Thursday, December 3, 2009

My Political Party

I have a birthday coming up. It's on Sunday. Fast Sunday. I'm not thrilled about that because it means I can't be selfish and make my birthday all about me, Me, ME! like I usually do, but that's okay. That's why there's Saturday. Plenty of time to hog the limelight.

But this year, I don't really care about the limelight. It's not a landmark birthday (which, the whole "Congratulations" thing on birthdays cracks me up, and hopefully I'll have the time and inclination to do another entry soon on that, because all I've done is gone to bed and lived to wake up another day.); nevertheless, it is a birthday, and it is a cause for celebration. So. Dinner on Saturday. I would be fine with just my closest of friends attending, but ... now this is where it gets political.

For a landmark birthday a few years ago, my BFFs threw me the mother of all surprise parties. That was a turning point for a group of friends, my satellite friends if you will. At that time, a group of women came together who may not otherwise have had the opportunity to be friends...and all because I went to bed and woke up on a certain (birthday) morning. That occasion marked the beginning of friendships for many of those ladies. And now, I think there's an expectation that those same people (mostly) are all the same friends we were then. We're not, though, at least in my opinion, but not everyone realizes that, or some still cling to that ideal.

So some of the invites for dinner on Saturday are for some of those people. One of them is invited with the group strictly because otherwise I'd have to spend one-on-one time with her later, and I don't want that. One of my friends asked if my "boring" friend was going to be there. I said, "She's not boring, just smug and condescending." With those three fabulous adjectives, you can see why I'm less than thrilled about her possible attendance.

Another invitee is one who I have great fun with...most of the time. Compatible sense of humor, lots of laughs, and then there are times I would like to use physical violence in the form of "smack-upside-the-head-shutup-edness." But can't not invite this person because of the social repercussions if I don't.

Then another person, Person B, I want to have attend because I rarely get a chance to hang out with her, and I adore her, and she hasn't gone to any other recent social functions because she doesn't like those people enough, and she told me she'd go to my birthday dinner, but I know it's a sacrifice for her because of some of the other people who will be there. But socially? Huge win for me that she'll be there.

Unfortunately, there's someone else who I also adore who I would love to have there also, but Person B doesn't like this person, Girl C, so I can't even invite Girl C because then Person B won't even think about going.

...And it goes on like this. I would be perfectly happy with a much smaller invitee list of people who I truly enjoy being with, but have to consider all the social ramifications of who gets along with whom and who will be offended if left off, etc. See? Political. Party. Ugh. At least religion won't be a topic of concern. The one good Protestant friend I have who I would enjoy spending time with can't make it, so she won't have to be the only Protestant gosling in a world of Mormon ducks.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Shameless Plea For Help

Many of you know, at least by reputation, my friend QwendyKay. She's entered herself into a contest to win a trip to Disneyland or something. I dunno. I wasn't really paying attention. I couldn't really concentrate over her cries of, "VOTE FOR ME!" So in an effort to get her to shut up, I am extending the invitation to you, all four faithful readers of my blog, to please vote for Qwendy.

Go here: Orange County Family Guide

You can read the rest of the stories, but you may not vote for any of the others. Or if you do, you are not allowed to vote for Jennifer Gilmore, who is Qwendy's competition, not only in this poll (as of this writing it's Qwendy at24% and Jennifer at 19%), but Jennifer's mother has never been nice to Qwendy at church. As you can imagine, that makes the stakes that much higher. It's not so much about winning the trip to Disneyland, as it is about the satisfaction of winning.

Also? If you actually do read the stories, please note that Qwendy's is actually win-worthy, I think. Jennifer's is kind of lame. And Libby's? Downright embarrassing. Who shares those kinds of personal details with cyber strangers???

Voting closes today at midnight, Pacific time.



Wednesday, September 30, 2009

My Inheritance. Or, Why I'm Rich and You're Not

Both my parents recently died within 11 months of each other. For some people, that may mean a sudden windfall. For me, not so much. At least, not monetarily, which, if you knew my folks, makes perfect sense. The most valuable item I inherited is a piano. Then there are some sentimental items from childhood that don't need to be enumerated here. Some of the more odd items that I have been able to enjoy from the "estate" are Costco-sized packages of toilet paper and paper towels, a bunch of AA (new, Costco again) batteries, some white wheat and the spices from my mom's kitchen. It's all stuff that's come in handy -- I haven't had to buy toilet paper since February -- but it's not anything to take to the bank.

Luckily for me, other people are more than happy to share their considerable wealth and fortunes with me. I mean, I know they are because I got emails from them, or in some instances from their attorneys, offering me a once in a lifetime chance to get rich.

All I need to do is share some personal data and bank account information with them. The only dilemma I really face now is to decide which one to take advantage of. Because it would be unfair of me to accept all of them, right? I'm sure some other poor orphan somewhere could also stand to get rich quick.

Here are some of the offers: From Dr. Walter Farkas --

Hello my Dear, I am Walter Farkas,the MD. of Swiss Bank Zurich. Am happy to inform you that i have completed the transaction. I have finally received my 20m USD. Because of all you have done for me in the past,i want you to enjoy this me. Please contact my Secretary to get your share; He is; Mr. Terry Ekwe,a british national but is currently at my office in Nigeria where i am currently building an oil company for exportation of crude. His email addresses are: . His office is located in Nigeria. Please make sure you send him the following information complete; Your Full Name: Your address: Your country: Your occupation Your age: Your Phone number: I have forwarded instruction to him and he will be waiting for your mail with information on this. I have traveled to invest my share and i wont be reached for a year. I thank you for everything and God bless you. I do not know how you will feel but please do not reject this gift because its from my heart and i want you to share this joy with me. I cant tell how much happy that i am but God will never stop rewarding you for everything. Regards, PD Dr. Walter E. Farkas

According to this next gentleman, I already have $3.5 million waiting for me. But what I most appreciate about his offer is is fine spelling and grammatical skilz.

