Monday, October 31, 2011

An Eerie All Hallow's Eve Morn

It was 6:38 on Halloween morning when I got in my car to drive to the high school I had attended ten years ago. The sun was not yet up, and I felt anxious for that burning orange pumpkin to appear in the sky. I don't like the dark. Slowly, a glow lifted as I drove a few miles. There was just enough light for me to see the eerie fog creeping off the ditches on either sides.

Some people think of fog as merely a form of precipitation, but on Halloween it is more like spirits huddled together in disguise. Like an army, they close in around you, confusing you and causing you to travel blindly ahead. Fog manifests itself into varying shapes, making you think you see things that don't really exist. What if, though, what you see in the fog is really what is there all the time? And you can see it only now because the fog is what defines it, like a lamp revealing the lemon ink of invisible writing.

Perhaps the spirits surround us at all times. They run up and down the roads constantly, shouting warnings of the deaths they have seen on this land. The fog is what reveals them to us, letting us see another realm. Only we believe that it is nature playing a trick on our eyes, and not Satan playing a trick on our hearts. It does exist. Those things that you see are real.

I drove my way down the high school entry way, down a lane named after a principal long ago taken by Death and his associate, Cancer. As I crept over speed bumps near the soccer field, I saw the faint hint of light mixing in with the fog. The wisps of white seemed to be waving hello to me, asking me join it.

A weird urge overtook me, and though I was afraid, I parked my car and treaded out to the field. The grass dripped wet with dew and I could taste the moisture in the air.

"I'm here," I called into the darkness, expecting no reply. Nothing but a goal net lay before me.
"Have you come prepared?" asked a voice. I could see no one.
"Prepared for what?" I whispered, thinking I was talking to myself.
"For battle," the voice answered.
I squinted with difficulty to see some bodily form, and after my eyes adjusted, I could see what was awaiting me across the field. Hundreds of white spirits stood in formation, lined up with the sharpness of a picket fence. They were armed with weapons and ready to fight at the first commanding word. They were faceless swirls of white, every changing their form. They made their intention clear: they were here to take me.

My eyes widened and my hands began to shake with fear. Automatically, me feet started backing up, until I stepped through something. Some entity. It was as if my soul had just gotten so close to another that it had shaken hands. The cool feeling of the transaction startled me, and I jumped around to see what was behind me. A curl of white floated at my side. A hundred more transparent spirits stood at a stand still. They began to swirl around me and I heard them speak.

"We have been fighting everyday."
"We are so glad you are here."
"You are prepared, you have been training."
"I am on your side. We are with you."

My mind finally began to comprehend the strangeness surrounding me. Indeed, I was standing on a battle field. Two armies stood at attention, ready to start another fight for fragile souls.

Next, a large form of fog moved toward me. It was different from the others--perhaps a bit more gray--and it frightened me even more. No sound came from it, but instead it hovered above the dew dropped grass, ready.

The swirl of whiteness next to me spoke. "That is Death. Do not be afraid."

I was confused, because I had paralleled nothing like this in any of my dreams. Of course I am terrified of Death. And why isn't Death on the other side, ready to take my life?

The fog looped up and down before answering my unspoken question. "Death is on our side. The Evil One does not decide who Death takes; it's not in his power, though he wishes it were. "

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Death will take you at some point, of that you can be certain. But where he takes you is your choice. You are standing on our side, which means you have nothing to fear. For you, getting taken by Death will be like having a white horse carry you to the golden castle. The other side is the side that should fear Death."

I looked over at Death, that big misty entity that held no fear. He wasn't wearing any armor and had no weapon with him.

"We must begin the fight, draw your sword."

I pulled the weapon from my left side. Indeed, it had been there the whole time. I held it up and saw the blade glint. I waited expectantly for the spirits to advance. They did nothing.

"You must step forward."

And so I did.

The spirits opposite us needed no encouragement. They advanced towards us quickly. The spirits on my side charged on with voices yelling. I heard the clanging of metal and the hissing of evil.

A spirit descended upon me and I countered it with my sword. As soon as I heard the metal ping, my mouth opened and words marched out.
"The Lord will protect me from all evil. He will keep my soul. Psalm 121:7."

