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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.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Going Postal

While waiting in line at the post office yesterday, I had plenty of time to daydream. This is what I imagined:

Training Day for New U.S. Postal Service Counter Clerks:

USPS New Hire Trainer: Welcome, new USPS employees! First of all, I want to tell you two very important things:

1. You were chosen for this job because you are extremely laid-back. You aren’t affected by pressure, deadlines or customer’s needs. In fact, it’s kind of like you’re sleep walking through life. We here at the postal service applaud that.
2. You’re very lucky. Most people who live their lives half-asleep couldn’t get a job at all, much less a really easy one. You are about to start the cushiest job there ever was. Congrats.

Now let’s talk about your duties:

It’s pretty simple. Basically, you’ll stand behind a counter and when customers come in, you’ll help them with their postal needs: buying stamps, sending packages, picking up packages, changing their addresses, etc.

How many customers do you think you’ll help a day?

New Hire #1: 200?

USPS Trainer: Lower.

New Hire #2: 100?

USPS Trainer: Lower.

New Hire #3: 40?

USPS Trainer: Lower.

New Hire #4: 20?

USPS Trainer: I can see you have a lot to learn. You’re all being a little over-ambitious. On a typical day at the post office you’ll probably help 15 customers. Here’s how we do that:

First, you get paid commission on HOW LONG you spend with each customer, not how MANY you see. So, for instance, if someone comes in and all they want to do is buy stamps, you’ll need to show them all of their choices: the fruits, the flags, the hearts…and don’t forget the expensive ones: breast cancer, global warming, Elvis. You might need to go to the back to find all the options. If they say that they want the fruits, you try to sell them the flags. If they say breast cancer, you say Elvis. Then, when they finally decide on one, you VERY SLOWLY (try pretending like you’re in slow-motion on a DVD player) take their money and ring up their order.

A transaction like this could take up to twelve minutes if you’re really good, like me.

New hire #12: But what if there’s a long line of people?

USPS Trainer: Don’t worry about them!

New hire #7: Should we say, “We’ll be with you in a minute?”

USPS Trainer, getting right up in New hire #7’s face and screaming: NO! WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH THE CUSTOMERS IN LINE! Do not apologize! Do not even act like you notice them!! If you do, you could be fired on the spot!!

Now, as I was saying...the second reason that you will only see 15 customers a day is because you will only stand at your counter for a total of an hour and 20 minutes, max. It’s USPS policy that we only have TWO workers at the counter at one time. If you’re not at the counter, you can simply hang out in the back. Take a nap if you want.

Here’s a fun thing I used to do back when I was a counter clerk: I would come out from the back and head straight to the counter, as if I was going to open up a new window. Then, as soon as I got to the counter, I would stop and then just mess around with some of the boxes. The people in line (as far as I could tell out of the corner of my eye because, of course, I wouldn’t look at them) would get all excited like I was going to help them but I wouldn’t! In fact, sometimes I would even distract one of the other clerks by talking so she would take longer with her customer!! It was awesome.

New hire #9: But what if the line starts to wrap around the room?

USPS Trainer: Then you're doing your job right. I’ve had up to 100 in line on a good day.

And speaking of good days, the best day is when you have a customer who needs to fill out a form.

New hire #8: Why? Wouldn’t you just tell them to step aside and fill it out while you helped another customer?

USPS Trainer: Somebody get this guy out of here. He’s not USPS material.

For the rest of you, here's what you would do: You would have the person fill out the form and/or forms right there at your counter! I once had an old lady take 13 minutes to fill out a form! Those transactions are like a cash cow for a counter clerk!

So how does that all sound? Are you ready to go out there and sell some stamps? Hello? Oh, you’re all sleeping! Now that’s what I like to see. You’re gonna go far in this branch of the government!
End Daydream.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Step Aside Samantha Brown

We freelance writers usually have niches, specialties, beats if you will. They can get pretty specific, too: dollhouses, miniature horses, 15 days of the Korean War.

But no matter what a freelance writer claims her niche is, she will always set it aside for the genre of all genres, the most coveted and sought-after category: travel.

