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Monday, December 31, 2007

Shattered Dream

Being a P.E. coach isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Even being a 30-minute P.E. coach twice a week for the YMCA. I tried it. I considered it for about 25 seconds and then I changed my mind. Here’s why:

They don’t listen.
They scream.
They can only focus on one activity for about 45 seconds. Then you have to move on to something else. That’s like 18 activities I’d have to come up with.
They scream some more.
They’re not nice to each other.
They complain a lot.

Now I could get past all of the above if it were a different age group. But let me tell you something I learned about the 6-9 year-olds: They’re not really all that cute. This is the stage where they become a little big raggedy. They look like little match kids. So not only are they annoying but they don’t even make up for it in cuteness.

If they were cute I still wouldn’t like the screaming, complaining, ADD, etc. but at least I could put off my aggravation for about 20 minutes while I focused on their cuteness. And by the time I was sick of them, it would be almost time to go.

But with these kids, I was over it the moment they walked in the door.

So my whistle is off to all the P.E. coaches out there. I thought you had an easy job. But now I know that you not only have to entertain kids for eight hours a day, you have to entertain not-so-cute kids for eight hours a day. And if you’re a Junior High P.E. coach…well, then, I’ll keep you in my prayers.

The Cookie Dance

I first learned of BS's love for cookies after I hosted a cookie exchange at my house the second week of December. I had been frustrated because I hadn't felt a lot from BS. I told people he/she must be a very laid-back baby (more like daddy, less like mommy).

But then as I was sitting around scarfing down cookies that my neighbors had brought, I suddenly felt not just one kick, not just two...but a whole stampede!

The next night after I sampled a few more cookies (which I had put in the freezer so I could eat them "later"), I felt more action from BS. "We're doing the cookie dance!" I told Frank.

I imagine that the cookie dance looks a lot like that dancing baby from Ally McBeal:

Over the holidays I had peppermint bark, scotcharoos, Whoppers, miniature Krackels and all sorts of goodies. It was like dance fever in my tummy.

Even if BS does end up being laid-back like Frank at least I know we share a love for sweets...and bad dancing.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Salvation Army Salute

I’m all for the bell ringers. I just wish they would still wear their Santa suits. That’s why I give extra good change (like nickels and dimes rather than pennies) when one of them makes an effort. Here’s the lowdown on the SA Ringers near me:

Weakest: The Walmart Ringer. Sure, she smiles but sometimes I have to smile at her first. Plus, I’m always too busy bringing in abandoned carts from the parking lot to get out any change.

Chattiest: Kroger Ringer. Then again, everybody at Kroger is super chatty. The sacker gave me a lecture about how to make sure I find a mate for my baby by kindergarten so he/she doesn’t end up alone and living with his mom like him. And the checker likes to hold me in conversation hostage too: “Hey, haven’t seen you in awhile!” That’s why yesterday, when we needed garbage bags, I snuck in and used the self checkout. I still was stopped by an old lady customer who wanted to get my advice about candle scents. Am I unaware of a sign on my head that says, “Please talk to me...for a really long time?” So the ringer is no different. He started talking to me about how it’s hard to stand there all day and I gave him some tips on how he could move around and get exercise at the same time—marching in place, side steps, hamstring curls. He seemed eager to do them but when I left he was still just standing there. I said, “Hey, what about the calf lifts I taught you?” He did them right away so I gave him a dime for cooperating.

Sweetest/Best Overall: Walgreen’s Ringer. This guy had on a Santa hat so I said, “I’m glad you’re wearing a Santa hat!” and gave him all the change I had…even quarters! (Well, not all my quarters but a few.) Then, on my way out I saw him walking an old lady to her car! How sweet is that? Of course, he abandoned his bucket which is against the rules and I had to report him to the Salvation Army and that may or may not be the reason he got fired but still…

Those are all the bell ringers I know. But I encourage you to evaluate your bell ringers and donate accordingly. After all, your change could go to help my sacker friend at Kroger get some hip clothes and a date.

Class of 2026

I’ve been telling Baby Simcik about all its potential friends who are being born or will be born soon. Baby Simcik gave me a kick as if to say, "Tell them I'll see them all at freshman orientation at UT!”

Brighton Ryskoski—Born in November to Jaime and Matt

Chloe Heller—Born in November to Amber and Robert

Juliet Willemsen—Born in December to Amber and Corie

Emily Bolton—Coming in January to Donnie and Aimee

Grace Vela—Coming in February to Tricia and Steve

Baby Girl Jacaman—Coming in March to Lindsay and Chuck

Baby Boy Lewis—Coming in March to neighbors Debbie (seen right of me) and Chad (BBL will probably be a Clemson Tiger though)

Baby Simcik—Coming April to Frank and Elsa (Hook ‘Em Horns!)

Baby Robinson—Coming in May to neighbors Claire (seen left of me) and Josh (BR—another Clemson Tiger)

Baby Richter—Coming in June to Stefanie and Jon

Baby Gressier—Coming in July to Jane and Sebastian

We still have openings for August babies—and a roommate for Baby Simcik. He/she will be very neat and won't borrow your child's clothes without asking. Is it too early to book a spot at Jester?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Comparing Apples to Avocados

Every week we get this email that explains what’s going on in my tummy. It describes how the baby’s growing, what I should be feeling and what to expect for that particular stage in the pregnancy.

Frank and I really look forward to this email every week because of one part: the first sentence that compares our baby to an item from the produce department. BS started out as a sesame seed and quickly grew to other exciting beans like kidney and lima. It’s been a kumquat, a turnip and a lemon.

When we got to apple, we were stoked. That was big. Like if I had to hold an apple for an hour, that would get tiring. A kumquat, I could hold that for like four hours. So we cheered for the apple but didn’t consider naming our baby after it a la Mr. and Mrs. Chris Martin.

But then the next week, a big let down. We went from an apple to an avocado. An avocado? I think that’s smaller than an apple. And at the very best it’s the same! After getting that email I actually stood in the produce section, holding up an apple and an avocado. The avocado, in this case, was indeed smaller than the apple.

Two weeks ago we were a banana. That was pretty cool. But then whaddya know? The next week we got another downgrade or same-grade to carrot! Now Frank has changed his usual question to friends and strangers from, “Whaddya think is bigger? An apple or an avocado?” to “Whaddya think is bigger? A banana or a carrot?”

So this week if Frank approaches you with something like, “Whaddya think is bigger? A carrot or a stalk of celery?” you’ll know why. And hey, what do you think of the name celery for a girl?

Friday, December 14, 2007

More Pregnancy Perplexers

I’ve never liked the fact that people often treat new moms like babies. At the baby shower, for instance, people will adorn the mom-to-be in a corsage made of rattles and baby bottles. And the diaper bags! Why would a grown woman suddenly need to carry a purse covered in Winnie the Pooh and friends? It doesn't match anything.

So that’s my mantra: “I’m having a baby, not becoming one.”

But lately I’ve felt like I AM becoming a baby. You know how when babies wear pants and shirts (rather than onesies) their tops always ride up and their bellies show? That happens to me too. I try to wear a shirt that doesn’t hang down to my thighs and inevitably, it creeps up. I look like a three-month old.

And I act like one too. I have to eat every two hours. If not, I get fussy. So if I’m going to run errands, I have to eat right before I go and then I’ve got a two hour window to get everything done.
Yesterday when the dental hygienist told me I’d have to have more work done than I expected, I burst into tears. And when they were done with the work I was smiling again. I might have even cooed at them.

I don’t wear a diaper but I might as well, for as often as I have to go to the bathroom. (Hey, maybe that lady astronaut was on to something.)

So just call me baby Writinggal. At least when BS gets here, I’ll be able to relate. In the meantime, can someone bring me my bottle? I’m getting fussy.

Obsession…by Frank

My husband is not a total gadget geek. But when he does decide that he wants a certain piece of electronic equipment, he becomes obsessed. He can’t think about anything else and worse, he can’t talk about anything else.

This past summer it was the flat screen TV:

“Don’t you think this room would look better with a flat screen TV?”

“Now what if we put the couch over there? Then the flat screen TV could go there.”

“Oh, you’re dusting the TV? If we had a flat screen there wouldn’t be as much to dust.”

“Josh just got a flat screen.”

“Hey, can we run into Best Buy? I just wanna check out their flat screens.”

“I saw a really good deal on a flat screen in the Fry’s ad.”

“I’m gonna go to BrandsMart on my lunch break to check out their flat screens.”

“Josh got another flat screen for his basement!”

“I’m buying a flat screen! I’ve narrowed it down to three kinds.” (This is followed by long explanations, prices and pro/cons for each.)

“I’ve been shopping all day. Been to twelve different stores. It’s between two now.”

“I bought a flat screen!”

One month later: “Can we just go into the store really quick to make sure the flat screen I got isn’t any cheaper?”

