Archive | August, 2013


26 Aug
Excited to see Miss Quynn, the little daredevil!

Excited to see Miss Quynn, the little daredevil!

Two sleeps. That is how I used to countdown to exciting dates, and this past week has been no exception. When I was younger, it was because of our annual summer vacation, Christmas, or my birthday. I’d begin packing my suitcase or preparing my favorite outfit for the occasion and dwell in the anticipation. And then I’d sit in wonder, imagining this whole beauteous occasion over and over again. Ahem. I have a packing list prepared, a list of to-do’s before we leave and of course an entire wardrobe to squash into one tiny suitcase. While Nate watched his beloved Breaking Bad last night, I went to bed early to make the day come ever nearer. (Unfortunately, I just stayed wide awake for another couple hours.)

My Google map indicates that as soon as I get off work on Wednesday, I take the R uptown to the World Trade two stops, run quickly in my high heels to the PATH and take it to Newark. (Not that I didn’t already know this, since I take this route routinely and constantly, but it’s a good reminder, I tell myself.) We have our twenty dollars in cash ready for our taxi from the Newark Penn Station to Newark Airport, which feels a bit like a second home to us. I can already imagine the feeling in the pit of my stomach while we await our flight (queasy nervousness, hoping desperately for no flight delays because of our tiny layover window in Chicago.)

I’m going home for my cousin’s wedding, and I am just over the moon excited. Even if I’ve been warned that the heat is unbearable, even if I have been told again and again that the time will go by so quickly. And even if I have a doctor’s appointment, eye doctor’s appointment, dress fitting, and so much more on my plate.

I can’t wait to spend time with my immediate and extended family. I can’t wait to walk into Kendall Young Library and hike the Briggs Woods Trail. I can’t wait to see friendly people I don’t know waving from cars, for politeness and manners and stuff, for small town life. I can’t wait to sit outside and actually see the stars.

I feel like a little kid, and I am totally okay with that. Give me the heat and humidity, all I want to do is kiss my little niece’s cheek and cuddle with my parent’s anxiety-ridden cat, that’s all I want.

There have been periods of time in the past couple months when I was so incredibly homesick. And there have been others where I am so glad to be here. For my career, meeting people, trying all the flavors that NYC seems capable of offering. That’s where I’m at today. Happy to be here.

Almost every weekend, I walk through SoHo or one of the villages (our favorite area of the city) and I get this slight thrill, always. “I’m here, I’m actually here. And not just on a trip. I’m a casual resident on a casual Saturday looking for a casual Bloody Mary.” I love playing the part of cool Carrie out on a stroll. Or walking to work. “Hey there New York Stock Exchange and very old gothic buildings, while I make my way through this mess of people to my workplace.” Listening to a Bangle’s album on my headphones, all I am missing is my white lace-up sneakers and perm to go with my ‘80s career-woman attitude.

And although I savor these moments like none other, I look forward to being plain old me in small-town Iowa most of all. No acting, just being. I’m not there to try and impress anyone or get ahead in the game. I’m just me.

So I have 48 hours until the day of my flight … maybe I should start counting down that way … hmmm …. 🙂


Top 5 ‘Are You Afraid Of The Dark’ episodes

14 Aug

s5_topI miss SNICK. Every Saturday night, without fail, my brother and I would sit in front of the TV waiting for our favorite television shows to come on. We’d sometimes watch the entire two hours of programming, if “The Adventures of Pete & Pete” was on, but we never missed an episode of “Are You Afraid Of The Dark”. The intro, with the empty row boat in the water and the lone swing swaying in the wind and the ominous “woos” being sung in the background, still gives me the shivers.

Looking back, I can see why my parents were so okay with us watching the “scary” episodes. They ended much like R.L. Stine’s “Goosebumps” books did – sometimes terrifying, sometimes without a definite ending, and sometimes all wrapped nicely like a bow. They made you think and were not always as formulaic as they could have been. The show was really a “Twilight Zone” for junior high kids.

And while I sometimes go on YouTube to look up past episodes, there are a few that really stick out to me as favorites. Here are five of the ones that make the grade:

1. “The Tale of the Pinball Wizard” — Season 1, Episode 13

The story starts out with a boy named Ross who loves pinball games. While at the gaming store in the mall, he disobeys the shop owner who had forbid him from playing a certain game. Ross gets stuck inside the game (now being played in the real world, inside the closed mall). While he himself now has to save the princess, he encounters scary creatures and characters. This one doesn’t end so pleasantly, if I recall.

