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Five Things I’m Over This Week

Labor Day Weekend was delightful. Then I had to go back to work. And it was a looooong four-day week. I would like to briefly update you on the top five things I am quite finished with this week.

o People Who Have Deleted the Facebook Messenger App…AND WANT TO MAKE SURE EVERYONE KNOWS IT

I know a lot of people were up in arms about having two separate apps on their phone for Facebook when they first came out with the new messenger app. I actually didn’t mind it at first, because I thought maybe it would make the original app run more efficiently, cut down on glitches, solve world hunger, improve my vocabulary, and help me lose 30 pounds in 30 days! (Essentially, I really didn’t care.) But as I continued to use it, the messenger app became a digital thorn in my side.

I couldn’t figure out how to permanently turn off the notifications, so every day I’d go into the app and choose the “disable notifications until 8 am” choice, or whatever the option was that was furthest away. I looked in the Facebook Help section and searched online and couldn’t figure out how to permanently disable it, which leads me to believe that there is not a way to do it at all…and I do not appreciate that, Mark Zuckerberg. Tell your people.

So because I was tired of the app binging at me and putting my friends’ face bubbles in the corner of my phone, I finally just uninstalled it. And when I want to use FB messenger on my phone, I log in to Facebook on a mobile browser and go from there. Problem solved. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be a good enough solution for several of my friends.

“TO THE PERSON WHO SENT ME A FACEBOOK MESSAGE. I UNINSTALLED THE MESSENGER APP SO I CAN’T READ YOUR MESSAGE”

“EVERYONE STOP SENDING ME FACEBOOK MESSAGES BECAUSE I’M UNINSTALLING THE FACEBOOK MESSENGER APP BECAUSE I’M NEVER READING MESSAGES AGAIN BECAUSE FACEBOOK IS TRYING TO SEE INTO MY SOUL THROUGH MY PHONE”

“I CAN’T READ YOUR MESSAGES TILL I GET ON A COMPUTER AND I ONLY USE FACEBOOK ON MY PHONE SO JUST TEXT ME AND NOBODY EVER SEND ME MESSAGES AGAIN BECAUSE I UNINSTALLED THE APP”

“EVERYONE UNINSTALL THE APP FOR FACEBOOK MESSENGER BECAUSE IT IS BAD AND EVIL AND THEY WILL TAKE YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER AND YOUR FIRSTBORN CHILD IF YOU LET THE APP WORMHOLE ITS WAY INTO YOUR PHONE”

Obviously I’m paraphrasing, but really. Some people have been pretty dramatic about it. And I say this as a child who grew up in a household where my father made us put tape over the built-in camera on our laptops because he was convinced someone was going to randomly hack into our computers and track our every dull-eyed facial expression while we built an unimpressive Neopets empire and waited for Backstreet Boys music videos to buffer.

facebook-messenger-android

o The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Let me immediately clarify: I am not over the giving of money to charitable organizations. I do it occasionally and really should keep better records, because then I could take it off my taxes. I think all of us should give more frequently to organizations that we think are worthwhile

In fact, here’s a quick plug for an app that will allow you to give to a few great charities–and it won’t cost you a cent:

Install CharityMiles on your phone (they have it for both you iPhone zombies and for us Droid believers of the world), sign up within the app, then pick a charity. Enable the GPS for your workout, keep your phone on you, and go. Bikers earn 10¢ per mile and walkers and runners earn 25¢ a mile. I choose the Wounded Warrior Project every time, but they also have Habitat for Humanity, Autism Speaks, ASPCA, Alzheimer’s Association, and more.

charity miles

But I am tired of watching people dump buckets of ice water over their heads. Just donate money to a great cause. Nobody cares if you’re cold and wet any more. The Internet is over it. We have moved on. Kermit the Frog has now participated in the ice bucket challenge so you really can’t top it at this point. Just give money to make someone’s life better instead of wasting 15-75 seconds of our lives watching your video, since at this point we’ve all seen so many of them that we know about ALS. And if you don’t, you didn’t bother to look it up when your news feed was awash in an icy torrent of activism, in which case, you probably kind of suck.

o Taylor Swift

Her freaking ridiculous new song has apparently topped the charts for the second week in a row. I was hoping when we hadn’t heard from her in a while that she was going to slow fade away, as is proper, praise be to Allah, thank Thor, Alleluia He is Risen Indeed, etc. But apparently her silence just meant that she was plugging away in the studio at an album of defamation to my poor, innocent birth year.

Every night I say my prayers and end with, “And please God let the world stop worshiping at the altar of Taylor Swift, and may she never appear in the news, or the tabloids, or the fashion magazines, or the Twitter, or the Internet, ever again, and also please let her not put out any more albums because everyone will realize that she is overrated and we are tired of her because her country-girl-ingénue persona has got to give out eventually, right?”  I don’t think she’s bad or evil. Just overrated and annoying and I am ready for her to go away. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

#genuflectforTaylor #gagme (Side note: if you’re not following Feminist Taylor Swift on Twitter, you are seriously missing out.)

Feminist Taylor Swift

o 40% Sales

I love Hobby Lobby. It’s my happy place. But for the last two weeks, they have been irksome to me. They have all their fall items and Christmas items marked 40%. Great. Super. Yay. Wow.

NO.

JUST MARK IT 50% ALREADY LIKE I KNOW YOU ARE EVENTUALLY GOING TO DO. Better yet, just make me really happy and mark it all 66% and then I’ll go in there and blow all my money and you’ll be happy too. 40% is a stupid percentage to put things on sale. Either go half-off, because that makes sense, or go higher, because then everyone feels like they are getting a steal (not a deal, a steal, because then you’re like an extreme couponer except you didn’t have to ruin your life by becoming an extreme couponer).

hobby lobby

o Unrelenting Summer Heat While Everyone Loses Their Damn Minds Over Pumpkin Spice-Flavored Everything

It’s not even like it’s really cooling off up New England either. The weather at West Point as of Friday afternoon was “87, feels like 92.”

