Thursday, November 29, 2012

Book It: Holiday Gift-Giving Guide!

It’s been a good long while since I’ve presented a book report. Like, I have approximately 3 gajillion books to either make dioramas about or write about here. Since I tend to hoard shoe boxes, I’ll skip the dioramas and write up my thoughts here - in convenient holiday gift-giving themes!

Today’s theme? Beachy reads. These are fun books that I either read on vacation or would recommend for vacation-type times. Or times you wish were vacation-type times.

The Next Best Thing: A Novel - Jennifer Weiner
My pal Alice read a horrible review of this book and so cautioned our otherwise Weiner-loving book club. However, I am here to tell you: I loved this book. I enjoyed it more than the author’s recent books, and it was one of those books that makes you wonder about the characters when you’re not reading. Plus, I learned a lot about how shows for the teevee are made, since the plot follows writer Ruthie through the process of getting her sitcom produced. Also, it made me really glad I don’t live in LA.

Speaking of not living in LA ...

Attachments: A Novel - Rainbow Rowell
This was a recommendation from Alice, and I also loved it (I do read some books I don’t love, I swear). Let’s hear it for a novel where the main characters don’t live in LA or New York! These characters manage to lead interesting, nuanced lives in Omaha. Gasp! These Midwesterners were well-developed and the prose in this tender little love story was engaging. Rowell has another book out soon and I can’t wait.

A Different Kind of Normal - Cathy Lamb
I have read everything Lamb has written - she’s great at escapist fiction that asks readers to just go ahead and believe in a handful of hopeful, crazy things. I enjoyed this book, but I have to admit that it made me think that I’ve got the author’s formula figured out: One traumatic event + A headstrong, lonely woman + A masculine but sensitive guy + Some random psychic or witchy ability = Book! Not to knock it, but … I can’t quite remember the plot. Something about a son with a cranial deformity and being in love with his doctor.

The Lost Recipe for Happiness - Barbara O’Neal
If I’m razzing on plots that depend on random supernatural business, I shouldn’t recommend this novel. But I’m going to. Publishers Weekly calls it a “bland kitchen romance” but that seems harsh, so they can suck it. If you’re looking for a recreational novel, this is a good, mindless choice. Elena’s a chef, and she’s haunted by an accident from which she was the only survivor. And then some stuff happens. And then you’re glad for her.

Welcome to Eudora: A Novel - Mimi Thebo
Holy cow - yet another book that doesn’t take place in LA or New York. What is the literary world coming to? This little gem centers around comings and goings in small-town Kansas. I grew up in a small town. I’m given to occasional tangents wherein talking about my hometown morphs into a meandering soliloquy that might feature generations-deep genealogy, careful descriptions of long-gone buildings, and the phrase “she turned up pregnant.” So, I totally appreciate any novelist that attempts to capture small-town life. Thebo did a great job and crafted a sweet little romance, too. Extra credit goes to the author for writing about the influx of Latino residents that’s shaping so many Midwest towns. Lots of people are scared to talk about this, but she handled it with grace and aplomb.

Next up in Cha Cha’s Book-Giving Guide? Biographies!

Disclaimer: When you purchase a book through my links, Amazon throws some spare change my way. This enables me to pay my library fines, stay out of library jail, and keep entertaining you with my hard-hitting literary criticism.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

You know you want to visit. Also? Join my cult.

Recently, I found yet another puddle in my house.

Yes, Lil' Frankfurter decided yet again that peeing in the middle of the living room was a great option. In fact, it was a much better option than nosing the bell hung on the back door, alerting me he needed to go outside. To go potty. Because, as My Guy and I remind the dogs several times daily, "WE GO POTTY OUTSIDE."

It's like we have a cult, except instead of talking about Hale Bop or drinking Kool-Aid, we're all, "WE GO POTTY OUTSIDE."

Right. Except sometimes Lil' Frank just can't be bothered.

So, the other day, I found yet another fucking puddle. And although I'm usually just Mommy Dearest and yell something really useful like, "Shameful! Shameful!?" Well, this time? The spirit just got into me and I went off.

"WE GO POTTY OUTSIDE," I said to a non-plussed Lil' Frank. "What are you doin', peeing in MY HOUSE? This is MY HOUSE, and I just let you live here."

Then, it got weird.

"You ain't got no J-O-B. You ain't got no JOB! Git yo'self a jobby job and earn your keep!"

I just might be watching too many reruns of "Martin."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving: A Retrospective.

