Monday, May 31, 2010
On just such a day last week I ventured forth to what I lovingly call my “coffee office.” I plug my computer in, sip my latte, and begin to systematically check items off my list. As I am halfway through, a very agitated woman somewhere in her late 50s spreads out on the table next to me (we’ll call her Squirms). I’m used to this kind of thing…people seem to like holding meetings in coffee shops and I’ll confess a good chunk of my wedding was planned at various Caribous. So I try not to judge.
A few minutes later, a sort of dowdy woman comes in (we’ll call her Dowds) and sits with her. I can ignore a lot, people, but for some reason introductory conversations always intrigue me! How do they know each other? What are they doing here at 2:00 when other people are at their desks? I just can’t tune it out (incidentally, this is why I begged to work at home in the first place, I do not do well with distractions. When the choice is edit a 50-page document or eavesdrop, I’m gonna listen in every time, and when your cube is right by the women’s bathroom, well all bets are off for productivity).
So Squirms thanks Dowds for coming and taking her time and Dowds nicely says “I just went through my own divorce, so I know how it goes” and Squirms gets all teary and then whispers “it’s just not only that, but the Cancer too” and then starts bawling into her iced coffee.
Um, okay, you can think I’m a bad person, but I’m hooked now! So while I pretend to be e-mailing, I listen in to Squirms’ saga. Her husband of 23 years was having an affair WHILE she was going through chemo. Thinking she was going to die, not only was he screwing some chick, but he was also stealing her money!
Squirms says the stealing from her was bad enough, but she’s got half a mind to call hubby’s mommy! At first I think this is kind of childish, what’s a grown man’s mommy going to do about the fact that her GROWN MAN son can’t keep it in his pants? I mean, don’t get me wrong, special place in Hell for anyone who cheats on a sick loved one, but getting mommy involved (especially considering the poor woman must be at least in her 80s) just seems extra petty.
Which is kind of what Dowds interrupts and says. A lot of “that will do you no good, and you don’t want family being mad at you at this stage in your divorce.” But Squirms says “you just don’t understand! It’s not about the cheating, he convinced some bank that his mom is dead so he could get his hands on trust money…money that’s supposed to go to his siblings and their kids, as well as our daughter.” Swear to God, I almost gasped “THE CAD!” before pretending to cross another item off my list.
So Squirms goes on and on about hubby’s transgressions, his financial situation (she described it succinctly as “robbing Peter to pay Paul”) and their separation. She managed to get through with minimal tears and Dowds offered to help her set some time up for a different lawyer because she wasn’t available.
Just then a woman sitting at the table opposite gets up and tells Squirms “honey, I just got my final divorce papers. The a-hole cheated on me for years and left me penniless! But you’ll get through it, you will.” And then Squirms and Random Bystander hug and console!!
See: this is an “only in the Suburbs” moment, people. Because I think most people are like me, you’re totally listening (and I mean, I could apologize for it, but you’re the one airing your dirty laundry in the middle of a coffee shop instead of a lawyer’s office, so your expectation of privacy is about as high as Britney Spears’), but you would DIE before letting everyone else know it! And yet here’s Random Bystander basically saying “Hey, I’ve been pretending not to for the last 20 minutes, but I listened to every excruciating detail of your impending divorce while sipping my cappuccino.” Just…awkward.
So Squirms leaves, and Dowds spreads out on the table. And all of a sudden I see a harried woman come in with a baby not much older than Wee ‘Burb. And all of a sudden I am furiously trying to PDF a report so I can get the hell out because I can see this is going nowhere good.
And I’m right. Harried Mom sits down and tells her sob story. Her lawyer dumped her because she was a week late paying the bills, but she HAS the money, she was just sick and her baby was sick and when she called the lawyer to say she’d drop it off, the lawyer said “don’t worry about it,” so Harried Mom thought she was off the hook for awhile. Until she got a voice mail saying “Dumpsville: population, you.” Or something like that…I mean I did SOME work, come on!