Wow. Brr. Put on a sweater. Where are my gloves? Chilly. Can you see my breath?

No. You cannot. Because it is basically still summer, but because everybody is sweating their butts off in classrooms and cubicles around America, we are all apparently in denial about the fact that it is simply not fall yet. Today I tried to pretend it was fall by turning the heat on my feet in my car because my toes were too cold in my flip-flops due to my relentless air conditioning blasting. (Betty was riding in the front seat and she likes it pretty cool. When she gets hot she goes into full Dragon Bunny mode and starts breathing fire.) The smell of the heater being turned on after so many months of disuse was comforting and smelled so wonderful and autumnal…for about thirty seconds. Then it got really stuffy and disgusting in the car and I immediately swapped back to A/C and just let my toes enter into early stage frostbite.

Don’t get me wrong; I’d love to make some acorn and pumpkin-shaped muffins using a banana bread or pumpkin spice recipe or something that conjures up similarly cozy feelings, then build a fire and jump in a pile of leaves and wear a scarf and a pea coat. But just because the calendar says September doesn’t mean the weather has caught on yet. It is summer outside. Sorry.

I blame you for this, Starbucks.

Pumpkin Spice

Bonus item:

People bringing their screaming children to work

I already have to deal with people of underdeveloped intelligence sending me a constant barrage of e-mails and sticking their heads into their office and forcing me to attend meetings that slowly erode my already questionable attention span. Adding someone who is not potty trained into this menagerie is really just not helping. Do not bring an infant into the office unless it is perfectly groomed and wants to be held and gurgle and wave hello and be adorable and give me baby envy. Any other type of baby in the office is just not acceptable. It is doubly unacceptable for you to play Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” on repeat on your phone because you think it will make said wailing child happy. It is not making that baby happy. It is not making me happy. YOU ARE MAKING EVERYONE UNHAPPY.

T. G. I. F.

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And the Award Goes To…

When I was in first grade, I read 100 books.

It was some school thing and we had all year to do it. I finished early, thereby validating my misguided perception (consistently encouraged by my parents) that I was smarter and better than the rest of the unwashed miscreants with whom I was forced to receive my education.

Just kidding. Kind of. But I was pretty proud of it.

Photographic evidence of my tragically unattractive childhood.

I still have that t-shirt somewhere, but the butterflies are peeling themselves away from the fabric, trying to flutter to freedom, and going through puberty has effectively prevented me from ever being able to wear it again and subsequently funding the bra industry for the past twelve years. (You’re welcome, Victoria’s Secret.)

I am considering making a new one (size-appropriate and sans butterflies), however, because guess what?

I’VE DONE IT AGAIN.

Yeah, you read it right. In 2013, I read 100 books. I’m not talking about The Atlantic Monthly, whose articles I read in about eight sittings to better myself, or all those Cosmo articles I slorped down while I was couch-ridden and flying high on Percocet after I had my wisdom teeth removed. News articles, magazines, blogs, etc. didn’t count for the purpose of this nerdacious challenge I gave myself last January. (Audiobooks were, however, included.  You can’t put 22,000 miles on your car and still have time to read 100 books unless you have a chauffeur. Ain’t nobody got time for that.)

So in honor of Oscar weekend, I am doing my own fake awards show. I am calling it the Margos, because Oscar is a funny name and so is Margo and it’s fun to say. I’m not as funny as Ellen DeGeneres, and I can’t order pizza and feed it to Jennifer Lawrence, but we’re gonna give it a whirl anyway. There will be a bonus picture after each category.

Here we go!

Margo award

There are seven categories: “Best Re-Read,” “Worst Book Ever,” “Most Hipster,” “Least Boring Nonfiction,” “Best Listen,” “Most Thrilling,” and “I Read the Shit Out of that Book.”

The nominees for Best Re-Read are:

  • Number the Stars, Lois Lowry
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
  • A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engle

Yes, I re-read some of my childhood favorites. Guess what? They were just as amazing this year as they were in 1999 or 2005 or whatever year I first read these amazing books. I originally read them just because I was panicking about my numbers for the 100-book challenge, and I did read most of them in either a single sitting or two sittings. Regardless of their length, however, they affected me deeply even after having read them multiple times.

This year the Margo goes to Harper Lee, because I wish I could write just one perfect novel the way she did.

Bonus picture is me perusing some picture book with bunnies in it while Sister #1 makes some kind of horrible face at the camera. Yes we are matching. Yes that was normal. No I am not (quite) that Buddha-faced anymore.

**

Worst Book Ever

Here are the nominees:

  • Devices and Desires, K.J. Parker
  • The Silver Linings Playbook, Matthew Quick
  • Unveiled, Deborah Kanafani

I really thought Unveiled was going to be good. It’s about a Lebanese college student in America in the early 80’s who marries a high-ranking Palestinian diplomat working in the United Nations. He sweeps her off her feet and brings her into the company of dignitaries, world leaders, and international glamour. He also slowly isolates her from her old life, determined to keep her under his thumb. After her divorce, Deborah traveled to the Middle East to document the stories of other wives of Arab leaders, women like her who struggled and survived.

It could have been good. But…seriously…HIRE A BETTER GHOSTWRITER. Or maybe she didn’t use one. In which case, PLEASE, hire a ghostwriter. You need one.

The Silver Linings Playbook wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read; it just has the distinction of being one of the worst that I read last year. Awkward. Overrated. Movie was okay.

