Monday, September 29, 2008

I'm Going to Rice-a-Roni Land!

Now that I am moved in to the new place (thank goodness) and over my cold (thank goodness), I am headed off to San Francisco to represent my company at Online Market World. I'm pretty stoked because I've never been to California. Most everyone I know has though, and I've gotten tons of recommendations about where to eat and what to see. But by all means, comment away of you know of somewhere good to eat!! Something ethnic is preferred! Since I'll be working, I won't have much time for site-seeing but we are doing a dinner cruise which takes us by Alcatraz and some other sites. Looking forward to that. I am a little nervous about being in a plane for so long, but other than that, so excited to go somewhere new with an awesome co-worker and then get people excited about e-commerce! So, if I don't blog or update my Facebook or MySpace status, this is why! = ) I think what really excites me most is being in the city where the Tanners lived.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Boxes of Stuff, Boxes of Tissues: Words from an Empty Apartment

It feels weird writing this blog in this apartment. I feel like I am an undercover agent for some reason, stationed somewhere doing a survelliance. I am in a completey empty apartment with just a laptop and a phone. I have no internet or phone at the new place yet, so I left the laptop and my make-shift desk up here. Aside from a few odds and ends that I have to move, everything is in the new place. But, I was called out for no new blog post in a few days so I figured I should make an appearance. = )

I am exhausted! I didn't want to bother anyone to help with the move, so I've been moving myself little by little each day this week after work. Each day, I've made 2-3 trips to the new place. It helps that I already have stuff in storage so there wasn't much to move. I did realize how many books I actually had when I had to clear out my shelves and brings stacks to the car. I made about 9-10 trips in and out of the Shavertown apartment to my car, and then the same into the new Swoyersville apartment, which was worse because my office will be upstairs. That wore me out-- big time. As I handled all the books I realized that I have more of an obession with BUYING books than READING books. More than half were never read!

I did get some help last night. I rented a U-haul and Dave helped me move my furniture- it was great. One trip and we were done, although I am pretty weak so it could have gotten done faster if I had asked someone else with some muscles to help. We were done before 8:00 and started around 6ish. So, I am all settled in-- just need to make 1-2 more trips with some things that didn't make it yet. My current landlord has been awesome with me leaving. They are going to look into what is causing the musty smell, which will be great for the next tenant. She is wonderful and if she had another property, I would continue to rent from her. But, I am happy with my new place. Two bedrooms plus kind of a secret little room off the office. I will probably throw a futon in there. I am just a few blocks from my old place in Luzerne and less than a mile from my favorite watering hole. I could walk home from Hops andBarleys if I need to. I am no longer 1.5 miles from work, but I am still under four miles and with the lights it takes less than 10 minutes. My rather large sectional barely fit in the living room, so that's a downer, but otherwise, it's the perfect size for me.It's all carpeted, too whereas this place is tiled floor so my new place is a lot cozier. I have about a thousand birds that live in the trees outside my bedroom window, so I guess I have a fully-equipped alarm clock, too.

In other news, I have the early stages of bronchitis-- not sure if it is a direct result of the mold or if it just made me susceptible, but my doctor prescribed me the Z-pack to nip it in the butt before it really develops. I am on day three of the five day prescription and starting to feel better- but yesterday was by far the worst I was. I had a client tell me he felt sorry for me because I sounded horrible! Yeah- that bad. I was struggling to talk. You know it is bad when I broke my perfect attendance streak at work- over a year and four months without calling in. I guess the medicine was kicking in and working everything out, but it was a hell day in the office, worse than Tuesday when I stayed home. Today was better- still congested but I didn't go through a box of tissues like I did on Weds. Hopefully tomorrow it will be gone and I can go back to being my shiny, happy self. There is nothing I hate more than being congested and sounding funny when I talk. I'd honestly rather have a stomach flu and be barfing all day than sound this nasally.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Jesus Stopped By While I Was Out

I don't have many pet peeves. I am totally open to all people and beliefs. Except cults. I'm not a fan of cults. I'm not a fan of cults who try to recruit me.

Today when I opened my flimsy screen door, a pamphlet fell out. Today is Monday. The Jehovah's Witnesses aren't supposed to be out today, but maybe it was stuck in my door from Saturday. Thank goodness I wasn't home.

The pamphlet asked if I wanted to learn more about the bible, if I wanted help in understanding the bible and if I was willing to spend time each week learning to understand the bible. They will even come to my home if that is more comfortable for me. Sorry folks. All the brainwashed Jehovah's Witnesses do is ruin lives. I've had personal experiences with someone close to me whose family was involved in the nonsense and I saw where it got them. That's a whole book right there!

