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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Dear Baby Jessica,

First of all, I hope you don’t mind that I call you “Baby” Jessica. It’s just that if I call you Jessica (sans Baby) it’s like I’m talking to Jessica Simpson. Although I’d probably call her Jess. Not that it would be bad to be Jessica Simpson except you’d be a divorcee by the time you were 25. And then if you went on The Bachelor and told him you’d already been married he’d probably let you go like he did to that girl last night.

But forget all that, Baby Jessica, because you have no need to go on The Bachelor; You just got married! And that’s why I’m writing you. I wanted to say congratulations. Wow, married at age 19! You really snagged a man fast. Does he tell you about where he was when you fell into the well? I mean, I guess since he’s 32 now he must have been like 14 when that all went down. Ask him if he was trying to watch the Dukes of Hazzard too. Oh, you’re probably too young to remember but the Dukes of Hazzard was actually a TV series before it was a movie starring you-know-who! Hee hee. It’s funny how she keeps coming up in conversation. Or in epistolary situations. Sorry, I’m trying to show off my big vocabulary so you’ll understand that it’s important to go to college. And I’ve always wanted to incorporate the word “epistolary” into my writing.

Oh, speaking of me and my writing, you’re probably wondering who I am. I’m Elsa or Writinggal. I don’t mean to boast but I’m actually the person who saved you from the well. I know, I know. I don’t get a lot of credit for it because I wasn’t there the night they pulled you out but those guys couldn’t have done their jobs without me. What did I do? Well I ate a pickle. That’s right. I ate a pickle and saved you! I can see how there could be a disconnect there so let me explain: I HATE pickles. But for you, I ate one. I sacrificed for you, Baby Jessica, and God rewarded both of us. He granted my wish and let you out of the well.

I also wanted to congratulate you on this $1 million I heard you’re receiving when you turn 25. That’s great. You really deserve that since you fell into a well and all. I don’t mean to intrude or tell you what to do with your money but if I had fallen into a well when I was too young to remember and then people started throwing money at me, well I would probably give at least some of it to the people who saved me. For instance, if someone had done something they really hated like watched the movie Dune or listened to a lot of techno music or I don’t know, ate something they really hated at Wendy’s as a sacrifice to get me out, well I would probably share a percentage with them. I’m just saying.

So anyway, congratulations on your marriage and all your success and fame and stuff. I sent you a three-compartment hamper from your Wal-Mart registry. My husband and I have one and trust me, it’ll save your marriage. But what do I know? I sent the same thing to Nick and Jess and look where they ended up! Hey, do you think I’ll get that back now?

Hope to hear from you soon!


Monday, January 30, 2006

Who are the People in your Neighborhood?

Frank and I went on a walk yesterday and along the way we spotted several of our neighbors: “How’s the gardening going, Edwin?” “Hey, Tammy! Long time no see.” “No, thanks, Greg, we don’t want a beer.” We like our new neighbors but they’re all so normal. There’s nothing really to discuss about them when we get back into our house.

That was different in our neighborhood in Austin. Our house was on a hill and we had big a picture window in the living room where I could sit and spy on all the neighbors.

First, there was our duplex mate, Debra. She was a single, 47-year-old hippie-like woman with a bumper sticker that said “I heart 78704. South Austin, Texas, The World.” She loved three things: her cats, live music and talking non-stop. In fact, sometimes I would be leaving to go to the YMCA really early in the morning and she would still be outside from the night before—sitting on her back-porch swing, sipping wine and chatting with a friend. She would stumble over and try to start talking to me and I would have to quickly make my escape. We never knew when Debra was going to stop by—in the evening, during the day, middle of the night (“I’m sick. Do you have some Pepsi?”) but when she did we were in for a very extended conversation.

Speaking of extended conversations, our neighbor on the other side loved to chat it up too. She lived with her husband and son and we called this family of three “The Corndogs.” Why? Well the dad had a bumper sticker on his car that just said “Corndog.” We suspect it was a band but we never actually asked. We just gave them that nickname and it stuck. We’d say, “Oh, the corndogs are going on a trip. We need to feed their fish” or “I saw dad corndog out there playing basketball with little corndog.” But mom corndog was the talkative one. If we arrived at our house and ran into her OR Debra, we might as well have a seat put on a pot of coffee. Sometimes they would both come over at the same time. It would be a long night.

On the other side of Debra were the gay stoners. Poor guys. Yes, they were gay but I’m pretty sure they weren’t stoners. We gave them that name because the guys who lived there before were definitely stoners. So we originally called the house “the stoners.” Then these three gay guys moved in (two were a couple, one was a third wheel) and if I just called them “the gay guys” Frank would get confused. So I’d say, “The gay guys who moved into the stoners’ house.” So we just shortened it to the gay stoners.

Across the street from them were the orange people. Their skin wasn’t orange; their house was. They had three kids and Frank and I just dubbed them, “The orange kids.” We’d say, “The oldest orange kid is out there playing. Oh, there’s the orange dad. Hope the gay stoners don’t see.” The gay stoners had a mad crush on the orange dad.

So there you have it. Those were our peeps on Academy dr. Now that we’re in the burbs, we don’t have clever names for our neighbors. They don’t do anything interesting like put corndog bumper stickers on their cars, paint their houses orange or…engage in homosexual activity. Yep, I miss our quirky street. But thinking about them just makes me crave a corndog.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Running with Coneys

The summer after my senior year in high school I worked at Sonic. Why Sonic? Well everybody was either working at Randalls or Sonic and I figured I’d take the one with the short shorts and the cute visors. Plus, the whole thing sounded glamorous with the free coneys and tater tots. Mmmm….tater tots.