The ghostly whiteness vaporized into nothing. I felt a thud on my side and turned to defend myself again. I pressed my weapon against my opponent.

"Have I not commanded you, be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged for the Lord your God is with you wherever you may go. Joshua 1:9."

The evilness lurking after me shrunk down and vanished. I looked over my shoulder at Death, curious as to his actions. He was on the sidelines, not blinking an eye. Death was not there to fight, but rather to pick up whatever was left.

Four spirits came upon me, wrapping their string thin hands around me. I tried to cut myself loose, but the wild waving of my sword did nothing.

"Speak truth!" I heard a friendly spirit shout.

My lips loosened and words came pounding over my enemies.

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12."

The claws on me crumbled and I was free once again. There were still more spirits to battle. Indeed, a whole football field of them left to go. I swallowed for courage and stepped on. At that moment, the pumpkin in the sky burned through the darkness. The fog lost its thickness and disappeared. There I stood on the wet grass, my hand clenched around nothing but air. Nothing was before me and nothing was behind me. I could no longer feel Death looking over my shoulder, watching how hard I would fight.

I shut my eyes for a moment, then opened them. Was I a little girl in my nightgown, sleep walking and not knowing it?

Next I heard a siren, though it was nothing like an alarm clock. I watched the street as an ambulance blared by, its colored lights flashing urgency.

No. What had just happened was real. Death was preparing to take someone else. He will take you at sometime, of that you can be certain. But where he takes you is your choice.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Stop Using These Phrases

"Hi, I'm Sam."
"Hi Sam, nice to meet you. So what do you do?"

Stop asking people how they pay their bills and start asking them what their passions are. Maybe I've started to feel strongly about this because for the past few months, I have done nothing that has resulted in more money sitting in my bank account. Which makes me sound lazy. That's fine, you can think that.

When I meet someone new and they ask me "What do you do?" I tell them "I'm unemployed, but I used to be a teacher." Though the question behind "What do you do?" is really "What are you good at? What do you like doing? What kind of person are you?"

If I told you that Adam is a financial advisor at a bank, and Ethan pumps gas at the 76, you've already got your opinions on them. But maybe everyday after work, Adam goes home and drinks a fifth of Jack Daniels, and Ethan volunteers at the community center teaching kids how to play soccer. What do you think now?

I admit that I have been a terrible judge, and that I think things about people based on what they do to make money. So I'm trying really hard to stop asking people this question. I don't want to ask someone what they do. I want to ask them what they love. What makes them excited about life?

So in case you are curious about me, here are the details...
How I pay my bills
I have actually secretly acquired a sugar daddy who lives in San Diego. Don't believe me? I am not receiving weekly unemployment checks, I'm not on food stamps, I don't have a husband to support me, and my parents don't pay my bills. Instead, I am emptying the savings account I had stashed up for grad school. As my cousin Kristi would say, "Life is grad school for the hard knocks." So in a way, this is my grad school. A time to discover and do what I am passionate about.

Things that make me excited about life
helping kids grow
writing to share truth, joy, humor, and hope
teaching Bible class at the public school I used to work at*
creating beautiful things
teaching a 17 year old boy how to read*
writing encouraging letters to strangers

Another phrase that I hate besides "What do you do?" is "How are you?" People always lie. They say, "I'm fine." So instead of asking a person "How was your week?" I want to start asking them "What happened to you this week?" Based on what sort of things they tell me happened to them, I'll make the call on whether they are fine or not. It's likely that their voice and expressions will betray them, and I will discover how they are really feeling.

So Reader, I want to know. What are your passions? What makes you excited about life? And what happened to you this week? Drop me a line.

*these are two things that I will tell you more about in separate posts for each of them. I thought way back in April that God wanted me to teach for free, and I still think he does, just not in the way I previously expected.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I've been told

I've been told by several that I am brave. The similarity between a brave person and a non-brave person is that they both have fear. The difference between the two is that the brave person chooses to do it with fear. If you were able to see all of the fear I hold in my being and compare it to the actions I've taken, you would see that I am not brave. It's my goal to be a brave person, but inaction is so much easier than doing it with fear.

