Monday, December 29, 2003

Grape expectations...
Looking for a New Year's Eve tradition? We do ours Cuban-style! Click here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

It's a, fam-lee tradition...
Read all about my family's Christmas antics here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

A smurfy time in Care-A-Lot...
Read about my irritation with today's teens here.
Just a-swingin...
To read about my adventures in swing dancing, click here.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

It's alright, cause I'm saved by the bell...
Read about the craziness that is my frantic life here.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Hustle, bustle, toil and trouble?...
Read my adventures as a holiday shopper here.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Omygosh, that's MY life...
To read my thoughts on reality television, click here.
City sidewalks, busy sidewalks...
Sorry I've been a little slack with the postings lately. It's been a tad bit crazy around here. Anyway, here for your viewing pleasure, my thoughts on Holiday Frenzy Fever.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

The ringing sounds of the great outdoors...
To read my family camping trip saga, click here.

Monday, October 27, 2003

If I had a million dollars...
To read my thoughts on life as a rich girl, click here.
Change of plans...
In case you're wondering why I haven't posted in the past week, there is a reasonable explaination. Due to the fact that my columns run in The Jupiter Courier, where I am employed, they are owned by the E.W. Scripps company, and it would be a copyright violation for me to run them on my own site.

Before you break down crying, and feel there is no longer a reason to live, I do have good news! I can post links to the Courier Web site that will take you directly to the column. The only pitfall is, you will not get to read them before the rest of the general public, as you did before.

I will be able to post other things on this site that are not published in the paper. I know I have been slack about that, but I've been a little busy... I will try to be better, though.

Anyway, I hope those of you who are loyal readers will continue to read my columns. It's only one extra mouse click away. C'mon, you can do it! Thanks for all your comments and support! They are always appreciated.

Those with criticism, bugger off!! Just kidding... Enjoy!

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Fins to the left...
On my first low-key weekend in longer than I can remember, I decided to do something very risqué and dangerous- test drive cars at a dealership.

And if that was not daring enough, it should be noted that I was by myself and am a first-time car shopper.

Crazy, you say? Foolish, am I?

Perhaps. But I was completely locked into the mindset of not purchasing a car that day, so I figured that I was safe.

Furthermore, I do not have the appropriate funding to just jaunt out and by a new car on a whim at the present time, thus increasing the potency of my safety net.

So, I figured, it’s the perfect crime. I’d get to peruse the cars, test them out and then leave, because there is no way I could conceivably be talked into buying one.

I must say, I severely underestimated the shrewdness of pressure salesmen.

The salespeople were like sharks mulling outside the door of the dealership. In fact, they couldn’t have been more obvious if they had fins taped to their backs.

I did not even have the chance to lock my car door before I was offered something to drink, a business card and a pen with which to sign the contracts.

I was really hoping to just lollygag around. I wanted to look over the cars, make some notes on the reporter’s notepad that I carry with me wherever I go and then let a salesperson know when I was ready to test one out.

Shame on me for desiring some space and independence. I’m guessing that notion was rookie mistake number one, because the sharks, bull sharks I’d presume, in their clean polo shirts and pressed khaki slacks, began to twitch with excitement over my faux pas like I’d just dripped a spot of blood into their holding tank.

With little delay, I was steered towards my “dream car,” which the salesman and I would be driving and discussing. As I climbed into the passenger’s seat, I looked longingly at the stylish, less expensive car I’d wanted to try a little further down the lot.

Guess we weren’t meant to be a match made in Heaven, old boy.

When we returned to the dealership, I wondered if it was just my imagination, or had all of the female salespeople vanished from the premises? Not a single woman was in sight, and in the interest of time, I will resist the urge to turn this story into a “Women’s Lib” issue, and assume that the men just wanted the female prey all to themselves.

As I sat at the salesman’s desk awaiting a price quote I didn’t even know that I had asked for, I was approached by every man in the store. Each claimed to be a manager of some sort, and after a mere ten minutes, I had enough business cards to fill a rolodex.

I glanced wearily at the salesman that had taken me on the test drive. He apologized profusely, and explained that no matter how much he knew that I did not want to buy a car that day, his managers did not believe such a person existed in the world.

So for forty minutes, I sat like a freak exhibit at Ripley’s Believe it or Not. One that everyone had to attempt to discredit before shaking their heads and surrendering to the acknowledgment of my disease.

I’d had quite enough, and asked the friendly salesman (an oxymoron, I know) to pass me a post-it note and a pen. In large letters I wrote, “I do not want to buy a car today!” and stuck it to my forehead.

Well, that maneuver was enough to make them bring out the big guns. Up strode a man with a smile like Jack Nicholson, a walk like Elvis and the presence of Clint Eastwood.

A hush fell over the crop of salesmen assembled around me. The saloon-keeper ducked below the bar. The general manager had entered the scene.

I could feel my knees weakening as he offered me incentive after incentive on a new car. He was a smooth talker, and he was whittling away at my ability to think rationally. I pulled out my last weapon; my one and only line of defense.

“I don’t have any money,” I muttered feebly.

Then all at once, I was snapped back to reality when he uttered one remarkable phrase, much to his own detriment.

“Well, what if you didn’t need money to buy a car today?” he asked slyly.

Well, that did it. I hobbled out the door with a salesman attached to each of my legs. A defeated manager scampered to remove the “for sale” sign from my poor old car before I could get to it.

What was it about his inquiry that made me see the light? Well, I reasoned as I started up my clunky old Honda, if I didn’t need money to buy a car, I’d be at the Lamborghini dealership right now.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Hail, alma matter...
Some say that you can’t go home again.

After attending my college alma matter’s homecoming celebration this past weekend I learned that this sentiment does not always ring true.

I spent a long weekend at Appalachian State University, and I quickly found that while many things and people were different than I remember, some things never change.

During the week, I stayed with close friends who had all migrated to another city after graduation. I visited new apartments and homes, met new husbands and wives, and chatted about new jobs and higher education.

At first it took a bit of adjusting to see my college folk as the same crop of people with whom I shared triumph and tragedy in our first dorm rooms or during our first classes. Everyone seemed so much older and more mature and settled than I recalled.

It was difficult to witness the same people who could pull all-nighters in our dorm lobby only to scramble to an early morning class, yawning at 9:30 p.m. and complaining about “an early day at the office tomorrow.”

I must admit, at times I got a little downhearted and began reminiscing about the “good ol’ days.” But as quickly as it came, my sadness dissipated into a whirlwind weekend of memories and laughter.

By the time we reached the school, homecoming had indeed become just that. As the mobs of students created unique spectacles of themselves in the middle of Boone’s main street, my friends and I knew it: We were home again.

At game time, we stood on top of the bleachers until our legs felt like jelly and yelled for our team until our voices were long lost. Familiar faces filled the crowd, and everywhere I turned, someone from my past was shouting my name.

My friends and I got caught up in the memory of student life, and for one flickering moment we left our adulthood behind and slipped into a comfortable time warp. We remembered the way things were, and were grateful that those days were not lost forever.

Sometimes it’s easy to lose touch with a good friend. Sometimes when the circumstances under which you became friends disappear, it’s hard to view a friendship in the same light as you once did. Sometimes too much time can create a rift that only a trip to the past can repair.

I was fortunate to have that trip this week, and I know it. Not everyone gets to make the journey home, but at the week’s closure, I was quite glad I did.

Looking back now, I am able to reflect upon my time at “home” and savor several revelations.

Yes, sometimes people change, but that is not always a bad thing. It is possible to change with someone, and changing together can only make a friendship stronger.

Yes, sometimes situations change, but if your relationship is strong enough, it will withstand the tests of time and place.

And yes, we may not have as much time for each other as we would like, but as time becomes more scare, the time you do have to share with others becomes that much more valuable and sacred.

As my short time with old friends drew to a close, I noticed that I started to appreciate their adult selves just as much as I did their college selves. We’re all in the same boat — still growing and trying to find the things in life that will make us happy.

The most important thing to remember, no matter where you go or what you need to do to make it to the next level in your life, your friends will always be there to give you a boost.

My friends were there in the planning stages of my life. Not only do they know my past victories and struggles in life. They also know my dreams and aspirations, and they will be there to remind me of them when I can’t remember myself.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Football: Bringing world peace to many...
The roar of the crowd. The collective chant of an audience. The beer bottles flying overhead.

Okay, so there are some things that are slightly unpleasant at football games, but for the most part, there are few things I enjoy more.

Packed into a stadium with 73,000 fellow Dolphins fans last weekend, I couldn’t help but smile at the scene.

People everywhere were decked out in jerseys commemorating their favorite player, and they exchanged a nod and a smile with others sharing their opinions. Strangers slapped hands and exchanged hugs at the slightest hint of victory and produced a collective sigh when times were bleak.

For a brief moment, everyone around you has something in common, and that is a thing to be celebrated. In the grand scope of things, football is a trivial event, but I have come to embrace it as a means of brotherhood and community.

Before non-football fans discard my notion of togetherness, it is important to understand that this feeling can be accomplished in many arenas in life.

In my own experiences, I can recall trips to a theater production where the audience laughed and cried together and became one body of awed viewers. Many times I have turned to an audience member beside me at intermission or at the play’s conclusion and exchanged sentiments about what we had just witnessed.

