Friday, September 30, 2011

Don't try to scam me, I'm a girl detective

I have been advertising my spare room for rent for the past three months, and I get really annoyed when people try to scam me. They send me an e-mail that says "Is the room still available?" and when I tell them yes it is, they send me this crap. Don't they know I am a girl detective? Let me lay out all the lies so you identify a scammer, too.

She/he wrote:
Thanks for getting back to me. My name is Brianna Hargreaves,25 years old,fun-loving,outspoken, friendly,clean, caring,and respectful of others, a non-smoker,don't do drugs,drink occasionally,and drama free kind of person. 

Isn't her lack of space between commas annoying you? If she crowds her words this much, I'd hate to think about the personal space of mine she would overtake. 

I graduated last year from Edinburgh University,Scotland...I am single and have no children, do bible studies on weekends and sometimes Karaoke nights with my roommates.Being a Christian I've never missed a Sunday without going to Church.

I call BS. This particular scammer is trying to appeal to my love of people with accents. Moreover, maybe they have stalked me and know that I have actually been to Edinburgh, Scotland and loved it. If you say "Being a Christian, I have never missed a Sunday," then I say BS. You are probably just typing that because my ad mentioned I was a Christian, and you think that Christians would never ever miss a Sunday. Some don't, but real people don't say these things. It makes them look like jerks.

I would love to secure the room for myself before my arrival to the state as I'll be moving in with my luggage.You seem to be a very interesting person to be with and I must confess to you that you will enjoy staying with me in the house because I make people smile always.

Really? I am very interesting? You got that from the five lines I said about myself? More likely you didn't read my actual ad. And I must confess to you that I will not enjoy you stealing my money. So sorry. That doesn't make me smile.

I will be in the States before the end of this Month for the next one year as I am coming for my masters degree program. I was born in Scotland (UK) and my Dad is from Sunnyvale,CA but has been living in Scotland for over 30 years since my Mom is from Scotland.

Great. Give me a whole family history. The scammer is doing this to try and rationalize why he/she is from Scotland but wants to come to Oregon for a master's degree. 

I attended The University Of Edinburgh and I speak both French and English fluently,am presently on a research work in Dunedin (New Zealand) but I'm nearing the end of the research now as it's part of my prerequisite for my masters in Microbiology.

The scammer is trying to appeal to my love of foreign countries and languages. They want me to think "Oh, if I send them my address and they move in with me, maybe they could teach me French! Or we could go on holiday to Dunedin for Christmas!" 

I would have loved to call you but this is a remote area and calls is hard to go through from here and I don't want to waste much time .I'm really interested in renting from you and i do really love pets but i don't have any at the moment.

Of course you are in a remote area with your microbiology research. Why would a person want to waste time calling the person they might live with for the whole next year? Why not just send an e-mail and show up on their doorstep? Don't you see how unrealistic this whole thing is? Besides, I fully Googled Dunedin and it seems very civilized, minus the nude rugby that I learned about.

I would have loved to see the place but am very far away which makes it a little harder,but with some recent pictures I think I'll be good.I would love to know more about you and if you have garage or parking space as I will have my own car, 

This clues me in that they have no idea who they are contacting. I fully posted four color photos of my house. The e-mail they sent me was the standard scam they sent to everyone else. And here it comes, the request for personal information! 

please let me know the total payment of the place and more over I will send your email to my Dad for him to email you later since he is the one that will be paying the bills but nevertheless,I will like you to send me your full Name and mailing address, your phone number as well,so that my Dad will issue out the payment to you from a United State Bank Cashier's Check (NOT OUT OF STATE CHECK).I will need the following information to have my Dad issue out the rental payment to you .

(1) Full name as it will appear on the payment.
(2) Physical Address
(3) phone number

I am so glad that you are 25 years old and your dad is still handling all of your payments. Let me just give you my full name and my physical address so he can come kidnap me. Pretty soon he will be wanting my checking account number for direct deposit purposes.

You can reach my Dad directly if any need arises on +447031860998

I did not change that number. You can call it if you want and test my detective skills.  

Hope to hear from you soon, 
(you won't!)
Brianna Hargreaves

I checked Facebook and only one person has this name. She does not look like a microbiologist.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

13 for Thursday

Some people think 13 is an unlucky number. But whatever. I was going for alliteration, and three just was too small.

1) Today I went on a casual meeting and I sort of think it turned into an interview. Now I probably won't get the job because I'm mentioning it already, but you never know. I'll keep ya posted.

2) I almost bought a top hat and spectacles for my rabbit, Roo, when I was at the craft store.

3) I purchased an adjustable circle cutter and said craft store and...

4) Sliced a nice gash in my index finger while installing the blade. Blood was oozing out like Halloween came early, so I put pressure on it for a long time and then sealed it together with Elmer's glue.

5) I went grocery shopping and bought cherry extract, maple extract, and anise extract. Time to get my bake on. I can't wait for new frostings. I am going to use the maple extract to create pancake cupcakes.

6) I also bought canned pumpkin and plan on making a spiced pumpkin smoothie tomorrow.

7) On Tuesday I dislocated my knee cap for the second time this month. It is currently quite stiff and I had to miss out on kickboxing last night. : (

8) I am hosting a mustache party later this month with my best friend forever, Natalie. I have never used the term BFF, but I am fairly certain that Natalie and I will be besties forever. Even going into eternity.

9) I am creating party favors for the mustache bache. Just you wait till they're done. The slicing of my index finger has stopped production for the moment. But they are clever.

10) I may or may not have caved to my five year long dream of owning a blonde wig. One that does not look like a butchered Kate Gosslin mane, which I was tricked into purchasing previously. You may or may not get to see me debut such a wig. Actually, you might have seen me already, but since I was in disguise you didn't know it was me.

11) Holy frijoles, 13 things is a lot more than I thought. I'm starting to regret this.

12) You should totally watch Nikita on the CW Friday nights at 8pm (pacific standard). Or on Hulu. I like it a lot. And not just because Shane West is in it.

13) Tomorrow evening I am going back to the sweet little town where I attended high school, and I'm gonna get to see some relatives because it's my uncle's birthday and he is turning twice as old as me. Should I craft him a present real quick? Maybe I will

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I tested what?

Last week I took a trip to the employment office. You know, because I am unemployed. I would be lying if I told you I went out of my own conviction. I went because--at the suggestion of my mother--I filed a claim with unemployment insurance. I told Mom I thought I would be denied because, well I chose to quit my job, but she said to try it anyway. So I did. I received paper work detailing the steps to the process, and one of them included having to go to the employment office.

I did my skills inquiry at home like the letter suggested, and a few days later headed down town.

It was a sunny day, and I decided to dress professionally so that people would not think I was a bum and couch potato who stayed at home all day watching episodes of Jersey Shore instead of looking for a job. Basically, this means I combed my hair and wore heels.

I had never been to the employment office before, and so Mapquested directions ahead of time. When I got to the right street, there was road construction, forcing me to park in a less than desirable location (meaning, I had to feed a meter). After I shoved my cookie quarters into the monster's mouth, I crossed the street via jaywalking. I like to live life on the edge. Instantly I noticed out of the corner of my eye a strange fellow smoking a cigarette and walking behind me. I kept up my stride, walking with purpose.

A millisecond later a tiny bug flew into my right eye. I blinked but it seemed to be stuck in there, like a contact with wings. I poked at my eye, which was difficult to do, because it was the same eye I was using to keep tabs on Mr. Suspicious. Because of this distraction, I missed the actual entrance to the employment office. I wasn't going to stop on the side walk and turn around, just to walk into all those nasty fumes with only one good eye, so what I did was keep walking. Meanwhile I had tears streaming down my face.