I've cashed your draft/cheque in worth of $3.9Million United State Dollars for your overdue payments, due to the expiry I boxed the money and deposited with shipment of BLUE-DART EXPRESS COURIER COMPANY Benin Republic, so to deliver the boxed to you, to avoid another hoax as you were disappointed in the past. So you’re requested to contact the BLUE-DART EXPRESS COURIER COMPANY with your delivery address and your telephone numbers so they shall commence immediately to deliver the box to your nominated address.

Note; The BLUE-DART EXPRESS COURIER COMPANY don't know the contents of the Box. I registered it as a Box of a FAMILY VALUABLE.They don't know that it contents $3.9Million.This is to avoid them delay with the Box.Don't let them know Content of the Box. Please make sure you send this needed information to the Director General of Blue-Dart Express Company DR. BERNARD DEMAS with the address given to you. So contact BLUE-DART EXPRESS COURIER COMPANY today and try to contact them with your personal information listed bellow;

blah blah blah

Some other guy tells me he has esophogeal and prostate cancer and is just looking for someone to leave a cool $46 million to to run some orphanage. Because that's what normal people do.

This last one is perhaps my favorite because it is the most unbelievable.

From: James Madsen & Associates
Managing Partner (James Madsen LLP)


On behalf of the Trustees and Executives of the estate of Late Mr. Frank Pierre, I once again try to notify you as my earlier letter was returned undelivered. I hereby attempt to reach you again by this same email address given to this judiciary office by Mr. Frank Pierre before his death.
I wish to notify you that your contact email address was found on late Mr. Pierre last testament and which automatically means he has nominated you as one of his next of kin hence i am writing you regarding this.
He left the sum of Twenty one Million united states Dollars for you in the codicil and last testament to his will.This may sound strange and unbelievable to you, but it is real and true. Being a widely traveled man, he must have been in contact with you in the past, or simply you were nominated to him by one of his numerous friends overseas who wished you well.
Mr. Frank Pierre until his death was not married and was a member of the Helicopter Society and the Institute of Electronic & Electrical Engineers. He was a very dedicated Christian who loved to give out.
His great philanthropy earned him numerous awards during his life time Late Mr. Frank Pierre died on the 16th day of February 2006 at the age of 90 years and this money is to support his Christian activities and to help the poor and the needy, (may his soul rest with the Lord).
Please if I reach you as I am hopeful, endeavor to get back to me as soon as possible to enable me conclude my job with the following information.

1.Full Name
2.Contact Address
3.Telephone/Fax Number

I hope to hear from you in no distant time.

Yours in his service,
Barrister James Madsen
Office Address
8-10 New Fetter Lane,

I'm not sure what his being a member of the helicopter society and a good Christian has to do with him wanting to leave me his money, but with so much on the line, who am I to argue?

Also, what is it with Nigerians? Is there something in the water there that gives people millions of dollars?

So if I'm unreachable for the next little while, it's because I've responded to these very reasonable and believable requests and have bought myself an island somewhere in the South Pacific. Aloha.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Expert Beginner

I am good at many things. I excel at few. In fact, I can only think of a couple of things at which I am excellent. I know the basics of a lot of stuff, but push me to the next level, and I ... balk.

The other day at tap dance class (have I mentioned this? That's for another post, I guess.) we were learning how to do pullbacks. It doesn't look like it should be that difficult, but to break it down into basics, then train your body how to do it, well, let's just say that I over think body mechanics on stuff I don't immediately get. Which is a basic problem for me and one of the reasons I get as far as beginning to easy-intermediate levels on things, then ... move onto something else.

Holding onto the barre and trying to train my body to do this step, I was struck by two physical memories of instances where I stopped trying to do something because I didn't succeed the first five or ten times I tried. Yep, I give up if I don't get something right after only a few tries. How lame is that?

For a second, I was back in jujitsu class a few years ago, trying to tell my body that it's okay and perfectly natural to do backwards rolls. My body called my mind a liar, and the sad thing is? The body was right. I was lying to it. It's not natural to throw yourself backwards, even if there is a nice, cushy gymnastics mat underneath it. There was no viable reason I could give my body to want to continue trying to learn how to do that. Not even the promise of progressing to the next belt level was enough to do it. "No," my body flatly said. "The only time I would use this realistically is if I were rolling out of a car, and then I will do it instinctively because it will save our life."

So when it came time to enroll for the next term of jujitsu, I didn't. Not if overcoming the obstacle of backrolls was a requirement.

The second physical memory I relived was as a child at the Burnham's pool. My sisters and dad were trying to teach me how to do a back dive. Every time I tried it, my body would bend at some weird funky angle, which hurt my back and made obscene amounts of water go up my nose upon entry. "No more," my body said. "I am not a fish, I am not made of bendy styrofoam, and I can enjoy a day at the pool just fine without thrusting myself at an unnatural angle into gallons of water."

And, that was that.