During my study-abroad program in London, I was fortunate enough to find myself utterly lost in a crowd of thousands celebrating a “football” victory in Piccadilly Circus. I stood fascinated by the masses of people cheering and yelling, and it wasn’t long before I too was caught up in the spirit, embracing my neighbors as we herded down the street.

The term I’ve always used to describe these phenomenons is “choreographed chaos.”
On the outside, things may appear out of control, and an apprehensive person may not look to see what’s within the hustle and bustle. But an insider knows that they are safe, because they are with people who understand.

Be it a concert, a movie, a rally or anything where people are gathered with common interests, nothing compares to the unique bond that can exist in those situations. Anyone knows from experience how a great event or an amazing feeling can get muddled in the retelling. Too often the phrase, “Guess you had to be there,” can escape a disappointed storyteller’s lips.

After a great scene in whatever production in life you witness with another, there is no greater satisfaction than being able to look at someone else and without so much as a sound, be able to understand their feelings completely.

Some people are afraid of crowds, and that’s to be understood. As with last weekend’s game, some people will break the peaceful choreography, and that’s a shame. Those people will never understand the unspoken bond that they have disrupted, but rest assured, more people will get it than not.

I cannot tell you how many crucial connections I have made with fellow audience members from various events that I have attended. I’ve met strangers turned to friends, received information on good mechanics and bad doctors and even received a deal on a car.

The point is, opportunities to congregate are abundant. No matter what our differences in this world may be, there will always be some place where someone else can share your thoughts, hopes and happiness, and we should grasp those occasions whenever we can.

Happiness can come when we embrace that good ‘ol “Cheers” mentality and find ourselves in a place where everybody knows our name. There is security to be found in places that may look disorganized and dangerous. Sharing a priceless moment of joy or sorrow with others who can relate is a liberation that can be, and should be, enjoyed by all.

Unless you were a Bills fan at the Dolphins game- Then you were on your own.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Party till your dogs ache...
I celebrated my puppy Picadilly’s first birthday last weekend.

I worked late into the evening making a special cake and cookies with doggie décor to serve to all of our family at his birthday party.

I even went so far as to send out invitations and buy “happy birthday” balloons with Clifford on them (every dog’s hero).

Okay, before you start thinking I’m nuts and petition my editors to have me committed, let me explain my motives for throwing my puppy a birthday party.

I must admit, though quietly so that my beagle boss doesn’t hear, I had ulterior motives for throwing the birthday bash.

For many years, I have traveled to birthday parties, holiday gatherings and football get-togethers held by various members of my family.

I have just moved into my first ever self-subsidized, roommateless apartment, and now, it’s my turn to show off my new digs and entertain those who have done so for me over the years.

As my family sat around on my couches, in my apartment, watching the Dolphins beat the Jets on my television, a deep sense of pride washed over me.

Sure, some had to sit on the floor in my tiny living room, but it was my floor! And okay, so the furniture was all donated, but it’s mine now- no take-backs!

Despite the fact that I have to wipe a few tears from my eyes when I’m writing out that rent check each month with no roommate to defray the cost, I can’t help but think that it’s worth it to be able to come and go as I please, leave dishes in the sink and not take the garbage out the second it gets full.

Now, many beagle owners will tell you that this particular breed, especially the males, are extremely difficult to train. They are highly stubborn, very possessive and do not take rebuke well.

After mine cost me a considerable amount of money in carpet damage payments at our last place, a lot of people thought I was crazy to continue to put up with him. My friends griped each time I had to leave a get-together to take the dog out and my family grumbled whenever he accompanied me to one of their homes.

On countless occasions I have been asked, why would any free-spirited, carefree person anchor themselves to something as demanding as single-puppy parenthood?

Every time, my response is the same: because the very creature that introduced such responsibility and commitment into my life is the same that set me free.

I come home everyday to the healthy, exuberant puppy that I raised single-handedly, and he brings a sense of joy and accomplishment to my life that I have never known.

When he is sick or in pain, he looks to me to protect him and make things better. He is, in essence, my child, and I treat him as such.

It’s not just me I’m providing for- his life is my responsibility, and this home is just as much his as it is mine.

I would not be so shallow as to say that I always have everything under control and that I can handle everything life throws my way. Life is full of big failures and small victories, but eventually you find a way to make each your own. You may even grow to learn that freedom and responsibility are one in the same.

In celebrating Picadilly’s birthday last week, I was actually commemorating more that my pup’s first year on Earth. I was reveling in my first year of being responsible and free through the eyes of someone who needs me to be.

Plus, how often do you get to make a cake with icing dog bones on it?

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Life in the bitter barn...
Murphy’s Law, rule number three: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

I live my life according to Murphy’s Laws. Rules such as “If anything simply cannot go wrong, it will anyway” and “If everything seems to be going well, you’ve obviously overlooked something” are abundant features in my life.

I say this as I am sitting in an auto repair shop, 40 miles from home, awaiting the fateful prognosis on my battered little car. I shouldn’t feel sorry for the car, though. He (yes, I personify my car) has had all week to break down on me. At any time, he could have decided to give out on me, but he had his own agenda.

In accordance with Murphy’s Laws, he suddenly heaved a tremendous sigh and decided to take an expensive nap- right in the middle of U.S. 1.

And not just anywhere on U.S. 1- in Stuart, where I had an extremely rare 9 a.m. new employees meeting.

When the tow truck men arrived on the scene, they asked if someone was coming to pick me up. The same question was asked of me when I arrived at the repair shop.

As I am sitting in the car repair waiting room working on my laptop, the obvious answer to both is no.

In the six weeks that I have called Palm Beach County my home, the area and I have been engaged in a little game of “getting to know you.”

So far, I am losing…

I have tried a number of methods in an attempt to meet new people in the area, and each of my efforts have been thwarted. Admittedly, many of those undertakings have resulted in rather humorous outcomes, making it very difficult to curse the situations as I so often desire.

The site of my first expedition to meet people was an obvious choice: church.
In church, people have to be nice to you, or they will get smoldered. Okay, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but they do have to actively recruit you for their ministry.

Right after work one Wednesday, I sprinted over to the church for a small group single’s discussion meeting. I figured that narrowing the church mass into a smaller group of people that I could relate to would be the best plan for making new friends.

When I entered the room that evening, I immediately recognized my logical error- and so did they. Several pairs of eyes peered questioningly at me from behind out-dated spectacles, and one brave soul inquired, “Aren’t you a bit young for this group?”

Only about four decades too young, I thought, but who’s counting? They filled me in on the background of their 60+ widower’s group, and I quietly slipped out the door as they jabbered on out a potluck dinner of shepherd’s pie.

Attempts two and three left me high, dry and soaking wet, if you can imagine that phenomenon.

I called around looking for an adult softball league to join, figuring that some outdoors time after work would lead me to fun friends with similar interests. I sought the advice of two different people in charge of organizing the leagues, and their suggestion was the same: go out to the field and ask a team manager if they need an extra player.

I can’t tell you how dopey I felt walking onto the field that Friday afternoon. I felt like that little kid walking up to the posse of bigger kids, asking, “Can I play with you?”

Unfortunately, there was no one there to answer my juvenile request, because neither league organizer bothered to inform me that there were no games during the holiday weekend.

Given my track record, I guess I should have sensed disaster in the air the following Friday, but I was foolishly optimistic. I drove out to the field in drizzly weather, hoping that the games were still on for the evening.

As a torrential downpour began to unleash itself during my drive, I started to wonder if the storm cloud was simply following me or if it was affecting everyone else in the county. When I arrived at the field, people hustling to the parking lot shouted to me, telling me games were cancelled.

I took advantage of the situation and dashed through puddles of slippery, red mud across the field. I decided that I would corner some unsuspecting manager huddled under an awning and make them put me on their team.

The manager I encountered was in fact looking for players for the upcoming weeks, and I am now awaiting notification on my request to play with the Saucy Kitty’s Lingerie team. Don’t ask…

At this point, I feel obliged to tell you that I love this area. I am not resentful or upset that I haven’t found my niche yet, because I know that Jupiter and its surrounding areas have so much to offer someone like me.

Maybe I’m just looking at things the wrong way. I guess having your car stall in the middle of a busy highway and getting two men to rescue you by pushing your car to safety is an icebreaker for future conversation with them. It wasn’t what I had in mind as a way of meeting people, but at this point, I’m open to non-conventional alternatives.

Regardless of my trial and error follies, I have no plans to resign myself to a state of hermit-hood just yet. I will keep taking strides to find my place here, and I will not be bitter when failure seems inevitable.

Okay, maybe I am a little bitter right now, but I promise to have a brighter attitude if I ever leave the car repair shop.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Ode to Marco Polo...
When I was younger, I could think of no better way to spend a Saturday than in the pool.

What could possibly beat a ten hour pool day featuring a raucous game of Marco Polo, chicken fights and diving contests?

As a child, my friends and family and I would spend a marathon number of weekend hours completely water-logged and with pruned fingers. When our parents finally hauled us out of the water, our lips chattering and blue from the cool night air, we would enjoy sandwich dinners under the stars, wrapped in sopping towels.

As I recall, there was no greater spoiler of a water fun day than the inevitable one or two teenagers or adults who would lounge by the pool working on their tans and yelling at the kids for splashing or being too noisy. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could waste such a day loaded with fun in the sun potential, and believed firmly that I would never squander such opportunities when I was older.

As I sprawled out in my lawn chair a few weeks ago with an icy drink in hand and a relaxed grin on my face, I thought to myself, nothing could be better than laying here in the sun, letting the beating sun rays drain all of my weekday cares from my head.