I turned a corner and commenced walking around the entire perimeter of the building. It's always a good idea to case a place before entering. That way you know where all the exits are, you know who is lurking around outside, and you notice which vehicles parked around have out of state plates. Because I am not girly enough to carry around a compact mirror, I sidled up next to a vacant pick up truck and used its side mirror to check my eye. I was pretty sure I was going to find a Pixar character from A Bug's Life in there.

After this adjustment, I completed my full 360 around the building and came once again to the main door. I waited in line for my turn, then told the receptionist my name and typed in my social security number.

Her eyes scanned the screen in front of her, reviewing my information. "It looks like you have everything in order," she began " still need to take the reading and math placement tests."

Surely you jest.

Was I trying to transfer high schools? Hadn't already been accepted to and completed college? I laughed nervously. "Oh, I didn't know I had to take a test today." Because I mean, I probably would have reviewed some geometry and algebra concepts if I had. I would have smuggled a calculator down my shirt sleeve. I would have practiced my analogies had I known I needed to perform. You know, headlights are to deer as testing is to Joelle.
I'm probably giving you the wrong impression. I've always done really well on tests. If you read this story, then you know that I set the curve. But even though I can do tests well, I always have this moment whereupon I panic.

I think "What if I just guess on this one? What if I just sit here for two hours and never finish?" For some reason, I usually have a two minute time frame where I think that there is no possible way I can go on. And then it passes and I usually get an A.

The receptionist gave me the laminated directions for logging in to the computer to take the tests. I noticed on the back side that it had all the conversion measurements and formulas for the math portion, which was good, because in my moment of panic I fully forgot that the area of a circle is pi R squared. And I really needed to figure out how big that rug was for question seven.

I took the reading test first and had to almost laugh. It was very office work centered. I had to read an e-mail memo and answer questions about what time was an event happening, or what division does Sally X work for, or what time did I need to ship a package if it needed to arrive by noon the next day.

Then I took the math test. It was almost fun. You had to score at least 80% on each test in order to level up, and I was excited each time the screen told me I had gotten 0 wrong on the previous test. Like a ten-year-old boy with his hands adhered to the video game controls, I wanted to reach the top level. While working out the problems and feeling clever, I started to miss high school. It was great having that satisfaction that I knew the answer. Nowadays, I'm being tested on different sorts of material, and I almost never know the answer. It's not as easy as pi R squared.

While testing, I did a lot of eavesdropping on the other people in the employment center. Some where taking tests, others were searching the computers for jobs, a few were meeting one-on-one with career counselors. It pained me to hear the old man talking on the phone. He was contacting unemployment, trying to file a claim, and kept telling the person on the other end that he's "not what you call tech savvy."

Another man was talking with a counselor about how he has three kids, and doesn't know if he should try to go back to school so he can learn more computer skills, or if he should continue looking for a job.

It sounded like a lot of the people around me felt stuck because of their low-level computer skills. When job postings are on-line and you have no idea how to work a browser, I can sympathize. It's a lot like me trying to use a jigsaw or install blinds in my windows.

After completing my test, I quit being such a snoop and read a few chapters from Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me while I waited for my name to be called. I met with a career professional for about four minutes, showed official ID, then was out the door. My duty was done, the formality was complete, and I walked away realizing how blessed I am not to have any extra mouths to feed and to hold a college degree. Minus the fact that it resulted in three years of subsequent job stress and a resignation. But whatever. I'm past that.

And in case you were wondering, three days later my case for unemployment insurance was denied. I will not be receiving any sort of check weekly. Which is fine, I didn't expect to. I planned for this. However, if you have a job lead or want to buy a novel manuscript, let me know.

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Miniscule Mystery, or simply [ . ]

“Ginger, what kind of work do we have today?” I asked my receptionist/assistant detective as I walked into the office. Never mind that my office is actually the spare bedroom of my house, or that there are old bridesmaid dresses stored in the closet, along with the rest of my disguises. I had just finished my morning routine of running five miles and bench pressing 150 pounds, which is a lot if you’re me and have noodle arms that Kraft wanted to feature on a commercial for macaroni. 
“Miss Rossen I—”
“Ginger, how many times do I have to tell you? It’s Joelle. Miss Rossen is what my students called me. And I am an ex-teacher now.”
“Okay…Joelle. I have a really exciting appointment coming in for you at two o’clock today! You are going to soil your pants.”
“That’s gross. Good thing I have fresh ones in the other room. So what is it that is so exciting?”
“There is a client who has requested some help in locating some missing sensitive data. The data is apparently worth a bundle, and the client doesn’t recall where it went. He’s afraid someone may have stolen it.”
“So do you think this will turn out to be more like an episode of Hoarders, and the person has so much crap I’ll die under a stack of forty year old newspapers looking for the data, or do you think it will be more like an episode of Law and Order and I’ll have to prosecute someone for theft?”
“Neither. It’s going to be like an episode of Covert Affairs. Specifically, the one that aired three weeks ago.”
“How do you mean?”
Ginger grinned at me. “The data that you are looking for is contained in a microdot.”
“For real? A microdot? You’re sure the client didn’t say microdog? And really it’s Paris Hilton and she’s misplaced her Chihuahua?”
“No. A real microdot. You know, like they talk about on spy television.”
“GET OUT! This is gonna be so awesome! My high school performed a mystery play once about a missing microdot. Turned out it was hidden in a chocolate chip cookie and the detective ate it.”
“I know, right? You’re big time now, Miss Rossen,” Ginger said brightly.
“Joelle,” I corrected.
At two o’clock I found myself sitting opposite a sweaty, bald man who had a nose like a mushroom. Don’t think I’m being mean. I’m just stating the facts. And a fact is, I like mushrooms. Just last weekend I barbecued a Portobello and put a grilled peach on top of it. So delicious.
The man was very flustered, and not because I was about to put his nose on the burner. “I just can’t find it!” he said. “Can’t find it anywhere! I looked in all the places I thought I would have put it, but it’s not there. I’m going to lose my grant money!”
“Please calm down, Mr. Sphongos. Can you tell me the nature of this missing data?”
“Yes. It’s research. Ten years of research.”
“On what, if I may ask?”
Mr. Sphongos twitched his nose a bit and then replied “On Swedish education practices. I was funded by the National Education Department to research successful countries, so that we may implement similar practices.”
“I could have saved you ten years. You could have talked to me and in about five hours I could have told you all the things we do wrong in American public education. I’m an ex-teacher. I was homeschooled as a child so I have an interesting perspective on it.”
I tell this story to a lot of people, but they never think I am credible on account of how I look like I’m 16 years old and write ridiculous top stories for fun.
Mr. Sphongos gave a thin grin, then said “Do you think you can help me? I am supposed to submit all my data next week to the board.”
“No problem, Mr. Sphongos. But can I just ask you, why did you shrink your data down to a microdot? Was a USB drive not small enough?”
“I understand your curiosity. See, I was living in Sweden during all my research, and I accessed some information that, well, wasn’t public knowledge. I was afraid that when I boarded the plane and moved back to the United States… I was afraid Swedish officials would confiscate my research. The data is a lot more valuable than you think,” he finished defensively.
“Hey, I don’t judge,” I replied. “If you had misplaced love letters from your first girlfriend, I would have helped you find those. It doesn’t matter what you’re missing. I will find it. With utmost confidentiality. You know, for a fee…” I slid over the contract of agreements with initial costs itemized on the side. A girl has to make a living.
Finding a single period amongst a house full of possessions is not any easy task. Looking for a microdot is much like looking for a needle in a hayfield, only harder.
That’s why I brought in reinforcements.
The next day I arrived at Mr. Sphongos’ apartment, which was full of empty boxes and scattered belongings. His method of search was rather frantic and not very orderly. He seemed to be living out of a suitcase, which makes sense, I guess. If I just came back from a foreign country and had to turn in ten years of work to my boss the next week, I wouldn’t worry so much about coordinating my curtains and paint chips either.
I would have brought Ginger along, but considering she is just a sophomore at the local university, she had statistics class that day. I told her she could join me the next time. I was expecting my associate to show up shortly. I had met Ashley in school as a child. The teacher had asked us to write a paragraph about our summer, and when I wrote mine in code, Ashley looked on, intrigued.
“What’s it say?”
“I’ll make a second copy for you and you can crack it.”
“Cool. But do you think the teacher will get mad that you didn’t write in English?”
“I did write in English. It’s coded, but they are English words. Besides, I have a suspicion that our teacher may be a CIA agent, so I’m testing her.”
“Hey, do you have a sheep farm?” I asked nonchalantly.
“Hmmm. Okay then.”
Just as I had shifted Mr. Sphongos’ things to one side of the apartment, in order than we could manage the processed objects and the non-processed objects, Ashley came in. She was wearing aviator sunglasses that had those sorts of lenses that allow for people to use as a mirror and pick their teeth. She had a baby on her hip.
“I know what you’re thinking and don’t even worry about it,” Ashley began. “I may have an infant with me, but I am all business. This kid is better trained than a German Shepherd. Sawyer wouldn’t dare interrupt an important investigation.”
I watched as she tucked the child into his carrier and put him in a corner, introduced herself to Mr. Sphongos, and then gave me a hug.
“Long time no see,” she said.
“So you have kids now?”
“Yep. Three of them. Two boys and a girl named Sydnee.”
“Is that a high school tribute to Alias?” I asked.
“Maybe yes, maybe no. Let’s get to work.”

