Friday, January 31, 2014

Exhausted Recap: GWTW

Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, I tell myself stories. And sometimes, when I’m feeling completely uncreative, I’ll retell books or movies.

I come by this coping mechanism honestly, as I have a long history of hanging out in bed, awake. This might have something to do with me being a night owl and, well, like normal humans, my parents wanted their daughter to go to bed before midnight. So, I’d lie there and make up complex games, or my own plot twists for “General Hospital.”

Anyway, I woke up last night in a dachshund sandwich. I couldn’t move, lest I disturb the delicate ecosystem of two sleeping doxies, a sleeping husband, and a labradoodle snoring on the floor. So, story time it was.

How long has it been since you’ve seen “Gone With the Wind?” For me, it’s been approximately 900 years. Obviously. The bedtime story I told myself last night went like this:

OK, so there’s this little princess named Scarlett, and she’s all, “la-dee-da.” And she’s in love with this guy named Ashley, even though he’s a ginger and has no soul. And Ashley decides to marry his freakin’ cousin instead of Scarlett. So, Scarlett’s all, “Fuck Ashley and his goody-two-shoes ho. I’m gonna marry this other dude.” And then the war starts, and there’s news of a horrible battle, and Scarlett’s like, “OMG, is Ashley OK?” And the people are all, “Yes, ma’am, but your no-name husband is dead.” And then she’s all, “I’m so sick of wearing black. Mourning is bullshit!” But then she starts to really like this Rhett guy, and there is just sexual tension all around them. But the war’s gone on, and Scarlett’s all hungry and poor, and she has to look after Ashley’s wife, who is all knocked up and in labor in the back of a wagon while Atlanta is burning. And then she dies or something. But Scarlett’s all, “Fuck being poor. Rhett, let’s get married.” And so they do. And they have a kid. And then they watch the kid break her neck and die and it’s horrible. And then Rhett is all, “Eff off, hooker” and he leaves. And then Scarlett’s all, “Well, I’ll figure out what I’m gonna do tomorrow.” And that’s the end of the movie.

I may be glossing over some of the nuances.

How do you entertain yourself when you can’t sleep?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

An open letter to my new Facebook friend.

Oh, hey, pal! We went to elementary school together. You got in huge trouble for stealing your mom’s jewelry and giving it to your second-grade girlfriend. Are you still grounded?

You moved away, and we always wondered what happened with you. That’s why it was nice to get your friend request on Facebook. It looks like you’ve only had a Facebook account for 4 days, but you’re certainly making up for lost time. 119 friends already? Nice.

Listen, I know you’re new to the ways of The Facebook, so I feel the need to cut you some slack. However, you’re making me feel marginally homicidal.

It is just not cool to post song lyrics as your status update every 2 hours. It’s just not.

I keep waiting for you to settle into your new account, and maybe watch and learn as you see how others are using Facebook. If you do, you’ll notice that folks generally don’t post 10 times a day. They also don’t post cryptic song lyrics repeatedly.

It’s this hope that has so far prevented me from hiding you from my feed. But now, I’m kind of waiting for someone to call you out. I’m now kind of excited every time I see a new post from you. Maybe this will be the post to which someone comments to SHUT THE FUCK UP. Maybe this time you’ll learn the error of your ways and, oh, I don’t know, post something relevant instead of obscure lyrics from German thrash metal.

Maybe. But probably not.

Glad you’re not dead. Hope you are well. Shut up.

Cha Cha

P.S. Clearly, I'm just as dreadful as you remember.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Gird your loins: V-Day is coming!

Valentine’s Day is coming up faster than you’d like to believe. Although I have a general distaste for Hallmark holidays, I’m gonna tell it to you straight: if you’re in any kind of relationship, you need to know what the explicit expectations are for this holiday of lurve.

I have known deep, deep disappointment on Valentine's Day ... probably because I've dated some seriously disappointing boys. Check out the whole sordid tale at Aiming Low.