All I want delivered to my house is my newspaper, my mail, my internet mail orders and surprise deliveries from Ed McMahon-- not religious propaganda from the Jehovah's Witnesses.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

My First Sobriety Check Point

I was exhausted after the fair. Friday was a long night at the bar and even though I slept in on Saturday, I spent most of the day on Saturday outside in the sun watching my friend play rugby at Kirby Park (which by the way was awesome!). Long days outside can take their toll on you. After the rugby game, I headed to the Bloomsburg Fair, which entailed lots of walking. So needless to say, by around 10 p.m. I was ready to crash. So ready to crash that I opted to go home than go out again. Plus, I was in a hoodie and sneakers and not dressed to go anywhere, so when we made it back to my one friend's house for our cars, I just headed home, stretching a bit for some morsels of energy as I walked to my car.

I got onto the Cross Valley and as the highway ended and turned into 309 going into Shavertown, I saw the orange diamonds along the road indicating a sobriety check-point ahead. I freaked out. I was completely sober. However, by this point my hair was thrown up in a messy pony tail and my eyes were probably red from being tired (and not taking my contacts out for a few days, too). I never went through a sobriety check-point before, which made me even more nervous because I didn't know what to do. Do I show my license and registration and insurance? Do I just drive and only stop if they stop me? When I am nervous, I can have a tendency to mess things up so I was so nervous that my being nervous would make me look guilty that I go more nervous. Whew. That was a mouthful, but does that make sense?

As I turned the bend, I saw lots of bright lights. Firetrucks and cop cars from all the Back Mountain municipalities. I was directed to pull up to the first officer. Just like they do at the fair, he gave me those parking motions to "move up" and then "stop." My nerves were going insane because I didn't know if I pulled up far enough. Would that make him think I was drunk? The officer went over to a truck that was on the shoulder before coming over to my car. As I waited for him, I tried to be as alert as possible and not appear nervous. I knew that I looked like I could have spent a rough night out because of how exhausted I appeared. I hoped that he would notice my attire, and that he wouldn't think I'd wear an eight-year old Wilkes University hoodie to a bar. I also hoped that he wouldn't think a girl like me would already be going home at only 10 p.m. and that surely if I was drunk, I wouldn't have come home until much later.

I had my window rolled down and because I need to hold things when I am nervous because I don't know what to do with my hands, I cupped my coffee from the fair (which was still warm after an hour drive) and just waited. He finally came to my window and asked plainly, "Are you drunk?"

Like that, I froze. Of course I wasn't, but I was caught off guard with the question. I thought he'd ask how I was first, or something like that. Since I paused, I was sure he thought I was guilty. Crap, I thought to myself. This is going well.

I replied, "Oh no- I am coming back from the fair." I held up my coffee for whatever it was worth.

"They don't serve beer at the fair?" he asked.

"No- those are called fireman's bazaars," I replied- only someone from NEPA would understand the bazaars so if you are reading this and not from NEPA, sorry.

So, the cop chuckled and said,"Yeah, everyone is coming back from the fair. You have a good night."

Whew. I was thankful that I was way too tired to go out because the check-point surely would have still been going on later. As I drove, I saw several cars with people pulled over on the shoulder- I am guessing the people who did not pass.

I think that I'd have been less nervous going through the sobriety check-point a little buzzed to be honest.

The Psychic at the Fair

My favorite time of year, fall, is marked by the annual Bloomsburg Fair. I checked it out last night, opening night, with a few friends. I've gone with different people each year the past two-plus decades of my life, but each year the Bloomsburg Fair is familiar. I couldn't go a year without going at least once, usually two or three times. This year, however, I tried something new. I had my palm read.

Psychics would make excellent sales people. Take this. The sign said $3.00 Palm Reading. I grabbed a five out of my purse and entered the tent. A Zelda Rubenstienish lady held up a sign as I was sitting down. A real palm reading was $10, and she had three other readings listed for up to $20. She said, "The $3.00 is just a personality read." I thought, ya got me, so I pulled out another $5.00 and forked it over to the lady just for shits and giggles. When she was done with my reading, she squeezed my hands and pulled me in close to her and whispered that she wanted to do spiritual work on me, starting at $25. Yikes. I told her I only had a credit card and no more cash and left, but if she really was psychic she would have known I very well had the cash, which I intended on spending on more fried food and a purse.

Despite her conniving nature, the psychic said some things to me that were true. Sure, they are good people readers and generalize a lot. But it is a little uncanny some of the things she said to me:

1. You recently experienced some pain in your neck and your left leg. Hmm. I was in the ER for an unexplained left leg problem. See a past blog post about this. And since I have vacated my bedroom because of the mold, my neck has been killing me from the couch.