I've been told a few times by various people that my writing has made them cry. My advice to these folks is to stop chopping onions while reading The Real Pretend. 

I've been told that I make people smile or laugh like a patient breathing nitrous oxide at the dentist's office. That makes me happy, because I want you to take a break from the seriousness in this world and show your computer screen some teeth from that grin of yours. 

I have not yet been told that I am offensive (except my mother once commented on a word I used). I like to tell the offensive truth in person, so that way you can see that I love you, and so I can hug you after I speak words that may rattle your being. I do not do this often, because I am just as afraid to speak the offensive truth as you are to hear it. It's so much easier to go on in this life pretending that our choice of actions and inaction are not what is driving us to the edge of a rocky, 90 foot cliff.

The offensive truth might damage your social life, your spending habits, or your self-confidence, but the truth that people are afraid to speak is also the truth that will save your life.

I've been told.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Lemony Snicket's view

I really hope you have read books written by Lemony Snicket. Despite the candy bar sounding name, the man's cleverly intelligent. He incorporates humor into his dark tales of characters searching for goodness.

I think you should read this. It's Thirteen Observations made by Lemony Snicket while watching Occupy Wall Street from a Discreet Distance. Such truth. Click here.

My favorites are observations 3, 4, 7 and 11.

11. Historically, a story about people inside impressive buildings ignoring or even taunting people standing outside shouting at them turns out to be a story with an unhappy ending.

4. People who say money doesn’t matter are like people who say cake doesn’t matter—it’s probably because they’ve already had a few slices.

I was in Portland on Saturday to cheer for Natalie's 10K race, and saw the close up view of Occupy Portland. It looked similar to trying to cram ten families into one camping spot. I joked with Natalie that I was going to start an Occupy School Parking Lots movement, whereupon we won't leave until there are 25 or fewer students per classroom, because much about our educational system is just wrong. What do you think about "occupying" places? 

Friday, October 21, 2011

restaurant slip 'n slide

Ever spent so much time on something that you commit yourself to see it through, even if you realize partway in that you could bow out and try something else? That was me last Friday night. I committed myself to 90 more minutes at an attempt to get a good meal, rather than spend the ten minutes it would have taken to drive back to my house and pick up Taco Bell on the way.

You may have been missing Friday Night Dinner blog posts, as there were none during the summer. I missed them to. Thankfully, Friday Night Dinner, or FND, made it's fall debut on the 14th. This time I traded out cousins and exchanged Jason and Heidi for Kristi and her friend Sallie. Kristi and Sallie were crashing at my house for the night because of a speech language pathologist conference at the convention center. That's what people do when they get out of college. They don't sleep on your couch because a massive party has just occurred and they are too drunk to go home, they stay on your couch because they've got to wake up at 6:15 to get to an educational conference.

Jess, Travis, Kristi, Sallie and I settled on Willamette Burger Company, though IHOP was in discussion because of our french toast love. Getting to the WBC restaurant was not quick. When we first gathered to depart for dinner, I suggested Red Robin because 1) I was starving , 2) It was five minutes away, and 3) Jess insisted on having a burger and I refused to go to Rockin' Rodgers.

When we got to the restaurant, we saw that the lights were off, indicating that no scrumptious food was hot and ready inside. A sign instructed us that Willamette Burger Company had moved. I was driving, and my passengers thought about other places to go, but since we had already driven down town, I figured we might as well go the extra mile, literally.

Searching for the new location proved a bit tricky, but I eventually spotted the glowing sign through the dark city smog and pouring rain. Actually, that is kind of false. Salem doesn't have smog, I don't think. But "dark city smog" sounded right.

When we got inside the building, it was apparent that it had lived a previous life as a Mexican restaurant. The stucco style walls and open arcs screamed Los Dos Amigos and were nothing like the tattered old walls of the former WBC, where crayoned masterpieces used to be pinned to the walls. This was a bit saddening, as I wanted Kristi to get the full WBC effect, but not having to sit on your neighbor's lap to eat your meal was a plus. The place could now seat more than twelve total customers.