2. “The Tale of the Thirteenth Floor” — Season 2, Episode 4

Siblings Karen and Billy love to play hockey in their awesome apartment building, which includes an empty skating rink-sized loft on the top floor. A creepy/crazy toy factory moves in (how is this space even big enough for that?) and it turns out that the owners are actuallyaliens in search of their daughter … KAREN! It’s a bit weird and Twilight Zone-y. So I like.

3. “The Tale of the Whispering Walls” — Season 2, Episode 8

On a drive back home from somewhere, I don’t remember, a babysitter and the two she is in charge of get lost. They end up going to a creepy tavern run by a guy who looks like he spends most of his time gaming at his mom’s house. He gives them really bad directions (on purpose), and they arrive at an old Victorian mansion slash fun house. I love this one, especially when a baby the sitter is holding turns into a giant snake.

4. “The Tale of Watcher’s Woods” — Season 3, Episode 3

This might be my favorite one. Kelly and Sarah are at an all-girls summer camp. They get lost in these super creepy woods nearby, where three campers were lost long ago. Turns out, these three lost girls turned into ghostly old hags who want to eat the young ones and cook them in a stew. Yay!

5. “The Tale of the Unfinished Painting” — Season 4, Episode 11

Okay, disclaimer – I really dislike the actress (Jewel Staite) who stars in this episode. She was also in an episode about a girl who loves to sleep and gets trapped in her dreams. Unfortunately, the powers that be at AYAOTD decided that she needed to be in the better written episodes, so sigh, but so annoying. Anyhoo, this girl goes to a painting class and the teacher wants her to finish her painting with a “special” paintbrush. She gets trapped in the painting, just like the people in the pictures displayed in the evil teacher’s gallery. I always wondered if some works of art were a bit too real.

BONUS: “The Tale of the Vacant Lot” — Season 5, Episode 10

So I actually had 6 in mind, but a Top 6 just isn’t sexy enough. High-school student Catherine just doesn’t feel like she fits in with the rest of her classmates. She can’t run fast, she doesn’t have the right clothes – being a white girl in middle-class America just sucks. AMIRITE?  She comes across a mysterious tent in a vacant lot. It’s a store run by the strange Marie. She offers all that Catherine could possibly want, but at a price. And the price is every self-centered high school girl’s nightmare! Mu-ha-ha-ha!

I didn’t list any of the Dr. Vink (DR. VINK!) episodes or some of the creepier ones (note, the first episode of the entire series was definitely too horrifying for 11-year-old me), but I like them all. I have now graduated to “The Twilight Zone”, and can’t get enough of their marathons during the holiday season. I am glad that this was available to me as a kid, and hope that there is some sort of comparative show for pre-teens now. Probably not.

Funny story …

13 Aug


For a majority of my undergrad college career, I held a variety of jobs. I paid for my schooling, room and board, and I tried to make most of my money in the summer months. I worked in my dad’s accounting department, at a grocery store, interned at the state fair, and worked in the office of the university president. My biggest money maker was working as a bev cart girl at a golf course. I held on to this job for a quite a few years, as it really helped keep my school loans at a minimum.

Although the job was pretty self explanatory, it took some time my first year to get used to it. It was about turning on the charm, flashing toothy grins and delivering quick beverages to the golfers. It was about earning tips. You weren’t out there to make minimum wage, you were there for some big bucks that kids just aren’t used to. I wanted to be the best at my job, so I worked all the hours that were thrown at me and tried to perfect my bev cart persona. At first, I was really quiet and awkward, then I was loud and boisterous, and towards the end, back to being quiet but funny.

Part of the job was cleaning up the clubhouse at night. There was a laundry list of things that needed completed, and it was kind of scary, out in the country putting away golf carts in the middle of the dark. So, I tried to finish as quickly as possible and wait for the last customers to leave. But I am not a hurry, half-ass kind of person. I’m kind of a perfectionist when it comes to cleaning – with gleaming counters and sparkling floors.

