Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Curious City of Fort Wayne

Things I find strange about Fort Wayne and Fort Waynians:

1) The streets flood within seconds. I am not even joking here. Seconds. I have oftentimes thought that Fort Wayne would be better off as a paddy field.
2) It is not safe to drive in the outermost lanes, because at any given moment they WILL turn into turn-only lanes. I will never forget when an old lady in church said that she wasn't afraid of anything...except for when the lanes become turn-only lanes and you don't have enough time to correct the problem.
3) Give the people of Fort Wayne a reason to bust out their lawn chairs, and they'll come in droves. DROVES. It could be the hottest day ever recorded on the face of the planet, and there they'll be, dragging their super-sleek chair-in-a-bag out to the middle of a grassy knoll to watch some old guys play Beach Boys covers.
4) They named their baseball team the Tin Caps, seemingly oblivious to the obvious nickname of the Pot Heads.
5) There is a Mexican restaurant on every block.
6) During the summer, there is a festival every week. I kid you not. Greek Fest, Latin Fest, Rib Fest, German Fest, Three Rivers Festival, etc.
7) The people of Fort Wayne rallied against spending millions of taxpayer dollars to fix up dilapidated schools and instead decided to build the ultimate minor league baseball stadium.
8) From the baseball stadium, the city looks unAmerican. Maybe Balkan. Or Russian. And there is a particular apartment building by the Anthony St. Wal-Mart that looks like it was hauled over here from Somalia.
9) There is only one true housing project that I know of. Only one. I am used to three or more.
10) Everyone blows red lights. A cop could be right there, waiting for his light to turn green and I guarantee someone will blow through the red without getting pulled over.

. . . And to think I got my license suspended for being rear-ended.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Desperate Housewife - Part 3 (of infinite) - Toilet Paper FAIL

The toilet paper I recently purchased is neither soft nor plentiful. What is this? I thought toilet paper was to be one or the other (with only a privileged few able to afford rolls with both attributes).

Gah! Even the Wal-mart stuff I used to buy in my waitressing days was better than this stuff. And to think, we now have to suffer through 24 rolls because I was trying to be all economical and frugal and middle-aged housewife.

Silly, silly me.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Saturday's Run

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Chicken Pizza

Here's what we had for dinner:

Homemade chicken pizza

Chicken, green pepper, onion, mozzarella cheese--what more could you ask for? For sauce, we used some spaghetti sauce we had lying around. For crust, we used Jiffy's boxed crust. It's like 84 cents.

According to Tad, he's the Cheese Master and I'm the Crust Master. He's really good at shredding cheese and I'm really good at making the dough a perfect circle.

The best thing about homemade pizza is you can pile on as much of your toppings as you want. The worst thing is the dough is really really sticky which makes kneading it not as fun as it should be. Lots of flour is required--and it will most likely get on your shirt.

One of these days I'll make my own crust from scratch. But you just can't beat 84 cents.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Unicorn! Thus sayeth my boss.

With the proliferation of social media commentary within the market place, specifically within the blogosphere, there is great opportunity to extract data and do so in a meaningful way. I'm just looking for a way to expedite the process and multiply our efforts within the space, and with the integration of our social media compass and other tools, there is great opportunity for that process to provide meaning to the client.

My boss is the most jargon-y person I have ever known. He's like a walking social marketing textbook. It isn't uncommon for him to bust out stuff like the above snippet in casual conversation. It took awhile for me to get used to it and catch up with his ridiculous vocabulary, but I'm finding it easier to follow his train of thought . . . and, in turn, provide actual answers to his questions.

But every once in awhile, he throws a curve ball. A sentence so syllabic and Webster-ed that I sit there with my mouth hanging open and drool gathering on my chin.

The worst part is when he follows it up with a one-word question. Except it's not a question. It's a statement that is looking for an answer...a question, posed as a statement.

Today was no exception. Only I wasn't the recipient of his craziness.