It looks like the backwards thing is a theme, doesn't it? Back dives, back rolls. And now a pullBACK. A backwards jump. My body just doesn't want to work that way, I guess. Let's eavesdrop again on what my body has to say about it. "Backwards just feels a little unnatural. And scary. And what's the point? We can fake it like we do so many other things." (My body knows me very well -- one of the things that I am excellent in is pretending that I'm good at something. This is how I became an excellent sight reader at the piano. I didn't practice, and when it came around for lessons, I had to pretend I was prepared, so I learned how to sight read. This has come in handy many times as I can actually do more than just fake being able to play music the first time I see it, I can play it. It also saved me from getting hit by my teacher.)

I need to find a way to win this argument with the body. I am determined to make it past a beginning intermediate level at something. Not because I think I'm going to compete with any tap dancing penguins or go on So You Think You Can Dance or anything like that. But because I like tap dancing too much to go back to a beginning level indefinitely for what will definitely be a boring experience. I know how to do that stuff already.

So while I won't be immediately successful at a pullback, I'm not giving up.

Though I may be singing a different tune (tapping a different rhythm?) when it's time to decide if I will participate in the summer recital...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Why You're Fat

Last night I went to the movies. It was a late show -- didn't start until 10:30, and it was a school night, so it wasn't very crowded. There were maybe 20 of us in the theater. About halfway through, someone started snoring. Really loudly. Sawmill loud. Sonorous enough that I thought it was a man. It wasn't. It was a young woman probably in her mid 20s. She was leaned back in her chair like it was her own personal barcalounger, head back, mouth wide open, soft tissue rattling like it was in a marathon. The feather in her somnambulant cap was the straw hanging out of her mouth, like her own personal snorkel. I hoped that one good inhale would suck that baby down her larnyx, of only to shut her up. Perhaps even more amazing was her friend who not only didn't care enough about her (or us!) to give her a healthy nudge to shut her up, but had also intentionally left an empty seat between them.

I don't know her, but I know why she's fat. Because fat she was. Undoubtedly she's a lazy slob who shoves whatever food she wants (nutrional information upon request or otherwise) into her face, then sits around on her rather sizeable behind doing nothing to boost her metabolism. She also doesn't have supportive friends who care enough about her to encourage her to do something about her health.

Story number two: Twice a week I teach a spin class at my local YMCA. I am an AFAA certified group fitness instructor, which means I know the mechanics of putting together an aerobics class, understand basic body and muscle physiology and anatomy, and can kick your trash on a bike going nowhere fast. I have the honor of being the instructor of the sole entry-level or beginner class, so I get the full spectrum of experience and fitness levels.

Last week one of my semi-regular attendees smelled a little peculiar. It was obvious he had been indulging in an alcholic beverage (or two) prior to coming to class. It seemed like a strange choice, but okay.

He's one of these middle-aged men (middle-aged = late 40s or so) who has great muscle tone in his legs and arms, but sports a large belly. Some might even go so far as to call it a beer belly. He's a flesh and blood version of the Michelin Man without the mummified toilet paper wrap. He's still at the beginner spin level. He has a hard time supporting his body weight for any amount of time as we're doing standing hills or "jumps" or any kind of isolation drills.

After class that day, he beelined for me, obviously intent on making some excuse as to why he couldn't sustain aerobic activity for 30 minutes. Sure enough, today's excuse centered around his, well, center. According to him, because he has a big belly, his knees don't support his weight. And as any good Californian knows, a good defense is a better offense, so he turned it around on me by asking me how much I had weighed at my heaviest, obviously expecting me to say something dumb like I've never struggled with my weight. He was noticeably startled when I answered his blunt question with a frank answer. Somewhat taken aback, he then wanted to know where I had carried my weight. I told him I had been blessed to be fairly evenly distributed because even at my heaviest I was still fairly active. He then suggested that to be able to truly empathize with him and the rest of the beer belly-toting male population in my classes, I should put a 20 pound backpack around my middle so that I can better tell them how to work out. You know, because somehow it's my responsibility to make sure he loses weight.

I'll give you a moment while the inanity of that sentiment sinks in.

Before moving onto his next brilliant statement.

He had been watching Fox news the night before (much to his chagrin, since it's practically a cardinal sin in Democratic-heavy California to watch a right-leaning news show) where some idiot said that having an alcoholic beverage before working out helps you to get endorphins and makes you want to work out more.

Yep. That's what he told me. And he had obviously been willing enough to listen to his political adversaries since it gave him an excuse to drink. Which then explained the unusual smell, even for a gym, I had detected earlier.

Why is he fat? Because he makes excuses and points fingers. Until he's willing to take responsibility on his own shoulders for how his decisions impact his health and weight, he will sport an extra 20 pounds around his middle.

Go ahead -- judge me if you want. It's only fair since I've obviously been doing my own fair share of snap judging. So why are you fat? I don't know. But you may recongize some tendencies in these two illustrations. I'll tell you why I'm fat. Because I like cookies and ice cream and make all sorts of idiotic justifications about how working out allows me to treat myself -- with food. Dumb, huh? Some people may look at me now and contradict me by telling me I'm not fat, and while it's true that I'm at a healthy weight and have a good aerobic capacity and have a cute, athletic shape, I spent about a decade being overweight, and emotionally still think of myself as that fat chick. I may not physically be fat, but mentally I am. I know what it's like to have a low self esteem due to poor body image. I know what it's like to make excuses and to want to eat more than to get off the couch.

It's why I love The Biggest Loser. I unabashedly call each group of contestants "my fatties," because I really can and do relate to them. And I don't mean it disrespectfully either. I feel a certain kinship with each of them. I am appropriately disgusted and horrified at the jiggling jelly rolls on display at each weigh-in. I cheer when they finish a challenge they didn't think they could ever do, or do one more set of weight lifting, or get the treadmill up to a 15% incline at 8 m.p.h. for three minutes when the week before opening the refrigerator door was a calorie-burner for them. I am delighted when Jillian yells at them and does her Dr. Phillian routine on each of them -- because Jillian understands that behind each double chin and spare tire is a suitcase of emotional baggage that's keeping that weight on. And I love watching their transitions from disgusting couch potatoes to active, fit people with healthy motivations to make positive changes to their bodies and minds.

