PromptTuesday #230: The Surprise

Deb at 21
Happy 21st!

 

I’d always been the youngest person in my grade, which didn’t particularly bother me until I made it to college. I transferred to a four-year liberal arts university halfway through my sophomore year, and by then everyone was well on their way to 21 (or had a fake ID). Most of the time, I did just fine – borrowing friends’ IDs, sneaking in the back door, paying someone to alter my ID for $45, or even borrowing a birth certificate for a phony driver’s license of my own. That is, until I got on the BullDog’s bad side. He took a disliking to me after he realized I’d been using a 35-year-old Irish immigrant’s ID to get into the Avalanche (the most fine and disgusting of all Milwaukee bars and home to the “naked beer slide”).

 

BullDog was a 35-year-old bouncer who always wore a black leather coat, jeans, and dirty white tennis shoes. Every weekend night, he sat with purpose on a bar stool outside the illustrious ‘Lanche entrance. He had sandy blonde hair, an aquiline (but crooked) nose and exhausted eyes. But he had a job to do, dammit, he had a job to do. After he confiscated Irina Irish’s ID, I went into desperation mode. The ‘Lanche wasn’t the only bar on the MU circuit, but it was the best and where everyone ended up after quarter shots night at Murphy’s or a more proper few drinks at O.D.’s a short distance away. Call it stupid hubris, but I really believed that I could get back into the ‘Lanche with the right phony credentials and so set myself to the task. I furiously soaked my existing California driver’s license in coffee, microwaved it, and applied white crayon to the “8” in 1968, making it a “3” in the process. He took it away the very first night of use. I again borrowed a birth certificate and went to the DMV with a thumping heart and guilty face, and procured myself an illegal Wisconsin state ID. He threw it in a bucket of other illegal IDs that sat at his feet. I had a friend let me in the dirty back entrance. He found me inside the bar, tapped me on the shoulder and made the “get out of here” international signal with his thumb.

 

He didn’t talk much, but I read shouts in his eyes. He wasn’t going to put up with me much longer.

 

So my nights began to end after my seven rowdy roommates made their way to the ‘Lanche and I sat outside the entrance bidding them farewell and making sad face at BullDog. Then I walked a few doors at the street to Amigos and drowned my lonely sorrows in deep-fried tortillas filled with meat. I called this time my “Fake ID Fifty.”

 

The months slowly turned into senior year. Most of my friends at that point were legitimately 21, and I was the last to celebrate the milestone. So, as my November birthday approached, my biggest goal of the evening was to triumphantly stroll up to the ‘Lanche entrance, present my real ID to BullDog, and play “I Shot the Sheriff” on the jukebox while pointing drunkenly at his fake ID bucket.

 

My roommates agreed to this birthday plan, but first they were going to a classy bar on the east side, while I would catch a movie with another more sedate pal. I remember my friends borrowing each other’s clothes, observing themselves in the mirror while trying them on, and crimping their hair. I felt a little hurt that they weren’t joining me early on, but didn’t belabor the point. Because I was going to a movie, I donned a comfortable two-piece pants outfit with a navy and white star pattern, and flats. I still recall the juxtaposition of my roommates wearing leather skirts and tight jeans with white pumps as I stood next to them wearing an ensemble my mom would have bought. I still felt like the “young one,” but figured I’d come home after the movie and change into more appropriate “I just turned 21!” attire.

 

I was ready. My friends planned to drop me at my other pal’s apartment on their way to the cool part of town, and take us to the movie. We drove the short distance to my girlfriend’s place and I hopped out of the car to get her. She opened her front door wearing a jazzy outfit herself and as I contemplated my obvious youth on the way back to the car, I almost missed the bottle of champagne and glass now sitting in the passenger’s seat of my roomie’s Nissan 240X.

 

As I stared dumbly at the bubbly, shouts of “Surprise!” came from all corners. Why, this was a surprise party! For me! A happy 21st birthday surprise party! My friends weren’t cold bitches who would let me go to a sad movie on my special day as they partied somewhere more better!

 

That night, truly, was the first time I remember being honestly and completely surprised by something.

 

I looked down at my pants suit and flats.

 

Oh well.