I furrowed my brow at the neighborhood children splashing around, and even stifled a lecture when I saw a pack of kids running around the perimeter of the pool. I wondered, why can’t they just be still and enjoy the simplicity of their surroundings?

Woah! Could I have possibly sounded any older?

I have to recall with a laugh how many times my parents threatened to tape record my proclamations as a child. Everything was so definite back then, with no gray areas. “I will NEVER like boys!” “I will NEVER wish for a naptime!” “I will ALWAYS enjoy getting dirty!”

I have, of course, come to believe the opposite of all of these. Mmm... daily naptimes... But I digress.

As “grown ups,” we come to find that life is filled with gray areas. Decisions aren’t always as easy as which color crayon to use. Sometimes instead of choosing between a good option and a bad one, you are forced to make a difficult decision to determine which is the lesser of two evils (for example, choosing mechanics, presidential elections, etc.).

When you are a child, you want to make your own choices; choose your own destinies. As an adult faced with a problem, you want nothing more than to make someone else decide.

On the plus side for adulthood, as a child, you lack the power to choose to dine on jelly beans for lunch. As an adult, you can have them for dinner too!

The most rewarding privilege of adulthood is the ability to choose how you want to view the world. Sometimes being a “grown up” is necessary, but that’s only because throwing paper airplanes during board meetings is not sociably acceptable. When you want to cut loose and have a little fun, you have the option to choose between being an adult and exposing your inner child.

I spent this past weekend at the pool again, this time with a different attitude. I played with my younger siblings, throwing them up in the air and into the water. I watched and applauded their efforts to add a new twist to each dive they did into the pool. I even instigated a dangerous game of Frisbee (my apologies to everyone whose head I hit).

I enjoyed mealtime outside, wrapped in a sopping towel and loving every minute of it. For one moment, I remembered what it was like to be a child, thinking of nothing but poolside fun and a long weekend, and it was great.

When I went to work on Tuesday, I felt more worn-out and water-logged than I have ever felt before in my life. My mind may have been able to relive a slice of childhood, but my adult body just can’t hang with the young ones.

After last weekend, I know I will still fulfill my midweek daydreams of lazy Saturday sunbathing. I can’t promise that I will join in the next neighborhood game of Marco Polo I come across, but at the very least, I will lighten my scowl and enjoy the loud shrieks of childhood.

Maybe I’ll hide a water gun under my towel and spray them periodically. MY parents won’t be there to punish me!

Friday, August 29, 2003

Look it up...
Let me just say, genius. Pure genius.

Never before (and I suspect never again) has a television show so captured the thoughts and feelings of modern-day Americans, and additionally, external opinions of our society, as one family sitcom. They’ve captured the attention of this and other nations for nearly 14 years in a flawless manner that others have tried, and failed, to duplicate.

I am speaking, of course, of “The Simpsons.”

What a masterpiece! This show boasts oodles of awards, billions of dollars in revenue and millions of adoring fans.

You might say, “So what. Lot’s of show’s have millions of fans. The Simpsons aren’t that special.” My friend, you couldn’t be more wrong, and I’ll tell you why.

I could post nearly as many arguments highlighting the uniqueness of “The Simpsons” as there are lunchbox toting, episode quoting fans, but there is really only one thing that I can say to sum up my case and point: “D’oh!”

That’s right people. On June 14, 2001, “D’oh” was officially inducted into the dictionary making it an official word in the English language. And not just any dictionary: The Oxford English Dictionary! And we all know that Brits are smarter (or at least, they act that way), so accept it, respect it, use it. “The Simpsons” lingo is a part of your English vocabulary now and forever more.

Because “The Simpsons” are celebrating the release of their third complete season this week, I, as a “Simpsons” devotee, feel it necessary to rejoice in my own humble fashion. In light of that decision, I have decided to provide you with a list of what I feel are the top 10 episodes (in no particular order) of the past 14 glorious years:

1) “Radioactive Man” – Milhouse: “We’ve done the Jimminy Jilikers scene. We’ve done it so many times that the words have lost all meaning!”
2) “Who Shot Mr. Burns- Parts 1 & 2” – Where else can you get a murder mystery with such suspense and such an unlikely culprit? Quality.
3) “Bart After Dark” – When Bart stumbles upon a burlesque theatre, it takes a musical number featuring Springfield’s residents to save it.
4) “Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner” – Homer as a food critic. Lisa: “Dad, don’t eat it! It’s fat-free!”
5) “Tree house of Horror IX” – By far the best in a long line of Halloween classics. It’s the one where Homer’s hair tries to kill Bart, Bart and Lisa get sucked into “The Itchy and Scratchy Show” and it is revealed that Marge was impregnated by an alien (Maggie’s father).
6) “The Great Money Caper” – The whole town plays along in a prank to teach Bart and Homer a lesson in grifting. Then they go surfing...
7) “The Bart Wants What it Wants” – Bart and Milhouse compete over a girl in Canada. Milhouse: “The house always wins!”
8) “Trilogy of Error” – Everyone’s stories are contingent upon the others’. Pure genius.
9) “A Tale of Two Springfields” – Homer becomes mayor of “Old Springfield.” They have no utilities, but survive by bringing in beer and The Who.
10) “Homerpalooza” – Homer goes to Lalapalooza and takes cannonballs to the gut.

Here’s to many more years with Springfield’s finest!

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Good 'ol Ramen...
I uttered a phrase today that I swore would never escape my lips: I miss college.

I miss sprinting to class on two hours sleep, wearing my pajamas and splashing coffee all over myself.

I miss classes being over by noon on Friday and knowing that I had nothing to think about all weekend long, but the party on Saturday night and what type of pizza my roommates and I would consume that evening.

I even miss living in a dorm with 30 of my closest friends living right down the hall or even in the same room as me.

Every college student dreams of life after school. After all, we’d spent all of our recollected lives in classrooms and working grunt jobs just to have money for weekend trips to Taco Bell (and if we were feeling saucy, Chili’s). We fantasized about the day when we would hold our first paycheck and be able to announce aloud, “This round’s on me!”

Now here I sit, my diploma staring me in the face, eight months after I skipped merrily across the stage to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance,” coveting my Tuesday morning “Mass Media and Society” naptimes.

What prompted my nostalgic attitude towards the good ‘ol undergrad days?

It could be my discussion with a co-worker about wanting to get my Master’s degree “someday” (did I really say that out loud?). Or it could have been the interview I had over at FAU where I listened intently to a student stressing to a professor her need for curriculum advice. Or maybe it’s the Homecoming reunion I am tying to organize with my alumni friends for October.

I think what it really boils down to, though, is responsibility.

I am at a unique point in my life, which friends and family alike have assured me is a passing phase. I am caught somewhere in between being an adult, with freedoms beyond anything I’ve ever known, and being a child, longing for the days of carefree life and irresponsibility.

As a child, I could easily say, “Hey, let’s go get a drink tonight! It’s only midnight!” As an adult, I know the more responsible way to go would be to say, “No thanks, I’ve got work tomorrow.”

At the age of 23, I find myself sitting on the brink of what I want to do and what I have the potential to be.

As I sat in my first self-subsidized apartment tonight, I came to a realization. The first step to being an adult is to realize that I have nothing of myself to lose, and only a lifetime of learning to gain.

I can be absolutely anything I want to be. Knowing that is the greatest freedom that exists in the world today.

Adulthood isn’t about eating ice cream before dinner or having a beer on a Wednesday night- It’s about being free to determine your own destiny and the path that you wish to follow.

I still keep in touch with a few of my teachers who have been supportive of me for many years. I know that they will read my “revelation” and chuckle, because they knew all along.

Nothing anyone can teach you in school can prepare you for the challenges “real life” will throw your way. When my teachers looked at me and my classmates, they weren’t fooled. They knew who would make it and who would be left behind to ponder their place in the world. They gave us all of the tools and then left us to sink or swim.

As a bonafide adult, with rent and utilities due and everything, I feel that I have a true understanding of what this world has to offer and what I have to give in return.

How do I know? Because I have just figured out that the world is a college classroom, and everyone is a professor in the game of life.

I still like leaving dirty dishes in the sink and eating Ramen noodles, though.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Reuniting with the bartender...
High school reunions provide numerous valuable opportunities. The opportunities to reacquaint with old friends, act nostalgic about your “golden years” or even rekindle an old flame are plentiful.

After attending a friend’s 10-year high school reunion this past weekend, it is safe to say that I have assessed the primary goal for all attendees of the prom-like promenade: to show everyone that you are better than you were when they knew you.

Reunions cause a great deal of undue stress amongst attendees. Everyone wants to go looking better and feeling better about their lives. Reunions staged as an event for “reuniting” have a subtle way of turning into a “whose life is better than whose” contest.

During this particular reunion, I knew nobody and had plenty of opportunities to make observations and form twisted opinions of participants as they gathered in droves in misshapen lines at the bar. The combination of long lost friends (and foes) and alcohol made for rather humorous scenery and quite predictable results.

I hung back and chatted with other non-class-of-93 reunion goers. The room was packed with friends, fiancées, spouses and miscellaneous others who were conned into attending by class members who did not want to arrive on the scene alone. We were of little interest to former students, because we did not know them in high school, couldn’t have passed judgement on them and are therefore not worth impressing.