Because Ashley does top secret investigative work that I can’t really speak of, she is well versed in microdots and had brought along with her several incredibly strong microscopes. These scopes were so high tech that they were able to read writing had it been written on a grain of sand. They were also worth a lot of money. The microscopes may or may not have been borrowed without consent from the State Department. I can’t really say.
We began a method of scrutinizing every square centimeter of everything Mr. Sphongos owned. Through the scope, my eyes processed every detail of many documents and files and books and pages. I once got excited that I had found something, but it turned out to be just a booger.
After scanning 298 pages of Tolkien’s The Hobbit, looking for a period that wasn’t like the others, I started to get bored and thus decided to initiate some conversation. Ashley was two feet away looking at some file folders.
“I’m sure glad Mr. Sphongos isn’t a high school health teacher,” I whispered.
“Why’s that?” she asked.
“Do you remember junior year with Miss Ray? And how she had that four inch binder full of nothing but pages and pages of periods to show how many sperm a man produces in a lifetime?”
“Oh yeah, I remember that!”
“Well, just imagine if Miss Ray had misplaced a microdot in her classroom. I would not want to search a thousand pages of pseudo-sperm dots looking for it.”
Ashley nodded her head in agreement.
I spent thirty minutes examining a calendar from 2009 until I started talking again.
“So, Mr. Sphongos…you’re Greek, right?”
“I am, how’d you know?”
“I’ve studied root words and have a fascination with etymology.”
            “Not really. But you’ve never lived in Greece, correct?”
            “No, I haven’t.”
            Ashley joined in. “What was life in Sweden like?”
            “Difficult at first. I had to dye my hair and eyebrows blond, because people looked at me like I was a criminal and would never answer my questions.”
            Ashley pondered this. “I don’t think John Stamos had that problem when he moved to LA. Actually, now that I think about it, in his first television role he played a delinquent teen who stole a car.”
            My stomach interrupted the conversation with a growl that would have scared off Goldilocks.
            Mr. Sphongos eyed me. “Shall we take a lunch break? Do you like Mexican food? I could make you a burrito or a quesadilla. I’m sorry I don’t have much else in my cupboards.”
“Oh no, that’s fine. I really like burritos,” I said.
            As we sat around the table in the kitchen for lunch, Ashley began feeding a bottle to Sawyer. He had cute baby cheeks and would giggle every time I made a fish face.
            Ashley and I began asking Mr. Sphongos questions about Swedish food, mainly “Do those gummy fish really come from Sweden? What’s the story on those?”
            Mr. Sphongos launched into a story about a candy store he visited once. While talking about kanderade lakrits and gelehallon, he sat our burritos plated down in front of us.
            “So gelehallon…is that like Gyllenhall, specifically Jake?” I was trying to make a dumb joke, of course, but just as Ashely brought her burrito to her lips, something unexpected happened.
Mr. Sphongos screamed, “WAIT! DON’T EAT THAT!”
Ashely dropped the burrito onto her plate and it splashed into some salsa.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“It’s just. The tortilla. It has those little brown spots on it. We didn’t scan it for the microdot.”
“You think you placed the microdot on a tortilla?” I asked.
“Well, no. But I might have. Maybe I did it when I was cooking one night.”
I am just guessing, but Mr. Sphongos may have also seen that high school play where the microdot is hidden in a chocolate chip cookie.
“Mr. Sphongos, do you remember when and where you bought these tortillas?” Because like he brought them over on the plane from Sweden.
“Yesterday. On my way home from visiting your office. At Winco.”
I smiled patiently. “But you were missing the microdot before that. If you bought the tortillas after having misplaced the microdot, there’s no way you could have hidden it on a tortilla. Unless, of course, you sent flour to a woman in Mexico.”
“Oh. Okay, you’re right,” he said, relieved. “Continue with your meal.”
After we were done eating, we went back to the living room. I opened a box to discover it held dishes wrapped in newspaper.
“Hey Mr. Sphongos, I found your bowls!” Now he could stop eating Corn Flakes off of plates.
When he looked up to see me holding a bowl in one hand and a sheet of newspaper in the other, his eyes got wide, he stopped breathing, and I basically thought he was having a cardiac arrest.
“Oh no. No no no no no,” Mr. Sphongos choked out.
For a second I thought I had done something offensive, like discover the bowl that his old cat had drowned in or something.
“What’s the matter?” I asked. Ashley looked up from her work.
“Looking at that newspaper has reminded me of something dreadful. I gave away a newspaper to the neighbor who lives in the apartment next door.”
I looked at him patiently. Reader, if you are also a person who regrets getting rid of paper items, I suggest you do not subscribe to any magazines, or you might end up like my dad and have twenty years worth of National Geographic stacked up in the dust of your old shop.
“Don’t you see,” he continued. “I may have put the microdot on that newspaper. When I packed to leave Sweden, I placed the microdot on page 47 of Great Expectations. When I got to Oregon, I transferred the microdot somewhere else. Actually, I moved it about nine different places because I couldn’t decide on the best location. And then I…celebrated the end of my research and return to the states with…a little wine. When I woke up the next day I couldn’t remember what I had done with the microdot. I could have put it anywhere! Like on that newspaper!”
“Okay,” I said calmly. I had gathered more of the picture, mainly that Mr. Sphongos was a lush who liked to read old literature. “Let’s just go over and see if your neighbor still has the newspaper.”
 We went out to the apartment door and I knocked.
“What’s her name?” I asked.
“Miss Hadari. Her first name is Heidi, but I don’t think we’re on a first name basis yet,” replied Mr. Sphongos.
The door opened and there stood a woman in sheepskin slippers.
“Hi, Miss Hadari,” I said. “I’m Mr. Sphongos’ friend and I was wondering if you still had that newspaper he gave you. It had an article in it about my uncle and Mr. Sphongos was supposed to cut it out for me but forgot.”
Instantly Miss Hadari’s eyes narrowed.
“You want the newspaper back?” she snapped. Her tone of voice may as well have indicated that I donated a kidney to her and wanted it back now too. “You can’t have it. I need it so I can clip coupons. I’m on a budget. I don’t like to waste money. Last week I saved 60% on three bottles of aloe vera gel,” she finished proudly.
“Oh, that’s fine,” I said. “If we could just get the newspaper back for a little bit, I’ll be sure to give the coupon section to you.”
“But I need all of it. I have a pet hamster and I line his cage with newspaper so I don’t have to buy packaged bedding at Petco.”
If there is one thing I learned from my dad, it’s negotiation skills. “Tell you what, Miss Hadari. I have a whole stack of old newspapers at my house. It would give your hamster enough liner for a year. I also have an entire 26 page coupon magazine that was mailed to me yesterday. I don’t really want it because I prefer to pay full price for everything. I’ll bring those things over to you if you would just let us have Mr. Sphongos’ newspaper back.”
Miss Hadari’s eyes became as hungry as a child starving in Africa.
“Okay. Wait here. I’ll go get it.”
A moment later she returned with the newspaper, smiling.
“Thank you so much, Miss Hadari. I’ll have those things over by this evening.”
“Oh no, Thank YOU,” she said. “And please, you can call me Heidi.”
As we walked back to Mr. Sphongos’ apartment, he asked me “Do you really like to pay full price for everything?”
“Heavens no. It pains me to waste money. I got that coupon book for free at the library. I’ll just pick up another one for myself on Tuesday when I have to return my Learn French Instantly CDs.”
“You’re learning French?”
On day two of the search, we went full force. Ashley had found a sitter for Sawyer, Mr. Sphongos was remaining calm, and I had eaten a boat load of carrots the night before in order to aid my eyesight for this search.
“Hey Joelle, I’ve got to leave at one o’clock for an appointment with my dermatologist. But I’ll be back.”
“Is everything okay?”
“Yeah. I just have some moles on my arm that I need to get checked for skin cancer. My doctor, Lissa Skott, says it’s important to have yearly skin check ups. If there is a suspicious mole, then what she does is punch it out of your skin.”
“Like with a hole punch from Office Max?”
“Sort of. Anyway, I am a bit concerned because I swear I got a new mole yesterday. I just noticed it this morning.”
All of a sudden my gut dropped down to my knees and my brain came up with a wild idea. Maybe you’re thinking it to. Are you thinking “Maybe Ashley touched the microdot yesterday and didn’t even know it and now it is stuck to her skin”? Because that’s what I was thinking.
“Ashley. Can I see it?”
Ashley lifted her elbow and pointed to the new little dark spot. I used my super strength scope to inspect it at 1000 times its original size. Sadly, it was just a mole. But a healthy looking one!
I sighed, disappointed that Ashley wasn’t wearing the microdot on her left elbow. “You know, it’s actually kind of cute,” I told her. “Next to the other ones, it’s like a little nose in a smiley face.”
Ashley inspected it. “Hey, it kind of is a cute little one.”

