Saturday, January 30, 2010

On Pretending

Maybe I'm just in a pensive and nostalgic mood because I finished reading J.M. Barrie's original and unabridged Peter Pan. Or maybe it's because I'm a teacher. Either way, I get the tragic sense that children are losing their ability to pretend.

Kids these days have cell phones at 10, they have video games and Wiis, and not many of them have a lovely forest at the back of their house to play in. It's crushing their imagination.

I think sometimes that I have forgotten how to pretend (the good way). There is the way that children pretend, and there is the way that adults pretend. Children make up games and believe that their stuffed animals come to life. They believe in Santa and can make cookies out of mud. The way that they can pretend takes a lot of work, but if you do it right, it is effortless. Real Pretending comes naturally; you don't have to think about it. Everything links together and makes sense.

Adults pretend another way. They pretend they are not married. They pretend their relationship will work. They pretend they have more money in the bank than they actually do. They pretend they are not addicted. They pretend that the harsh realities of this world have nothing to do with them.

I'm afraid kids today aren't getting enough good pretending in before they grow up. I ask my students to make up a story for writing, and it seems so impossible to them. They try to pass off some TV show they've seen as their original idea. I tell them to pretend, to make something up in their mind and just write it down. It's not the writing that is difficult. It's the thinking. They don't know how.

I know I am supposed to be teaching them academic things, but I think I need to start teaching some lessons on how to pretend.

If you are a parent, do your kids a favor. Give them toys that don't do much of anything. Like, I'm talking a cardboard box, some markers, and a pair of scissors. I'm talking you send them out into the woods. I'm talking about making up games with no props.

Some of the games children make up today are quite inventive, yet scary. Like, for  a while at recess, a group of children really liked to get together and play CSI. They decided upon the relationships, like, who's whose mother, who are the kids, etc. And then somebody would die or get injured. You'd know this because you'd see a kid laying out in the grass field, and then the kids playing the investigators would come and drag off the body. The injured child would recuperate, and then the whole slew of them would chase each other around some more. Once the teachers finally figured out what they were doing, they told them to stop. At my first observation, I was fascinated. I made sure not to prod. I'd ask a kid "what are you playing?" And then the next day I'd ask a third-grader "so how do you play?"

Pretending. It's almost a lost art.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Microwave Maven

My junior year of high school I practically used the teacher's lounge at lunch time. Well, sort of. I always brought a cold sack lunch because I refused to be inflated anymore than I already was due to the consumption of school cafeteria food.

I have a sad and embarrassing confession. I am human, and I will share my sad story with you now. I was the fattest I ever have been junior year of high school. My freshman year alone I gained 14 pounds. Ahhh! I blame it on all the chocolate milk I was drinking. I ate cafeteria food every day my ninth grade year. After that I started packing the brown bag. The most bloated point was junior year. Anyway, so point is, I brought my lunch.

I didn't think it was very fair that I couldn't bring something cold and then warm it up at school. Why couldn't they provide microwaves in the cafeteria? Really? Were they afraid sophomores were going to put tin foil or cats in it or something? (side note: some sophomores totally did something with a dead formaldehyde reeking cat from advanced biology. They put it in the grill of Bryan Roessler's car. So gross.) I was completely in rage over the unfairness of it all.

At my high school, the office was on the second floor and the teacher's lounge was on the first floor. I noticed that there was this tiny room off of the office that had: a coffee pot, a microwave, and the teacher's mailboxes. One day I decided to sweet talk the office ladies. I was a good kid, so they knew me and liked me (except for Mrs. Kacalek, who seemed to hate everybody). I asked the registrar if I could please microwave my burrito in the microwave? She said yes. The warmed burrito was glorious. It was like biting into a cheese and salsa filled broken rule. I skipped a day and then asked again, could I please use the microwave? She said sure, any time, no big deal. So after that I never asked again.

I would walk straight in with my lunch, zap it for 60 seconds, and then leave. I think I only saw teachers in the same room like twice. It wasn't even that awkward. I'd be cooking my rice, and Mr. Henderson would be filling his coffee pot. "Oh hey," I would say. And they'd say "nice to see you." All my friends wondered how I managed to have warm home-made lasagna. I let them in on my secret, and even offered to take their food in for them to heat it up.

Being the good kid paid off in one respect.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Teacher Tips

Here are some little things that I do this year that I think are benefiting my students. Wish I would have thought of it last year. FYI I teach fourth grade.

1) I play instrumental music every morning when my kids arrive. If you are one of the first kids, you listen to it for a good 20 minutes before school officially starts. I play Bach, Mozart, Strauss, Chopin--all those guys. But I also play these CDs I got at the Dollar Tree. Magical Panpipes is my favorite, but I am also partial to Ocean Beaches. The music is soothing and it sets the mood for the classroom. One of my favorite comments from a parent was "Tyler said that the classroom doesn't have any windows, but that's okay because the teacher plays nice music in the morning." Yeah, it's true, no windows for us (am still trying to track down idiotic architect).

2) I make my kids work the moment they step in the door. Last year I attempted this with morning work, but found that some kids finished quite early and then raised hell until 9. So the expectation this year is that they start working when they come in, and they keep working until I tell them to stop.

This is our morning procedure
        1) check-in
        2) move breakfast card
        3) fill water bottle
        4) do word study job
        5) read

I have different word study jobs posted each day, and the expectation is that you quickly do your job and then start reading. At nine I set the timer for ten minutes, and students know they need to have their job done and a book out by the time it goes off. If they make it and are reading a book, then they earn points for their team. I really like that we do word study in the morning, because we used to do it in the afternoon and it took a half an hour. Now that I make kids do it as soon as they get to school, it only takes 15 minutes of actual school time.

3) My kids have toothbrushes in their desks and we have a tube of toothpaste by the sink. After we did our week long dental hygiene unit, one girl felt so strongly about it that she convinced her mother to buy enough toothbrushes for our class (thanks Dollar Tree). Students are encouraged to brush their teeth after lunch and/or during clean-up time at the end of the day. Did you know that plaque and acid does the most damage the first twenty minutes after eating? I feel good knowing my kids are brushing their teeth somewhere, if not at home.

         On the left is the timer that I use. I love it because it visually shows kids how much time is left (right now you have 25 minutes). The colored pockets is our job chart, the pink cup holds the toothpaste, and in the right corner is the CD player. We also listen to an audio book every day at lunch. The mustard counter top is complimentary of 1972.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

On Miracles

I had an ah-ha! realization on Wednesday. See, I had been praying for a miracle. It's a miracle I've been praying for for a long time, yet it never seems to happen. I said "God, let me see a miracle today. Today is the day. Make it happen today." Then I thought about it and added "or at least some hope. Because I don't have much left. If I can't have a miracle, at least show me some hope."