When the sales person asked if we needed help I just said, “No. We bought one a month ago. Now he just has to come here and visit the others to make sure he got the best deal. If he didn’t, he’ll never sleep again.”

So in the past few weeks it’s been the same dialogue but the subject is now surround sound. This time the pitch to me was tougher. I like TVs. I like the new flat screen. And you know what? I can hear it just fine! It’s not that big of a room. So why, oh why, is it necessary to be surrounded by the sound?

Plus, surround sound systems (I learned, after several visits to electronic stores) involve lots of speakers and woofers. (I don’t actually know what a woofer is but it’s ugly and takes up too much room.) I saw no value in surround sound.

But Frank wouldn’t give up. It was the same pattern as the TV. Lots of store visits, lots of ad checking, incessant talking about surround sound. And just like the TV, he became increasingly aggravated by our current situation. “That would sound so much better if we had surround sound,” he would say. “Are you deaf?” I would ask. “Can you not hear the TV?”

This time he even got wrapped up in eBay auctions. He would bid on something, not get it and then set his alarm to wake up later that night and bid on another one. When he didn’t get that one I said, “Are you ever going to give up?” He said, “I can’t. I’m obsessed.”

And so, as with his last obsession, he finally bought it. He proudly showed it to me last night by turning up the volume really loud. “Did you hear that toilet flush? It sounds so cool!” Yes, I’ve always wanted to be surrounded by the sounds of toilets flushing.

Now phase II will begin: the second-guessing. Did I get the best price? Did I get the best system? Should I beat myself up for not winning that eBay auction?

And then we’ll move on to another obsession. At least this time I’ll be surrounded by sound so I can tune him out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Bug: Just like a hot girl.

Have you ever seen those shows where a hot girl dons a fat suit and proves that people are mean to the less-fortunate-looking?

Just the other day I saw two “Deal or No Deal” girls trying out this scheme:

They went ice skating as themselves and got free private lessons from the rink employees.

They hailed a carriage and got one right away.

I can’t remember what else they did but the next day they did it all again in fat suits. The rink employees? “We’re too busy.” The carriage driver? “Are you sure you’ll both fit?”

The girls cried. I’m not sure why. I mean, they could just take off the fat suits and go back to being silent mannequins on a game show. What’s so bad about that?

When they’re hot, they get anything they want: attention, free stuff, passes to the front of the line.

My VW Bug has a very similar life:

Everybody lets a Bug in. If I need to get over into another lane at the last minute, it’s no problem. If I need to turn left onto a busy road, everybody stops. This didn’t happen in other cars so I can’t liken myself to a Deal or No Deal girl. It’s the Bug! Nobody can resist it.

And the attention? The stares? Okay, this is all actually from kids 6 and under but it’s still fun. When I drive into the YMCA it’s like a parade. Kids automatically start waving at me. I feel so special. But as soon as I get out of the car they ignore me.

I can’t really say I’ve gotten free stuff because of the Bug yet but I think I could if I tried. Like maybe I could get some free fries at a drive thru. Or an extra lollipop at the bank. Great. Now I’m gonna be the girl in the fat suit who drives the cute Bug. I can’t compete with that.

First Glimpse

Here's Baby Simcik at 20.5 weeks!
Not only did we get to see what BS looks like this week, we've also learned a few things about him/her. We still don't know the gender but we think with these clues you can confidently take a guess on our poll to the right:
  • BS likes to play with its umbilical cord. (Maybe it's actually a cat.)
  • BS yawns.
  • BS likes to hang out upside down. (Maybe a bat?)
  • BS likes cookies.

So have at it. We'll let you know the answer in April!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Woah, we're halfway there...

...woah-oh, livin' on a prayer...

A Dream Semi-Come True

No more jokes about being a P.E. coach. Today, I was offered a job doing just that.

Well, not exactly that. My manager at the YMCA asked if I wanted to take over the "Kids in Motion" class twice a week. Here's what I know about it:

Every Tuesday and Thursday I go to the YMCA to teach spin at 4:30. I have to get the key from my friend Abe who teaches the Kids in Motion class in the aerobics studio until 4:15. When I go into the class, all I see are a bunch of kids flailing around on the stability balls. It can’t be safe. Some of them seem to be climbing the walls. Abe is usually in the middle, yelling things like “Eat your vegetables!” and “Clean behind your ears!” It’s a crazy scene. One time a kid’s pants came down. I got a major crack view.

So I always just go in and say, “Hi, kids. Hi, Mr. Abe,” grab my key and go.

Abe got too busy to teach K.I.M. so somehow they thought of me. Apparently she’s not familiar with my lack of experience in childcare. I mean, the only time I’ve even been around kids that age was that one day I was a substitute teacher.

I like the idea that it’s only 30 minutes but I’ll get paid for an hour. I don’t like the idea that I’d have to figure out a way to entertain kids every week. Here is the class description:

KIDS IN MOTION - An exciting 30 minute activity class designed to promote physical activity among kids ages 6-9. This 30 minute class will engage youth in fitness related activities & games that encourage the importance of exercise.

But how hard can it be? I mean, I can scream, “Eat your vegetables” and “Clean behind your ears” just as good as Mr. Abe. I wonder if I can negotiate summers-off.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Lord of the Carts

You have never seen such disregard for grocery carts as the Walmart in Roswell, GA at Christmastime. Because I regretfully didn’t have my camera, I will have to describe to you the grotesque scene:

We drive in late Saturday afternoon and see that the parking lot is very full. Frank tries to take the first spot he sees but it’s taken by a cart. Next empty spot, also blocked by a cart. And so it went, spot after spot. We finally had to settle on a space that had a cart near it and we maneuvered around the cart to get in it. Then we took the cart to use in our shopping. Honestly, it sickened me to even use the cart that was last used by a cart abandoner. But then again, we don’t fault orphans just because their parents left them.

When we came out the situation was what I can only describe as cart chaos. It was like the people had rebelled and set up their own quasi cart corrals. In some places there would be ten-twelve carts all shoved into one spot. Some people had even taken the time to create rows of discarded buggies—like they had pushed them all together. I think they thought they were doing the Walmart employee a favor! They were everywhere; on the sidewalk, under the trees, right out in the middle of the parking lanes. I saw a man out there at dusk, trying to take some of them back into the store. I bet he’s still out there. I estimate there were about 47 abandoned carts on our row alone.

I tried to get into the heads of cart abusers. And while I still think they’re despicable, I think I know what they might be thinking, “What’s one more cart? If twelve other people have put their carts here, I might as well add mine. It’s better than leaving it all by itself out in the back of the parking lot.” I challenge them instead to think, “It’s Christmastime. I’m probably gonna scarf down a crapload of cookies. I need to walk my fat ass back to the store and return my cart.”

I almost had a confrontation with a girl at Target yesterday. Frank and I were walking out of the store (yes, Frank was a good sport this weekend. He even spent hours with me at Babies R Us) and I saw a woman in her 30s unloading her cart into a sporty Mercedes. She then took the cart and did that old cart abuser trick where she propped the front wheels up onto the curb. I said to Frank, “What if that car next to hers was mine? That cart could scratch it! I’m sure she wouldn’t want to get a scratch on her little Mercedes that she paid too much for!”

“Calm down, Elsa. Just keep walking,” Frank said.

But I couldn’t. I had to stand up for my carts. For the people who corral the carts. For the cars who get scratched by the carts. For the prices that go up because of cart abuse. And for the asses that get fatter with every cart not taken back to the store (including Ms. Mercedes’).

She was already in her car trying to back out so I walked up to the car next to hers and acted like it was mine. I looked at the cart and looked at my car and made wild gestures to show that I was mad that this cart was blocking my car! I glared at her, glared at the car until Frank pulled me away and blew my cover.

My blood pressure was rising. My palms were sweaty. I was so steamed! “They make me so mad!!” I screamed.

Frank, always the sane one, just laughed and said, “Oh, you and your carts.”

Friday, November 30, 2007

A Time to Give

It’s all Lucy Liu’s fault. A couple of years ago she was on Oprah, talking about how we should give to United Way. I’m totally a sucker for charities that tell you exactly where your money will go. Lucy said, “If you donate $10, that will give a family a meal kit for a week plus two warm blankets.” Awesome, I thought. So I gave $5 and patted myself on the back for feeding a family for half a week and giving them one blanket. Hopefully it was a small family.

Ever since then I get about three letters a day from various charitable organizations. The United Way totally sold me out. Sometimes it’s cancer victims, sometimes it’s heart attack patients, but most of the time it’s very sad looking children. I could wallpaper my entire office in charitable return address labels.

And what about those nickels? Do you ever get those? Now there’s a moral dilemma. I’ll get this nickel in the mail and it says if I just contributed a nickel a day, those sad kids wouldn’t be hungry. Now what am I supposed to do with that nickel? I can’t just throw away perfectly good money. But I can’t USE a nickel that’s supposed to go to poor, sick kids. And sometimes it’s a dime! They’re torturing me!

