Category Archives: Writing

The eccentric ramblings of a full-time skeptic and a part-time dreamer.

The day Macie met the child zombies

On Tuesday, I brought our newly adopted puppers out to the ball fields so:

1. I could watch Clay play ball like a boss. Almost 40, and he’s still the craftiest player out there.

2. I could guzzle down a majorly deserved beer on a gorgeous summer day, and

3. Macie (previously mentioned puppers) could interact with the general public in a socially acceptable manner, as learned through her recent obedience training, in which she had JUST THAT DAY earned her graduate certification (and an adorable bandana, to boot).

I'm one proud mama!

Earlier that day: One proud mama! Also known as ominous foreshadowing…

I was ill-prepared for what would follow.

Being a first-time dog owner, I had high expectations of what the experience would be like. I daydreamed about sitting on the bench, legs crossed and shades on while talking lightheartedly with my girlfriends. My learned, ever well-trained dog would rest at my feet as we watched inning after inning. Fans would marvel at Macie’s delightfully friendly personality and calm demeanor. Naturally, Macie would see Clayton step up to the plate and whine excitedly. The girls would laugh at how endearing it was, clutching their hearts when they saw how much she adored Clay. “You must be an amazing alpha for her to look up to,” they’d say to me, wistfully making a note to ask their husband to adopt a dog, too. “You have to be willing to put in the work,” I’d counter with a gracious smile.

Before that day, I was a huge optimist. Here’s how it really went.

The second we got out of the car, I was being dragged viciously through the parking lot toward kids practicing baseball at the far end of the field. They could see the horror in my eyes and tried to avoid me as we came rushing by. It made me feel great.

We sat down near my girlfriends, Macie lunging at each hit ball like she could magically run through fences, or chasing after a ball rolling across the ground from kids nearby warming up.

I remember surveying the scene and saying to myself in horror, “My, God – there are balls everywhere!” Like I didn’t realize I was going to a baseball field. Or that balls are Macie’s kryptonite, that — if nearby — turn her small, albeit compact, body into a full-length semi-truck, and her demeanor into that of  Penelope Cruz’s character in “Blow.”

Full out, crayz-ballz, my friends.

All this happened in a millisecond, but it was enough to have me sweating bullets. Around me, I could hear various friends’ voices inquiring, “So she just graduated from obedience school today?” and “She’s just excited…” when I helplessly explained she’s not usually like this. Like they believed me. They had KIDS, for gosh sake. They can see straight through a lie.

It was then those kiddos started coming.

They toddled forth slowly  like tiny, unmerciful drunkards. Their eyes locked firmly on Macie, they resembled zombies after fresh meat in their relentless pursuit. One by one they engulfed her, until all I could see was a bit of fur and brown eyes desperately looking for a way out. Miniature hands grabbed at tufts of fur, trying to envelope Macie in a hug while looking around bewilderedly and questioning,“Dog-gie?”

She’s lost to them, I remember distinctly thinking. They’re going to kill us all with their adorableness.

She stubbornly lives to die another day.

Don’t be fooled by this innocent face.

Then with one sneaky lick at a caramel apple sucker and another attempted gulp at a dum-dum, the kids fled as to not have their treats sullied. And, just as quickly as they appeared, they were lost to the park and their mothers’ arms once more.

A few mid-week thoughts

We recently received a promotional packet of Forget-Me-Not seeds from a politician running for office. I took to the Internet to see how, when and where to best plant them and found a few uncomplimentary descriptors of the ironically ill-chosen flowers I thought suited politicians well:

1. The flowers grow in SHADY areas and like to get their CREEP on.

2. Some people consider them to be WEEDS. Weeds that SMOTHER out other plants and KILL everything around them in a MENACING manner.

3. One person on the Internet said, “RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN AWAY FROM THIS PLANT.”

Another ironic factoid: For the life of me, I can’t remember that politician’s name.


Facebook is constantly urging me to fill out my profile more completely.
This includes incorporating favorite books. When I scrolled through my page today, I noticed the site had taken the liberty to recommend some books for me. These included:

1. Horton Hears a Who
2. Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
3. Mr. Brown Can Moo. Can You?

All by – you guessed it – Dr. Seuss.

Facebook thinks I have the reading comprehension of a five-year-old. In related news, my ego has taken a severe beating.

 

I did math today. Deliberately. I know!! Yay, me! I created a word problem for my coworkers upon asking if I could borrow anyone’s charger for the morning. It went a little something like this: My cat, Chloe, took a big bite out of my phone charger yesterday. I’ve gone through at least five chargers since I adopted her, at a rate of roughly one per year. If cats have nine lives, how many does Chloe have left?

The answer: NONE! I’m going to kill her!