The Willamette Burger Company is delicious, but they are in no way fast. You should probably plan on bringing something to do while you wait 20 minutes to be seated, 10 minutes for your order to be taken, and 30 minutes to wait for your food. Once you get to the table, you can probably entertain yourself with the crayons and brown butcher paper that covers the table.

The five of us started drawing immediately, since we had spent our 20 minute seating wait looking at the menu and choosing our meals. I began drawing my rabbit, Roo, Travis sketched out a dirt bike, and while our server came by to take our drink order, Kristi looked at the table and said "I think I just drew Harry Potter."

Sure enough, what had started out as a head, ears, and glasses had morphed into the famous young wizard. Kristi added a lightning bolt for authenticity.
 We ordered our food right then, and I asked for the veggie burger, as it had been recommended to me by the man who thinks he knows me but doesn't really, who I mentioned in one of my summer posts. Tots were ordered as well, because they are like nothing you have ever seen or tasted. In fact, it took quite a while for us to see them, and even longer for us to taste them, on account of the delay that occurred.

We were sitting near the kitchen, which taunted us with tantalizing smells. Not only could we smell everything, but we could hear everything. For example, the giant crash, the sound of ice and slush hitting the floor, the lament of a young man who had just gotten covered with soda. Meanwhile, we were all staring at the crayon drawings of food we had sketched, wishing we had something to eat.

The five of us listened intently to the kitchen noises, hoping for a quick recovery. A woman emerged, carrying a tray of drinks. I watched as she fell in slow motion. First she slipped on the wetness that had leaked out of the kitchen, then one knee tucked in behind her. She came down to a squat, still holding the drinks safely. But then she lost her balance and fell backward, pouring the drinks all over herself and the floor. Clean up time, round two.

We began discussing at our table how many times the servers might slip and fall before actually bringing us food. I heard a voice in the kitchen say "I just want to get this Sprite to table nine." Me too, friend, me too.

My sister encouraged the lady who had fallen in front of us to fake a back injury for workman's comp. She had a good sense of humor for someone who had just spilled diet soda down her front, and played along, groaning as her supervisor came back to check on things.

During all of the confusion, we managed to get our huge, fluffy, potato tots delivered to our table, sans the sauce. Thus, we could not eat them. Asking a women who has just slipped in water and spilled over 64 ounces of drink on the floor for a dish of tater tot sauce seemed a bit inconsequential, so we kept our mouths shut for a while.

Then those tots started to make eyes at us, so we covered the basket with a napkin to keep them warm, much like you might do with a baby. Only you probably never dip your baby in aioli sauce and devour them in two bites. Though you might, if your infant smelled like potatoes and not baby powder.

During our wait for aioli sauce, I'd like to tell you more about Sallie. She and my cousin Kristi work at OHSU doing speech rehab type stuff, mostly with kids. Sallie is from North Carolina and says "Ya'll" quite often, which is endearing.

I asked Sallie if she had ever been in a pageant, or went to high school with a bunch of girls who did, because everything I know about the south I learned from watching MTV's True Life: I'm a Pageant Queen. True to stereo-type, Sallie was blonde, though she looked much more intelligent than anyone I had seen on MTV. This is probably because she is a speech therapist and works at a hospital. Plus, here hair wasn't big like Dolly Parton's.

Sallie debunked my belief that everyone in the south does pageants, but I did learn that Sallie was in a debutante ball. "Like Amanda Bynes in She's The Man*," as Kristi referenced. Only apparently that movie was all wrong, because your coming out party is always after your freshman year of college, and Amanda Bynes had hers while she was in high school.

"So, you don't like, have your ball when you turn 15 or anything?"
"Right," Sallie confirmed. "It's not like a Quinceañera."
Which remind me of a conversation I had (with Sallie and Kristi I think) about how in Europe or some foreign place, they make turning 21 a really big deal and give you tons of presents like you're getting married. Because turning 21 means you're an adult, and hello, you need your own steak knives. I totally needed this when I was 21. Because I have fully had to purchase my own knives, shower curtains, and bedsheets.