Well, as I was cleaning the kitchen one night, I decided to really get under the big industrial-sized ovens and fryer. And low and behold, while cleaning up a couple of hidden old French fries from the ground, there were these candle-like things on the bottom of each appliance. One oven had four! It confused me, as no one told me about blowing these lights out. No, it wasn’t listed in the cleaning manual either. I was confused. But I didn’t want people to think I was inept, so I just went for it. I spent a good 25 minutes lying on my stomach, blowing each of the 7 candles out. I had had a long day already, and using all of my wind power was exhausting. I hoped that the manager wouldn’t make me do that every night, and I took a mental note that it needed to be written down in the manual for future reference.

It was around 11 p.m. that night when I ended up back at my parents’ house.

“Man, I had such a long day at work, Dad,” I said. He was watching a baseball game on TV in the family room.

“Oh, yeah?” he replied, half interested and wanting to get back to the game.

“Yeah, I had to blow out all these candles underneath the ovens, so exhausting,” I said. This got his attention.

“What do you mean, ‘candles underneath the ovens’?” he suddenly seemed very intent on hearing about my cleaning routine.

I then explained to him about the silly little candles and how I was disappointed that this wasn’t listed in the cleaning manual.

“You mean the pilot lights?!?” he yelled. I innocently asked him what a pilot light meant, thinking it was some kind of bright light that kept the oven aerodynamic.

Soon, we rushed out the door, while I called my manager. We ended up having to call some more recruits, and the crowd ended up at the clubhouse, very gassy smelling by then, picking up industrial-sized ovens and lighting the pilot lights. I was made to tell my story over and over again, as middle-aged men just looked at me incredulously, shaking their heads thinking “Wow, what a ‘smart’ girl.”

I finally knew what a pilot light was, and the rest of the clubhouse crew was lectured the next day on keeping to the manual. What was on it was all that needed to happen at night when closing the place up. I’d like to say that I really learned a lesson there, but no, I didn’t. Maybe it was stop being stupid. Lesson not learned.

NYC Prejudices

12 Aug


We’ve just hit the one-year mark of moving to the East Coast from our home state of Iowa. It’s pretty significant, since I honestly didn’t know if I would get to see this milestone. I had only been away from Iowa and family for a few months at a time, so I wasn’t sure if this whole moving thing would be all that I had hoped it would to be.

And it has been. Besides all the obvious, I live in a great city. Not NYC, but Jersey City. While we enjoy our jaunts through Central Park, walking around the Villages – we most enjoy our town. A tree-lined brownstone community with many, many restaurants and coffee shops. After walking in Lower Manhattan filled to the brim with too many people, getting off the train in Jersey City is a relief. We have options, not as many as NYC, but a lot.

It’s been a growing-up time period. I’ve had to learn to get a hold of my bill paying and spending habits. I’ve had to learn to deal with homesickness and feeling alone. And I’ve dumped some really bad habits.

And as much as I want to say that this journey has “changed me”, it really hasn’t. I’m a bit more mature, a little wiser, but the same me. While I enjoy walking down the street with Ella Fitzgerald crooning through my headphones, I truly miss the Midwest. I can see myself living here indefinitely, I could. But I also could see myself happily packing up the moving van after Nate graduates from school. In a couple weeks time, we will be flying back home for a family wedding. And just like the last time, I will press my face against the glass of the plane, grinning from ear to ear while seeing the green cornfields below. When we are driving back to Webster City, my dad will say to me, like before, “I bet this is going to be boring compared to New York.” No, Dad, no. Impossible.

People may think that I’ve got “stuck-up airs” about me since moving here. No, and I don’t really hang out in my free time with anyone who would emulate that kind of attitude. That “I’m better than others or have more knowledge than before” – yeah, no.

Being here has been amazing, enlightening, and a learning curve. I’m a bit colder and not as “Midwest nice”, but I can turn on the charm as soon as I enter my hometown farming community. I miss waving at strangers, saying hello to everyone you see while out on a run, and saying “excuse me”, “I’m sorry” and my “please” and “thank-yous” while out and about.