Finally, this is a synopsis for the other most egregious offender on my reading list in 2013, Devices and Desires: “When an engineer is sentenced to death for a petty transgression of guild law, he flees the city, leaving behind his wife and daughter. Forced into exile, he seeks a terrible vengeance — one that will leave a trail of death and destruction in its wake. But he will not be able to achieve this by himself. He must draw up his plans using the blood of others…

In a compelling tale of intrigue and injustice, K. J. Parker’s embittered hero takes up arms against his enemies, using the only weapons he has left to him: his ingenuity and his passion — his devices and desires.”

Okay. There’s a lock and a key on the cover. It’s called Devices and Desires. Somebody is going to take off their clothes at some point, right? Of course they are. There’s a lock and key! It’s about passion! The cover art is all Dan Brown “blade and chalice”! …Wrong. So wrong. It. Was. So. Boring. A friend lent it to me, and he will not be named here, but wow. Wow was this book boring. If you were really into simple machines as a kid or you want some endless descriptions of engineering and locks and other crap like that, this book might be right up your alley. The fact that it wasn’t sexy would have been okay if it wasn’t so boring. But alas, it was. And so the Margo goes to:

Don’t let the sexy lock and key fool you. Nobody will be getting down and dirty in the dungeon.

Bonus picture is me forcing my Grandma to read to me as I am dressed like the American Girl Samantha. (Molly is supervising over there on the left in her red-striped pajamas.)

**

Next up,

“Most Hipster Book”

This is the category dedicated to a book that I read before it was cool. There are no nominees. The Margo goes to The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green.

I read an excerpt from a free e-book on my Kindle and was so obsessed that I actually bought the digital version so I could read it as fast as possible. Then because it was sublime I had to buy it in hard copy. Naturally. Get your tissues and get ready to become obsessed with John Green’s colloquial yet brilliant prose. That’s what happened to me at least. (This movie had BETTER BE GOOD.)

Bonus picture is me forcing Aunt Beth to read to me. I don’t know what that book is. I do know that the outfit I’m wearing exists in quadruple…because all four of us had a matching jumper. Dear sweet mother of the 90’s.

**

Now the award for Least Boring Nonfiction.

I don’t really like nonfiction. It’s not my thing. I used to dazzle people with my intimate knowledge of Roman dress, cuisine, and the chronology of the emperors in the first century A.D. Not because I’m some kind of genius/nerd who just remembers these kinds of details, but because I am obsessed with Roman historical fiction and have read way more than is probably healthy. So the years that Caligula was emperor aren’t just dusty dates; they’re a scandalous series of juicy gossip and opulent parties. It’s like a trashy magazine circa 40 A.D.

I learn through stories, so I don’t like nonfiction books because they don’t typically spin a clear enough narrative that my brain can process everything in the book in an orderly fashion. But last year I read a few keepers:

  • Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, Jon Krakauer
  • The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Killers Can Teach Us About Success, Kevin Dutton
  • The Starfish and the Spider, Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
  • The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, Azar Nafisi

It seems appropriate to cut to the chase in a category dedicated to books that aren’t extended narratives. The Margo goes to:

The book discusses the line between being a successful, driven, hard-charging executive or business person, and being a serial killer. “Incorporating the latest advances in brain scanning and neuroscience, Dutton demonstrates that the brilliant neurosurgeon who lacks empathy has more in common with a Ted Bundy who kills for pleasure than we may wish to admit, and that a mugger in a dimly lit parking lot may well, in fact, have the same nerveless poise as a titan of industry.” It was interesting, and creepy. I was a fan.

Plus check out how creepy the author looks here:

Either he was going for this whole hipster-murderer look, or Professor Dutton needs to hire a new publicist.

Bonus picture is Sister #1 and me getting prepped to shove some fairy tales down Sister #3’s throat as soon as she is ready to be educated. She is probably hiding.

**

Onto Best Listen!

For a kid who loved to be read to, I really used to hate audio books. Over the past year, however, I developed a tenuous kind of affection for them, because I spent so many hours in the car and they kept me from falling behind on my reading each month.

The nominees are:

  • Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
  • If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t), Betty White
  • Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  • The End of the Affair, Graham Greene
  • Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt

I actually disliked The End of the Affair, but it was narrated by Colin Firth, so it was actually pleasant listening to Mr. Darcy just talk at me for eight hours or so. Angela’s Ashes was SO DEPRESSING, but there was something really unique about listening to an author narrate his own work in a rich, Irish accent. Betty White is a delightful human being, and even though her book wasn’t really anything you’d tell your grandkids about, I listened to it while I was stuck on a jetway in Detroit for three hours and I’m pretty sure it saved the life of the screaming baby in the seat in front of me and the child behind me kicking my seat hard enough that I should have sued for whiplash.  Water for Elephants was narrated by an old man and a young man, depending on where you were in the story. The effect was magical; by the end I wanted to run away and join the circus.

But hands down, no contest, the winner is Jeremy Irons narrating Lolita:

There could not be a more fitting narrator. Eloquent, intelligent, smooth, slimy, psychopathic: Jeremy Irons (you know, the voice of Scar from The Lion King?) encompassed an incredible range within the text. I was so creeped out the whole book, but I couldn’t stop listening. I actually listened to it on the bike at the gym a few times, and I kept looking around guiltily at everyone else blasting J.T. through their headphones like normal people while I was listening to the extended narrative of a pedophile.

It seems creepy to follow this up with a picture of me as a kid, but I’m doing it anyway. Not sorry.

Bonus picture is me sitting on the floor like some kind of peasant child whose family owns no furniture. I think I’m wearing lime green legging-shorts. Yikes.