The next horrifying 5 minutes are like Saving Private Ryan: emotions version. Mostly, I like that I am a pretty empathetic person, but days like this it really brings me down because I am nearly in tears listening to Harried Mom describe her husband’s rages, the witnesses she has that he’s a neglectful parent, the fact that he doesn’t pay bills, all while the little kid sits there and chews on keys and stares around at people. All I can say is thank GOD that woman did not cry, because I think I would have went all Random Bystander on her and hugged it out.
Needless to say the next time I need to hunker down and work, I’ll use the office my husband built for that purpose and skip the caffeine and emotional waterboarding.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
When I was a starving college senior, I attended about a million networking events looking for my first glamorous journalism job (still waiting). At those events, I was very surprised to find how many of the students had generic business cards with their relevant information.
I had no idea where to begin with getting a business card. Everyone I knew was just issued one when they started a job, it never occurred to me to have one before I got a job! So I started doing research on the Web.
To set the scene, I made most of my “mad money” by baby-sitting. I would like to be cool and say I was a nanny, but the reality is, there were a stable of parents that kept me on speed dial because I was the only 21-year-old willing to totally ditch my social life in order to get money. They were rich parents, so I was paid well, but I wasn’t exactly hitting Rockefeller status and I wasn’t about to ask my parents for money to buy business cards I still wasn’t 100 % sure I really NEEDED.
My research led me to Vistaprint and I got some lovely business cards for about $10. See those flower ones, aren’t they cute? Score!
I continued to get e-mails throughout the years, but didn’t pay much attention. I was thrilled with my cards, I just had no need for any of their other services. But while I was planning my wedding, they had an advertisement for free address labels and I thought it would be fun to get some customized labels for our wedding thank-you notes, which you can see above. And while I was there, we got some great deals on other address labels, so we got 200 address labels for $11 (and that’s only because I paid $5 for fast shipping versus their 2-week shipping, which is typically free).
Since, then I have also ordered customized thank-you cards for Wee ‘Burb, and some adorable monkey cards that were $2 for a set of 12, including envelopes with her name and address on them. Free shipping on that one!
My stuff is super cutesy, admittedly. They have some more professional looks for businesses, too. You really can’t beat their prices, and they have a lot of unique styles.
What are your favorite sites for cards and labels?
Monday, May 24, 2010
I digress. For some stupid reason, I decided to go while it was under construction.
Side note for those of you in the business world: I’m a big believer in closing down and getting construction done in a day or two. It’s less disruptive to your customers, and it avoids potential lawsuits from people leaning into covered displays (um, not that I almost did that or anything).
But, whatever, they didn’t do that and on my normal double coupon day, I found out they were renovating. I also found nothing on my list and about threw a tantrum in what used to be the peanut butter aisle.
Finally, I was issued a map. A MAP to the store I had been going to for 2 years. Know what? If you have to issue a damn map, CLOSE THE STORE. They couldn’t have made less sense if they tried. Canned goods were scattered among bread, I found tuna in with mustard. Look, I understand moving shelves around, I’m not totally against change here. But couldn’t you keep the items together in some semblance of order? As I grabbed formula from next to dog toys, I declared, not for the first time, that I would never shop there again.
But curiosity and a double coupon deal brought me in a few weeks later (yes, I admit it, all scruples go out the window when I can save $2 on formula, sue me). I won’t lie, it looked nice, but the first chink in the armor came when I saw the produce costs were about $1 higher. Yeah, I’m not willing to pay for your new digs with avocados, sorry, people!
The other new thing I alluded to is self check-out. Here’s the thing: Boston did this years ago, so I’m accustomed to them. Mostly, I’m accustomed to the complete bafflement with which people approach them. It’s like rotary circles on the road (more about that in some other blog), the dance goes something like this: customer stares at the contraption, thinking it should be great, but not quite sure what to make of it. There’s some head scratching and mashing the face up to the screen in the hopes of making heads or tails of the most basic instructions “Scan items here.”
So then the scanning starts and things are going along great and you can see the look of pure bliss and fascination. And then it comes time for the produce. Oh, produce. Perhaps we take for granted the ability of the cashiers to remember the 4-digit codes, but the self check-out does its level best to help you out of the quagmire. All you really need to do is look up the vegetable alphabetically. But this is just too much, too different, and the baffled looks return. There’s attempts to scan the 4-digit code into the machine. Attempts to keep slapping the tomatoes on the scanner. And then, finally, mercifully, the blinking light begins.
