Monday, November 30, 2009

I Don't Participate In Cyber Mondays

Cyber Monday makes me laugh.

Why? Because I have a sense of humor more similar to that of my 14-year-old brother than what one would expect of a college professor.

The phrase "Cyber Monday" is funny to me for several reasons. First, "cyber" is such a dated term. It makes me think of the late 90s, when everything was e-this or e-that. Hearing the word makes me want to break out Backstreet Boys music.

The datedness factor leads me to the second reason "cyber" makes me giggle. As you may or may not know, textbooks are not written by the audience to whom they are addressed. No, they are generally penned by old academics who are trying desperately to make their content seem relevant. Which is awesome... most of the time.

This time it's just awesomely funny.

One of the textbooks I use explains to students that sometimes, when grown-ups love each other very much and are very far away from one another, they use the internet to "cyber." Yep, that's the word they chose. So when I see that Twitter is alive with Cyber Monday references, I can't help but imagine an online orgy.

Thanks, old academic textbook-writers. You gave me a priceless image that simultaneously makes me shudder and laugh.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Three Pretty Things : 11/29

How was your Thanksgiving weekend? I hope it was filled with happiness and memory-making, as mine was.

The entire week leading up to the holiday was one for which I am thankful. So many pretty things... but here are three that made me stop and smile.
It's a family joke that we're related to Sherlock Holmes (we aren't, because he is pretend). Seeing this display at Barnes and Noble made me giggle and made other shoppers step away from me.

My friend Ashley and I wrote a letter to Santa. As she put it in the box, I saw the Believe Meter's hand move to the right!

Okay. I moved it myself. Whatever.

This is a tree from which birds tend to poop on cars, so I try not to park near it. But without leaves (and without birds), it's really rather beautiful.

Tell me in the comments: what made your life pretty this week?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Glamorous Life?

This past Monday I told you I was going to work on adding some glamor to my life.

It wasn't as if I planned on transforming into Marilyn Monroe (because there was this one time I just tried to imitate her and instead of looking gorgeous while holding down a billowing skirt, I looked like I was touching myself in public... not okay). I was actually just trying to prevent myself from turning into Liz Lemon.

I documented the week in pictures, so let's take a look together, shall we?
You can't see it, but I'm also wearing grey skinny jeans and knee-high black leather boots. Does that aid the glamor factor or make it a hooker-worthy ensemble?

The Glamorous: outfit looked pulled-together (and I was later validated by seeing a similar outfit worn by Maegan of

The Not-so-glamorous: having friends flip through iPhone pictures and demand to know why you're taking pictures of yourself in a Starbucks bathroom.

The point was to showcase the bright red lips I sported all day. Instead, you can see I was pre-gaming Thanksgiving dinner with lots of pasta, cookies, and snacks. And that I would never make it as a model with those weird faces I make.

Ahh, Thanksgiving. I thought plaid seemed "American" enough to wear to celebrate. It seems that I also wore food on my shirt to celebrate (some sweet potato casserole leaked on me during transport).

This is definitely not glamorous.

Yeah, even the second picture of me is all like, "Are you serious, Picture One?"

Last day (today), and looking down at this snap made me feel like I didn't accomplished my goal. What I did accomplish was 1) putting more effort into my appearance, 2) trying a few things I wouldn't normally (was surprised to like the red lips), and 3) thought about some of the glamorous people I know.

My friend Meng, for example. She is gorgeous enough to be a movie star, it's true, but what draws people to her is a sense of humor, desire to have fun and be silly, and to always make other people feel important.

As I thought about Meng, I said to myself, "I could work on those things... heck, I already have the humor. Maybe I should just work on becoming a better person."

Even though that seemed like a Liz Lemon thing to think, I was okay with it. Maybe being like her isn't really all that bad.

And then I accidentally took this picture.
No more better person crap. I'm on my way to glamorous!

Friday, November 27, 2009

45 Things That Don't Make Me Gnash My Teeth

Yesterday I suggested you take a look at Havi's list of 77 Things That Don't Completely Suck. Today I'm doing my own version, because while it's hard to be actually thankful without pumpkin pie, I can admit there are a few things in life that aren't causing much gnashing of teeth.