2. You've only loved two men. Now, if by that she means two relationships, then that was right on. Just two thus far. She also told me that I would be getting close with someone soon. Hmmm.

3. You don't have just one job, do you? You do something creative. That's true.

4. You like to have fun, but not alone. You like to be with friends and you like to organize things for friends. This is true.

5. You make money but you don't know how to save money. But that's okay because you just want happiness. This is also true.

6. You will live a long and healthy life. I hope this is true.

7. A lot of people admire you, but a lot of people talk behind your back too. I am sure this is true; it's just human nature.

8. You have two children. FALSE. She looked at me real funny, paused for a bit and said, well, you were meant to have two children. I thought about this later on the ride home from the fair- I had two miscarriages. Maybe she knew I was pregnant twice?

The psychic also told me I would be getting a letter in the mail with good news, and that I would soon be making a lot more money. We'll see about that one! I myself have always been intuitive and could read things about people and sometimes even scared people by the things I knew would happen, so I can understand having a psychic vibe. Do I buy everything she told me? No- she's doing it to make money not to really help people. Am I somewhat weirded out? A little bit. Do I want to believe there is a letter in the mail? You bet. Will I count on it? Nah. Haha.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mold should only grow on my leftovers, not try to kill me while I sleep

Hindsight is 20/20. And it's not just better vision-- it sure smells a lot better too.

I made a hasty decision. I do that from time to time. The apartment is big enough for me. Sure, I had to put some things in storage, but it's a one-bedroom, so it's expected. Sure, the paneling sucks, but I can deal because it is 1.5 miles from work and I can leave at 8:55 a.m. and still make it to work with two minutes to spare. However, the more I live here, the more I realize I should have looked around for a better place.

The main issue right now is the musty smell. I thought it was just because it was an old place and that the ventilation wasn't all too great. But this past week, it has become extremely unbearable. My bedroom is on the back of the building and along the far exterior wall of the building. The apartment is situated on a luscious hill, which means it's damp. Hence the water getting in the basement and walls. I've never been down there because there is no access from my place, however there is no sign of mold or dampness in my apartment- so it's just the aroma of mold that is taking over my bedroom.

I went out on Monday night and went to bed around midnight. I shot up out of bed coughing with a sore throat at 5 am and couldn't fall back asleep for a few hours. I moved my blankets and fan out into the living room, where I also cracked the windows. There are no screens so I couldn't open them all the way because Spectra may get out.

Last night, it was worse. It was so bad I moved my bed just to be certain there was not a big ring of mold or mildew under the bed- there wasn't. My temporary bed was still on the couch, so I laid down there instead. I tossed and turned until about 3am. Every time I tried to fall asleep I took this big gasp of air that woke me up- almost as if my brain didn't want me to slumber. To get more air, I opened my front door to let air in through the screen door. I locked the screen door, but mind you, anyone and there mother could have looked in and saw me asleep on the couch (I wasn't naked) but I could've cared less. I still tossed and turned, felt dizzy and was getting a sore throat. I was a clutz in the morning and spilled a whole Diet Pepsi on me as I got of the car at work. Once I was in work for a while, I felt better-- like my brain was adjusting to good air again.

I left a message for the landlord today about it and when I came home from work, around 8:30 p.m., I went to the neighbor, who is kind of the "super" and I told him I called the landlord but wanted to know if he knew if there was a mold problem. His answer? YES. Apparently there was a bunch of junk accumulated there and they recently moved it all out of the building and found a lot of mold. They are going to work on it I guess. But I don't know what to do in the meantime. I wanted to stay in a hotel tonight- but why pay for it? My landlord should pay if it gets to that point. I think they should test this to make sure it is not toxic- because mold can kill you as a few people at work today told me. Maybe I just have allergies to mold- I am not allergic to anything so I don't know what it feels like... maybe this is it. I just hope it is not toxic mold and that I do not die in my sleep. That would kind of suck.