**

The next category is Most Thrilling! otherwise known as, Book that Made Me Gasp Every Other Page

The nominees are:

  • World War Z, Max Brooks
  • Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
  • 11/22/63, Stephen King
  • In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

Margaret Atwood is really quite excellent, and I love a good dystopian novel. Stephen King’s book about the assassination of JFK was also fascinating – detailed, intricate, and a page-turner in the exactly literal sense of the word. In Cold Blood was my first experience with Capote, and I’m definitely going back for more.

But as much as I liked all three (and would read them again), they are not going home with the Margo tonight.

You have to understand something about me: I don’t get the zombie thing. Not only do I not get it, but I have this vague distaste for it, sort of like that green slime Nickelodeon used to dump all over people a la Carrie pig blood and it was supposed to be funny but mostly it was just gross. I feel the same way about the whole vampire trend. There are all these shows and books that are supposed to be so sexy and thrilling but mostly they’re just gross and cheesy and awkward. Zombie things are kind of like for me, except instead of the sexy factor they’re just grisly, and I don’t dig it.

Having said that, I loved World War Z (sorry Brad Pitt, but your movie adaptation was lame). Max Brooks tells the stories of survivors of The Great Panic, or The Zombie War (hence the Z). There are stories from all kinds of people all over the world who experienced the destruction the zombies wrought. He is unassuming, and truly takes on the voice of each person whose tale he tells, whether it’s a Japanese teenager who doesn’t realize what’s happened till his Internet is cut off, the crew of a nuclear submarine, a little girl fleeing to Canada with her family, a famous Hollywood director creating propaganda films, or a heroic member of one of the U.S.’s K-9 teams who fought the zombies.

Brooks examines geopolitics, economics, family dynamics, and basic human instincts (and the ability to overcome the lesser ones). It. Is. Fascinating.

The other top contender is Gone Girl. I bought this one to listen to while I was running the roads all summer, and I was so hooked that I actually carried it around with me in my apartment and couldn’t stop listening to it until I was finished. It is the morning of Amy and Nick’s fifth wedding anniversary and Amy is missing. Flynn tells Nick’s story in real time and Amy’s perspective is offered from her long, detailed journal entries. AT LEAST FOR THE FIRST HALF AND THEN YOUR MIND GETS BLOWN. The whole time I couldn’t decide who to believe. It was a fascinating account of the courtship and marriage of a sociopath and a narcissist, who had just enough forgivable traits that you could relate to them…which was terrifying in itself.

So the Margo goes to:

Bonus picture is me nerding out in this plastic chair for which I am precariously large while Sister #1 and Sister #3do normal child things, like play with our German Shepherd. I’m like, nah girl, you good, I got this book.

**

The final category of the night is dedicated to books I have been meaning to read for years and finally got around to reading in 2013. …And they were just as cumbersome and dreadful as I had anticipated.

The nominees for I Read the Shit Out of That Book are:

  • A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  • Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  • The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie

I was actually really nerdishly excited about finally reading all these books. Turning them over in my hands I felt so educated and earnest, so ready to find out why they were so controversial or beloved or considered timeless. Mostly what I have taken away from this experience is that you have to kill a lot of characters and write annoyingly dense prose if you want people to keep banging their heads against a wall over your novel in years to come. I’m not sure if that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

My mother and Sister #4 are going to be throwing popcorn at the screen when they read this, because they have already informed me that it is a mortal sin that I didn’t like Jane Eyre. Let’s be clear about that, though: I liked Jane as a character; I did not like the novel. (STOP WRITING PHYSIOGNOMY EVERY OTHER PAGE, CHARLOTTE; NOBODY LIKES THAT WORD.) And, at the risk of alienating one of my brilliant, beautiful friends who adores it, the Margo goes to:

She is clearly smarter than I am for appreciating Tolstoy for 800millionbajillion pages; I simply couldn’t cope. When it was over I was so relieved I almost cried, because now I can finally, finally say I’ve read Anna Karenina, and pleaseohplease nobody will ever make me read it again.

Bonus picture for the final category of the evening is me in 2012 moving and cataloging all my books (I have over 600; for the sake of my back, I have really got to stop moving.)

I hope you enjoyed the first annual Margo awards, accompanied by a little trip down my literary memory lane. Send me your recommendations to add to my reading list! I will be working on it for at least the next fifty or eighty years, or however long it is before my eyesight finally goes. If you’d like the list of the full 100 books, let me know that as well! I’d be happy to send it along.

Thank you again for joining us tonight at the Margo Awards. Make good choices. Don’t party too hard tonight, kids! You know how those after-parties can be for book awards.

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In Which I Become Affianced

The time has come, dear readers — the time at which my Pinterest wedding boards become legitimate, and I realize I can’t afford most of the absurd things I think princesses should have at their weddings (fireworks, elephant rides, and a puppy as a favor a la Bridesmaids being the most disappointing).

Yep, I am interrupting this regularly scheduled program to announce that I have become affianced to Manfriend!

A lot of little girls spend their whole lives fantasizing about their weddings. I’m not really into floral arrangements or cakes that look better than they taste, though, so my wedding plan was basically this: I manage to look ethereal and virginal and old-Hollywood-sexy all at once. He’s tall (sorry short guys of the world, but you were just not a part of my wedding fantasy) and shmexy. My whole family is there. There is a ton of food and some of it is grilled cheese and all of it is delicious. Then there is dancing and merriment and probably ice sculptures and enchanted fountains. A fairy grants us three wishes for our marriage. Then we fly away on a magic carpet to start our happily ever after.

Really solid plan, right?

Regardless of whether or not the fairy godmother I plan on inviting can clear her schedule to make it to the wedding, I think I’m still off to a pretty good start. Also he asked me to marry him and I said yes, so now I can actually, legitimately plan a wedding.

I had some good reasons for saying yes too. Here is a list of things I like about Manfriend:

1) He’s tall.