I went through my normal day and saw no miracle. I went to bed that night pretty disappointed. I was laying in bed, covers over my head, thinking. And then I realized. Maybe today, January 13th 2010, the miracle I had been praying for had started. It could just be beginning somewhere else, someplace where I can't see it. Maybe a chain reaction of events have started, and I will see my miracle sometime, but not yet. But maybe it has started. Somewhere close by, or some place far away, it could have started. I just can't see it because I'm not there.

I felt better and went to sleep.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Come back later

I would write something worth your time, except that I am too busy thinking about things. When I think everything through, I'll let you know. Check back some other time. And in the mean time don't watch The Bachelor because it sucks your soul.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Love A1 Steak Sauce

I was reminded last week by one of my students of how much I used to/still love A1 Steak Sauce. TJ says to me "Miss G, have you ever had A1 Steak Sauce?" And I say, "Yes I have, it's delicious." It was my favorite condiment as a child. Seriously, in my baby book under "favorite foods," my mother listed A1 Steak Sauce. I have toddler pictures of me with a saucy face, grinning up at the camera.

I am now a vegetarian. I have been for 8 years (wow, I didn't realize it was that long). I still like A1 Steak Sauce, but I can't think of anything to put it on. Suggestions? Because I may have to result to dipping my broccoli in it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cat Eyes

This is all a lie, but a nicer name for it would be fiction.

 I'm afraid my cat is going to scratch my eye balls out at night while I am sleeping. Here's why: on the days where I feel really stressed, my eyes feel like they are on fire. To cool them off I wear a gel sleeping mask at night. I take it out of the fridge and fasten it around my head. It's green, and when I wear it, it looks like I have glowing neon alien eyes. The next morning, I just throw it on a shelf in the fridge. I never look at what food items I place it next to.

All of the smells from the food in the fridge permeates the plastic. Sometimes my eye mask comes out smelling like a casserole, or cheese, or garlic bread, or ham. That's my cat's favorite. I fear for my life when the eye mask smells like ham. I kick my cat out of my room and lock the door, but I am always terrified that he will some how sneak in at night and then come attack my eyes, looking for a pork meal.

My cat's name is Chromio, thus named because he has a condition known as heterochromia, which basically means he looks like Kate Bosworth but with fur. This makes him act like he's a celebrity, and he thinks sleeping on my face is his right. I tell him "do that again and I'll poke you in your mismatched eyes! Then you'll be blind and need a seeing eye dog. Don't think you'll like that much." But he still tries to sleep on my face.

Chromio looks innocent, but he's not.

When he started doing this I would just lock him in the bathroom attached to my bedroom. He liked to sleep in the sink, like this cat.
Somebody else's cat
But then I started getting up at night to use the bathroom, and he'd get mad when I turned the faucet on on him. Now he refuses to sleep in the bathroom, so that's why I kick him out completely.

Chromio seems like he should be a good cat, but he's really not. He just wants to scratch your eyeballs out. If you ever get inebriated and have to sleep over at my house on my unbelievably comfy couch, be sure to lock Chromio in a closet first.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

3 Things I Like (besides you)

Three things I am currently quite enjoying are:

1) My new phone. I got rid of my stupid Razor and got a Samsung Flight, which has a touch screen. It also has a full keyboard, which I much appreciate, because before it took me ten minutes to write a two sentence text message. Plus it is just better all around. It was also free when I renewed my contract. I've never bought a phone in my life, I just get what's free when you renew.

2) I got a new calendar for 50% off at the Craft Warehouse. I'm starting to frequent this store just as much as Target. My calendar is of cupcakes, adapted from the book Hello, Cupcake! My favorite month is September, because it has owl cupcakes. For the past six years I have bought a dollar calendar with island scenes from the Dollar Tree. I like the whole island thing because then I can imagine me going there, and not stuck in rainy Oregon.

3) I am currently reading Blink: the power of thinking without thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. I better hurry it up because it is due in two weeks and I haven't been reading that much since work has started again. But I'll make it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Roommate Adventures: the end of a beginning

Talia, Elise, and I were wrapped in blankets on the empty floor of our living rooms, like three burritos encased in a foil wrapper from Muchas Gracias. Our house was completely empty, and we were eating pizza from the greasy cheapness that is Little Caesar’s.
“We’ve had some good times in this house,” Talia says.
“We should write down all of our memories so we don’t forget them,” I say.
“Good idea, Jolie. Talia, where’s your laptop?” Elise asks.
We open up a document and get to work.