I showed up for my first day of work (curled pony tail and all) ready to go. They taught me how to make Cherry Limeades. Yes, I know the secret recipe! Then they gave me a changer (the silver change holder that straps onto said short shorts) and allowed me to start carrying food out to customers.

On my first trip out to deliver food to a car, I was extra careful not to drop the tray. I walked really slowly. But then my manager, Marvin, yelled after me, “Run, Elsa! Run!” What? How could I run with a tray? But I looked around and the other car hops WERE running! I ignored him. I figured the person would rather get his Brown Bag special 20-seconds later than eat it off the Sonic concrete.

From then, my mantra was like Seinfeld’s: “I choose not to run.” Marvin hated me for it. In fact, he started cutting down my hours in hopes that I would just quit. But I wasn’t trying to make a lot of money; I was just working there for fun. So that didn’t get me. Then he started assigning me trivial (and disgusting) tasks like cleaning the bathrooms and taking out the trash.

One day I came back from the dumpster and my changer was gone. It had all the money I had made that night including bills! Marvin was pleased because he knew I would have to go back to the dumpster to try to find it. He also thought I wouldn’t do it.

He was wrong.

I went to the dumpster and when I didn’t see my changer I CLIMBED in! Yes, I stood in a filthy, foul-smelling, unsanitary dumpster for a $4.25 per hour job! But I found my changer. And I didn’t get fired. And I still had my dignity. It was stinky but I still had it.

Since I worked at Sonic I get a lot of questions about it. Here are the top three:

Did you wear skates? No, only Diane wore skates. She was this career car hop meaning she was like 36 and working there. Her face always had dirt on it but she wore the whole poodle skirt get-up with the skates. Like I said, I could barely walk with the trays much less roll with them.

Are you supposed to tip at Sonic? Yes and no. Yes, you should tip but not 15%. It’s just a “keep the change” type situation. Seriously, it can be like $.25. Marvin used to yell at us if we didn’t get enough tips and we’d say “But people don’t know they’re supposed to tip at Sonic.” So please tip just a little so those poor car hops don’t have to face the wrath of Marvin.

Did you dress up like a Cherry Limeade and stand on a major street, waving at cars? Yes. Actually, nobody asks me that. I just offer that information.

So I hope I’ve satisfied all your Sonic curiosity. Oh, and if a car hop with a cute curled pony tail and short shorts ever accidentally gives you change for a $20 when you only gave her a $10, don’t drive off and never return. Poor kid could end up in the dumpster that night.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Our Wednesday Sacrifice

Frank and I watch way too much TV. Now that we have Ti-faux we always have shows we have to “catch up” on. Frank even said last night, “I’m stressed out because we have all these Curb your Enthusiasms to catch up on.” As he said this another one began recording. Ah! We’re backin’ up!

We considered giving up TV for Lent. It went like this:

Elsa: I think I should give up TV for Lent. But you’d have to do it too.

Frank: But what about Katie in the mornings?

Elsa: No, that wouldn’t count. We could still watch Katie and co. in the morning. We have to know what’s going on in the world. But that’s it.

Frank: So you’re not gonna watch Oprah in the afternoons?

Elsa: Well, I could still watch Oprah. I mean, what if I recognize one of those sex offenders she’s trying to catch? We could win $100,000. It would be financially irresponsible not to watch.

Frank: So we just won’t watch TV at night I guess.

Elsa: Right. It’ll suck to not watch Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy.

Frank: And Everybody Hates Chris and the Office.

Elsa: And Will & Grace and How I met your Mother.

Frank: And the Ghost Whisperer with Jennifer Love Hewitt

(Oh, he’s gonna kill me for that one).

Elsa: Maybe we could still watch our favorite shows. But ya know, there's nothing we HAVE to watch on Wednesdays since we're the only people in America who don't watch Lost.

Frank. Yeah, Wednesdays are pretty open. Maybe we could just not watch TV on Wednesday nights.

So that’s how we went from banning TV for six weeks to banning TV for six evenings.

We actually got a jump start on it last night. Instead of watching TV we played Gin. It was fun and I’m pretty sure we used our brains a little. But after Frank kicked my butt in Gin we had to turn on the TV. We had like twelve Curb your Enthusiasms to catch up on.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Feast with Flair

Last night Frank took me out for my birthday. We each enjoyed a three-course meal. I started with the green salad, he the fried mozzarella. For our entrees I ordered the chicken verde enchilada combo and Frank chose the bruschetta chicken pasta. Even though we cleaned our plates we still had room for dessert—a vanilla bean cheesecake for me and a Cinabon® cheesecake for Frank.

Wooh, that’s a lot of food. Know how much it set us back? $12.99 each! Yes, a $26 meal that made us so full we had to go home and put on our Thanksgiving pants.

Oh, and most importantly, where did we have such a feast? T.G.I. Friday’s!

I used to be like you. I made fun of Friday’s. When Mike Judd mocked it, I mocked too. I was even embarrassed to tell the people who worked at Friday’s that it was my birthday for fear even they would think, “Loser! You came to Friday’s on your birthday?”

But then I saw the TV commercial. Yes, a commercial sold me. They had pictures of all the food including chipotle queso, pot stickers, tilapia, shrimp, BBQ chicken and ribs. Plus, don’t forget the THREE different types of cheesecake! Once I saw the price of $12.99 I knew that’s where I wanted to spend my 29th birthday.