"Means," he said, eyes focused on my co-worker, his expression indicative of an expected answer.


He may as well have said "Unicorn" or "beach ball" or "armpit".

"Means," my co-worker repeated after a moment, clearing his throat.

My boss nodded smugly.

I laughed aloud. It was nice to know I wasn't the only oblivious person in the room.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fuhrer Assistance

Thanks again for your email, Julia. Please, let me know if I can be of fuhrer assistance.

Amanda, Customer Service

Gasp! That's bad. That's very very bad. Have I made this mistake before? I use the word "further" in nearly every email...what if I've offered Fuhrer assistance to multiple people? In multiple countries? And what if they cash in?

Fuhrer assistance? What is that? The help of a dictator? The promise of oppression in the name of non-oppression? The squelching of dreams of freedom? The sudden offer to participate in a diabolical plan for world conquest that may or may not, according to some individuals in Iran, include genocide?

Better be sure to proofread from here on out. Don't want to make any promises I don't intend to keep . . .

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

People are weaker than you may think

Outside . . . running. Gnats bouncing off my face, clinging to my hair, tumbling down my cheek. Me, breathing through a closed mouth; the resulting pain in my abdomen growing more piercing. Eyes squinting, blinking, fluttering in retaliation. Gnats everywhere, illuminated by the setting sun like dust particles in my unclean apartment.

There are two things that I honestly believe could drive me to insanity. One--an inescapable, constant and relentless high-pitched screech. The other--a persistent attack by tiny beings.

The first, I uncovered in college. Our dorm room went without being vacuumed until my roommate brought an upright from home. It was inexpensive--meant for nothing greater than what we intended it for--but when she turned it on, I swear I almost lost my mind.

I remember sitting on my bed, hearing the most relentless, high-pitched noise and wondering if it was possible that the vacuum was producing such a sound . . .or if I was going crazy. When my roommate, vigorously vacuuming our rug, offered no indication that she too heard this unbearable sound, I tried to push it out of my head.

But I couldn't.

For five minutes, I sat, listening--straining--trying to prove to myself that I wasn't making it up. That I wasn't going crazy. Painful, relentless. As the minutes passed and no passersby mentioned the terrible noise, I began reasoning with my unreasonable self.

Surely, if she heard it she would turn off the vacuum. . .

Surely, someone would have come in and said something . . .

Surely, I'm not the only one hearing this . . .

Surely, I'm not going crazy . . .

. . . But what if this is how it starts?

The seconds ticked by until I could take it no longer. I had to get away. I darted out of the room, listening carefully.

The sound subsided.

The second, happened today. All those gnats. Hundreds of gnats. Everywhere I went. I thought I may just have a breakdown right there in the road.

I returned to the apartment early and scrubbed my face, neck and hands. I did not want to go crazy.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Desperate Housewife - Part 2 (of infinite)

Confession 2:

I am up to my ears in laundry--I am literally wading through it as we speak. My laundry collection is so vast I could clothe a small country of women sizes 14 to 4. And . . . I will continue to put it off.

When 8pm rolls around and I've finally gotten to that point of the day where I can do whatever the heck I choose, the last thing on my list is "Begin working on the five hundred loads of laundry you have strewn across your bedroom floor". . .

. . . mostly because:

- I do not like journeying to the basement of the apartment complex in the night (it's a really long walk)
- I do not like carrying/dragging a million pounds of laundry with me
- I do not like having to return to said dungeon multiple times in one night
- I do not like folding laundry
- The laundry will just end up right back where it started because I do not have a dresser (admittedly, though, it'll be clean)

It took an act of Tad to sort through it all and get me to the point where I started thinking about actually doing laundry. But now I realize I have no fewer than 7 loads ahead of me.

That's what? . . . a million and one pieces of clothing that I possess in sizes 4 to 14? My eco footprint is sounding more like an eco grand canyon.

And yet I have nothing to wear.

To which Tad would reply: You have a million things to wear.