The Memoirs of the Residents of  945 Sloce St.
AKA Talia, Elise, and Jolie

Remember when……
  • Talia fell on her face in the snow
  • Hutch lived next door
  • The frying pan ignited into FLAMES and Talia responsibly yelled “FIRE!  FIRE” in a loving warning to her roommates and Jolie came running to the rescue. Meanwhile, Elise continued to straighten her hair, paint her nails, and send Facebook messages.  She casually walked downstairs, oblivious to the smoke filled home, and inquired “what’s going on?”
  • We didn’t have hot water, furniture, food, cable, or internet when we first moved in.
  • Jolie and Talia wrote letters home during the snow storm
  • Someone put a rock in our pool
  • We had a Trailer Trash Tragedy. Elise was the murderer, Talia had nutria teeth, Caitlynn Kritten was pregnant, and there was a mannequin head on our table.
  • Talia and Jolie watched trashy MTV shows online… oh wait, they still do.
  • Someone threw eggs at us on our walk home after Drew Arent’s  birthday party at the Mainstreet Pub.
  • We went to Vintage 5th Avenue and had a Movie Montage
  • Talia and Jolie made sushi cupcakes, dressed up in tutus, and delivered them to people.
  • We didn’t own a vacuum for the entire first year we lived here
  • We made Hutch fix Talia’s bike
  • We all went to the beauty salon and got our nails did
  • There used to be a field at the end of S. Sloce instead of a street
  • Daisy stalked Elise
  • The writer’s strike
  • The town finally got a Muchas
  • Talia went Garage Sale-ing and bought all our furniture in one day
  • Elise deleted her MySpace without informing anyone and ruined Jolie and Talia’s top 12’s forever.
Of course, not everything made the list. Like for example, how The Agency routinely sent me on covert missions to Naples. Or how Talia and I had to save P.T. Moser. Or how Talia and I were ex-agents trying to live a normal life, and had to make up lies to Elise about what we were doing on the weekends. Talia frequently said she was flying to Vegas to see her sister and niece, but really she was flying to Russia for an operation.
Soon, our trio of roommates would be moving on. We were all finally college graduates, and would be starting our professional careers. Elise was moving back home to pursue a career in Frozen Dessert Management, and Talia and I both had a little project up our sleeves.
The next morning we awoke in a groggy state, packed up everything from our house (except for an ironing board, cutting board, and door mat, which we inconveniently got charged for later. “Abandoned Property” they said.)
“Does anyone want to go to breakfast?” I asked.
“I’ve got to get home,” Elise said.
Talia looked at me hesitantly. “Mmm, I guess we could stop for a quick bagel. But then I’ve got to run, too.”
Talia and I drove to the bagel shop, ordered, and sat down.           
“This isn’t a regular breakfast, is it?” Talia asked me.
“No. It’s not.”
“I could read it in your face. What’s up?”
“Director Keller should be here any minute. He’s got news about our new phase.”
In the meantime we enjoyed toasted bagels filled with egg and cheese. I was sipping my OJ when Director Keller came up to us. He was disguised as a busboy. He filled up our water glasses while talking rapidly.
“Plans have changed. I know you thought you two would part ways, but something just opened up. We have a house for you in the next town. If you guys are willing, we want you to go into our covert child ops. Project Christmas.”
“Wait,” Talia said, “I know about Project Christmas. That’s the testing and training of young children to become future agents. Jack Bristle started it in the seventies to identify kids and train them as sleeper agents. Much of the testing is embedded into standardized state tests.”
“It is,” Director Keller nodded. “It sounds like you are knowledgeable. We have two positions open at separate locations. Your guise will be that you are elementary school teachers. We have prospective classes in the third and fourth grades. You’ll teach, but you will secretly be observing for the special sort of people we need. After the first five months, you’ll start training with the ones that qualify.”
            “I’m not sure about this,” I say.
            “Jolie. These are very coveted positions. I thought of the pair of you because I know you want to teach. Now you get the best of both worlds. The work is local. You don’t have to fly off to other countries. You’ll have a normal schedule. And it pays well.”
            Talia looked at me. “We can do this, you know. We’ll be teachers. With a little extra side work.”
            “Okay.” I said, “I’m in.” It was better than trying to really apply to a teaching job.
            “Great,” said Director Keller. “There’s one more thing. The house you’ll be moving into…there’s one other agent who will be joining you. I know the both of you were identified in high school after the results of your PSATs came in, but this other agent, she’s a Project Christmas child. She went through it all.”
            “What’s her name?” Talia asked.
            “Brigette. Her cover is that she works at a bank called Credit Dauphine. Only it’s not really a bank. Well, not all of it. Listen, I gotta go, but here are the keys and I’ll send a map to your phones. More to come later.”
            Then Director Keller was off.
            I looked at Talia, who was dangling a shiny silver key in front of her face. “What’d ya say? Check out the new digs?”
            “Yep. Let’s do this.”
And we were out.

Quick and Dirty

I got an e-mail at ten a.m. telling me I had to go to this class I had signed up for. It only meets once a month, and even though I penciled it in to my calendar last week, I forgot it was today.

At above mentioned class, two women I don't know thought they knew me. The second one actually said my name and seemed happy to see me. She even gave me a hug. I have no idea who she was.

I ate a veggie selection of carrots, broccoli, and celery. I was real proud of eating my vegetables today. I also ate a bag of gummy bears for dinner. You win some, you lose some, (and you gain some).

Apparently The Bachelor is airing again on ABC, and the hot hunk is Jake the Pilot, who got dumped my Jillian in the last season. I don't know how long this season has been on, and I'm not looking into it. I am not even going to the ABC website to check it out. I am done with The Bachelor. I've cut it from my system.

What you should tune in to is Season two of The Roommate Adventures. It starts here in approximately 52 minutes. I'm going to go do some school stuff and then I'll be back to bless you with a ridiculous spy story.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Roommate Adventures: The Disappearance of P.T. Moser

The thing you hope will never happen to you might just happen to someone else instead, who has been spending their life dreading the thing that will happen to you. —Lemony Snicket