 

And lastly,

Any lady knows that annual lady’s checkups are no fun – especially when you are totally ambushed into partaking in one on a rainy Monday morning. From a complete stranger (“doctor”) you just met five minutes ago. Who tries to make you shake hands with her afterward knowing full well your right hand is busy tightly clasping your front-opening nightgown closed. I see what you’re trying to do there, doctor. Well, the show’s over. You can’t get THIS milk for free. But I will pay you for your services. AFTER you take me out for a nice seafood dinner. Say, 7 p.m.?

In summation, nothing about that situation was OK with me. Also, I’m still waiting on that lobster.

A night that wasn’t in the cards

Remember MySpace? I can’t even type that with a straight face. Well, embarrassingly to say, MySpace was the forum used to create my first blog. This blog, sandwiched between creative selfies and Kanye West’s song, Heartless (not really building a case for myself here, am I?), contained one shining and brilliant moment of self-discovery. As brilliant a moment of self-discovery can be at the ripe age of 20, anyway.

In it, I professed my hatred for card games (obviously not classics like Go Fish and Old Maid; I’m not a monster), but especially my extreme loathing of pitch. Not even when I was 80, not even when all my friends – well, those who were left – invited me to play, not even if it was a choice between playing pitch or getting pitched from the game of life would I partake in this ludicrous activity.

My mind was firmly made up.

I hadn’t thought about that blog until recently. You see, I woke up last Sunday with a terrible hangover headache. Everything was a blur – and then – fuzzy recollections of the night before began to enter my brain.

My stomach lurched violently as I began to experience panic mixed with deep regret and shame.

What have I done? I thought, as I sat up straight in bed, rocking back and forth. Shivering, I wrapped my arms tighter around me.

The night had started out innocently enough. Clayton and I were visiting friends out of town, and our plans were to attend the Do the Brew beer sampling event later that afternoon. After sampling countless amounts of ales, blondes and stouts, I’ll admit my standards went down a bit. I wasn’t thinking clearly. A carefree, reckless attitude was certainly present.

After the event, our friends asked if we wanted to go back to their place to, you know, grab some pizza. Have a few more drinks. Just talk.

“Sure,” I naively said. “That sounds great!”

Before I knew what was happening, a pack of cards was placed in front of me on the table, and the suggestion to play pitch hung in the air like a wet blanket on a clothesline.

I shouldn’t. It’s late. I have to work really early tomorrow morning. Is that my phone ringing?

You can only prolong the inevitable so long, and my excuses were falling on deaf ears. Tipsy, deaf ears. The worst ears for declining pitch: the state game of Nebraska.

“I told myself I would never learn…,” I said feebly.

“Come oooon. Just play! It can be our little secret,” they cajoled.

Before I knew what was happening, cards were being dealt in my general direction. Ew. Ick. I tried to brush them away with a shudder, thinking of the people I would disappoint and hurt if I irresponsibly continued this heinous act.

It was all for naught.

I attempted to eject myself from the game with all the effort of someone who tries to politely refuse the last piece of apple pie, even though they secretly, desperately crave it. I couldn’t possibly.

Then,

Oh, no. It’s happening. Just close your eyes.

I played my first hand, letting the cards of failure fall where they may. Then, the thrill of the chase after almost nine years of painstakingly abstaining from the game took over. I felt … liberated.

Sure, I didn’t played my cards right – specifically, because I ended up playing cards, but also because I didn’t yet know all the rules. But the sense of camaraderie I felt, as well as the various card strategies and lingo learned, welcomed me into adulthood. I came out of the whole thing feeling more experienced. More mature. More worldly.

And so, so dirty.

Back to Sunday morning.

You see, my friends had encouraged me to play this game for more than nine years. With love, persistence and plenty of peer pressure, they offered to teach me more times than I can remember. Year after year, I never gave in.

Now I had to tell those very friends the ugly truth that I had learned to play pitch, and that I had learned it without them. I took to Facebook, and was met with the disapproval I expected, but lots of cyber slaps on the back. Following are some of the responses:

1. Yaayyyy for you! 
2. I feel so cheated on.
3. And you don’t regret it either, do you?!
4. Boo!!

I may have lost respect from my best friend and others, but regardless, the training wheels are off. Like it or not, I’m a full grown woman now; well, despite my love of animated movies and staying up past my bedtime.

My friends may be able to forgive me for my shameless behavior in time. Whether I’ll be able to forgive myself is still up in the air, seeing as my careless actions now guarantee myself a spot at the card table whenever the occasion arises.

It’s too soon to tell if pitch is “the one” for me in terms of card games. So far, it’s been a tumultuous love-hate relationship. I guess all I can do is keep testing the waters and keep things casual in case I end up liking another card game more. After all, it’s way too soon to settle down with just one game for the rest of my life.