At any rate, I do not have a lease, so I may just give notice and move. I have other reasons besides this potential toxic mold issue. I want a bigger place, I want more windows that have screens, I want white walls, I want a dryer that ventilates out a window (mine does not so I get lint everywhere) and a bathtub shower, not a stall. There are many things I thought I could live with that I really don't want to anymore. So, I am kind of glad this mold thing is happening. Gives me a health reason to move quickly on this instead of himhawing around about moving. So, I made an appointment today to see an apartment in Swoyersville, which is right by Hops and Barleys... = )

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My Boyfriend Stopped Smoking and More About My 10 Year Love Affair

The headline caught ya didn't it? I am not talking about a flesh and blood boyfriend! I was at Hops & Barley's in Luzerne, PA for the first time since the Pennsylvania smoking ban on Saturday, and then again last night. I admit, I am not the biggest fan of smoking cigarettes and don't really like going home smelling like smoke. However, now that people who smoke have to go outside every time they want to light up, the conversation stops. I hang out with a lot of fun smokers. So if we are at place where smoking is banned, my smoking friends must up and leave every so often. It interupts the good times. Does that make sense?

So the headline comes from my Miller Lite induced realization last night that Hops and Barely's has been the constant in my life. Yes folks, my longest committment is with Hops and Barley's.

Think of the men I've had the past decade.
The jobs I've had the past decade.
The addresses I've had the past decade.
All have changed. Everything but my love for Hops and Barley's.

I've swayed from Hops and Barley's when I lived in the boonies-- meaning I didn't go as often. (We were taking the only break our relationship ever had.) It accepted me back as if I never left.

One of the owners of Hops came up to me one night a few years ago and said that when he Googled "Hops and Barley's" most of what came up was something I wrote! I thought about it. I've written little reviews of Hops on local bar sites. Some articles I've written for the Weekender were set at Hops and they are archived on line. I've blogged a lot about Hops. I thought that was pretty funny. I don't show up as early in the search engines now thanks to local directories exploding -- but back in the day if you were looking for info on Hops and Barley's in Luzerne, PA, you got stuff I wrote. Ha! On that list is an article I wrote for Associated Content on Best Corner Bars in NEPA, an interview with CCR's original drummer Doug 'Cosmo' Clifford where I told him I had the number to "Down on the Corner: memorized on my favorite bar's jukebox, a review I wrote of Jessica Andrew's Who I Am CD, my old Geocities page,

So, I was telling the peeps I with this realization of my relationship with Hops last night, including the bartender who's been there the whole time Hops has been open- 14 years. Today at work I was told what hotel I am staying at when I go to San Francisco for Online Market World 2008-- I immediately clicked on Restaurants and Bars on the hotel's menu and you're never gonna believe the name of the laid-back bar inside the hotel: Barley 'n Hops. Wicked coincidence.

Tonight I was going through a bunch of boxes of pictures that I never put in albums from over the past ten years or so.... soooo many of them were from Hops. It was weird to see the hair length and weight change and even the people I was in the photos with change- but the background is all the same- Hops! It's like it was one giant, decade long party. Maybe when I am feeling really motivated, I will sort through them and grab one or two per year and put them in order to see the progression!

So, this blog post is my ode to Hops & Barley's in Luzerne. Best food. Best Staff. Great beer selection. Best Crowd. Some of my best memories!

"Have a NYSE Day" Spoof Stuff- an idea from '03 reborn

Today's headlines of financial disaster and all that jazz with the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and other financial stuff reminded me of this brainstorm I had a few years ago- I had a designer put my idea to life and I threw them up on, pretty much forgetting about them.

I thought of this idea where I could spoof the 60s "Have a Nice Day" t-shirts with worried eyes and a frown face and the frown being the line graph dropping. So here is what I came up with --"Have a NYSE Day" and you can buy something with this quirky little design on it, too.

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Strange Sock Saga

We all have quirks. One of mine has been my odd sleeping perils, situations and habits. A new one developed a year or so ago, and I forgot about it for a while because it has been sandal season.

But now that I am wearing socks again on most days, I've been reminded of something strange. Every night that I go to bed with socks on, I wake up the next morning with the left one off. Only the left sock. The right sock is always still sungly fit around my size 8. My left sock is on the floor or mixed up in the sheets, my left foot left out for the cold. It doesn't matter what kind of sock. Still the same deal whether it is the usual ankle sock, or sometimes a longer sock. Socks that say Jingle Bells and socks with pumpkins. Dress socks. All the same thing.

Strange, huh? I would wake up every morning and do a sock check. I'd shake Dave and say, "It happened again! My left sock is off!" He reply, "That is really wierd. Hmmmm."

We were perplexed. Not sure if I do something wierd with my feet in my sleep, but yep. I wake up with one sock off every morning.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Stuff Sweet Stuff. A Memorist Strikes Gold (and Mildew and Mold)

I cannot believe the crap I found. I mean stuff. Stuff. Stuff is good. I like stuff- I wrote about stuff before on this blog, and posted the video of George Carlin's schtick on stuff- it was a family favorite growing up. Here's a link to that- since I wrote that post, he passed away, so as you click on the link, think of George and all he shared with us.