 

We made our way to Bermuda’s, a dance bar with neon lights, downtown. The rest of my roommates were inside and guess what? It was Chippendales night! And I was wearing the aforementioned pants suit with flats! It was so unChippendales! Not to mention, not at all formidable looking for when I pulled off my jukebox plan at the ‘Lanche later.

 

You can imagine what happened. There were many drinks with many straws, much Janet Jackson played, a spotlight on my outfit when it was announced it was birthday. Dancing. Chippendales underwear in faces.

 

Best 21st birthday ever.

 

Around 11, it was time to head back to campus and the ‘Lanche. I anxiously stood in the line to enter the bar, like I’d had in years gone by, but this time with the proper identification. Soon enough, I was flat-to-tennis-shoe with the BullDog, who gave me his best tired-shouty-eye look, took my ID, looked ready to toss it, then gave me a begrudging half-smile. And a wink.

 

The BullDog winked at me.

 

Forget my plan. He’d just been doing his job! He was a nice guy! He hadn’t been trying to ruin my social life all these years!

 

I entered the crowded, sweaty, pissy, amazing bar.

 

A few hours later, as the strains to the National Anthem began to play, partiers raised their plastic glasses full of Red, White, and Blue and threw them on the floor, and Slooch took off his clothes for the nightly naked beer slide, I looked over at the BullDog and raised my thumb in the international symbol of “awesome.”

 

And if he’s still around when my kids are trying to be 21 before their time, he better be the bouncer.

 

*****************************

What was your biggest surprise?

 

Please post your submission in the comments OR post in your blog and leave a link to your blog in the comments.

 

To bone up on PROMPTuesdays, read a bit about it here.

 

 

 

 

PROMPTuesday #229: Slow it Down

Slow down

 

I spent some time over Thanksgiving in dark rooms with candles trying to calm my head. There’s something about the flickering light that my brain waves try to emulate, which ends up slowing us both down. Overall, I find myself withdrawing more to the quiet to shut out all sound and time demands. I imagine the outside world in those times as a hundred people knocking on my door with me behind it pushing palms against my ears. In silent rooms with small flames, I can rest a little and put my hands down.

 

I wish I knew how to make that last. Of course, I have a family and deadlines and the holidays and nothing will change that – nor do I want it to – but if there was just a way to have it all without losing in the process, I’d proclaim it from the rooftops.

 

But for now, it’s one foot in front of the other. Small steps, heaving mind made occasionally smooth, and candles.

 

Candles. Both ends. The irony is not lost.

 

How are you slowing it down? Bullet points and how-tos are appreciated.

 

Please post your submission in the comments OR post in your blog and leave a link to your blog in the comments.

 

To bone up on PROMPTuesdays, read a bit about it here.

 

 

PROMPTuesday #228: The Job Interview

 

The human resources manager tried to warn me in a roundabout, politically correct fashion that the woman who was about to interview me for a public relations position was structured and by the book. I took the news with a grain of salt because by that time, I’d been interviewing for two months and run the gamut from speaking with everyone from sexual harassers to inept company owners to an entire college board. Besides, I tended to adapt well to different personalities and wasn’t too worried about this particular one.

 

That thought became the pride before the fall. I knew it was going to be a tough interview the second I spotted her walking toward me in the lobby. Thin and purposeful, wearing a smooth, hair sprayed bob, pink sparkly lipstick that collected in the corners of her mouth, a skirt to the knees, buttoned-up blouse, panty hose and low-heeled navy pumps, she strode over to me, stuck her hand out, and led to me to the conference room without a smile. We sat and talked for a brief moment before she pushed a series of papers my way along with a couple of sharpened pencils, and asked me to complete a grammar test and writing exercise, and edit the provided press release.

 

It struck me how basic the tests were, and not because I was a grammarian or exceptionally good writer, but because these tests had obviously been ripped from a textbook. Still, I found the pencils charming, because it was 2002 and I hadn’t properly used one for years. I finished the work and waited.