Spades, anyone?

Marriage is like a deck of cards. In the beginning all you need are two hearts and a diamond. By the end, you wish you had a club and a spade.

A [stark] truth

Me: “Hi! Heard you put together a few videos. Whatcha think of featuring them in the news this week?”

Coworker: “I love this idea more than the first Iron Man.  Let’s do it!”

Me: “I just watched the new(ish) Superman on Saturday. Better or worse than Iron Man?”

Coworker: “Worse, worse, worse. The first Iron Man is probably my favorite superhero movie.”

Me: “… Hulk sad.”

untitled

Video

My cat is a genius, and I’ll prove it

From the moment I met Chloe, I knew she had impeccable taste. In her haste to win me over at the adoption center, she tried snuggling into my Coach purse, for gosh sake. She no longer recognizes potato chips as a main food group, proving she’s way out of my league. And, she hardly ever eats my tank top straps anymore. Cotton: the fabric of her first life.

Good thing she lifts.

Good thing she lifts.

Her palate has grown in leaps and bounds throughout the years, much like herself (hey, calories are calories), over time giving way to remarkable sophistication.

Originally a farm kitten growing up on mice, I’ve established she must have gotten a taste for finer living as my own life transitioned and bloomed from singleton with a starter career eating canned soup for lunch to Mrs. with a mortgage loan eating canned soup for lunch. Ok, bad example.

Although that taste still doesn’t fit into our monthly budget, Chloe musters brilliant resourcefulness to garner what she wants. I’d like to think she learned this from my former shopping abilities. I once rationalized buying a pair of $150 boots mere hours after quitting a job, with no future career in sight, out of sheer defiance and stubbornness. Take your best shot at me, world.

Suddenly, it’s much more apparent where Chloe gets her attitude from.

I am not

Contempt? What contempt?

Since moving into our new house in October, we rearranged her dining situation to include both water and food bowls on a plastic mat with a hefty lip to prevent spillage. In the past, this never worked because she would inevitably knock over her water bowl, soaking the carpet repugnantly as if to say, “Away with this tepid concoction. Mere peons wouldn’t be forced to drink this! Hazzah!” After all, drinking water three seconds old from a bowl was unthinkable considering she could get it fresh from the faucet if she melted my face off with enough of her old timey charm.

Nowadays, she simply sits pitifully in front of the bowl, glaring at me in disdain with a look that says, “Get this joke out of my face.” But she’ll drink it when she gets desperate enough. My baby’s growing up!

So, the food bowl is on the right side, and water is on the left. One day, I saw Chloe sitting to the left of the water bowl, performing with her adorable left little paw what Clayton and I refer to as a “sky hook.”

My first reaction was standard amusement.

“How does it feel to know your cat is a leftie?” Clayton asked.

I stared at him, aghast.

“Look, she’s sky hooking!!!” he exclaimed.

Our necks snapped quickly back to the action at hand.

With paw dangling in midair at an angle and precision only Creighton University Forward Ethan Wragge making a perfect three could exhibit, she gracefully curved it down into her food bowl, deftly scooping up some niblets and flinging them into her water bowl. She then fished food particles out of the water and into her mouth. This process was repeated many times until she had her fill. At first, we just thought she had lost it. Then, one evening …

“Is she … making her own wet cat food?” Clayton inquired incredulously.

Guys, she was. She was making her OWN WET CAT FOOD. I assume her love of it began when I gave her canned food to mask antibiotics a few months ago. Who knew she clung to that memory until discovering her own way to make it a reality?

Even better, we got it on video.

Chloe has since standardized this process for each meal, and it never gets old to watch. Helloooo – smartest cat alive. And, that’s when I realized it. She is once again modeling our behaviors, this time, of which are economical (although, not by my preference). It’s like the time I really wanted a frozen, deep dish apple pie for $7 and Clayton gave his approval because the oven would serve the dual purpose of warming the house. Shrug. A win is a win.

The price you pay when your cat's not a genius. (Photo Source: www.treehugger.com)

The price you pay when your cat’s not a genius. (Photo Source: www.treehugger.com)

Future possibilities regarding what Chloe is capable of are potentially limitless. Training her to use the toilet isn’t out of the question. Perhaps, in time, she will also become our poop prodigy. When that happens, and IT WILL, I won’t be putting free videos on WordPress anymore. If you want to see our circus freak, you can do it like everyone else: by getting in line at our front door and paying $5 upon entry.

No refunds.