Season 8 started last night. No, I'm on getting paid by any networks to promote the show, but I got text messages from some friends yesterday reminding me that the new season was starting and did I have my DVR set? I'm even getting my friends to call the contestants my fatties. I was thrilled when the sappy/motivational music started introducing the contestants and the new season, and fairly cheered when Bob and Jillian introduced the season by saying, "These people aren't like you. They ARE you."

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Available Upon Request

The other night Lisa and I went to dinner at IHOP. I usually order something called a "Breakfast Scramble," which is some scrambled eggs made with Egg Beaters, with some yummy veggies mixed in, with a side of healthy (possibly) pancakes. I love it. It's tasty and just the right portion size. This night, however, I couldn't find it on the menu. I was looking at the back page where the healthier options reside, but my beloved scramble was nowhere to be found. There were other options, but nothing had the combination of things I like. Available options were pancakes with fruit, or eggs with ..I don't remember what, but not a combination that appealed tome. The waitress ambled over and asked if we were ready. We weren't yet.

Then, I saw it. I had realized that the menu was redesigned, but had been having a hard time interpreting it, and thought it was just because of the new layout. But then I noticed something ... ominous. Ugly. Unappealing. At the bottom of each entry's description were some numbers. A line of numbers. Three to four digit numbers. I couldn't figure out the dawned on me. Calories. Frikkin calories. Not only could I not find something I wanted, but to compound my decision making process, I had to think about numbers. About fat content. About how much exercise I was going to have to do to work off a serving of German pancakes. Or a Denver omelette. Ugh.

The waitress wandered back. I asked some questions about the "healthy options" menu, and she was very uncooperative. She informed me that while yes, I could have pancakes instead of fruit, it would be the same price as if I ordered just the pancakes as a side order. Because, she explained, "this menu is for people who are on a special diet plan." I'm not sure if she meant I had to have a doctor's note to order, or if she was just looking for ways to boost her tip, but it was annoying. So then I asked for a regular breakfast meal with pancakes and eggs, but to please have the eggs made with egg beaters instead. She was going to charge me an extra dollar for that, Just no.

I later found on the menu that I could request egg beaters as a substitute at no additional charge. I pointed it out to the waitress AFTER paying the bill (didn't want my already less-than-desirable meal spat upon), and as I was driving away, saw her perusing the menu with a coworker trying to determine if I was right. I was.

We vowed to not go back to IHOP. Not only was the service less than stellar and I could NOT get what I wanted upon request, (at least not without an additional charge,) but the added pressure of having to choose not only between this and that, but if this or that with having to weigh in caloric options as well, it was just too much. I wanted to just relax and have fun time with a good friend. Instead, I had to do math. And deal with potential food guilt. No matter what kind of math you're doing, those things do not add up to a good time.

Then last weekend I went to the movies. For years we've gotten away with bringing outside food into the theater. There are tons of eateries in the neighborhood and pedestrian malls, and with busy schedules, it's just easier to grab a meal and bring it into the theater. It's not so much a blatant disrespect for the theater, but a meal of popcorn or nachos just doesn't cut it. This time though, I couldn't ignore the MANY signs requesting no outside food or drink being brought into the theater. Okay, fine, I grumbled to myself. I settled for a compromise. I still brought my Chipotle lunch into the movie, but begrudingly forked over a small fortune for a Diet Coke instead of bringing a much less expensive one from the restaurant.

While I was standing in the concessions line (Chipotle bag safely and discretely stowed away in my purse), I scanned the options on the fancy digital menu/price listing. It's certainly not your mom's concession options anymore. They've branched out to offering items like individual pizza and chicken fingers in addition to the traditional movie fare of popcorn and candy. I was looking for prices, but the only numbers I could easily find on the digital readout was...Yes, that's right. Calories.

SERIOUSLY???? I go to the movies to relax. It's not enough that you have to be willing to part with a hefty percentage of your weekly paycheck just to gain entry, and then have to dig into your 401k for snacks. You sit there and mentally go over your budget and financial options instead of fully enjoying the movie. But now, I can't even sit still because I want to do a mini sit-n-tone exercise session to work off my popcorn. I wouldn't have felt like that if I didn't know I was consuming enough calories to get a small child through the day. I don't want to think about that stuff! I just want to relax!

I'm an adult. I have more than a rudimentary awareness of cause and effect. When I eat, there are consequences. I get it. Why must I be reminded of it in the situations I want nothing more than to just relax and enjoy myself?

Today I went through the drive-through of El Pollo Loco. As I was waiting for my order, I saw something in the service window that fairly made my heart sing and stomach soar. "Nutritional Information Available Upon Request."

Thank you, El Pollo Loco. Finally, an establishment that understands I don't want to have to think. I want to put stuff in my pie hole, for a reasonable price, without haggling about my options, and without having to do nasty caloric math.

If I get fat eating there, it's my own darn fault.

Speaking of fatties, a new season of my favorite reality show is starting tonight. Stay tuned to this channel for my next entry about my fatties and the dumbest thing I've ever heard one of my spin students say. And that's saying a lot. I've heard some doozies so far.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Stranger Danger

My recent post about bathroom etiquette was strangely popular. Well, maybe not so strange. I mean, we all have bodily functions, but it's not socially polite to actually acknowledge or talk about those functions.