I hope y’all had a happy Thanksgiving. I’ve been mulling over just how to describe my holiday … there were so many nuances.

On 1 hand, it wasn’t bad. We spent 2 days with My Guy’s family. There was plentiful food and a scavenger hunt.

On the other hand, we spent 2 days with My Guy’s family. An intervention was planned, and I surreptitiously drank wine out of a coffee cup.

Yep. That about covers it.

I had fun antiquing with my MIL, and I scored a Griswold mailbox for the hopefully soon time we rip the rotted lean-to off the front of our house and have an actual front porch. My 9-month-old nephew is a happy baby and such a charmer. When I kept refilling my coffee cup with wine, no one commented, and I have to say that Riesling is an easy-drinkin’ accompaniment to any family gathering.

My FIL was more than an hour late. His almost 40-year-old son sat next to the door, visibly hurt. “I’m afraid if he gets here and the door is shut, he’ll have an excuse to just turn around and leave. I called and left messages. I don’t know where he is.”

My heart crumbled. The best I could manage was a “Good Will Hunting”-esque, “It’s not your fault.”

My MIL told me in confidence that she worries to this day that her kids might be mad at her for divorcing their dad because it allows his crazy to flow free. Again, my best response was, “It’s not your fault.” Thank you, Robin Williams.

I guess this is what it’s like to get more ensconced in a family.

And being more ensconced means that I also did not ask who the hell thinks they can have Thanksgiving without stuffing. Even though I wanted to.

Seriously. Who the hell thinks Thanksgiving is complete without stuffing? What the hell sort of low-carb family did I marry into?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving just got real, yo.

This month, tons of my Facebook friends have been posting things they're thankful for. It's a nice sentiment, but I've kind of rolled my eyes at most of the posts. Oh, you're thankful for your family? And your home? No way!

I just felt like an ungrateful wretch until one of my high school pals posted the ultimate response:

Let's talk about true gratitude. I'm thankful for Velcro. And new car scented air freshener. And cream soda.

Hell yeah. Super hell yeah.

So, I've been thinking: what am I really thankful for?

I'm thankful for my round hair brush. And salsa. But mostly?

I am super psyched and crazy-thankful for the power locks in my car. Seriously.

My locks were broken for about 2 years. Two long, arduous years of manually locking 4 doors every time I got out of my car. And don't even get me started on the tumor lodged in My Guy's brain - you know, that tumor that prevented him from ever remembering to lock the car doors?

Yeah. It was a real strain on our relationship.

But this fall, I bit the bullet and took my trusty Honda to the dealership. Twice. In what felt like a frivolous expenditure, I spent a few hundred bucks getting my locks fixed. But I am here to tell you that the price per car ride is so, so low - and so, so worth it.

When we picked up the car, My Guy thanked the service guy for saving our marriage. The service guy didn't even smile, but My Guy speaketh the truth. I'm no longer all up in his business when he walks away from the Honda like it can just lock itself - because it CAN lock itself. Like magic!

Now, every time I get out of my car, I can lock all 4 doors with just the touch of a button - and it thrills me. I seriously get a jolt of sweet, sweet satisfaction every time I prevent thugs from slipping into my unlocked car and stealing my Tic Tacs and 15-year-old CDs.

I am thankful for power locks. Amen! Hallelujah! And Happy Thanksgiving!

Reader, what are you truly thankful for?

Monday, November 19, 2012

An open letter to the guy with the fake "hair."

Hi, friend.

I was standing behind you in line for a concert Saturday night. The line was long, and so I hope you'll forgive me for the time I spent staring at the back of your head.

I am a woman, and I have what can best be described as a shit-ton of hair. This, admittedly, means that I don't really know what it's like to be a man with thinning hair. I can imagine, though, that it's frustrating. So frustrating that you'd be willing to try just about anything.

I am here to tell you - as a friend - that the colored spray you spritzed on your bald spot is not fooling anyone. As a friend, I must tell you that said spray makes it look not like you have hair, but like the crown of your head just got out of an Ash Wednesday service. And the black ashy stuff that was supposed to adhere to your scalp? Isn't.

Yes. You are molting black fake-hair dandruff.

I'm guessing you aren't a chimney sweep. There is no reason for your head to be caked in flaky black dust. And as a lady, I can confidently say that hair from a can is not going to get you laid. Personally, I'd be afraid that you'd get black crap all over my upholstery. And that's not a euphemism.

Embrace the bald spot. Own your noggin. Get that shit off your scalp.

Your pal,
Cha Cha

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I'm not a dog trainer, but I play one on TV.