We spent many hours searching for the missing dot, but by the end of day two there was still 28 boxes of items to be examined. I was getting frustrated. What if someone had stolen the microdot? Maybe someone had followed Mr. Sphongos home, observed him through the window, and then when he got drunk and passed out on his couch that night, they snuck in and stole it? Of course I didn’t tell any of this to my client. I didn’t want him to panic.
That night, after work, I called my friend Casey.
“I just can’t figure this one out,” I lamented. “I’m going mad searching for a period.”
Casey sympathized. “I’m no detective,” she started, “but can you try any other angles on this? Change the way you are searching?”
“How do you mean? Basically we have to look at everything under a microscope for hours. How can we change that?”
“Hang on just a second, I need to pause Buffy.”
Casey really got into the vampire slayer over the summer. I think it’s because she hates Robert Pattinson and secretly hopes that Buffy will make an appearance on the last movie of the Twilight series and slay them all.
“You still there?” Casey asked a second later.
“Well, pretend that I misplaced a microdot. Where is the first place you would look.?”
“Easy. On that framed picture of you and Kendra from your high school graduation.”
“Why?” Casey asked, even though she knew the answer.
“Because it’s important to you. You would never accidentally throw it out. No one would dare take it from you. It’s a safe place.”
“So apply this theory to Mr. Sphongos. What do you know about him?”
“That he over indulges in wine. No, Casey, I get you. I can’t believe what a moron I’ve been. And here, I’m supposed to be the clever detective. Thanks for the talk.”
“No problem. Keep my updated on your progress.”
“Okay. G’night.”
I hung up the phone and realized I wasn’t going to find this microdot because I am good at finding things. I was going to find this microdot because I am good at figuring things out, and I am good at figuring people out. What I needed to do was take some time and get to know the person who had misplaced the item. Once I knew more about Mr. Sphongos, I’d have at least some idea of where he may have hidden his data. It’s like cracking a person’s e-mail password (which I’ve done). If you know enough about the person, you know exactly what their code is, even if they think they are being clever.
[For example, if your older sister tells you you’ll never crack her e-mail password because it’s a totally random word and is difficult to spell, you have some clues. I knew enough about my sister to know what sort of words she’d think were hard to spell. I knew what kind of music she listened to, what kind of shows she watched, and all of her other hobbies. That’s why when I tried typing “asparagus” on my first try, I totally got in. She had been going through her Veggie Tales phase. I wonder if she ever changed it. Lemme check…Oh my gatos she totally has had the same password for 14 years! Good thing she uses a new address, or I’d spend the rest of the night reading her messages instead of writing this story. Jess, if you are reading this, then you have unread mail dating back to 2001. And sorry about the whole hacking thing. I took your smug comment as a challenge].
          I showed up at Mr. Sphongos’ door at 6:30 the next morning. I had skipped my ritualistic running and weight lifting so I could close this case pronto. I wanted to close it like a suitcase lid belonging to person who was headed to Barbados for vacation after a job well done.
Mr. Sphongos opened the door, a bit sleepy eyed.
“Sir. Let’s take a break from this madness of searching so I can get to know you.” I handed him a coffee.
We sat at the kitchen table and I made my client tell me all about his life. I pressed him for information about past relationships, pets, places he lived, growing up, schooling, his parents, siblings, and extended family members. After the first hour he felt comfortable enough to tell me the intimate details of his life. By hour three I felt like his therapist.
“My father was very musical. He played many instruments. His favorite was the piano. He would play and my whole family would sing.” Mr. Sphongos got a faraway look in his eye, like he could see himself back in 1958 as a child, belting out the lyrics to Rock’n Robin by Bobby Day. Which would have been difficult, considering it’s not really a piano song.  
“Is your father still alive?” I asked.
“No. He passed away seven years ago. My brother played the piano at his funeral, as a tribute.”
“Do you have anything special to remember your father by? A picture? CD? Letter he wrote?”
“Well, I have all those things, but what I keep dear to me is the old sheet music from his original compositions. He was very talented.”
By this point my synapses were firing so much that I could have burnt the house down. We had not yet examined any sheet music.
“Let’s find it,” I said, jumping up from my chair.
Within minutes Mr. Sphongos located the stack of sheet music.
“Here’s one he composed for my fifth birthday. It’s quite animated and it’s titled “My Little Fun Guy.”
The page was indeed popping with fun little measures. It was written with many eighth notes, instructed to be played allegro. I took the sheet and stuck it under the microscope. Nothing. Not even a booger.
“Do you remember the last piece he ever wrote?” I asked. “Is it here?”
“Yes. I wouldn’t dare throw that away.” Mr. Sphongos took some time finding a lovely, lengthy piece titled “My Heart Lives On.” I reached for it carefully and slipped it under the scope. On page three I spotted it. 36th measure. It was a C. Quarter note. Instead of a black dot full of black ink, I saw hundreds of little words. I spotted key words like “Sweden” “Education” “Achievement” and “No recess.”
“I’ve found it, sir. Take a look for yourself.” I moved over so Mr. Sphongos could verify.
“Oh thank heavens,” he said. When his face turned up I could see his eyes were full of tears. “Thank you so much, Detective Rossen. You have found my microdot, I’ll be able to turn in my work, keep my job, and reform America’s horrendous education system.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell him to dream on. Or to tell him that reform comes slowly, that it starts with yourself in your own heart, that is spreads to your family and friends, and then to your city and nation. It’s not a top down process, it’s a bottom up process, and it requires people to surrender their hatred, sacrifice their sanity, bleed out love, and miss their favorite spy television show on Thursday nights.
Indeed, I wished Mr. Sphongos the best on his venture to change the nation. But mostly I was just relieved to pack for that vacation to Barbados.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Blaine's Parents Would Not Allow That

