Friday, April 22, 2011

Going Head-to-Head on Money

Money.

You hear (read) the word and you have strong feelings. I don’t care if you’re the town bum or Mr. CEO, you have an opinion about it.

For those of you who are not aware, I contribute my blog content to www.evolvedworld.com. Evolved World is an online magazine for women with focus on sex and relationships. If you fumble around with the site, you’ll see words like “stimulation” and “toys.” Do not be frightened my reader(s).

Through Evolved World I went head-to-head with another blogger in which we both wrote letters to Money. You can read the post here.

READ IT OR PREPARE FOR EMPTY THREATS.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The attack of the Warm Fuzzy

My third grade teacher, Mrs. Shawver, used to give out warm fuzzies.

But her warm fuzzies were not a condition of the heart. No, no. They were colored cotton balls with plastic googly eyes hot glued to them. She literally called these little colored-cotton-balls-with-eyes: Warm Fuzzies.

A warm fuzzy was the Academy Award of third grade. Everyone wanted one of those googly-eyed cotton balls, yet it was a dream realized only by a select few.

Whenever one received a warm fuzzy, fierce jealousy ensued. Friendships were tested, if not destroyed. The receiver of said warm fuzzy would place it on their desk; ostensibly a badge of honor was considered by classmates the Scarlet Letter of brown-nosing and suck-up.

(Side note: I used a “word of the day” FIVE POINTS TO GRYFFINDOR!)

To put simply, warm fuzzies were a reward for good behavior. Not just any good behavior, mind you. Any kid can force themselves to obediently sit still for twenty minutes of story time. Warm fuzzies were for the above and beyond of good behavior. Warm fuzzies were for the elite. Warm fuzzies were never guaranteed - they were reserved only for moments that captured the most sincere, genuine, and heart-felt displays of thoughtfulness.

In order to receive a warm fuzzy you had to do something nice...for someone else. Sickening, I know.

Mrs. Shawver kept the warm fuzzies in a shoebox on a shelf above the coat rack. We all knew they were there. Every once in a while she would walk to that coat rack, and reach for that shoebox, and during the one minute it took for her to pull out a warm fuzzy, every eye in the room glazed over with hope and wonderment.

Twenty-five little third grade minds raced. “Is it me? Am I getting the warm fuzzy? I have been good today. It could be me. OMG I held the door open after recess. It must be me. OMG it’s me. OMG OMG OMG OMG. Say my name, Mrs. Shawver, SAY IT.”

Mrs. Shawver smiled, “Ashely, you deserve a warm fuzzy.”

Damn.

On that particular day we had a lesson on maps. How to read maps, what’s the “key” and whatever-the-days-for-needing-maps-are-numbered. For this lesson we didn’t sit in our desks, we instead gathered on the floor in front of the chalkboard.

Here we go, twenty-five nine-year-olds with varying bathing patterns crammed on the floor in front of the board. One of my fellow students, Tim, had a vision problem and everyone knew it because he was promised to always have the desk in the front of the room. You know, there’s always that one kid who manages to snag special treatment. Sheesh. On this very day, Tim was at a loss. By a stroke of bad luck and poor coordination he was forced to sit on the floor in the back of the group.

Thank the dickens Ashley was there. She was sitting in the front and must have noticed the bewildered Tim and generously said, “Tim, you can have my seat.”

Cue warm fuzzy. Annnnddddd, scene.

My mind filled with rage. “I hate Ashley. She is such a teacher’s pet. She always gets everything. I can’t believe I’m friends with her. I can’t believe I went to her birthday party. Teacher’s pet teacher’s pet I hate you.”

My hatred spurred from my lust for my own warm fuzzy. How I prayed that one day I, too, would have those googly eyes staring at me from the top of my desk. A warm fuzzy was an honor unmatched by any else, and how I wanted it.