Many people can be excluded from the generalizations that I am about to make concerning attendees. Some really did attend in the hopes of catching up with old friends and introducing new ones, however those who can be classified into obvious groups, are certainly more fun to write about.

Based on my observations, men go to reunions for two reasons: to reflect desperately upon their glory days and to show former bullies that their hand-picked bodyguards can take them down.

Many of the men I encountered were the guys in high school that got picked on and made to feel inferior. They flocked to the opportunity to show off the trophy girls and designer suits that their rocket scientist salaries have secured them like moths to a flame. The classic example that I noted of this practice was a rather short, gangly looking man clinging onto a 5 foot 10 inch model wearing a “dress,” which covered only the parts of her body required by law. The attraction there is a no-brainer.

On the other side of the room, balding former football heroes slugged down beers and thought they could hang onto some shred of their glory days by slapping each other on the butt and flexing the remnants of their muscles. This practice became even more acceptable the more drinks they consumed.

Women are slightly sneaker in their reunion objectives. They will begin preparing for the event more than a year in advance in some cases. Workout regiments will have been established and conditions will have been set (“I’m only going if I lose 15 pounds by the day of the reunion...”).

Women sidle up to each other under the pretense of a quick hello and nostalgic chat. Before you know it, you are bombarded by baby pictures, have been gaily introduced to a bored-looking husband and inundated with their Cinderella life story that has occurred since your previous meeting. Reunion attendee tip: believe about half of the stories, and you might get an accurate depiction of any given person’s life.

In the end, you realize that it’s all politics. Nobody wants to hear about your life. They only want to fascinate you with theirs. People will even begin their conversation with, “How are you?” in order to get a cookie cutter response (“Great!”). Then when you ask the obligatory return question, that is when the floodgates open.

Overall we had a great time, but not with the crowd we had expected. Old friends completely consumed with informing everyone of their picture perfect lives will prove to be a lot less fun to spend the evening with than strangers you meet for the first time. Conversations with those people typically go as follows:

“Did we have English together?”
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Cool, let’s dance!”
"Right on!"

After all is said and done, you feel good knowing that you caught up with old friends and even better knowing that you don’t have to see them for another 15 years. You bask in the glow of attention from new friends. But most importantly, you go home thinking that you were the best-looking, most successful person in the room, and everyone knows it. At least, that’s what you told them!

Friday, August 15, 2003

The scariest word of all...
Vulnerable is the word du jour being used by media types across the country to describe the blackout situation that effected 50 million people in the Northeastern United States and Canada yesterday. The lights are out, systems are down and we are vulnerable.

Vulnerability is a scary term in this day and age. Before 9-11, a girl would use it to describe her emotional status after a bad break-up. A guy might use it to describe the defense of a pro-team after a notable team member got injured. Vulnerability certainly was not fun, but it was not life-threatening.

Now here we stand, nearly two years since the worst attack on U.S. soil since Pearl Harbor was carried out. Billions of dollars have been spent on “homeland security” by the Bush administration. Hundreds of thousands were shipped away from their families to a foreign land to stamp out a possible, unproven breeding ground of future terrorist attacks.

As a nation we have formed international alliances and pulled together on our own soil to secure our way of life. We have even endured with a begrudging nod the rigors of airport security and the scare tactics they have inflicted upon our society. We have cowered in corners, afraid for our lives, and we have stood tall on the borders and shouted our dedication to our country.

All this, and yet in one swift motion, we are vulnerable.

I’ve been dealing with similar patterns of vulnerability in my own life, and I am sure many others go through these cycles too. Sometimes when things start going well, we consider ourselves invincible. No one can touch us, because we have dotted all of the T’s and crossed all the I’s.

Then something unexpected happens and we are vulnerable.

Someone second-guesses your brilliant ideas or the veracity of your conclusions. Someone disagrees with the way you work or the value of what your work produces. You are vulnerable.

Sometimes it doesn’t even take that much. Sometimes an unpredictable roadblock, such as a financial difficulty or even the death of a loved one can cause you to open your eyes and see that you are human. You have no control. You are vulnerable.

To the millions without power, and to the handful of us who are experiencing the frightening sensation of vulnerability, I say, remember that life cannot be lived by looking backwards. Don’t spend your life in fear that someone or something might come along and break you down. That can only happen if you allow it. Sometimes the greatest thinking, followed by the greatest actions come from a situation labeled as “out of control.”

I’ll close with a brilliant piece of wisdom from an old school classic, The Mighty Ducks: “Don’t be too careless, but don’t be too careful either.” Chew on that today when you have more than one option. Sometimes the path of vulnerability can also be the path to greatness.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

The boy who cried "traffic!"...
I have occupied a large number of towns in my life. I’ve lived in large, metropolitan cities, as well as tiny, quaint towns.

I’ve come to discover that no matter where I choose to unpack my bags, one issue remains universal throughout every town, city and county in this country: traffic.

Road rage is a disease that plagues almost every traveler that goes head-to-head with routine daily traffic. We are all “warriors of the road,” acting as if we are the masters of our own driving destiny.

I am certainly not exempt when it comes to the subjects of aggressive driving and road rage. It is a commonly known (and should be a widely accepted) fact that everyone on the road with me is wrong and I am right. If everyone else would see things my way, the commuting world would be in perfect harmony, but I digress.

Traffic issues are paramount in the decision making processes of every town. No building, house or road can exist without opposition being voiced based on traffic.

Being a road rage addict, if you will, I can see the merit of these concerns in many instances. If the traffic situation in a community is unbearable and expansion of a town’s facilities will only agitate the situation, I will stand up and cry “traffic troubles!” at the top of my lungs.

What I do not agree with, however, is the usage of the traffic arguments in providing a protective blanket around those who routinely oppose expansion. In essence, these people are crying “traffic trouble!” in a similar manor to the boy who cried wolf.

If people continue to attempt to shield their towns from prospective changes by continuously alleging traffic issues, one of two things could happen to negatively impact their home-sweet-homes.

1) Everyone will commiserate with residents’ traffic woes and no expansion will ever be allowing. Such an outcome would create terrible economic repercussions for the town. Spending would eventually come to a halt as new residents would find the town uninhabitable.
2) No one would listen, assuming that traffic woes are over-exaggerated and “old hap,” and expansion would burst beyond capacity, creating even more dangerous and hazardous traffic situations.

The point I’m trying, in a long-winded manor, I grant you, to make is that traffic concerns are real, and should be taken seriously when considering land development issues. It should not, however, play the key roll in shooting down feasible expansion efforts before they are given a chance to get off the ground.

Monday, August 11, 2003

I'm baaaaaaack...
After a three week sabatical, I am back, and in rare form, posting blogs for your reading enjoyment. I have been extremely busy with my new job, which is awesome, so I fear that I will not be able to post as frequently as before. I will be writing a column for my paper, The Jupiter Courier, and I will post those comments, in addition to random other stories. I hope you enjoy. Please keep checking in if you feel the need to follow my life story!

I apologize in advance for the length of my column below. It's been awhile...
Weekday Warrior...
For most people, the first week of work at a new job involves a lot of tedium. 20 people feel the need to show you where the water cooler is. You learn that Bob in accounting is not the same person as Bob in marketing. And you lie awake at night wondering if you signed away your first-born child in that mountain of paperwork you signed.

When I signed on as a reporter for the Jupiter Courier, I was unaware that I would spend my first week studying 30 years of local litigation, mingling with celebrities and putting my life in mortal danger.

On day one my job was masquerading as a “normal” position. I filled out the forms, I watched the safety videos (“If your phone receiver is causing you discomfort, ask your supervisor to order you a headset immediately.”) and I did the office tour.
I went home that night, my head swimming with random factoids, and feeling overwhelmed by the magnitude of my responsibilities. Being a recent college graduate, I panicked wondering if I would be able to cut it in this high-pressure, no-nonsense profession. Nothing they can teach you in a classroom could have prepared me for day two.

I spent the day wandering around my new hometown with my co-workers, learning, and quickly forgetting, the names of all of my would-be future contacts. My reporting beat extends to everything from crime to court to business, and, as I learned that day, country music.
After racing around learning the ropes during the exhausting afternoon, I was handed my first “breaking story.” I hopped in my non-air-conditioned car (donations to my cause are appreciated) and raced down to the Castaways bar for an exclusive interview with Country Music Television personality Lance Smith.

Now here I am, sitting in a lounge chair next to a celebrity on the beach at a bar in the middle of the afternoon thinking, I definitely picked the right career. Then I went to Jupiter’s Town Council meeting.

Things were moving right along, and I made the mistake of thinking that this wasn’t so bad. Unfortunately, a long-winded speaker caused my fellow reporter and I to take turns snoring and jabbing each other in the ribs.
Day three was fairly normal, as far as a reporter’s normalcy goes. I spent the day pouring through legal documents and making phone calls to attempt to comprehend some shred of what I was reading (I did, in fact inform my supervisor that I am medically in need of a headset. Thanks safety video!).
It wasn’t until day four that the roof caved in. Literally.

I went about my business and was preparing to do some interviews around town when I found myself standing outside in the middle of a torrential downpour.

After hearing on the radio that tornados were tearing up my neighborhood, I decided that going home was not an option.
Seeing as I was already drenched, I pulled my car over and decided to take some pictures of the cars plowing their way through the flooded roads. That is when my life flashed before my eyes.