Or at least, not to openly discuss the noises those functions make.

Actually, it's okay to talk about the noises those functions make, as long as we don't acknowledge that it's our own persons making those noises. OTHER people make those noises, but not me! Never! Not that you know about, at least.

But we all know that I don't really follow social norms. It's boring. Or at least, kind of like lying, and I am nothing if not honest. (Why didn't Plato or Socrates come up with that one? Instead of, "I think, therefore I am," it should be, "I'm honest, therefore I am....Even if I'm embarassingly honest about stuff that people only think about, never say out loud.")

Please don't misunderstand -- I am not confessing to any noises coming out of my orifices that are impolite. OTHER people have noisy orifical (heh -- I like making up words) emissions, but not ME. Nuh uh.

ANYway, here's the story. I had to use the little girls' room today. As one does. I chose "my" stall, and proceeded to do my business. Quietly. Politely. Discretely. Because there was someone else in one of the other stalls. Who was neither quiet nor discrete.

She finished, exited the stall, washed her hands, and left.

I was just flushing when the bathroom door opened and someone went into the other stall. I exited my own stall and was washing my hands when I was serenaded by yet another round of physiological symphonic cacophony. In no time at all, the toilet flushed and the occupant exited. It was the same woman who had just been in there moments before.

I applaud her efforts at making sure she was in the right place (toilet) at the right time (tooting and other things). And I understand that sometimes you're not done when you thought you were.

What I can't get on board with is what happened next. She apologized to me. In person. To my face. For her noisy bodily functions. Oh, pffft. Let's call a spade a spade. She farted and apologized.


But then, she explained. I'm sorry, but it's bad enough that you've just apologized to me for nature and her fiendish ways, but you don't need to explain. I have a colon too. And as all good colons do, sometimes air gets trapped. I get it. I don't need to know what's trapping air in yours.

Oh! Too late. "I had milk this morning. I need calcium, you know, and I can either take the calcium supplements or drink the milk, and I choose milk."

On the outside, I was the epitome of polite yet detached interest. "Well, you gotta do what you gotta do."

On the inside though, I was a screaming, horrified ball of, "Take the supplement! TAKE THE SUPPLEMENT!"

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

How to Avoid HR

Two jobs, two different stories, each of which could potentially put me in trouble with those respective HR groups.

Story one: (My "real" job. You know, the one that pays the bills.) Since this is a very large company, there are groups and departments just full of people that have nothing better to do than to make my life miserable. That's a slight exaggeration. I'm sure they make other people's lives miserable as well. There are those of us who do things -- who make things happen. And everyone else just...manages. Or mucks up processes that already work perfectly well. Our HR department is an example of this. For the past five months, a certain person who I'll call Billy has been trying to take a process that I've whipped into peak performance and HR-ify it. You know, mess it up. He's doing a swimmingly swell job at it, despite my best efforts to belay it.

Every time I get a request from him (or one of his minions) to comply with one of his self-aggrandizing whims, I hem and haw and defer and balk and come up with really good reasons why that won't work. It's been mostly successful, but the sheer act and energy exerted to hem, haw, defer and balk is exhausting and has resulted in a simmering hatred of HR in general and this man specifically.

Long story short (too late!) my manager asked me the other day, "Well, what happens when Billy asks you why you didn't do such and such?" (In other words, what happens on the extremely slim chance that Billy decides that it's not enough to throw processes over processes, but decides it's time to follow up on those redundant processes, thus doubling my misery.)

I shrugged and said, "I'll just say (assumes blank look), 'Oh, I didn't realize that it was supposed to work that way, so I was just doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing.'"

My manager knows I'm not dumb. I'm blonde, yes, but mostly of the bottled variety. The blank look did not work on him, but he appreciated the effort and said, "Yes, just act like a dumb blonde -- pretend like you don't know anything."

I said, "Oh, like plausible deniability?"

...Which, kind of takes away from the whole dumb blonde thing.

Moral of story #1: Either do what HR asks you to do, regardless of how stupid it is, or be better at being a dumb blonde.

Story #2: Job number two -- (the one that I might as well keep just volunteering at, because working 2 hours a week at the local YMCA is not going to make me rich anytime soon).
Spin class fitness instructor. We had just finished doing "jumps," so the classroom was silent as the song finished and we waiting for my iPod to cycle through to the next one. Though musically silent, I could tell I was pushing the participants as hard as I needed to because all I could hear was breathing. A lot of it. Ten people breathing heavily is loud.

So I said, through my own huffing and puffing (I work as hard as I ask my students to do), "Wow, all that heavy breathing is such a great sound! It sounds like a night at my house."

Yes, I'll give you a moment to digest that little gem.


It really did sound as bad as it does as you read it. But I didn't mean it that way! Well, I mostly didn't mean it that way.

I was going to make a joke about having another part time job doing that results in heavy breathing. But I kind of stepped on my own joke. Then it didn't make any sense to explain what I was going to say because now the heavy breathing was replaced by loud laughter.

I bumbled on, thinking maybe I could explain my way out of it, but then realized there was really no way out of it. So I said, "My manager's name is Maryam if anyone feels like they need to complain."

They all laughed and said, "No! We want Laura THREE nights a week!" ... Which made me think they either appreciate my mad spin skilz, or ... Yeah, I dunno either.

Moral #2: Don't inadvertently sexually harass an entire class of people. Well, don't sexually harass anyone, inadvertenly or otherwise, but especially not multiple people at the same time. Although, maybe that's exactly what will protect me from anyone turning me in!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Bathroom Etiquette. Know It. Use It.

