Thursday, December 29, 2011

How to Celebrate New Year's Eve

Fresh on the heels of all those holiday parties you attended, and before committing yourself to those realistic resolutions, I thought it was important to start mentally, emotionally, and physically preparing everyone for what could be the best night of your lives.  Yes, New Year's Eve is here again!!

How to Celebrate New Year's Eve

1. Pin Your Hopes and Dreams on the Evening
First off, and this is crucial: whatever you do for New Year's Eve, remember to place a disproportionately large amount of importance on the night.  After all, the opportunity to ring in the new year comes only, well, once a year!  This is the changing of the numerical year -- don't you realize how monumental this occasion is?!  Tomorrow you will have to write "2012" instead of "2011"!!  Therefore, tonight should be 'epic' and anything short of the best night ever should be considered a sheer and utter disappointment.

2. Weigh Your Many Options for How to Spend $300
Before you can have the best night ever, you need to decide how you'll be spending it.  Specifically: do you want to pay an exorbitant amount of money at that fancy bar downtown, or pay an exorbitant amount of money at that new kitschy bar up the street?  If this decision proves difficult, consider which bar name you'd rather stare/cry at for the entirety of next month, after your credit card statement arrives with a new, $300 charge.

3. Briefly Consider "Saving Money" by "Staying In"
You know what?  Let's stay in.  We can make dinner, buy some nice beer, and watch Dick Clark literally grow older before our very eyes.  That will be so much more fun than going out and dealing with hoards of drunken partygoers in the streets.  Yeah, we're definitely staying in -- this was the best decision we've ever made!

4. Find Yourself at Some Dude's House Party
Ok, fine, we'll go out.  After all, tonight will be so much fun, and everyone will be dressed up!  We're definitely going out.  But instead of spending tons of money at some crowded bar, let's go to that house party that our friend's friend's sister's boyfriend is hosting!

5. Regret Every Decision Made Thus Far
After mentally reviewing the chain of events that has led you to some dude's house party, think longingly about all the things you'd rather be doing instead of this.  Which includes anything else.  For instance: that file cabinet you keep shoving pieces of paper into, for your 'records'? You could be organizing that right now! Or those archived episodes of 'Teen Mom 2' that are taking up precious space on your DVR?  Well, those aren't going to watch themselves!  But instead, you're in an under-lit living room of some random row house, holding a busted bottle of Trader Joe's wine, watching people you've never met rhythmically gyrate to a Rihanna medley. Momentarily commend yourself for even recognizing that these are Rihanna songs, considering you haven't been able to name a single 'top 40' song for several years now.

6. Develop an Exit Strategy
After locating the door and telling your friends you're getting sick and need to leave, feel relieved that you have successfully found a way out of this situation. Until it occurs to you that there is absolutely no public transportation nearby, tonight is undoubtedly the busiest night for taxis, and you're way too far away from your apartment to walk home. Exit the house nevertheless, aimlessly wandering in the direction that seems most correct.

7. Fall Asleep at 11:00pm
After miraculously locating a cab and getting home, crawl into bed somehow feeling like you've just been hit by a truck, despite being stone-cold-sober and your clock reading only 11:00pm.  When you're awoken from a dead sleep at 12:02am by your ringing phone, answer it only to hear your mother yell "Happy New Year!" amidst a background of music and horn blowing, because your parents "went out to a bunch of parties with a bunch of friends!" Hang up, roll over, and silently congratulate yourself on another 'epic' New Year's Eve.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Reality Check: The Flip Flop Edition

I went to an actual doctor last week, which made me kinda feel like I was cheating on Dr. Google.  But, I thought I had a stress fracture, and I needed some human guidance.

My hometown doctor is wonderful.  She really knows when to provide me with the reality checks that my paranoia hypochondria overly-cautious attitude requires.

Reality Check -- The Flip Flop Edition
me: so, I think I have a stress fracture in my right foot.
dr: [prods my foot]
me: ouch!
dr: that's not a stress fracture, it's probably just an over-use injury.  Do you walk a lot?
me: yes.  I actually walk to work a few times per week, which is like 4 miles.
dr: in what kind of shoes?
me: ohhh, it varies.  Usually flip-flops if it's not freezing out.
dr: oh my God.  flip flops??  NEVER walk that kind of distance in flip flops!
me: why not?!
dr: because they have no foot support.  And, because you don't live in the developing world.

Apparently, though I find the reasoning suspect, flip flops are not all-terrain footwear.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Photo Hunt - Christmas Edition

Merry Christmas to Everyone!!  In honor of this special day, I present a holiday-themed Photo Hunt...