            Ex-agents never get any rest, I swear. I mean, what part of “inactive” and “off-duty” and “I want a new life” doesn’t the agency understand? I should have known, based on my knowledge of the government’s military tendencies. Should have known that they wouldn’t let their top undercover agent leave so easily.
            It started out a typical Saturday afternoon. Talia, Elise, and I were all watching some episodes of The Office while munching on some pink frosted cupcakes that I had just baked with my friend, Sierra Summer.
            Then the phone rang.
            “Is this line secure?” came a raspy voice.
            “Well,” I replied, “It’s a cell phone, so really anyone can tap in.”
            “Oh.” Pause. “I have some urgent news to share with you anyway.”
            “Who is this?” I asked. Like I didn’t already know. I mean, it wasn’t exactly going to be CNN with an instant news flash just for me, was it?
            “This is Supervisor Rodrina. I hate to bother you, but I thought you would want to know.” I went upstairs so that Elise, who wasn’t aware of my and Talia’s ex-agent status, wouldn’t overhear.
            “Know what?” I whispered.
            “That P.T. Moser has disappeared.”
            “Finally perfected that David Blaine, move, huh?” P.T. Moser had an interest in magic tricks and the paranormal.
            “Jolie, this is no time to joke! He disappeared two days ago and no one has seen or heard from him since.”
            “Was he on assignment?”
            “No. He didn’t have anything scheduled. Just vanished.”
            I admit, I was a bit concerned. P.T. Moser had worked closely with Director Keller, so I definitely considered him an ally. But really, what did Supervisor Rodrina want me to do? I said as much.
            “What do you want me to do about it?”
            “We have suspicions that he may have been kidnapped.”
            “And no ransom note? Well, if they don’t want him for money, then that means…” I thought.
            “Exactly. They’re not planning on letting him go.”
            “Who’s ‘they’ anyway?”
            “We don’t know.”
            “Well, what am I supposed to do?”
            “We have a team put together for you. We have a guess as to where he may be.”
            “I’m retired. Why do I have to do it?”
            “Jolie. We think P.T Moser is being held in a compound disguised as an old folks’ home. The one right behind your house.”
            “Oh shit.” I rarely cuss, but found need for it in this situation. I thought back to all those times I had chatted with residents of the home on their back patio. Never had a clue. “So who’s on my team?”
            “Well, you would obviously want Talia to go with you.”
            “And we have two fresh recruits who are familiar with the situation. Jodi Barnesenoble and Michelle Harmond. I believe you know them.”
            “They joined the agency?”
            “You know how we like RAs.”
            “You’ll have a dead-drop at the library. Tomorrow, look inside the book P.T Barnum, King of the Circus, call number 921.14 for instructions.” Then the line cut out.
            The next day I went to the library and found my instructions. My team was supposed to pose as college students coming in to play Bunco with the residents of the old folks’ home. Then I would sneak off to look for P.T. Moser. Hide under the food cart and all that. Since I was already at the library, I decided to pick up a book I thought was on hold for me. I went up to the librarian, whereupon she asked me “Name?”
“Like Angelina Jolie?”
“Yes, but I don’t collect babies.”
“Last name?”
“Rossen.” Normally they just scan your card.
           She found my book, Hello, Cupcake! by Alan Richardson.
 That evening I met with my team. Talia was equally pissed about being pulled out of retirement for a job, but felt it was her duty to help save P.T. Moser. Jodi Barnsenoble and Michelle Harmond were ready to help where needed. We decided to do some recon work on the compound that night, and then play Bunco tomorrow. At two a.m. we popped over the chain link fence separating my house from the old folks’ area, split up, and basically scaled the building with our grappling gear. On the outside of the building we attached minuscule equipment to hack into the electrical/network system, we used some audio devices so we could overhear conversations, and also installed a few little cameras. You know, pretty low budget. After a few hours we went home and waited for the data to collect. Michelle was in charge of tech—she has a pretty solid background in it.  
When the next afternoon rolled around, we were ready to play some good old fashioned Bunco with the residents. We signed in under aliases, mine being Cora Pieche. We rolled dice for a while, and then I excused myself to “use the restroom” while the rest of my team continued the distraction. According to the data that we had collected, my best bet of finding P.T. Moser was the east wing on the second floor. It had some suspicious activity going on in it. Really, though, P.T. Moser could be anywhere. We didn’t know he was in the compound. He could be skiing in the Alps for all we knew.
 In the restroom, I put on my disguise as a nurse. I added a wig, some glasses, and penciled a mole onto my left cheek. I checked my earpiece and got in contact with Michelle, who directed me through the building. I found an abandoned cart in the hallway and started pushing it in front of me to make myself look more legit.
            I proceeded down the east wing and chose a door to pick into. I was almost in when out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash of white, a glimpse of brunette, and then felt a heavy thud on my head. I collapsed in a heap on the ground, but quickly pulled myself together. Turning around, I looked up and saw the nurse who had assaulted me. I did a backflip to give me some space, then ran at her with all my might, hoping for a better tackle than when I played football in 10th grade PE. When I made contact, I resulted to 8th grade girl tactics and pulled at her hair. It came off. It was a wig. I looked at the face again, realizing I recognized it. “Samantha Yeslan?!”
“What are you doing here? I thought you moved to Iowa to become an agricultural corn consultant.” I released my grip on her.
“That was just my cover. I’ve actually never been to Iowa. I’ve been working here the whole time, doing a covert operation.” She straightened her uniform.
“For the agency?”
Oh shit, I thought. Because if she’s not working for the agency, then she must be working for the other side.
“Don’t worry, Jolie. I’m part of a black ops division. I work for people higher up than Director Keller. They don’t know I’m here, but I’m gathering information for them.”
“What info have you gathered?”
“Well, for one, I know why you’re here. And I know where P.T. Moser is. And I have learned why the deceased enemy Agent Henkle wanted to get her hands on The Capsule so badly.”
“Sounds like you’ve been productive. But first things first. Where’s P.T Moser?”
“He’s eating bon-bons in suite 234E.”
“Yes,” Sam replied. “Jolie, you should know, this compound isn’t to jail people in. It’s to keep them safe. Like I said, it’s all black-ops, top secret, uber classified. This compound is owned by the same side as the agency. People higher up in the system. When we think the safety of one of our agents or directors is in danger, we pull them here to keep a close eye.”
“I don’t understand. What danger was P.T. Moser in?”
“Well, I guess you didn’t know this, but some of Agent Henkle’s old associates were in town last week, posing as a nerdy high school debate team.”
“That conference that the college was hosting?”
“The exact one. We were afraid the associates were in town for reasons other than to take the first place trophy. We had specific evidence that P.T. Moser has information valuable to them, and we wanted to keep him safe.”
“So is it all clear?”
“Yeah, but we’re going to keep him here for one or two extra days, just to be sure,” Sam explained.
“This operation that I got sent on was really a waste of time and money on the agency’s part. Why couldn’t you tell them you were pulling Moser?”
“This way, if Agent Henkle’s associates found out that P.T. Moser was missing, they might think that someone from an opposing organization—namely the Russian mob Krasnaya Bratva—nabbed him. This would create conflict between the criminal sides. They’d be fighting each other, searching for him.”
“When really he is safe here with us.Very clever,” I mused.
Sam Yeslan and I chatted a bit more, and then she let me see P.T. Moser, just to verify that he was okay. Sure enough, he was eating Bon-bons and lounging around in one of the suites, playing poker with some old folks. Relieved that he was okay, I contacted my team and packed up. Talia, Jodi, Michelle, and I were irritated that we spent time on this operation for nothing, but the good thing is that we still got to play Bunco.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I Digg it!

And you should digg it, too! Check out the links.

What I am digging this week:

I am on a total blog reading kick. Find one person you like, and they have links to people they like, and pretty soon it gets out of control.

The author is a mom who has five kids. She writes about her family and posts cute photos. I am mostly jealous of her house, because she is good at decorating. Basically, I want to be like her when I am 30 something. My descriptor sucks, but she doesn't so you should check it out.

The author is also a mom who has five kids. She looks like a mix of Shania Twain and Sandra Bullock. Her family is beautiful and adorable. The youngest of her children, Lucy, has a rare genetic disease that will likely cause obesity and blindness. Shawni (the mom) has written a book, and she has started the I Love Lucy Project to raise money for research on blindness and the specific disease that her daughter is suffering from. She takes absolutely gorgeous photos (has a photo blog on the side) and is crafty. I also want to be like her when I am 30 something. The first day I found her blog, I probably spent 5 hours straight on it. Seriously, she's adorable, as is each of her family members.

Domestic Dork- young mother with a personality and good graphic design skills.

Black*Eiffel- a rather craft inducing blog. But not like, knitted washcloths or anything. Much more refined here.

INK + WIT- designer-esque, crafty, good stuff to look at.

Jet Set Life-mostly I am just fascinated by their lifestyle, and also jealous (This blog is MAN FRIENDLY, so if the other ones were to feminine for you, check out this one).

