure people go vote.

I was about to leave house number 1494 and leave a peel-off sticker to show I’d visited when a woman shouted from her balcony that she was indeed home. I told her I was there with the Get Out the Vote Campaign and that I just wanted to make sure she had all the information she needed to vote in Tuesday’s primary.  She said she planned to vote, we discussed what to do about her concerns with updating her address, and I reminded her that in November she’ll need a valid ID to vote so she’d better bring it along Tuesday to work out the kinks.  She thanked me wholeheartedly and told me I was doing a good thing by giving information to people. I thanked her,  reminded of her polling place and the hours it was open and went on my merry way.

Glittering with unicorn sparkles.

We headed back to the staging area, and I tallied up  my total number of houses versus conversations held and added my sheet to the stack to be reported to the head office at 4pm.  While I sat around wondering if I was done for the day, the Obamathusiasts closed in, trying to get to know me and pushing for me to come out and volunteer again. I stressed that this was a one-time thing and that I just wanted to know what it was like.  But after politely declining several times, I decided it was best to just come clean.  I fessed up to having a blog where I try new and uncomfortable things and that I ventured out that day because the idea of it sounded like death.  I emphasized that this was something like my 60th new thing and if I joined every team I happened upon, I wouldn’t have been able to come Canvassing because it would have conflicted with Scottish Country Dancing up on Mount Washington.

They were surprisingly supportive and lovely.  They asked all about my blog, and told me how to get involved by signing up online in case I ever felt like revisiting this adventure.   And then they all stuck around to pull another shift.

The thing is, they don’t have a whole lot of volunteers.  It’s hard to get people to go outside their comfort zone.  It’s especially hard to get them to give up four hours of their time on a Sunday when they could be home watching the Penguins game.   And though I may not repeat Canvassing, I’ll probably repeat getting involved in a campaign.  There’s something really cool about seeing where polling results come from and there’s something uplifting and encouraging about digging in to the political process and doing work on the ground that gets reported in the media.

When I got on Facebook later, the Obama Campaign’s Facebook page uploaded pictures of volunteers all over the country who knocked on doors to remind people to vote in the Primaries Tuesday.  I also got an email from the Obamathusiasts, thanking all of us for our time and individually noting everyone by name.  My shout out?  To have a Happy Lollipop Tuesday.  They even included a link to my site so everyone could tune in to see what I thought of the day.

Free advertising, a group of nice, enthusiastic folk to try something new with, and I didn’t get murdered?

That sounds like a win. 

Hey! If you’d like to volunteer, you can go to barackobama.com.  Mouse over “Volunteer” to see a list of options.  Just sign up online for an event that you choose, and everything works like clockwork from there.  Turns out these grassroots deals run a pretty tight ship.  And to be fair, if you’d like to speak on behalf of another campaign, head to mittromney.com and mouse over “Get Involved” or ronpaul2012.com and  click on “Volunteer”.  Hey: vote for whomever you like.  Just vote. 
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