Havi poured some lentils into a bowl and they added up to 77. I poured out my bottle of Aleve, and there were 45 pills. So welcome to my list of 45 Things That Don't Make Me Gnash My Teeth.
  1. I'm drinking a soy peppermint mocha.
  2. I think I'm recovering from the week-long Festival of Food... my belly is no longer faking a pregnancy.
  3. The Nutella cream pie I made yesterday went over well.
  4. The turkey I helped my friend Laura cook turned out really well. Minor miracle, since neither of us really had any idea what we were doing. We wore gloves and disinfected with Clorox wipes all day.
  5. I watched TV yesterday for the first time in forever... oh my gosh I love commercials and Myth Busters.
  6. When I tell people I'm moving, they're all sad and teary and asking when I'm coming back to visit (unless they're west coast friends... those ones cheer and demand we start scheduling the next six months of fun-ness).
  7. The idea of moving has made me start appreciating some aspects of this town I took for granted.
  8. Like traffic that doesn't suck all the time.
  9. Like warm weather in November (high 70s? yes, please).
  10. Like being able to drive no more than 15 minutes if I want to see friends.
  11. Like getting coffee with former professors so I can retain some of my academic brain cells.
  12. I have fantastic glasses.
  13. My hair is really amazing, too. Because I'm being honest here.
  14. People like Laura make me happy because when I went over to her house to help her cook a turkey, she met me at the door with a horrified look on her face and told me that turkeys were gross and I'd be the one handling the corpse and taking out the innards but she had gloves for me to wear. And she took pictures.
  15. She also gave me toothpicks so I could stab the neck flaps of the turkey together. That was nice.
  16. Laura is also the kind of person you can call when you're sad. She will tell you nice things or feed you.
  17. Amy is another good friend, and she will tell you nice things but not always in the gushiest and nicest way... so you know you can trust what she says.
  18. I also got a great text message last night wishing me a happy Thanksgiving while simultaneously calling me a hooker. That made me smile.
  19. Trevor promises to wear a light-up Christmas sweater in public. Do I have to explain why that is wonderful?
  20. Ashley promised me that I will always have a job as a carnie if I need one. She also is teaching me the proper vocabulary for that profession.
  21. I still have a lot of cookies in my kitchen.
  22. There are people who understand my sense of humor (that is far from being everyone).
  23. I've just been informed that understanding my sense of humor takes some practice... so that means that for the people who do get me, they're willing to put in the effort. That's kind of awesome. It's probably because of my hair.
  24. I have small ears. I'm really glad about that.
  25. I won the first round of Pit the other night. I hate that game, I didn't want to play that game, so victory was twice as sweet.
  26. There is a sequel to "The Hunger Games" that I didn't know about until recently. I'm going to read it on the flight to Washington.
  27. Tonight is Milkshake Night.
  28. I assign homework. While grading isn't fun, it's more fun to be the teacher who evilly gives out projects before the holidays than the students who have to do them. Bwahaha.
  29. It's nice that I haven't had to birth a child. Teleporting them out of womb: that is the way of the future.
  30. I am wearing "nice clothes" from the waist up, and pajamas from the waist down. This is kind of my uniform unless I'm in a classroom.
  31. Puppy play-time yesterday was fun.
  32. On Sunday, I discovered I'd lost some weight... making me the lightest I've been in about a year, and thinner than is a good idea. This doesn't make me gnash my teeth because it happened right before the Thanksgiving Stuff-a-thon, so now it's like I'm normal even though I ate enough for a small country.
  33. The Book of Revelation fell out of my Bible. I've never really understood or liked it, so now I don't have to worry about it anymore.
  34. I have a dishwasher.
  35. Oooh, project that I'm completely excited about! Wish it had been my idea, but thrilled that someone thought I'd be a good addition to the Top Secret Team of Awesomeness.
  36. The heat came on just now, which is utterly fantastic because I was thinking about how I was probably going to curl up and fall asleep and die of hypothermia. That is what made more sense than me putting on more clothes or turning up the thermostat.
  37. Shoes.
  38. The painting I have of my Grandpa Jack dancing with my two-year-old self at a wedding.
  39. Hearing from readers, friends, or stalkers (or all of the above) that something rotten was going on, and out of the angry soul bubbled up the words, "I am too pretty for this!" Good to know I helped out.
  40. Blackened chicken pasta. Yum.
  41. Equally good in an entirely different way: weird dream-inducing kosher dogs at The Weenie Stand.
  42. Blog comments (especially ones like what Sara wrote on yesterday's post). If you write, you know what I mean.
  43. Sleeping in on Black Friday. I don't need anything that much.
  44. No "work" this week. Again, a benefit of teaching.
  45. I have a smartphone that is smarter than me (one day, when it starts mocking me, I will be sorry I ever bought it).
Are there other things that might qualify as gnashing-less? Sure. I'll probably think of them later, and I'll probably wonder why in the world I included my ears on this list. But that's okay, because it isn't definitive, this isn't Thanksgiving, and it's all true right now.

What about you? Anything that doesn't completely suck or definitely doesn't make you gnash your teeth?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgivingly Making Messes

If you live outside the United States (or inside them and in a cave somewhere), you might not know it's Thanksgiving.

That wouldn't be a problem if you were in the kitchen with me now, because you'd smell the turkey in the oven (I've never cooked a turkey before!), see the sweet potatoes cooking on the stovetop, and could peek into the fridge to check out a Nutella cream pie setting. And I'd probably slap you upside the head if you asked why there was so much food and then exclaim, "It's Thanksgiving! Be thankful for something while you help me clean up the mess I made in here."

So I'm busy making messes and food today, but I'll be back here tomorrow if I've woken from my food coma. Meanwhile, I think you should check out Havi's list of 77 Things That Don't Completely Suck... I might follow her lead tomorrow instead of punching elderly ladies in the face for a Black Friday discount on the last pair of socks.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

We Can Buy All Sorts Of Potatoes!

I am posting super late today for many reasons. I am so thankful for all of them, but here are two.