Naughty Secretary Club-just because it's a fun name.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Roommate Adventures: Pageant Queen


        Pageant Place stars and Trump

           My life is just like a movie, I swear. Sometimes I wonder where MTV is hiding the cameras. You know Miss Congeniality with Sandra Bullock? The whole part where she’s an agent going undercover in the Miss America Pageant? Well, that’s not me. It’s my roommate Talia.
           Talia is competing in the local county pageant (which takes place on March 15th) to become queen. Only she doesn’t actually want to be queen, because then she’d have queenly duties. Talia just needs some scholarship money, as does everyone who quits the agency and has to rely on their part-time job at Valsmetz instead of the government.
            It’s not like Talia or I are bitter. We’re glad to be done with the agency. We just wish we were getting our monthly checks and dental insurance, instead of filing for food stamps. 
            Elise and I are very supportive of Talia’s endeavors. Secretly, we think we might become semi-famous since we’re the roommates, like on Pageant Place—only I hope Donald Trump won’t be involved. Talia’s got a good chance of winning too, because she’s quite talented, being an ex-agent and everything. How many people do you know who can crack codes and disarm bombs and speak Mandarin? That’s what I thought.
            Elise and I thought everything was going fine for all of the big-haired beauty queens until one day when Talia came back from pageant rehearsal in a panic.
            “Jolie! JOLIE!”
            “I’m here, what’s going on?”
            “One of the girls dropped out of the pageant.”
            “Well that doesn’t sound so bad. Now you have a one in nine chance of winning,” Elise reasoned.
            “You don’t understand. She dropped out. Chrissy Cannon dropped out. She’s been doing pageants since she was a baby. We all thought she’d win the title this year.”
            “Did she say why she dropped out?” I asked.
            “No. She wasn’t at rehearsal, and one of the board members just told us that Chrissy has decided not to continue,” Talia explained.
            The three of us chatted about Chrissy for a while, but we ultimately convinced Talia not to worry too much, because like Elise said, her chances were improving.
    Chrissy Cannon in a child pageant competition

The next Wednesday I was helping Talia solidify her wardrobe. She had to choose everything and submit it to the board the following Sunday. Solidifying a wardrobe is a ton of work. It’s not like choosing a disguise out of your costume box in three minutes so you can cruise off in your getaway car inconspicuously. Solidifying a wardrobe is so laborious that Elise and our friend Alicia had to help too.
Talia tried on wigs for her talent portion, evening gowns, swimsuits, shoes, hairpieces, interview suits, and more shoes. Choosing the right wig was the most difficult task. Alicia liked the hot pink one, I was a fan of the blond beehive, but Talia was most drawn to the red one.
            “Talia, tell me three reasons why you like the red one best,” Alicia quizzed.
            “I like red because it makes me feel vibrant, powerful, and alive,” she answered in perfect pageant interview voice.
            Thirty-two pairs of shoes and fourteen hours later, Talia had decided on her wardrobe. I’m not going to reveal all of it, because you will have to come to the pageant on March 15th to see it.
                    Talia's hairpiece for formal wear

            The next Sunday I was eagerly awaiting Talia’s return from pageant rehearsal. I wanted to know what the board thought of her wardrobe. I secretly knew they wanted Talia to wear the beehive wig too.
            “Jolie? JOOOOLIE!”
            “What? I’m here.”
            “Terrible news.”
            “They hated your formal gown?” I asked.
            “They prefer the blond beehive wig?”
Disappointment flooded me. “Well, then what.”
            “Caitlynn Kritten dropped out of the pageant.”
            “Not another one! But this means your chances are now one out of eight!”
            Talia’s voice dropped to a whisper. “Is Elise home?”
            “No. She’s at the gym.” Elise hadn’t worked for the agency, and she didn’t know about the former lives that Talia and I had lived.
            “I think they’re after me.”
            “The agency?” Director Keller had assured us we wouldn’t be bothered.
            “No. Them. Agent Henkle and her associates.” That would be ridiculous. Agent Henkle died in episode one of the Roommate Adventures.
            “Why would the late Agent Henkle’s associates be after you? What could they have against you competing in a scholarship pageant and being a role model for girls everywhere?”
            “Jolie. I’m shocked. You, of all people, should’ve done your homework.” I didn’t know what she meant. Last I checked, my ED 851 class syllabus had no homework. “Do you know who Agent Henkle was colleagues with?”
            “Donald Trump.”
            “No way!”
            “Yes. And I am afraid Donald has learned that the demise of Agent Henkle was because of me. He wants revenge.”
            “Yes. The Miss America Organization has been feuding with Donald Trump’s Miss USA Organization for years. And that’s not all,” Talia continued.
            “Noooo…” I said in shock.
            “Yes. Two years ago, Agent Henkle was a favorite to win Miss America.”
            “In Trump’s rival organization?”
            “Yes. She only did it to sabotage the other contestants so that the Miss USA Organization would gain a better image.”
            “You think Henkle’s associates are trying to sabotage you and the local pageant to get revenge and to further Donald Trump’s agenda?” I was starting to get worried.
            “Exactly. But they’re not going to succeed.”
            “How can you be so sure?” I asked.
            “Because I already have a plan up my expensive pageant gown sleeve for March 15th.”
            “The day of the pageant?”
            “You better believe it.”
            What’s Talia going to do? I don’t know, because she didn’t tell me. I, for one, am going to be at that pageant supporting her in her quest to become queen and in her fight against Donald Trump. And you should, too. But I’m warning you, if what Talia believes is true, it could be dangerous. You don’t know Henkle’s associates like I do. Wear a disguise and have a getaway car ready. I’ll be the one in the blonde beehive wig and Jackie O sunglasses. 

Talia practicing her talent. She decided to go for a Sydney Bristow look from Alias.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Roommate Adventures: The Haunted Pool