Can you spot what's wrong with this picture? *

* Answer Key: nothing.  In fact, everything in this picture is exactly as it should be.  Receiving 12 Bed Bath & Beyond coupons for Christmas is so, so right.  They never expire!  And there was even one "20% off your entire purchase" coupon tucked in there -- it was a Christmas miracle!  And, the fact that my family knew this was the perfect gift for me?  That's just further proof that I will never have a boyfriend ever they know me too well.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Reflections on 98 Years

My grandmother passed away on Saturday, December 17, 2011.  She was 98 years old, which means that she was also: one Great Depression, two World Wars, and 17 U.S. Presidents old.  Below is something I wrote for, about, and because of her.


Reflections on 98 Years

I’m not sure that my grandmother would call herself a ‘feminist,’ but she would at least hear you out.  Her favorite expression is “it takes all sorts,” which is how she explains everything from Michelle Bachmann’s presidential candidacy to the advent of reality television.  She enjoys talking about history, and she celebrated her 98th birthday last September.

My grandmother’s first boss signed his name with an ‘X,’ which wasn’t to save time, or distinguish himself from everyone else.  It was because he was illiterate.

This was 1930: my grandmother was 17 years old, a recent graduate of Iowa State Teacher’s College, and she had just landed her first job as a country school teacher.  Her favorite part about that first job, the one with the illiterate boss, was that she was in charge.  To most people, this would seem like a recipe for disaster – a one-room prairie school, a young inexperienced teacher, and a classroom full of students ages 5 to 18 – but she enjoyed the challenge.

It takes all sorts.

A point of pride for my grandmother is that her parents raised eight healthy, hard-working children to adulthood during the Great Depression.

A point of pride for me is that the chain that led me to become a third-generation-college-graduate began with a woman.  I have my grandmother’s college diploma on display in my apartment, something she laughed about when I told her.

Esther Greiman met Earl Schuettpelz while he was working as a hired hand on her family’s farm in Northern Iowa. He had an eighth-grade-education, a German-Midwestern upbringing, and he took her on her first date to a hayride sponsored by the local Lutheran church.  I found a photo from the hayride in her old scrapbook, dated: 1931, captioned: “Ain’t we got fun!”  I can’t really see my face in hers, but I can see my sarcasm.

Esther and Earl Schuettpelz moved to Eastern Iowa after they got married, she continued teaching, and he began his career as a welder.  My dad was a year younger than everyone else in his class, because my grandmother couldn’t wait another year to get back to work.

Several evenings per week after work, my grandmother would tutor adults at no charge.  One was a 20-year-old, mentally impaired man who the local school had barred from admission because of his disability.  He was illiterate; she taught him to read.  My dad doesn’t have fond memories of his mother’s home cooking, but he does remember being the first family in his neighborhood to make pizza from a mix.

I was never one of those kids who loved hearing old stories, but I suppose that’s not uncommon for someone growing up with easy access to 100+ channels of television, video games, and, eventually, the Internet.  It was only recently that I had that same moment of silent regret that I bet a lot of people do, when we realize all those years with a now-elderly family member could have been spent differently.  I could have been writing down everything my grandmother said, cataloguing her beautifully simple stories, hoarding the verbal artifacts of a bygone era.  Now, when I go to visit her in her assisted living community, I feel like I’m overwhelming her with questions.  I bring her ‘old-looking-stuff’ that I found in her house and ask her about its ‘story.’  This sudden onset of interest entertains but also confuses her, and the answer is almost always that this dish, or this frame, or this lantern, or this pitcher was something they ‘just always had.’

One time, though, was different.

One time, after several minutes of patient prodding, I finally got it out of her that ‘this pitcher’ had belonged to my great-great-grandmother, brought over from Germany when she immigrated to rural South Dakota.  Where, together with her husband, she built a sod-house out of prairie grass and mud.  Where, for 60 years, she withstood harsh Dakotan winters and scorching Dakotan summers.  Where, despite losing several babies to inadequate food and fast-spreading disease, she nevertheless managed to raise ten children to adulthood. 

“Wow, that is really neat,” was all I could muster, as I now, more delicately, held up the chipped, robin-egg-blue, ceramic relic.

“Yes, my grandmother was an amazing woman,” my grandmother quietly said.

Mine too.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Brief (Iowa) Interlude

I apologize in advance, but I have to get serious for a moment.  You see, recently University of Iowa professor Stephen Bloom wrote a relatively scathing article in The Atlantic, entitled "Observations from 20 Years of Iowa Life."  And, it upset a lot of people whose hearts belong to the heartland.