 

She popped her head into the room and directed me to hand her the tests. I did, and the door closed again. Several minutes later, she re-entered the conference room and took a seat. She tried to smile, but it came out a grimace born from years of not knowing how to relax or properly interact with people. She sternly asked me the types of questions neophyte interviewers ask (what’s your greatest weakness? where do you see yourself in five years?) and didn’t really seem to assimilate the answers beyond this was a routine and she must follow it to the letter. But then, the rest of the interview followed in quick suit: “tell me how you’d develop a PR campaign for our company” “we need eight press releases a month and two articles placed – can you do that?” and “how are you with working late?” The whole time I knew she was analyzing my internal reactions and tangentially – didn’t let people in easily. I fast forwarded my brain to actually working with her and realized it would be a daily struggle to meet her expectations, which seemed misaligned with business reality.

 

After the interview she attempted to converse, but the interaction was stilted and fumbling. Her laughs sounded staccato like rocks hitting the pavement and she never fully opened her mouth, even though I suspected she would like to at some point. It just showed too much emotion to laugh wide, I guess.

 

My heart went out to her, and I think her sense of that got me to the next stage.

 

She finished the interview with, “Just so you know, the CEO is a tough cookie.”

 

I chose to believe that one and spent a week preparing for another challenging personality. In the interim, I met with all the company principals. Most of these supporting interviews were spent in their offices, awkwardly and standardly, but I didn’t let myself relax. The CEO was tougher. The other tough one told me.

 

When at last the day came to meet with the company’s owner, I wore a white blouse, which turned out to be a poor, sweaty choice. I swore that my moist shirt was a bad sign and I literally shook in my seat with fear and being tired of interviewing and survival instinct. I needed this job.

 

I waited in a bigger conference room than the one I’d initially waited in and shrunk in the leather seat. This whole process had taken weeks of preparation and unnatural amounts of nerves. The door opened. A short, dark-haired man walked in and didn’t even shake my hand.

 

“So,” he began in a British accent. “I hear you’re a writer.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“What have you written?”

 

“Well, lots of press releases, and bios and sales copy and…”

 

“No,” he interrupted. “What have you written?” The emphasis went on the last word.

 

“Um. I’m writing a book about witches and magic and…”

 

He stopped me again. “Send it to me.”

 

Those words marked the end of the interview.

 

I left dumbfounded, emailed him my creative work in progress, and accepted the public relations position the next day.

 

********

 

What was your strangest job interview?

 

Please post your submission in the comments OR post in your blog and leave a link to your blog in the comments.

To bone up on PROMPTuesdays, read a bit about it here.

 

 

PROMPTuesday #227: Fall Favorites

My guilty pleasure is reading what other people use and love, pretending I can buy everything they recommend, adding it all to my virtual shopping cart, leaving it there, and then suffering through endless reminder emails like, “San Diego Momma! We noticed that everything Sephora sells is still waiting for checkout” and “This is Anthropologie. Are you planning to buy the $500 Aphrodite Parisian poncho that’s been in your cart since September?” Although I cannot truthfully say I haven’t run out to order something that looked great on someone else, put it on, and thought, “Maybe I should have noticed they were a size 2 when I am a size 2 on Mars where there is no gravity.” But still, it’s good to dream. And remember those Tory Burch boots that’ve languished in my Nordstrom fake shopping cart since late 2012.

 

Either way, I’ve decided that I’d make my own “favorites” list because there are some things I truly do love and didn’t copy from someone else and perhaps you’ll want to add them to your own imaginary shopping cart in the sky.

 

Here’s what I’ve used and dug in the last few months:

 

 

Christine Shampoo and Conditioner


About a year ago I decided to ditch all sulfates in my shampoos. My hair is as thin as the day is full of 24 hours and responds poorly to drying, stripping ingredients. In fact, I couldn’t get my hair to grow past my chin without breaking into a million little pieces, and I resigned myself to living with hair that looked like Dolly Parton’s under the wig. Then, I tried an argan oil-based, sulfate-free shampoo and noticed my hair had some life in it after all. It felt moisturized but not heavy and better yet, it grew, which when you have thin hair is akin to saying you just lost 20 pound in your sleep.
About six months ago, I began trying the Christine line of sulfate-free products and my hair literally bounced. BOUNCED. Which if you have thin hair, is akin to saying Anthropologie called and wants to give you all the stuff you fake-placed in your daydream shopping cart. I especially love the Christine conditioner and have found that even if I have to resort to the subpar shampoo I make my kids use, the conditioner erases all its effects and makes my hair still look fluffy in the good way.