I am thankful for the high price of airfare, the long lines for security at the airport, and even the luggage that occasionally gets lost en route. The "inconveniences" we experience in traveling allow us to see people who live all over the country and world more than once or twice in our lives.

This week, all the combined problems of airports and airplanes brought me three days with two of my favorite people, Ashley and John. They recently moved from Virginia to California, but came back thousands of miles for a visit. This allowed Ashley and I to engage in our favorite holiday tradition: writing to Santa.
I'm also thankful for huge corporations like Wal-Mart. I am thankful for the miles of crowded parking, the packed stores with tired faces, and the cheap wares they lure me into buying.

When I stopped there today for last-minute ingredients for tomorrow's Thanksgiving feast, I saw families carefully checking their shopping lists and counting out their dimes and quarters at the cash register.

Because of places like Wal-Mart, families who are struggling to pay their bills will still be able to celebrate the things they do have with a traditional meal. And what's even better? Because of all those "cheap wares," we can celebrate with whatever tradition we grew up with because we have choices. So while my friends grew up eating mashed potatoes (they're buying russet), I grew up eating roasted potatoes... so I'm buying red baby potatoes. That's kind of amazing if you think about it.

I sound cheesy. Okay, fine. But cheesy or not, I'm taking time this holiday to see which of my "problems" might actually be symptoms of blessing and bounty.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving if you celebrate, and a great Thursday if you don't.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How You Know You've Made It As A Blogger

I've made it as a blogger.

I didn't know if this would ever happen... I mean, lightning rarely strikes twice, and I had my first bit of electrocution as a celebrity gossip blogger. So I'm just flattered and trying to prepare myself for the fame that's sure to be around the corner.

How do I know I've "made it" as a blogger, you ask? Well, it's when you start having people come to you for things. With the celebrity gossip thing, I had publicists contacting me out of the blue to promote their shows, artists, whatever. And while mostly that just meant I got a lot of press releases from Animal Planet, National Geographic, and Playboy, it was something.

And you'd be surprised how much a site's Google rankings improve when you include keywords like "nude," "Victoria's Secret models," and "Playboy." Especially when they're all in one sentence like that.

So this past week, when I was told by blogger Feelmore that she was naming me as a recipient to the award below (I didn't forget!), I was honored.

But I guess it brought my blog to the attention of some of her important friends, because NoNine Recordings emailed me soon after and gave me a song from their new artist, David Minor.

So obviously, I've made it.

I've also disclosed that I got a freebie, so now everyone (*cough* government regulators *cough*) can be happy.

So thank you all for making this happen. I'm tearing up a little when I think of all my fans and my supporters, and the long hard hours I've put into this blog for 2.5 whole months. Oh, gosh, I don't want to forget my friends, my family, my dog... everyone who has made this journey with me.

This also means I may need to stop associating with some of you non-freebie-receivers. Sorry, but now that I'm in demand I really have to focus on my work and perfecting my craft and dodging the photogs.

(Or you can just enjoy the free song by David Minor, too, thanks to the generous people at NoNine Recordings. That would actually fix everything.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

I Am Not Liz Lemon

A few nights ago, I sat on my couch watching "30 Rock" on Hulu. I was eating Nutella from the jar, having already downed take-out teriyaki and my daily serving of fruit (V8 juice).

And that's when it hit me.

"Amy, I am eating Nutella from the jar while watching television. I'm one stick of fried cheese away from becoming Liz Lemon!"

I got a text back: "No. If you were Liz Lemon, you would've peed in a jar in order to scare off a roommate. I'm pretty sure you haven't done that."

"Maybe I have..." I mysteriously responded.

"If you had, you would've called me immediately to brag. And that's only if you didn't have your phone within reach to call while you were doing it," Amy texted.

She was right, because I am predictable. I am much like Liz Lemon, minus the crazy antics. That leaves me with glasses and neurosis.

Let me clarify: I am not opposed to comparisons to Tina Fey. She has been called the pin-up girl for smart men, and I am okay with getting lumped into that category. But Liz Lemon is the smart, hard-working, slightly frumpy gal who takes everyone's crap and sits at home eating in her free time -- not my life's dream. So I started wondering... what is the antithesis of Liz Lemon?

My conclusion: anyone with an ounce of glamor. So this week, I won't give you the play by play, but I'm working on incorporating everyday glamor. Research (read: "Google searches") shows that there are diverse opinions about what constitutes this state. Red nail polish? Platinum hair? Expensive belongings? Or is it more of a way of being...?

These are the things I'm working on figuring out. And while most people work their entire lives or careers to achieve something like glamor, I'm aiming to have it done by Saturday.

I'll let you know how that goes.

In the meantime, help me out: what do you think makes someone glamorous? I'd appreciate the shortcuts, since I only have six days to get this right.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Three Pretty Things : 11/22

My week has had so many lovely moments. It was difficult to choose just three to share with you.

Some things that didn't make it -- not because they weren't great, but more because they didn't photograph well -- were excited text messages from friends who are arriving from California tomorrow (!!), good conversations with great people, cooking breakfast for friends, and an hour of flying with my two favorite pilots.

And I know this week promises more of the same kind of happiness.