I told a friend about it this weekend and she said, “What? Are they going out of business?” You would think so! Frank commented that the only time we ever eat like that is at an all-inclusive. And that’s what I loved about it. You don’t have to question whether or not to get dessert, it’s included! You don’t have split one little appetizer, you get your own! And get this, they even have “guilt-free” options. But I’ll warn you: I may not have felt guilty but I still wanted to vomit afterwards.

I don’t know how long this will last so, everybody, run to your nearest Friday’s. I’m sure there’s one at the next corner. We’re definitely going back. But next time, we’re gonna show up already wearing our Thanksgiving pants.

Check out the Friday’s Three-Course Menu!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

January 24th Sucks

It’s here. January 24th—the most depressing day of the year. I didn’t make this up. It’s like an official conclusion drawn by “them.” Yep, “they” said it, not me. Why is it such a downer?

  • Weather—not only is it cold but there’s no end in sight. Well, unless you live here in Texas and the end is too soon.
  • Credit card bills—remember all the fun you had running from store to store at Christmas time, singing, “Haul out the holly?” Well, you better haul out some money cause it’s time to pay up.
  • NYR: If you’re one of them, it’s about this time that you realize you can’t stick with anything. The plus side? I get my treadmill back.

    I read an article about it this morning. It said, “In a word, Jan. 24th sucks.” I think it’s unfair. Last year they declared 1/24 the most depressing day and part of the equation was that it was a Monday. I thought for sure the title would go to 1/23 this year. But no, they have to pick on the 24th.

    But never fear, they offer some solutions to your blues:

  • Eat different kinds of food like black bean lasagna and mango salad.
  • Keep bright colored objects around your house like yellow throw pillows.
  • Take time to meditate each day.
  • Go on a brisk walk.

    What? So “they’re” saying that eating is going to solve my problem? Isn’t that how we broke the NYR in the first place? And like any of us can go on a brisk walk when it’s freezing outside. Oh and sure, I’d love to invest in some new, bright-colored throw pillows if I had ANY MONEY left after those darn credit card bills.

    I guess all I can do is meditate. Hom…Hom…

    This sucks. Meditating is boring. “They’re” right. This day sucks. I just feel bad for Uncle Neil since it’s his birthday. Maybe I’ll make him a mango salad.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Hail to the Haiku

I love rules. I love, especially, to make up my own rules and then force myself to follow them. Yesterday we were watching an episode of Curb your Enthusiasm (which is on about as often “I love the 80’s” and “The Gauntlet”). Larry met a man who was an Orthodox Jew therefore everything had to be kosher. I was fascinated by it and I told Frank I would like to be kosher. “That’s just cause you like to have rules,” Frank said. Yep, I love me some rules.

That is why my favorite form of poetry is the Haiku. Sure, anybody can write “free form” verse and call it poetry. I call it rambling. With the Haiku you’ve got rules. And as Robert Frost said, “Poetry without rules is like a tennis match without a net.” Here are the main rules: five syllables in the first line, seven syllables in the second line and five syllables in the last line. And the biggest rule? And the one that everyone disregards? It HAS to be related to nature. Now that you know the primary rules you will see why this Haiku of mine won an award in the fifth grade:

While looking upward
I saw many cotton balls
Floating in the air

Now that I know more about Haikus, however, I can see that mine is wrought with flaws. First of all, a Haiku (or “ku” as those in the know call it) should be in the present tense. Also you should avoid the use of gerunds (-ing endings). Then it’s supposed to have double meanings, puns, extra layers, etc. I got none of that. But I guess no other fifth graders did either and thus I won the coveted prize--an afternoon at the writer's workshop, listening to some speaker.

Today, I’m a ku machine. I can write one as fast as those kids in the Gauntlet can start fighting. Look, I’ll do one now:

Sunlight streams inward
as I write my daily blog
Must finish by 9.

It’s got it all: the rules, a little bit of nature, present tense…no double meaning but at least I avoided the forbidden gerunds. Oh, and why do I need to finish by 9? Cause I got some bacon cooking! Yum.

Darnit. I just remembered I can't eat that. Not kosher.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Smallest Loser

When you’re a kid in Houston, Texas there are two school events that garner a lot of attention: The Rodeo Art Contest and the Science Fair. The rodeo was important because, let’s face it, even though it’s a big city we’re all basically hicks. The science fair was important because NASA was just down the street.

How did I rank in both events? Big-time loser. I couldn’t draw and not only was I not good at science, I didn’t care about it. Still don’t. Like yesterday on Oprah she had the guy from How Stuff Works explain how email works, how the TV works and how the phone works. I didn’t care. I don’t wanna know how stuff works. I just want it to work.

So every year for Rodeo Art I drew the same thing: a headshot of a cow. Not his body, just his face with some antlers. So I guess it was more of a longhorn. I did change up the background though. Some years it was blue, one year it was striped yellow and orange. I think before I got into the cow’s head I did the typical ranch scene in which the sky stops about an inch down from the top of the page. All the Rodeo Art winners knew to color their sky down to the grass. That seemed weird. I’m looking outside right now and the sky isn’t touching the grass. Damn hicks.

For the science fair I was at a real disadvantage. Unlike 80% of the kids in my school, my parents didn’t work at NASA. Therefore they couldn’t do my science project for me. I wasn’t going to be the kid with the volcano. Now all you have to do to have a decent science project is think of a question like “Do bananas rot faster in the bag or out of the bag?” and then state your hypothesis: “I believe bananas rot faster in the bag.”

This was too complicated for me.