I took, what is in my opinion, the “shot of the year” of a large SUV splashing quickly through a lake-deep puddle. But the world almost did not know how good of a picture I took, because the tidal wave produced by the bewildered traveler collapsed over me as I turned and ducked, tucking the camera under my sopping wet shirt.

I finally made it home to a dark, damp apartment to change clothes and walk my mystified puppy. I unfortunately could not do anything to tame my water-primed bouffant hairdo, as I foolishly discovered after attempting to start my hair dryer with no electricity.
I hustled as best as I could on the parking lot known as I-95 to the site of a tornado-torn shopping plaza in order to chat with shaken witnesses. The rain was still pounding, turning my window-sealed car into a sauna, and I once again risked my life speeding down the road, talking on my cell phone, receiving instructions from my anxious editor.

I left work at 11 o’clock at night feeling drained, yet exhilarated. After four days of anxiety and self-doubt, I heaved a sigh of relief, knowing that whatever day five had to throw at me, I was ready for. Silly me.

I rolled into work on less than five hours of sleep wearing a Hawaiian shirt (Friday office policy) and deeply anticipating a weekend away from the newsroom. The Miami Dolphins had their first pre-season game, and I was going to be there, barring typhoon or hurricane (since we’ve already established that I can handle tornados).

Hawaiian shirt Friday brought the promise of concealment in the office, typing away at stories and interviewing over the phone. However, who should choose to meet me in person that day for the first time, but the mayor.

I felt ridiculous, and even forewarned Mayor Golonka of my casual appearance, but nothing she could say while wearing her professional, pin-striped business suit could make me feel less cheesy and inappropriate. Well, at least she’ll remember who I am. That kid in the Hawaiian shirt and sandals. What a legacy.

Despite numerous interruptions, I stayed on top of things, blocked out all distractions and got my work done, but anyone who has read this far into my story should know that at 4:30 p.m., a glitch arose and our main system shut down as tornado warnings filled the office.
I finally snuck out and made it in time to see the forth quarter of the Dolphins game. The guard laughed as he waved me into the parking lot, and remarked, “A little late, aren’t ya?” You think?

After all was said and done, I sat with a friend and reflected upon my first week on the job with a beer and a smile. I cannot wait to see what happens next week.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Brief Sabbatical...
I know that this will come as a great disappointment to my loyal readers (all two of you), but this will be my last posting for awhile. I have accepted a job as a reporter for the Jupiter Courier, just North of West Palm Beach, Fla. Tonight is my last night of work in Orlando, and I will be on vacation in good 'ol North Carolina for the week prior to my move. Following that, I do not know when I will be able to resume my blogs, owing to the fact that I will be in heavy training for my new career.

With that in mind, I would like to leave you (temporarily, I promise) with a list of things that I have learned at my first, post-college job.

1) Always keep track of and make sure you're paid for your mileage. (You'll thank me when you find that an extra dollar on your paycheck could have bought you that delectable box of Mac & Cheese that you had to forgo in order to purchase toliet paper.)

2) People who make more than you often feel it is their God-given right to ask you to perform such difficult tasks as sending out a fax for them or tying their shoelaces.

3) Those paper thingies next to the coffee machine actually have a very important function, aside from making very stylish hats. (Learned that one the hard way...)

4) Never make personal phone calls when you are in earshot of a person who has no friends or discernable social life. They get jealous and tattle.

5) The clinic/health care room always has a comfy cot, perfect for napping. Bring your own pillow, though.

6) Don't waste your sick days on actual illnesses! You'll be glad you toughed out that bout with the pneumonic plague when you're lying on a beach on paid vacation!

7) You need an engineering degree to work objects designed by NASA scientists, such as copy machines and packing tape dispensers. Dress appropriately in a full suit of armor before engaging in combat with a fax machine.

8) When in doubt, ask Bob. Every office has at least three and they know everything.

9) Always eat before going to a company function, especially if food is served at the function. Either the food will inevitably be sea snails stuffed with boiled cabbage (which everyone will comment on as "delish!") or everyone in the room is "watching my figure!"

And finally, number 10): Office Space- see it, memorize it, live it.

I hope I've been able to impart some twisted form of wisdom upon you in these past couple of months. To sum up: reality television causes brain degeneration, gay people won't bite you (unless you want them to) and 70-year-old sailors are the epitome of coolness.

I look forward to relaying more of my adventures in the near future. Until then, reek havoc wherever possible and inspire more blog issues for to me harp on about upon my return!

Friday, July 18, 2003

Movin' on up (moooovin' on up)...
There is nothing quite so traumatic as the dreaded apartment hunt. Yesterday my stepmother and I harnessed on our calculators, fine toothcombs and combat fatigues and embarked upon the tumultuous journey. What we found was nothing short of a crazed jungle of saleswomen with lassos and handcuffs in the backs of their golf carts and noses that could smell sale potential before you even get out of your car.

The first place we looked at was gorgeous. The clubhouse was beautiful, complete with an all-access movie theater for entertaining friends. The model apartment was spacious and had flawless light gray carpeting. I was just about sold until I realized that the size apartment we viewed was about twice the size of the available one I'd be getting. I refused to take action until I saw the actual size and condition of my would-be apartment. As soon as we entered, it was obvious to me why our leasing agent fought valiantly against my insistence on seeing the actual place. "You can get a good enough idea from the floor plan," she said.

Realizing she was fighting a losing battle, she conceded to let me see the actual place. I could almost hear her shudder from behind me as we stepped foot (and by "foot" I mean one foot apiece. That's all that would fit.) on the Scooby Doo colored shag carpeting. We quickly turned and fled the property. The saleswoman wasn't far behind.

At the next place we noticed that the upkeep of the apartments was not the greatest. The layout looked nice, however, and the location was excellent, so we figured it was worth a shot. As we stepped into the massive leasing office we were nearly pummeled right back out of the door by the overwhelming scents wafting through the room. The place carrying a distinct reek resembling a knockdown, drag-out, everyone loses war between The Body Shop, Bath & Body Works and The White Candle Barn. After regaining consciousness, we staggered over to the nearest agent, Angel, who was staring dreamily into space. She greeted us looking bored and lazily slid me a large packet of information that she could just point at in order to save herself the effort of talking. My step-mom and I exchanged a knowing look. We had only been inside the perfume factory for five minutes, and already we were yawning. I'd probably need a sleeping bag, pillow and a large dose of lithium to work there.

We toured a few other catastrophes and I'm pleased to report that I made it out sans nail marks on my legs from clinging agents. After six different viewings, I carefully selected an apartment that I feel will suit Picadilly’s needs and mine. I only made the agent show it to me twice and draw a thorough map of how to get to my exact apartment (where I circled the perimeter and leaned over the porch railing to get a closer sneak peek). After about a dozen questions from me ("why do you need my employer's zip code?" and "I can't remember my license plate number, is that a problem?") the paper work was signed and the agent could unplaster her smile. I am certain that during our second tour I heard her quietly chanting "Commission equals new car, commission equals new car..."

After the end of a long day and a swift application approval, the apartment was mine. My step-mom and I rejoiced quietly and I breathed a large sigh of relief. As the agent ushered us out the door, my step-mom asked, "So, do you live here yourself?" As she shut the door on us (and probably locked it too), she replied, laughing, "Hell no! I live about forty-five minutes North of this place!" Super...

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Back to the future (for real)...
I was four years old in 1984. Prince was a name, not a symbol, and he and his band, the Revolution, had the number one hit of the year ("When Doves Cry"). The original Ghostbusters was the top grossing movie of the year. Ronald Reagan was president and the nation lived in fear of a single, deadly button that could destroy the world. Germany was divided into East and West. And 20-year-old Terry Wallis slipped into a deep, two-decade-long sleep.

Wallis, now 39, fell into a coma as a result of a car accident. He was newly married and had been the proud father of a baby girl for six weeks. The accident left him quadriplegic and in a dreamlike, semi-conscious state for 19 long years. After years of what I can only imagine were torture for his family, Wallis awoke and uttered his first word: "Mom."

Newspapers and television media alike have spun Wallis' story into something of a 20-year flashback or glimpse at an old yearbook. Instead of focusing on Wallis' condition, the emotional turmoil of his family or the near-zero likelihood of something like this occurring, the media has taken to resembling a nostalgic group of middle-aged salesmen clinking their glasses drunkenly in a bar while they reminisce about the "good 'ol days." They throw in a dozen "Internet vocabulary words" that Wallis will not understand, some updates as to where the celebrities of old are now and a little lesson in history and bang out an article about what it is like to be Terry Wallis waking up.

I am not going to pretend that I know how it feels to wake up in another time far past my own. I am going to be presumptuous, however, and assume that cell phone rollover minutes and high-speed Internet connections are the last things on Wallis' mind.

I am highly disappointed with the media for turning Wallis' awakening from the near-dead into a "Class of '84" high school reunion. Personally, I am more interested in what life is like for him now. What will his relationship with his 19-year-old daughter that he's only just spoken with for the first time be like? How does he feel about his wife of 20 years being married to another man? Does he look at himself in the mirror now and wonder what he looked like during the best years of his life? Does he even recognize himself?

I hope that the media will continue to update us on this story, and will stop reminiscing about the introductions of "Seinfeld" and "The Simpsons". I spent a lot of time after reading this man's story thinking about how I would feel. I would not weep for having missed the fall of the USSR or the series finale of "Cheers." I would look, tearfully, to my family and friends and say, "How have you been?"