For now, though, I'll show you Three Pretty Things from the last seven days.
I'm amazed how a tree, reduced nearly to the appearance of dead wood, can still be so beautiful.

The shape and color of these leaves are delicate and perfect. When I cross them on the brick sidewalk I feel like a bride, before whom the lemony petals have been strewn... that in some way, the ground has been made more beautiful in preparation for my feet.

If you didn't know: I love cemeteries, and this is one of my favorites. I went for a long afternoon drive last week, and stopped here to enjoy the aura of peace in the church graveyard. I left when someone apparently called the church's security team and they came out to give me dirty looks for quietly wandering their open, unlocked cemetery.

Tell me about the highlights of your week. What has made it pretty?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dear Virginia Driver...

Dear Virginia Driver,

How are you doing? I'm sure your day is going well, because you managed to get yourself out of a tight spot. I mean that literally -- the parking spot you chose was just a little squished for your car and your abilities. I know, because in your efforts, you managed to leave a dent and streaks of paint along my back bumper.

What you didn't leave, however, is a note.

I know, I know, times are rough with this economy and all. I'm sure you didn't work my car repairs into your budget. I've bumped into a few vehicles in my day, so I know the way your stomach churns at the thought.

But I left a note.

I left a note when I was making minimum wage working retail over summer breaks. I left a note when I was certain the dent could just be hammered out and the paint chips buffed off. I left a note because I am not a bitch, and think other people might be attached to their belongings and have a reasonable expectation that cars won't be banged up after a 15 minute stop at the grocery store.

So Virginia Driver, whoever you are, I want to thank you for giving me another reason to be happy I'm leaving this town. Thank you for reminding me that I behave better than you, I'm probably prettier than you, and am a whole lot less rotten on the inside than you.


Friday, November 20, 2009

As You Wish

Today has been a productive day so far (it's not quite 3 p.m.), but one of those productive days where you still don't feel like anything got done.

Ever have one of those?

I taught class, sat in on another one, got some feedback from a teaching observation, learned how to mask my site (meaning you can type in "" and the URL won't change anymore), graded a stack of speech evaluation sheets, fell asleep at my keyboard...

Yes, I'm bored by my litany of tasks, too.

So for the next few days, I'm going to ask you questions about what you like best about this site. Since I like writing and seeing my words all over the internet no matter the subject, I figured I could maybe give you more of what you already enjoy.

Here's my first question for all of you.

Thanks for answering!

Now tell me in the comments: what about today (Friday at last!) or your weekend plans is getting you excited about life? For me, it's lazer tag tomorrow!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Position Of Stalker Has Been Filled

I've had some creepy people pass through my life.

The worst one was probably the guy from my freshman year of college. He sent me cookies, called my dorm room often, and "playfully" told me he was outside my building and staring at my window.


He also emailed me a few years later to tell me his wife was divorcing him, and he was single and ready to mingle.

I was so glad when the college finally put password protection on its website and gave us filter options for email accounts.
(I have to keep my big, strong brother around to protect me.)

The last few years have been relatively stalker-free, so I was a little surprised by my encounter yesterday with a grocery store employee.

I pulled my car into a parking space so I could head over to Subway, which was right next store to the supermarket. As I opened my door, a grocery store employee at the cart return called out, "Oh! It's you!"

"Uh, yes," I responded, uncertain how to act in this strange display of customer recognition.

"I haven't seen you in forever! It's so good to see you! How have you been? I didn't know you got a new car!"

How does he know this car is new? Why does he care? This doesn't seem like a customer service strategy, this just seems creeeeeepy.

"Yep. New car. I'm good."

I backed away slowly as I spoke, which apparently is nonverbal for "Come closer! I want to talk to you!" because Cart Guy's face brightened and he started walking in my direction while babbling more excitement over seeing me.

I smiled -- okay, I bared my teeth -- and I threw a "goodbye" over my shoulder as I turned and nearly ran into Subway.

Is it possible that Cart Guy is trying to be friendly? Maybe he doesn't have a Social Cues Reader?

I'm too pretty for this.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Day Seven: First I Must Breathe

I'm going to get accused of a cop-out. I can feel it.

But if you know me at all, you know this is truly a step toward slight improvement: today, I will make a concerted effort to relax.

For many reasons outside and inside my control, I get stressed out. My eyes glaze over, my neck muscles and veins become unusually defined, and I think I even snarl occasionally. Is any of this helpful? No, of course not. But it's something that just seems to happen, and cheery Care Bear thoughts don't snap me out of it.

So first, I took a few minutes to stretch out on my back and do some deep breathing. This slowed my heart rate (which had been accelerated to stress AND four cups of coffee), helped ease my muscles, and rethink my day.

The second thing I did was head over to Subway to buy a sandwich. Why is this relaxing to me? Because I rarely eat fast food, preferring to eat something healthy and possibly boring at home. But I gave myself permission to eat something easy that I was craving, and now feel soooo much better. Maybe my body needed carbs? Or sliced onions?

The third thing I did to relax was some intrapersonal communication (See, kids? You WILL use some of those terms you learned in speech class!). I had an internal conversation with myself about what was stressing me out today, and how I could make it manageable.