So, again, I do enjoy it here, but it’s no heaven on earth, that is for sure. I don’t enjoy the rudeness. I don’t enjoy the “one-upping” that is so prevalent here, and the need to be the best at anything and everything. The competition is fierce, and while I can hang out in it for awhile, I don’t have the endurance for the race. I just don’t. And the “me” culture. Wow. I’ve never met more self-centered people in my life than I have here. It’s great to have goals, it’s great to want to succeed, but man, there is more to life than this city and the people who live in it.

Now, one of my biggest gripes about this area is it’s prejudices toward Midwesterners. I’m told all the time about my accent, how it sounds funny – and that doesn’t bother me. It’s when people talk about that area of the country like it’s a giant wasteland of despair. Everyone there is a racist. Everyone there is a redneck hick. Everyone. Didn’t you know that? 🙂 The cultured people live on either coast, and the rest, the people with no teeth or grammar skills, sit making mud pies in that vast “fly over country”. (Oh yeah, I’ve heard that phrase enough times.)

“What do you guys do there?” People inquire. “Like for fun?” I’ve had incredulous conversations with those who think that we really cow tip on the regular and sit on porches in our wicker chairs piecing together four-word sentences about the weather.

I used to defend my area like a momma bear to it’s small cub, but why bother? It’s like trying to change a staunch Democrat or Republican, not going to happen. So I thin-lip it while listening to their garbage. Most of the time, I do have a “I’m better than you” attitude, because these people haven’t even set their toes on Midwestern soil before forming their ideas.

I have other gripes about NYC that will be saved for another time, but this one, I can’t agree with ever. Sure, there are certain people who fit the profiles that people want to stereotype all Midwesterners as. That’s why stereotypes exist. It’s just so … frustrating. It really is.

Before I get angrier about the subject, I need to take a breath and realize … only 14 more days until I’m home. Home Sweet Iowa.


12 Aug

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Laura Ingalls Wilder Would Have Loved Sephora

8 Aug

007725Just like me. I finished On The Banks Of Plum Creek and thought, “Man, we are so alike.” Really, truly, I thought me and Laura Ingalls Wilder would have been BFFs. For sure. I always wanted to live like a little hobbit in a mound of dirt house and she did. And when she survived The Long Winter, I was right with her. Man, I hate it when you can’t walk outside to the store and get your frozen pizza fix on because of the minor problem of a blizzard. Or when the electricity goes off because of high winds. You can’t watch Step By Step on TGIF, WTF!!! She just got me. Reading on my bed, eating my Little Debbie Oatmeal Pies, I tore through historical novels and always came up with the same conclusion: We would have gotten along. The Secret Garden, no prob. Mary was me, just back then. Heidi, yeah, samesies. Anne of Green Gables, wasn’t that my biography?

I got along well with my posse of literary girlfriends. And I was pretty sure they felt the same way. My plot line of middle class girl living in small town America was pretty unique. I had a diary filled with mystical thoughts and deep observations, and my top ten boys’ list was pure poetry.

So I imagined days with my friends shopping at the Dollar General for sugar sticks that you dip in flavored sugar. Riding bicycles to the pool in the summer and ending the afternoon with shaved ice at the Tropical Sno. Besties for ever, Laura and I.

It wasn’t until I watched Back To The Future III that I realized we weren’t exactly, uh, on the same page. I had romanticized the idea of living in more primitive times that I forgot their water was pretty gross. Lady Speed Stick wasn’t in high demand. And that whole leg shaving thing, what gives? There was a good year when I just imagined switching lives with these characters and being completely grossed out. Weekly baths. The whole women’s reproductive cycle problems thingy (I always just compiled that into one word: Yuck.) Teeth. That was a big part of my squeamishness. We had a pioneer day in fourth grade. It was fun eating out of a pail for one day. It was enjoyable trying a dandelion on a cracker for one day. Bonnets worked, again, for one day. (ONE DAY is the key here.) But then I wanted to go back into my house with no cracks or bugs crawling about and curl up with a game of Mario Paint on the Super NES. I sucked at cross-stitching, I’d be no good during that time period. I’d stick out sorely, watching people, judging them. It just wouldn’t work.

My dreams of meeting my different century friends were squashed. Thanks Michael J. Fox for jump starting that reality. Now, anytime I read Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte, I get lost for a moment and then jolt back to shuddering thoughts of bloodletting and major B.O. Yeah, I don’t even seem to care about the lack of women’s rights at that time, much more concerned with the lack of clothes changing.