Oh look, the aioli sauce has not yet arrived, but I am going to eat a tater tot anyway.**

Sometime during our wait, Sallie goes outside to stand in the rain and talk to her boyfriend who lives in North Carolina, then Kristi gets on the phone to talk to Peter who is in Afghanistan, and then I get up to call Roo who is at home in his hutch to see if he wants baby carrots or grated carrots for lunch tomorrow.

Twelve conversations later, our delicious food arrives. And no one else has slipped on the floor.
Kristi finally gets to eat.
 Nothing very interesting happened after that, because we were all too busy feeding our faces. Though Travis did forget his credit card, and the waitress came running out the back after us to return it to him.

According to this weeks schedule, it appears that a Friday Night Dinner may happen, if the rest of the family is available. Heidi was very sad that she missed FND and wants to be featured again with her own label. Where do ya'll think we should eat at next?

*I recommend watching She's The Man, regardless of your gender or age. This movie is freaking hilarious. It's a modern day twist on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. But maybe I just like watching Channing Tatum with his shirt off.

**I am fully aware that I switched from past tense to present tense, which is inconsistent, but whatever. I do what I want. I'm sure a book publisher would make me change it. But I don't have a book publisher yet, so the rebellion continues.

Monday, October 17, 2011

DMV photos

My driver's license expires on November 12th (which is my birthday, so if you want to mail me a card or send me flowers, you have plenty of time to ask for my address). This meant a trip to the DMV. I would be getting a new photo taken, which I was excited about, on account of how I've been toting around an ID picture of me with triangle hair and a pink face for the past nine years.

My skin was flushed the day I got my driver's license because I did my test in July, and I did not put on the AC because I was really paranoid that I wouldn't be able to hear the instructor's directions well enough, even though I have really good hearing. So instead, the two of us sat roasting inside my car while I did things like parallel park and obey yield signs. If my sweat had dripped down from a smelly cloud, I might have created enough water to cause the car to hydroplane. So when it was time for me to get my photo snapped, you can imagine that I was as pink in the face as a grapefruit.

I spent a lot of time thinking about what I should look like in my new photo--you know, the one where I was no longer a minor. I contemplated wearing my new blond wig, because that way if I ever needed to be disguised, I would fully have a valid driver's license with a picture of a different looking person that was still essentially me, and I would have my passport which still features a photo of my 17 year old self with brown hair.

If the DMV employee were to ask me to take off the wig because it looked a bit fake, I had my reply ready. I would whisper, "I can't...I'm bald. I have cancer." And then they would let me leave it on. I also thought about wearing my credibility glasses, but they make you take your glasses off for your DMV picture anyway, so it would have been pointless. Instead what I did was draw a mole on my left cheek like Sydney Bristow did in the pilot episode of Alias.

My hair is now four times longer than it was in my high school days, and I wondered if I should wear it down, put it up, or wear pigtails. In the end I decided to wear it down, because in case I ever cut my hair really short again, I would have a memory of what it was like long. It's the same sort of concept as keeping a pair of size 0 jeans from your freshman year, because you are reminded that you were once that person. American women really like to dwell on who they were in the past, especially if that person was better looking than they are now.

I wore my favorite v-neck teal t-shirt, took time to apply all aspects of make-up (I left off the lip liner and fake eyelashes because this wasn't a drag show), and practiced my smile in the mirror like I was an 8th grader getting ready for school pictures.

I shouldn't have bothered.

I ended up having to add four pounds to my weight and zero inches to my height, pledge donation of my body organs to strangers, take a typical DMV photo, and   pay forty dollars to do it all. They really zoom in on your face nowadays, so none of my t-shirt made it into the shot. And my eyes are sort of crossed like I look really confused, which I guess will be okay if I am drunk and am trying to convince a bouncer at a bar that it really is me in the photo, even though I don't have that mole on my left cheek.

There is nothing glamorous about the DMV, and it's fact that the employees get paid more to take unflattering photos. I am pretty sure that even Julia Roberts has a bad photo on her driver's license. I am trying to console myself with being thankful for the photo I currently have, because the next time my license is about to expire, I'll probably have wrinkles and face chub. So this is about as flattering as it gets.