People wittier and brilliant-er than I have written about this. I want to share just two stories from the depths of the stalls here at work.

In the restroom closest to my cubicle there are three stalls. #1 is against the wall, and though it is dark, it is my favorite. Probably because it is closest to the wall. #2 is in the middle. #3 is on the other end. I guess it too is actually against the other wall, but it's so brightly lit that I tend to avoid it, probably because I don't want to draw attention to myself while I'm doing my bid'ness.

Oh. And the main reason I avoid stall #3 is because of this lovely little sign that's in there right now:

Please DO NOT STAND to use these facilities.
Please USE a SEAT COVER and sit down to use the facilities.
We do not enjoy cleaning up the mess left on the seat from the lady who stands and urinates.
It is disgusting and unsanitary.
Please DO NOT STAND to use these facilities.
USE a SEAT COVER and sit down to use these facilities.

A few thoughts about this.

Gross. Ew.

I like the use of "we" as though we are all royalty. At least those of us who actually sit down to use the throne are. Those of you scum who stand and don't use a seat cover are mere peasants. Or pissants.

Nothing says "I REALLY MEAN THIS" like the repetetive use of redundant repeating phrases and words repeated more than once. Like, twice.

As my dad used to say, "Lady? That's no lady." "Woman" would be the more appropriate term here since it's already been established that she who leaves urine on the seat is not worthy of the royal facilities.

Which brings me to my experience of the other day.

I needed to go. Bad. Big go-gos. I went to my favorite stall, #1, but there was an eau d'toilette there that wasn't so much scented as much as it was ew-du-toilet. I didn't want to expose my naked backside to someone else's backside stench.

I moved to stall #3, because everyone knows it's not nice to take the middle stall when you have a choice, because that means that whoever comes in after you will have to sit next to you, and no one wants that. At least, I thought no one wants that. I know I don't. There was copious amounts of water with a yellowish tinge to it on the seat. Almost clear, but with a hint of yellow. (see note above.) The facilities here do not suffer from the flashback effect -- when you flush, the water all goes where it's supposed to: down. Some toilets splash water up on the seat during the flushing process, but not these ones, so any water on the seats should always be viewed as suspect at best. "Disgusting and unsanitary" at worst.

Sighing in frustration, I moved to #2. There was no mistaking the source of the wet toilet seat there. It was pure #55 Crayola Yellow. I can understand why Crayola doesn't market a "Urine Yellow" color, but you know what I mean. ().

In no mood to clean up someone else's mess, (see disgusting and unsanitary reference above; also, remember the "really had to GO" part? Yeah. Still me.) I moved back to #1, hoping the stench had receded enough that it wouldn't attach itself to me.

I had no sooner throned myself, when I hear a voice in the anteroom. The secondary door opens, and someone is talking. I assume that that means there are at least two people, because who would someone be talking to if unaccompanied? Herself? I mean, honestly. Whaddya gonna do, bring your cell phone into the bathroom? Into a shared, public restroom? We all know better than that, right ladies? Dad's voice: "Lady? That's no lady."

Yes, a cell phone user has decided to grace the royal potty with her presence.

It's bad enough to do your thing in front of other people; you want even less to do it with other people and their phone audience. So I waited. Cindy (I don't believe in preserving the identity of stupid people. Names have NOT been changed to protect the idiots.) went directly to stall #2 (seriously??? The MIDDLE stall?) and apparently does not take the same precautionary measures I do. She put her butt directly on the seat. At least, I assumed she did, because no sounds of cleaning up the mess carried over the stall wall.

And then talked. I didn't think the conversation could go on for very long. It became apparent that she was talking to her husband, so he apparently didn't mind that she was peeing while she talked. But I don't know him, and didn't want to share that information with him. (Although I have no qualms about sharing it with you. Heh. Go figure.) It came time for her to flush, and she waited, which I thought was nice...for him, at least. But then ... they started talking about their son. And the psychotherapy he needs. It bothered me that they gave no thought to the psychotherapy I'M going to need after this experience. This bit of the conversation went on for quite some time. I debated flushing my own (albeit unused) toilet just to see if that would shut her up, but chickened out. So I waited. And waited some more.

And waited.

She finally finished the conversation. AFTER she flushed. Nice that she can share all her personal data with her husband. I had already heard the toilet paper dispenser in use, so knew she had wiped prior to the flush. Then she stood.

And I got my revenge for having to wait and be put upon by her personal conversation during my own personal time.

She realized that her bottom was wet. I know this because the toilet paper dispenser was once again pressed into service and more wiping sounds came from the stall. And I exulted, silently, in my own stall, that someone else's pee was on her butt.

Crass? Yes. But let this be a lesson to all of you manners-deprived public toilet users out there: Follow the rules and you won't get wet.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Invisible Woman

I bought a swimsuit at Costco last week.

The swimsuits at Costco are displayed on transparent plastic woman-shaped half-mannequins. That way you can see what the swimsuit looks like on a physical form -- better than a hanger that way. (More awkward to manage in the store when you're trying to find your size whilst sorting through a huge pile of womanly-shaped mannequins on a big Costco-sized table, but that's a different story.)

When you buy the swimsuit, they don't care about getting the half-mannequin thingy back.

But it's also not something you necessarily want to lug around either. So when I got home, the half-mannequin thingy was promptly left in the back seat of my car. Where I forgot about it.

Until the next morning.

I was giving my friend Lisa's seven year-old son a ride to school. He usually does things on his own timetable anyway, but he seemed to be taking a long time, even for him, to climb into the back-seat.