So anyway- I like to save stuff. And I like to keep that stuff in boxes. Over the years, some of the boxes were transferred to Rubbermaid tubs for safer preservation. Many of my boxes of stuff have went from my house in Tulsa, to my several houses in the Poconos, to my mom's storage shed, to my apartment in Wilkes-Barre, to my house in Luzerne, to my apartment in Luzerne, to my house in Bear Creek and to my house in Sweet Valley. I've been on my own since I was 17 and some of these boxes, as just said, preceded even that. Some have not really been opened except to peek in and say, "Oh wow! I'll look at that later." When Dave and I decided to go our seperate ways, I got a very small apartment with no place for said stuff. So, I left with just what I needed, proclaiming to get a storage unit in a few weeks. Four months passed. I finally got a shed and moved a big chunk of that stuff into it tonight.

I have been thinking of this stuff for a while. Since I writing a memoir set from age 5 until about 16, I have been struggling for details. I knew I had pictures-- but little did I know just how much stuff I've saved. I struck gold tonight. Forget about my losing a few hundred dollars last night at the Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Plains. I'm rich as ever-- in memories!

I found a journal from when I was about 14!! I only wrote 11 entries- but it's good stuff!! I now have dates of important teenage events, like the day I got my braces on. I told my mentor about how I was missing details- I couldn't remember how I met this one girl who became a close friend. I had this gang of people in 8th grade, but I didn't remember how we got together. Lo and behold, tonight I find a journal from 1991 that starts off like this: "I can't think of anything to write so I will tell you how I got my good friends...." Just like that- my answer from a young me!! I now kick myself for not writing more back then. But the material!! An amazing find! I found photo keychains with dates on them- so now I can piece together details!! I can now use these times and places as settings for my memoir. I now know WHAT I wore to a school dance. And-- where I bought it.

I found all my old paycheck stubs from when I was 13-16 working for the Tulsa World- not shabby for a young kid!! I found a clipboard I broke in half because I was having a bad day while selling papers. I found two Cadillac hood ornaments that my friend and first boyfriend (if you can call it that when you are 13) stole for me. I found MY GLAMOURSHOTS which I found once before, but shoved in a box somewhere. I found a dozen Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Super Mysteries found brother and sister's baby pictures. I found a button from a fife & drum corp event I went to in St. Charles-- I couldn't remember when that was and now I know that dates. I found my first business card from my first 'real' job in radio. Just so much stuff. I brought some of the stuff here, but eveything else is in storage now. These are all things I have been writing about-- but now I have access to them again-- now they aren't just things in boxes!!

My old footlocker I used for Girl Scout camp, which is filled with photo albums-- these pictures that I haven't look at for so long reveal more details I have been struggling for. What's even more is that I describe a lot about Dado's house and when I was 16 before I moved back to PA, I flew in for Dado's funeral. While I was there, I took pictures of everything so I could remember Dado's house. Everything that I talk about in my book- that lacks detail- has a photo. It was as if at age 16 I knew I would need these pictures one day. There are plane ticket stubs, receipts and so much more so I can piece together the memories. I know what happened- but sometimes forget in what order. I found a Friendship Fill-in book my mom got me before we moved in OK- it has all these little details of my childhood friends, what we'd do together, etc. and just brought a smile and a tear at the same time! I still keep in touch with Jasmine and Laura more than any of the others and just saw Cori last month-- but to read my words about my friends when I was 12 is just incredible. I learned that skiing, playing outside games and playing Nintendo were my favorite things back then. I could go on and on, but I guess that is why I am writing a book!!

All this stuff I have been carting around for 15 years finally has a purpose. It's my life, in boxes. It's my research lab. It's my memory lane. It's my fact checking station.

My mentor is on a retreat until the 14th, but I CANNOT wait to tell her about all this stuff I found, especially these journals. Reading those entries brought me to my state of mind back then-- gave me a peak inside what I was thinking and feeling.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Some Cool Going-Ons @ the Workplace

Three Weeks With Three Cups of Tea with the Cacti
I am reading Three Cups of Tea and am enjoying the living heck out of it. I don't think I would have picked up the book on my own-- but now that we've got a book club going on at the office, I'm reading the same book with about a dozen other co-workers. I think it's an awesome idea!
Now that my reading list for the MA in Creative Writing at Wilkes University is over, I can enjoy reading whatever I want again -- which is of course usually memoirs anyway. But, now I have a thing going on that will continue to keep me in the reading habit, trying to make sure I am up with everyone else so we can talk about what's happening in the halls at work, and then of course at our planned discussions which we'll be holding after we're done. You can read more about the Solid Cactus Book Club, or as we call it, the SCBC, here at the company blog. That pic is of all my fellow office book worms.