See what I'm talking about in USA Today and the Orlando Sentinel.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Age old debate...
I was at a party the other night, surrounded by total strangers, which is when I feel the most at ease. A room full of people who have never met you and have no preconceived notions about you creates a forum for a typically reserved person to let their true colors show. I am not particularly shy, but I do not always approach people right off the bat. On a friend's advice, I took this party as an opportunity to be more outgoing and make myself known. I had nothing to lose, and only new friends to gain.

The party went well. I poked my way into small group conversations that interested me. I dazzled them with my wit, threw in a joke or two and then sauntered away looking for my next unsuspecting cluster. (Okay, maybe I didn't "dazzle" them, but they chuckled! Really, they did!)

No matter what party you go to, this one truth remains: The most interesting gathering of party attendees will most certainly be congregated where the keg (or beer stash, depending on your party) is. The proximity to the beer displays a person's desire to communicate with others (because everyone will venture their way sooner or later) as well as their open attitude (loosened, of course, by the beer). I stationed myself on the perimeter of a circle that had formed within reach of the keg, and it was not long before I found myself an active participant in the age old debate, "What is the proper etiquette for a 'hook-up?'"

The participating group included approximately five guys and two girls (one being myself). My female counterpart argued that if a guy wants a "hook-up," all they need to do is be up front about it. A guy argued against her, saying that if he were to inform his momentary lady that it was just a "hook-up," he would never get past an introduction. I remained neutral for a short time, and then felt it necessary to jump to the aid of the men.

Now, don't call me a traitor to my gender, but any sensible woman should know that if she's going to give it up on the first meeting, chances are it will be a "hook-up." Now I'm not saying that women should wait around for the first five months of a relationship for the guy to give some sign of where the relationship is headed. All I'm saying is that women need to be smart. Don't lose sight of what you want, be it one night or a relationship, but play defensively.

The argument went on for a little while longer after that, but I think I made my point. Women are only going to be played if they allow it by being presumptuous. Guys don't need a warning sign that flashes "no relationship." With most, it's an easy read between the lines (not necessarily between the sheets).

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Behold the power...
I am not the average girl. I do not get misty eyed when I hear someone is pregnant, nor do I get "baby fever" every time I am within a 20 mile radius of a baby. It's not that I don't like kids; far from it. The thing is, after having four (much) younger siblings, I feel as though I've already had my children and I don't really need ones of my own anytime soon. Without a doubt, having younger siblings, even ones as wonderful as mine, is the best form of birth control on the market.

Another in the list of thoughts that I classify as "the further away, the better," is the thought of turning into a mother. There are so many things that we all swear we will do differently than our parents, and yet we somehow all manage to fall into a similar pattern. I had a terrifying, "near-brush with parenthood" experience this past week, and the things that came out of my mouth still haunt my restful slumber.

After an excruciatingly long day in the car on Wednesday, my mom and I promised my younger brother and sister (ages six and four respectively) a day at the Disney theme parks. Needless to say, they were antsy after having been in the car for so long and were anxious to get going early in the morning. Despite my fervent pleas with them for "five more minutes" (the same five minutes that I hope are robbed of them when they have to go to school in the mornings), I became a human jungle gym and was forced out of my nice, warm sleep haven.

Of course, they were too excited to eat breakfast, and I found myself an active participant in the "if you don't eat, we're not going to Disney World" chant along with my mother. It did not occur to me until later that I had used the tactic of completely empty threats that I used to despise as a child.

Once we got to the parks, I noticed that I had developed standard "mom vision," otherwise known as "eyes in the back of my head." I always knew where the kids were and their proximaty to me. I heard myself yelling things like, "You will NOT run in the parking lot," and "You WILL hold my hand."

Once inside the door, the standard complaints and mechanized responses began: "I'm hungry!" ("Then you should have eaten your breakfast!") "I don't like this ride/show!" ("Then you can you sit in the car while we have all the fun.")

It was not until my youngest brother went on a stroller-pushing rampage through a store containing numerous breakables that I heard myself utter the words that sent me into terrifying shock. After he had run over countless people and nearly broken every item in a nearby glass case, I relinquished his stroller-pushing rights. This action prompted the question: "Why can't I push?"

Now, there are thousands of logical answers to this question: "Because I don't want you breaking anything," or "Because your driving is making your little sister nauseous." Of the million answers I could have given, what comes out of my mouth but the phrase every child despises and every young adult swears they will never use. Yes, I am ashamed to admit it. I yelled: "Because I said so!"

This phrase is so deplorable in so many ways. Not only does it stifle our children's motivation to question the world around them. It acts as a last resort for a parent that has lost all of their ability to reason and is forced to exercise their ultimate authority upon their child. It's basically like, I own you and that's all I've got.

My brother scowled momentarily, then climbed into the stroller, crossed his arms and pouted for about a minute until he saw something else exciting and breakable. I stood and marveled at myself for a moment. The phrase of doom had been successful! I had successfully exercised my authority over another person, and they had no choice but to submit to my irrational and useless argument!

I think that the trick with this newfound power of mine is to exercise caution. A power of this magnitude should be practiced with delicacy, timing and in moderation. Use it too frequently and your credibility is out the window. Overuse can result in an eternal dispute that goes something like: "Why?" "Because I said so!" "Why?" "Because I said so!" "Why?" (and so on and so forth). I am quite certain that in some space-time continuum, my 5-year-old self is currently engaged in this argument with both of my parents.

So, as terrifying as the experience was, I learned two very important and useful things: 1) My parents were often full of crap, and 2) Parenthood equals ultimate power. However, like I stressed before, use this knowledge wisely. I mean, what if this power fell into the wrong hands and the president went around ordering people to do stupid things "because I said so?" I shudder at the thought. Too bad it doesn't work on my dog. Apparently he is of higher authority than I could ever dream of being.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Shiver me timbers...
Popeye is turning 70 this month. Due to Popeye's heavy impact on the lives of children and adults alike for multiple generations, I felt that this monumental occasion should be properly celebrated. This blog author would like to commemorate this auspicious occasion owing to the fact that I would not be the person that I am today if it wasn't for Popeye. (You may take that as a slam or a praise to Popeye.) Here is a list of life lessons I derived from watching Popeye:

1. If you eat too many hamburgers, you're going to end up fat and whiny.

2. Tattoos are cool!

3. So is smoking! (only pipes, though, not cigarettes. That's bad!)

4. Flat chested women can have men fighting over them, as long as they are flexible enough to be wrapped around a telephone poll and tied in knots.

5. Always go for the little guy; the big guys will just try to force you to kiss them on the first date, and that is unacceptable!

6. Anorexia is the height of fashion!

7. Opening a can of spinach is equivalent to opening a can of whoop ass!

8. Proper English is not necessary to get by in life, because muscles the size of cannonballs speak for themselves.

9. No matter what kind of car you drive, how big your body is or how cool you think you are- the scrawny man will get the babes!

10. "If you eats your spinach you'll be strong to the finish like Popeye the Sailor Man! Toot, toot!"

We love you Popeye! Read more about Popeye's 70 years.

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Let's hope they don't live forever...
Once again I was unfortunate enough to catch another catastrophic television show while working out in what my apartment complex calls a "weight room." (Also see "torture chamber" and "Sauna of Perpetual Misery") I considered, for the sake of my readers, of course, stopping my workouts so that I could avoid any potentially hazardous shows to report on in the future. Then I looked at my abs and, well, I'm afraid you're just going to have to suffer along with me.

Anyway, today's petty excuse for a television show coupled nicely with my stay in the throws of Hell (also known as "weight room"). I was oh-so-lucky to be tuned into a marathon of the NBC reality talent show, "Fame." Did you catch what I said? A MARATHON!!! Oh, my poor ears! What did I do to deserve this punishment? Wasn't it enough that I spent 20 minutes on the ellipse machine in a tiny room with no air conditioning? Apparently not...

"Fame" talents (I had to have a few drinks before I could refer to them as that) are supposed to be a triple-threat. In theory, these competitors (there, that's better) should display expertise in singing, dancing and audience charisma. Initially I thought, great! What a nice change from the feet-rooted-to-the-stage performers on American Idol! WRONG!

As I watched each performer step up to the mike and deliver their best performance to the audience, I realized that I recognized all of them. I believe they are the same people who bombard the backwoods bars that feature Kareoke machines on Saturday nights. (Trust me, I went to school in Boone. I know them when I see them.) The only problem was, they don't have excessive drunkenness to blame for their eardrum shattering performances.

Now, as I understand it, the winner of this contest will be given the opportunity to either be in or audition for a role in the Broadway hit Fame. From the sample that I was subjected to, I can tell you honestly that none of these people come even close to having the extraordinary talent that it takes to perform on Broadway. Broadway actors are quite possibly the best in the world. They have to perform each song, each dance and each line perfectly eight or more times a week for as long as the show runs, and they do it all at the same time no matter how sick or injured or tired they may be. No way are you going to find talent of that caliber on a cheesy reality show, voted on by pre-teens and doctored by producers.

Somewhere between the ab cruncher and treadmill I closed my eyes and dreamed that I lost consciousness. I even hoped that the act of closing my eyes on these machines would somehow cause me to lose my footing and whirl backwards, slamming my head into the wall and causing me to blackout until the show's conclusion. Sadly, dreams are just that and I was forced to flee the "Sauna of Perpetual Misery," after having run on the treadmill, while my legs were still going faster than my body. I fell down after I left the building. Great. I didn't even get amnesia...