Instead for my science project in first grade I decided to go around my yard and collect leaves. I then took four of them, taped them on the standard white poster board (which had to be glued to the standard-issue science fair folding peg board) and named them. I guess maybe my non-NASA-engineer parents were at least able to tell me the types of trees the leaves came from. Then I wrote at the top of the poster board in my very best handwriting…


That’s it. I didn’t explain the leaves. I didn’t ask a question and I sure as hell didn’t have a hypothesis. I lost. I lost every year. I did go to the city-wide science fair once when my friend Emily Le (who eventually went to M.I.T.) won top honors for her project called “Emulsion Stability.” I clapped for my friend (whose dad DID work for NASA and even had that bumper sticker everyone in that area has that says “Space IS our future”) but I didn’t know what “Emulsion Stability” meant. I still don’t.

And that’s why my poor kids will carry on the tradition of never winning a science fair. And never winning the rodeo art contest. Well maybe they’ll be super-athletic. Yeah, right. And the sky touches the grass.

Hey, little girl, congratulations on winning the science fair! Why isn't your dad here to help you celebrate?

"Daddy's vewry tiwerd from staying up all night to make my vol...vol...carnio? What's this thing called again? Oh, who cares? I won! Can't wait for Rodeo Art!"

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Early Adopters/Late Adapters

When I was six or seven, we were the first people on our block to get cable. But then my parents kept the cable box (the brown/faux wood kind with the white cursor) until I was 21.

And sure, we had a VHS (skipped right over the Beta phase) but now they refuse to replace it with a DVD player.

The folks were also quick to get call waiting, caller ID and Call Notes. Yet they haven’t changed the incoming greeting (with my voice on it) since about 1994.

When it came to computer technology, my parents were some of the first people I knew who had email. Proof? Their AOL address has the year ’95 in it. In fact, I was reluctant to get it but my dad kept bugging me. I thought “What do I need this for?”

But now I think they could use a little email crash course, you know, to bring them up to date on how the system has changed in ten years. I spoke with the book club girls about this the other night and they too had parental email anecdotes to share:

First, I’m not sure my mom knows how to reply to an email. Yes, if I send her one she does send a response but she always starts a whole new email and my message is nowhere to be found.

I also don’t think she likes to use the subject line because there never is a topic. I’m totally unprepared when I open her emails!

While ReadBecca’s mom DOES know about the subject line, she’s not sure how to use it. She always writes “Houston” (since that’s where she lives). ReadBecca is fully aware that her mother lives in Houston so this hasn’t proved helpful.

Also, ReadBecca’s mom always, always inserts the red flag on emails. Naturally, this just makes the reader numb to its urgentness. Although an uninformed reader might take that as “Houston, we have a problem.”

My friend Lindsay’s dad dates and time stamps the top of every email, as if it’s a formal letter: “January 19, 4:22 p.m., Dear Lindsay…” Will somebody tell him that the sophisticated email system actually does this for you?

And I wanna know, who taught my mom about attachments? She uses them all the time now. But she just puts little things in there. Like the other day she sent me an email that said, “I thought you might like this website” and instead of just pasting the link into the email, she attached a Word document with the link! What?

Don’t get me wrong, we’re proud of our Baby Boomer parents for experimenting with technology. We just think it might be time for a little intervention. If you wanna register your parents for it, just send me an email. But spots will go fast. Better red flag it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Special Travel Edition: Pittsburgh

Frank used to work for American Airlines so we’ve traveled to a lot of places: Aruba, Barbados, Italy, St. Thomas, Cabo, England, San Francisco, New York, Puerto Rico…But today I want to tell you about one of our favorite places—Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Frank’s dad is from Pittsburgh and still has a lot of family there (including Nana).

Every time we mention Pittsburgh to someone the reaction is always the same: “Ew, why would you want to go there? It’s all steel mills and smog.” I inevitably roll my eyes because this, of course, means that they have never even been to Pittsburgh. Although I have to admit, I had the same reaction before our first trip there.

So I thought I’d educate my thousands (well, maybe hundreds or dozens) of blog readers all at once: Pittsburgh hasn’t had steel mills since the mid-80’s. There’s no more pollution than Dallas. And beyond its’ smog-free environment it’s also a beautiful city—complete with hills, greenery and a river that runs right through downtown. It’s actually a lot like Austin without the heat.

In fact we liked it so much we almost moved there three years ago. Frank was accepted into business school at Carnegie Mellon so we went up there for their “welcome weekend.” They totally sold us on the city: gave us a historical tour on a train, took us to a reception at the Natural Science Museum and even threw in some potential friends for us to hang out with. We were totally pro-Pittsburgh but not pro-expensive-private-school.

But besides all the physical attributes Pittsburgh has to offer there’s other fun facts: Their sports fans are notoriously loyal, it’s the home to Heinz ketchup and the people talk with these cute accents. I would do it for you but it’s hard to convey sound on a blog. Plus, Frank’s Nana is there and if we lived there we could eat her food every day!

So next three-day-weekend (maybe for Baby Jessica Day). I recommend that you forget Miami, forget NYC and don’t even think about L.A. Pittsburgh, baby. Tell Nana we sent you.

Yay! We Love you, Pittsburgh!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

I'm rich!

I got an email this morning that said I won the lottery:

We are pleased to inform you of the result of the Lottery Winners
International programs held on the 02/12/2005. Your e-mail address attached to ticket number:310878GH655BE which consequently won in the 1st category,you have therefore been approved for a lump sum pay out of US$2,000,000.00 (Two Million United States dollars).

They want me to contact them with all my information: Name, Address, Phone, even fax! I always dreamed of winning a lottery over email. Especially a lottery I didn’t even enter. Oh, and a lottery in which the notification comes from a very shady email address and the message is sprinkled with typos:

Remember, all winning must be claimed not later than 21 days...