To which I would reply: Yeah, but nothing sounds good.

Or, depending on how much time elapses before I begin laundry season: Yeah, but nothings clean.

I am ashamed of this.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Desperate Housewife - Part 1 (of infinite)

Confession 1:

I clip coupons--I am a coupon clipper. I keep my stash in my coin purse and use it to guide my shopping. And . . . I am aggressive.

If the coupon says buy one, get one and I happen to have two of the same, I'll end up with four items when I only needed one.

If the coupon says "expries 09/20/09" and the date is 09/21/09, I'll slip it to the cashier anyway just in case they aren't paying attention.

If the coupon says "offer only valid at 4am on a Saturday morning when the wind is blowing westerly at 15mph and two red cars are parked side by side in the center lane of the parking lot", then you'd better believe I'll be the first in line as soon as that second car turns off his engine.

And, if I happen to have a coupon that will save me $1 on the purchase of two items, but I failed to put it in my coin purse and have thence found myself at the grocery store (wal-mart) without it . . . well, then I'll simply pass up those items.

Because a good coupon should never go to waste.

I am ashamed of this.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

You Decide 2009: Amanda's Best Friend

For years I've been saying I want a Great Dane. He's going to be black and I'm going to name him Achilles (or Snake Eyes, or Vader, or Gambit). But most of the time, it's Achilles.

I've only seen these giant dogs in person a few times, and each time I have experienced an uncontrollable urge to jump on them and hug them and cuddle them. (Admittedly, I have this urge with almost every dog, but nevertheless I feel it more strongly with the Great Dane). Thankfully each time I was able to control the uncontrollable urge, and save myself a bit of embarassment. But the truth still stands, these dogs make me weak. And so I must have one.

Until the other day...

I was out for my run when I came upon a Bernese Mountain Dog--big, beautiful, big. And out of nowhere I felt that uncontrollable urge creep up from within. I had to concentrate very hard on keeping my hand at a ninety-degree angle as I passed the perfect companion and try not to look directy into its eyes--for I knew I would be smitten. All the following day at work, I thought of little else. My mind took me back to that fateful run...and even more so, it took me to the time when I played with a Berner pup in a pet store. Yes, it scratched my arms to pieces, yes it ran around the cubicle like a medicated child, but I looked past all that when comparing the restless pup to the wonderful adult that he was destined to become.

And so now, dear readers, I have a great life conundrum.

Shall I get my Great Dane, Achilles? Or my Bernese Mountain Dog, name yet to be disclosed/decided?

I have ample time to decide--one year, maybe two. But do you realize how difficult it is to look forward to something when you're quite unsure as to what that something exactly is?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

RIP Mary Travers

Mary Travers is dead.

This shouldn't affect me, but it does.

I cannot stop thinking about the many times my dad would call us in to catch a bit of whatever Peter, Paul & Mary special PBS had playing during pledge week. He'd have us watch song after song, singing along and re-living his youth.

We fought it.

They were old-looking, after all. Not hip enough. Just a bunch of anti-Vietnam hippies who sang about weed.

I was bothered by the way Mary flipped her hair when she sang. Those stick-straight bangs. And that guy who always hunched over his guitar was just a bit on the creepy side. I like the taller one. He seemed the most normal.

So, we really fought it. Each and every time.

Especially when my dad would draw similarities between myself and Mary. The last thing I wanted was to be thought of as a mini-Mary.

But now, looking back at photos of her before her leukemia--before Peter, Paul & Mommy, I realize I should have been flattered.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Biggest Loser - Here We Go

While this may be the season with the biggest contestants EVER, it also happens to be the season with the most screaming and crying. And dying.

And I love it.

It's the only show that makes ME scream and cry. Granted, it's the only show I watch, but still. Two hours. That's a lot for a person who never watches TV. Yet I do it. And I look forward to it.

I choose to ignore the great irony of the show--while promoting health and wellness and 'getting off the couch' and it manages to monopolize two hours of your Tuesday night.