I Still Work for One of the Best Places to Work in PA
If you keep up with my blog, you know I love my job. And lots of others do too because Solid Cactus has once again made the list of The Best Places to Work in PA. We don't know what number yet- that gets announced at an awards banquet later on this fall. You can read about this honor, again, at the SC blog as well as on the Best Places to Work in PA official website.

I Was Blessed a Lot Today
Literally- not in the wierd religious sense- but my co-workers must have said "Bless You" at least twenty times today. I felt sluggish all day-- had lots of coffee, soda, candy, ice cream and more to get my mind and body going. Nothing really helped. A few others at the office have colds, and I think I am next. I plan to finish eating my grape leaves and just crash, or lay in bed with Three Cups of Tea until I fall asleep. I haven't used a sick day yet and it's been 16 months (see above, about me loving my job) so I definitely want to get some rest to kick this thing before it settles in somewhere like my nose or my throat or my head.

The Perils of Free Trials & Contracts- Can Stick It, Odyssey Fitness a Waste and Blockbuster Online Rocks

The Health Club Membership- The Only Thing I Lost Was My Money
Odyssey Fitness in Wilkes-Barre used to be convenient to where I worked. But since I was on the woman's side, which closed at 7:00p.m., the hours were not. Plus, I live about 45 minutes away-- so it was just so stupid to sign a one-year contract at $24.95 per month. My year was over I think in June or July. I probably could have gotten out of the contract if I really tried, but I let it go. So, I continued to wastefully have $24.95 debited from my account each month for an entire year, plus three months even thought I never set foot in the place.

Today, I was looking at my bank account online and saw this month's charge-- I realized that crap, I CAN cancel now because it has been a year. Nearly $300, down the drain. Can you believe it? I really hate that Odyssey Fitness in Wilkes-Barre does that. Everyone is talking about the new Planet Fitness in Edwardsville because it's $20 a month, unlimited tanning and NO CONTRACTS!! It makes me wonder if Odyssey really is that bad that they make people sign contracts because otherwise they'd leave. My feeling on this is why reel someone into a contract for something like a health club? People move all the time. People change jobs and shifts all the time. Why make it difficult for them to get out of a membership that they clearly cannot use? On the flip side, if someone is happy where they work out and take classes, wouldn't they continue to pay their membership? I clearly lost a lot of money, all my own faultof course, but why do places like Odyssey Fitness make you sign a contract? In hindsight, I regret doing it. It was kind of a rip-off. So- my word to the wise- don't join Odyssey Fitness in Wilkes-Barre if you aren't rock solid you'll go or you are uncertain if you will move or change your work schedule, when suddenly the gym does not jive with your wheareabouts or your schedule. Can Stick It! (haha, I crack myself up!) is my other gripe. I signed up for a free trial a ways back, mostly because I lived in the Boonies and never had stamps. After a month went by, I tried to cancel my free trial because, well, I never got around to buying labels to print my postage. I called to cancel. When you call places like to cancel an account, they sneakily direct you to a Retention Department, or rather, a bunch of well-trained reverse sales people. I have no idea what they guy said to me, but basically he didn't let me cancel and said to call back in another month. Whatever. I hung up because I was frustrated with him and his tactics- he was pretty much a bully. For what? Postage? Come on! I made a mental note to call back and hope I got someone not as pushy. Yeah. A whole year went by. Fast forward to now.

I have a credit card that I used to sign up for I don't really use it for anything else- it was my online card that I used solely for stuff like that. Well, I had to go online and change my billing method for that card and saw the charge for $7.95. Crap! I forgot. Another year or more at$7.95 per month- probably at least $100 for absolutely NOTHING. I never even logged back in. Never printed on piece of postage. Why can't just provide good customer service, like does for their online service and let users simply cancel online, no questions asked, no bullying, no trying to save the account?

So today, I called today to cancel after paying them one year of $7.95 per month. I was prepared to go to someone who would talk me into staying, and she sure did. She tried to upsell me on another plan! WTF? I just told her I hadn't used it since I signed up for the free trial. She asked where I bought my stamps from. I told a white lie and said that my job lets us use the postage machine because otherwise I am sure she had a rebuttal for the other answers like, "The United States Post Office" or "CVS." She then put me on hold because she had to get "approval from a supervisor" to cancel and when she came back, she tried to keep me one more time. What the freaking bloody hell? I don't even have a printer at home because it is still at Dave's house!! I really wish I could get a refund since they can clearely see there was no activity since Day One.