Apart from this being an evolution-based indication of good health and the ability to defend our family, it is also terribly convenient because I can wear whatever height heels I want when we go fancy places without looking silly. It also means he can reach ALL THE THINGS.

“Manfriend? Could you please hang this plant for me on the porch? I can’t reach that chain thingy.” Of course he can.

“Manfriend, the plant is dead because I never remember to water it. Could you take it down and hang up this fake one instead?” Not an issue.

“Manfriend, be a dear and fetch the rum from the back corner of the top of the fridge, where I slid it and now cannot access it.” Then he pours shots.

“Manfriend? I can’t reach that book on the top shelf.” Book + boy = swoon.

“Manfriend, I can’t see the parade because America is obese and all these fat people are blocking the view of those of us with only borderline BMIs.” Then I get hefted up so I can see the parade.

“Manfriend, could you–” Then he’s like, STOP CALLING ME MANFRIEND, because it’s only endearing for so long and then he wishes to be called by his real name or whatever, but regardless. With Manfriend in my life I can reach/see/drink/forget to water all the things.

2) He tolerates/sometimes enjoys the company of my family.

I know everybody’s family is crazy and all that jazz, but Manfriend grew up with one brother and no sisters and his parents are really nice and have been married forever. I have three sisters as crazy as I am, a father who likes to run background checks on everyone, a stepmother that we called our Wicked Evil Stepmonster (her idea for a title), a mother I’m pretty sure has a compulsive holiday-decorating disorder, and a partridge in a pear tree. (Well, not the last thing, but Manfriend comes from a family that just has cats and dogs for pets and in my family we’ve had two kinds of birds, rabbits, five kinds of dogs, fish, mice, a desert tortoise, and a five-foot iguana. Zoo status, when you include the mood swings of four girls.)

Manfriend bears all these things with grace and humor, and looks really good doing it.

3) He’s secretly smart.

Because I can sometimes be an elitist, pretentious bitch, I used to think Manfriend wasn’t smart enough to keep up with me. He played video games and sports and never seemed to be reading for fun, and he occasionally demonstrated incorrect usage of your/you’re in our early text conversations. Clearly not somebody I could procreate with. Scoff. Hair toss. DIS-MISSED.

Then while I was busy being too smart for him, he charmed my family, convinced me to go to Disney World with him during my last spring break at West Point, and cemented our relationship when he stood up for me against an ex who made all kinds of wild, unflattering accusations about my family and me. He also made perfect grades on Physics exams at West Point, proving once and for all that he’s not a dumb jock, as much as he likes to claim he is. I, on the other hand, studied for hours and still only skidded by in Physics I and II with a B- both semesters. I neither remember nor understand anything about that class, except that if you copy down all the equations you might get some partial credit.

Now, to tease me for being a pretentious bitch in the early days of our relationship, Manfriend pretends to have a diminished vocabulary purely for the sake of driving me crazy.

For instance:

HIM: What are you doing?

ME: I’m being coy.

HIM: Oh, like the fish.

ME: No! Not like the fish!

HIM: Kelley, stop being koi.

Or:

HIM: I don’t understand.

ME: You’re just being intentionally obtuse.

HIM: You know I don’t like it when you call me fat.

…infuriating. Adorable…but mostly infuriating.

4) He’s a bazillionaire.

Just kidding. If he was we’d definitely have a roller coaster photo booth at our wedding. Also baby otters.

But he is good with money, and math, and carpentry, and electricity, and technology, and sports, and grilling, and being coordinated, and all kinds of other things at which I am hopeless. He also has a much higher internal body temperature than I do, which I really appreciate in the winter but requires the use of a fan in summertime. Basically he fills in the gaps in my life, which I think is a pretty important characteristic in the person you’re going to marry.

5) He’s dreamy.

But seriously.

Here’s how he proposed:

We’d been planning to get engaged this past Christmas for almost a year. We shopped for rings over Valentine’s Day weekend last year, and decided what we liked/didn’t like, price, etc. Then we didn’t talk about it again for months. Over the summer he told me to go get my ring finger sized, but other than that he gave no hints about what he was going to buy or when. By November I was convinced he still hadn’t picked one out, and I was worried he was going to spend too much money or wait too long and then we’d have to wait longer to get engaged and waaaaaaah.

Then, two days after Thanksgiving, my mom and youngest sister were visiting his house. His parents, his brother, and his brother’s fiance were also there. Manfriend’s brother’s fiance (the girlfriend-in-law, my stepmom calls her) announced that evening that they had done a bunch of work outside, and so she wanted everyone to get dressed up to take nice family pictures on the bridge over the pond in the backyard the next day. We all said, okay, whatever, and Manfriend seemed clueless/appropriately uninterested so I suspected nothing.

The following afternoon, Manfriend and I were taking our turn for pictures on the bridge. Suddenly, he stopped and grinned at me, and said, “Hang on. I have to go get something,” and leaves me standing baffled on the bridge by myself. He jogged to a nearby tree and grabbed something from behind it, then came back to stand with me on the bridge.

It was a book. Oh! A book! I love books! I tried to take it from him, starting to feel a little indignant that he would bring me a present and then not just hand it over. Holding the book away from me, he put his other hand on my back and stood close. (He was kind of rubbing my back like you might do with a skittish bunny or something, so I’m pretty sure he was trying to lull me into a false sense of security before he could strike.) Then he began his little speech. I started looking around and realized that every female member of our family watching was now crying. Then I realized that he was proposing. And our families were there. And it was being filmed for my big sister in Afghanistan. Then he was down on one knee, opening the book to reveal the ring inside:

It was basically the most magical thing ever.

So of course I cried.

And I said yes.

Duh.