"Come on, (Boy)," I urged, wondering what the delay was. Then I turned around to look at him. He had one leg half in the car and was staring perplexedly at ... something. I twisted around to see what was distracting him, and saw... HER. My swimsuit mannequin. Complete with womanly curves. And...well, invisible, really. I can only imagine what it looked like from his point of view. And what he was thinking. "Why does Auntie Laura have an invisible woman complete with boobies in her car?" is the unedited internal dialog I imagine him having with himself.

I laughed awkwardly, trying to cover up my embarrassment. "Oh, ha ha. I bought a swimsuit and this is what it came on. Isn't that silly? ha ha." Then grabbed the invisible woman and stuffed it onto the floor in the front seat next to me.

After I dropped him off, I went back to Lisa's house to show her the mannequin and tell her about her son's reaction to seeing it. Then said, "You're welcome," 'cause let's face it. Who doesn't want their best friend teaching their son about nekkid invisible woman?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It's Good To Laugh

Nephi Hurley Pratt was born on June 8, 1918 at 6:45 a.m. His mother wrote, “You weighed 10 ½ pounds, have got blue eyes, light wavy hair, the least of any of my babies. Mother came to welcome you into sunny Arizona. So did lots of flies and mosquitoes. We had a lumber home with an east porch, but as yet no screen doors. So for several days Mother fanned the insects and heat off you and wiped off the perspiration. Through it all you was the quietest baby I ever had. I hardly knew I had you.”

Hurley’s love of music started at an early age. His mother had contracted the flu, and while still recovering, she bought him a Victor Phonograph. Then Aunt Lottie got him a little plaster dog. “How you loved that phonograph. Setting the dog alongside, you would listen as long as I would wind it. So as I ironed or sewed I would also wind and listen. Many days you and I spent in this way together.”

At two and a half years of age, his mother tells him,” It was your delight to imitate our ward chorister. You couldn’t quite say your Rs yet. With a pencil to beat time, you would say, ‘Alright let’s do this one, Hing ahound a hosy, now Mother you dy alone, now dy altogether,’ and so on.

At five years old, his mother wrote, “Your love for music increases. You come home and sing the songs that you learn at school, then finger them out on the organ. I got you six new records, some of our Mormon hymns. How you do love them, you put on a record, then get a pencil and paper, draw a staff and make notes meant for the piece being played. You do this also with your school songs, sometimes you print the name of piece on and illustrate it with pictures. In this way you keep occupied for hours and have quite a collection of sheet music. Mother will try and give you opportunities to learn music, and try and give you a new record occasionally.”

When he was 9 his mother notes that he was playing the violin in the orchestra and was also in the Mouth Organ band. “Keep up with music you will always be glad if you do.”

When he was 6 years old, he fell off a see-saw and broke his thigh bone near the hip. He was in traction for six weeks. During that time he received many visitors and get well gifts. His bishop told him to sing or whistle every day for his leg to get well. He did that no matter what. One day the doctor whistled “Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel” and he sang along. One day his mother heard him singing Count Your Blessings, so she quizzed him as to its meaning and if he had any. He replied, “Yes, I have only one broken leg instead of two, and I have 60 friends and over 100 presents.”

When he was 7, his sister let him develop a photo and that’s when his love for photography began. When he was 12, the Eastman Kodak company celebrated its 50th anniversary by giving away special edition Brownie cameras. Anyone turning 12 that year was eligible to receive one. When he was 15, he started learning more about photography from his Scout leader.

Hurley served in the Central States Mission from 1937 – 1939. After he returned home from his mission he went to live in Tucson. He got a job as an apprentice Kodak finisher at a local photo studio. He learned how to print, develop, and how to operate an enlarger. In time, he learned how to do photo engraving and started work for the Mesa Tribune. At about that time, offset printing was making inroads on conventional letter-press printing. The boss bought an offset duplicator – multi-lith. Since the plates had to be made photographically, making the plates fell to Hurley. And since other employees didn’t consider offset to be legitimate printing, the operation of the press also fell to Hurley.

Meanwhile, Hurley was serving as the secretary in the Young Men’s (what we would now call the single adult) program. Elaine McBride was serving as the secretary in the Young Women’s program. Her first Sunday there, she noticed a handsome young man singing in the choir. He didn’t notice her immediately, but some other young women he was friends with introduced him to her. Elaine was also working in the Mesa temple as secretary to the President. When they got married on July 17, 1946, the temple was closed for the hot Mesa summer. Since Elaine knew the “owners,” so to speak, they opened the temple for just that one ceremony that one day and were sealed.

Their three oldest children, Sandra, Louise and Reo, were born in Mesa. Hurley was still working at the Tribune. He got back in touch with a former classmate who worked for Kaiser Graphic Arts in California. Several months later a spot became available there for him and he started learning the finer points of things he was already doing for the Tribune – plate making for real lithographic presses. He moved with his family in 1955 to Walnut Creek, California.

Two years later, Neva started off the California part of the family, followed by Ellen then Laura. Hurley continued work as a lithographer, and retired from that career in 1990 at 72 years of age. Elaine and Hurley served a mission in the Montana Billings Mission from 1991 – 1993. In 1999 they moved to Salem to be closer to children and grandchildren. In January 2008 Elaine passed away after a long battle with heart disease. After 62 years of togetherness, it was only logical that he would soon follow her to the next step in their great adventure together. They share a legacy of 6 children, 27 grandchildren, and 30-- possibly 31 by the end of today – great-grandchildren.