(Update after post- I was curious. I googled " Complaints" and found a crap load. Here's a very well-constructed complaint from Complaint Board)

Avoiding the Perils
So kids, the moral of the story is- free trials (which require a credit card so they can bill you after the first 30 days) can be cool and work if you end up liking the product and using it or if you remember to cancel after the trial is up if you do not think the product or service is for you. My advice is to set an outlook reminder or somehow ping yourself close to the end of the 30 days to remind yourself to cancel. The other moral to the story is to not join a gym like Odysseey in Wilkes-Barre that requires a year-contract. If you believe that you will go often ( hahahahaha), go ahead. Otherwise, you will end up like me and a few others I knew that paid for an entire year without setting foot in the place. All that wasted money. Think of all the books I could have bought!!

Some Companies Have EXCELLENT Practices- Like Blockbuster!
Ah- back to Blockbuster... now that I talk about bad practices, I must compliment their awesome customer service department. A while back, when I still lived with Dave, we both got so busy and weren't watching our Blockbuster movies in a timely manner. I went online and easily found the place to cancel. Rather than cancel, Blockbuster had an option to put the account on hold, where you could return the movies you had out at the moment and then not be charged for six months. Wow. I didn't even have to call someone or be bullied by someone like at So, instead of cancelling, I decided to just freeze my account.

Well, over six months passed, and I ended up moving on my own and have been TV-less since May. I left the nice 50-some-odd-inch plasma TV with Dave because I am nice. I could have bought my own TV, but that's a whole other story about writing and self- discipline... So when I was charged last month from Blockbuster, I immediately e-mailed customer service, told them I was one of the seven Americans who does not have a TV and asked to be cancelled. They wrote me back within the hour, refunded the $14.95 and were super-nice about the whole thing. I'll tell ya what-- I had Netflix in the past two and loved them- only tried Blockbuster to compare the two. Because I had such a positive experience with them, when I do get a TV, I will sign up through them, and will recommend Blockbuster to anyone looking for an online movie delivery service. Word of mouth is the best advertising you can get- so why WOULDN'T someone strive to provide good service??

Monday, September 8, 2008

Rock Me, Rock Me, Rock Me Sexy Jesus

So it may not win an Oscar-- but I really enjoyed Hamlet 2 this weekend... it was kind of cute and it was written by a writer from South Park-- so it's offensive and hilarious and offensively hilarious. Well, rather, the movie is about an offensive musical called Hamlet 2. A stuggling actor turned drama teacher- who is dealing with personal problems (spermy) at home- learns the school district is cutting funding for art programs. He spends a few hours writing a musical called Hamlet 2 and turns his class full of "punks" into a driven group of actors and stage techies-- the show is threatened to get shut down and in comes Amy Pohler playing an ACLU rep to fight for the first amendment rights.

Just had to share a clip from the movie, where they are putting on the actual music-- which is a sequel to Hamlet, where Octavio uses a time machine and the help of Jesus to go back and save everyone who died in the original Hamlet. Again-- this won't be an Academy Award Winner, just simply a fun movie that does kind of teach a lesson:

The arts rock and in America we can say whatever we want.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Quick Hits-- The can incident

I woke up today about 1:30 p.m. Ah, it feels good to sleep in on a rainy day. Or, on any day for that matter. It's me we're talking about. So, I decided to have what I call breakfast- it's still the first meal of my day- at about 2:00. I cut up some of my leftover souvenirs from Kettle Kitchen in Intercourse, PA. At the SmokeShop, I got a slab of Hickory Smoked Cheddar and a Horseradish Cheddar and a bag of sweet bologna. I threw a pile of bread and butter pickles I bought from a roadside Mennonite stand. It was a pretty German-ish breakast. I was thirsty too, so I grabbed a "Diet Pepsi" from the bottom shelf of my fridge.

I sat down at my laptop, opened that can and took a swig.

It was Miller Lite.

I grabbed the wrong can.

I continued to enjoy the beer.

By the way, yesterday I wrote about my new DKNY jeans. I don't think I will ever NOT buy jeans like this again. I wore them yesterday and felt like a million bucks when two people asked if I lost weight. It was the jeans!!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

My Evening at the Mall: Avoiding the Landlord by Buying Jeans, Foundation, Shoes and More

I have to admit. I don't think I bought any nice clothes in a year or so. Not that I don't have the money to, it's just that I am kind of anti-shopping, as in clothes shopping and spending the day at the mall doesn't appeal to me one bit. I don't mind spending time at a Target looking at housewares or at a Hallmark reading cards for hours and don't even get me started on the book stores- I could get lost. I like going to gift shops (especially when they are spelled "shoppe") and spending days in towns like New Hope scouring the shoppes. But I've never been a mall person except:

1) When I was a teenager in the Poconos and there was nothing else to do but hang out at the Stroud Mall.
2) When I was a pre-teen in Tulsa, OK and my mom worked at the Woodland Hills Mall and I had nothing else to do but hang out.