This is an exclusive shot of Justin Bieber getting his driver's license at the DMV. I bet he contemplated that purple shirt and striped sweater for hours.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Spiced Pumpkin Smoothie

My new fall kick is pumpkin smoothies. They are relatively healthy, and my version only has 145 calories.

Throw the following ingredients into a blender:
1/4 cup canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
1 tablespoon whipping cream. The kind that comes liquid in a carton, not in a can.
1 cup milk. Actually, that is a lie. I dislike milk, so I use 8th Continent Light Vanilla soy milk. Vanilla soy milk is delicious and I highly recommend it.
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Blend it all up till it's smooth. Pour into a glass and serve with graham crackers (it brings in that pumpkin pie crust feel).

Honestly, I am a lazy cook and don't measure most of the time; I just kind of eye things up. Usually I end up putting in more than 1/4 cup pumpkin, which makes it thicker (use a bit more sugar if you do this). I use a straw for supreme suction when I make a thick drink, because otherwise you'll be staring at the deliciousness stuck to the bottom of your cup.

If you want it creamier then you can add in more whipping cream. The next time I make this I think I am going to try brown sugar instead of white sugar and see if it makes a difference.

If you want to get fancy, use some of that whipping cream and actually whip it for a tasty little dollop on top. If you've never made whipping cream, I suggest this. Because of my lazy factor, I only did this because it looks better photographed. Sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on top.

This recipe is just for one single serving (a bit over one cup), so if you are making it for more people, be sure to increase proportions. This is where adding fractions applies to real life. If you have a 4th grade student you should make them mix up 7 servings as homework. You can grade their efforts based on the resulting taste.

I like to make this for breakfast or for a snack. Dunking graham crackers in it is pretty tasty.

Make one and let me know how it turns out!

Monday, October 10, 2011

sometimes I write about you

You know how there are those movies like Never Been Kissed and How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days? And how the women are writers and start their adventure in order to have a good story to get published, but then they end up falling in love and the guys find out it was all for a story and can't forgive the woman for using him? I'm not like that.

I would not do anything for a blog story, because I'm not that desperate. Mostly if I don't have anything interesting to say, I lie and make something up. If you have a boring life then it is very important to have a good imagination. Not that I'm saying I have a boring life. I don't. Yesterday I was at Winco and saw two teenage boys get into a fistfight in the parking lot. I broke it up not because I have really big muscles, but because I realized one of them was a kid I taught to read, and I expected more from him.

I think it could be exciting if someone discovered this blog and then didn't trust me because they thought I was using them for material. Because you know what I would do? Write about how that person thinks I'm using them. And then they would probably read my blog every day to see how I trash talked them, and they would forward it to their friends, and wouldn't you know? I'd have forty more readers. Jajaja. Kidding. There are only four people who read my blog, and one of them is my mother. I don't mind. Because you know what I can do? Write things like "I really wish I could get a GPS for my birthday so I would stop getting lost." And then my mom might read it and think "I know exactly what to buy for Joelle next month." Then when I open my present I can act all surprised and say "How did you know?!" Likely she not reply "I read your blog," but rather "I was tired of you calling me every time you got lost in a one-way grid."

Blogs can be used for nefarious purposes, such as passive-aggressive messages and cryptic criticisms. For example, if I wrote "There is a certain person in a particular town who keeps twisting circumstances to fit his/her needs and it is really annoying. I wish they'd wake up from denial," you might think that I was targeting you. At which point I would suggest that you examine your life and figure out what twisted circumstances I am referring to.

And wouldn't you know? You've just e-mailed this to three people asking them if they think I really was referring to you. I will neither confirm nor deny anything. It is probably true that a gossip centered blog would get a lot of readers, but I do not like to say true or untrue things about anybody, unless it's about myself. For example, did you know that I am actually a really talented parkour athlete? Only I never tell anybody about it because parkour is so dumb and does nothing to help society? Yes, sometimes gossiping about yourself and revealing your own secrets to an audience is necessary when TMZ could care less if you suddenly gained ten pounds and are spotted at the pool wearing an ill-fitting swimsuit.