T-minus three days to superhuman vision

I’m getting LASIK Friday morning. The procedure became a reality with a $1,200 Living Social coupon, which I marginally fear will attribute to the quality of work done. We all know doctors like this:

Hi, everybody! (Source: http://blogs.houstonpress.com)

“Hi, everybody!” (Source: http://blogs.houstonpress.com)

“You’ve tried the best. Now, try the rest! Call 1-800-DOCTORB! The ‘B’ is for ‘bargain’”!  -Dr. Nick, The Simpsons

Nonetheless, I’ve never been happier to have someone cut flaps into my eyes (insert “windows to my soul” joke here) and shave down my unsightly, bulgy corneas with lasers. It’s such a natural process. Here are five things I’ll miss when my vision gains superhero status:

1. Stepping on stale, broken pieces of Chex in the kitchen.
If you’ve never experienced this, I’ll tell you the equivalent is stepping on glass. I’ve found corn Chex packs more of a punch than the rice variety. Being from Nebraska, where corn is kind of our thing, I’m not entirely surprised. It takes a tough breed to persevere here. Sure, I may inwardly scream when I step on a rigid sliver of corn Chex, but outwardly, I’m stone cold. Expressionless. I may as well have just stepped on puppy kisses.

2. Variable coordination skills.
Getting up in the morning and stabbing my gums with a toothbrush is an instant wake-up call. Lord knows I need it. Repeatedly missing the last step on the staircase has turned me into something of a dangerous thrill seeker. I like that about myself. Hitting the trashcan at the edge of the drive without fail every Wednesday? Ten points!

Who's to say I wouldn't see a raccoon if the trash were left there a bit longer? (Photo source: http://dailydinosaur.wordpress.com/)

Who’s to say I wouldn’t see a raccoon if the trash were left there a bit longer? (Photo source: http://dailydinosaur.wordpress.com/)

3. Communing with “nature.”
There’s nothing more magical then waking up early on a Saturday, brewing a pot of coffee and watching wildlife spring to action on a dew-filled morning. It’s a shared moment where I connect with wakening flora and fauna on a deep, spiritual level and marvel beauty unfolding at every angle. This special moment is indefinitely ruined when Clayton walks in and asks why I’ve been staring at a pile of trash spilling across the lawn, a victim of last night’s blustery winds. A pile of trash inexplicably resembling a raccoon, right down to his cute, white paws and tiny claws. Claws that, upon closer inspection, are actually prongs of a black, plastic fork, firmly holding a crumpled napkin in place. Aw, hell.

Unless you can't read this sign in time to make the turn. Bwahahahaha. (Photo source: http://www.alabasterwoman.com)

Unless you can’t read this sign in time to make the turn. Bwahahahaha. (Photo source: http://www.alabasterwoman.com)

4. Being part of a majority.
I imagine having superior eyes to most everyone in the world will be a difficult and exhausting adjustment. Once the public catches wind of my newfound powers, there will be no peace for me, just “Is this the exit we want?” and “Will you read me the specials menu again?” While I may dream of simpler days, the path I have chosen leads to greatness.

5. Not feeling useless at eye doctor appointments, that’s for sure
Fear of failure attempting ludicrous eye tests one can’t even study for beforehand will be a thing of the past! I shudder remembering last year:

Doctor: “Take out your contacts, please.”
Me: Takes out contacts. Eyes feel naked. Exposed.
Doctor: “Now, read the bottom line of letters.”
Me: Wraps arms around body. Rocks back and forth, hoping to suddenly attain psychic powers. “O.” Squints in shame. “T? Efff…?” Trails off, waiting for doctor to provide some sign of approval.
Doctor: Frowns.
Me: “Not F. That’s not what I meant. I choose P!”
Doctor: “You can’t pick and choose letters. This isn’t Wheel of Fortune. Tell you what, why don’t you read the smallest line you can?”
Me: “Still O, doc.”
Doctor: “Are you just looking at the circle at the top of the chart that hooks it to the wall?”
Me: “… maybe.” Hangs head.
Doctor: How about we put this big black spoon in front of one of your eyes, further maiming you so I can continue mocking your ineptitude?
Me: Indignant. “Well, at least I passed the hot air balloon test.”
Doctor: “All you had to do was stare straight forward until it came into focus…”
Me: Zoned out, concentrating on staring at the blob in front of me slightly resembling my doctor’s face and wondering if I’m even making direct eye contact with him. “Call it a day?”
Doctor: “See you next year!”

Well, Doc, the joke’s on you, because I WILL be seeing you this year. Quite clearly, in fact. Then I’ll tell you exactly which looks better – one or two. One or two. One or two.