One day, after a particularly bad week of charitable mail, I went off on a guy in the Wal-Mart parking lot. He came up to me and this is how it went down:

Random guy in Wal-Mart Parking Lot: Hey, how are you doing? Did you get a lot of shopping done?

WG: Yup. Gotta go.

Random Guy: Wait just one second please. See, I’m raising money for kids with cancer.

WG: No, thanks.

Random Guy: But if you just give $10, you can help to cure a kid with cancer.

WG: No, don’t think so.

Random Guy: What? You don’t want to help kids with cancer?

(This is where I got steamed. How does the fact that I don’t want to hand out cash to a strange guy in the Wal-Mart parking lot equal that I don’t want to help kids with cancer? There’s no connection. So I decided to mess with his head.)

WG: Well, don’t you think they kinda deserved it?

Random Guy: What?

WG: Those kids with cancer. I mean, they must have done something pretty bad to get cancer. They’re bad kids. They deserve it.

Random Guy: You are the most horrible person I’ve ever met!

WG: Maybe, but at least I’m not begging people for money in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

Charities, keep your return address labels, nickels and random parking lot solicitors away from Writinggal!

My next beef: Salvation Army Bell Ringers, where are your Santa suits?

Defending my People

This is a replica of the note I left on a MAN'S car who parked in the "mothers-to-be" parking spot at Kroger:

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mobile Maid of Honor

Are you looking for a good maid of honor for your next wedding? Not sure you can trust your sister or closest gal pal with such a huge responsibility? I’d like to offer my services. Up until this past weekend, I had only been a maid of honor once (back in 2000 in my friend Jaime’s wedding). But now I’ve increased my experience 100%. On Saturday I served as maid of honor in another bride’s wedding.

I think her name was Monica. But it might have been Molly. Anyway, she looked like this:

And that's her groom who I think is named David. Or Danny. And then some lady from their cruise ship.

We met them on the beach in the Bahamas. Frank and I were just walking down the shoreline at 9:30am when we spotted these two people who appeared as if they had lost the rest of their wedding party. I said, “I don’t know you but you look so pretty I’d like to take your picture.” Obviously, flattery will get you everywhere because the next thing I knew she was asking us to be witnesses at their wedding! I was stoked.

When they got to the part where they exchange rings she handed me her bouquet. Boom. I was instantly upgraded to maid of honor! I quickly had to think back to seven years ago when I was Jaime’s MofH. I needed to throw a shower; I needed to fluff her dress; And what about the toast? It’s hard enough to think of something to say for one of your oldest friends but how about when you don’t even know the girl’s name?

I decided to keep it simple. When they kissed, we clapped and I said, “Congratulations! What a beautiful wedding!” I inquired about a reception but apparently we weren’t invited. That’s okay; we didn’t get them a gift.

So my point is that I’m very versatile as an MofH. I can go anywhere. I can wear anything (even a bikini if that’s what you want). I can smile pleasantly and I won’t lose your flowers.

Think about it. But don’t think too long. My calendar is getting pretty full.

Yes, I know my fly is down!

Have you ever gotten home from a long day and just unbuttoned your pants, pulled down the zipper and sat on the couch? Feels good, don’t it?

That is how I live all the time now that I’m pregnant. I refuse to buy maternity clothes until at least 20 weeks (I'm 18.75 now) so I either wear stretchy sweats or I just unbutton and unzip my regular pants.

I can even do this in public thanks to the miracle of the tummy tube! Check it out:

You can't even tell my pants are unbuttoned and unzipped, can you? The tummy tube is just like a tube top. (In fact, sometimes just out of habit I accidentally put it on like a tube top.) It goes over your waist band and it smooshes it to the point where you can’t tell that your pants are basically down. It’s very comfortable too.

In this picture I’m wearing my skinny jeans. They are very small. I am not. It appears as if I just have on a cute layered outfit. I do not. I’m like a pregnant illusionist! I should seriously take this act to Vegas.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Global Negotations

I've been in the market for a globe. Every house needs one, don't you think? It seems like I always want to know where some place is in the world, what's the capital of Lithuania or play that game where you spin the globe around and pick your next vacation by where your finger lands. Plus, it makes you look smart. Like a set of Encyclopedias.

Oh, and I wanted a cool tan, vintage one. Except I didn't want the geography to be out of date. That would just confuse me and make me look stupid. I mean, what if I was going around saying, "I can't wait for my trip to the U.S.S.R!"

But the thing is, globes like that are expensive. I saw one in the Crate and Barrel catalog for like $140! So after that I gave up on my dream of globe-owning.

That was until we drove by a garage sale in our neighborhood. It was weird because I'm not really into digging through other people's junk. But when we drove by I saw it. A globe. "Oh, I see something I want at this garage sale!" I announced. This globe was perf. And it wasn't $140. Try $135 less than that. Five bucks!!

Oh, but it gets better. I've heard that when you dig through other people's junk (i.e. attend a garage sale), you can negotiate. I said, "Can I give you $3 for the globe?" And the junk-sellers said, "Yes." Ah! Three bucks! I swear it's the same as the one from C&B. Check it out:

The capital of Lithuania? Vilnius!
My next vacation? Kansas :(
Wait that doesn't count...
My next vacation? The middle of the Pacific ocean :( But not too far from Hawaii!

And I can totally afford to go there with all the money I saved on my globe!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Which is weirder?

The fact that I'm still eating our Halloween candy (M&Ms, both of the mini and peanut variety)?
Or that I gave all the Now and Laters from our candy bowl to the exterminator so he could use them to catch mice?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Who eats pancakes on a Thursday?

A pregnant girl, that's who. A pregnant girl who saw a commercial for Golden Corral that featured pancakes and said to herself, "I sure would like some pancakes right, you can't have's Thursday! But why can't I? I can have pancakes on Thursday! So you're gonna get all that stuff out and make the big ol' mess just so you can have some stupid pancakes? Yes, yes I am."

It was all downhill after this picture was taken. I only ate one and then I felt sick. Next time I'll just go to Golden Corral.


Five years ago Frank and I went to meet a potential wedding photographer at Starbucks. We didn’t know what she looked like so we were surprised when the person who approached us appeared to be a teenager. This kid had a hyphenated last name: Gaston-Terry. And even though Ms. Gaston-Terry was clearly youthful enough to be our much younger sister, she was very responsible, affordable and most of all, understood that we didn’t want any pictures of our profiles (we have a thing about the sides of our faces).

After she left we both noted that is was interesting that someone so young would be doing such a big job. I mean, running your own photography business isn’t easy. But Ms. Gaston-Terry did a good job and we liked our profile-less pics.

A few months later we rented a duplex. (It’s like a fairy tale: get married and move into a rented duplex!) The agent who had the place listed was named Tiffany. Obviously, she was young. Another young person with a big job. Frank could never remember her last name so he just started calling her Tiffany Gaston-Terry.

We’d see a young person anchoring a newscast: We’d call her Debbie Gaston-Terry. I’d have a new client at work. “How is she?” Frank would ask. “Oh, she’s a total Gaston-Terry,” I would say. Barack Obama. He's a Gaston-Terry. It’s like our own version of calling someone Doogie Howser.

You’d be surprised how often this comes up. We’ve been calling people Gaston-Terrys for years now. You can start using it too. And you don't have to say it just because we said so. Check this out:

I Googled Gaston Terry and you won’t believe what I found. Third entry down:

Col. Gaston Terry was an amateur mathematician who made a significant contribution to combinatorics. Specifically, he confirmed Euler’s conjecture for order 6 in 1901.

So even the original Gaston Terry was an amateur, probably a young guy who didn’t seem like he knew what he talking about. Then he went on to wow everybody with his brilliance in combinatorics. Now I don’t know what combinatorics is but then again, I’m no Gaston-Terry.

Or maybe I could be a Gaston-Terry. The Gaston-Terry of writing. I would have to do something big since I'm not that young. Maybe I could score some big interview with someone like…oh, I don’t know…some big leader in another country…and then I could be on Oprah! And she would say, “Wow, you’re so young to get to do a story on someone so important.” And I would say, “That’s right. I’m very mature for my age. Now please don’t let your camera guys shoot me from my profile.”

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bikini Belly

We’re heading to the Bahamas next week for our babymoon. I would add this word to Frank’s daddy dictionary but I just learned it myself. Apparently it’s a trip that couples take before their baby is born. It’s like our last hurrah—sort of like a graduation trip minus the wet t-shirt contests.

I only had one condition for the trip: it had to be somewhere tropical. I was not going to go my entire pregnancy without getting to do that whole pregnant-girl-in-a-bikini look. Finally, no sucking in! No finding that perfect lounge-chair position to properly distribute belly bulge. No more hiding behind a tree or a tall pina colada in pictures because I just ate a big buffet meal.