Remember when I was all, "My dog is destroying my life?"


Longtime friend of noodleroux Patti left an impassioned comment about her own personal canine hell.

... I saw a picture of a cute puppy on FB and next thing I knew I had an 8 wk old spawn of satan. ... My free dog has cost me $300 in training and she is still a wild ass monster. ... I hold you responsible Cha Cha after all your cute dog pictures and talk of puppy love. I obviously overlooked the parts about ruined bedding and destroyed possessions, but someone has to be responsible for this mayhem that I have visited on my life so I choose you ... I could be on dog shaming every single day of the week. My dog's sign would say "I am a face licking, door scratching, fence digging, shoe eating, couch ripping cushion digging food stealing counter jumping dinner begging arm breaking old lady tripping cat chasing mother f-ing nightmare except I make sure everyone is AWAKE by my loud and endless barking" signed Olive. Help me.... 

Oh, sister.

First of all, get a bottle of wine. Not a glass. A bottle.

Now then.

I'm so, so sorry.

Keep in mind that this entire blog is basically 1 giant exercise in "do as I say not as I do." Just for the record, I do not condone having 4 dogs, 3 of whom are assholes. I do not suggest letting them rule who sits where on the couch, and I don't recommend being "flexible" (read: "completely inept") with the training. Legally, I assume no responsibility for shit you get yourself into after reading this here blog ... so Patti, honey? Don't you dare drop your dog off at my house in the middle of the night. I will know it was you, and I will make sure Olive finds her way back to you.

That said ... I don't actually have experience with puppies. All of my dogs have come into my life as adults. Your puppy sounds like a coked-up toddler. At least you know there's no reasoning with her - I mean, she's a coked-up toddler, and there's not much you can do with that except ride it out.

Training is good. Routines and good. Crates are awesome and absolutely necessary. And getting the pup as tired as possible is good. But you know all these things.

Here's my black-market dog advice:

1. Get some Rescue Remedy. They make a doggie version, and you can either put a few drops on the dog's food or put a few drops on the top of her head, specifically at the high point of the skull, kinda in between the ears. It's calming.

2. Learn the Vulcan death grip. Back when I was working with a homeopathic vet, trying to work miracles for Geriatric Poodle, I learned a little doggie acupuncture. Put your thumb on that high skull point I just described, and put a finger on the back of each ear. Consistent pressure on these 3 points is supposed to be calming. It worked on the Geriatric Poodle, but I will say that dachshunds consider this move to be voodoo bullshit and refuse to be calmed by it.

3. Git you some Nature's Miracle. The cleaners are great, although the No More Marking spray hasn't quite lived up to its name at my house. (Foxie Doxie, I'm looking at you. It's been 9 years. You can stop peeing on the furniture legs any time.)

4. Puppy-proof your house. If there's stuff that you would die if it got ruined, put it away for now. You can get your nice bedding back out and be more laissez-faire about putting your shoes away once your toddler has come down from the cocaine high. Recognize that you are living with a crazy being, but that the insanity is temporary.

5. I really like RELAX Riesling. And it's only like $9 a bottle. Get a case.

6. Focus on the puppy cuteness. God made babies and puppies cute so that we don't kill 'em.
Readers, what puppy advice do you have for Patti?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Because there's a time and a place for everything.

One holiday several years ago, I found myself seated next to my aunt's mother-in-law. Let's call her Mrs. Danvers.

Mrs. Danvers was terrifying in her prime, and at this point, she was in her 90s and still scary. She looked around the room with a disapproving eye and had a vibe that just screamed, "Everyone I like is dead. And now I'm stuck with you people."

Obviously, I was thrilled with the seating arrangement.

But I got Mrs. Danvers talking about our shared alma mater, a women's college that she attended in the 30s. She got very animated telling me about taking the train to campus, and the great fun she and her friends had in school. She said, "Even later in life, those girls were some of my best friends."

It really struck me to see this mean old lady get positively wistful and to refer to her female friends as "girls." She was in her 90s, yet the girl she had once been was still alive inside. And she saw her fellow girls in her mind's eye. Her girls.

My very closest friends refer to ourselves as "girls." It's not a term that I use lightly because it feels so intimate. It seems appropriate only for those female friends who remember that horrible haircut you had in 1989 or who have patiently and compassionately held your hand while you cried all of your makeup off. "Girl" is a term of endearment that is not easily earned. It means you've seen each other's inner children ... or have been friends long enough to remember being children.