Now, I hate to see it happen to a rookie, but obviously Dr. Bloom wasn't aware of this important rule of thumb: don't upset Iowans.  We might laugh it off at first, but I assure you we'll find ways of plotting revenge.  Like misspelling your name on a thank-you note.  Or, worse yet, not even sending you a thank-you note.

Dr. Strange-Bloom or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the BS

I remember being in the eighth grade, and being pissed off.  I had just read an article in that heralded beacon of journalism, Teen People.  It claimed that, with the advent of online shopping, girls who lived in "the middle of nowhere, like Iowa" were no longer forced to buy clothes at Walmart, but could instead join the rest of the country in shopping at "real stores" like "Delia's."


It stung.  Why would people, who very likely had never even been to Iowa, write such hurtful things?  The factual inaccuracies were clear -- thanks to a recent expansion of our local mall, we now had both a Maurice's and an American Eagle.  How dare they claim that we shopped exclusively at Walmart!!

I felt frustrated.  And infuriated.  But you know what else I felt?  Dis-empowered.  When people write things that you consider untrue, and patronizing, and stereotypical, in mass media or elsewhere, it's only natural to feel a little helpless.

Which is why I'm glad to see the thoughtful responses that Stephen Bloom's article has received (this one is particularly beautiful).  Because, people are using this opportunity to empower themselves to speak up in response to what they feel to be inaccurate and shoddy 'journalism.'

I'm not really surprised that a widely-read magazine was used as a platform to espouse controversial views and present them as truth -- this kind of stuff happens all the time.  After all, Bloom has garnered publicity in a way that would be difficult to do with just "facts."  As a result, his piece has received attention -- and subsequent debate -- on a magnitude that most true journalistic pieces do not.

Ultimately, Bloom's article has reinforced all the things I love about Iowa -- and they don't include our inclination to "cling to guns and religion."  Or the "skuzzy*, crime-infested slum towns" on the banks of the "commercially-irrelevant" Mississippi River.  No, I love Iowa because it's full of people who have an ability to be presented with unfounded criticisms, thoughtfully respond, and then move on.

And we can still make a hell of a casserole while doing so.

note: I was not familiar with the word "skuzzy," so I turned to the internet.  According to, skuzzy means: "a grade A whore or slut."  Now, I'm not sure if Dr. Bloom meant to call Keokuk, Iowa a "whore," or whether he just misspelled the word "scuzzy," meaning: dirty or grimy.  In any event, I've been to Keokuk, and they seem to do a nice job keeping their streets both clean, and free of venereal disease.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How to Attend a Holiday Party

Holiday parties have been in full swing for a couple weeks now, so I thought it was time I shared a few useful lessons that I've learned, to help make party-going a bit smoother.

It's taken me quite a while to develop what I consider to be "best practices."  But I think I've finally reached the point where I achieve each of these steps, in order, at every single holiday party I attend.  Not only do I consider this a feat of incredible merit, it should also be reason enough to invite me to your next gathering...

How to Attend a Holiday Party

1. Do Not RSVP
You are much too busy watching TLC reality television and taking Advil PM every night to bother with things like "letting friends know you can make it" to their holiday party.  It's not like having a head-count is crucial for food/drink preparation or space considerations.  No, you should let your presence be a surprise!  When you ring the apartment buzzer, you really want to hear a mixture of confusion and disdain when the host greets you with an "Oh, I didn't know you were coming. I guess. Umm. Come on up?"

2. Dress Inappropriately
The next step has taken me years to perfect, so really take your time with this one.  Specifically, over-analyze all possible outfit options, decide you have nothing to wear, go to Target to buy something new, bring it home, realize it doesn't fit because you didn't try it on at the store, and then cry.  Next, try to think about what this party's dress code was last year, maybe that will help!  You definitely remember it being more on the casual side, so throw on jeans, and congratulate yourself on locating within your closet a cute, seasonally appropriate top.  When you arrive at the party to find what appears to be a scene out of the board-game "Clue," realize that you didn't go to this party last year.  Because, if you had, you'd probably remember the ball gowns.  Ohmygod, is that guy wearing an ascot??

3. Attend "Solo" Because You Don't Have a "Boyfriend"
See: every blog post I've ever written.

4. Anger the Neighbors
This one should be relatively easy -- because, who are you kidding.  You didn't bother reading the entire 'Evite' to get the exact address, so of course you're going to knock on the wrong door.