And then my dad and stepmom and Sister #3 showed up and the whole big happy group of us had a belated Thanksgiving dinner together. There was even celebratory pie, courtesy of my future sister-in-law.

engagement2

This was the book Manfriend had picked out to use for the proposal:

And this is the bling ring he gave me:

Sometimes I make a disco ball on the wall when I’m bored during staff meetings, because examining the sparkliness (yes, that is important in choosing a diamond: cut, color, clarity, carat, and sparkliness) of my ring is a lot more interesting than who’s on profile and whatever we’re doing for training next week.

Now all I have to do is win the lottery or get a fat book advance so I can have elephant rides and a fireworks show to rival Disney World, and I’ll be set! After that I plan to spend a few hours coming up with witty retorts to the inevitable and unoriginal string of “lovely” jokes that I will endure for the rest of my life. That’s right, Manfriend’s last name is Lovely, and so after he graduates/commissions/we get married, we shall be the Lieutenants Lovely.

I invite you to stay tuned this year as I slowly morph into Bridezilla. I am now accepting donations to fund my extravagant fairy-tale wedding, complete with water slide.

tumblr_static_boom_baby

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In Which I Am Asked a Lot of Silly Questions

I ask a lot of really stupid questions at work. My knowledge of cars is pretty much limited to checking the air pressure on my tires, checking my oil, and laboriously changing a tire. But now I work in a motor pool that services a lot of big trucks, so I am routinely stumped by the shop talk that surrounds me. (True story: I bought a copy of “Auto Repair for Dummies” but it is so insanely boring that I have only read like two chapters.) Luckily, ridiculous questions are not exclusive to hapless, confused butter bars.

This week, I bring you: SILLY QUESTIONS THAT PEOPLE HAVE RECENTLY ASKED ME.

“Why do you need another bookshelf?”

My own father had the audacity to ask me this when I sent him a picture of a bookshelf that I was looking into buying. I own over 500 books and plan on acquiring many, many more. Books belong on a shelf, on a pedestal, or in my hand. Not in storage. I need ALL the bookshelves so that I may properly display/pay homage to/systematically arrange my collection. I still can’t believe my dad asked me this question. IT’S LIKE HE DOESN’T EVEN KNOW ME.

“Are you going to finish that?”

If it’s bread, chocolate, or pizza, why are you even asking? Look at me. These hips don’t lie—of COURSE I am going to finish what I am eating.

“Why are you speaking in a British accent?”

Well, clearly it is to personally irritate you and make your day a little less pleasant. No! I shall tell you why:

          Because British accents are awesome.

          Because now I sound like a resident of Downton Abbey/a student at Hogwarts/a character in a Jane Austen novel.

          And if neither of those works for you: because I’m honoring my heritage. How about that? Now go away before I honor my Native American heritage and scalp you or something.

“Ma’am, do you know how to spell ‘deterioration’?”

Oh you poor, lost little lamb, you sad young man filling out that form. OF COURSE I know how to spell “deterioration”! Better question is why you DON’T know how to spell it…or look it up on your phone…but we’ll move past that and I will spell it for you, because it will probably be the most useful thing I will contribute to America this morning.

“Do you want to come to this week’s training meeting?”

Three questions in return:

  1. Will it be two and a half hours long like last week?
  2. Are there more than fifty slides in the slide deck?
  3. Could I get a shot with a gajillion-gauge needle or bathe in the Arctic instead? Because that would probably be less agonizing.

“Ma’am, are you married?”

This question has confused me on several occasions. Do some people just not wear any kind of band? Because frankly I think this is a stupid question. I have a Manfriend. He is tall, dark and handsome and really good at physics but pretends to be a dumb jock. This basically means we’re perfect for each other because I can never remember if it’s centripetal or centrifugal force that isn’t a real thing and I “catch” objects tossed to me by letting them bounce off my body and then picking them up off the floor.

But despite this felicitous boyfriend/girlfriend relationship in which we are gleefully involved, I am not, in fact, wifed up at this time.

So here’s my confusion. This is what my left hand looks like at work:

CurrentLeftHand

This is what my left hand will look like at work after I am married/engaged to be so:

FutureLeftHand

Any questions? (Manfriend, if you’re reading this, please note that the ring is saying, “bling bling!” but if the ring can sing a song as well as declare its superiority over other rings, that’d be cool too.)

“Want a donut?”

Well hello there, unnaturally skinny NCO. Thank you for noticing that it is 10:30 and my blood sugar has just plummeted into Dante’s Third Circle of Hell. There is nothing that sounds more appetizing right now than a piece of bread fried and smothered in chocolate deliciousness. One donut? Actually, I would like about nine (dozen). Unfortunately I cannot partake as my body is currently acting like the United States government in a financial crisis: bloated and still gorging. Therefore I must politely decline your offer of a donut as it is bathing suit season and my tummy is pleasantly squishy and not prepared for its debut. Also, you are Satan. Stop eating that donut in front of me.

“Hey ma’am, wanna go for a run? Show us what you got?”

First of all, I haven’t run without pain in almost two years because of a femoral stress fracture. Before that, I ran slowly. Very slowly. “Shuffled” would probably be a more accurate description, if you’re feeling generous, “trudged,” if you’re not. Second of all, what I’ve got is big hips and stocky legs. My nickname as a toddler was “Dozer.” (Kid you not; ask my parents.) I hate when lean guys with skinny legs ask you if you want to run. Or when dudes whose upper halves are disproportionate to their lower halves aggressively ask you what you bench (P.S. friends don’t let friends skip leg day. Remember that.). You don’t see me running around (colloquially speaking, of course; running is against my religion now) challenging people to sit-up contests all the time. I am a beast at sit-ups. Know why? Low center of gravity. But you don’t see me rubbing it in people’s faces all the time! Know what I want to say when people ask me if I want to go for a run?