I was obsessed. On my quest for the warm fuzzy I decided to give out good deeds like America giving out Type II diabetes. I suffered dehydration as I forfeited my spot in the water fountain line to my fellow students. If I was faced with the last chocolate milk, I would leave it for the kid behind me in the cafeteria – settling for the plain ol’ white stuff.

Unbeknownst to me, Mrs. Shawver was shaping me into a thoughtful, considerate, aware human being.

How dare her.

It began with me prostituting my thoughtfulness for the elusive warm fuzzy, but what was first hunger for a googly eyed cotton ball graduated into second nature. And ultimately, I graduated third grade and was no longer under the guidance of Mrs. Shawver. I was no longer eligible for a warm fuzzy.

Thoughtfulness is now an organic process. I naturally hold the door open for people. After waiting in the bathroom line for eternity (as women do), I give the mother-small child hybrid the first open stall. I tell people when they drop money on the ground. I will secretly seek to destroy you, but will still let you have the last beer. I smell a Noble Peace Prize coming.

Yet in this world of I-Will-Not-Hold-The-Elevator-Door and Let-Me-Text-During-Our-Conversation it makes me question: where has all the thoughtfulness gone?

I often find myself wondering what is happening to people. Why are screaming children allowed to run amuck in a restaurant? Why are “please” and “thank you” on the endangered phrases list? Why are people nose-deep in their screens in the middle of a conversation? Why do people think being chronically fifteen minutes late is no big deal?

Then I begin to question myself: is it the people who are less thoughtful, or does sending a thank you card make me an extremist? Am I the exception and not the rule?

I feel a condescending tone coming through and it is unintentional. Promise.

I am at a loss – confused by the abundance of forgetfulness and lack of consideration in our society. There must be a solution. There must be a way to correct our flighty minds and Who Cares attitudes.

What we need…are some warm fuzzies.

First, a Warm Fuzzy Volunteer Force must be established. This, of course, will be of no cost to the federal or local governments. Goodness knows their involvement would include too many committees and then they would take another three years to decide on logo.

Secondly, volunteers will be equipped with warm fuzzies. However, I do not believe colored cotton balls will suffice as proper reward for adults exuding thoughtfulness; therefore I chose something a bit more appropriate.

Barbeque spare ribs.

The Warm Fuzzy Volunteer Force will scour the country with bundles of barbeque spare ribs in a satchel at their sides. Not to worry, grocery stores will willingly donate the ribs after a serious bout of empty threats given by yours truly.

Hold the door open? Have some ribs. Pay for the car behind you at a toll booth? Have some ribs. Ignore your text message long enough to excuse yourself? Have some ribs. Help the elderly person with their groceries? Have some ribs.

It is only with the promise of ribs do I wholesomely believe our insidious self-centered habits will be repaired.

Bring on the thoughtfulness! Annnddd BYOWN. Bring. Your. Own. Wet. Nap.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Word of the day: Ostensibly. Usability equivalent: Stapler.

Ostensibly = Represented or appearing as such; to all outward appearances; apparently; seemingly.

I saw "ostensibly" used in a sentence and thought "um, oste-who?"

My lack of vocabulary is shameful. SHAMEFUL. Moments like “oste-who?” embarrass me. I feel like I am cheating on my brain by swimming in the same cesspool of monosyllabic adjectives.

As someone who earned a chemistry degree, I was forbidden to use colorful language outside the realm of "amphiprotic" and "chemical burn remedies." Please excuse me while I blame my education for my lack of vocab diversity. Somewhere Alanis Morissette is writing a song.

Consider this my effort to strengthen my vocabulary. I will refer to similar posts as "word of the day" even though it would more accurately be described as "word of every fifth day or whenever I feel like doing it."

Example for “ostensibly”:

Ostensibly hamburger meat, the fast food establishment was actually serving lightly seasoned recycled playground equipment.

I give this word the usability equivalent of a stapler. I see myself using this word often as I would a stapler, but I will also revert to paper clips, rubber bands, or my personal favorite - a hazardous shuffle of papers that are allergic to organization. It is a good word for the arsenal but it is not my only weapon.