"Christina," I said in my warmest internal voice, "Let's write a list of the things that need to get done, okay?"

"Only if there are checkboxes," I grumped in reply. "I want to make Xs when I'm done with stuff."

"That's a great idea!" my kind, reasonable self enthused. "And if you do one or two of the easier tasks, you're going to feel a sense of accomplishment which might help this stress funk we're in. And remember: you have all day to get this done."

So I'm sitting here at my computer, pecking away and making big black Xs on my checklist. And guess what? Between the extra oxygen in my brain, the onions in my belly, and the joy of listmaking, I am much less stressed.

What do you do to ease stress?

It's the last day of our Week of Slight Improvements! Congratulations to those of you who have stuck it out and those of you who tried. What three things did you work on today? Anything about the week you want to share? Talk to me in the comments!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Day Six: There Are Other People In The World

Today is Day Six of the Week of Slight Improvements, and I'm really glad we've been doing this.

But one thing that's bothered me is that as I write about my meager efforts, the focus tends to be all on me. And that's not really what I intended.
(Yet I use a picture of myself... interesting how I conflict the messages.)

So today's goal is to push some of that attention to people and organizations I think you should know about.

First, people. I could tell you about some of the famous bloggers I read regularly, but I thought you might want to know some of the lesser-known writers who provide me with feedback and encouragement.

Sarah Spelled With No H -- she's just fantastic. She's honest, funny, and has become a venting buddy.

A Hot Piece of Sass -- might one day rule the world, so be her friend now.

Makeup and Beauty Blog
-- Karen has a huge following, but still makes time to chit chat with the people who love her... thus perpetuating a cycle of adoration.

Sid Prince Explains -- he's taking a break for NaNoWriMo, but when it's there the writing is great and the author is quick to engage his readers.

Second, causes. There are a lot of great organizations out there that you should know about -- and I have a special place in my heart for Pantene Beautiful Lengths, Locks of Love, and the Susan G. Komen Foundation. But gives you a super easy way to make a difference every day. PSA from Skip1 on Vimeo.

Third, I want to highlight someone who's living a great story -- and wants to help other people do the same. Check out Chris Guillebeau (yeah, I don't know how to pronounce his last name, either) and his adventures at The Art of Non-Conformity.

But please, let's not end here! Share in the comments people, organizations, movements, stories, whatever that you think are worth some attention. I want to learn something new, too!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Day Five: Good Riddance

Today's goal is one that will be hard for me.

I'm getting rid of stuff.

One of the things I'm removing from my life is the stovetop melted mess. Yes, I still have that. No idea why, since all it does is sit on my countertop and remind me of a rice cooking failure.

"Remember that time you failed as a woman?" it whispers tauntingly.

"Yeah," I respond miserably. Well, no more!

The second thing that's exiting my life is a bag of shoes I don't wear. We're talking years since the last wear. It's time for them to leave my closet and find other feet. I'll be donating those somewhere they'll get some love.

The last thing I'll be giving away are some items I know my friends admire. I don't need them, don't use them, and only have them because I like to own things.

Some of you are probably so bored out of your skull by this list. But getting rid of things is really hard for me. I am looking around my apartment -- and it is FULL and it is currently a MESS -- and I see nothing that needs to leave. Despite knowing many, many people live with far less than what I have, I can't imagine not having every.single.thing here.

So... like I said, this is hard for me. But it's a good beginning in terms of purging my belongings, and I can know that doing so might have benefited a few people in tiny ways.

How are the rest of you doing in your week of slight improvements?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Three Pretty Things : 11/15

Wow, what a week. I know I'm not alone when I say that it seemed like it took forever... and not because I was so busy making great memories.

But the truth is, I DID make some great memories (Friday the 13th party!), I ate some great food (uh, did you see all the chocolate I made?), and I saw some really pretty things. Here are this week's Three Pretty Things.
It looks like either the moon or Epcot, but in reality it's a building on one of the college campuses where I teach.

I love autumn colors, and I also love the organic, lacy web created by those bare tree branches.

The photo seemed to be of better quality when I saw it on my iPhone screen, but seeing the city spangled out in multi-colored crystal lights... I couldn't help but include this picture.

Tomorrow we can go back to talking about slight self-improvements, but today I just want to focus on appreciating a beautiful life (and 76 degree weather).

As you think back over your week, tell me: what made it pretty?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Day Three: And Now I'm Uncomfortable

Note about my video blogs: I know that these are sometimes hit or miss. Today you'll probably be able to tell how stressed I'm feeling. The reason I post video blogs -- flaws and all -- is to just change things up and to let you see into my life a little more. Many of you are sharing your lives and your stories with me, so I'm trying to do the same.

Keep sharing. Talk to me in the comments.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Day Two: Improved By Chocolate

Okay, I have to admit that I'm already really glad that so many of you are doing this Slight Improvement Project with me... because today I did NOT feel like it. But knowing that you were working at it -- and would ask about my efforts -- kept me honest.

I woke up in a bad mood. So it kind of made sense that today was the day I'd work on being nice to people. Ugh.