This:

Doc

“Wanna come down to the shop and play with the welding equipment?”

This is a silly question because OF COURSE I want to play with the welding equipment! It’s loud and dangerous and I’m signed for it, so what the hell, right? BRB, gotta get my coveralls.

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April 3, 2013 · 5:23 pm

My Greatest Life Failings in a Covered Wagon on the Oregon Trail (sort of)

Dear potential readers who may potentially never materialize,

Having now received enough outside validation, it is time to take the plunge into the big, scary river of blogging. I have decided it is a river and not an ocean or a pond or something because (a) I like the who-knows-what-she’s-gonna-write-today-JUST-AROUND-THE-RIVERBEND-YAY-POCAHONTAS imagery it conjures in my mind, and (b) if we ford at too deep a crossing location, we will drown like in the original Oregon Trail and so now there’s an element of danger too!

But don’t be scared. We are all in this theoretical covered wagon together. To make you feel a little more at ease about embarking upon this journey with me, I have decided to tell you something about myself that I think frequently but don’t often tell people. That is, there are many things in my job (I’m in the Army) and intrinsic to my life (like being a girl) that are expected to come naturally to me (or I’m at least supposed to have developed a passable competence for performing), but I am really terrible at doing.

So, in the spirit of full disclosure (because isn’t that what the Internet is all about? Telling strangers about your life? Also let’s not forget the buying-of-things-I-don’t-need-but-I-really-want-and-oh-look-it’s-on-sale and pictures of baby animals), I give you a semi-complete list of things I am expected to be good at and am actually have no talent for:

  1. USING PROPER GRAMMAR ALL THE TIME

When I said “actually have no talent for” instead of “for which I have no talent,” I cringed. And then chose not to change it. I know the difference between “lay” and “lie” (lay is transitive and requires an object and lie is intransitive) but sometimes I just want to lay down, even though it makes no grammatical sense. Also sometimes I like to say “so-and-so and me” did something instead of “and I” just because it makes me feel like a little kid instead of a grown-up, and sometimes little kids get toys or candy for no reason, and I would like more of that in my life.

Sometimes, though, I use bad grammar because I am bad at grammar. English is a weird language. It beats up other languages and takes their words and then it’s confusing. Dangling modifiers get me every time. I use them without knowing I’m doing it. Would you like me to explain a dangling modifier to you? Sorry, I can’t. I googled it the other day and I still don’t get it.

       2. ENJOYING NATURE

Clinical studies have shown that people get depressed and eat their own hands when they’re inside too much. As human beings, we need sunlight and non-climate-controlled air every day. But you know what? You can get all the Vitamin D you need on a daily basis in just a few minutes by driving to and from work with cancerous UV rays streaming through your window. Various groups of my friends have been calling me Snow White since high school because I have dark hair and the shade of makeup I wear on my face is “translucent fair.” That dainty sovereign and I actually have more in common than you might think: remember when she has a panic attack in the woods because it’s dark and she’s fleeing aimlessly and then all of a sudden it’s light out again and the scary eyes were just baby rabbits and the fangs were dead branches? That’s me during land nav. I do not like nature. There are bugs and the sun and the wind burn my face and animals are mean and rabid in real life instead of snuggly and so basically I am disillusioned because Disney lied to me.

       3. BEING STERN

I am really pathetically bad at being mean to people sometimes (even when they deserve it). Anyone who has heard my rants about how someone is incompetent or ridiculous or annoying or a waste of air knows that I generally just try to ignore that person or give them fake smiles instead of just telling them I hate them. I guess this is mostly at work. I am in charge of people. As in, legitimately have authority over them. It isn’t as if they would blow me off or ignore me if I asked them to do something. But because I hate being bossed around, I hesitate to boss other people around too. So I’m usually like, “Specialist So-And-So, if you have time, will you get me that report?” WHICH IS RIDICULOUS. OF COURSE THEY HAVE TIME. IT IS THEIR SOLE FUNCTION IN OUR MOTOR POOL TO BRING ME THE REPORT. I SHOULD HAVE HAD THE REPORT AN HOUR AGO. This is why I will never be a general or a colonel or probably even a major and I am going to spend large portions of my Army career doing other people’s jobs because I don’t like being a jerk (even when people deserve it).

       4. KNOWING THINGS ABOUT CARS

I am not just talking about the inner workings of vehicles either—that part is actually easier for me to fake at work. I am a maintenance control officer, which basically means whenever a vehicle doesn’t get fixed in my brigade, it is probably my fault. So I spend a lot of time nodding sagely when people tell me about a cracked casing or a broken flywheel and then I scurry over to Google and look it up before anyone realizes I had no idea there was some kind of casing on a transmission and I couldn’t pick a flywheel out of a lineup even if the lineup only had puppies and one flywheel in it. I am talking about cars that people drive on the road every day and I drive behind and in front of and largely ignore (unless they are driving too slowly, in which case I use a lot of language my mother does not approve of). People are like, “oh yeah, I drive an Equinox,” and then everyone else automatically seems to know that is a Chevy. Well unless I have seen one of those new Chevy Equinox commercials recently, I have no idea who made the car.

 I also do not know where your car was made. I love America lots, but I don’t really have a hang-up about buying a foreign car. That’s one of the great things about America: we can import stuff that works from other countries. Here’s another great thing about America: you can go through life relatively unscathed without knowing the make and model of other people’s cars.

       5. DOODLING

When doodling, I enter a strange state in which I cannot remember basic features of things I have been looking at or imagining my whole life.