            Many people think that hauntings only take place in the month of October, or in a heavily wooded area like on the Blair Witch Project, or in some southern state like Georgia, or in an old dormitory where a Nazi-like woman once ruled, or with an Ouija board in a fourth floor bathroom somewhere.
    This is a total crap theory.
            It wasn’t a cold, rainy October night with dogs howling at the moon and cats crossing your path. It was a hot July day. Talia, Elise, and I couldn’t stand the heat. Our house didn’t have air-conditioning, so we took to sleeping in our underwear with our windows open. Bad idea, your right. Some perverted murderer might spy on us during the night, slide open the window, and slit our throats. This didn’t worry us though, because all of our bedrooms are on the second floor. If someone wanted to spy on us sleeping half-naked, they would have to get a ladder. And obviously, the sound of the ladder banging against the outside wall would wake us up, and we’d have time to put clothes on before the culprit would have time to climb to the top rung, at which point we would smash his face in with the baseball bats we keep as a safety precaution under our beds.
            During the day time, when we weren’t sleeping in our underwear, we would lie in our one foot deep kiddie pool that was located in the back yard. It was a $9.99 special from Wal-Mart. Talia liked to swim 49 laps every morning after she woke up, and Elise was part of a synchronized swimming team that liked to practice in the privacy of our pool. Being vertically disadvantaged, I wore a life preserver so that I wouldn’t drown in the deep depths of the pool. Yes, we enjoyed many fun activities in our luxurious watering hole.
            All of that changed the day we found blood in the pool instead of water.
            I’m just kidding, that never happened. This isn’t a Stephen King novel. What happened instead was that Elise was in my bedroom one afternoon, and she was looking down into our backyard and noticed something peculiar.
            “Is that a potato in the pool?”
I jumped to the window and peered down into the water. Sure enough, something large, brown, and potato-looking was at the bottom of the pool. We went downstairs and outside to check out the situation.
Instead of a potato, we found two large rocks in our pool. This is quite strange considering several facts. 1) There only ever was one large rock in our backyard. 2) Rocks cannot jump up one foot and land in a pool. 3) There weren’t any rocks in the pool yesterday. Yes, indeed, the rocks were at the very bottom of the pool. This made sense considering one fact: rocks cannot swim.
Puzzled, I grabbed the rocks out of the pool. Where had they come from? Who (or what) had put them there? Certainly, it was a mystery. My first guess was that the nasty neighbor kids had filled the pool with stones. They were always playing in our yard (if you could call it that) and yelling at early hours on the weekends.
This is what happened after: Talia got home later that night and our friend Michelle came over. The incident of the potato-like-rocks was recounted, cookie dough was eaten, and beverages were consumed. In short, it was a grand time of visiting.
            That night involved several shots of Grey Goose, not necessarily taken by more than one person. But I’ll tell you that no Midori or Malibu Rum was involved. Absolutely not. There wasn’t any Jack or vodka either. Being sober is something that agents, (okay, ex-agents) have to be at all times. You’re always on duty. And okay, maybe you’re wondering about those Smirnoff bottles you saw under the little maple tree in the front by the sidewalk, but I can assure you those were not ours. Those were the neighbors’ (they are heavy alcoholics). We are not alcoholics; we are wine connoisseurs. You know, the type that go to parties at the vineyards and eat various cheeses. But I digress.
            So we were all sitting in the living room, trying to solve the mystery of the rocks in our pool, when somebody (I cannot remember who—this is not because I was inebriated.) came up with the idea that we should paint the rocks with messages such as “Put this in the pool again and die” or “These rocks are deadly poisonous.”
Then Talia said, “Death threats don’t work with children. It’s because they cannot yet grasp the concept.”
To which I responded, “Maybe we should write ‘If you touch this again Santa Claus won’t come to your house this year.’”
            Eventually, we got out the paint, did a little artwork, and set it up outside next to the pool. Pleased with ourselves, we went to bed.
            We awoke the next morning, baked in our beds. I felt like an overcooked casserole. The temperature was pushing 92 degrees, and it was only ten o’clock. Immediately, the three of us put on our bathing suits. Talia was getting ready to swim her 49 laps, Elise was preparing for synchronized swimming practice, and I was fitting my life jacket so as not to drown. We opened the back door, stepped out onto the cement patio, and scalded our feet. Then we went over to the pool and shrieked.
            Inside the pool, 26 black pebbles were lined along the edges of the pool. An eerie inner circle of 16 menacing stones were near the middle of the pool. Also there, beneath the gently lapping water, directly in the center of the pool, was a pile of 6 jagged rocks.
It was like something out of The Ring. I felt a chill come over my body.
I glanced at the rocks we had painted last night. I read the one that said “Put rocks in our pool again and die,” and then looked into the pool again. It was then that I saw what my eyes didn’t catch the first time. There, on the largest rock, a message was crudely carved.
            I read it aloud to my horrified roommates. “You cannot kill what is already dead.”
            We never swam again.



Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Stay at home and eat a Snickers

I hate how it is the beginning of the new year and the gym is overcrowded. Everyone is resolving to lose ten pounds, or go to the gym four times a week, or whatever. They are infringing upon my space. I'm not going any more than I used to, and I'm going at the same time that I used to, but all these people are crowding up the locker room and the ellipticals and what not. I'm all for people being healthy, but right now I would kind of rather have them at home eating fudge and watching TV instead. Ugh.

The Roommate Adventures: Carl Makes a Visit (twice)

 Taking one’s chances is like taking a bath, because sometimes you end up feeling comfortable and warm, and sometimes there is something terrible lurking around that you cannot see until it is too late and you can do nothing else but scream and cling to a plastic duck.