But here's how I'm making it work: I'm feeding people chocolate.
Mmm, brownies...

Yeah, this looks a lot like the brownies, but it's actually a chocolate genoise... and that Nutella will soon be used to make a mousse. Yum!

These cupcakes are coming with me to a meeting I'm attending in a little while... don't really want to go, but thought food would make it better for everyone.

Not only am I fulfilling my obligation to doing something good three times, but I actually am feeling happier and more kindly toward the world.

Sidenote: That last phrase -- "kindly toward the world" -- immediately made me think of a saint in a medieval icon, with soft doe eyes and gentle hands lifted in blessing. That's not quite how I'm acting yet.

Jealous of the chocolate goodies? Want to tell me about your Day 2? Inspired to send me money? I'd like to hear all of that in the comments.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Day One Of Slightly Improved-ness

Wow, I never expected the kind of feedback I got from yesterday's post. It's awesome that so many of you are going to share this short experiment of self-improvement!

So far, I've written two of the three letters I want to send today. One of them was serious and special, the other was a "hey, let's not lose touch again because we're great people!" kind of email. I know what the third one will be... I'm going to have to break open the notecards and use my very best penmanship. This is kind of fun!
(If I don't stab you in the heart, I might write you a letter with this pen!)

But as I think about the things I want to do later in the week, I feel my inherent laziness kick in.

"Why don't you decide that you will spend extra time on your looks one day?" I suggest to myself.

"You can spend 10 extra minutes on your makeup and hair, do your nails, and buy something new to wear? That's three!"

That sounds like a great idea! Except, wait... I kind of want to do those things anyway. And they are kind of selfish-sounding goals that don't require me to do anything uncomfortable. And I am kind of already good at doing things that aren't uncomfortable.


I'll come up with some semi-virtuous things to do, don't worry. I'll even tell you about them so you know I won't cheat. But for those of you who signed on for the challenge: how is your first day going?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Week Of Slight Improvements

A conversation last night with a wonderful friend spawned an idea.

It might make me cranky, but I'm hoping it will make me a slightly better person.

Here's what I plan to do for the next week: every day, I will choose one area of my life that I've been meaning to be better about. And then I will be better, three times in a row.

That doesn't make much sense, so let me give you an example.

Lately, I've been swamped with life (excuse alert!), and felt like I've been on my own little hamster wheel. Yes, those are mice. I don't use Google images, though, so the fact that I had a picture of any rodent on a wheel is kind of amazing so suck it up.

My point is, I've been really bad at keeping in touch with people I care about. Tomorrow, I'll fix that by writing three letters, cards, or emails to people who matter to me. The day after that, I will focus on another area of my life that needs a little attention, and so on and so forth.

Got it?

I'm not writing about my project to brag about little good deeds I should already be doing... it's more to keep myself on track. But I would LOVE it if some of you decided to do it with me. We don't have to choose the same things to work on, just commit to a week of baby-step improvements.

Any takers?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Winners Can't Be Losers

Today has been a long day. For a lot of reasons. It's only 2:25 p.m. as I type this.

I'm not ready to go into the reasons, if I ever choose to at all. I'll only say right now that I am tired and perplexed.

One bright spot that I can't overlook: Sara Spelled Without An H named this blog a winner.
Wow, one day shy of the two-month mark (happy anniversary to all of you who have been with me for the last 60 days!)! There are stipulations to winning this, however, and they are demand that I...
  1. Make a cocktail. I hope this V8 splendid juice or whatever it's actually called counts.
  2. Pick four bloggers I think give good blog, too. Easy. Amber Is Lazy, A Hot Piece of Sass, Makeup and Beauty Blog, and LeMiffe. Hard part is all the people I didn't get to include.
  3. Tell the bloggers why they win. All of them make me think and laugh, and they go out of their way to connect with readers. Which makes them awesome.
There is no stipulation that demands an acceptance speech, but I prepared one anyway (I've waited my whole life for this kind of opportunity, so give me a break).

Thanks, Sara, for showing love! Thanks, everyone, for showing up! And thanks, coffee, for helping me survive the day.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Grades In The Real World

Have you ever noticed how what you do 9-5 becomes a part of who you are the other 16 hours of the day?

As a teacher, I've noticed lately I want to grade people. Tell people how to improve their lives. Give constructive criticism (okay, I don't always want to give constructive criticism...).

Honestly, if people are making me angry or irritated just by how they act, I'm probably not the only one getting turned off. I'd be willing to bet money (you know, if I had any) that what bugs me probably bugs potential employers, friends, and lovers.

For example: people who write emails that are about a paragraph long yet only one poorly-constructed sentence. You get a big fat F, but if you re-write that email properly, maybe I'll give you another shot at a better grade.

Why the F? It isn't just because it makes you look illiterate, buddy. It's because you're being disrespectful to someone by not putting the time into properly punctuating. It's because you're wasting time that you don't own when people have to try to decipher what you meant. It's because there are a lot of people out there who know how to communicate clearly, respectfully, and with a strategy... and I'd rather work with them than struggle to work with you.

But not all the grades I'd hand out would be bad. A friend definitely got an A today when she agreed with someone about finding Korean men attractive.