Until next time, I will ostensibly work on another post while I really Google image things like vomit and lampshades.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The elephant in the room. No, really, it's an elephant.

Gather ‘round folks, I’m going to tell you a story.

A woman in her fifties sits at a desk. The wrinkles on her face suggest wisdom and remnants of a wide smile. From head to strappy-sandal she is dressed in white - which could be considered a sin for after Labor Day, but she is too regal to notice.

From a white pitcher she replenishes her mug with bold coffee. She then lifts the mug to her lips, the steam drawing circles around her face. Contentment would be to look at her.

Music begins to play. It’s soulful, and catchy. It’s Mary J. Blige...this song, to be exact.

She taps her foot in rhythm. She sways. Who wouldn’t? It’s Mary J. Blige!

She is wrapped in her own perfect world.

Then we notice there are papers in front of her. Lots of papers. There is a blue folder, at least an inch thick, within reach. Oh, look, now there’s a pen in her hand. It’s curious, but not unreasonable.

Yet the desk she sits in is not an office desk - at least not a home office. It’s more of just a flat surface. Oh. And the chair. The chair isn’t a typical desk chair, but a bright blue, hard plastic chair, as if it walked here from a high school.

But that won’t stop her from sipping on her coffee and swaying to Mary J.

There’s a barrier in front of her. And another woman! The other woman has business-casual down to a science and faces a computer screen. The two women talk. The two women exchange some papers.

Looking further we see large screens around the room - calling numbers. Numbers that indicate people - the other 100 people in the room with them. Wait. WHERE are we?!

The Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV. The place in which you have to take a half-day. It has been equated to the place where souls go.

Wait. WHERE AM I?!

Waiting in the seating area behind the Woman in White, longing for my number to be called. As much as I wish I could credit my imagination for this scene, sorry folks, this is real life.

This woman easily has three-decades-worth of registration papers scattered on the desk. She came to the DMV and meant business, and wasn’t going to have it any other way. She even brought her own THERMOS PITCHER for her COFFEE. Didn’t forget the mug either. I did see a pack-mule in the parking lot. Mystery solved.

What about the music? That’s right, folks. The DMV does NOT play music, but this lady knows how to bring the party with her. She brought her ipod and a portable deck in which to pollute the air with her sensory needs.

Can I at least get some Shuffle? No. This song is on repeat. Forever.

“Gotta be with you need to be with you... OOOooooOOO.... OOOooooOOOO....”

From the depths of my common sense I tell myself: This can NOT be typical. I look to my left, I look to my right. Phew! No one else brought their own pitcher of coffee and ipod play deck. What was this woman thinking?

Better yet, what was the DMV employee thinking? Everyday she sees dozens of people from all walks of life, and assists them with their Vehicular Legal Hassle needs. She can most likely tell you stories about being cussed-out, people paying in sweaty one-dollar bills, and customers where she could not recognize their native language. But had she ever had the pleasure of witnessing someone bring their own thermos and listening enjoyments?

This Woman in White is a special breed of people that I most fondly refer to as: Sensory Attention Targets.

Sensory Attention Targets (SATs) are complex creatures, but in the simplest of terms they are people that draw your undivided attention like a college freshman to light beer and bad decisions.

You don’t realize you have been affected by an SAT until it’s too late. You’ve already been staring for several minutes and you have forgotten how to perform basic tasks like blinking. As the name suggests, they captivate your senses. Everything you see, taste, touch, hear, and smell is dedicated to the SAT.

I could smell her coffee and taste its richness. I could feel her papers shuffle in my hands. My eyes were glazed within her white glow and the sound of Mary J danced around my ears. I couldn’t even hear when my number was being called.

SATs come in a variety of flavors that are best metaphorically rendered into food analogies.