Maybe you were one of the 8.6 million viewers who watched Glee on Tuesday night. Several of my friends got together to watch the premiere, whereupon a few of us were disappointed that Trouty Mouth was gone.

If you watched the episode, then you know that Blaine decided to leave Dalton Academy and attend McKinley High School. I am excited about this because it means that Blaine will probably be in every episode, and I have a little crush on him (Darren Criss, if you are reading this, then I am single and ready to mingle). However, I would just like to point out that in real life, Blaine's parents WOULD NEVER let him transfer to McKinley.

The show made it seem like Blaine had all the control in deciding his high school education. There was no mention of his parentals. Yeah right would they let him drop out of a private all-boys academy with a top singing show choir to attend a public high school with Kurt. And okay, Blaine said that he wasn't transferring for Kurt, that he was transferring for himself. Because you know, McKinley has so much more to offer, what with the cruel students and ever scheming Sue Sylvester. I would be very hard pressed to let my child choose to go from some ritzy academy to a public high school. Do you know what happens at public high schools? People get slushy thrown in the face, that's what.

If Glee featured college students (which, technically they sort of are, on account of how Darren Criss is actually 24, and Lea Michele who plays Rachel Berry is 25), then it would be fine for one of them to transfer colleges because of their boyfriend. But this is high school. If I knew my child's boyfriend attended the high school that they wanted to transfer to, I'd pull a Mercedes and say "Hell to the no!" Because they'd probably just end up making out in the choir room or whatever instead of finishing algebra homework.

And while I think Blaine's character seems responsible and wouldn't let his studies slip, let's be honest, college is just around the corner. If he's trying to get into a top university, don't you think he should continue going to Dalton?

I just thought the details of Blaine's transfer was totally unrealistic. What do you think?

Sunday, September 18, 2011 your mother (because I'm gangsta like that)

Like many internet users, maybe you've recently created an account on Pinterest and spend a lot of time there looking at beautiful, clever, crafty things. Every once in a while I stumble upon some words that I really like, and I want to share them with you. 


There was also one that said
You don't always get what you wish for, you get what you work for.
But the image for that one featured a really ripped girl showing off her abs. Plus she was hanging upside down, which worked in favor for her cleavage. I felt like you didn't need to see that. Mostly I was jealous.

Question: I keep a quote book and write down the clever, lovely, or truth-filled words that I want to look back on. Do you have any good lines you've stumbled upon recently?

Friday, September 16, 2011

10 Ways to Quit Being a Creeper

Back in the late 1800s, serial killers are what used to frighten people, due to that whole Jack-the-Ripper thing. In this day and age, people are frightened of "creepers" and "stalkers." On-line creepers and stalkers is a frequently used term to describe someone who knows too much about somebody else. Off-line creepers and stalkers exist as well, and they are the more frightening types, as they usually are in close proximity to your actual being and there is not 100 miles of distance and a computer screen between the two of you. But never mind that, you don't want to be referred to as an on-line creeper.

In order to lose the nickname "On-line Creeper", or more specifically "Facebook Stalker," these are the things you should stop doing:

1) Collecting hair samples. You can't really do this on-line, but if this is something you do, YOU NEED TO STOP, so that is why it is number one on the list.

2) Having alerts on your phone that notify you each time a person has activity on their Facebook page.

3) Learning through the Stalkee's events that they are going to be at a certain place at a certain time, and so you also appear there, even though you weren't invited. Coffee shops and restaurants provide what you think may be a "coincidental" moment, but when you start going for an evening jog by your stalkee's grandma's house on Thanksgiving, that screams I AM GOING TO KIDNAP YOU AFTER YOU EAT PIE.

4) Hacking other people's e-mail accounts so you can learn more about them and the people they converse with.

5) Setting a stalkee's profile picture as your desktop background.

6) Memorizing all of the information provided on the "Info" section of their FB account. Saying that you have a photographic memory does not lessen the creep factor.

7) Normally I would say that documenting people's fingerprints is creepy, unless of course they willingly and knowingly stick their thumb in the ink. I happen to have a fingerprint stamp on my fridge of a "suspect", not because I am a stalker, but because I am a detective and need to gather evidence in order to protect my friends.

8) Creating a fake Facebook profile to friend request some one, because you don't want them to know it is really you. This is by far the creepiest thing you can do.

Hopefully if you are often subject to being stalked, you are not a moron and can tell that when some hot foreign guy from Ireland sends you a request saying "Your profile picture is very creative" you know that he actually is probably the 40 year old man from the gym that grins way too much. Don't get sucked in by accents. You can't hear them on Facebook anyway.

9) Somehow finding out the stalkee's phone number, and then texting them things like "hey, I don't have your address, can you tell me what it is so I can mail you something?" Of course when they say "Who is this?" You reply with some name of a person they know, claiming you have a new number. If you are successful in this creep activity and actually acquire their home address, DO NOT DRIVE BY. This is why people call you a stalker, and you need to stop these shenanigans.

10) Actually mailing something to the person's house if you happen to discover their address through whatever measures. If you mail cash or gift cards, then that is okay and you should probably start stalking me. Text me an address request and I'll pretend to play dumb. If, instead, you mail any sort of inappropriate anything (especially anthrax or underwear), then you may end up in handcuffs. Don't say I didn't warn you. If you are not sure if something is inappropriate or not, you can message me and ask. I will be brutally truthful with you, and probably will end up posting your e-mail on this blog. 