Saturday, July 05, 2003

Artsy Fartsy...
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has once again landed in the spotlight of the critical, constant battle between what is considered "art" and what is considered "crap." Since he felt the need to open his trap so widely in the last artistic values argument, the former mayor will this time find himself in deep sh*#, so to speak.

Mayor Giuliani was the foremost opponent to the painting of the Virgin Mary covered in elephant dung being placed in the Brooklyn Museum of Art four years ago. The mayor found the painting so deplorable that he actually made numerous attempts to have the museum's public funding pulled if the painting was not removed.

Chinese artist Zhou Tiehai felt it was his duty to take revenge on the mayor's oppressive viewpoint concerning the "art," and created a similar work symbolizing America's global image. The painting, entitled "Libertas, De Te Servent!" (Liberty, May the Gods Protect You!), features Giuliani, also covered in elephant dung, and with communistic suggestions and undertones.

As much as I am not a fan of the original work that spawned this art versus good taste battle, I am disturbed by the realization that this argument has created such a negative, and accurate, image of America. In his painting, Tiehai is not expressing his hatred of Giuliani, but the world's view of the hypocrisy that runs rampant in this country. How can we, as a nation, possibly expect to be considered the "defenders of free speech" if we will not even permit it on our own soil? Since when did the value of artwork become the decision of the government? If I remember our Constitution correctly, the right to decide and judge lies with the people, not with the politicians.

Unfortunately, Giuliani has set a stereotype by which all Americans are most assuredly measured throughout the rest of the world. Hopefully we will not become blind and deaf to our own hypocrisies and realize that free speech not only means defending the things that you believe in and hold sacred, but allowing others to voice their opinions about the things that make your blood boil.

I do not agree with the Virgin Mary painting, but I do believe in the artist's right to his own expression. All Giuliani did in his "crusade" was make the painting more popular and the United States a laughing stock.

Read details about Zhou Tiehai's painting in USA Today.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

The Fourth of July is fast approaching, and to celebrate the occasion, I will borrow a quote from one of my favorite classic movies, Dazed and Confused, to properly express my views on the holiday: "Just remember, when you're being inundated with all of this Fourth of July bicentennial brouhaha, just remember what it is you're celebrating, and that's a bunch of middle-age, white men didn't want to pay their taxes!"

In celebrating America's independence from the even reign of British tax imposers (so that we could impose our own absurd taxes), I have devised a David Letterman style "Top Ten List of Things That Make the Fourth of July a Holiday Worth Celebrating."

#10- Holiday Pay! My first ever three-day weekend WITH pay while working at a newspaper. Hooray independence!
#9- Pool Parties! You could be living in Bangor, Maine and God will still see fit to provide you with weather warm enough to cook eggs on a sidewalk!
#8- Snaps! You know what I'm talking about. Those things you throw at people's feet that freak them out and make a really loud pop. Fun for the whole family.
#7- Wheeling-and-Dealing Fireworks Salesmen!- It's like buying a car; never accept a first offer. They'll always throw in free sparklers too, so don't waste your money on them.
#6- Big City Fireworks!- If you live in a larger city, the best thing to do at around 10 p.m. is go to a place with a lot of open area and watch the fireworks shows of neighboring communities.
#5- Loud fireworks!- The more hearing you loose, the better the show!
#4- Revenge on Cranky Neighbors!- You actually have a means of littering their front lawn with firework debris and keeping them up all night without them being able to identify you amongst the thousand other firework destructos!
#3- Pirated Fireworks from South Carolina!- Oooo...Ahhh... Not that anyone would do that!
#2- The Availability of Emergency Workers!- On call 24/7 in case you have too much beer and decide to light your shoelaces on fire. Not that I know anyone who has done that...

And the #1 Thing That Makes the Fourth of July a Holiday Worth Celebrating is: Jen's Homemade Red & Blue Jell-O shots! Such items will be available only at La Casa de Boo. Come one, come all!

Have a safe holiday! No posts until Saturday! Don't cry, though! If you miss me too bad, you can read the archives!

Monday, June 30, 2003

The moment you've all been waiting for...
That's right, I've finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix! Ring the bells! Sound the alarm! Tap the keg! Opps... I may be getting a bit carried away! Now, dear reader, I will give my own, personal review (and no, I will NOT tell you who died, so quit asking!), because I know how much you all value my opinion (I can dream, right?).

Let me just say... meh. After 800-plus pages and nine scattered days of reading, that's about all I have to say. Meh. The book was, as always, enjoyable and suspenseful, but not nearly as captivating as books in the past. Never did I feel the urge to stop reading, and I was constantly hungry for more, but more often that not, it was because I kept hoping somebody would come to their senses and something great would happen. Meh.

The main thing that disappointed me was its predictability. Normally while I am reading a suspenseful book such as this, I am completely void of forethought, and I allow myself to become lost in the book, making only minor, obvious theories about the action to come. In case you couldn't tell, I am politely calling myself dumb and saying that I can't ever tell what the ending is! All four of the previous Harry Potter books have kept me on the edge of my seat and blown my mind completely. Nothing was ever as it seemed, and I would finish the book with my heart pounding and my ear to the phone telling a friend, "Can you believe that?"

This book, however, made me feel quite intelligent. Genius almost! You would think the surge of self-confidence derived from guessing the book's conclusion would satisfy me, but you know what they say: ignorance is bliss. I found the ending to be highly predictable, which is unfortunate, because I have come to enjoy feeling duped by Rowling's misguidings.

Additionally, I found the ending to be unnecessarily complex. So much so that I had to reread the final two chapters to make sure I hadn't missed something exciting (I hadn't). That complexity, in turn, stifled my intellectual ego-boost, causing me to once again feel like an ignoramus (not in a blissfully ignorant way this time, though).

The ending aside, I found myself disliking several of the characters immensely, and realizing that it was a pure stroke of habitual luck that was keeping them alive. Harry is in a perpetual foul mood throughout the book, and is portrayed as lazy, arrogant and rash. I mean, I can certainly sympathize with teenage moodiness, but 900 pages of it? No one should be subjected to that, no matter how obnoxious we were ourselves as teenagers! It may be blasphemous to say, but I was kind of hoping that Snape would smack him across the head and make him shut his yap. All of the trouble he finds is self-inflicted, and I find myself without an ounce of sympathy for him.

In addition to wanting to scream at Harry, I want to just yell at everyone in the book, because they never seem to know the obvious answers to things, never seem to say the right things and certainly never appear to do the right things. I constantly found myself frustrated and was contemplating a way that I could just jump inside the book and smack them all around.

Nevertheless, I am placing my full and complete trust in J.K. Rowling. She has certainly never let down before, and I have a sneaking hunch that this book is highly similar to the third in that it is merely acting as a prelude to the following book. Those of you who have finished the book also can insert a "Duh, Jen!" here. All of this background information and character development will likely make a wonderful segue into book six.

So in closing: Meh...but I still believe in the power of the almighty Rowling! Next movie comes out in 2004, so Potter fans are going to have to sit tight for awhile...

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Run from the scary gay people...
Working at a newspaper, I have naturally been subjected to the massive backlash produced by last week's Supreme Court decision to lift Texas' ban on sodomy. In a 6-3 decision, the Court overturned a law that was absurdly asinine to begin with, and I have now witnessed firsthand the effects of that decision.

The Orlando Sentinel, like most newspapers across the country, has been flooded with letters from conservative readers expressing their disgust and outrage with the Court's decision. Their argument, led by Tennessee Senator Bill Frist, is that legalizing sodomy is destroying the institution of marriage in this country based on traditional values. I say that if you're going to condemn an entire society of people to criminality, you'd better have a more substantial argument than, "It's tradition."

With the Court's majority opinion, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote that "a law branding one class of persons as criminal solely based on the state's moral disapproval of that class and the conduct associated with that class runs contrary to the values of the Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause, under any standard review." I couldn't agree more.

Throughout my life, I have had the privilege of being exposed to many different cultures and lifestyles. I have known many people of varied sexual orientations, mainly due to having worked at Disney, and I feel completely accurate in saying that many gays and lesbians I have known are the kindest, most giving people I have ever met. Calling them "criminals" is laughable to me.

Instead of saying, "We're afraid of these scary, gay, dangerous criminals," simple-minded people, such as Senator Frist, are trying to scare Americans into believing that gays are going to ruin the sanctity of their marriage. Let me just quiet your fears by saying that in no way would two guys getting marrying have ANY impact on what goes on in your home or in your marriage.

I say, let's write the laws that protect people from harm and enforce the punishments set down of those who seek to hurt others who are trying to speak up for their own rights. Infringing on what people do in the privacy of their own homes is a criminal offense to me, and I'm glad the Court finally agreed.

For those of you who aren't convinced that the Court did the right thing, the definition of sodomy extends to heterosexual activity as well. I'm sure we can all feel safe in the knowledge that Senator Frist would never engage in formerly illegal acts of "pleasuring," either. I mean, what politician would ever do something like that?

Click here to read Frist's ridiculous ramblings in USA Today.

Friday, June 27, 2003

Oh, to be a kid again…I had a "magical" day at Disney's Magic Kingdom with my little brother and sister yesterday. Despite 90-degree weather, total exhaustion and about a million tourists that think they are the only people in the park that matter, we had a great time.