A moderate SAT is like a hotdog at a baseball game. You have to have it. You can’t stop thinking about it. You WILL miss the tying run in the ninth inning because you WILL be in line for the juicy deliciousness. It’s worth it and you can’t help yourself. Signs of moderate SATism begin in elementary school and are exemplified by children who bring unusual things to school like cow liver and stray cats.

The Woman in White was a moderate-to-severe SAT = the last bite of nachos. You’ve been working on your nachos for twenty minutes. Picking out the perfectly salted, crunchy chips, dabbing them in the fresh guacamole. The cheese is melted beautifully. But there’s that 3-chip cluster, over there, on the corner of your plate. You see it. It’s magnificent. It waves to you, you wave back. It has a web of cheese tethering the chips together and a healthy smudge of sour cream on top. A succulent piece of your meat-or-veggie of choice is stuck in this glorious matrix. This bite waits for you and you’re going to save the best for last.

This last bite has your utmost attention. You can no longer engage in conversation. You might be defecating at this very moment, but you can not physically or emotionally notice. This bite has all of your senses on high-alert, just like the Woman in White.

But be weary my reader(s), do not confuse the SAT with the EAT.

EAT = Emotional Attention Targets

Do you know someone who is an EAT? Are you worried you are at risk of being an EAT?

There is a quick and easy test for EAT, and it’s FREE! Follow these simple steps:

#1 Open your web browser.

#2 Go to Facebook.

#2 Go to your profile page, or your friend’s profile page, or whomever you suspect of having EAT.

#3 Read the respective Facebook statuses.

#4 Ask yourself the following questions:

In the last week:
a.) ...has there been one or more references to “worst day of my life”?
b.) ...has there been more than two sad emoticons?
c.) ...has a claim been made that “people suck”?
d.) ...are there an excessive amount of suspicious song lyrics or quotes from Marilyn Monroe and Eleanor Roosevelt?
e.) ...has there been one or more references to migraines?

ANSWERS:
a.) If yes, then stop it. It’s annoying. You make me want to gargle kitty litter to distract myself from your attention plea. If you were having the worst day of your life you wouldn’t make telling the facebook realm a priority. Also, people who really are having the worst day of their life now hate you. You beg for attention like big-breasted-braless-women-in-tight-tank tops. If this is your only offense from this test, you are at risk of being an EAT.

b.) If yes, I don’t really care. Sad emoticons can be funny according to context. Further testing is required.

c.) If yes, you are asking for the inevitable “What happened?” And the poor person who has the heart to write those two words has just fallen victim to your EATism. At one time or another, everyone will disappoint you. It is a universal truth. Make your peace. You know what sucks? Genocide and Chipotle closing at 10pm. Know that I don’t want to hear about how someone didn’t text you back and how it has caused you to make this exquisite observation about “people.” I also don't want to hear about your boyfriend's addiction to porn or that a girl told you you have a small "member." My eyes made witness to two such statuses in the last month. Shame on you. You are an EAT, duh.

d.) If yes, song lyrics can be clever statuses IF USED PROPERLY and everyone loves the “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent” reminder. But chances are, you are abusing song lyrics. No, forget chances, you ARE annoying everyone. Stop it. You are an EAT.

e.) If yes, you don’t really have a migraine. The cure for migraines is not Facebook. Why are you looking there? Why does a blinding screen - whether it be your computer or phone - be the logical place to look during such a painful experience? Does your need for Facebook actually transcend your physiological shortcomings? No. It doesn't. You definitely have EAT and I have officially hidden you on Facebook.

For those of you who know someone who is an EAT, proceed with caution. Confronting them will likely cause an endless rave of passive aggressive Facebook statuses. Your only defense is sausage gravy. Ladle heaps of sausage gravy on the ground. They will not be able to resist themselves. Once they start lapping it up - RUN. Run for the sake of your sanity and do not look back.

In regards to SATs, the next time you find yourself in the public domain and can no longer recall the day of the week or the name of the President...it is too late. There is no cure for the sensory attack the SAT will launch on your existence. Sorry.