Also? Never tell a lady that you've never seen any girl eat as much as she just did.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Jesus was cold in the manger, but He was chill.

Our furnace died on Christmas Eve Eve.

I didn't write about it at the time because I was having a full-blown mental breakdown: 1 half Zoloft withdrawal, 1 half "It's a year-old furnace, you furnace people have already been at my house 47 hours this month and if you don't get the temp in my house above 55 degrees right this damned minute, I will rip off your heads and 8-pound, 6-ounce Baby Jesus in his golden fleece diaper would approve!"

Ahem. I was really feeling the Christmas spirit.

See, I still had PTSD from the furnace dying and it taking a few days and several visits from the admittedly very nice furnace dudes to get it back up and running. So, when My Guy and I discovered a mere 12 hours before our scheduled departure for holiday fun that the furnace had died again?

Well, I kind of lost my mind. I couldn't go to bed because I was pacing and yelling. I would make a great basketball coach - turns out, I'm really good at pacing and yelling. I wasn't mad at the furnace guys. I was just ... cold. I was cold, and exhausted, and depressed, and the possibility of us being late for Christmas with my family or missing it all together just pushed me over the edge.

I left a rather strangled voicemail for the furnace company at 10 p.m. They called me back at 6:45 a.m. Christmas Eve and said they'd be by in a few hours.

Fine. The temperature in the house was a balmy 56. I refused to get out of bed.

Finally, the furnace guys came, literally 3 wise men bearing gifts. They felt so bad about our run of bad HVAC luck that they brought us a Hickory Farms gift box. I'm pretty sure it was regifted and meat in casings generally heebs me out, but it was awesome. It made something shift within my angry little heart.

The wise men did a temporary fix that enabled us to leave without fear of our pipes freezing. I didn't have to rip off anybody's head. And while we were standing around the basement, waiting for the furnace to kick in again, 1 of the 3 wise men turned to the newbie of the group. "Look at that duct work," he said, pointing to the basement ceiling. "Look at how they (something technical) and (something else technical). It's a work of art. I love these old homes. They did it right."

Dammit. That was when all the wrath drained out of my cold little body.

The wise men viewed our misbehaving furnace as their personal challenge, and they were kind even in the face of my fake-nice crankiness. And they were clearly passionate about what they do. I am such a sucker for people who are passionate. Being nerdy isn't bad - it's awesome. I can't think of anything sadder than not having at least 1 thing that gets you excited, whether it's computer code or duct work.

So, the furnace worked, and I got a much-needed attitude adjustment, and we celebrated Jesus' birthday by sledding in my parents' front yard and I bruised up both my knees so badly that they are still tender 4 weeks later.

And it's all good. Merry belated Christmas, my friends.

And to the freakin' spammers who comment any time I post about my furnace? Please, give it a rest. I'm not gonna click through your link, and, clearly, I'm very happy with my HVAC servicepeople. I mean, c'mon - they even have their own Christmas carol.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Git yo music on.

My Celebrity Boyfriend Dave Grohl and his band Foo Fighters have a new album coming out this year. This means they will tour, which means that I will stalk them, hopefully across multiple cities.

Since I quit working at Corporate Behemoth, I no longer have free parking and occasional free tickets to all the concerts in town. It's slowed my concert going for sure. However, I have a long and storied history of ye old musical performances. Out of curiosity, I made a list of all the concerts I've attended in my life.

Dude. I came up with a list of 64 different performers that I've seen. They range from epic to somewhat embarrassing to absolutely awesome.

Some highlights:

First concert ever: Jerry Reed, of "Smokey & The Bandit" fame. He played a free show at an amusement park. I was 6. It. Was. Awesome. I love "East Bound and Down" to this day.

Concert that almost got me arrested: Long-time readers might recall me almost beating up a girl in line for a Billy Joel / Elton John concert. Her crime? The comment, "Wow, this line is insane. We're gonna hafta get here really, really early to see Daughtry! That line's gonna be even worse. I mean, their lead singer is Chris Daughtry. He was on AMERICAN IDOL!"