So, maybe that's why I have a hard time being referred to as "girl" in the workplace.

Yes. Today at Globotron, my boss's boss - a woman - referred to me and my 2 fellow female writers as "the girls." In an email. For the world to see.

I barely know this woman. I'm sure she used the word as a female version of "guys" and didn't even think about it. In that way, I should just write it off.


She certainly doesn't fulfill my personal criteria for earning use of the term "girl." And the usage felt infantilizing in a corporate environment. I've worked too damned hard to build my skills and my career to be referenced as a child in the workplace. Especially by another woman, who more than likely knows how difficult it is to hold your ground - not to mention gain any - in what is still a very male-dominated environment.

In the workplace, I'd rather be called "bitch" than "girl." Bitches have power. And you can take that brand of name-calling straight to HR. But "girl?" It's more insidious. It's a not-so-subconscious way of making women feel small.

Would you ever refer to a group of knowledgeable, capable, professional men as "boys?" Hell no. So why the double standard?

Am I being overly sensitive here? 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Triple points with Jesus!

I am totally a saint. Just, you know, FYI.

See, I was leaving the house, walking the dogs. As I reached the street, who should drive up but everybody's least-favorite neighbor, Creepy Chuck.

Ugh. There was nowhere to hide.

Creepy Chuck leaned out the open window of his car and spoke to me over the sound of chainsaws from a neighbor's house. "So, what's going on back there?" he asked me with huge, super-concerned eyes.

I tried to keep moving. "They're having some tree work done."

This was way too mundane to satiate Creepy Chuck's thirst for conspiracy, and he would have none of it. "Are you sure? I think they might be having foundation problems."

I gaped at Creepy Chuck. I looked at the truck directly in his line of sight - the one with a tree logo on the door. And the trailer behind said truck, which also had a tree logo on it, and a bunch of tree-related business on it.

I refrained from telling him he is full of shit. I did not whisper a secret command that turned the labradoodles into deadly attack canines, like those red-eyed lizard / dog beasts from "Ghostbusters." I didn't even slam my fist into Creepy Chuck's car door with a well-deserved, "C'mon, man."


Instead, I kept moving and said, "Yep. Tree work."

Eat your heart out, Mother Teresa.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Behold my dog, Destroyer of Worlds!

Over the last few months, I've been obsessed with And when I say obsessed, I mean checking it several times a day. It makes me laugh with gems like this:
 And this:
I love the site because it shows dogs (hellloooo? super like!) and gives an idea of their individual personalities. Also, it makes me feel less alone in parenting canine hellions.

Yes. It's that time of year again. The time of year when the labradoodles sometimes stay inside because it's cool or rainy. The time of year when Lady Doodle gets bored and pissed off and so acts out.


If I were to submit a photo to Dogshaming, it could be this one:
Other alternate captions include but are not limited to:
  • You know that scarf that you've spent hours knitting for my dad? Yeah. I ate it. I simply cannot abide knitting needles in my house. Rage! I am filled with rage!
  • You know your favorite gloves, the really nice ones with the Thinsulate? The ones you got on sale? Yeah. I ate one of 'em. It was taunting me. Don't let the bows in my hair fool you - I am a wrathful bitch.
  • Remember that time you were bragging to my dad that you'd gone to the dentist and had a new toothbrush and it was yours and he couldn't use it? Yeah. I ate it. Hubris got cha!
  • Remember how you were feeling all smug because you got a bunch of Christmas shopping done? Yeah. I ate one of those gifts. Hubris in da house!
  • Do I even need to mention how I feel about your new throw pillows? Yeah. Didn't think so. Good luck picking up all those feathers.
So many possible captions. So little time.

Seriously - so little time. All of this shit has gone down in the last month - and yes, my kid acting out does coincide with me going back to work. I know. I know!

I'm working, and I'm busy dealing with the intense shame of having to tell a librarian that my dog ate my library book. Well, and my disappointment in her response when I mentioned Dog Shaming. She was all, "People submit photos with signs? What's the point?"

At this point I died a little. "Umm ... it's funny."

She continued processing my credit card. "Oh - OK."

And then I proceeded to tell her that she totally needed to get fitted for a bra because she had quadraboob. OK, not really. But I wanted to. Something tells me she would not have found the humor in the situation.

Make me feel better. What's your dog done lately that's been insane?

First 2 images courtesy of Go there. Laugh. Because it is funny.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The shark in Jaws was named Bruce. I think I've worked with him.

A big ol' "WTF?" shout-out goes to Globotron.