Still, I always try to bring a character to my realm, very Lost In Austen. Elizabeth Bennett would love a good bargain at Century 21. Laura Ingalls Wilder would just love the lipstick options at Sephora. Never mind vaccinations or central air or the right to vote, but I just know Little Women‘s Jo would have enjoyed Tampax tampons. She just would.

Child Wedding Planners

1 Aug

In honor of my cousin Elizabeth’s upcoming nuptials, I decided to run a column I wrote a year ago about our try at wedding planning at a very young age.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth didn't get to experience a lot of this. Her doll's head fell off. It was unfortunate.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth didn’t get to experience a lot of this hair color changing. Her doll’s head fell off. It was very unfortunate.

Shoes. The reason I fell in love with the world of Barbie was due to her wardrobe of tiny high-heeled shoes that came in a variety of colors. I’d receive the doll in its hot pink box, open it, and proceed to rid the blonde lady from the zapatos on her pointed dainty feet. I’d line them up on a table by color, marveling at the multitude of plastic shoes. Sticking my fingers in the little holes, I’d walk them around, modeling. Barbie didn’t need them, I did. Oh, I’d play with my Barbie doll, but mostly, I’d lay out coordinating outfits to go with the shoes, excited by my expertise.

My grandfather built me this doll mansion – a three-story house with a kitchen, living room and bedroom. Each had its own wallpaper and carpet. Most of the time, while playing with the clothes, I’d arrange the naked Barbies to sit in various parts of the house, awaiting their chance to model my ensembles.

Eventually, I learned to play house, doctor or whatever with the dolls, as playmates insisted upon it. My sister enjoyed breaking doll’s legs or wrapping them up so that they must lay in triage at our Barbie hospital. My cousin liked setting up the dolls on dates, going to the drive-thru and out dancing. We’d even let them make out in the window, leaving them by themselves for five minutes of alone time, on top of each other, of course. Besides shoe-ing, I dabbled in hair dressing. One Christmas, I received a hair salon. After brushing and detangling their long hair, I grew tired of “playing.” So I “borrowed” some adult scissors and preceded to give a few of my dolls a freshen-up. Always a mistake, but it seemed like a good idea at first. For some reason, I always thought short bobs with bangs would work. Barbie looked so sad with her shorn hair, blunt with short spikes in front that stuck straight up.

When the three of us would get together, our Barbie event planning became grandiose. Oh, they would take the pink mini-van up into the mountains, behind the television set. Meander to the orphanage where our many Kelly dolls and friends stayed (adopting all of them in the process.) And maybe, just maybe, we’d hold a wedding to remember.

This usually happened when we introduced a new Ken doll to the mix. (Ken’s were not as fun to play with, but essential, so each of us had one or two in our collections.)

I had just received a surfing Ken doll, complete with gold mesh shirt and neon green board shorts. My cousin received a Disney Pocahontas Barbie doll. And she was beautiful. Her skin was a milky brown, and that hair. It was black, silky and seemed to dance in the wind. It was settled. These two were gonna get hitched.

My mom had just bought a new treadmill and was placed perfectly in our basement – which doubled as our playroom. We knew what to do. After dressing up the dolls in bridal couture, lining up their various friends along the exercise machine, we placed Ken and Pocahontas at the top, ready for their debut as a couple. We turned the radio to Lite 104.1, knowing the soft hits would add to the atmosphere and dimmed the lights (turned them off, more like it.) That was our downfall. We turned the treadmill on, unfortunately, to full blast. The poor bride and groom that had been seated at the edge were now throttling at full speed to the base. Ken was lucky, he flew into the wall. Pocahontas, not so much. That beautiful silky mane of hair became entangled with the treadmill floor and quickly became wrapped in the machine. Her head became detached from body, as the machine started to sound funny and quickly slowed at its own accord. The weird mangled sounds attracted the attention of Mom, and by the time we shut off the machine, she was in the room, bewildered.

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing,” we replied.

My cousin’s doll was in ruins after only playing with her once. So tragic. Ken was without his mate and the treadmill never worked the same again. It wasn’t until a few years ago that my sister and I ‘fessed up to the disaster.

Did that stop our doll escapades? No. But I continued to play it safe by making lining up Barbie shoes my number one priority.

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