I think that when I tell people I like writing and I like spy type stuff and detective work, they get worried that I might start hiding in a bush in their backyard with binoculars, peering into their lives, ready to report. But that simply is not true. One time, in some year prior to 2011, I was actually accused of espionage. I am not even making that up in order to sound more interesting. It really did happen. It had terrible emotional repercussions, and is one of the stories I prefer to tell in person and not in writing. But now I think it's fun to casually mention I was once accused of being a spy, because doesn't a story like that peak your interest? You are probably wondering what I did to deserve such suspicion.

The fact is, I may very rarely refer cryptically to others in this blog. Chances are, if you think I am referencing you, I'm not. Instead, I've probably mentioned you many times when you had absolutely no idea that it was you. That's why Detective School is useful; it helps you decode these things.

But what detective school does not teach you is to not bother yourself with reading blogs looking for coded mention of your person. Because chances are, the content is not worth your trouble. Unless of course, the writer is trying to cryptically let you know that she loves you. In those instances, it is always best to assume she is referring to you.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Child Gamblers

I don't even know why you have to be 21 to gamble at a casino. They let five year olds into Chuck E. Cheese, after all. Arcade games are the gambling locale of choice for the school age crowd. And that sugary root beer and caffeinated Mountain Dew might as well be booze, considering the effect it has on children's behavior. When you give your ten year old seven bucks, take him to Chuck E. Cheese, and buy him a soda, you might as well be handing him a hundred dollar bill, driving him to Spirit Mountain Casino, and ordering him a Jack Daniels. And then when he's 17 you wonder why he blows his money on dumb looking shoes and is drinking Pabst at high school parties. It all started somewhere.

Picture this: your kid is playing a Whack-A-Mole, and he begs you for just one more quarter so he can try to win those 30 tickets. Because when he has 55 tickets he'll be able to buy the glow in the dark light up helicopter. How is that not like gambling? Adults take risks; they think "just one more time" in a disastrous logic to make a profit.

Kids stand there, eyes mesmerized by the colorful glow of the lights, feeding their nickles and quarters into the machines, trying to win against the odds. Meanwhile, parents stand idly by at the table, eating pizza and chatting with their mom friends about their muffin top. Or worse yet, they let their middle school children go to the arcade alone. No one is there to tell them that blowing $40 bucks worth of quarters is not worth having your name appear on the game's top score. That girl they have a crush on is never going to go to Pietro's Pizza and look up the scores on Hyper Street Fighter II.
The floor of Chuck E. Cheese
The floor of a casino. The only difference is that the chairs are more comfortable and probably less sticky.
 Kids run around whacking things, throwing things, driving things, shooting things, and contracting early forms of HPV via activities in the ball pit, all for a price. Because collecting tickets is all that matters to them. You don't want to be the one kid with ten tickets when the child at the table next to you has a string of 240 bulging out of his back pocket. It makes you feel like a loser. So what the kid does is slam down another Rootbeer and say, "I'm goin' in for another round." Visit a Chuck E. Cheese sometime. I've never seen a place filled with so much determination, frustration, and tears.

Taking children to places where they can throw away money all for the sake of a good time and the chance to win prizes is the first step to creating a mini-gambler. Next thing you know, you'll open your child's door on a Saturday morning to see him suffering from an Orange Pop hangover, moaning about a tummy ache and sprawled out on his bed surrounded by parachute men, stuffed dinosaurs, and plastic yo yos. All this satisfaction for the low, low cost of $39.95
Parents, explain to me, why would you ever take your child to an establishment where a giant rat is the mascot? Did you ever hear of the Bubonic plague?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How to Date Men

There is something I want to share with you that I am not proud of. I've kept it concealed for many months, but during an evening of feeling clever, I decided my secret would make for good blog material. So here it is: I own a book titled How To Date Men. My mother gave it to me for Christmas. It was not on my wish list. Needless to say, I was offended, because I have never really thought that I would be bad at dating. I am just really good at acting like a complete goon around boys I like, which results in them staying away and not touching me with a twenty foot pole. Minus that time I was in the wave pool, almost drowned, and the lifeguard extended a twelve foot pole to me for assistance. For some reason, my mother thought a pink book with a picture of cupid on the cover would help me with my game.