 

 

 

 

Illuminare Mattifying (Ultimate All Day) Mineral Foundation

Disclaimer: I’m the sort of person who likes to cover her skin because: oily, adult acne, and uneven tone. In high school, I used this medicine that was flesh-colored and smelled like sulfur and applied it to every square inch of my face, making me look like I had just pulled panty hose over my head. I’ve since moved on, and now use actual foundation instead of benzoyl peroxide as makeup.

 

I love Illuminare because it goes on fluidly, gives great coverage, and keeps me shine-free all day (a feat, I swear). It also is mineral-based, so I don’t break out while using it and it provides natural sunscreen, which is nice because I usually forget to apply actual sunscreen.

 

 

Paleo Lunches and Breakfasts on the Go

 

Paleo Lunches and Breakfasts on the Go

Last weekend, I decided to maybe go paleo. The problem is, I really dislike meat, but I’m sure I’ll find a workaround. I tend to be quite a healthy eater and love my beans and quinoas and raw soups, but have noticed lately that my system seems to be reacting to something. In fact, the big toe on my right foot is tender and painful, my gastrointestinal track has been uppity and crampy, and I feel nauseas more often than is preferable. My doctor suggested I go off gluten (which I have tried before to no result) because that dietary change could reduce my obvious inflammatory response. (Aside: I’ve tested positive for lupus twice with an ANA test, but further testing has been negative.) On Saturday, I decided to stop with the gluten again and can tell you I noticed an immediate difference – although I know it doesn’t work that quickly – right? Regardless, I’ve felt better and so decided to possibly try the paleo way of eating for 30 days to see if that makes a further difference. I spent a lot of time browsing the cookbook above and found the recipes to be approachable and easy. Most call for less than 10 ingredients and there are plenty of vegetables I can incorporate to throw off the taste of meat. That said, I ate 12 pieces of bacon yesterday, so the meat dislike comes and goes. (The 12 pieces of bacon is not my typical hyperbole and comic exaggeration and can be independently verified by my children who witnessed me baking the entire package and giving them one piece each while I dispatched the rest.)

 

My Crock Pot

I’ve been making several meals a week with my crock pot and it is a lifesaver in the evenings when I’m in no mood to prepare a real dinner after homework battles, practices, and freelancing. I don’t enjoy my crock pot per se and need a new one, but crock pot cooking in general is easier and tastier than traditional cooking for me. Many days, I throw frozen chicken thighs in the crock, pour over a sauce (Cost Plus has some great simmer sauces), and leave it all to cook for hours. Then I cook up some rice (or most often, don’t) and serve it up. I made the below crock pot pea soup last week and even the kids liked it:

 

1 pound dried green split peas, rinsed

 

2 medium carrots, peeled and medium dice

 

2 medium celery stalks, medium dice

 

1/2 medium yellow onion, medium dice

 

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

 

2 fresh Italian parsley sprigs

 

1 bay leaf

 

1 meaty smoked ham bone or 2 ham hocks (about 1 pound)

 

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (1 quart)

 

2 cups water

 

Kosher salt

 

Freshly ground black pepper

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Arrange the split peas in the slow cooker in an even layer. Arrange the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, parsley, and bay leaf over the peas in one even layer. Place the ham bone or hocks on top of the vegetables. (At this point you can remove the insert from the slow cooker, cover, and refrigerate up to 12 hours until ready to continue.)

 

Pour the chicken broth and water into the slow cooker and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until the peas are very soft and the meat is falling off the bone, on high for 5 to 6 hours or low for 8 to 10 hours.

 

Remove the ham bone or hocks to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones, place the meat back in the soup (discard the skin and bones), and stir to combine. Taste and season with more salt and pepper as needed.

 

 

Bio K

 

Bio K

When I was feeling especially gastro-intestiney last week, someone recommended I take some Bio K to load my system with probiotics. I did, and after about an hour, my system settled down. This is dairy-based, so won’t be a part of my perhaps-paleo diet, but it did the trick when I needed it. I plan to give this to my kids if they start feeling sick because probiotics strengthen the immune system. (I got it at Sprouts.)