For no reason except that two hours of screaming and crying and dying is better than one.

Good TV habits, like all good diets, can always be put off until the morning.

Monday, September 14, 2009

On Learning Russian

Bonjour! Merhaba! Buon Giorno! Hola! Hello!

If the foundation of a language is its alphabet, then the cornerstone of conversation is its greeting.

This is where I fall short.


Try saying that.


Wrong again.

The formal 'hello' in Russian has been my nemesis for years. I simply cannot get my mouth to rapidly pronounce the 'z', 'd', and 'r' in a way that allows me to follow up with an 's' and then the rest of the word.

I couldn't get it when I was assisted by actual Russians, and I can't get it now that I'm listening to a tape that breaks each and every word into tiny syllables. My only hope is to rely upon the informal greeting, Privet!

The problem with this is that every Russian I meet will think me to be nothing more than a disrespectful, pompous Amerikanski. (Yes, I actually have heard a Russian derisively mutter this under his breath when in my presence--I imagine he was saying something like "Ugh, obviously we have some American girls in our presence...I can tell by how I can no longer hear my own thoughts because the room is echoing with giggles and rainbows...where is my vodka?").

So, yes. I'm totally done for. No special trips to see Putin for me.

Another interesting fact I'd like to point out about my new audio program, is the first phrase I learned was "Excuse me".

. . . definitely could have used that 7 years ago when I frantically jumped on a bus and smacked an old lady in the face as I reached for the standing-room-only bar. All I could do was stand there completely and stupidly silent as she rattled off a string of what I could only assume were profanities.

I was sure it would only make matters worse if I exhausted my Russian vocabulary on phrases such as "Happy 8th of March" and "I want an apple".

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Musings: Movies with Language

1. It is always helpful to have a pack of blank notecards in your purse when attending a bachelorette party.

2. It is always dangerous when, as a new pastor in a small town, you sneak out to the big city to see a movie with the word "Bast***s" in the title, because chances are the Senior Pastor has snuck out to the big city as well--except in his case, it's for some serious shopping and stir fry. In this particular dangerous situation, he'll be seated on a bench outside of the theater, people-watching for some good Sunday morning sermon stories, while his wife and her close friend (who is wearing a Bob the Tomato t-shirt) finish some shopping for Children's Ministries. He'll see you, and happily strike up conversation, asking what movie you intend to see, and you'll have to tell him, stating the name of the movie not once, but twice because he thought he didn't hear you correctly. He'll hide his devastation, because he wants to appear relevant, but there's no getting around the fact that God's #1 Guy caught you paying $8.50 to see a movie that has the word "bast***s" in the title. And then Tad will repeat "Be sure your sins will find you out" the rest of the evening.

3. It is always optimistic to think that you can learn a language listening to cd's from the library at work and during work outs. But if the people on TV and in the movies can do it, why not give it a try? (wish me luck!)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Why I Will Never Read Walden

In the land of purple mountains and bra-less hippies, there visited a city girl who volunteered to be Lead Paddler on a white water rafting trip down the Arkansas River. That city girl was me. . .

Our raft guide had already selected an ex-marine, Skip, to be one of the Lead Paddlers. She needed only one more. When neither Skip's wife nor his mentally handicapped daughter nor my friend Stephanie (who loves nature things) nor my friend Erin (a Colorado native) volunteered, I tentatively raised my hand. How bad could it be? Just yell "Rock!" every time you see a rock and you're good to go.

"Alright!" Erica, our super hippie guide (yes, she had dreadlocks...we were unsure about leg hair) sang out in her totally melodic, airy, sing-songy voice. "Amanda's our other Lead Paddler!"

"Why did you do that?!" Erin chastised me.

"Are you crazy?" Stephanie exclaimed.

"No one else volunteered," I said. "I felt sorry for her."

"You shouldn't have done that."