 —Lemony Snicket

The problem with living a normal life is that normal, inconvenient things happen—specifically, a faulty shower in your newly acquired townhouse. Taking a shower in our bathroom was like taking a shower in a frozen hell. The water was icy cold, and for some freakish reason, the handle wouldn’t turn to hot. The handle would turn halfway one way and then you had to bring it back up and turn it halfway the other way. It was supposed to make one, sweeping circle all around. Talia, Elise, and I would not put up with this. We immediately called our landlord Anne and told her our dilemma. Enter: the plumber.
The plumber was supposed to come Wednesday afternoon. I had to be home to let him in, because both Elise and Talia were going to be gone. I thought nothing of it, until he rang the doorbell. When I opened the door I was face to face with a brown haired, mustached man wearing a blue and white striped shirt with the name “Carl” embroidered in red on the pocket. His face instantly reminded me of Sven from that one mission in Budapest my freshman year of college. Sven was one of the bad guys.
I stared up at Carl, who handed me a business card for A-1 Plumbing. Now, any fool can go and get business cards printed up, saying their name is whatever they want and that their occupation is whatever they choose. For example, I could get business cards saying my name is Amelia Kanderstein, and that I am an orthopedic doctor, but that wouldn’t make it true. In reality, my name would still be Jolie Rossen, and I would still be an ex-agent and current college student. So how was I supposed to believe that this “Carl” person was really a plumber? I did what I have done since age 16.
I took a chance.
I let Carl into my house, showed him the shower and explained the problem, then immediately went downstairs and placed the business card on the kitchen counter. That way, if I did get abducted, Talia would have something to go off of.
While Carl was upstairs working on the shower, I remained downstairs and did some work of my own. I looked out the window and memorized the plate of Carl’s white van. I also made a banana-milk-chocolate smoothie, because not only was I lacking in potassium, but I was hungry. I heard Carl banging around upstairs, then he came downstairs, went out to his van, got some equipment, then went upstairs again. After Carl went upstairs for the second time, I decided to go check my mailbox. I wasn’t so much checking to see if I received any coupons from Bi-Mart as I was checking out the contents of Carl’s van. He had carelessly left the back end open. I peeked inside and saw standard plumber’s equipment.
Eventually, Carl finished fixing the shower and demonstrated to me the full swivel action of the shower dial. I thanked him, signed a form, and escorted him to the door. When he left, I promptly went to my computer and ran his plates. They came out clean, just like freshly washed dishes. I decided to look up Sven’s profile on the agency’s database, just for good measure. One problem: I could not longer log in. My account had been terminated. This made sense, considering I resigned from the agency. For some reason I had never really thought about how my resignation would affect me. I sort of thought I’d always be able to look up people’s addresses, phone numbers, social security numbers, medical records, police records, high school transcripts, etc. But without my agency log in, all I had left were Google and the phone book. Defeated, I decided to test out my newly working shower before Elise or Talia got home.
Wretched idea.
Oh sure, the swivel action of the handle was amazing. It went from hot to cold in one sweeping motion. And then it stayed there. At cold, I mean. The hot water lasted as long as my attention span in Linguistics 215—four minutes. Near the end of my Siberian shower, I was really upset at Carl. He had sauntered in, pretending like he had graduated from plumber’s school—what with his official business card and all—and had failed to fix the main dilemma of my shower. Pissed, I got out of the water and began to chisel icicles off of my body.
When Elise and Talia got home, I explained Carl’s shotty job. We all agreed that he needed to make another visit and actually fix the problem. After a small amount of discussion, Elise surprised us by saying, “I bet an element is out on the water heater.” Neither Talia nor I knew what she was talking about, considering we were more familiar with disarming bombs than repairing water heaters.
“And have you been a plumber?” Talia interestedly asked Elise.
“No, but I watch a lot of HGTV.”
“Well, when Carl stops by tomorrow,” I began, “I’ll give him the tip.”
So for that particular evening I helped Elise and Talia heat water on the wood stove and then they took a bath in the galvanized watering trough we keep in the backyard for the horses, just like in the olden days.
As fate would have it, I again was left alone to deal with Carl and his mediocre plumbing skills. He arrived at 10:07 am, while I was bench pressing my regular 260 in the garage. I opened the front door.
“Carl,” I civilly said to him.
I quickly clued the plumber in to Elise’s tip about the burnt out element and directed him to the location of the water heater. Then I went outside to check my mail. While checking my mailbox, I noticed a few extra things about Carl’s van. On the dashboard were the remnants of a McDonald’s egg McMuffin, a gym membership card (how ironic), yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, and a catalog advertising different lengths of pipe. None of this quite interested me as much as the parking pass that was hidden among the debris. The pass wasn’t for the county fair, as one might suppose, but for the U.S. Department of Defense. Quite interesting indeed, I think you’ll agree. Pondering my new information, I went back inside to see how Carl was progressing. Several minutes later he made a confession to me.
“You were right,” he began, “one of the elements was out. That was the reason you only got a few minutes of hot water. The only water that had warmed up was the top water, which was used up quickly. I replaced the element, so now your entire tank should heat up no problem. You should be able to take lots of hot, steamy showers now.”
I eyed him suspiciously, drawing a kitchen towel close to me.
“Well, thanks for your help,” I lied. I showed Carl to the door and dead bolted it after he left.
A few hours later I decided to test the full capacity of the water heater. I was standing in the hot shower with hibiscus shampoo in my hair singing “Rubber Ducky” when I had a sudden realization. Scrambling to rinse my head, I quickly shut off the water and wrapped a towel around myself. I darted downstairs and went into the garage where the water heater is located. I felt around the back of the tank and then checked under part of it. I found a minuscule box the size of a domino and ripped it off from the underside. I quickly recognized it as none other than a voice transmitting box—you know, the kind used to bug people’s houses. My suspicions were confirmed.


Monday, January 4, 2010

The Roommate Adventures: Meet Anne

“Jolie?” a familiar voice whispered from the doorway.
I woke up from my half sleep. “Talia?” I opened the door. She walked in. A flyaway piece of blonde hair on the right side of her face stuck out at an odd angle. She perched herself on my bed and wrung her hands, looking quite miserable.
“We’ve got a problem.”
“What’s that?” I questioned, always eager to help.
“There’s a body down stairs.”
“Is it living or dead?” It was a reasonable question.
“Well, I guess we do have a problem.”
“That’s not all,” she stated.
“You’ll never guess who it is.”

Let me give you some background information here. I’m a resident assistant (RA) at the university that I attend. So is Talia. But that’s just our cover story. We really work for U.S. intelligence. Talia and I met through the agency. We joined our junior year of high school, once the department got the scores from our PSATs. I wish I could tell you what sorts of things we do. But I can’t. It’s classified. I can say this much: we weren’t assigned to our university because of generous financial aid or the opportunity to excel in our majors. No, there was an overarching reason for our placement.

“Who is it?”
“Agent Henkle.” The long sought after enemy.
“Did you do it?”
“No. She activated the poison implanted in her body once she realized she was trapped. She would rather die than give up information about The Capsule.”
“Poison implants?” I asked incredulously. I thought that only happened in movies.
“Yeah,” Talia responded. “Let’s just say that her fake breasts weren’t filled with saline.”
I contemplated for a moment. “This is bad. And not just for the plastic surgery industry.”
“Well, duh, Jolie. Nobody else on campus knows Henkle was an agent. Everyone just thinks she was a student. As soon as administration finds her body, they’re going to suspect me.”
“Talia, you really should have kept your cool during New Student Week.”
“Hey, how else should I have handled the incident?”
“Maybe skipped the death threat?” I knew it wasn’t really a good time to lecture her. We had a dead body on our hands.
“So has anyone seen the body?”
“No. It’s past 2 am for goodness sake. Everyone’s passed out in their dorm rooms. I cornered Henkle after the last set of rounds.”
“With your duty partner?” That was strictly against protocol.
“Of course not. Noah and I closed down the staff office, but I forgot my laptop and had to go back. That’s when I found and captured Henkle.”
“Did you leave the body in the lobby?” I asked.
“She’s in the staff office.”
I quickly got dressed and grabbed my keys. This was going to take a while.