If the book had been turquoise and featured a typewriter graphic, I may have been more interested. As it was, I shelved the book immediately by cover color, meaning, it sat next to my other pink books. You know, the other titles my mom had given me like You and Your Period and Cinderella.

In a moment of inspiration, I grabbed the dating book, opened a random page, and decided to add personal commentary to it for entertainment value. So friends, I bring to you what I hope to make a weekly feature: "Joelle's Thoughts on How To Date Men."
Feature one. Prompted from page 78 from the chapter "I'll pick you up at seven."

The text reads "Warning! What you are not obligated to do after the first date is invite him in. This opens up a lot of complications. You have to worry about your roommates, your cats, and the piles of stuff strewn about your place when you were getting ready...a person can tell a lot--and may jump to the wrong conclusions--by the things a person owns."

The last line really stuck out to me because it reminded me of a book I read called Snoop: what your stuff says about you. I read this book to hone up my detective skills and to be able to recognize when someone could potentially be a murderer. I found it quite useful and revealing.

If it were up to me, I totally would want to peek inside the living room of whomever I just went on a date with. I would rather discover the telling signs about him while I am still skeptical of the whole relationship. For example, if I noticed that on the ledge of his kitchen cabinets he had empty alcohol bottles lined up, I would know that he is still embracing his college past and has poor decorating taste. If, however, he has an old typewriter sitting in his living room, I would think that our ribs probably shared the same bone marrow.

If I went on a first date with you, I probably would not invite you into my house just because I wouldn't want you to think I like you too much. This is also the reason I rarely talk to the guys I like; I don't want them to think I like them too much. My strategy usually works to the advantage of the other girls hanging around aforementioned guy.

But I have nothing to hide in my home visit. Unannounced visits are definitely the most revealing, because you will get to see that my house is reasonably orderly on a daily basis. You can deduce all you want from my ownership of disguise glasses, wigs, globes, maps, and choice of towels. In fact, you don't even have to come into my house to do so, considering that I posted pictures of all the rooms in my place when I did my home tour feature (if you are curious, go to March 2011 in The Vault, or you can begin the tour here).

While How To Date Men author Janis Spindel advises against letting a man see your place after the first date, she says nothing about peering into the windows of his home or car to find clues concerning his personal habits. Cleanliness is just one tiny aspect that you will discover. If you take my advice and use the pages of How To Date Men for the creation of a paper mâché piñata and instead begin reading Snoop: what your stuff says about you, I believe you will enter into your next relationship a bit more cautiously.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Things that cause me unnecessary anxiety

Here is a list of things I put off because I just don't want to confront them. This is due to my weird phobia of talking to certain people, even if they are nice people and have nothing mean to say. I am pretty sure I have a form of Aspergers that gives me an irrational uncomfortableness towards certain everyday situations. Unlike that new girl on Glee, I can't just say whatever the heck I want and follow it with "Sorry, I have Aspergers." Through introspective journaling and long talks with my rabbit, Roo, I am trying to pinpoint what part of my childhood this problem stems from.

I dislike:
  • responding to certain e-mails
  • Calling Comcast to get my bill lowered
  • making medical appointments
  • calling people on the phone for the first time that I have never talked to on the phone. I could talk to a person 8 times face to face, but when it comes time for me to call them, I clam up. This is why I prefer e-mail. I don't know what my problem is. Introversion, maybe.
  • wheeling my garbage can to the end of the driveway. Okay okay, so I'm not filled with anxiety when I do it, I just dislike it. Not because it's difficult, but because I seem to always forget on Sunday nights and then remember at 3am, so I have to hop out of bed, put on shoes, and drag it down the lane in the dead of night. And the sound of wheels grinding against the pavement probably wakes my neighbors and causes them to hate me, but what do I care? They park on my property like it's a Walmart lot open to RVs.
Do you have any irrational anxiety problems? Have you discovered what part of your traumatizing middle school experience this has resulted from?
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