When you’re pregnant, you can let it all hang out.

But last night Frank looked at my belly and said, “Maybe we jumped the gun on this babymoon thing.” My belly is not bikini ready! I’m only 16 weeks along; there’s not a whole lot to hang out.

“Oh, poor Writinggal. She’s not fat enough for her bikini. Wah, wah wah.”

Wait. You will be crying for me when you hear this: There’s a little bit hanging out, just not enough. It’s this terrible in-between stage where you can’t tell if I’m pregnant or pudgy.

Are the tears starting to form yet?

Imagine this:
“Hey, honey, look at that girl over there. Do you think she’s pregnant or just fat?”

“Well, she’s sucking down a big drink so she can’t be pregnant. I think she just made one too many trips to the buffet line.”

“Hahahahahaha! You’re right! I did see her totally pigging out at breakfast. And look, she’s scarfing down that hamburger and fries. It’s kind of gross.”

“Someone get that girl a sarong.”

“Or Jenny Craig’s number. Hahahahahahaha.”

In my defense that was a virgin drink! And I AM eating for two! Well, one and a quarter.

There’s only one solution: I’m going to have to buy a bunch of those pregnancy novelty t-shirts. They’re like $50 each but a worthwhile investment:

“Yes, I’m pregnant. No, you can’t touch my belly.”
“Does this baby make me look fat?”

“Dying for a drink.”

“He did this to me” (with an arrow pointing to Frank or whoever happens to be on my left side at the time).

“Got pickles?”

“I’ve got the golden ticket” (also works as a tribute to my mothering-idol, Britney!)

The good news is, with all these cool new tops, we might not have to rule out the wet t-shirt contest!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Frank's Daddy Dictionary

Frank is very excited about becoming a dad. (Hint for Christmas: he has his eye on a "Big Daddy" t-shirt like Doug Clayton's).

Ever since I became pregnant, he's had to learn lots of new words. Every time I teach him one I'll share it here. Hey, maybe you'll learn something too. Today, I have two words for you:

Trimester: A three-month period. Pregnancy is nine months (more or less) so there are three trimesters.

Frank is struggling with this one. Being the academic that he is, he prefers to tell people, "Elsa's in the second semester!"

Braxton Hicks: False labor; a pregnant woman may feel these contractions but they're not the "real deal." Our friend Shannon experienced this and when Frank heard us talking about it, he asked, "Is she naming the baby Braxton? I like that name."

Now, whenever we tease him about it, he still insists, "Braxton is a cool name!"

Stay tuned. I can pretty much guarantee there will be more definitions to add to the daddy dictionary.

Gap be Gone

It’s rude of me, really, to leave you hanging like this. I’ve been telling you about my teeth troubles for over a year now and then I suddenly stopped giving you updates. And while it's not like I've received an influx of emails, begging me to finish the story, I'm going to do that anyway.

Here’s a timeline to refresh your memory:

1989--Braces are put on
1993—Jaw Surgery
1994—Braces come off
1995-1999—Four years of dental neglect (also known as “college”)
1999-2006—Gum problems, gap in bottom teeth grows as a result of not wearing retainer
2006—Decide to fix it all:
June 2006: gum surgery
September 2006: tiny rubberbands (you know I STILL find those things lying around the house even though I've moved thousands of miles away since I last wore them?)
November 2006-September 2007- retainer
September 2007—lose retainer at Frank’s Aunt and Uncle's house in Alabama; panic. Gap continues to grow.
September 2007—go to dentist to see about getting new retainer; suggests veneers.
October 2007—Sell several organs to pay for veneers (you don't really need a spleen, do you?) Let the dentist torture me for first stage of veneers. Pain worse than jaw surgery.
October 2007—Frank’s Aunt’s cat drags my retainer out from under a bed. She mails it back to me. It’s too late. We’ve already begun the veneer process and I’ve already charged it to my credit card.
October 2007—After lots of screaming, tears and angry pleas, my veneers are complete.

Here's the best I can do for a before and after. If you look closely (or maybe you don't even have to look too closely), you can see the growing gap in my bottom teeth.

No gap!

Jealous of my new fake-teeth grin? You too could have a smile like Writinggal!
It's simple. Here are the things you'll need:
-Patience: (It took me 18 years to get this look.)
-Four dentists, two orthodontists, an oral surgeon and a periodontist
-About $15,000 (thanks to my parents for covering most of that in the early years)
-A high threshold for pain (or the ability to scream while people are drilling in your mouth)
Hey, don't get down. I've got some rubberbands you can borrow to get you started.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Pregnancy Perplexers

If this is true then how did Frank's Nana bear eight healthy children?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Don’t be fooled...

by the rocks that I got, I'm still Jenny from the block. Um, Jenny, wouldn’t it be more of a tribute to your “block” if you didn’t flash all those rocks?

I think J. Lo's anthem is responsible for launching a lot of songs with this theme: “I know I’m awesome. I know I’m totally rich, totally famous, I can buy whatever I want but hey, I’m still the same person. I still put my diamond-embossed pants on one leg at a time.”

I’m over it.

Take Fergie’s Glamorous:

We flyin' first class

Up in the sky

Poppin' champagne

Livin' the life

In the fast lane

And I won’t change

By the Glamorous,

Oh the flossy flossy

She won’t change, she says. Except then the token rapper in her song comes in with, “If you ain’t got no money take your broke ass home!” Sounds to me like you think you’re too good for your poor friends now, Ferg-o. What's the matter? They not flossy enough for ya? (Flossy, by the way, means flashy and showy. I had to look that up in the urban dictionary. That’s how unflossy I am.)

My favorite part is when Fergalicious says she still goes to Taco Bell no matter how many records she sells. Well, duh, I would too. When you’re rich it’s the best time to go to Taco Bell! And the awesome part is, when you stop selling records you can still go there. It’s an equal opportunity establishment.

Now I expect this type of behavior from J. Lo and Fergs but then Faith Hill had to go and do a country version of this tired theme:

Cause a Mississippi girl don't change her ways

Just cause everybody knows her name

Ain't big-headed from a little bit of fame

I still like wearing my old ball cap

Ride my kids around piggy back

They might know me all around the world

But y'all I'm still a Mississippi girl

Hey, y’all, she still wears a baseball cap! Now that’s totally slummin' it. And how kind of her to play with her kids even though she’s so rich and famous.

What do these singers want, some kind of prize? I’d even be inclined to give them one if they actually displayed some sort of “every-man” behavior. Like there’s an actor (I can’t remember which one) who drives some really cheap, old car (can’t remember which kind).

But let’s say it’s John Cusack and he drives a 1998 Chevy Malibu. Now that would be great material for a song. It could go like this:

I was the guy who held up the boom box

Everybody loves that movie; it totally rocks

Even though I’m a busy actor, makin’ lots of dough

I never forget that I’m just a poor kid from Chicago

People ask me why I don’t buy some beach house under the sun

I say, “I don’t live in Malibu, I drive one!”

Speaking of cars, I forgot that the Taco Bell part of Fergie’s Glamorous is actually my second favorite. This is my real favorite:

After the show or after the Grammies
I like to go cool out with the family

Sippin', reminiscing on days when I had a Mustang

A Mustang? Come on. You don't even know about crappy cars! I had a Crown Victoria. My friend Kristin had some brown and gold Chevy that couldn't make left turns. I remember when a guy at my high school got a Mustang and he suddenly went from total dork to semi-cool. He seriously had the best car in the parking lot. So no props for you, Ferg. That ride's practically flossy.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Good things come to those who wait

Wasn’t that a Heinz commercial? And wasn’t Matt LeBlanc in it?

Anyway, I’m applying it to waiting to find out the sex of our baby. Since statistics (and most people’s reactions when I tell them) say I’m in the minority, I thought I’d speak up for those of us with neutral nurseries.

Here are my favorite reasons to wait:

Finding out the sex before the birth is like opening your Christmas presents in July.

“A baby need’s an entrance!” –Jerry Seinfeld

When the baby’s born it will be so much fun to hear “It’s a boy!” or “It’s a girl!” and we can say, “Awwww…” rather than “Duh!”

We don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl so why do we need to know ahead of time?

Yellow, green, purple, red, black, white, brown…there are plenty of other colors besides pink and blue

When we tell people we had the baby they’ll be on pins and needles, waiting to find out what it was. If they already know they’ll just ask, “Um, how much did it weigh?”

It’s the last time we’ll ever get to be surprised!

Our parents and grandparents didn’t get to know.

We have the rest of our lives to know what it is. Why can’t we wait a few months? –fellow mom-to-be Halle Berry

Knock Knock. Who's there? I can't tell you until sometime around April 24th!