 

Now you! What are you loving? Please post your submission in the comments OR post in your blog and leave a link to your blog in the comments.

To bone up on PROMPTuesdays, read a bit about it here.

 

(I was provided with Christine shampoo and conditioner and the paleo cookbook. Please note there are NO affiliate links in this post. This is all stuff I really dig and write about because I like giving you something to dig, too.) 

 

PROMPTuesday #226: The Thank-You List

You may know the “thank-you list” as “giving gratitude” and it is exactly what you think: writing down the people, places, and things you are grateful to have in your life. Gurus (and Oprah) advise that speaking your gratitude to the universe is a powerful exercise that enacts a simple but fundamental shift in thinking from negative to positive, and while I haven’t ever fully committed to a daily list, I’m sure they’re right.

 

So that’s what I want us to do today: write our gratitude on paper. However, I’d love more than a list. I’d like a brief explanation of why you’re thankful for what you’ve committed to paper. I’ll start the prompt:

 

I’m grateful for:

 

1) The journey: I’m constantly traveling in the soul, and it’s not always light and wonder. In fact, I’ve learned some pretty hard lessons about myself and get into some pretty sad places ruminating over them. In the end, I’d rather discover who I am and change the energy-sapping, not-so-good parts then go with the status quo. Right now, I’m in self-assessment mode and it’s been tough, but at least I’m moving forward in stops and starts. I’m thankful for the moving.

 

2) Keeping on trying: This may seem a lot like the journey, but it’s not the road itself, it’s the deciding to stay on it. This applies to a lot of life areas for me, but most recently, I was very upset with my husband because I felt like he was always criticizing or instructing me. I told him that it seems like when I’m “always” in a courtroom, school, or workplace” when he’s around and that I want a marriage, I JUST WANT A MARRIAGE! WHY DON’T YOU LOVE ME? (My drama is epic.) Yesterday, I was especially upset so I went upstairs to work and responded in monosyllables when he talked to me. Then, I imagined my single-person condo that I keep behind my brain for marital emergencies. (I’ll never make dinner! I’ll watch Lifetime all night! I won’t have to keep a husband caddy by the front door so he can pile all his bills, glasses, newspaper clippings, workout recovery supplements, and Father’s Day gift minutiae in it!). And finally, I woke up this morning to a gesture of kindness and a note. So it’s those keeping on trying things I appreciate – and need to do more of myself.

 

 

3) Coffee in the morning: Once I was very sad and my brother happened to call right in the middle of a emotional breakdown. He listened patiently and sympathetically, then told me, “You’ll get through this day and then you’ll wake up tomorrow and have your cup of coffee and begin again.” Ever since, my morning cup of coffee has symbolized a new beginning, a chance to change things, a fresh perspective.

 

4) My kids becoming: You know when your children are young? And it feels like energy is constantly going out and you are ever impressing upon them: it’s time to nap, drink this milk, go to bed? There’s so many rules to be established and so much of you goes into setting up a safe border of “be who you want, but don’t do this.” As my kids grow older, they are impressing upon me. They’ve developed personalities, bloomed world observations, and become people. That process teaches parents a lot about themselves and is one of the greatest gifts: watching your children be who they will be regardless of you.

 

5) Music: Hearing another person’s soul in the air is something I’ll never get over.

 

 

Now you! Please post your submission in the comments OR post in your blog and leave a link to your blog in the comments.

To bone up on PROMPTuesdays, read a bit about it here.

 

 

PROMPTuesday #225: Write a Review

Well there. I gave it all away in the title. But yes, lately I’m obsessed with reviews from real people who’ve used the real things and can tell me whether or not whatever it is turned out to be a good purchase, read, or visit.

 

And for some super clothes coveting fun, read all the Anthropologie reviews.

 

Meanwhile for today, I’d love to read your reviews. What have you read and loved lately? What song makes you sweat (or more likely, swoon)? What have you used and loved?

 

For a few examples, here’s a review of Loving Frank (back from the days when I wrote here regularly), and here’s a review of a workout (loosely), and here’s a review of a “personal device” in video, which really gives you the chance to gaze deeply into my skin folds.

 

Now you! Please post your submission in the comments OR post in your blog and leave a link to your blog in the comments. You do can do your review in video or words or song.