The blinking light is the beacon of the self check-out virgin.
Side note: one time this light blinked for me because the box of envelopes I purchased was too light in the plastic bag and so it kept blinking me to bag my item and scan the next. I kept hitting the “I’ve done that already, MORON” button and nothing, and finally the effing light came on. And I’m like: okay, I get this if I scanned the envelopes and my bag weighed the same as a cantaloupe. You caught me, I didn’t do this right or I’m trying to smuggle a cantaloupe out of the store. But why you gotta bust me for not putting something I clearly scanned INTO a bag? What if I don’t want a bag, TREEHUGGERS? Huh? HUH??? Or what if I choose to bag it all at the end? Why does me not choosing to bag my items send the criminal light blasting?
But, anyway, back to the produce conundrum. The light blinks and the screen freezes and the person looks around maniacally like the doors and windows are going to go on lockdown. Instead, an underpaid potentially high grocery bagger meanders over, sighs like you’ve interrupted something REALLY important and ruined his day completely, rolls his eyes, and then swipes his key, moves the offending item, and then walks away. No, no, don’t bother to check to make sure the person has figured it out. Because you KNOW the person has more produce lingering at the end of his purchase and now he’s sweating like a pig.
So I watched all that going on while I went in the real line and had my stuff poorly bagged in the same crappy paper bags (I forget to bring my own at least every other time, and we use the paper ones for recycling, in case any of you green people out there stop reading my blog in protest).
I’m not sold on the new look and don’t plan to go again until a double coupon deal compels me, or until they stop overcharging me to pay for their troublesome check-out lines.
But it sure did make big news here in our tiny town, so it gave me something to complain about for awhile. You’re welcome!
Sunday, May 23, 2010
A normal person would think the Dietz didn't pick us because we have a kid and a dog and life is busy. But recent events suggest something slightly more sinister. You see, last week we found a big piece of poo on our deck. Dog owners will understand this: I know it's not Cous Cous' poop. As I mentioned awhile ago here we've occasionally let Cous Cous go across the borders of our yard and into the Dietz.
You're going to think I am paranoid, but let me just say that there are multiple people who said the same thing with me only telling them about the single piece of poo: Dietz revenge. Maybe living in suburbia has made me nutty bananas, but I am not the only one who could picture them shoveling a piece of poo (from what animal, I couldn't tell you, they probably just naturally assumed it was Cous Cous) on to our deck. It was so perfectly placed...the middle of the middle step. Almost impossible not to step on. I mean, I'm home all day and other than cats and Louie, we don't get any animals that even approach our house.
Mostly, though, it's just killing me not to tell the neighbors that it was the Dietz that called the cops.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
I let the makeup artist work their magic, and I sit eagerly awaiting the mirror that will show me MY BEST SELF…that girl who looks like she slept on satin sheets instead of a bed-in-a-bag with dog hair. I’ll look like I get 20 hours of sleep instead of 2! And the results always are…not bad. You know, an improvement, but not the glamorous transition of my dreams.
But I do always leave Sephora feeling renewed somehow. Yes, I spent a small country’s GNP on makeup I didn’t really NEED, but for a few moments when I leave, I feel more put together.
Lately, I’ve been feeling dumpy. Just super “I’m a mom who let herself go.” It doesn’t help that I work at home, either. Hygiene went out the window long before I ever even got pregnant. Usually, I cure this with new makeup. Only now things are different. We’ve been hit by the crappy economy just like everyone else, and I have to do my makeup shopping in a drugstore.
What a different experience! It’s hard to hope for glamour when you’re throwing your makeup on top of a bag of lettuce and toilet paper at Target. And forget trying the makeup out! Of the very few items that actually have testers, the application experience is much less fantasy, much more fear. I’ve yet to see one of the testers that doesn’t make me want a Tetanus shot. Note to drugstores: if you’re going to put testers out, take just a little time to consider sanitation.
On the other hand, if you don’t use the tester, you risk going home and applying some newfangled foundation that turns your skin bright orange or eyeshadow that goes all frosty.