This is better than all those free Gap clothes I got for forwarding a very official-looking text email to my friends! It's even better than all the free dinners I received from Chili’s for doing the same thing. For about six months there I would just get up, put on my khaki pants and white t-shirt (thanks, Gap) and head off to Chili’s for a free Turkey Combo.

And just like this lottery, I didn’t have to do anything! People just seem to want to give me things for free.

Oh, I just read this part:

CONGRATULATIONS!!! Due to mix up of some numbers and names, we ask that you keep your winning information confidential until your claims has been processed and your money Remitted to you.

Oops. So do me a favor and don’t tell anyone about this. I don’t wanna get pestered with all the sick kid stories and endangered animal causes just yet. I just want to sit back and think about how I want to spend my $2 mil. Hey, don’t worry. I won’t let the money change me. I’ll still write this blog. I’ll still be Writinggal. And Cookinggal.

But I’m totally upgrading my wardrobe to Banana Republic.

Monday, January 16, 2006

MLK Would be So Proud

When people get the day off from work, sleep in, sit around in their underwear and watch talks shows, well, that is just a beautiful tribute to the person we’re honoring, isn’t it? Sure, Dr. King would get a kick out of the parades and the newsmagazine tributes but beyond that I think he would say:

“What’s the deal, people? I worked hard and fought for civil rights! That doesn’t mean you should just sit around and be lazy! If anything, you should have to go to work on my day. I’m part of the reason for Equal Opportunity Employment!”

So in honor of Dr. King, I am writing my blog today. Yes, it’s a little late but I figured most of you weren’t up yet anyway.

Don’t get me wrong, I love me a good holiday. But it’s not like I’m going to strive to get one named after me. It’s tough competition. I mean we can only have so many holidays. And most are already taken—President’s Day, Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, Labor Day…what’s a gal gotta do to get one of these things?

I think maybe we should recycle some of them. Take Columbus Day for example. Sure, we’re glad he found America and all but it was over 500 years ago. Would anybody really get their feelings hurt if we swapped him out for, I don’t know, Oprah?

And Labor Day…why waste a day on such a general topic when we have people who are working hard to get days named after them? How ‘bout Baby Jessica Day instead? We’d all still get the first Monday in September off from work AND we’d learn about well safety! Then people would say, “I gotta go back to school after Baby Jessica Day” or “Oh, it’s Baby Jessica Day. That means summer’s over!” or “Wanna come over and cook out for Baby Jessica Day? Just don’t stand near the well!”

So even if you’re not working today, maybe you could still do something nice in honor of Dr. King. It can be a little gesture like taking your cart all the way back inside the store, throwing away your trash and someone else’s at the movie theater or calling your grandmother and saying, “What’s up?” Come on, if you do this you don’t have to do anything nice again until Oprah Day.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Girl Scout Cookie Monster

The other day I said there was no good reason to answer your door. I take that back. I can think of one: if there’s a young girl dressed in a green outfit adorned with badges, holding a sign-up sheet. She’s got the stuff! The tagalongs, the do-si-dos, the samoas and (let’s all bow our heads for a moment) the thin mints.

But now everything’s changed—even the names. I refuse to call do-si-dos “peanut butter sandwiches.” And the price—$4 a box! And their method of selling? Instead of going door-to-door (like I had to do) they just give the list to their parents and they sell it at work.

Now there’s one change that I like. When your co-worker approaches you about making a deal, you don’t just sign up and wait six weeks. You get the stuff RIGHT THEN AND THERE! The poor Girl Scouts now have to project how much they’re gonna sell. I like it now but if I have a Girl Scout of my own one day I’ll be stuck with a bunch of cookies. Hmmm…stuck with a bunch of cookies.

I told Frank to keep his ears open at work. I said, “Be proactive. If you’re in someone’s office and they have a picture of their daughter and she looks like she’s between the ages of 7-12, ask if she’s got the stuff!”

Frank and I strongly believe that this is the single best fundraiser of any organization. We don’t want wrapping paper, raffle tickets or giant tubs of popcorn. We want the stuff. The stuff you can only get once a year. It’s genius!

Last year Frank was at the grocery store and some Girl Scouts were selling the stuff outside. He went up to them and bought a couple of boxes (we had already run out of the stuff at home) and they said, “Thanks for supporting the Girl Scouts!” He replied, “Well, you’ve got a great product.” They were a little confused. But the point is that it’s so awesome that we don’t even think about the fact that we’re supporting an organization—we just want the stuff!

You know, I was pretty good at selling the stuff back in the day. And my parents refused to take it to work (“If I take this then I gotta buy all the soccer stuff, the band stuff and the church stuff.”) But I still sold tons just going door to door. If people said, "Oh, I can't. I'm watching my weight," I would come back with, "Then you should try our low-calorie trefoils!" The year that I sold the most was the year that the cookie mother of our troop had all of the money “stolen” from her car. Lesson here: don’t let a woman who carries a key chain that says “classy bitch” be the cookie mom.

Frank, if you find someone today, tell them I want two boxes of tagalongs, two do-si-dos, one samoas and four thin mints (we can freeze them)! And make it clear to whoever you buy it from that they can be our exclusive dealer from now on, as long as they don’t make us buy any giant tubs of popcorn.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Welcome to Life after Late Fees

Well, Blockbuster, I gotta tell you, life ain’t so great. Now when I go to one of your stores to rent a mega-hit like The 40-Year-old Virgin, you’re out. I had to call around to all the Blockbusters within a ten-mile radius and when I finally found one that had just one single copy left, I sent Frank racing out the door.

That’s what life after late fees is like.