 

To bone up on PROMPTuesdays, read a bit about it here.

 

PROMPTuesday #224: The Years

A therapist gave me the upcoming as an assignment once: write down the major events of each year, including but not limited to memories, impressions, mental photographs, and anything else that defined that year for me. At the time, I was only 30 and so this exercise didn’t take too long because my memory still worked and there weren’t so many years.

 

And then I left the list in my car when I had it serviced and no one at Sheen’s Auto Care ever looked at me the same way again.

 

 

For this PROMPTuesday (I’m coming back! I promise!), I want you to write down your years. Let’s start with age 9 and go to 11. I plan to do this exercise in increments, so subsequent prompts will address each time period intermittently throughout the rest of 2013 (HOLY FLASHING LIFE BEFORE MY EYES).

 

So I’ll start. As you’ll see, I wrote down incomplete sentences and memory flashes. For this, that’s perfectly fine – that’s often how memories appear in our heads.

 

Nine:
Attending fourth grade at Audubon school in Foster City, CA. Drawing a topographic map of San Bernardino, CA. Falling in love with Kenny McMullen. Having a dream about him kissing me as I lay in a wedding dress on a stone altar (perhaps Snow White-inspired). Having a best friend who lived by the school and a park and who had a really quiet house. Losing my three-year-old sister from the house and imagining her chopped up in bits in the fridge. The whole neighborhood looking for her thought I was weird. I was. Having to move to Chicago and really, really hating the idea. Driving to Chicago in my dad’s chocolate brown Cadillac. Getting caught in a blizzard. Going to St. Mary’s halfway through fourth grade and feeling miserable and displaced. Opting out of the mandatory Science Fair while my homeroom teacher took pity on me and passed me into fifth grade with flying colors.

 

10:
Getting into my groove at St. Mary’s. Having Mister Krage for homeroom and Sister Camille for religion. Making friends who would stay with me to this day (at least one). Remember seeing “bras” under the white blouses of our Catholic school uniforms and wondering when I would get one. Making friends with Lori Swisher, Theresa Reiland, and Lauretta Tagli. Thinking maybe Chicago wouldn’t completely suck.

 

11:
Loving Greg Anderson and sitting next to him in language arts. Loving art and music. Finding out Robert Cunningham was “in love” with me and would continue to be so throughout eighth grade. Having Robert Cunningham kiss me on the cheek in Sister Camille’s class and getting in trouble. Having Robert Cunningham leave me some Valentine’s candies on my desk in homeroom with a note telling me the “love big had bitten him.” Remember getting very excitable when I had things to accomplish and remembering that feeling as driving and sustaining me. Became obsessed with getting on the honor roll. Watched Greg Anderson and Tony Peridotti walk around the room during social studies class to see if the teacher would notice. Remember learning how to spell Czechoslovakia and how to write checks.

 

Now you! Please post your submission in the comments OR post in your blog and leave a link to your blog in the comments. This little exercise could spark story ideas or post fodder or just make you remember why you are who you are.

To bone up on PROMPTuesdays, read a bit about it here.

 

PROMPTuesday #223: Prom

When taking the kids to camp this morning, an old Bryan Adams song popped on the radio and BAM! I was gone in my head, motivating Toots to finally ask, “Was this your prom song?” Despite wondering how a nine-year-old could make that immediate assumption (repeated High School Musical viewings?), I had to acknowledge that the visceral connection between music and experience got me again, transporting me to a land far, far away where girls still wore puffy-sleeved relatively non-slutty prom dresses and Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers were still, indeed, “cool.” And so we have today’s creative writing prompt:

 

For this week’s writing exercise, think back to your prom(s) and write your impressions either from your perspective today or how you felt then. Be sure to post a video/track of your “prom theme” for the full sensory memory explosion.

 

Here’s a few starters:

I went to prom with…

I wore…

I didn’t go to prom because…

What I want to tell my daughter about prom…

 

It really helps to listen to your prom song first, trust me:

 

 

Story to follow…

 

Meanwhile, please post your submission in the comments OR post in your blog and leave a link to your blog in the comments.

To bone up on PROMPTuesdays, read a bit about it here.

 

Or, catch up on the PROMPTuesdays archive here.