Come to find out, the Lead Paddler has to set the pace for the entire team. It's up to them to ensure no one dies, but they're also the first to topple out if things to awry. They have to be the strongest, the best, the most attentive. Ex-marine Skip was a natural choice. Me? Not so much.

I spent the next three hours trying not to get our team killed, trying to prevent the mentally retarded person from doing a sommersault into the water, trying to hear Erica's sing-songy instructions over the roar of the whirlpools, and trying to keep up with Skip's over-compensated, super ex-marine strokes that had us turning too far to the left or the right every time WITHOUT FAIL.

All of that, I could put up with. No problem. For once in my life, I enjoyed being in nature and was loving the great outdoors. I didn't mind the fact that Skip was too deaf to hear the "STOP!" command and sent us spinning or that Erin was being beaten over the head by the "disabled" girls's paddle.

Until....the bugs.

They were everywhere. In swarms of millions upon millions. And I, like any good girl, had applied a layer of sunscreen right before boarding. After passing through a particularly bug-infested area, I turned back to Stephanie to say something when she burst out laughing, pointing at my face. Erin laughed too. Even Skip. EVEN HIPPIE ERICA CHUCKLED A BIT.

From what I was told (and, judging by the level of laughter I created), my face was a gnat graveyard. There had to be at least twenty to thirty little guys splattered on my skin, stuck to the sunscreen. I spent the rest of the trip, turning to Stephanie, asking whether nature was on me and wishing I hadn't volunteered to be Lead Paddler.

I was reminded of this incident today, after coming in from my run. I truly don't like nature.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Vote for Your Favorite Do!

First things first, it's endless shrimp time at Red Lobster! I literally wait in salivated anticipation for this event and it's finally here! Now, to save up the cash and train my stomach...

P.s. it seems as though they've removed the shrimp pasta as an endless shrimp Also, it appears they've done away with your choice of side...also boo.

Now, for what you've all been waiting for. . .

I'm going to get a haircut! Yay! I'm thinking of something like this (mostly because the lady's hair reminds me of my own puffball):

Or maybe something like this:

I'm leaning toward the second one for obvious reasons, but what do you all think? Suggestions? Ideas? I'm too poor to get it colored, so any highlighting/lowlighting ideas area no-go, and I'd like for it to brush my shoulders (as my one experience with jawline short hair was so bad even the Mexicans at Logan's stopped whistling at me).

So these are my ideas....anyone got ideas? Input?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Notes of the Past

One of the most powerful ways to relive a memory is through scent. A friend knew this, and during our stay in Turkey you could find her in her room every morning, spraying a certain body splash and taking it all in. Now, I'm sure, every time she smells that particular fragrance it takes her back to the days of sweltering heat, lamb on a stick, olive Lays potato chips, and no coffee to-go (though I think the latter affected us more than it did her).

I accidentally managed this effect while in Russia a few years prior. I had an inexpensive, 9 or 12 oz. bottle of a sort of tropical melon fragrance that I used on a daily if not bi-daily basis. Every time I happen to stumble across that particular bottle in a box of old items (I never use my fragrances up entirely) or accidentally sample it in the Wal-Mart body splash aisle, I am transported to a place of blistering cold, dogs with no homes, bacon Lays potato chips, and a longing for Lenin to return.

The second most powerful way to relive a memory, I have found, is through sound. I have a shortlist of albums that remind me of where I was and what I was doing when I first truly became engaged with those songs.

Here are five albums that, when played, remind me of different times:

Parachutes by Coldplay:
When the album released in 2000, the popular track "Yellow" held me. The music video was nothing more than a ridiculous at-home-video, but I loved it. I broke down and purchased it a year or so later, but it didn't get adequate playing time in my boombox until my freshman year at college (2002). I'd never heard anything like it nor have I heard anything similar since. Coldplay veered off in a different direction afterward, and well, the sounds of Parachutes will always be just that: the sounds of Parachutes. Every time I hear this album, I am once again in room 106, my roommate Kim doing homework on the bed across from mine and our icicle lights glowing brightly.