5. Arrive Empty-Handed
That long, Saturday evening nap you took was timed exactly right -- you woke up 10 minutes after both the liquor store and Target had closed.  So, go ahead and forget about bringing a host(ess) gift or the traditional bottle of wine.  Instead, rummage through your cabinets for that canvass-wine-holder you bought for 99 cents at Trader Joe's, fill it with 6 bottles of miscellaneous, "Lite" beers, and meekly smile when everyone looks disparagingly at your contribution to the party.  It also helps if, when the host points you in the direction of the kitchen for a bottle opener, you laugh and pull out that key-chain-bottle-opener you always carry, exclaiming, "no need -- I brought my own!"

6. Talk to No One
Mutter to no one in particular: "how are there so many people here?!"  Next, do a quick mental calculation of how many people would be at your hypothetical holiday party, were you to invite absolutely everyone you knew, and absolutely everyone showed up. When it adds up to roughly 1/10 of the people in this room, feel self-conscious. Then immediately proceed to Step #7.

7. Eat All the Cookies
Hey, no one was eating anything anyway!  I mean, look at some of these people, they're like, H&M-model-skinny.  No, this food is meant for you, and you alone.  So, fill up on an assortment of cookies, until the reinforced paper plate literally bends under the added weight.  Don't bother with a napkin -- you want to be forced to use your shirt sleeve to wipe away the powdered sugar that is somehow all over everything, even though powdered sugar wasn't an ingredient in anything you ate.  When, at some point in the evening, someone makes a loud, passive aggressive comment about how all the cookies are gone, innocently join the rest of the guests as they survey the room looking for the 'culprit.'

8. Leave Early
After completing steps 1-7, leave the party -- ideally around 10pm, since you have a busy day of sleeping-in tomorrow.  You want to be nice and rested for your Sunday-Thai-take-out-for-dinner plans!  But, first, on your walk back to the bus stop, think about how much you enjoy this time of year.  The dressing up, the meeting new people, the seasonal treats.  Be silently confident in your ability to 'kill it' at every party you attend, and excitedly anticipate the many more invites you'll no doubt receive this time next year.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Photo Hunt Monday

I saw this, umm, really elegant and beautiful Christmas decoration at a box-store that shall remain nameless.  This photo hunt might be a little tricky, but what the heck...

Can you spot what's wrong with this picture? *

Answer Key:  nothing.  there is absolutely nothing wrong with this picture whatsoever. I think an animated, inflatable, Santa-in-a-porta-potty represents everything that Christmas is supposed to be about.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Realistic New Year's Resolutions

As 2011 comes to a close, I thought it was appropriate to start putting together some New Year's resolutions for the coming year.  Now, I try not to go to crazy with resolutions, particularly outlandish, far-fetched ones like "eat more vegetables," or "exercise every once in a while."  No, I've learned my lesson with such lofty goals -- I'm done setting myself up for failure.

Instead, this year I'm taking a different approach.  This year, I'm choosing to aim for realistic, achievable goals that will boost both my confidence and self-esteem.  So, in that spirit, I present my Realistic New Year's Resolutions for 2012...

Realistic New Year's Resolutions

1. Read More Celebrity Gossip Blogs
That stack of 'periodicals' currently piling up under my coffee table isn't getting any smaller.  Because, let's just be honest -- I subscribed to The Economist mostly thinking it would help me attract a smart boyfriend on the subway.  But those days are over -- I am a young, independent woman who can choose whatever reading material she wants!  Therefore, I resolve to read more celebrity gossip, specifically from heralded beacons of journalism like Suri's Burn Book and Oh No They Didn't.

2. Cut Down on Nutrients
That "salad for lunch" thing seemed like such a good idea, until I institutionalized that "total crap for dinner" thing.  So, instead, this year I will strive for more consistency in my eating habits -- specifically, by cutting down the key nutrients in every meal.  After all, science* told me that your body really isn't built to handle all the "vitamins" you consume.  Plus, just in terms of the cost-benefit analysis, nutritional foods are so much more expensive than their unhealthy counterparts.  Ergo, eating fewer nutrients will actually save me money in the long run.  This resolution is so obvious is almost wrote itself!

3. Spend More Money at Target 
You know how the entrance to every single Target forces you to walk through several aisles of cheap, useless crap?  Like sparkly-Chinese-takeout-inspired gift boxes?  Or seasonal socks?  Well, I think I've been approaching this all wrong.  You see, I typically bypass these aisles in favor of the more popular "food" or "medicine" sections.  However, I now see the error of my ways.  Specifically, I recently discovered that these aisles often contain necessary staples, like frosted animal crackers and puffy-glitter-stickers.  So, this year I plan to make up for lost time, by resolving to buy at least five items from the cheap-crap-aisle on every visit to Target.  I think we can all agree that this can only end well.