Side note: My husband refers to Billy Joel and Elton John as "Billy John." He truly can't tell them or their music apart. However, if you call them "Elton Joel," he gets really mad.

Concert where my mom kept handing me the binoculars and saying, "Look at his butt! Look at his butt:" Michael Bolton. Vet's Auditorium, Des Moines, Iowa, August 1992. Yeah, baby. I still love him.

Performers I've seen 3 or more times: Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, James Taylor, Foo Fighters, REO Speedwagon, and Foreigner. I love them all.

Biggest disappointments: That would be a tie between Sting's solo show and the long-awaited Police reunion tour. Hmm ... see any common threads here? Any performers that might just be phoning it in?

Concert that made me realize that famous people are tiny and TV cameras must make normal people look like heifers: Sheryl Crow. I met her backstage at our shared alma mater, the University of Missouri. Her thigh was roughly the size of my wrist. I felt like a hulking ogre, and I'm only 5'3" on a good day.

Show that My Guy and I vowed not to tell anyone we attended but it was actually really, really good: Nickelback. Those guys work hard.

Concert where the audience was me and 10,000 male computer programmers: Rush

Band that went on tour after a long hiatus, effectively making my dreams come true: Crowded House.

Concert I attended because my parents ruined my life with their reel-to-reel tapes: The Kingston Trio. Guess who knew all the songs and all the words? Me. Guess who loved it and even got teary-eyed? Yep.

Band that still makes me happy because I saw them 10 days before college graduation and a girl from my sorority came up to me in the crowd and said I was the coolest girl in our entire house, and it totally made my day even though her hug made me slosh my pitcher (yes, my pitcher) of beer all over some random innocent bystander because OMG college is the best: Big Head Todd & The Monsters

Best investment: Springsteen. His tickets don't come cheap, but the man plays for a solid 3 hours - sometimes more. Your cost per minute of music is a fool-proof investment - nevermind the fact that he's amazing.

Grown-up concert in which I fell deeper in love with the performer: Mandy freakin' Patinkin. Hubba hubba. Oh, yeah, Patti LuPone was there, too, and she's great. But Mandy. Oh.

So. What was your first concert? Most memorable concert? Concert that I need to run out and purchase tickets to now?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Ceramic squirrels are a girl's best friend.

Did you stab anybody over Christmas?

A few women did. One lady stabbed her fiancé during an argument over the color scheme for their wedding. Another woman was so upset when her boyfriend came home without beer on Christmas that she beat and stabbed him with a ceramic squirrel.

A ceramic squirrel.

Honey, you know I've got an opinion on this. Check out my take on ceramic-squirrel-on-human violence at Aiming Low.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Marriage + Cake = Awesome.

I had a horrible headache last night. It was the kind of headache where you collapse on the bed without taking off your boots.

I laid there. I considered what it would be like spending the rest of my life curled up on the bed, wearing boots. I thought about all the good times I would miss, and the fun trips my husband would take without me. My head throbbed so that I wasn't even that sad - I was just numb, and accepting of the fact that my life was basically over. These things just happen.

Then, My Guy showed up. He sighed, and pulled my boots off. Then, he instructed me to get under the covers.

"I'm wearing clothes. I can't get in bed," I said.

"Sure you can," he replied. And he got under the covers in his street clothes. So I did, too.

He read. I let the ibuprofen kick in. Pretty soon, he whispered, "It was really smart of you to bring the chocolate cake upstairs. Because, you know, I really want some cake now, and the kitchen is so very far away."

"I didn't bring the cake. But you could go get it."

He left.

And then he came back with the cake pan and a fork.

He got back in bed, rested the cake pan on my back, and chowed down.

Despite my headache, that cake smelled so, so good. It smelled like the cure for all that ailed me. It was the answer to my headache prayers.

I propped myself up, and we took turns with the fork. We got cake crumbs in the bed. At one point, My Guy looked at me and said, "Hey, fellow adult."

We laughed. I felt 100 times better.