The only beacon of light in drugstore makeup shipping is mascara. I’ve always been a drugstore mascara girl: Maybelline in the green tube to be exact. I’ve tried the fancy ones…the ones that claim to lengthen, thicken, cure world peace. But you can’t beat the cheapo Maybelline.
Recently, I got a coupon to try a new Maybelline mascara product and I decided to give it a whirl. I’m a sucker for buy one, get one free, what can I say?
You can’t beat this $4 Define-a-Lash mascara from Maybelline! What I love most about it is that it’s got this fun rubbery wand that makes sure you get no clumps. You can put several layers on without getting spider eyes (but be careful not to let it dry too long or it gets very stiff…it won’t look bad, but you’ll be picking at it all day).
Also, it’s waterproof! I love this for the summer not only because I can wear it in the water if I forget to take it off, but also because I have a tendency to lose all my makeup when I sweat and this stuff goes NOWHERE.
So now, no matter what, I at least try to put on some mascara. It’s a little thing and it certainly doesn’t make me feel like Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, but it’s a start, right?
What’s your favorite drugstore makeup product?
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
I begged to retake the test, but my regular OB was out on maternity leave and try as I might to explain OVER and OVER that I had just come from 2 weeks in Cape Cod and had not exactly been sticking to a reasonable diet, they sent me in for the fasting glucose test. Which, under normal circumstances, is not fun. You chug this horrible sugar drink and sit there and let it work its magic until you feel like you may pass out and then they draw your blood every hour.
Now, when you factor in that I was 6 months pregnant and not allowed to eat for 8 hours before the test and three hours during, you’ve got one hell of a cranky fat chick on your hands, I’m just saying.
So the people who check me in are SOOOOO nice! They say they’re so sorry I have to suffer, but it will be done soon. They offer me water and show me where to sit to get the best wireless signal (because no way was I taking freaking PTO for this!) and tell me to just go on back when my hour is up.
So I go back for my first blood draw and this woman is sitting there with a sour face. Right off the bat, she’s just kind of unnecessarily put out by the fact that I am going to be plaguing her for the next 3 hours. Like I’m having a damn fiesta here trying not to hurl, thanks.
So conversationally I tell her what I told the doctor: that I ate nothing but junk for two weeks! Dude, I even had a sundae for dinner…and finished the evening off with ice cream cake. I’m positive I’m not Diabetic, I tell her. I’m just a hormonally effed up pig! I had my dad test me three days ago and I was low!
Look, I don’t know what I was expecting. Maybe a little sympathy? Even just a “we’ll see, just relax.” Instead she sighs and goes “you might as well face it, you’re Diabetic.”
WHAT? You haven’t so much as opened the damn syringe!
So I’m already put out because you know what? You work in a maternity ward, you should be used to hungry whiny pregnant chicks. I’m not the first, I won’t be the last. Have some damn bedside manner if you’re not going to have pity!
Then to further make me LOATHE her with the fire of 1,000 suns, she refuses to listen to me on something I am actually pretty medically accurate on. I don’t know what the official medical term is, but I’ve got sucky veins. I’ve never come out of a blood draw without looking like I’ve gone a few rounds with a prizefighter. The constant misfires and mistakes have made me pretty good at pointing out to the lab techs where they might find a good vein.
And, as I told Little Miss Stormy Cloud, you ain’t gonna find one in my right arm. She sighs at me and says “I can’t very well take 4 blood draws from one arm, I have to do two and two.” I sigh right back at her “you can try, but you’ll be lucky to get one from the right arm.”
She purses her sour little lemon face and proceeds to STAB THE CRAP OUT OF MY RIGHT ARM and then has the guts to say to me “gee, this vein probably won’t even have enough for one draw.” Did I not…I mean, were we having the same conversation????
So as I am cursing her name and about to go total snob and ask for a new lab tech, I happen to glance up at the cabinets above her work space and I see her sour lemon face next to a ruddy-faced kid HOLDING A RIFLE STANDING BY A DEER CARCASS WITH HIS DAD. Oh but it explains so much! And yet, where the hell but in the freaking country is that considered appropriate office décor??