* and, by "science" I mean the CBS sitcom "The Big Bang Theory"

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


I'd love to promise you that I'll never dress up my children to look like celebrities.  But who am I kidding.  If they fit into the costumes, they're becoming the Spice Girls...

(you can find more of this genius here: )

Monday, December 5, 2011

Stop. Stop it Right Now.

Every time I'm up, Fandango brings me right back down...

Yes, yes I know I went to see Twilight: Breaking Dawn on a Friday night -- the day it came out.  Yes, I realize the majority of the audience was comprised of squealing tween-agers.  And yes, I remember how the sheer and utter anticipation of seeing Edward and Bella's unrequited love story played out, awkwardly, on screen was the highlight of my entire month.  But please, for the love of all that is good, stop sending me reminders of that via email.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Public Service Announcement

Today I went to the grocery store.  I bought bananas, lettuce, eggs, and a silent killer.  Well, at least according to the very vocal lady in line behind me...

Lady: those poinsettias in your basket -- you need to be careful, they're poison!
me: um?
Lady: don't let children or dogs near them, they might eat the leaves and die!  They're poison!
me: I don't have children or dogs, but thank you, that's extremely helpful information.
Lady: well, don't you eat them either!  Or put them next to food! They're poison!
me: [blank stare]
The End.

Guys, I know it's the holiday season, and with it comes the temptation to feed poinsettia leaves to babies, house pets, and yourself.  But please, for the sake of the elderly lady at Safeway, don't do it.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Steps to Avoiding a Disaster

I spend a great deal of my waking hours thinking about all the disasters that could befall me, and then neurotically worrying about their consequences.  I think we can all agree that this is time well spent.

But what good is neurosis if you can't share it with friends?  In that spirit, I present the first in a series of guides on how to avoid potential disasters.  In this edition I have provided you with a few simple steps to avoiding one particularly scary disaster: fire by straightening-iron...

Steps to Avoiding a Disaster: Fire by Straightening Iron

Step 1: Panic
Your first, and arguably most crucial step in preventing a straightening-iron-related-disaster is to panic.  Specifically, rack your brain trying to remember whether you turned the straightener off this morning.  You must have.  Isn't today, like, the fourth time this week you've worried about this?  And all four times, you panicked for nothing -- of course you turned it off.  But what if you didn't?  What if this time was different??  Ohmygod, you didn't turn it off.  You didn't turn it off, and now a fire is about to destroy your entire apartment building.

Step 2: Alienate Those Around You
Momentarily feel a sense of hope, as you wonder aloud whether your straightening iron can turn itself off.  Because, somehow, after experiencing this exact same freak-out day after day, you've never actually looked on the device or done any amount of research to see whether it has an automatic shut-off function.  Then, furiously rebuff anyone nearby who tries to reassuringly suggest that "most devices nowadays do."  They've never even seen your straightening iron, how dare they try to blindly comfort you!!

Step 3: Forget Crucial Details
Next, develop some sort of inexplicable, short-term memory loss.  You definitely used your straightening iron this morning, that much is certain.  However, your mind is a complete blank from the time you plugged it in until the alleged "turning off" of the device.  Which is weird, because you remember, in great detail, everything else about this morning -- including those hideous outfits that Hoda and Kathie Lee were wearing on the Today Show.

Step 4: Flee
Your only real option is to immediately run outside, hail a taxi, and rush home.  No matter where you are or what you're doing.  What if your entire apartment is aflame?!  Wouldn't you feel bad about all those children and puppies rendered homeless by your blatant disregard for life and property??  Also, suddenly notice that every fire truck on the street (why are there so many?!) seems to be headed in the general direction of your apartment building.

Step 5: Breathe a (Cautious) Sigh of Relief
When you return home to find a stone-cold straightener in the closet, be cautious in your sense of relief -- you really never know when or where this potential disaster could strike again.  Afterwards, when you realize how sweaty you've become from all this rushing around, go to put your hair up into a ponytail, only to find a mass of curly, frizzy strands atop your head.  Because, you didn't straighten your hair today.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Christmas Miracle!

Remember those awesome white holiday Coke cans that made it nearly impossible to distinguish between Diet and Regular?  Well, today Coca-Cola announced its decision to switch back to the more traditional, red can design.

I'm just going to go ahead and say what we're all thinking -- in all likelihood, this decision was a direct result of my blog entry.  Because I know that, among my viewership -- which now numbers well into the double-digits -- The makers of Coca-Cola, as well as the editors of the Wall Street Journal are probably some of my most frequent readers...

Merry Christmas Everyone!