"You know what it is," she confided. "It's because they tan."


Because there's value in laughter, too.

What are some grades you would hand out?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Three Pretty Things : 11/8

I can't believe it's already Sunday again! There were a lot of great moments in a week that flew by, but I think what I noticed most were sunsets. Sunrises are now too early for me to care about, but the afternoons provide me with a moment to appreciate lush sky colors.

So here are my Three Pretty Things from the past week.
This moment was courtesy of a movie night with two great friends. Thank you, Zombieland, for making it all possible!

This is a quotation from Victor Frankl's book, "Man's Search for Meaning." Although my own daily struggles are nothing compared to his, I wanted to be able to see his philosophy of survival every morning.
This was on my way to teaching my night class... No more Blue Ridge mountain views to guide me to my destination, but the scenery is still stunning.

What made your week prettier?

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Coffee Shop Profiles

I'm sitting here in a coffee shop, supposedly working on that PhD application I told you about yesterday. But I'm really undercover.

Yes, that's right... I'm secretly observing the people here. I suspect they are much like the typical characters found at other coffee shops around the country -- and maybe the world.

We have the Chit-Chatters on the couch... people who are obviously regulars, here with laptops and books and a friendly greeting for other customers who come for a bit to be alone in a social manner. I know one of them (oh the irony!) and she's a sweet sweet social butterfly. I don't know her friend, but she has nice hair. It figures. Coffee shop girls tend to have nice hair.

Another important character is the Anti-Blonde. Anti-Blonde is sitting at a table across the shop, typing into her black Macbook. The Macbook matches her black hair that is strategically striped with blue. She is probably very smart and has sworn off Starbucks as part of The Establishment... but you know she was a cheerleader in high school and feels intense angst and guilt over it.

Pageboy Pete just walked in. He acquired his nickname through his unfortunate choice in headwear. Oh, Pageboy Pete. Don't you know that hat telegraphs your insecurity to everyone? You aren't hiding it -- your very head broadcasts the truth. Aaaaaaand... now he's pulling out his phone to call someone so he doesn't have to wait for his coffee alone. So sad.

No wait, not sad. He's here with Blonde Bitch. Either he truly is miserable and wants to maintain that lifestyle (hence her presence), or he doesn't know what he's in for. Either way... both the hat and the BB indicate his life is not going well. Oh well. Pageboy Pete and Blonde Bitch left, because they really don't know what to do with themselves in a coffee shop. They just need the cups as fashion accessories.

Ah, and here's another one of our friends... Serious Student. He seriously (how else?) tells the barista that he's applying for doctoral programs in Scotland. Then, in an attempt to sound humble, he admits that one can never know for sure it will work out ("though it really looks like it will!" he adds). Earnestness is the name of the game with Serious Student. Since reading passages from his masters thesis doesn't really work when hitting on women, he relies heavily on the aura of intelligence he tries to create.

Have you seen these people? I think there are probably others I haven't included... they might show up in future installments.

Friday, November 6, 2009

PhD In Procrastinating

Today is a day of thoughts that don't connect.

Those in academia probably understand -- with the holidays coming up, grades and projects and deadlines are all coming up at once, which can be stressful. Even if there's no stress, there IS busy-ness.
(Where am I looking? Into the future, of course.)

So today, I've been trying really hard to be productive. I told myself I would finish up an application for a doctoral program I reaaaaaaaaally want to be in. Have I finished it? No. But here is what I have done instead:

I told the owner of a fabulous independent coffee shop that I am loyal to Starbucks. Yes, this communications professor knows her audience! Actually, he asked about my coffee habits, and I explained that my connection to the caffeine giant is many-layered: I'm from Seattle, my grandfather was Jewish (as were many of the early investors), and I appreciate the way they have attempted to look out for employers and customers. I then critiqued their current customer strategies and gave a prediction about the future of the company.

I had a conversation with a former co-worker about the phrase "I'm too pretty for this!" She discovered this site, read where the phrase originated, and heard it pop out her mouth while in conversation a few days ago. Yay! (And if you were wondering... yes, she's definitely too pretty for whatever it was)

My best friend refused (for like the millionth time) to marry the man I've selected for her.
And I argued with her, because he's absolutely perfect for this wonderful woman. She insists he looks gourd-like, but I don't think she has any room to quibble over things like that, since she continues to confess love for that collection of wrinkles, Bob Dylan.

I described my love for the program I want to get into in gorgeous metaphor:
"seriously... this school
is like a mink coat for my mind
just unbelievably stunning and perfect
i want to roll around in it and stretch out luxuriously and then flaunt it once i know it's mine
i'm not sure if that makes sense..."
My friend suggested I make that the first paragraph of my admissions essay. Who knows? I might.

So there you have it... what I have and haven't done today. I have a brain that works and is creative but currently refuses any of my suggestions about what it should try doing.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

What Daydreams Revealed

Sometimes while I teach, I wonder what is going on in my students' heads. There are definitely times when I can tell whatever they're thinking about, it isn't the HURIER model of listening or how nonverbal communication works.