And it’s not just the big movies. You were even out of Deuce Bigalow II. What kind of life is it when I’m wandering around Blockbuster, wishing you had copies of a flop about an unattractive, semi-amusing male gigolo?

Where have all the movies gone? They’re sitting in people’s homes. They never bring them back! And why should they? Sure, you have all these stages of punishment and eventually make them buy the movie but you give them an eight-day window.

So this isn’t “Life after Late Fees,” it’s “Life after Longer Rental Times.”

Take me, for instance. I’m a very by-the-book, rules-following type of girl. Last Friday I rented season three of Curb your Enthusiasm (we’re very behind) and Must Love Dogs (against Frank’s wishes). Curb wasn’t due back for a week but MLD was due back in two days. Now do I really want to make TWO trips to the video store when there will be no consequences if I just return them at the same time?

So on Tuesday (two days after MLD’s original due date), I dropped them in the little “Back on Time? You are so Kind” box. Well, I was semi-kind.

Yesterday you guys called me. It was an automated lady: “Hello, this is Blockbuster. Our records indicate that you have a video or videos in your possession that are past due as of January 10th.” Blah, blah, blah. Then she made some threats about making me buy the whole thing after seven days. I mean, MLD was “cute” but I don’t wanna own it! Frank would be humiliated. I tried to ask her if you guys had any copies of Deuce Bigalow II but she didn’t understand.

So Blockbuster, if somebody like me isn’t even turning in movies on time, your system isn’t working. I mean, now when they tell me when the movie is due I’m like, “Yeah, whatever. What are you gonna do? Charge me a LATE fee? Ha ha ha” (that was my evil laugh).

Yes, Blockbuster, we’re abusing you but you gotta admit, you didn’t really think this all the way through, did ya? And I don’t think I can live like this anymore. The other day I couldn’t even get the first Deuce Bigalow! And I was upset about it! Now that’s a sad life.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Brain Berries

You may sometimes ask yourself, “How did Writinggal get to be so smart?” I’ll tell you, I wasn’t always so wise. Back in August I learned a great tip from my dear friend, Oprah: Eat Blueberries.

Well, it wasn’t Oprah who said it actually. I think it was Dr. Perricone. You know, the guy who makes the promises? He was on her show and he pointed out all these foods we should eat (like salmon which Oprah and I like to call “Sammy”).

He also said that blueberries are great for your brain. So I decided to incorporate the little smurfy fruits into my daily routine. And what better time to eat them than when I’m hanging out with Oprah?

So now every day I have my Oprah snack. This includes a cup of blueberries and two graham crackers. They’re so freakin’ good on graham crackers.

I buy them at Costco. Natch, it’s a big ‘ol bag but I eat them every day so it’s totally necessary (like Frank’s poop tarts). And get this—they’re organic! I am so Leo DiCaprio right now.

Yesterday while I was having my Oprah snack I watched about ten minutes of an Oprah rerun. (By the way, I hate watching Oprah reruns—even if I’ve never seen them before. Another blog).But I watched this one from 2004 because they were featuring another doctor doing pretty much the same show and again singing the praises of blueberries! And there I was eating my blueberries with my graham crackers! I said to the TV, “I know! I’m eating blueberries! See?”

Anyway, since eating these blueberries has made me such a brain I wanted to share their magical powers with you.

And get this; they do more than just make you smarter. They also…

Lower your cholesterol
Protect against cancer
Protect against stroke
Lower your risk for heart disease
Protect against Urinary Tract Infections (yuck)

Plus, they’re low in calories and high in fiber. And you know I love me some fiber!

I know all the kids are digging on the Crystal Meth these days but I’m telling you, blueberries are so much better! And they won’t give you that nasty skin fungus or a stint in rehab.

So pick up a bag. And pick up your brain. Oh my gosh, that should so be their new slogan!

(Blueberry farmers: Don’t steal that. You will need to go through my legal team first.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

This is the Dawning of the Age of a Stupid Idea

If you were to say to me, “Oh, that guy is a jerk—probably because he’s a Sagittarius,” I would roll my eyes. Or if you said, “I prefer scrambled to over-easy. You know, since I’m a Gemini,” I would groan.

Get the idea? I hate Astrology. And not because I’m an Aquarius. And not because I’m so deeply religious that I think it competes with God. I hate it because it’s too simple. Too general.

I think the original idea was okay:

“Let’s classify people into twelve groups.”
“Good idea. But what will we base it on?”
“Um, their hair color?”
“No, there aren’t really twelve hair colors.”
“How about the letter their name starts with? You know, like if yours is L then you’re a lover and if yours is D than you’re a…then you’re a…donkey!! Hee Hee!” (it was a long time ago).
“Well that could work except there are 26 letters (and that’s just in our language) and I think we all agreed on twelve.”
“Then how about the month they were born? Except to jazz it up we’ll start counting at the almost-end of every month and go to the almost-end of the next month.”
“I love it!”
“Okay, let’s give them funny names now.”

See, if I were making it up I would make it way more complicated like those email forwards that have you calculate your birthday times your age plus the last two digits in your social and then add the street name where you grew up. That would make my sign 56080 Hibiscus. So if someone else were 56080 Hibiscus then I could be convinced that we might have some similar qualities.

But does it really make sense that just because you have a birthday near someone else’s that your personalities are identical? Or even similar? That would mean I have the same personality as my sister, Thea, Jessi, Readbecca and Neil Diamond. I mean, what if there was a serial killer born under our sign? Do we have to claim him too?

It’s such a lame system that I REFUSE to read horoscopes.