Additional information: Reading/checking someone's blog every day is not considered "blog stalking." It means you like reading the person's blog. The author probably likes that sort of thing. If they didn't want readers, they wouldn't post. Or they'd write everything in code. If they didn't want YOU as a reader, they'd set their blog to private and not invite you to access it.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

To my future spouse

I hate to be all sappy and love struck twice in one week, but I figured I'd just share this considering that whole "Greatest Virgin Who Ever Lived" thing from Saturday. Last week I discovered this site called To My Future Spouse. Basically, men and women write little love notes to the person that they've never met. It's very sweet and a little bit creepy, and provides a similar topic for humor author Jon Acuff to blog about (see Stuff Christians Like: praying for your future spouse).

I browsed through the archives and found some notes that the men wrote, which made me hope they were writing to me. You never know. If you wrote any of these, or know the person who did, well maybe you should take me out to dinner. What's great about this site is that I can become delusional and think these love letters are mine. That they were meant for me.

Here are my favorites.

To My Future Wife:
I can’t wait to fall asleep next to you—books strewn about our bed, your soft heart beating against my chest, your warm body letting me know I’m loved. Yes, yes, yes.

To My Future Wife:
Let’s share a Snuggie.

To My Future Wife:
Don’t worry, my dear, I’ll be making my own sandwiches.

To My Future Wife:
Despite my longing desire for you, I’m on God’s time and He has yet to see reason to bring us together. But I trust Him and I trust you. When the time is right, I’ll be there to make you mine forever.

To My Future Wife:
Don’t worry, ‘cause I got this handled. I’ve been killing dragons and rescuing princesses since I was six.

To My Future Wife:
I know that you’ve doubted if true love was for you, that if you were even meant to ever marry at all. It is and you are. I’m the one you’ll be with forever. We’re just not supposed to know each other just yet. But be patient; I’ll be by soon. I love you.

To My Future Wife:
Just tell me where you are and I’ll come rescue you. I’ll come save you. I’ll come love you. Just tell me where you are and I’ll make all this waiting worth the while. Tell me where you are and I’ll make all your dreams come true.

To My Future Wife:
I NEED you to understand the understated comical brilliance of Arrested Development. Then I’ll know you’re you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Animal Impersonations

When I was four years old, my sister locked me in the dog carrier and rolled me down the hill. She thought it would be fun for me, like a Ferris wheel ride at the fair. I'm about to tell you the story of all the animals I pretended to be, all so that my sister would play with me. You may leave this story thinking that Jessamy was cruel to me, and maybe she was, but when I now look back on those memories, I think of them fondly.

The Dog
So you know about the dog carrier thing. Sure, I ended up a little bruised, but the whole experience only last about five minutes, which was a lot better than the time I was chained to the dog house for a half an hour. Our Springer Spaniel, Senna, lived exclusively outside. She was a farm dog and had a stinky, spider dwelling, wooden dog house to call her own. Normally she was chained up to the tree near it, but when my mom mowed the lawn, she would let Senna loose. It was during our dog's free time that my sister decided I should play puppy.

"Get in the dog house, Jo jo."
"But it's dark in there and it stinks!"
"You have to pretend to be my dog or I won't play with you."

 Immediately I began to cry. I gathered my courage and two pairs of boots. I had on the ones covering my feet, but I convinced Jess to let me put her boots on my hands, so that way my "paws" wouldn't get all nasty when I went inside the pooch's home. Jessy put one of Senna's old collars on me and snapped me on to the wire cable. There was no escaping it now. I went into the dog house, tried to lay down among the matted hair, stuck out my tongue panting, and wagged my butt like I had a tail. If I was going to be a dog, I was going to be a good dog.
Four boots and walking in dirt.
Eat your heart out, Lassie.
The Duck
Pretending to be a duck was by far the best animal I've ever impersonated. Being a duck was actually fun, minus the part where I was fed stale crackers. It was a hot July day and my mother had filled up the tiny blue kiddie pool with water for us so that we could splash around. Jess and I put on our swim suits and hopped on in. I was a duck for a while, quacking and ruffling my feathers. But then I got a really brilliant idea. Or my sister did, I'm not sure who it was. All I know is there is photo-graphical evidence of me wearing yellow rubber dish washing gloves on my feet, standing in a water like a lemon colored duck with webbed feet. I was by far the most inventive human-duck you ever did see.
 The Lion
When the Lion King came out, I became totally obsessed. It may have had more to do with my already developed crush on Jonathon Taylor Thomas that it had to do with The Circle of Life and my belief that it is important to grow up to do great things. At any rate, I loved imagining to be Lion King characters. The very best part was that my sister always let me be Simba, due to the fact that I had a shoulder length brown mane with golden sun streaks in it. I have very thick hair, and I would shake it around to accompany my ferocious roar.

This one time, Jessamy was pretending to be Rafiki. She was really into Rafiki because he had an exotic accent and carried around an awesome stick. My sister had found a similar stick in the woods behind our house and had attached a few stink balls* to it with twine from a hay bale. It looked very aboriginal.
 *when I say stink balls, I mean those things that drop from Oak trees and have green must in them.

Jessamy and I were re-enacting scenes when it came time for me to receive a bit of advice.

"It's all in de past!" Jess yelled, then whacked me on the head with her giant stick.

The intention was to knock some sense into me, but all it did was knock me senseless. When I came to, I immediately began to cry and went screaming to my mother, clutching my skull. I told her what happened and she confiscated Jessy's Rafiki stick. Jess was very bitter about it, because the Rafiki stick lay unobtainable on top of the freezer in the garage for the following two months of summer.

Yes, the Rafiki stick did instill wisdom. My sister learned never to whack her baby sister on the head even if she wasn't trying to be mean. If you ever see my sister in person, you should say to her "So...tell me about the Rafiki stick." Even though it happened 17 years ago, I'm sure the memory is carved clearly in the tree that is her mind.

The Horse
My sister always wanted a horse, and until she got a real one, she forced me to be her equine. She liked to do things like feed me carrots, which sounds all fine and dandy, but not when the carrots have been plucked straight out of the garden and still have dirt and worms hanging on them.

I acted my part as horse both inside the house and outside. Jessy's favorite thing to do was to lunge me (she didn't try to ride me that often because she didn't want to hear me say she weighed too much). When a horse gets lunged, it basically means it is on a long rope and you make it run in circles around you for exercise. Lunging on the carpet on all fours is not really a pleasant experience, as it caused my knees to bleed. Lunging on all fours is also not an effective way to lose weight, and if you are trying to get in shape then I suggest running in circles on your two feet, rope tied to your head is optional.

Jess also made me walk on my hands and knees outside in the grass. Sometimes she tied rope to me and made me pull the red Radio Flyer wagon. When this happened, she'd sit inside the "carriage" and whip my butt with a stick if I wasn't going fast enough. I'm not exactly sure where my mother was in all of this. I feel like she should have intervened. Thank God my sister got a real pony when she was 11 years old.

The Cat
Surprisingly enough, when we played Cat and Owner, I did not have to be the cat. This was because my sister adored cats and wished she was one. She'd make me do things like scratch her between the ears, rub her tummy while she purred, or feed her a bowl of milk on the floor. This was by far the easiest pretending I ever had to do, and I welcomed it with open arms. Whenever Jessy suggested an animal impersonation game, I would first ask her if she wanted to pretend to be a cat. This usually bought me a little time before I had to sleep in the dog house, quack, get hit on the head, or have bloody knees.