To read or not to read … that is the question

Clayton and I (mostly Clayton) recently came to the realization we watch a lot of TV. Granted, it’s winter in Nebraska, which means we’re stuck indoors for the better part of the year, but I’m fairly certain some days the heat radiating from our perpetually turned on TV(s) was keeping the house warm instead of our HVAC system. Not good. And while I’m not keen on admitting it, for two weeks straight, my heroine was Karen from Will and Grace. Looking back, I see now where he may have thought we (mostly me) were on a downward spiral.

So, we sat down a few nights ago with a bit of ole-fashioned resolve to have a good read. Clayton already had his book picked out. He had chosen Rome Sweet Home, a stimulating, non-fiction piece about a former Protestant couple turned Catholic. Powerful stuff. It was a paperback, too, as if he wasn’t already one-upping me with his life-transforming content. My mind instantly went to people who still read newspapers, ink permeating their fingertips, instead of searching for news online, only a few years away from disabling carpal tunnel like the rest of us. If a study was done, I bet we’d find those reading tangible publications would be categorized as more respected, learned or sophisticated. Likewise, I think there’s deeper appreciation for the history of and life led by paperback books – unless I’m the only one who loves the musty smell of old library books and that makes me a huge weirdo. Because I’m totally not.

Of course, this was a brand new book, so I was still able to glance at him sideways in a slightly smug manner.  

For about two minutes, I stared pitifully at my dead Kindle, a slave to technology, between trading inquisitive, hopeful looks with the darkened TV (which just consisted of me making faces at myself in the TV’s reflection.) Presumably, because the massive appliance was off, it was ice cold in the room, and I couldn’t bear the thought of getting out of the protective bed covers to plug in the device.

With what I imagine was a barely audible sigh, Clayton read my mind and grabbed my charger, handing it to me before settling back in. My body half out of bed as I stubbornly pulled the covers with me, I stretched toward the outlet about three feet away from the bed, my dignity diminishing as blatantly as the comforter covering Clayton. Out of breath from the catastrophic act of laziness, I uprighted myself, avoiding eye contact by pretending to be overly indignant the Kindle still displayed the lightning bolt/plug icon and nothing else after a solid minute of charging.

Having already improved his quality of life through 10 minutes of almost undistracted mental exercise, Clayton quietly read on. Meanwhile, I stared at my phone’s Kindle app, feeling bored with content already in its library, wondering what book I would even buy, and vehemently hoping Clayton was too absorbed in his own reading to realize I was, indeed, even thinking of purchasing a book.

That I had somehow found a way to shop online instead of read at this point in our venture was an accomplishment of its own to me, proving just how tenacious my skill (problem?) for shopping is. Because of the Antarctic conditions of the house, however, I justified buying a novel was a safer route than risking my life by journeying downstairs to pick one from the bookcase, of which I would have had to climb shelves to even reach reading material based on my short stature. In slippers half a size too big for my clumsy self. Without contacts. Because it seems natural selection missed the boat with me.

Ongoing bullet points are usually how I make my case for shopping. Is it working yet?

I stealthily googled away.

Now, throughout the last couple months, I had read my fair share of humoristic literature. Jim Gaffigan’s book, Dad is Fat. Mindy Kaling’s book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). Deciding to continue my education in hilarity, I purchased Allie Brosh’s new book, Hyperbole and a Half.

So, here we are. Clayton’s enlightening himself, well on his way with a faith-filled couple on a religious journey, and I have chosen a book that, quite honestly, has way too many pictures for my age. A book with stories based largely on running around naked, finding loopholes to becoming a better person and neuroticism. Stories that frequently star the f word. To be fair, the pictures are truly charming.

We’re epic proof opposites attract.

I read the entire thing in less than a day, and I was not shortchanged by the amount of guffaws radiating from deep within my diaphragm. My abs were making a solid case for themselves (pun intended), and I was delighted to find reading could actually double as a secondary workout plan. Everything was coming up Milhouse!

However, reading about someone else’s hilarious take on life is nowhere as satisfying as writing stories about my own experiences. That’s when I realized exactly how lazy I was being by taking the easy way out.

To read or not to read? That’s my yin and yang – I can’t be a writer and avid book lover and have one without the other. Balance is a struggle for me. I’m very clumsy, like I said. But also when it comes to everything in my life. One day I must clean the entire house, giving myself an hour to do so. The next moment, I realize how impossible that is and go on one of my Will and Grace binges. Still seconds later, I’m falling apart in guilt, sobs wracking my body when I could have just done the damn dishes, watched one episode of Will and Grace and been well on my way to not being a crazy person.

The conclusion is this: I will continue to read about the fascinating endeavors of my peers, while spending quality time writing instead of raging with misplaced jealousy that they are writing and I am not. All with the balance of the tumbler I used to be when I was five.

I missed you guys. I’m glad to be back.