I’ll just make up my own:
56080 Hibiscus: You will come into a lot of money today. You will not have to work hard for it. Many people will complement you on your shiny hair and ask where you get it done. When you say, “Style America for $14.95” they’ll be shocked! Oh, and you can eat all the dulce de leche Hershey chocolate kisses that you want and not gain any weight. In fact, you’ll lose weight and gain muscle. Yes, 56 H Baby, you’re gonna have a good Tuesday. And only five other people in the world will have the exact same day as you. Of course, two of them grew up down the street from you so that’s a little weird.

I’ll let you know if my horoscope comes true. Frank doesn’t believe that it will. But he’s a 56391 Governor’s Place. Those guys are always doubters.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Writinggal's Phobias

If I’m alone in my house and I sneeze, my biggest fear is that a voice will come out of nowhere and say “Bless you.” Kinda gives me chills just thinking about it.

And that made me consider other phobias of mine:

I hate going to the mailbox every day for fear I’ll have to make small talk with one of my neighbors.

Not a big fan of elevators (especially crowded ones) but I’m getting better at that.

I hate running into people I know at Target (again with the small talk).

Eating and watching gross things on TV

A dog wandering around by himself—no leash, no owner. When I’m out running and hear the clang clang of its collar I start shaking.

When someone knocks on the door. They may want to sell me something. May want to kill me. May want to make small talk. No matter what, it’s scary.

Okay so that pretty much covers it. Besides the obvious things like flying, things touching my neck and using our grill. Oh, and getting off the lifts while skiing.

Man, if I put all these things in a script I’d have one scary movie:

A young woman goes to her mailbox and runs into a neighbor. She makes awkward small talk for a few minutes and when she finally turns to go inside a random dog approaches her, barking. She makes it safely inside her house when there’s a knock at the door. Ah, more small talk! Or is it the leashless dog? She wants to just sit down and eat her lunch but Jerry Springer is on every channel! She cuts off the TV, sits down to eat her peppery lunch and naturally lets out a big sneeze. A voice comes from out of nowhere: “Bless You.”

I totally have chills.

Watch out Stephen King.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Why Nelson Rocks

I liked Ozzie and Harriet, David and of course Ricky. So why not like Gunnar and Matthew too? The twins formed their band Nelson in the early 90’s and immediately had some rockin’ hits.

I just heard one on the radio the other day and I totally turned it up while I was cruising down the tollway. It almost made me not mind the $.75 charge.

It was a Nelson classic…

I can’t live without your love and affection. I can’t spend another night on my own…

It freakin’ rocks.

And how ‘bout After the rain washes away the tears and all the pain…

Okay, I’ll admit it. Those are the only two songs I know by Nelson. But because they have two rockin’ songs rather just one (like our friend Rick Springfield) they fall into the category of “rock” rather than “kinda rock.”

So what are the towheaded twins doing now? Same ‘ol thing. Still making music. “They’re very popular overseas” their bio brags. Hey, Nelson, I hate to break it to you. But anyone can be popular overseas. Apparently they’re not a very selective audience. Hell I think I’m popular overseas.

Speaking of their bio, these are some of my favorite lines:

Magically melodic songwriting and soaring sibling harmonies ensure that this pair will be a vital part of the music scene’s future.

Critics tended to unfairly overlook Nelson, however, because of the brothers’ pin-up good looks.

I love it because I know they wrote this themselves. Well, they gave some writer a few bullet points and he/she added in the awesome alliteration like “magically melodic” and “soaring sibling.” And my condolences about the consequences of your pin-up good looks. I can relate.

But I think their grandparents Ozzie and Harriet and their dad Ricky would be proud of the twins’ mediocre success. Well, they would at least be glad that they cut their hair. Nelson, just continue to do what you do best—rock. And I guess that would mean just stickin’ to those two rockin’ tunes you got. Hey, maybe I’ll catch you on your tour overseas. I’ll be there anyway greeting all my fans.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

I Think I'm Supposed to Talk Football

Writinggal doesn’t usually do commentary on sports. But that’s not to say I’m not a sports fan. I just only like games when something’s on the line. So last night when Texas played USC for the national championship, well, I think that counts.

We watched the game at a friend’s house and at the beginning of the night we were discussing how expensive the tickets were to watch it in person. They were about a grand which I will easily be able to afford next year after I win HGTV’s Dream Home sweepstakes.

But anyway at the beginning we were saying that was crazy. We would never pay that. But then at the end when things went our way Frank said, “It would have been worth it!”

I disagree. Yes, it would have been exciting. But look what I had: a couch, at least a foot between another person and myself, all the food I could eat (which was a lot) and all the beer and wine I wanted. You can’t have any of that at football games. You could try sneaking in alcohol in binocular-shaped flasks but I wouldn’t recommend it. Frank and I got caught once.

But my fave part about watching a football game at home is that yellow line. Before the yellow line I had to watch the crowd to know when to cheer. Sure, the guy ran with the ball but did he run far enough? How was I to know? I hope whoever invented the yellow line is a billionaire by now. It’s a fantastic invention. Right up there with Tifaux and the Internet and adhesive postage stamps.

The yellow line has changed the way I feel about football. I used to think it was just a bunch of guys running into each other and then pausing to take extremely long breaks. Well, I still think that. I mean, can’t they keep it moving? How ‘bout a little cardio, boys?

But ever since I started watching the yellow line I know there’s a purpose. They must pass that yellow line. And pass it again. And pass it again. And eventually get to the end zone (which I always understood).

Now if they could just incorporate that yellow line into the live football games, I might be willing to pay the hefty price. But only if they’ll let me take my flask-binoculars in too.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

You're All Invited to my Mountain Home!