Yes, I spent much of my childhood pretending to be something other than a homo sapien. You can see that I went to great lengths to convince people to spend time with me, something I still do today. Only difference is, I walk on my own two feet and no longer eat dirt.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Things to do when you are awake at 3:30 AM

It's 3:49am on Sunday when I decide to give up sleeping. I've already peed, so a full bladder is not what is keeping me from the zzzzzs, but I realize that my stomach is protesting. I think back to what I ate for dinner and realize, yes, the gummy worms and Rice Krispy treat leftovers from my dessert sushi experiment doesn't constitute a solid meal, and I should be hungry. What I do is trod out to the kitchen in my pjs, but I put on a pair of sunglasses before turning on a light. I hate bright lights, and I hate lights even more when my eyes have been shut for a few hours, and even more, I'm supposed to be producing melatonin at this hour but I'm not. Instead what I am doing is making peanut butter toast for breakfast.

I think to myself, Gosh it's a good thing Mandy isn't here. What if she were to come out of her room to use the bathroom, and she spotted me wearing boxer shorts and ray bans while eating toast at the kitchen counter? At four in the morning.

But Mandy isn't here, and since I cannot sleep, I decide to make my time productive. I clean up about half of my craft table, discover a bracelet that needs to be re-strung, and commence stringing said bracelet in the half-dark of my living room. Then I move my keyboard into the spare room (I'm trying to remember how to's been like NINE years), file some papers, and organize the piles of items that need to be returned to various places in the house.

What I really want to do is cut the grass, because I didn't do it yesterday like I meant to. But you can't really mow the grass at four a.m., because it is dark. You might be like "and your neighbors would hate you for the noise" but you forget that I do not have a lawn mower but a 1950s style hand-pushed grass cutter. That thing is silent. I contemplate finding my headlamp and strapping it on so that I can go do yard work under the moonlight, but then I remember, oh wait, I don't own a headlamp. That is the second time this summer I've wished I'd had one. The first time was when I was exploring a water-filled cavern at Salmon Falls.

I don't dare turn on my computer, because internet browsing is the NUMBER ONE thing NOT to do when you are up in the wee hours of the morning. First off, I am sure I wouldn't be able to handle the bright, brain-washing glow of the screen. It would be like a trapped Chilean miner emerging into the daylight without protective eye gear after being stuck in a tunnel for forty days. Sure, I was already wearing shades, but my computer screen burns my retinas like the sun. Plus, on-line activity in the middle of the night is not peaceful, and it usually results in you Googling "What would I look like if I were black?" and then finding a photo manipulation site sponsored by St. Andrews that allows you to see what you would look like if you were five different ethnicities plus a manga cartoon character.

Two weeks ago I woke up at four in the morning and couldn't sleep, so what I did was read my Bible with a book light (one that did not attach to the head). How Christian of me, right? But I must say, it was time well spent, it was peace filled, and I slept well after reading 32 chapters in the book of Psalms. To be honest, I was kind of like "What's a book that will put me to sleep?" Because I didn't have my U.S. History book from junior year of high school anymore, and I yearned for slumber. Now, I'm not saying that I thought the Bible would put me to sleep (Well, Chronicles might), because I fully read first and second Kings recently, and I don't understand why no one has made a war movie out of some of the juicy, back-stabbing, land thieving stories that are in there. I was on the edge of my seat.

So it's about 5:12am, and since I can't go do yard work, I decide to try to resume sleeping. I succeed and begin to dream that I am back in high school, at the new campus, and I'm late for class but it's okay because I can run and jump up to the second and third floor of the school much like Mario on a mission, minus the mustache. I don't even wake up till 8:30, with the aid of my alarm.What a miracle! When I do get out of bed well rested, I think back to my secret hours in the night. It was like a bonus day. I accomplished so much. I think I might do this more often. But I need to get a head lamp first. 

Saturday, September 10, 2011

the greatest virgin who ever lived

There are girls like me. People don't talk about us a lot because it makes them feel uncomfortable. It makes us feel uneasy. The media tries to hide girls like us. Often, we are told to mask ourselves and to put on a theatrical performance of who we think you want us to be. I'm here to tell you that there are girls like me, that there is no need to cover the truth, because our truth is beautifully radiant.

Every day that I don't own who I am and what I value, I might as well be endorsing teen sex or encouraging friends to closet the truth for so long that it becomes so dusty with shame that it makes you allergic just to open the lid and take a peek to see what's inside.

This is my truth, and I'm polishing it to a gleaming shine, setting it up on my imaginary mantle, and putting a big pink neon sign over it that reads This is What I Value.

I know it's not a secret to a lot of you. You may have even deduced this truth about me through the reading of previous posts or the title of my favorite movie. Many people probably wouldn't even think of the topic. Here is the truth, in case you didn't know, because I want you to be aware: I am 25 years old and still a virgin. Bigger secret still, I am 25 years old and have never kissed a boy.

Did that get you? You say, "Joelle, why are you admitting these things? They make you sound like a loser nobody wants. Or a really big prude. Or someone so judgmental about purity that not a soul will want to tell you all the things they've done."

I am telling you because I've believed my virgin lips to be a shame of mine, and that's the devil's  clever trick--trying to make you hide who you are. This is the truth of our world. Boys and girls are shamed into hiding that they have been molested or abused, so they keep their frozen lips sealed and their burnt hearts seared. Women feel shamed to admit they lost their virginity at 16 to their high school boyfriend, or that they had a one night stand with a man who doesn't even know their last name. The world shames men for not having notches on their bed post, saying that they must not be a man if they have not yet had a woman.

Whether you are Christian or not, I feel like there is this line that has been drawn. It's a line that people pretend they can't see, and it has been written out in the mud. There is one side where you are congratulated for being sexually pure. People think You're 15 and haven't done anything with anybody? Good for you, you're too young anyway. You're 20, have dated the same person for two years, and still haven't slept together? Way to stick to your values. But there is this line you cross when you later become too old to still honorably have your virginity intact. People begin to think you must be pathetic. That the reason you still hold your V card is because no one wants you. If you've never even kissed anybody, surely you must have leprosy on your lips or something.

That was me. If anybody came up and asked me "Have you ever had sex?" (which you know, is a question I'm asked on a weekly basis), I would be totally fine telling them no, that I'm a Christian and I believe in waiting until I am married. But if anybody came up and asked "How old were you when you had your first kiss?" I might lie. Aforementioned nosy person is assuming that since I have completed grades K-12, and have graduated from college, that I must have smooched someone. How could you not? Well friends, it's totally possible. I've done it. Somebody buy me a trophy. Or like, a golden plaque with my name on it, so I can hang it above my door "Here Lives The Girl Who Has Yet To Be Kissed."

Here is a non-comprehensive list of some of the things I've never done. You may think I am pathetic after reading it, but I am here to tell you that there are girls like me. We are beautiful and we are clever and we are worth while.

I have never been on a date.
I have never kissed a boy.
I have never had sex.
I have also never ridden on the back of a Vespa with my hair flowing in the wind while clutching the abs of a lovely foreign man, but that is another story for another time.
Did throwing in a joke lighten the mood? Whoops.
I have never had sex.
That should fix it.

To the boy who takes me on my first date: It means you actually have a pair. It means you are brave. It means that you wiped the dust off the stained glass window and saw something beautiful when no one else could.

To the guy who gives me my first kiss: It means I trust you enough not to judge me. It means I think you are kind. It means I think you are smokin' hot. It means I've already thought about whether or not I'd let you kiss me, and I have decided Yes.