Ass-out cyber hugs (let’s keep it professional),

The newly Mrs. Rief

No, I’ve not fallen from the face of the Earth…

…although it may appear as if I have! I am happy to announce I will not be turning into a cat lady anytime soon as we all had (greatly) feared because as of Christmas night at approximately 11:30, Clayton and I are ENGAGED!

As I was telling a reader earlier, between work, wedding planning (which are synonymous, really) and vast amounts of wine (or should I say whine?), well, there simply IS NO in-between! So, as you surely already guessed, I’m sad to say I’ll be taking a hiatus from my blog to tend to life and my frighteningly waning hours of sleep.

As I write this note, I am saddened as I recall how much elation I got out of reading each of your blogs on a regular basis, as well as writing something that was solely mine.

I love and miss you guys immensely!! Especially, of course, my blogosphere bestie, SilvaGang!

Please take care of yourselves and keep writing! You don’t realize how much you miss it until it takes a backseat to trying on gorgeous dresses, taste testing gourmet foods and staring at certain bling located on a certain left ring finger all day long.

That didn’t land, did it?

Anywho, as Johnny from “The Outsiders” would say, “Stay gold.” Although I would like nothing more than to open a bottle of red and celebrate  in cyberspace with you all, I am under deadline for three publications and must put in an honest day’s work. Right after I check out the deals on hautelook.com, obviously. And take the daily survey on msn.com. I’m guessing I’ll probably have to break for a longer-than-normal lunch, too. I’m just sooooo stressed.

Then I’ll probaby take off early to go adopt another cat or two, you know, now that I don’t have to worry about dying alone and having one of them eat my face because no one checked on me for a week.

IT HAPPENS!

Cass

Self-destructing in five, four, three, two, one…

Note from the author: I have approved the following message. Unless you don’t agree with it, in which case I will delete this post immediately.

We have a strict approval process in the corporate communications department where I work. When I write a story, it must first be sent to several subject matter experts (SMEs). After they have inexorably mutilated a particular story beyond comprehension, I rework it according to their most arbitrary wants and desires:

Ah, nuts! I mean, knots.

SME #1: “Put a line in about how I ate 40 hot dogs on Thursday and became the 2012 state fair hot dog eating champion!”
Me: “I’m going to veto that idea as it in no way relates to this story on bird diverters.”
SME #1: “But it took place on company time…”

SME #2:
“This story is way too colorful and fun. Dull it down immediately.”
Me: “I’ve dulled her down once and I’ll not do it again! The story – she can’t be dulled down any further, man! It’s madness; sheer madness, I tell you!”
SME #2 (tsking, yet somhow frowning at the same time): “All these adjectives are unnecessary. We don’t need to know that it was the STATE fair. But, that sure was a lot of hot dogs, wasn’t it?” Chuckles, impressed.
Me:
I feel like Tony Danza from Who’s the Boss?'”

SME #2: “What did you say?”
Me: “I said, ‘sure thing, hoss.’”

SME #3: “Use more filler words, like ‘in order to,’ ‘henceforth’ and ‘thereunto.’ You know, make me sound good.”
Me (under breath): “Putting ‘Knew Mother Theresa’ on your resume couldn’t make you sound good.”

About four years ago when I didn’t know better, I would then send the story back to them with changes made, a subject line of “Final, approved article.”

We are so naïve sometimes, aren’t we?

SME. Unfortunately, not to be confused with Smee, from Hook.

From there, it’s typically a steady spiral downward. Back and forth we go for at least three more edit sessions before the story is finally stamped with approval. Without fail, I’ll receive an email from an SME a day or two before it’s published telling me they forgot to include someone in on the approval process, and ’round we go again.

I begin envisioning a time long ago when I didn’t need dark chocolate or fanciful daydreams about certain people falling down flights of stairs to get me through the afternoon. (Get it? The chocolate matches my view on working in a corporate environment!)

Then, at long last, everything is approved. Sighs of relief are blown out prematurely as the newcomer tentatively mentions it would be in “our” best interest to send the story to his supervisor as a heads up.

Little does he know it would actually be in his best interest to stay away from any stairwells.

Who’s to say this DOESN’T go with a pencil skirt, silk blouse and fitted blazer?

I send the courtesy email as instructed. Once a writer, I am now a mere messenger girl. A very nicely dressed messenger girl, I should mention, one approval away from changing into comfortable, sensible walking shoes and outrageously white socks on my trips to and fro the parking lot. Oh, how the mighty have fallen into the corporate abyss.

Before the horror of it all can sink in, I promptly get a reply back that inspires hope within me – optimism that mankind is truly attentive and courteous of time and effort spent. I open the email eagerly to discover it is an automated “out of office” message and this person will not be returning until next Thursday.

It is Tuesday.