I followed Talia into the staff office where I found Henkle’s body slumped in a corner. After a closer examination, I discovered her face had turned an unsightly bluish-green, most likely the result of her self poisoning. I told Talia to wrap up the body in a sheet while I brought my car around.
“A sheet?” she said, like it was a new concept and she didn’t sleep on one every night.
“Yeah, use one left over from the toga party program.”
            Three minutes later I slipped my car into the 15 minute parking space out front and popped my trunk. I had to move my disguise box to make room for the passenger. Talia took the head end of the bundle, and I took the feet end, and we crammed Henkle into my trunk. I was instantly reminded of that song “Earl’s Gotta Die” by the Dixie Chicks. Only we didn’t have an abusive husband in our trunk, we had an enemy of U.S. intelligence/ poser college student.
            “Where are we taking it?” Talia asked.
“To the river.” I turned on the radio to lift my spirits, because death always makes me a bit morose, even if I never liked the person. Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back” was playing. After the song ended, I threw Talia my phone.
“Call Director Keller. Tell him he’s going to need to take care of enrollment, because Ashley Henkle is about to take a permanent vacation.” She made the call. Director Keller is one of our inside men. Actually, he’s the top inside man.
After listening to Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” “Party Like a Rockstar,” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” by Fergie, we arrived at the riverfront.
“We’re not dumping her, are way?” Talia questioned.
“Of course not. You can’t really get rid of a body by putting it in a river. We’re meeting Agents Reed and Sicily here. They’re going to do the transport.” We waited. And waited. And waited some more. I started getting both nervous and annoyed. I’d called the men when I went to retrieve my car. If I had known they were going to take so long, I would have brought some homework to do.
Talia’s cell phone rang. “Hello?” she said. “Uh uh.” I half thought it was Reed and Sicily calling to tell us our location had been compromised. “Okay. I’ll get someone to let you in.” It was a resident who had locked himself out. Genius.
Talia called Noah, who was back on campus, where RAs are required to be on their duty night. “Hey, Noah, sorry to wake you, but we have a lock out on the fourth floor. I can’t really take care of it because I’m….ah…handling another situation right now.” Pause. “No, no. You don’t need to come up to my floor. It’s nothing I can’t handle.”
Finally, a ghetto brown Volkswagen van slowly creeped up next to us. Normally, a sketchy van pulling up next to you at 3:42 in the morning while at a deserted riverfront would be very eerie, but considering I was the one with a corpse in the trunk, I didn’t get too freaked out.
Reed and Sicily removed the cargo, we exchanged information, and then they took off. Talia and I needed a little bit of a breather after the excitement, so we took as stroll along the riverfront.
 Talia soon began to stare into the murky water. “I can’t do this anymore,” she said in a shaky voice.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I mean I want out. I can’t be an RA, I can’t be an agent. I didn’t ask for any of this. I just want to teach kindergarten, like back before Keller found out my PSAT scores.”
I nodded sympathetically. Here’s a secret about me: I rarely ever say what I am really feeling. I guess it’s a defense mechanism or something. But whatever, the point is that I was sort of feeling the same way. I mean, here I was, putting on holiday craft night for my residents one night and flying to Morocco the next. Not to mention homework. My residents hardly saw me, and I knew they deserved better. I deserved better. Before the government recruited me, I had plans too.
Talia and I chatted a bit more. We reminisced about our sophomore year of high school, the last year we had before we lost our naivety about the world.
“Man, wouldn’t it be great,” Talia began “to be one of those college students we see, getting coffee with friends or going to parties on the weekends…going to Cabo for spring break.”
“Or having the biggest thing on your mind be your midterm exam or the fight you just had with your boyfriend,” I finished.
“I want that,” Talia mused.
“A fight with your boyfriend?” I joked.
“No, Jolie. To be a regular college student. With a regular part-time job. Living in a regular apartment with friends.”
“You want all that?”
I took a deep breath in. “Me too.” Here’s another thing about me: I often act on impulse. “I’ll make the call,” I said.
Director Keller tried to talk me out of it. He attempted to convince me of the value of my help to the U.S., told me the college cover was only for two more years, max. I couldn’t be persuaded to change my mind. Mostly it was Talia’s tear stained face. After a long conversation with Keller about logistics and protocol and blah blah blah, I received some information that was actually worthwhile. I hung up and faced Talia.
“We’re going to go meet a woman named Anne.”
“In two days. Keller said we need to find a third roommate and then meet Anne at this address.” I showed her some chicken scratch I had written on a napkin. “Of course, we need to finish out our RA duties till the end of the year, but it’s no more agency for us.”

Finding a roommate in less than two days isn’t easy, but it had to be done. Talia and I convinced a fellow RA, Elise, to live with us. Elise is the kind of person people fight over to be roommates with. She’s lots of fun, clean, has group enthusiasm, and owns an excellent DVD collection. She also didn’t ask a lot of questions.
The three of us piled into the car and went to the address Keller had given me.
“So how did you know about this place?” Elise asked.
“Friend of a friend.” She accepted the explanation.
We took a few rights, hung a few lefts, went through a four way stop, and eventually ended at our destination. A black Ford Explorer was waiting for us in the driveway. It seemed a bit ominous, but only for a second. Because just then, a bubbly woman wearing a pink flower-printed skirt popped out of the driver’s side and waved at us. We waved back and got out of the car.
“Hi! I’m Anne.” We exchanged some pleasantries and explained that three of us were RAs looking for a place to live for the next school year. Anne showed us the house. It had three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen with a dishwasher, living room, garage, and guest room (okay, it was more of a large storage closet). We fell in love with the place. While going through the paperwork, Anne pulled me aside.
“Now, I know what your situation is,” she lowered her voice, “and I want to assure you that your safety is guaranteed. We have an operative stationed three houses down who keeps a watch on the neighborhood. And not that we try to invade your privacy, but we do have hidden cameras stationed on the outside of the house that are monitored for suspicious activity.” Anne smiled brightly. “Any questions?”
“Uh, er, no. I don’t think so. Do I contact you if a problem arises?” I guess I hadn’t really thought that anyone would be after me. I figured agent to college life would be an easy transition.
“Well, you contact me for a household problem. You know, the dishwasher breaks, etc. I’m your landlord. For a problem you call the operative. Here is his number.” She handed me a card. 
“No problem.”

Three weeks later Elise, Talia, and I were unpacking boxes and moving in furniture. The term had ended, we said goodbye to our residents, and were ready to start a fresh life.
“Where should we put this couch?” two of our guy friends who volunteered to help asked. Elise and Talia directed their efforts. It felt good to have more than dorm furniture.
 I hauled a bag of clothes up to my room and looked out the window. Here we were. In our own house. No RA responsibilities, no agency responsibilities, not even any homework. I was finally going to enjoy life as a regular college student. We were going to have normal lives…or were we?
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