And that is why it's important to a) have a good cake recipe; and b) marry someone who isn't afraid to break the rules.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Call me maybe.

Looking for a new way to feel completely demoralized and become sure that you're a social leper? Might I suggest becoming a freelance writer?

I'm working on yet another newsletter article for Bob's Mattress Shack. Bob himself is a real nice guy. People love Bob, and agree to whatever he asks of them. However, when Bob asks people to talk to me for a newsletter article? They tell him, "Of course, anything for you, Bob!" And then they tell me ... nada.

Like, they don't take my calls. They don't return my calls. They screen my calls.

One guy put me on hold for so long that it took me back to the fateful summer when I waited too long to procure summer employment. The pickin's were slim, and so I worked ... as a telemarketer.

Yes. I called people with Conoco credit cards and offered them life insurance. It was miserable.

If you ever wonder where dreams go to die, look no further than a telemarketing floor. Nobody grows up wanting to be a telemarketer. And as if having a job you don't like isn't enough, that job you don't like involves people actively hating you.

I got yelled at, hung up on, and called names. And yes, folks would set the phone down to go get the person I asked for ... and they'd just leave. I sit there and wait and wait and wait, while my stats tanked. I knew my supervisor with the leather tie and safety-pinned "dress" pants would be mad, but it was so nice to have a moment when I wasn't actively being crapped upon. Sitting in silence was actually preferable to real human interaction.

There were some bright spots. I spoke at length to some very lonely people. I was miserable, they were lonely, and we cheered each other up. Also, if you're looking for a vocation that will keep you in school, out-bound telemarketing is it. I think only shoveling shit could be worse.

So, this time around, with the guys who don't want to talk to me about Bob's Mattress Shack? Well, I'm sure they're busy. But for the love, is it really so hard to just say, "No, thank you?" If you can't tell Bob, tell me. Stop wasting my time. As much as I hate confrontation, if I - of all people! - am telling you to be vocal? Perhaps you should do it.

The difference between interviewing for a newsletter article and telemarketing for Conoco life insurance is that I'm a touch mellower now. Bob's Mattress Shack hasn't made me cry, and I cried almost every day telemarketing. It was difficult for 19-year-old me to be very, very bad at something.

I was a horrible telemarketer. People would tell me "no" and I'd be all, "OK, thanks for not calling me a low-life telemarketing bitch" instead of going into the 3 scripted retorts. My coworkers would take smoke breaks and slam cans of Jolt and I'd be the quiet college girl drying her eyes in the bathroom, taking it all way too personally.

One guy I called politely turned down the life insurance, and as he was hanging up, I heard his conversation with a friend. "Dang," he said, "She sounded hot."

So, if writing doesn't work out, I guess there's always phone sex.

Monday, January 6, 2014

On the superhighway to Oldladyville.

I live in the Midwest, which means that it's peel-your-face-off cold today. If I go outside, I'm pretty sure it will be like that scene from "Raiders of the Lost Ark" when all the Nazis melt. Except it will be me, melting somewhat from the cold but mostly from the vaporized wrath of all the parents whose kids are home because schools are closed.

So, I'm wearing fleece this and ancient crappy sweater that, and am refusing to leave the house. I'm a hearty Iowan and all, but part of being hearty is knowing when to keep your ass in your damned house.

Today, the day when it's so cold that the world is pretty much shut down, is the day that I discovered a sun spot on my hand.

The spot wasn't there yesterday. And today it's all, "Oh, heyyy. I'm spotty and I'm here to stay!"

Thanks to our pal Google, I know that it's not officially a "sun spot," but is conveniently referred to as an "age spot." Because it means you're old. Back in the day, it was called a "liver spot." Because old people love to eat liver. Because being old means losing all taste.

Google says age / liver spots are caused by sun. Which is all the more annoying because THE HIGH TODAY IS 3 DEGREES. I could not possibly be any farther from a sun worshipper today. Or any day, really. In the summer, you'll know me by my SPF 75. You know, the pale girl in the shade? No, I'm not an apparition. That's my skin. Yes, I guess I will be easier to find now that I have this dark liver spot on my hand. It can act as a beacon. A beacon for the AARP membership asks and coupons to the early-bird buffet.