Glazed-over eyes communicate volumes, I say significantly to a sea of glazed-over eyes. No flicker of recognition. Awesome, I'm talking to myself again.

I arrived early to one of my classes today, and as I looked at all the empty desks, I realized I was being given a window into what students daydream about while in class.

What a discovery! If I'm armed with this kind of knowledge, I'll be able to integrate some of those daydream topics into my lectures and keep my classes constantly engaged! They will learn and succeed and one day make a movie about me, the teacher who transformed their lives!

I started tearing up as I made my way to the scribbled desk tops.

Here is what I learned:
Some students dream of growing up to be... Rosie, the robot maid from "The Jetsons."

They are also afraid of satellites and television sets that develop the ability to walk.

Most importantly, however, my students are dreaming of Kenmore appliances.

I don't think any of this is going to help me at all. Unless... I let my students put foil on their heads to protect them from alien attempts to control their minds.

Hmmm. That might work.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Prank's On You, "Anonymous" Caller

My mother is absolutely horrified that I posted this. My brother is not. Mom threatened to blackmail me, and tried to guilt me into not sharing it.

My guilt sensor must be broken (years of overuse?).

But out of consideration for her, I will pass on her defense: she says she didn't encourage my brother to leave the message, only overheard him and laughed as she walked by.

Believe what you want.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Last Straw

Today, we built bridges. Out of straws. In speech class.

Yes, I'm serious, and no, I haven't lost it. But I'm sure my students thought so for awhile, since I didn't explain until later why we were doing arts and crafts fit for first graders.

To test the bridges, we started out by piling on a small bag of Jolly Ranchers. No problem.
You can see, that was a piece of cake for both of the straw bridges.
So we had to upgrade to textbooks, but even then the straw bridges held up.
Finally, we piled everything that wasn't breakable on those bridges, hoping to have a winning design emerge. This picture makes it clear that it didn't happen -- both designs were strong enough to take whatever we threw at them.

The lesson was designed to demonstrate the principles of group work and leadership... and it worked. But what stood out to me was how these cheap straws, plastic cups, and dollar store tape held together under so much weight.

They aren't high-quality products. They're not strong at all -- the straws are even the ones with the bendy tops. None of these things were designed for building miniature bridges. Yet under all that unexpected pressure, weight, burden... they managed to do the job just fine.

Monday, November 2, 2009

I Don't Swagger

What stories define you?

I had a discussion last night with a former professor, and one of the things we talked about is how we shape our lives through story. If you've read the explanation of this website, you know that one of my defining stories is Too Pretty For This... but today I thought I'd share another.
I play putt-putt like I play baseball... and that is why the picture is relevant to this post.

I played in Little League growing up. Once I learned how, I loved softball and was actually pretty good. But one thing used to bother me -- if it was raining during a game, my mom sat in the car in the parking lot. The other moms huddled under umbrellas or hooded jackets and watched from the bleachers.

I asked my mom why she didn't want to watch me play, and she responded she did -- from the car. "You can't tell when I'm pitching or I'm to bat from there," I said. "You can't even see the number on my shirt."

"Sweetie, I don't need to see the number. I always know when you're playing and where. You walk differently than the other girls."

"Walk differently? How?" I tried to figure out if I had a lurching walk or some other quirk that made me monster-like.

"Well..." my mother hemmed, "If you were a boy, we'd call it a swagger."

"I walk like a BOY?" It was worse than I thought. I wasn't a monster -- I was a cootie-ridden boy.

"No, no, honey. If you were a boy, we'd call it a swagger, but you're a girl. So we call it a... sway."

"I don't swagger, I sway," I repeated.

For some reason this phrase has stuck with me. I've even been known in tired or silly moments to make people watch me walk -- yelling back to onlookers, "I don't swagger, I swaaaaaaay!"

Maybe I've made this story a part of who I am because it symbolizes a moment of reframing... where I could've been told or seen myself as a female failure. Instead, the situation was stated differently, and I was cast as a strong, feminine individual who stood out even in the rain and at a distance.

So tell me: what stories have shaped you? Share in the comments, or post on your own blog and let me know! I'm excited to hear from you.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Three Pretty Things : 11/1

I have a confession.

Only one of these things is pretty in the traditional sense. The other two just delight me. I thought maybe I could get away with it for two reasons: first, because usually beauty causes delight... so I'd be accomplishing the same goal by a different route. The second reason I thought I could get away with it was because... well, let's face it. This is my site.

So here are Three (Kind Of) Pretty Things.

Still taken aback by the beauty of some of these college campuses. It's like I'm walking on a movie set, because it really is that perfect of an environment.

So this was when I was trying to snap a shot of my costume to TwitPic last night... didn't realize till later I appear to be giving myself the finger. I'm five years old, yes, and that makes me snicker.

This one is delightful, too, because not only is that expression priceless, but I can finally see a concrete benefit to all those years of art lessons and my degree in graphic design. A fake mermaid tattoo. Yay!

BONUS Pretty Thing! Sure, call me a liar, but I figured any of you who are students or are visiting family/friends/vacation spots for the holidays might be able to relate to the beauty of this text message.

What made your week prettier? Tell me in the comments!