Honked at again

I'm not in the school zone, I'm in the twilight zone! Why am I the only person following this law?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Make New Friends...

but keep the old. Just because I'm starting a new blog doesn't mean that I love this blog any less.

I'll try to pay equal attention to both.

A message from Avery Clayton, age three-and-a-half

"Elsa is having a baby. It's growing in her tummy. I think it will be a girl baby...because Elsa's a girl."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Co-worker complaints

Sometimes when I tell people I work at home by myself, they say, “Oh, I would go crazy without anyone to talk to.”

Well, I may go crazy but it’s not because I don’t have anyone to talk to. First of all, I do have people to talk to. I talk to people on the phone. I talk to people over email. But the great thing is I can’t see them and they can’t see me. So it doesn’t matter if I’m wearing pants or not. (I am always wearing pants, by the way, but it’s nice to know they can be pajama bottoms or P.E. teacher track pants.)

It’s been about two-and-a-half years since I had in-the-flesh co-workers and I have to say, I don’t miss them. I mean, I miss some of the actual people. But I miss them in an after-work happy hour sort of way, not in a drop-by-my-cubicle sort of way. (I DO miss after-work happy hours. We never do that at Writinggal.)

But here are just a few things that I don’t miss about having co-workers:

“Oh, you must have gotten the memo!” Co-workers love to say this whenever two people slightly match. I mean, even if I’m wearing black pants (which I think I wore every day when I worked in an office), they would say, “Oh, you must have gotten the memo! We’re both wearing black pants!” That’s such a wild coincidence. You’re totally giving me chills.

Numerous references to the days of the week and their proximity to Friday. Many know how I feel about the over-hyping of Friday so I won’t ramble on about it. All I’ll say is that here at Writinggal, the first person to say “hump day” gets fired.

Cubicle curiosities: I never hung up anything personal in my cube for two reasons: 1). In advertising you had to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. You never knew when they were going to show up with a pink slip and a security guard. 2). But more importantly, I didn’t like it when co-workers would come up and ask me questions like, “Oh, did you go to Disneyland? How did you like it?” or “Your hair looks funny in that picture.” Basically, I just didn’t like people I didn’t really like talking to me and I didn’t want to give them any openings.

“What’s that? That looks gross.” Co-workers love to know what you’re eating for lunch. I hate it when people talk about my food. Bad combination.

Co-workers at meetings. This is what I hear when co-workers speak at meetings: “Okay, so I don’t really have anything important to say but I’m going to ramble on because then I’ll be in the spotlight and maybe someone will actually believe what I’m saying is important. Hey, I like the way I sound when I talk. I’m going to keep talking. Maybe this meeting will last for hours.” At Writinggal all meetings are forbidden.

The “I’m too busy to talk to you alert signal.” At this one place I worked I was convinced that there was an imaginary clothes line that went from my desk to the desk of this guy who worked on the other side of the building. Sometimes I would be at my desk, staring at my to-do list and I would think, “Okay. This is a lot of crap that I have to do. I only have one hour before the next meeting (which we know will go on for hours because of said co-worker above). If I work really fast and don’t stop to even go the bathroom, I can get it done. Okay, go.” At that moment some sort of signal (maybe an alarm, maybe a light, maybe a siren) would go off at this guy’s desk. He would immediately come over and say, “Hey, Elsa. How’s it going? Um…can you believe all this rain we’re having? And what’s up with that picture hanging on your cube? Did you have a big pimple on your face or is that a Halloween costume?”

Just thinking about all those annoying co-workers makes me stressed. Anyone want to meet up for happy hour?

See what I mean? They're always looking at my food.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Wally Walgreens

There’s the cutest old man who works at my Walgreens. I call him Wally. He's probably about 102 and he starts a conversation with everyone in the check-out line:

“Oh, do you like this toothpaste? I was thinking of getting some!”
“What do you have going on today?”
“I didn’t know Brad and Angelina were breaking up. Is this magazine telling the truth?”
“Are you a P.E. Teacher?

He loves working at Walgreens. In fact, he’s ALWAYS there. I don’t think he ever has a day off or even a lunch break. Wally’s a great guy.

Now, the reason I say all this is because I’m carrying around this enormous guilt. My guilt is stemming from the fact that WALLY DRIVES ME CRAZY!!

Every time I go in I have to wait in the longest line because Wally is chatting up every customer:

“Oh, isn’t she a cute little girl! The angels must have dusted your eyes! Did you know that the eyes are the only things that never change on a person from the time they’re born to the time they die?”

This is what was going on yesterday. But instead of just smiling and nodding, the customer started asking HIM questions about eyes and genetics and then Wally’s latest cancer scare and then some Walgreens promotion. “Stop. Stop asking him questions,” I mumbled under my breath.

I mean, you’re not supposed to wait in line at Walgreens! As Frank says, “That’s why they charge you more.” Exactly. You’re supposed to be able to run in, grab your drugs and Hallmark cards, and run out.

So yesterday I waited for about twelve minutes. I was behind a guy who was buying an enema and I prayed very hard that Wally would not make a comment about it: “Oh, having trouble with your bowels, huh? I know the feeling. This one’s okay but you really want a more powerful one. See? We have it on sale!” Luckily, he struck up a conversation about the drought outside instead of the drought in the guy’s colon.

When it was finally my turn I bought some Airborne (Wal-borne), an O magazine and I picked up a free pair of Regis and Kelly 3D sunglasses (for use on their Halloween episode. It’s a must-have for RK fans). The glasses is where Wally got me:

“Do you watch that show?”


“Do you have kids?”


“Well, kids love playing with these 3D glasses.”

(Hey, buddy, I just said I don’t have any kids…)

“They love to connect the A and the B…”

“Oh, that’s great.” (Now I don’t know what that means “A and the B” but I’m not dare gonna ask.)

“They love to close one eye and look through the red side and close the other eye and look through the blue side. I had a teacher come in earlier and pick up 30 of them!”

“Great.” (Again, didn’t want to hold up the line even though Regis and Kelly had clearly said ONE pair to a customer.)

So I finally leave Walgreens and glance at my receipt. Wally had overcharged me for the Wal-Borne. I had to go back in and wait in line AGAIN! I had to listen to more chatter and he gave every single person ahead of me the same Regis and Kelly spiel:

“…the blue side…the red side…she got 30 of them for her classroom…connect the A and the B.”

You won’t believe what the lady three people in front of me said: “What do you mean connect the A and the B?”

NO!!!! Stop, lady!! I have to pee. I can’t stand in this Walgreens line one more second!! Somebody hold me back or I might hurt Wally!

When I finally got to the front again it had been so long that Wally didn’t even remember me. He agreed that he had overcharged me for the Wal-borne (it rang up wrong) and he then sent me back to photo to a manager. What? I could have gone to photo the whole time?! I didn’t need to wait in the never-ending Wally line?

I didn’t understand that this was the process!

I guess I just didn’t connect the A and the B.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Writinggal Solves the Drought

Water is a hot commodity around here. It’s like Cabbage Patch Kids in the 80s. Big demand. Low supply.

The state of Georgia is trying to help in this time of drought. Here’s what they’ve come up with:

At restaurants, waiters shouldn’t serve water unless customers ask for it (Apparently, Wendy’s is on that same policy with catsup.)

We can’t water our lawns. Ever. (We didn’t hear about this until after we planted trees and flowers last weekend. Our neighbors think we're idiots.)

October is “Shorter Shower Month.” (Is 30 minutes too long?)

While their ideas are interesting, I realized today that I hold the key to this whole drought dilemma. I can save the whole southeastern United States with a solution I came up with as a little girl!

Click here for Writinggal’s Drought Solution!

Friday, October 12, 2007

School Zoning Out

I have a long-standing theory on school zones: The times are too long and the distances too short.

For instance, at the elementary school I lived near in Dallas, we had to drive like turtles from 2:30pm to 4:30pm. Well, the kids got out of school at 3:15pm. What slow-poke kid is still walking home at 4:30? And what delinquent was leaving school at 2:30? I think 3:00-3:45 would have been sufficient.

The distance that the school zone encompassed barely went past the school. It started like a foot before it and ended a foot after it. All the kids who were walking lived well past those points. And you know people drive extra fast as soon as a school zone ends. I would have been fine with the school zone being the whole length of the street that the school was on, as long as it was only 3:00-3:45.

While I often thought about this theory while living in Dallas, I didn’t get a chance to propose it.

Now that I’m in Atlanta I have a whole new theory to propose: Let’s start with obeying the school zones! They don’t do it here, I swear! I’m the only one! In Texas we slowed down to like ten miles an hour. We could have pushed our cars faster.

So here in Atlanta we live near a junior high. True, these kids are older so we don’t care as much if we hit them because a). they’re bigger and can handle it and b). they’re a bunch of brats anyway.