Can we just agree that it's woefully unfair to be freezing your ass off when you discover a sun-related age spot? Please? I don't ask for much - just a tiny bit of rationality as I ease into my decrepitude.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Cha Cha's Favorite Books of 2013.

2013 was a good year for reading. Here are some of my favorites.

Best Novel That Should Have Been Depressing But Wasn't
Mary Coin by Marisa Silver. This novel is based on Dorothea Lange's famous "Migrant Mother" photo. If you've ever had a passing interest in the story behind a famous image, you'll find this novel enthralling. It spins a tale about the photographer, the woman in the photo, and how they ended up at that moment forever frozen in time. Ultimately, it's a tale about how we're shaped by our choices, and how life shapes us.

Best Author Who Published 2 Amazing Novels in 1 year
Rainbow Rowell. Oh, honey. I lurve her. Both of her 2013 releases were officially young adult novels, but I loved both of them and feasted on them like a teenage boy at Old Country Buffet. Eleanor & Park is the story of a first love that takes place in the 80s. Fangirl follows the heroine through her first year in college - and her role in the fandom culture around a Harry Potter-esque book series. Both books made my heart both delight and hurt, remembering what it's like to be 16 or 19 or just ... new.

Best Book to Read While Trying to Figure Out if I'm a Housewife
Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity by Emily Matchar. Know what canning, homeschooling, and mommyblogging all have in common? They're all being embraced as part of "the new domesticity" - that movement of educated women who are turning their energies to the homefront. This book examines everything from the vaccine wars to homemaking as a radical feminism. It made me feel less alone about feeling that Pinterest is the devil's playground.

Best Book That's All Pictures But Still Counts as a Novel
The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt: A Novel in Pictures by Caroline Preston. I never, ever buy books, and I especially never buy hardbacks. However, this book is so gorgeous that I paid real cash money for the hardback. Preston amassed ephemera from the 20s to create the scrapbook of the novel's heroine. She tells the story of young Frankie and provides a fascinating look at education and culture of the period. Plus, it's a fun little tale.

Best Novel About Morality or Lack Thereof
The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty. I couldn't put this book down. It's a fictionalized account of the woman who chaperoned the very real, soon-to-be-movie-star Louise Brooks to New York. This page-turner hums with energy and offers some sly lessons on what's right, what's wrong, and who should just keep their damned mouths shut.

Best Book That Justified My Existence as an Introvert
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Our society values the "extrovert ideal." And guess what? Some of us are introverted. And introverts can be brilliant! And we shouldn't have to pretend to be extroverted! If I were still working in Corporate America, I would have purchased several copies of this book and slipped it into the mailboxes of a few clueless managers.

Best Biography That Satiated My Love of Old Hollywood
Vamp: The Rise and Fall of Theda Bara by Eve Golden. Theodosia Goodman grew up in Cincinnati. However, the movie industry presented her as Theda Bara, an exotic who grew up in the shadow of the Sphinx. And people bought it! This book is a fascinating look at the dawn of movie publicity, as well as the difficulty of distancing yourself from your press ... or believing it.

Best Book That I Guess Is Embarrassing But I Thought Was Fan-Freakin'-Tastic
How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. If you've ever wondered what Tina Fey would sound like if she were drunk, potty-mouthed, and British, Moran is the author for you. She's honest, feminist, and completely engaging. I had some friends say they were shocked by her descriptions of stuff we all know about (Aunt Flo! Bras!). But I think she's just being authentic and awesome. This book made me laugh out loud.


My towering pile of "to-read" books isn't nearly tall enough to cause serious injury. What books do you suggest I add to it?

Psst ... when you click 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 and cinematic criticism.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cha Cha's 2013 Movie Awards. Now with more hair!