Picture this: I am in a meeting. I am bored. I decide to doodle to stay awake. I decide to draw a dragon because it whimsical but also fearsome, like me. I give it a head that kind of looks like an alligator and a big fat tail. Tail is too fat. Wait, does the tail need scales? What kind of feet do dragons have? I draw hooves. That is ridiculous. Dragons do not have hooves. Do dragons have ears? How fat should his belly be? Wait, is this a girl dragon? I give up and draw a big cloud of smoke around the dragon’s head. I can draw some pretty sweet clouds. Now my doodle looks like a puffy scribble with claw-hooves and not a cool geometrical pattern in the corner that normal human beings seem to be able to draw when they are bored. This may also explain why I was really bad at remembering which characters went with which words when I took Chinese.

       6. WALKING IN A WINTER WONDERLAND

This is somewhat related to #2, but deserves its own spot on the list because walking in a winter wonderland has a special place of hatred in my life. I never had a particularly strong feeling about winter growing up because I grew up in Texas, and we don’t really have winter there. But then I went to West Point, which is in New York, which is COLD COLD COLD COLD COLD for way too long each year. When the air outside is so cold it hurts your eyeballs and everything green dies for a significant portion of the year, a place is too cold and therefore unfit for human habitation (evergreens don’t count because they’re just playing Devil’s Advocate. “Look at me! It’s winter and I’m green!” Go home, pine trees, you’re drunk). I did not grow up with snow on Christmas so I have no nostalgia about winter. New York feels like Narnia when it’s still cursed in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: always winter, never Christmas. In fact, my favorite thing about a White Christmas is the Bing Crosby song, and I can enjoy that regardless of temperature.

       7. TRADITIONAL FITNESS

I am not athletic. I am uncoordinated and I still trip on flat surfaces for no reason even though my dad promised me I’d outgrow it after my teens. I don’t like running or lifting weights or doing exercise videos or any of the normal things people do to lose weight or get in shape. I like to dance badly and frolic in my youth. Those are my top two fitness regimens of choice. I also like yoga because I am reasonably flexible (or I used to be anyway) and being good at yoga means being really still instead of moving really fast. I support being really still.

       8. WORDS WITH FRIENDS.

I am not good at Words With Friends, the word game sensation that is sweeping the nation. I know, I majored in learning and analyzing English words, so I should be good at word games. But I’m not. In fact, I am pretty useless at ALL word games. Word searches? Totally useless. Unscrambling words? Likewise pathetic. I didn’t learn to read by piecing sounds together, I just started reading whole words. I’m actually impressed by people who can figure out a word by sounding it out. I either know it or I don’t—making all kinds of slurring, stuttering sounds isn’t going to help me. I think holistically when reading. Imagine nine-year-old me with dorky glasses, red-faced with rage because some “Language Arts” teacher has forced everyone to read line-by-line and cover the rest of the page with a piece of paper so they won’t “lose their place.” Lose their place. LOSE THEIR PLACE?! Um, excuse me – your learning tool is keeping me from seeing the rest of the paragraph! I was a mass of prepubescent fury at the injustice of not being able to scan the paragraph in one glance. So consider this your fair warning: if we’re playing Words With Friends, whether I’m winning or losing, I am probably cheating.

       9. TEACHING OTHER PEOPLE HOW TO READ

I taught my third sister how to read when I was still too young to really remember doing it. I think I just read aloud to her and when she started reading early my parents bragged that I had taught her how. I mean, who needs some fancy, private school education with actual teachers when you’ve got a bossy seven-year-old willing to do the job for free?

I must have gotten cocky, though, because then I decided I should also teach our baby sister how to read. I have a distinct recollection of writing “APPLE” on a chalkboard in our backyard and trying to coax my sister’s pacifier out of her mouth long enough for her to parrot the word back to me. When she could not (or would not) comply, I downgraded to the monosyllabic “CAT.” And when she still couldn’t read it, I underlined the word fiercely. She tried to take the chalk from my hand, but I was the teacher and she was the student, so it was my chalk. She ended up crying, and I ended up abandoning my quest to teach my youngest sister how to read. “Maybe in a few months you’ll try again,” my mother said consolingly to her bullied baby and disgruntled tutor.

I now have a great deal of empathy for both parties (both the teacher and the student) after a bunch of upbeat runners made wild claims about my potential for improvement as I trudged along beside them, nearing an asthmatic fit. Trust me on this one: if abilities could be absorbed and applied through osmosis, I would be able to run a five-minute mile, and my baby sister would have been reading before she could walk.

       10. MATH

Nobody expects me to solve multivariable calculus functions in my head, but most people can add and subtract double-digit numbers with a basic level of competency. Today in our training meeting, there was a slide with a bunch of numbers on it (alas). “119 personnel,” the commander read off. “Now how did you come up with that number? Oh, I see, never mind. 88 available, 21 trained, 10 unavailable. That adds up.” And I sort of looked around the table at the other people to see if they too thought that added up, because I was thinking, IT DOES?! HOW DID YOU DO THAT SO FAST. Numbers are really hard. (Yes, I did use a calculator to generate this numerical example for your edification. You can sue me if you want; I won’t be able to add up how much money you want anyway.)

So that’s it: the top ten things that I can think of at this moment that I am really, truly terrible at doing. This is not an all-inclusive list, and is subject to addition, revision, wild exaggeration, and perhaps someday deletion, assuming I ever learn how to add numbers in my head or decide I like nature.

Basically what I’m saying is that it’s a pretty good list. I hope you feel a little better about climbing into my covered wagon. I can’t promise, though, that we won’t run out of ammo or die of diphtheria or sink the wagon when we try to caulk and float it across the river. I promise to make any and all shady deals with Native American traders necessary to get us to the other side (have some faith; I’m approximately 1/64th Cherokee Indian). Welcome to my blog.

– Kelley

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