But there are clearly flashing lights and a sign that says SCHOOL ZONE 25 MILES AN HOUR (2:30-4:15). So the other day I’m driving all slow but everyone around me is driving fast. I thought, “Maybe it’s a holiday or something.” Then the next day the same thing happened. But this time, someone actually came up behind me and honked at me. Well, I wouldn’t speed up. I just screamed, “It’s a school zone!! Don’t you Georgians know what a school zone is?”

Twice a week I have to drive through this school zone on my way to teach spin at the YMCA. It’s always 4:00 and the lights are always flashing so I know I’m right that it’s a school zone. I’ve had to make a compromise. I have to at least drive 30 miles an hour or I’ll get run over.

So one day I was driving 30 and whaddya know? There’s a cop! I was gonna be so mad if I got pulled over after I’ve been the lone fighter of the school zone law in Atlanta (albeit within the sound-proof walls of my car). But he got somebody else.

I thought the next time I drove through it everybody would be on their best school zone behavior, given that the area had been staked out. Nope. They were back to 45. Honking at me. Giving me the finger.

I don’t care what they do to me. I am going to obey the law! Somebody has to care about those acne-faced junior high kids. And once I save them I’ll work on shorter times, longer distances. You, and all the kids of America, will thank me.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Pick my Email Quote

When I worked at an ad agency in Dallas, I used to get these emails from this guy in the audio/visual department that said:

Hey, your dub of commercial #N5776 is ready. Come get it.

“Pay no attention to the man standing behind the curtain”

Or sometimes it would say something like:

Do you want a beta or VHS of that?

“Pay no attention to the man standing behind the curtain”

I didn’t understand why he always added that statement after his name. Who was this man behind the curtain? What did he have to do with my video tape? And did it somehow relate to the Star Wars action figures that Steven kept in his cube? Or the trench coat he wore every day, even in the summer?

I was na├»ve back then. That was before email sign-off quotes become fashionable. Now everybody’s got one. Some are sentimental. Some are inspiring. Some are wacky.

Aunt Marilyn’s says: "There is no way of telling people they are all walking around shining like the sun." --Thomas Merton

My friend Cheri’s says: “Do you know the harder thing to do and the right thing to do are usually the same thing.” — Michael Cane

That’s from the movie The Weatherman and although I’ve never seen that movie, I remember liking the sound of that line just when I heard it in the trailer. However, I’m not sure the screenwriter would appreciate Michael Cane getting credit for it.

Readbecca’s is something about plastic things in her drink. I can’t locate it right now but I’m pretty sure it’s something like “Pardon me, waiter, but there aren’t enough plastic flamingos in my drink.” I think I’m wrong about the flamingos but you get the idea.

When my friends at Kolar in Austin were moving offices, they all had this email quote that said “We’ve moved downtown!!!” So I would get emails like:

Hey, that’s too bad about that bridge collapse that killed all those people.


Then there’s my manager at the YMCA:

Can you sub a cycle class tonight?

Positive thoughts Build and Inspire!!!!

How can I say no after that?

I know it’s been six years since I first saw an email quote but I think I’m ready to get me one. Hey, I’m a late adopter. I want mine to reflect me and my work and my personality and my life and my goals and my fears. And I want it to be relevant to everybody on my email list. Here are some ideas I had:

Writinggal Originals:

“If it were up to me, men would shave their armpits too.”

“Breakfast for dinner isn’t just for the poor anymore.”

“Fiber is my friend and it can be yours too.”

“No, I’m not Cyndi Lauper’s long lost twin.”

Semi-famous Quotes (crediting actors rather than actual creators of quotes where applicable):

“Use it or lose it!” –my grandma

“It’s a very important dance. We’re being graded on it.” –Molly Ringwald

“You’re going to be embarrassed when you realize I’m Wilmer Valderama.” –Seth Rogan

“Hope is not a plan” –Oprah Winfrey

“I’m not superstitious. I’m just a little stitious.” --Steve Carell

Mocking the email quote:

“This is my email quote.”

“Email quotes are for losers.”

“Email quotes are for lovers.”

“I believe email quotes can be inspirational, stimulating and profound. Mine is not one of them.”

“Email quote under construction. Coming Easter 2002.”

“I look forward to getting your feedback on my email quote!”

No, that’s not a quote. That’s just what I’m saying to you. It’s sort of like a command. Or a request. Don’t vote on that one.

Oh, it's monkies! Plastic monkies in her drink! That's Readbecca's quote. Don't vote on that either because it's already taken.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Trash Potatoes

Last spring I tried a twist on mashed potatoes. (Is it mash or mashed? I always just say mash so that’s what I’ll say moving forward.) Anyway, I thought I could make the cauliflower kind but make them taste good. I mean, if you add enough ranch, heavy cream, cream cheese and butter, even cauliflower can be edible, right?

My CMPs were a semi-hit. My in-laws liked them and I thought Frank did too. So yesterday I decided to try it again. But this time I took it even farther. Not only did I try to make good-tasting cauliflower mash potatoes, I tried to pass them off as potato mash potatoes.

When Frank called on his way home from work I said, “We’re having mash potatoes! Do you want brown or white gravy?” I planted the seed. Then, as soon as I hung up, I quickly began to discard all the cauliflower evidence. This included throwing away all the cauliflower remains, sending some pieces down the disposal and even washing out the food processor. I wasn’t sure if he was smart enough to know that I would only use the food processor if I was making the cauliflower kind but I didn’t want to take any chances.

But what about the smell? I had steamed the cauliflower so I was sure the kitchen had that gassy-vegetable aroma although I was immune to it, having been in the trenches. I decided to hurry up and cook these sausages that I was going to serve with the CMPs. That should mask the smell, I thought.

But he walked in before I could start on the sausages. He immediately said, “Hey, why does it smell like trash in here?”

I looked totally guilty and said, “I don’t know. I mean, we took the trash out today.”

He said, “I wonder if it’s something in the recycle bin in the garage.”

I just laughed nervously. Smell, what smell?

When I gave him the CMPs he still had no idea. He couldn’t identify them by sight. And when he ate them, I asked, “How do you like the mash potatoes?” He said, “You know what? They kinda remind me of those cauliflower ones you made before.”

“So they remind you of those but they’re not like those?” I asked.

“These are MUCH better than those,” he said, as he continued to shovel them in his mouth.

“Ha! I fooled you!” I said triumphantly. “These ARE cauliflower mashed potatoes! But you LIKE them!”

“Ew, they are? I don’t think I like them anymore,” he said.

“What? You loved them before you knew they were made of cauliflower!” I argued.

“So that’s what smelled like trash! I knew you were acting suspicious,” he said, turning the tables.

And with that, he wouldn’t eat another bite of them! I had to eat both our bowls! I thought they were pretty good, especially with tons of white gravy.

At the end of the night I didn’t feel so great. “What’s wrong?” Frank asked.
“Too many trash potatoes,” I said.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Dangling the Cookie

On my first night in L.A. I saw a sign in the lobby (next to the free coffee, oddly enough) that said “The Cookie of the Day is Chocolate Chip. Enjoy your Stay!” Under the sign was a basket so I eagerly went over to get myself a cookie. No cookie. The basket was empty. That was okay, I figured. They were probably all gone for the day.

Next day: Same sign, no cookies. Later that evening, same story.

The following day I decided to check first thing in the morning. And I didn’t stop. Every time I left or returned to the hotel I would stop by the cookie basket. Mind you, this wasn’t on my way. I could have taken the elevator directly to the parking garage. Instead, I would get off at the lobby, step out, check the basket, get angry and then get back in the elevator.

On the third day I continued my quest. But when I checked the first time, the sign was still there but the basket was gone. Maybe that was just an old sign, I thought, and they never intended to give us free cookies.

But later that day, a breakthrough. The sign had changed! No longer was the cookie of the day “Chocolate Chip” it was “Chocolate with Reese's Pieces!” It sounded like the most awesome cookie ever! But of course, there were no cookies.

I even spent some time in the lobby working. I never saw anyone bring cookies. I never even smelled any baking.

On my last night as I got in the elevator I decided to ask a couple who I think were from Sweden or Norway or something so give them accents if you’re acting this out with your friends or co-workers:

WG: Excuse me, how long have y’all been staying here?

Swedish/Norwegian Man: Sorry?

WG: Have you stayed here long? The reason I ask is because I’m curious if you’ve ever seen the free cookies in the lobby.

S/NM: Yes. In fact, not only have we seen them, we’ve actually had them!

WG: Nuh-uh!

S/N Woman: Yes, we have! And we even were there when the chef brought them out. They were delicious!

WG: Well I check three or four times a day and I’ve never seen them!

S/N Man: We also check all day and we’ve just seen them that one time.

WG: I’m stopping in the lobby right now to see if they’re there. I bet they’re not.

(We arrive in the lobby and all get out.)