I am obsessed with the HGTV dream home. Every year they build this vacation home and for a few months you can enter EVERY DAY online for a chance to win. What do you win? The house, all the furniture inside, a truck and $250K!

I’ve saved the link to my favorites so I’ll remember to enter every day. I honestly hesitated about telling you blog readers about it because I’m afraid you’ll hurt my chances. But then I thought of something:

-Most of you probably have better things to do than enter a dream home sweepstakes every day.

But then I thought:

-Wait. These are people who read MY blog every day AND leave comments. They have NOTHING better to do!

But then I thought:

-If someone I know wins, they’ll let me come hang out at the dream home.

So let me tell you about it: It’s in Asheville, NC. What am I gonna do with a home in Asheville, NC, you ask? (assuming you don’t live in Asheville or the surrounding areas). Well you could sell it for one thing (which is what Frank plans to do if we win although I disagree). Or you could fly out there a couple of times a year and live in luxury. You can afford it because you’re gonna get the cash and the truck. I estimate that after taxes, paying the TTL on the truck and then selling the truck you’ll end up with about $175,000. That’s like 500 round-trip tickets to Asheville! You can bring the whole family.

Let’s talk about the house. First, take a tour of it. (Hey, don’t tell me you have anything better to do!)

Did you love it? My favorite part is the outdoor living room. How much fun are we going to have at my mountain home? You can even bring your dog and he/she can stay in the doggy dream home! I think it’s nicer than my own home.

When you come to my mountain home we’re going to have barbecues on the terrace, watch movies in the family room, drink wine in the wine cellar and do projects in the project room! Okay, I don’t really know what that room is for but hopefully one of you will have some ideas.

So go enter now. And if you win, be sure to put me down on your house warming party guest list. And while you're at it could you make a note that I'll be needing one of those 500 plane tickets you're gonna buy?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Get off my Treadmill

Now’s the time of year where I stand behind the stranger on my treadmill at the gym (I always have one in particular that I’m loyal to) and say under my breath, “Why don’t you just get off my treadmill now? You know you’re gonna be gone by February 1st anyway.”

Oooh, those New Year’s Resolutioners (NYRs), they make me so mad. How cliché to start a diet on January 1st. And how financially irresponsible to join a gym during the most expensive time of the year. I have an idea; pick another day. Or better yet, pick another resolution.

Some Possible Topics to Tackle:

I will always pick up my trash at the movie theater. I will not be the jerk who says, “But if I throw my popcorn bag away, the movie theater workers will be out of a job.”

Each week I will call a friend I’ve lost touch with and catch up. Or at least email.

I will not go in the express lane at the grocery store if I have more than 15 items.

I will return my grocery cart to the cart corral or even back to the store. (This can coincide with the idea above in a whole “grocery store behavior” themed resolution.)

If I do decide to go on a diet, I will donate all my forbidden food to the homeless.

When I see a tragic story on the news, I will do more than just say, “Aw, too bad.” I’ll help out. Or I’ll at least eat a pickle.

I will always put the trash bag back in the can.

One year I made a NYR to stop sucking my thumb. I know, if you’re old enough to make the NYR, you’re way too old to be sucking your thumb. I was eight.

So if you must make a NYR, just do me a favor and pick something you can stick with. Don’t wimp out after a month. Or even two months. And most importantly, don’t use the treadmill that’s next to the fan. That’s mine.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Have you Met Safety Dave?

This is Safety Dave. He can be hired for 21st birthday parties, First Communions or Bar Mitzvahs. Here he is entertaining and educating people at a New Year’s celebration. He’s really versatile.

What does he do? He spreads the message of safe drinking. No, Safety Dave isn’t a party pooper. He believes you can drink as much as you want as long as you take necessary precautions.

For instance, at this particular New Year’s party Safety Dave indulged in about a dozen beers, demonstrated proper keg stand formation and downed a few shots. Later he even put his mouth directly on the chocolate fondue fountain. This man’s a party animal! But he does it all with his trusty ski helmet.

You see several years ago, when he was just Drunk Dave, he was doing the Macarena while drinking a beer (I said it was several years ago) and when he got to the part where you wiggle your hips and say, “Hey, Macarena” he became disoriented and tumbled over into a crowd of jean-short-wearing guys and gals (several, several years ago).

When he finally awoke from his coma his first fear was that he would never be able to party again. When the doctor said he simply suffered massive brain cell loss (both from the fall and the excessive drinking), he was so relieved. He asked, “But can I still go to a kegger this weekend? I promise I’ll be careful!”

When Drunk Dave returned home he knew what he had to do. He decided he couldn’t afford to lose anymore brain cells. (I mean, how would he be able to do a keg stand or shot gun a beer if he was any dumber?) So in order to protect his head, he decided he would never drink without wearing his ski helmet.

And that’s how Drunk Dave became Safety Dave.

Now he’s the hit at parties. As long as he has his helmet on he can dance, wrestle and even do gymnastics. What’s the cost? All the free drinks Safety Dave wants. If you have Safety Dave at your next event, you’ll see that he really livens things up. Here's what people are saying:

"2006 is gonna reakin' frock because of Dafety Save!!"

"Ever since I hired Safety Dave, girls like me!!"

"Safety Dave, I'm never having a party without you, man! I love that cute lil' helmet of yours!"

Please let me know if you would like to hire him and as his agent, I will set it up. For an additional charge he will bring Safety Dave helmets in a variety of colors for all your party guests. We cannot be responsible if Safety Dave licks your chocolate fondue fountain, hits on your female party guests or if he spontaneously starts the Macarena.