To the man to whom I give myself: It means that you are my husband. It means I am madly in love with you. It means I think you were worth the wait, that I want to be yours forever, that you are the only person I've ever wanted, that I trust you with all my vulnerability. It means that you are good, and you are kind, and you were chosen among all the bodies and souls on this earth to be my protector. It means that I will love you a day past forever.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

this one time I went to the moon and back

A few weeks ago I held a chalk art party at my house. There's a 52% chance that you've already seen the photos, but in case you are not my grandma, cousin, best friend, fake cousin, or official Facebook friend, I will share a few of them with you.

The two precious girls on either side of me used to live in my house. Miss them.

Leslie takes a trip to the moon and Kaitlynn just can't let go of Earth.

I always wanted to be able to fly.

Snow in the summer!

Part of my space suit included oven mitts.

Megan can do a handstand.

This is my adorable friend Natalie. I just love this shot.

Natalie is pretty fierce and she has the strength of Godzilla.

When men go to space, they need to take wine with them. It's gonna be a long trip back home. That's Schuyler, which is NOT pronounced Shoe-ler. It's like Sky-ler. But with Schuy. His nick name is Shoes.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

People in HOAs are Nuerotic

When I was a kid, I always wondered why some people chose to live in cookie cutter houses in private communities that required you be a part of the home owner's association. I grew up in the country, at the end of a gravel road, and it was a little bit negligible as to where our property ended and the neighbor's began. I realize now why people would want to live in these neighborhoods: they have a form of OCD.

I can now totally understand why a person would want to be included in a HOA that demands your grass be under three inches tall. I don't like to look at my neighbor's lawn when he doesn't mow it, and I don't like to look at my grass when it gets too tall either. For the people who keep perfect lawns year round, I can see why they would want to be surrounded by other lovely lawns.
 Maybe a person gets annoyed by having their neighbors park an RV outside on the curb for three months. A HOA would take care of this. Those private neighborhoods are for people who hate looking at ugly things. They are aesthetically driven, and properties that look out of order drive them to increase their medication.

I know I'm going to find myself in a HOA someday. As I have aged, I have gotten progressively pickier about the order of my living space. I'll give you some examples.

I used to only make my bed when my mother told me to. During college, I absolutely never made my bed (I think this was because the line between daytime and nigh time, sleep time and study time, were very blurred and varied on a day to day basis). I finally started making my bed when I moved into my house, because I felt like I was supposed to be more grown up and this required and orderly bedspread.

Previously, I thought dandelions a natural part of a lawn. Now that I have my own lawn (bowling alley sized it may be), I abhor dandelions. I go to great lengths to uproot every single one I see. This is a very futile process, as two of the neighbors in close proximity to me let their dandelions grow flowers and then seed. I can never get rid of my chronic dandelion problem if they refuse to be a part of the solution. I may soon get so neurotic that I'll go around snipping the yellow heads off of the plants so that they can't seed and ruin my lawn. Right now my yard looks terrible. It bothers me every time I look at it. That's why I keep the curtains pulled shut and the blinds down.

I keep my garbage bin, recycling bin, yard debris bin, and glass recycling tub on the side of my house. They are mostly out of the way and you can really only see the first bin, because the others are lined up behind it, like kids waiting to see Santa. When my next door neighbors first moved in, they put their GIANT blue recycling bin out in the bark chip area in between our houses. Sure, technically it was on their space. But I thought "Really? That's where you are going to keep it? It looks atrocious. I might as well move next to a garbage dump if that is the structure I have to see every time I look out my front window." However, after a week, the neighbors moved the bin to the side of their house, because they found that their placement hindered parking and backing up. That is a whole 'nother story for another time. Let's just say I'm working on manufacturing parking tickets.

As you can see, owning my own home has caused a sharpening in my OCD tendencies, and the eye sores that I have to look at cause me uneasiness. At this point in my life, I contribute to the problem. I'm clean, but not a clean freak. I'm neat, but I still leave stuff out in the living room. One day I'll probably go ballistic and have to live in a house with bare white rooms and furnishings with no clutter and minimal decor. It'll be called the mental hospital.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I effing* hate your dog

I don't hate my life like I did six months ago, but there is still something that plagues my every day existence. I am reminded of it at least three times per hour. It makes me want to utter a string of curse words, which is a lot like wearing a string of pearls, if pearls were made of F bombs and if string were made of threats instead of thread. This constant annoyance makes me want to acquire an air soft gun, put on a camouflage mask, and shoot a live creature in the face. I am trying to create a calm and peaceful life, and that life does not include my neighbors two dogs who bark up to 209 minutes per day. I know because I've been documenting it.

These dogs dwell in the yard behind my house, and I can't even sleep with the window open on a hot summer night because then the yapping intensity would just increase. I am not particularly fond of yelling, but I ended up screaming a very polite and authoritative "Stop it!" and "Be Quiet!", which are a lot nicer than the words I actually wanted to use. Due to the wooden fence that separates us (thank the Lord), the dogs can't see me and I can't see them (unless I get on the roof or climb a ladder to peer over, both of which I've done). My demands were futile, because it just made the dogs bark more fiercely.

I don't have the guts to go knock on this particular neighbor's door, because they are rather sketchy and I don't want them to be able to positively ID me. I understand that any normal, respectable neighbor would first go to the dog owner and talk face to face with them about the problem, rather than requesting that a certain person collect walnuts from her walnut tree so that aforementioned neighbor can pelt the dogs with them, and the squirrels who live in the tree nearby can hide the evidence.

My best friend, Natalie, said she would go over with me to complain. This was very generous of her, but I turned her down, because I like to do things for myself. I, however, am a complete coward when it comes to confrontation. I hate confronting people, especially if they have the ability to make living in my house a living hell.

Natalie suggested I write a passive-aggressive note and stick it in the neighbor's mailbox. This fits my cowardly personality perfectly.

Here is the first draft I wrote:

Dear Neighbor,
Your dog's incessant barking makes me want to destroy life. I want to pull my hair out, which would take a long time because I have very thick hair. But don't even worry about it; I can devote all my time to hair-pulling because God knows I can't focus on any other task while your brutes make my ears bleed. I can't sleep at night, I can't go peacefully about my day, and I can't open the back door without feeling like the Gestapo's German Shepherds are after me. Not that your dog is a German Shepherd. That breed is much too smart and well behaved to act as your dogs do.

My first suggestion is surgery to remove the vocal chords from your precious pooch. Though I have a feeling you don't care about your dog at all, because if you let him bark his head off all day everyday, you probably hate him and want nothing to do with him. So if you don't like the idea of dropping some dollars on surgery, maybe you should get rid of your dog. Or keep it in your house. Or buy a shock collar and give me the remote so I can buzz the crap out of that stupid canine every fifteen minutes when he starts to bark again.

This is ridiculous. I let this go on for far too long.I understand that I have enabled you. I am allowing you to be a crappy neighbor, because I don't have the guts to tell your face that I effing* hate your dog. So I am telling you know. Get rid of the damn thing. DO SOMETHING! I'm giving you three days. After that, I'm calling dog control. You may be pissed at me, but you have no right to be. I have every right to be enraged at you and your idiotic pet. Calling dog control is a lot nicer than throwing a poison-stuffed Kong over the fence, which is what someone else suggested.

I am glad that you understand where I am coming from. I thank you in advance for your quick resolution of this matter.

Your neighbor

*effing, or it's original form #%@!, is not a nice word and should not be used in every day speech or writing. If you are my Grandma, parents, or cousins and you are reading this, please know that I do not speak the F word out loud. However, you either know or will learn that sometimes the F word is the only word you can use to express how incredibly enraged you are. If you rarely use this atrocious word, then when you do use it, people will know that you are very serious and very passionate about your subject. Don't over do it.
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