So, needless to say, since I like going to Target for my household items, cleaning supplies, make-up and other healthcare and beauty products, I've just bought my clothes there too. I've popped into Kohl's a few times, but my clothes really consist of Target and only because of the sheer convenience of it. Coffee? Check. Cat litter? Check. Bras and panties? Check, check.

Today after work I had to drop off my rent check. Yep. It's the 4th-- so what. I went away for the holiday weekend, which the 1st fell on, and have been working late and simply was too lazy to drop it off. So today when I went to my landlord's place of business and saw that she was still there, I didn't feel like giving a my non-existent excuse on why the rent was three days late and why I have been driving around with a check on my visor, absent-mindedly for four days. So I did want any avoidant person would do-- I drove away.

I drove away and somehow ended up at the Wyoming Valley Mall in Wilkes-Barre. I've been in dire need of a good pair of jeans. I am one of those odd-shaped women, some call it curvy and I call it "I eat to much fried food and drink too many carbs", where my hips jut out more than my waist, so I always need a belt and always forget a belt, so I have to struggle not to bend over to tie my shoe at work-- for obvious reasons. So, I have been thinking of going to Gap for a while and just am too lazy to go-- because I hate the mall. I prefer in and out places like Target. If I want to walk a lot, I want it to be in nature. Or around a beer festival.

So, I went to the Gap and tried on about seven pairs of jeans. I settled for two (a Limited Edition type- button-tab/wide leg and an Essential cut) and a nice knit short sleeve top. I was going to leave them mall then. I really was. I was denimly-satisfied. (I made that word up.)

But then I went into Macy's because I have been thinking about getting higher quality make-up- this drug store crap is not doing my aging face and pale skin and under-eye circles any justice. Ugh. But I passed the make-up counter and accidently picked up a pair of DKNY jeans that looked really nice hanging in the wall. DKNY stands for Donna Karan as you know, so considering we share a name, I decided to pick up a pair. I mosied around and found about 11 shirts I liked- many were 40% off. I headed to the dressing room and took off my jeans, a pair I got at Kohl's, not Target and pulled on the DKNY jeans and oh my lord!! The fit. Sooo much better than the two pairs at the Gap. I felt like the waist of the jeans was so secure it wouldn't go down if I bent over, but they weren't tight. They were so, so cozy- the most comfortable jeans I have ever worn!! I tried on the shirts and settled on four. I stood there in the jeans, not wanting to get out of them. Again- comfortable!

After I plopped down over a hundred dollars at each store, I went to the Estee Lauder counter because I saw they had a gift with purchase this week (If I spent $27.50, I'd get three make-up bags, three lip sticks, an eyeshadow quad, a 10-day mascara, make-up remover and a toner). A really nice woman, Jean, helped me find the right shade of foundation and concealer, which is all I was looking for. I admit. I suck terribly at being a girl. I really do. I hate having to try so hard, so I don't-- which is why my hair is never done and I am always in comforable clothes and crappy make-up. So, when she asked what I was currently using, I shrugged. Sometimes Neutrogena. Sometimes Mabyelline. Sometimes Physician's Formula. And probably always the wrong shade. I told her I wanted something with thick coverage, something that would last all day. So, she tried four different shades on me, cleaning my face each time. I settled for the Estee Lauder Double Wear foundation in Linen, a concealer... and a $30 foundation brush. Oh my goodness?! A $30 brush? Oh well. It felt neat and covered well. I splurged. I rationalized by reminding myself I didn't go out this week.

On my way back to the door where I was parked something pulled me into Payless. A mystical shoe force. I don't know. Never happened before. I accidentally bought two pair of shoes because of the BOGO signs. I grabbed two brown pairs because I usually wear jeans and something that goes with brown.

It's been a long time since I went back-to-school shopping. Really, about 12 years. But I work in an old school building. So I splurged, but not even that bad. It felt good to finally spend a little money on the actual physical me, instead of things for the house or on books. Or beer.

On my way home, I remembered to drop off my rent and then went through the drive-thru at Burger King for a Double Cheeseburger and a chocolate milkshake. And I sure hope the DKNY's still fit in the AM.