So that’s an overview of Nephi Hurley Pratt – it tells you the chronological timeline of his life, but it doesn’t tell you about Hurley Pratt the man. We all have our different memories of him. Attending Salem 12th ward this past Sunday I heard many different ward members offer their own fond recollections of him. My brother and one of my sisters were talking about him since I asked them to clarify a story about him I had heard from him many times. It was a story they had never heard and Reo made the observation that even though all six of us have the same parents, we all have different family experiences, based on the many years spread between us, being reared in different areas, different ward experiences and leaders, and parents who change over the years as well. So the next few stories I’ll share are possibly unique to me. I recognize that you all have your own personal experiences as well.

Two things that my dad taught me both directly and indirectly are a love of music and a sense of humor. You’ve already heard much about his musical interests. Besides playing the violin as a child, he eventually specialized in brass instruments, especially the trumpet. He played in many productions of the Oakland Temple Pageant. He played the French horn, flute, and harmonica. He could figure out how to play just about any instrument that was handed to him, including the banjo one time. He of course participated in every ward choir and had his own unique way of leading the singing in sacrament meetings.

We grew up in a house filled with music. We were all encouraged to learn at least one, usually two musical instruments. My dad had a ton of phonograph records and cassette tapes all of classical music. He never tired of directing the Boston Pops or the London Philharmonic, all from the comfort of his own home. When CDs started coming out in the early 80s, my dad was the first person I knew to own a CD player and start transferring his substantial music collection to that media. He had an appreciation of every type of good music. He helped a dear friend and one of my piano teachers transfer some of her college piano recitals from reel to reel to cassette. She recently was able to transfer those recordings to CDs so that her own family can appreciate music. None of that would have been possible if my dad hadn’t had such an interest in good music and different types of media.

He also knew the value of hard work. Sleeping in was never really an option in our house. We were always getting up early either for seminary or if it was the weekend, there was plenty to do around the house. My dad had a way of ensuring that sleep past 7 a.m. was impossible. My bedroom was directly behind the living room. Against the living room wall were the speakers from his rather powerful stereo system. He would put on some of his favorite music and if we didn’t come stumbling out at a decent time, then he turned the speakers around so they faced the bedroom and then cranked the volume up. That might not seem so bad, especially since it was usually classical music. But his favorite symphony to do that with was Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. When it was time for the cannons to blast, it was time to get up. And if he was feeling particularly precocious then he would just get out his trumpet, open the bedroom door and blast Reveille at us.

My dad taught me that having a good sense of humor could get you through just about any situation. One day he was driving home from a day of serving in the Oakland temple. A large wooden spool containing electrical wiring … wires … had come off the back of a truck and was rolling across the freeway. To avoid it, Hurley braked then swerved to the right – right up an inclined embankment. The speed combined with the angle caused the car to roll on its side, shattering the windshield. My dad kicked the windshield out, crawled out of the car that way and was sitting on the hood of the car when emergency crews arrived. A fireman came up to see how he was doing and do a bit of a medical check -up. My dad had a gash across his forehead from where some windshield glass had caught him on the way out of the car. The fireman asked my dad how he was, and Hurley replied, “Well, I’m okay but I think the car’s going to need an alignment job.” That response combined with the cut on his head made the fireman assume that my dad had sustained a serious head injury, but that dry sense of humor was just how he dealt with stressful situations.

One of his last days in the hospital, they brought him his dinner and Ellen tried to get him to eat some. He picked up a jar of cashews and started eating those instead. Ellen said, “Daddy, you need to eat some dinner.”

Oh,” he said, “I thought he was.” Then he turned to Reo and said, “You know, I don’t think those are even peanuts.”

Reo said, “They’re not; they’re cashews.”

“Gesundheit,” he said.

The night that my brother called me with the news of my dad’s passing, I called a friend of mine and we ended up laughing about something else completely. A part of me wondered if it was wrong of me to be laughing and enjoying myself so much within minutes of my father dying. But then I remembered how much he had loved to laugh and make jokes and I knew it was okay to be that happy, even in a moment of extreme sorrow.

Life, according to Hurley Pratt, was meant to be lived to the fullest and be enjoyed. He did that for all of his 90 and a half years. He was the embodiment of 2 Nephi 2:25: “Men are that they might have joy.” Hurley also knew the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is true. He found joy in its teachings and in the atonement. It’s that gospel that teaches us that though Hurley’s life in this mortality is finished, it is really only the next step. Hurley could say the same thing that Adam did: “Blessed be the name of God, …, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God." (Moses 5:10)

Nephi Hurley Pratt
b. June 6, 1918
d. January 2, 2009

Thursday, January 1, 2009

"Happy" New Year

Things I've already done today:

* Got up

* Fed the cats -- both households. Sounds easy, but it's not. The ones in my household are high maintenance.

* Took a shower

* Blow dried my hair

* Ate breakfast

* Undecorated the Christmas tree

* Put away the decorations

* Put away the tree

* Rearranged the furniture to the non-Christmas tree configuration

* Vacuumed

* Cleaned up cat barf (don't be jealous)

* Changed the lightbulb in the garage door opener

* Programmed a new garage door opener

* Blogged (-ing)

Still to come:

* Healthy lunch

* Scrapbooking project

* New window treatments for my bedroom

* Ice my hip (ow!)

...all while watching the Biggest Loser marathon on Bravo. Yay for my fatties! It's all about the motivation today. ... and this year.

By the way, Happy 2009! I'm not saying good riddance to 2008 or anything; it was a good year, all things considered. But I'm sure this will be a great year too. ... all things considered.