I wait out the week patiently, expelling my pent-up exasperation during dart league. (What can’t shiny, pointy objects and a good imagination fix?) And, although the story is no longer timely or relevant, I will publish it solely because I WILL PUBLISH IT.

Approximately five minutes before deadline, I receive word from the supervisor that they need to rethink the angle of the story since the project is nearing its final stages. Yes, indeedy — the huge, multi-million-dollar project is moving faster toward completion than my 50-word article. I am asked to pull the story until the project’s progress is more definite.

Chances are he’s on his fifth hole, excuse me, track at the conference.

Follow-up emails going without reply, my paranoia grows as I physically walk to the supervisor’s office seeking approval, only to see him nervously dart behind a maze of cubicles. Upon asking the admin if he will be returning anytime soon, she looks at me inquisitively before replying like a pro: “He’s not even in today; he’s at a conference. In Florida.”

We stare at each other for a solid minute without speaking. She holds steady eye contact, not blinking once and never backing down. Two minutes into the battle and blinking furiously, I blame my parents’ genetics for the poor eyesight which has resulted in my wearing of contacts, thus putting me into a no-win situation. The admin begins to shuffle papers neatly into piles on her desk, humming cheerfully. I smirk and grab two handfuls of M&Ms from her candy dish before retreating.

At close of business, I see the supervisor walking to his car in the parking lot and yell his name. He freezes, then continues toward his car after a moment, never looking back. I forgo the temptation to run him over. Too many witnesses.

Forced to eventually scrap the entire story, I am asked about its whereabouts months later by my own manager. I send her a copy of the email trail, and she emails the supervisor about the article. The supervisor responds immediately, saying, “Yes. Ok, let’s publish.”

After the red spots I’m seeing diminish, I muster the ability to email back, “Publish as is, or would you like to give an update to the project?” The supervisor waits at least half a day to respond, choosing at that time to respond with five ambiguous words: “Let me think about it.”

A week passes. I send another follow-up email asking about the story. A day later, I promptly get back two words: “Run it.”

All signs point to sarcasm!

Now, I normally include at least one exclamation point with each thanks to express my gratitude for their direction, but eliminating the exclamation point has become my (non) pointed way of sticking it to the man.

At that time, I am officially dead inside. But, I publish the story anyway.

It comes down to this. Most people have the ability to walk away from work at 5 p.m., or to leave it behind on the weekend. I thought I was one of those people until I realized this approval process has somehow soaked into the inner fibers of my wellbeing.

I now seek approval from everyone before I do or say anything, unsure of my every action and how it might affect those around me, and beaten down from having my own personal thoughts, opinions or agendas. Here are a few dialogue-based examples of ways I have sought consent from others over the last few months:

Me: “I’m going to get the pie. Should I get the pie?” Sits, lost in thought for 10 minutes debating the right choice. “I won’t get the pie.”
Friend: “No, get the pie!”
Me: “Ok.” Holds both hands out in a “STOP” stance. “If you’re sure.”

Me (standing up to declare loudly in the movie theater): “I’m going to the bathroom. Unless this isn’t a good time for you guys. Is everyone ok with me leaving?”
Audience: Various yelling to shut up.
Me: “Anyone need anything? Soda, popcorn?”
Audience: Dead silence.
Me (leaving, then ducking back into theater): “Thought I heard someone. Still no one? Ok, I’ll just bring back one of everything, just in case.”

My talent is definitely finding applicable pie charts for any situation.

Me: “I put $10 in the basket at church. Do you think I should have put in more to compensate for daydreaming about pushing people down stairwells?”
Clayton: “The church accepts any contribution.”
Me (signing check with flourish): “$20 it is!”

Me (Getting dressed for work, glancing down): “This shirt isn’t the same blue as the blue on our corporate logo.” Frowns uncertainly.” I better change.”

Me: “Let’s go get some groceries at Wal-Mart.”
Friend: “You shop at Wal-Mart?”
Me: “I meant Trader Joe’s.”
Friend: “That’s right you meant Trader Joe’s.”
Me: “It was a joke.”
Friend: “No, it wasn’t.”
Me: “No. It wasn’t.”

A whole new meaning to the term, “cat lady”

Come forth and pet me, human.

My house key nestles snuggly into its corresponding lock and twists with the pert snap of my wrist. I know the second I push my shoulder into the door to nudge it open, my cat, Chloe, will be lazily walking into the foyer. Dropping my keys and purse onto the kitchen counter, I’ll turn my head just in time to see her flop over on her back, stretching tiredly as if she has had the same full day I have. Next, she will inevitably yawn, her jaws seemingly unhinging widely like that of a snake as she rolls from side to side before finally looking up at me expectantly.