Do you enjoy viewing the motion pictures?

I do. And so, even though I'm a little late, here are my favorites from 2013.

Best Movie Starring a Comb-Over
American Hustle. Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, and Bradley Cooper are all at the top of their games. However, Bale's uh-MAY-zing comb-over truly takes the cake. I really enjoyed this raucous movie. Plus, it gets extra points for Lawrence's energetic performance as a crazypants but actually sane woman.

Movie That Made Me Want to Hot-Roll My Hair
American Hustle. See above.

Best Documentary
If you haven't seen 20 Feet from Stardom, run out right now and get it - especially if you like music at all. This great film interviews back-up singers, and examines the huge distance between the back-up stand and the front of the stage. I still want to be a back-up singer for Earth, Wind & Fire, but this movie gave me a greater appreciation for the craft, and also the history of "girl singers." Loooooved it.

Movie That Made Me Want to Back-Comb My Hair
20 Feet From Stardom. See above.

Best Quiet Movie That You'll Love if You Liked Juno or Adventureland
The Way, Way Back. Being 14 suuuuucks. And it especially sucks if Steve Carell is your mom's asshole boyfriend. This lovely little movie captures the yearning and embarrassment and, ultimately, hope in being the awkward kid. Also, extra credit for Allison Janney, who is perfect in everything.

Movie That Made Me Want to Wear Scarves in My Hair
The Way Way Back. See above.

Best Movie That Surprised Me
This Is The End. This was a flick selected by the husband, and my expectations were low. Real low. But how many movies have fart jokes and make you seriously consider the afterlife? I was surprised by how vested I got in these characters. Plus, it's funny.

Movie That Had No Impact on My Hair Decisions Because it Features All Dudes
This Is The End. See above.

Best Use of Robert De Niro in Plaid Pants
Silver Linings Playbook. I've had multiple folks tell me, "Eww, I don't want to see a movie about mental illness." But this gem is so much more - the mental illness is just a tiny part of a very uplifting film. And De Niro in a turtleneck and plaid pants? Well, I just wanted to kiss the costumers. Those pants were perfect for the character.

Movie That Made Me Want to Wear Plaid Pants Because a Girl Can Only Mess With Her Hair So Much
Silver Linings Playbook. See above.

What movies did you find memorable in the last year?

Psst ... when you click 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 and cinematic criticism.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Maybe messing with your meds over the holidays isn't a great idea.

I had a super-awesome idea in mid-November. Things were going great, and I kind of decided to see what would happen if I went halvesies with my anti-depressant.

Yeah, I did this on my own. No, I wouldn't recommend it.

Everything was shiny and great until My Life Partner Zoloft really got outta my system. Then, everything was hard. Except I'm so dumb that I didn't make the connection. I just thought, "Oh, the holidays are really stressful. Oh, everybody feels like they have a hoarder's filing cabinet on their chest all the time. Oh, it's totally normal to see trouble finishing a quilt for a Christmas gift as a reflection of your complete inadequacy as a human being."


This is why I haven't been blogging much. I've been wondering why the hell everything has been so difficult. And then I realized that duh, maybe I shouldn't have cut back on the Zoloft, even if I feel like I must be 87 years old because I take a bunch of prescription meds. And then I got more Zoloft, and started to feel better, and here we are.

I've been on an anti-depressant since 2008. I kind of hate it. But I like it way better than how I feel without it. I've never considered myself a depressed person, but in retrospect? It's not normal to have periods where you make peace with letting all your plants die because you just can't face watering them. Actually, "making peace" is too active ... it was more "feigning benign acceptance."

Whatever it was, it wasn't fun, and it wasn't healthy.

So, My Life Partner Zoloft and I are reunited, and it feels so OK.

I did manage to kvetch about jewelry store holiday ads here. And if it's 1 thing a new year is good for, it's positive intent. So, my intent is to get back in the writing saddle. Even though I have a general dislike of horses that is more "hate" than "feigned benign acceptance."

But writing. Yeah. I'll do that.