My new employer has 6 TVs in the cafeteria. Usually, they are set on a variety of news-like programs. Sit in one area, you can catch up on ESPN. Sit in another and you're all MSNBC or CNN or whatever.

Except today. Today, every single TV was set on a static PowerPoint screen urging employees to sign up for benefits. Instead of a variety of news-like channels. Because it's election day. And we can't be trusted to watch completely useless midday election coverage without it devolving into a corporate throwdown.


For the last week, I've been copying text from a database and pasting it into Word docs. I know a lot of folks out there are curious about the true value of a college degree in the modern working world, and I'm here to tell you: fuck if I know. I've just gotten paid for 40 hours of work that a monkey could have performed.

I'm glad for the cash, but it's soul-sucking. Like most things in Corporate America.

Based on my experiences at Globotron, Corporate Behemoth, and Mega Corporate Behemoth, I feel confident in saying that there are 3 distinct flavors of corporate workers.

The Sea Anemone
Letting corporate waves carry you wherever might seem scary to a control freak - but it's awesome for lazy anemones. They don't do anything. They just show up and offer zero value. Also, they aren't afraid to remind folks when a task doesn't fall under their job description.

The Shark
This person is a mover and a shaker - which also means he or she is a total asshole. A shark will eat their way up the corporate ladder, kissing ass and making enemies with zero concern for actual human beings. You'll see a lot of sharks in "who's who" issues of business magazines. Their hair is shiny.

The Blowfish 
Who likes to puff up and look big and important? This guy! The rub is that blowfish are often not very bright. But that doesn't stop them from talking. And talking. And sometimes being mistaken for somebody with a brain. Blowfish like to believe they're sharks, but really, they are the sharks' bitches.

And then? There are the rest of us ... that very small group of fish who actually work hard and are nice. Sharks eat us a lot. Blowfish overshadow us. And sometimes we get lost in a sea of anemones.

I know I'm a low-key worker fish. But the truth is, I'm not sure who I am anymore.

I used to be a senior manager, but I was stressed out all the time. Now I'm a contract worker, showing off my mad Microsoft basic-function skillz. Part of me feels like I have made a series of terrible mistakes and I'm surely atrophying as a person. Part of me thinks this current gig will get better, and I have a more balanced life now. And part of me just wants to stay home and never work in Corporate America ever, ever again.

This is top-of-mind because I'm bored out of my skull right now - although I don't know if fish have skulls. Because I am atrophying as a human being.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

In which I admit I am a sap for democracy. And cute old men.

My Guy and I had a hot date tonight.

We voted. Yeeeeeaaaaahhh!

Thank God / Allah / Buddha / Oprah for early voting. Seriously. It was awesome. And God love the retirees who run the show.

We waiting in line for about half an hour, but the line moved quickly ... partly due to My Guy's jokes about there being a lot of folks in line who obviously weren't white, male landowners.

And then we got in and sent through the line. At one point while I was waiting, I turned to the volunteer and thanked her for doing what she was doing. She put her hand on my arm and said, "Honey, we've been busy all week. It's so exciting! I just love it!"

I wanted to make her a pie.

So I got through the line and went to my station. For the first time, I pulled up my notes on my iPhone to make sure I voted for who I wanted to vote for (sorry, some of the judges get confusing). Then, I turned my little card in to the retiree who was also handing out "I Voted" stickers. I smiled.

Sticker Guy smiled back. "First-time voter?"

I laughed. "Umm, no."

He grinned. "Am I close? Close but not quite?"

I made a mental note to a) continue with the sunscreen; and b) never discount the flirting prowess of the over-80 set. "Not close," I said. "But keep on thinking whatever you're thinking."

Which probably sounded dirtier than I intended.

I met My Guy outside. "Hey, smiley," he said. "Geez, you really like voting."

"Yeah, but Sticker Guy just asked if I was a first-time voter! You're so lucky. Your old lady looks so young and foxy," I said.

"Umm, I think old guys just have game," said my completely unappreciative spouse.

Now, I will admit that when we walked out into the beautiful night, I pumped my fists. "I love voting!" I bellowed.

"Yeah, but our votes won't count because of what state we're in!"

"Yeah, but at least we tried," I countered. "I mean, 100 years ago, I wouldn't have been able to vote."

And then I got choked up.

That wasn't that long ago. And yes, I might be a teensy bit PMSy, but c'mon - what a huge deal. It made me feel giddy.

So, I pulled myself together. Then, we celebrated democracy at our favorite Mexican restaurant.  I *heart* America.