Disney is no real treat for me. I used to (and still do on occasion) work at Space Mountain, so the simplistic thrills of FantasyLand and having Mickey and Minnie pat me on the head are somewhat null and void these days. Being that I can visit the park anytime, it is not my ideal scenario to spend a hellishly hot day in the middle of the summer sweltering amongst thousands of smelly, whining people (and their kids).

Yesterday, however, I feel like I was brought back to my roots, if you will. I spent the day with a 6-year-old and 4-year-old who wanted nothing more than to have their big sister experience the joys of Disney from their perspective. They held me tightly as we rode amongst the spooks of the Haunted Mansion, accepted my tutelage on the best ways to score points in Buzz Lightyear and laughed uproariously at our pictures taken on Splash Mountain.

At the end of a long day, with aching feet and a spinning head, I found myself to be amongst the thousands of jubilant smiles piling onto the Monorail to head home. It was quite an experience for me to remember what it is like to be a guest- to see Disney World through the eyes of a child.

I came to realize that riding over-commercialized attractions, such as Peter Pan and even Space Mountain, repetitively can cause the park to lose a bit of its luster. When that happens, you have to look somewhere deeper inside yourself to see Disney for the first time, every time. The Magic Kingdom brings out something different and special for everybody. For me, the greatest satisfaction is not in riding as many rides as possible before lunchtime. It's being the world’s greatest tour guide for two very special children who want to spend time with their big sister in the land of magic.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Harried by Potter...
Many of you have written to me, not concerning my views on Snoop Dogg or Alligators, but about my Harry Potter progress. I am ashamed to say that some people have already finished the book whilst I am lagging behind at just over halfway. As per your many requests, I will post my progress for you: I am ashamed to admit that I stayed up, yet again, until 4 a.m. reading last night and have been cast several sideways glances for reading it throughout my entire shift at work. Be relieved to know that I did make all my deadlines last night (barely) and am on page 516 and still fascinated!
Birds of color, flock to UM...
Okay, so I'm a day late (and maybe a dollar short) in writing about the Supreme Court decision regarding affirmative action. For those of you who do not keep up with issues outside of the weather (trust me, I'm not criticizing...I've been accused of the same until recently), the Supreme Court ruled Monday in favor of keeping affirmative action rules as a standard in college admissions by a very tight vote of 5-4.

It appears that the entire country is on the fence about this issue, and after reading various opinion columns and such, I take little comfort in the realization that I am not alone in my confusion. Adding to mine and the nation's lukewarm position were the excellent arguments given for and against the vote by Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Conner and Clarence Thomas.

In her majority opinion Justice O'Connor wrote: "Effective participation by members of all racial and ethnic groups in the civil life of our nation is essential if the dream of one nation, indivisible is to be realized." I wholeheartedly agree with Justice O'Conner that in order to obtain the best possible society, diversity of opinion, culture and beliefs must be present to act as a "checks-and-balances" type of system.

I do not, however, believe that diversity should be forced upon us, as it most certainly has been. As evidenced by the constant bickering resulting from this trial, playing the race card as a factor in a realm where knowledge and effort should be key, will only divide the nation and create a mistrust amongst the races. How many instances of on-campus prejudice will occur in the wake of this decision that involve a white person accusing a rightfully deserving black person of "stealing someone's spot?"

What I found more interesting, however, was Justice Thomas' dissenting opinion. Thomas, the sole black member of the Supreme Court, spoke adamantly against affirmative action calling it an insult. "Every time the government places citizens on racial registers and makes race relevant to the provision of burdens or benefits, it demeans us all," Thomas said.

To that, I must say, wow! What a refreshing change of opinion! I have often considered this case from the perspective of a white student being rejected from the school of their choice simply because they were not a minority. After reading Justice Thomas' opinion, I feel even more passionate about its demeaning nature towards non-white races. By continuing with affirmative action, are we telling non-whites that they are not good enough or smart enough to get into a good college on their own? Maybe that is what is implied, maybe not.

I am not going to pretend that I am blind to the obvious racial barriers that exist in our country today. The fact remains that more than 50 years after the Civil War, pigheaded, simple-minded people still exist and still wish to restrain those whom they fear. I am just not sure that this form of reverse discrimination, in essence, punishing people for being white, is the best way to go about solving the problem. The way I see it, things are only going to get worse from here on out.

Read an interesting opinion in the Orlando Sentinel.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Women of color, unite to bare your breasts!...
An article in today's USA Today reported that rapper-turned-porn-cameraman Snoop Dogg resigned from participating in the production of "Girls Gone Wild" videos. Did his conscience get to him? Did he decide that young women baring their breasts to the world while intoxicated was a serious breech of his own, personal moral code? Sadly, it was for neither of these reasons.

Snoop Dogg (a.k.a. Calvin Broadus) is taking a stand against the show's blatant prejudice against women of color. Calvin (I love calling him that- makes him sound like the nerdy kid that got beat up in da hood) claims that he is approached constantly by women of color who complain that the show does not allow them nude camera time.

To this I say, whaaaatttt?!?!?!?

Let me get this straight- people, women specifically, are actually complaining because they can't be exposed and exploiting in front of the entire world? I would think that these women of color would view their lack of exposure as a nod to their intelligence and dignity. I would go further to claim that their absence in these videos is just another step towards the recognition of the race's pride and self-assurance. But what do I know?

Well, ladies of color, fear not! Snoop Dogg has heard your pleas and has decided to start making his own videos geared towards viewers who enjoy "variety." A little coffee with your cream, if you will. Thank God we have Snoop Dogg to champion the fight against these racial atrocities and nobly guide us towards equal and discrimination-free porn!

I, personally, hang my head each time I see these wasted chicks (I will call them chicks, because calling them women would be a personal insult) making out with each other and baring their bodies on demand. I mean, come on! They're not even getting any beads! All they are doing is prospering the career of a no-talent porno king who one night happened to have a camera, some drinks and, apparently, a lot of cops as friends. Well done, ladies! Thanks for making us all look good!

It's a true shame that women can no longer go out and enjoy an evening of wild and crazy antics, away from their professional and monotonous lives, without worrying that their fathers and boyfriends might witness it for the low, low price of $19.95. Guys, if you want these women to keep enjoying themselves in public (for your own temporary enjoyment), don't pat Snoop on the back. And ladies, is your dignity really worth the $19.95 you earn from the video? Oh, that's right- that money doesn't go to you! Sorry...

Read the USA Today article about Snoop Dogg.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Harry Potter update...
I have purchased the book, and am 185 pages into it. Let me just tell you how fascinated I am already: I forgot the book at home yesterday when I went to work and was so distraught that I went to Target during my lunch break, bought it again, and intend to return the first this evening. Additionally, I scheduled a much-needed oil change for today simply so I have an excuse to sit somewhere and read. Stupid Jiffy Lube people kept interuppting me though. Curse you and your "10-minute oil changes, Jiffy Lube....
Watch your mouth...
Those of you who know me personally know what a P.O.S. car I have (please don't tell him I said that, though, cause I need him to keep running for awhile!). A regular bonding activity that my car Doobie (as in Scooby Doo and Doo Doo Brown, NOT the pastime of aging Dead Heads) and I engage in is me feeding two quarts of oil into his parched mouth whilst wearing a work suit or skirt. We've been celebrating this tradition for years, and I am quite rehearsed in the scenario.

The other day, Doobie and I were participating in our ritual oil sacrifice (full suit and all in 95 degree weather at noon) when the man at the gas pump next to me began looking anxious. He huslted over from his gas pump and, in a very concerned (and somewhat degrading) voice, asked, "Can I help you with that?"

Did I look distressed in some way? Was there some clue in my facial expresson that indicated to this gentleman that I could not handle the opening of a car hood or the dumping in of a quart of oil? Did he think I would be distracted by all the icky, dirty thingies under my hood and spill all that yucky oil on my pretty pink dress with frilly bows?

Apparantly the presence of breasts implies that you cannot be expected to know how to perform simple, routine procedures on your car. The only thing that could have made the experience more enjoyable would have been if he had sauntered up with a Marlboro hanging out of his mouth, a cowboy hat on his head and said, "Step aside there little lady. This here's men's work! [grunt]" My hero...

I was feeling slighted by the encounter until I came across an older, slightly handicapped woman in the Target parking lot. She had one light bag, and though she was hobbling dramatically, she was making her own way to her car. My first instinct was to offer her a hand, and then it dawned on me: By offering this woman a hand, would I be making her feel just as unnecessarily incapable as I felt when Lord Chivalry offered me assistance?

It was like a moment of awakening. What could I have done for that woman anyway? Carried her one, light bag? Hoisted her onto my shoulders and piggy-backed her to her car that was no more than 10 yards away? Just as the man was offering me useless aid, I was prepared to do the same for this woman, and why? Not to degrade her or make her feel incompetent, but to make myself feel useful and superior.

I didn't offer the lady help. I smiled at her as I passed and continued on my way still thinking about my would-be gas station Clint Eastwood. Where do you draw the line on common courtesy? Do you still offer your seat on a bus to an elderly person or someone with disabilities? I would say definitely. Would I offer my arm in assistance to an old woman crossing the street who was clearly capable of managing on her own?

I would encourage everyone (and this is a reminder to myself as well) to examine each situation carefully. You may just be trying to be helpful, but harming someone's pride and self-assurance could be even more detrimental. However, if you see me on the side of the road with flames coming out of Doobie's engine, ignore this message and get your butt over there and help me!