S/N Man: Nope. No cookies. Perhaps we could ask the front desk to call us when they put them out.

Ha. Those Swede/Norwegians. Easier for him to joke about it when he actually got his free cookie.

On my final day I checked two more times. No cookies. And the cookie of the day was still Chocolate with Reese's Pieces. I mean, maybe if they had a crappy cookie like oatmeal raisin or something with nuts, I could handle it. But Choc with Reeses? It just might be the best cookie flavor of all (after Mandy’s Rolo cookies, of course).

When I checked out and there still weren’t cookies I decided that, instead of just asking someone at the front desk about it, I would put up my own sign:

Then I left and bought my own damn cookies.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Occupational Hazard

I just got a laptop which means I have the freedom to work outdoors. Last week I wrote in my backyard and my only complaint was the glare on my screen. I didn’t care so much that I couldn’t see the words I was typing; I didn’t like to see my reflection.

“But you’re so lovely, Elsa. Why would you not like to look at your reflection?” you (or more likely, my mom) might argue. It’s the face I make when I’m writing. Have you ever seen John Mayer’s expression when he sings? Well, it’s not as bad as that but it’s close.

I keep catching a glimpse of it now as I sit on the balcony of my hotel in L.A. It kinda looks like I’m saying, “Huh? What’s going on? Does anybody have another doobie?” My mouth is slightly open, like I’m sleeping on a plane, and the rest of my face is all crinkled up, looking half confused, half disgusted.

It can’t be good for preventing wrinkles. But then again, neither can all this outdoor time.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Coffee Talk

Not only do I not drink coffee, I can’t make it. In fact, I’ve never been so perplexed by the making of something as I am by coffee. You’ll hear people say, “Oh, all she does is get coffee…” as if that’s the easiest task any professional could ever do. I’m so bad at it, I couldn’t even add it to my resume if I wanted to.

I have a coffee maker at home just for when my mom and mother-in-law come to town. I never buy the right stuff. I’ll buy instant coffee and they have to explain to me that this doesn’t go in the coffee maker. Or one time, before I bought the coffee maker, I bought a big old tin of the ground kind. That’s when they told me I needed a coffee maker. And then there’s all the stuff that goes in it! Sugar, Splenda, Sweet and Low, Equal, Creamer, Half and Half, little cubes, little lumps…I just put it all out there by the tiny coffee maker and let the moms do their thing. While I’m sure I haven’t provided all the right tools, they still partake of it. They seem to have a little secret sisterhood of coffee lovers.

This morning I’m in a hotel and I wanted to use the coffee maker—not for its intended use but for oatmeal. I figured it could make hot water, right? It had some visual directions on the top but that didn’t really help me. I tried filling up the pot with water and then just putting it back in the coffee maker. Nothing happened. When I poured the water in the top, things seem to happen though. Steam came out. It made bubbly noises. It even sort of smelled like coffee. But when I checked several minutes later my water was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t where I poured it nor was it in the pot. I then pulled out this little tray and the boiling water came splashing out everywhere. I managed to get some of it into a mug. But then I realized there was no spoon for my oatmeal so I drank it.

I actually wished I liked coffee. It’s a good habit to get into because it seems that people are always giving it away for free. Take this hotel, for instance. It’s the only free thing in the room that I can consume. There’s all this fancy coffee and tea plus all the add-ins! And on the plane yesterday they were running around with trays of it: “Coffee? Are you sure you don’t want coffee?” You can get the stuff at car dealerships, grocery stores, even the YMCA pushes it every morning.

Now I’m not saying I’ve never had a job where I was expected to make coffee. I have. But just like faxing, it always eluded me. I always had to find someone to help me. They would patiently show me how to use the filters, the coffee grounds (or grinds?), the water, the pot but I just couldn’t grasp it. I think I’m more likely to fly a space shuttle than ever make a pot of joe.

This means I have to give up on several career paths:

Assistant to anybody
Clerk (at a place that serves free coffee like the car dealership)
Waitress (specifically at a diner or breakfast establishment)

I guess I’ll have to settle for astronaut. And when I’m flying the shuttle its “free oatmeal in a mug for everyone!”

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Destructive Criticism

When you watch a movie trailer, do you always whisper your final judgment to the person sitting next to you? Me too. Sometimes I’ll say, “That looks cute” to Frank while at the same time he says, “Rental.” If he says, “That looks good,” then I say, “You only like it because Hilary Duff is in it!” to which we get a big “ssshhh” from the people around us (even though they were playing Ebert & Roper too).

Just like I have no faith in ideas that turned out to work and become the core of our whole infrastructure, I have terrible taste in movies—specifically, what’s gonna work and what’s not. When I suggest a movie Frank says, “That sounds like Sack Lunch.”

For instance, when I saw the trailer for The Matrix I whispered to the person next to me (can’t remember who it was because it was circa 1998), “I bet not ONE person will go see that movie.” I seriously felt bad for Keanu.

And it’s not just movies, it’s TV shows too:

Beverly Hills, 90210: “Why do they even bother adding that zip code? Nobody’s gonna remember that.” Little did I know we would ONLY remember that (except my dad who still refers to it as “that zip code show.”)

Friends: “What a dumb name for a show! Friends. Why don’t they just call it “People?” Couldn’t they think of something better? Nobody’s gonna watch it with such a lame title!”

Lost: “Who wants to watch a bunch of stranded people? Hello? I’ve seen Gilligan’s Island.”

Dancing with the Stars: “Ballroom dancing on television? Boring. Minor celebrities ballroom dancing on television? Boring and pathetic.”

Bottom line, don’t listen to me—especially if you’re in the movie, TV or any sort of entertainment industry. Or you can listen to me and do the opposite. That’s what Ian Ziering and Jennie Garth did (“that zip code show” and DWTS). But I still stand firm behind one thing: Sack Lunch is a good movie.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Fake FAQ’s

Posting a list of Frequently Asked Questions to your website is a great idea. That way people won’t constantly be asking you the same query and you won’t waste time answering them. If I had a list of FAQs on, it would look like this:

“Hey, I want to be a writer too. How can I do that?”
“I have a product/person/puppet that is so awesome. Will you write about that?”
“I’m an expert on fitness/food/field trips. Do you want to interview me?”
“Do you get paid?”

Of course, that’s what my list would look like if I wrote REAL FAQs but often companies write FAKE FAQs. For instance, I’ll go to a web site to some festival we want to attend and all I want to know is 1). How much it costs and 2). If we can bring our own alcohol.

I’ll go to the FAQs and find things like:
“What charities are supported by this event?”
“How can I volunteer at the event?”
“How can I buy an ad on the back of the event t-shirt?”
“How can I sponsor the whole event?”
“Are there opportunities to help clean up afterwards?”
“What is the history of this event?”
“Who are the talented people behind this event and how can I thank them personally with a monetary donation?”

I start to wonder if my question is actually a weird question rather than a frequently asked question. I mean, according to this list, no one has ever wondered how much it costs. No one wants to know the BYOB policy except me.

It seems like it would be easy to simply compile a list of the most commonly asked questions but instead it’s like companies want to plant questions in your head, questions that serve their own agendas.

Can’t tell the lies from the legits? Here are some more Fake FAQs to watch out for:

“What does your brand stand for?”
“Am I able to buy more warranties?”
“Can I purchase extra insurance?”
“How can I make a donation?”
“How can I sign up to receive mail from you?”
“Can I give you my email address so that I can get your newsletter and special offers?”
“Who should I give my phone number to so you can call me and ask for contributions?”
“Can I set up a meeting with you so I can learn more about timeshare investing?”
“How can I start a campaign fundraiser in my hometown?”
“I seem to have been skipped for jury duty this year. Who can I talk to about that?”

If I have a question and I can’t find the answer on the FAQs, I just call the place. They hate that. They’ll inevitably say, “Do you have internet access? You can look online to find all the answers you need.”

“No, I can’t,” I told the people who make the generic brand of Swiffers when I called to ask if I could use them on hardwood floors. “You don’t say anything about my question on your site; you just answer phony questions like, ‘Why is your product so amazing?’ and ‘How can I buy stock in these fabulous cleaning pads?’ I want real answers! And first I need REAL questions!”

I’ve decided that if everyone else can do it, WG can do it too. Here are my fake FAQs that I plan to add to my site:

“How can I pay you lots of money to write whatever topic you want to write about?”
“Can I book you for a special appearance?”
“When will your book be coming out?”
“Could you send me an autographed picture?”
“Who do I write to at the newspaper to say I want to see more of your columns?”
“How do I become an officer in your fan club?”
“Where do I send money to pay you for the joy your writing brings me?”

I’ll come up with eloquent answers for all of these questions you didn’t even know you had. Oh, and if you were wondering, it’s $39.99 to join my fan club and the meetings are BYOB.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Champagne Wishes and Chalupa Dreams

In college we went to Taco Bell. A lot. I would always get a bean and cheese burrito for like, $.79. (Pause. Can I tell you how bad I want a b&c burrito right now? Are you with me on this? Jessi, I know you are.)