This week I am on such an assignment: in Blowing Rock, NC. I used to envy bubbly Samantha Brown on the Travel Channel, jetting off to South America, Europe and New Zealand. But now that I’ve walked a mile (or twelve) in a travel reporter’s shoes, I see that it’s quite tough:

First of all, I didn’t jet anywhere. I drove. Four hours. Plus forty-five minutes. I can’t just relax. I have to talk to people, interview them, take notes. They try to schmooze me so I’ll write nice things about them. I have to think of interesting questions. Oh, and when I’m not with those people, it’s not like I’ve got friends or family to hang with. I’m on my own: eating, shopping, touring. People are all, “Who’s the lonely girl?” And the walking, my God, the walking! And did I mention I don’t have cell phone service here?

Okay, I just said all that so you wouldn’t get envious with a capital E. Travel writing is the bomb. It’s like a free vacation. No, I take that back. It IS a free vacation. I have a room with a freakin’ bidet. A bidet! It’s like I’m Oprah!

And hanging out by myself? Awesome. You know why? I’m totally fun to hang out with. Why wouldn’t I want to hang out with me? Plus, the best part about me is that I let me do whatever I want! I don’t have to do something just because someone else wants to do it. And if I want to eat fudge in my hotel room while sipping on a miniature bottle of wine, I can. And I am, by far, my favorite shopping partner. I go in a store, look around, don’t buy anything and leave.

In fact, I think I’ve got it better than Sam Brown. She’s got a camera crew with her when she travels. Since my assignment is print (and I’m not the subject of the photos, thank God) I don’t have to worry about looking good for some camera. And I don’t have to share my fudge with some key grip.

Okay, I’ll stop boasting now. Nobody likes a bragger. Especially one who has a Jacuzzi whirlpool tub in her room, even if she can’t figure out how to use it.

The bottom line is that I like travel assignments and I like me. Oh, and I like fudge.

To answer your question, Cul de Sac Carrie

Monday, August 06, 2007

Four things you shouldn't do while wearing a bikini

I could give you a bunch of excuses for my long lapse in blog postings but, since nobody’s pointed it out with emails like, “Writinggal, you haven’t blogged in over a week! I check every hour and still nothing! What do I have to live for now?” I’ll let it slide.

(Oh, but to answer the question from that hypothetical email: The Hills Series Premiere on Monday, August 13th.)

Today’s topic was inspired by Topanga of Boy Meets World fame.

She’s the spokesperson for Nutrisystem. I saw the ad last night and even though I was only half-watching from the kitchen, I’m pretty sure I saw her do a cartwheel down the beach. In her bikini. This brings me to rule #1.

1. Don’t do gymnastics in your bikini.

Rule #2 involves accessories and your bikini. I see a lot of the young starlets sporting heels and bikinis. Although not especially practical, I agree that they look pretty cute. And their legs look long. But they already have long legs. The rest of us, on the other hand, do not have long legs. So just about the worst thing we could do when wearing a bikini is rule #2:

2. Don’t wear sneakers with your bikini.

Have you ever tried on a bathing suit while wearing sneakers? Wait. I’m not really sure how that would happen. But sometimes you’re wearing socks. Even that ruins it! The only time you’ve probably ever worn sneakers is when you went tubing. Ladies, even aqua socks are better than that. Hey, what about jellies?

Rule #3, I’m ashamed to say, comes from personal experience:

3. Don’t do keg stands in your bikini.

Last one: If you work in an office and have any say whatsoever in the company’s social plans, steer them away from water activities. That’s because rule #4 is…

4. Don’t wear a bikini in front of your co-workers.

You would never even wear a spaghetti strap top to the office, much less something that's basically the same as your bra and panties. Now, some may have the argument, “But what if I look hot in my bikini?” That may be even worse. Do you really want Stan from accounting to think of you in a sexual way?

Amendment to rule #4: If, however, you have absolutely no say in work outings and you do end up in a water-worker situation, the best thing you can do is to wear Jams. Or just be very strict about following rules 1-3. Or at least 1 and 3. And 3 probably won’t come up at a work function. So just 1. No gymnastics in a bikini whilst socializing with co-workers. No uneven bars. No balance beam. No floor exercise. No vault. No handsprings. No flip flops. And definitely no cartwheels. I don’t care if Topanga did it and lost 30 pounds. That girl also wore a cape.