by Death Cab for Cutie:

I was a sophomore in 2003--the year Transatlaticism came out. I hadn't heard of Death Cab before, but was a goner once a friend showed their performance on Letterman (or was it Leno?). This played endlessly in my room, that year, and I'll never forget the moment of panic when realizing that I had purchased my first album with language I would have to hide from my parents. Needless to say, that moment of panic came and went rather quickly, as the sheer perfection of the album formed nothing but love and admiration in my heart for the indie group from Seattle. Listening to this album reminds me of have a double room to myself, sleeping through my Dr. Wes exam, pulling all-nighters and boys.

Speak for Yourself by Imogen Heap:
I've had a slew of female celebrities I've wanted to be. The most persistent, however, was Imogen Heap. This british electronica/pop rocker stole my heart with her collaborative effort as Frou Frou, and the moment her solo album hit the shelves in the summer of 2005, I was there. I took her music to Antalya, Turkey, where I listened to it while seated on our apartment's balcony, overlooking the busy street and monorail below and Mediterranean in the distance.

Our Endless Numbered Days
by Iron and Wine:

My return from Turkey brought with it a list of new artists and albums to purchase, as the people responsible for putting the trip together fed my hunger for music. Iron and Wine was one such artist. I had graduated college and in the midst of a 6-week living arrangement with BethEmily when this album entered my life. It followed me out of that apartment and into one of my own, filling the empty walls and floors with its rich sound and at-home feel. It reminds me of those few years I spent living alone, eating rice and potatos and waiting tables.

Girls and Boys by Ingrid Michaelson:
Lastly, I present you the album I brought with my while touring the Chicago suburbs. As an Admissions Counselor in 2008, my primary travel zone was the Chicagoland area. The fun, upbeat songs on this album carried me from traffic jam to traffic jam, school visit to school visit, college fair to college fair, and pizza place to pizza place. This was also the album that witnessed my run-in with homes of my past. Not once. Not twice. But three times. This album reminds me of when I was truly doing something I loved in an area of the country that I'd marry if it were area I miss so very much.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Called to be an secretary

It's funny how your calling can hit you at any moment out of nowhere. Mine hit me whilst checking my Gmail:

Why, yes! Yes, I've always wanted to become an secretary! I cannot think of anything more fulfilling or thrilling than being an secretary. As a young girl, I dreamed of one day going to school and learning how to become an helper of many sorts. An typer, an filer, an scheduler--AN SECRETARY.

And now? Now, I have an key. And I'm going to unlock the door to my future.

Better write a check for my fee Info!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Brain Bruise

Have no fear. I almost died, but now I am alive.

Whoever decided that the part of a migraine where you see nothing but swirlies, zigzags and/or become partially blind should be called an "AURA" was a complete moron. Aura? How does that even remotely describe the coming onslaught of pain and fear?

"Oh, no! Not this! Not an . . . aura!"

Yeah...doesn't quite cut it.

And then there's this little doo-hickey called Paresthesia. Para-what? Oh, that's just the part where half of your face falls off and suddenly have a deep kinship with Sylvester Stallone. Then you get all these pricklies in your appendages (but only on one side!) and you think to yourself:

"Am I dying? Is this it? Right here in the middle of the women's section at Target is where I'm going to have a stroke at the age of 25 and die?"

But no fear! Soon both the aura and paresthesia will be replaced by the most mind-numbing (literally) pain you can imagine as you find yourself rocking back and forth on your mattress, considering whether it would benefit your cause more to

1) drill a hole above your temple to alleviate pressure, or
2) bash your head repeatedly against the wall to re-focus the pain on something that seems more manageable.

I was a wuss this time around, and opted for the lesser-known, number 3:

3) cry like a baby, repeating the word "Jesus" until He hears you and decided you've suffered long enough.

7 hours later, I'm mostly pain-free.

36 hours later, I'm still recovering from what I refer to as "brain bruise".