Sometimes I would gaze up at the drive-thru menu and wonder what it would be like to get a Seven-layer Burrito or Nachos Bell Grande or a Mexican pizza. But I had barely scrounged up the change to get my burrito. I know; you’re totally crying for this impoverished sorority girl.

One day I made an announcement to the other Taco Bell patrons in the car with me: “One day, when I’m really rich, I’m gonna get anything I want from Taco Bell! Even the stuff that’s over $2.00!”

Now that’s the dream. And it still hasn’t come true. I’m not rich yet so I still don’t know what it’s like to splurge at the Bell. Okay, a couple of times I’ve gotten the Nachos Bell Grande but I also got my burrito. Hey, I’m still Jenny from the Block.

The longer it takes for me to become rich, the longer my list of "what I would buy if I were rich" becomes:

--Really fluffy bath towels. And really big ones that can’t be mistaken for hand towels.
--In that same genre, super high thread count pillows.
--A gridge, natch.
--Shoes other than flip flops
--Someone to pull weeds in the yard
--A Sonicare toothbrush
--Another magazine subscription like Real Simple (I can’t make my US Weekly last more than two days!)
--A good set of knives
--A CostCo and a Sam's membership (not just one or the other)

But no matter how rich I get there are some things that I would still buy at poor-people prices:

--tank tops
--movies (gotta do the matinee)
--a watch
--hair dye
--gas (would still get the low-end unleaded. See next item on list.)
--a car

But when that rich day comes I won’t leave you out. You’ll totally be invited to my party which will have cheap wine and fluffy towels! Hey, does Taco Bell cater?

Friday, August 31, 2007

Have you Met Tammy the Dog?

I'm not a novelist although when people hear I'm a writer, they automatically ask if I'm going to write one. "But I don't write fiction," I say. "Oh, sure you can!" they argue. It's like telling Celine Dion she should rap.

I once spent an entire evening arguing with a guy who said I should publish a "novella." I'm not sure exactly what that is but I think I heard it once on Destinos.

But once I did write a novel...when I was six. In fact, I talk about it on my website. It's called Tammy the Dog.

My mom recently came across the first (and only) edition of TtD and mailed it to me. I scanned it so all could enjoy its genius. It's a twelve page epic tale complete with compelling illustrations.

Little known fact: if you look closely at the cover you can see that Tammy was originally a shark. If you read the whole story, though, you'll understand why that would have been a logistical nightmare. Luckily, I was an author who valued the pencil with a firm eraser.

With that, I give you Tammy the Dog, my first novel. Or novella. Or as my mom likes to call it, a masterpiece.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Trans Fats, Like a Long Lost Friend

What’s the deal with trans fats? Everybody’s freaking out about ‘em but I gotta tell you, they’re hard to find. Frito Lay, just for a random example, got rid of trans fats years ago. So even though our pantry is stocked with chips, none of them have the TFs. Being worried about eating trans fats is kinda like being scared of getting struck by lightening (although even in little does that’s bad—need to work on my similes).

One day Frank and I scoured the pantry, looking for trans fats. We couldn’t find any. Not one tiny gram of a TF. And it’s not that we only have super healthy food. We’ve got cookies, cake mixes, tons of baking stuff, crackers, even peanut butter! I thought PB was known for TF! What gives?

Frank said, “I couldn’t eat trans fats if I wanted to!”

Then one morning I was making those awesome Pillsbury cinnamon rolls that come in the tube. You know, the ones that pop when you twist the container? Frank always makes me open it so he can see me jump. It’s like that glaucoma test at the eye doctor. I know the poof is coming but I still fly out of my chair every time.

So right after I jumped, I happened to peek at the label. What? What was that I saw? Next to Trans Fats where it usually says 0, it said something like 2. That’s TWO per serving. And there are eight cinnamon rolls and we each eat four (I know, we’re total pigs) so that’s 8 TFs each.

“Frank, guess what! Our cinnamon rolls have trans fats. Lots of ‘em!” I said.

“Finally!” he said, quite gleefully.

We chowed down on those TFs with no regret. And we lived to tell about it. After all, it didn’t really matter when every other day of the year is a TF-free day. It’s like getting one bad sunburn (although they say now that even one can double your chance of skin cancer so that doesn’t really work).

Frank was explaining his trans fat frustration to a co-worker the other day. He said, “I can’t find any trans fats! Nothing has trans fats anymore!” She said, “How about those Grandma’s cookies you eat every day?”

Oops. Totally Trans Fat full. He eats one every day. Frank, you’re not still eating them are you? That would be like touching the plate when the waitress says it’s hot…which is fun…kinda like trans fats.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Mandy Moore: My Friendtasy

This weekend was like a Mandy Moore-a-thon for me. I watched the movie “Because I said so” one and a half times (once by myself and then half of it with Frank). I read an interview with Ms. Moore in In Style and then I watched this show on Oxygen called “I am Mandy Moore” which was a documentary about her grueling promotional schedule. It was sort of like MTV’s “Diary” but without the “You think you know but you have no idea” line that I like so much.

Anyway, after all that Mandy Moore mayhem, I decided something: I really like Mandy Moore. I wasn’t sure exactly where to channel my feelings though. It wasn’t like a fascination, like I have with SJP. And it wasn’t a girl crush, like I have with Brooke Burke. It was more like what I have with Jen. And Kelly Ripa. I want to be Mandy Moore’s friend. Yet I know it can never be.

That’s why she’s my friendtasy.

So sure am I that Mandy and I would make awesome BFFs, I’m willing to overlook two rules I normally institute when choosing friends:

1. Don’t be friends with someone whose name is the same as another friend. (I’ve already overlooked this rule for a couple of Amys and Kristins.) I already have a friend named Mandy. Sure, I could give up that Mandy but then I’d have to give up cookies. So in this case, I would keep both Mandys and call Mandy Moore “young Mandy” or “famous Mandy” or “Mandy who can get me into clubs and buys me expensive presents.”

2. Don’t be friends with tall people. Mandy is 5 feet 10. That’s like Amazon tall. It hurts my neck just thinking about it.

Mandy’s friendship will be worth it though. She’s charming. She’s funny. But she’s totally flawed. Like she’s probably one of those tall people who trips a lot. Oh, how Mandy and I would laugh!

I mean, we probably wouldn’t see each other much since she’s busy and we don’t live in the same city. And we can’t even share clothes and shoes, which is more of a bummer for me than for her. Although Mandy does like flip flops from the 1 spot at Target and clothes from Ross. At least she does in my friendtasy.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Dirty Drawers

I’m a neat freak. If I were a Desperate Housewife, I’d be Bree. I’d rather be Gabby, Susan or Lynette…even Edie…but I’m Bree when it comes to my house. My kitchen table, for instance, has a cute little bowl of fruit in the middle of it. That is all that is allowed on it. Sometimes Frank will put his workout gloves on the kitchen table. They are immediately removed. Every now and again a stray piece of mail will find its way to my kitchen table. It only stays a second.

Same goes for the living room (no superfluous magazines on the coffee table), the bathroom (the hairdryer goes right back into the cabinet when I’m done) and the bedroom (bed is always made).

But I’ve got a dirty little secret that you would NEVER believe: It’s my dresser drawers. They’re a disaster.

I don’t just mean that there are white t-shirts mixed in with grey t-shirts or that the socks aren’t always paired up correctly. I mean that nothing, not one thing is folded. Each drawer is a crazy, disorganized mess of shorts, workout tops, t-shirts and pajamas. Don’t believe me? I’ve got proof:

Each drawer is worse than the next!

Oh, I’ve tried to organize them. I’ve spent hours, dumping out drawers, carefully folding clothes all Gap employee style. But they inevitably get like this again:

I’ve always wondered why it bothers me if other parts of the house aren’t just so (even my closet is perfect) yet I’m complacent with my drawers being in an eternal state of emergency.

When my Grandma was visiting last Thanksgiving she commented, “You’re like me. You like your house to be just right, everything in its place. But you want to know something?”

She paused dramatically while I waited for her to reveal her secret.

“My drawers are a dee-saster!”

“So are mine, Grandma!” I exclaimed.

“See, I don’t care if something's messy as long as nobody can see it. When I clean I just hide everything,” she said.

Interesting. It’s true that if I had see-through drawers I would probably keep everything neater. And sometimes people do go in my closet (since I give really thorough house tours) so the only place people don’t go is my drawers. They’re safe from judgment. Safe from ridicule.

But I still can’t find anything in there.

This weekend I’m going to try it again. I’m going to clean out and organize my drawers. I’m going to even try to keep them that way. And if I can't, I'm just gonna say that it's genetic.