Incidentally, days later after I’d gone through a tube of concealer trying to cover the bruises that bizzo left, she called me to tell me I DIDN’T HAVE DIABETES, AFTER ALL. Suck it, Bambi Killer, tell your story walking!
And then a week later when I was finally cleared to get the swine flu shot, who should walk in but Deer Carcass Mom?? I looked at Scott pleadingly, but there was nothing he could do and I admit I was a teensy bit sarcastic when I said “probably best to do the left side this time,” and mayyyybe I pointed at the still visible bruises on my right? I can’t be sure, those were trying times. But there was no mistaking that shot went in a LOT harder than it had to.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Something new and different, yay! Actually, I just realized how many different random e-mails I send out a week with my (totally unsolicited, I’m sad to say) reviews of random things I try. And I saw some other bloggers do a “Things I Love Thursday” and hey, if all the cool kids jumped off a bridge, I’d be awfully wet.
So I bring to you the first in a series of Things I Love. This one happens to be a baby product because I spent half my weekend explaining it to people and I may be single-handedly responsible for about 300 orders. This won’t always be the way, I have lots of ideas for things to tell you about.
I took Wee ‘Burb to a sheep shearing festival this weekend. More on that in another blog entry. But those of you who have kids know what a pain it is to try to weave a stroller in crowds. Or if you don’t have kids, then you know what a pain it is to weave AROUND strollers in crowds. Especially muddy crowds, as it was this past weekend because the weather Gods are having a great laugh at my expense as I try to get my kid out or more than an hour a week.
Anyway, so I use my carrier when I’m taking her anywhere there’s a crowd. She loves it and I quite like having her near my face so I can see what she’s up to. And typically she falls asleep as you can see.
The gadget she is nestled in is called a Peekaru. Greatest…invention…EVER! If your kid likes a carrier, you MUST invest in this! I got one as a present and at first it seemed…well, hippie-ish. There, I said it. Suburban snob sneaking through again. I didn’t even get to use it at first because Wee ‘Burb REFUSED to go into her carrier until about two months ago. Then all of a sudden it was the greatest invention ever. Who knows? Anyway, so a month ago we’re going to walk around and look at garage sales in our area (more about that in another entry, too…see what you have to look forward to?) and it was very windy. So I pulled out the Peekaru to give it a shot.
The idea behind this is that with the carrier, you are limited in how you keep you and the baby warm. You can: a) put the baby in a ton of layers of clothes, which if your kid is anything like mine will only result in squawking and squirming or b) put a huuuuge coat around yourself and hope it zips over the baby (I’m trying to get OUT of my fat clothes, thank you) or c) stick blankets in or around the baby.
This vest is awesome because it’s a soft fleece with (and this is the goofy part) two head holes. So not only are you protected up to your chin, so is the baby! And it being a vest versus a coat means you don’t get overheated (I’m just assuming your baby is as volcanic as mine). It also means it’s versatile in terms of being able to wear it with a t-shirt (like the picture) or with a sweatshirt or jacket in cooler weather. And it even has a little pocket to stick your phone or pacifier or whatever in. I love me some pockets!
The only con from the baby perspective is that their hands are stuck inside the Peekaru. See, for me this ends up being a pro because then Wee ‘Burb can’t steal purses (more on that with my sheep shearing blog) or otherwise molest random passer-bys. But occasionally her hands being trapped in makes her a little squawky. However, as you can see from the picture that doesn’t last long.
The only other con is if you are in a hurry, it can be bothersome to explain to the 200 people who WILL STOP YOU what it is and where you got it.
I highly recommend this! If you don’t have kids of your own, it would make an amazing gift.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
And so the cherries flash and I about throw up. Here’s the thing about me: I have an irrational fear of cops. I say irrational because, in fact, I have many family friends who are cops. I know nothing is going to happen to me. Yes, I might get a ticket. But it’s very unlikely I am going to get taken in under some false arrest warrant so they can frame me for some heinous deed for which I have no alibi. But that changes nothing, I go white as a ghost, shake and start to cry.
I also, like an a-hole, took my seatbelt off to get my (turns out, expired) proof of insurance from my glove compartment. So I’m trying to put it on and the cop says “A little late for the belt, miss.” I stammer out that it was on, I couldn’t reach my compartment, etc. He just nods, takes my (expired) proof of insurance and license and disappears.
I’m sure in reality it was 2 minutes, but you know how that can feel like eternity? I mean, I really thought it was 10 minutes, at least. But he comes back and issues me a ticket for my expired proof of insurance, nicely telling me all I need to do is fax in my proof and the ticket will be erased.
So I thought it was my imagination, born of PTSD from my experience, that the cops were crawling everywhere, but more and more people started commenting. I even overheard strangers conversing about it! You expect this kind of show of force around major holidays. The only major event that happened here was the tragic death of a police officer recently, but I’m not sure it warranted this level of vigilance.
I’ve tried to Google it and look it up in the local paper to no avail. If anyone knows what’s up, I’m dying to know! In the meantime, just call me Stephanie Speed Limit!
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Our old condo was near many great restaurants, and offered us a 20-minute drive to the cities if we wanted more. We thought moving to the suburbs would cut our access to great food some, but when we asked our neighbors, we were assured there were many culinary delights surrounding us. We should have known this wasn’t exactly the truth when (and I mean no offense to anyone who has uttered the following phrase, I truly do not, I’m just a snob) they told us that they were celebrating 20 years of marriage at the Outback Steakhouse.
Downtown has had about five different restaurants in our short time here in the ‘burbs. And this food turnover has caused a lot of drama in our city. The local paper had pages of letters to the editor for months after a diner closed, which seemed to be a last straw for the neighborhood. I personally never went to the diner because I never had the chance in the brief time it was open. But Scott did and was rather horrified at the $17 lunch he had there. He had simply ordered turkey and meatloaf, which at a neighboring diner would cost about $7.
So we weren’t at all surprised when it closed. We were the only ones, apparently. A myriad of letters to the editor blamed locals for not caring about local food, the Chamber of Commerce for not supporting local business, the local paper for not advertising for them (for free of course…and on a side note, the local paper did a total fluff piece on diners through the ages or some such nonsense which more than once mentioned this new place), and the townsfolk in general for being cheap horrible people. Some of the people who simply offered advice/reasoning for why it didn’t work show how uniquely suburban this area is:
“Not once did anybody from [the diner] come by the office to drop off a menu or some coupons or just to say ‘hi’ and encourage folks to come over for lunch.”
“Well, [suburb residents], you blew it again. It was with much sadness that I read of the closing of [the diner] after a short, but expensive, run...In an endless parade of sub-par restaurants that have come and gone from the area, [the diner] was what we had been waiting for. Excellent food, great atmosphere, and decent prices for an A-tier restaurant. Insert snicker from Stephanie here. This is a business that should have been supported.”
“Face it, [our suburb] is not as upscale as some of its leaders believe. We are ordinary, moderate and fixed income residents. We need a family restaurant with affordable prices, a varied menu and breakfast. Breakfast diners in the area are very limited. This we would support.”
Last year a Mexican restaurant opened across the street from the doomed diner. I was actually pretty excited because to get good Mexican, we have to go a town over. What luck to have one down the street! Yeah, luck does not equal a $14 enchilada. $14…enchilada! Served with…white rice. I almost can’t write it. WHITE RICE…MEXICAN RESTAURANT! Luckily we didn’t have to bear the injustice of this for long, they closed, too.
And once again, letters to the editor poured in. Only now a few of them actually mirrored what we were thinking: do you not do your research, people??!! I feel like our neighbors are fairly representative of a good portion of the population of our city. More than half have been in this neighborhood for more than 20 years and if they think a fancy special night out is the Olive Garden, then so be it. In the short time I’ve lived in this food wasteland, not a single restaurant has made it that doesn’t host a weekly meat raffle or offer amazing happy hour deals. And that’s fine, right? Maybe, just maybe, though, we stop giving loans to people who want to open fancier restaurants here. Maybe we focus on revitalizing downtown some other way.
May I suggest a cheap Mexican place that serves appropriate rice? And if I could add one request: can my entire bill be $14, please?