She knows I will drop to my knees and bury my face in her soft fur, murmuring “Hello, little kitten; was your day so very rough?”

You had me at “free food.”

This is only one routine of many we have down pat. On my busiest, most harried days, I possess an impractical jealousy of her easygoing life that makes me want to switch places with her – just for a day. Last night, I began thinking about what our routines would be like if we did briefly trade lives. Without a doubt, it’d go something like this:

7:45 a.m. The alarm clock has gone off three times. I strut into the bedroom and shake my collar loudly. What does “annoying” mean? Gosh, Cassie says that a lot. Better shake my collar again. “Hey! Hey, Cassie! Hey! Rise and shine; you gotta get to work and, well, quite frankly, I wanna lay in your bed!” (“Meeeeeooooow-rawr-rawr!!!”)

Side note: The way Chloe looks at me sometimes makes me fairly certain she would, in fact, say “quite frankly.”

7:47 a.m. I see Cassie is FINALLY getting up, so I instantly fall to the floor on my side and stretch innocently, as if it wasn’t my intention to wake her up at all. I then get tripped over. RUDE! Nothing like a little impromptu ankle biting to get our day off to a running start. (Cassie’s not the only one who can dominate a pun)

7:49 a.m. I race Cassie into the bathroom and attempt to jump onto the countertop, only to realize – WHOOPS – I’m not totally up, either (Just call me Pun Master). After crashing into the side of the counter face first, I am! Hah; she didn’t even know it was a race! I beat her good!

7:59 a.m. Lying in the sink is the best. Wait! No! Sitting in my chair by the window is the best! “Cassie! Watch what I can do!” I dig my paws repeatedly into the counter to get a good grip before jumping five feet across the bathroom, landing in the hallway. I am skilled.

“No, really. That was a great jump. You must be exhausted,” Cassie comments “sincerely.”

8 a.m. Cassie applauds me with a slow clap that gets faster and faster. There. At least someone acknowledges my talents. Seemed a bit sarcastic though.

8:08 a.m. My curiosity gets the best of me. Back to the bathroom! Cassie is putting her hair into a side braid. AGAIN! She says her hair’s too long to mess with before work, but all I know is that you dress for the job you want and a side braid doesn’t exactly scream promotion. Looks like no cat food upgrade for me in the near future.

8:10 a.m. THIRSTY, THIRSTY, THIRSTY!!! Why conveniently drink water from my bowl when I can lick from the bottom of the bathtub spigot at an awkward angle? Brings me back to my gutter cat days. I may be living the life now, but I’ll never forget the streets where I came from – or take handouts! Cassie turned on the sink for me. Act like you don’t care. It doesn’t change your situation at all. You don’t need that fancy water. I turn back to the spigot, then make a dash for the sink. I express my gratitude by ignoring her as I try to lick water droplets slowly leaking from the faucet. I lick between droplets, missing a drink every time. It is, sadly, not the lowest point of my day.

8:15 a.m. Cassie’s finally gone. I poop in the dining room. (Ah, there it is) Oh, she’s gonna love this – I put a lot of heart into that one.

8:16 a.m. I race around the apartment with newfound speed and lightness. I am the epitome of the phrase, “quick as a cat.”

9:30 a.m.
Actually, I am kind of exhausted. Nap time. I dive under the covers on the bed, making sure to clean all the kitty litter from my paws while I’m under there. MORE GIFTS!

11:58 a.m. I wake up from a nap, sensing it’s almost noon. I decide to look out the patio door windows and dutifully watch for rabbits in the garden to make up for lost time. Except…there are the rabbits. Where is the garden?

Crap.

Human! Put that camera down and stroke! Stroke! Stroke! (Sometimes, I swear, I feel like a rowing coach)

Noon: Foyer. Flop over. Stretch. Petted. This is the life.

12:05 p.m. I hide sneakily behind the bathroom door as Cassie discovers her present – surprises are always the best. Sometimes she gets so excited that she chases me around the apartment to give me hugs. At least, I think she wants to give me hugs. I’m certain she does. Yes, definitely. She says if I don’t watch it, I’ll be heading outside into the bitter cold of winter. Ooh! An outing!

12:10 p.m. Time to practice stalking. (As if I need to) I see Cassie’s terror from here when she notices I’m intently watching her. My eyes get wide as saucers, and she nervously darts hers away. She’s clearly never won a staring contest before. Ducking down, I set my sights on an arm dangling from the side of the couch. Dig into the carpet repeatedly. Once I hit attack mode, you can’t even see me coming.

12:11 p.m. I wonder for the umpteenth time what the upstairs neighbor thinks every time she hears Cassie roar, “CHLOE!” at the top of her lungs. Very lion-like. I approve.

12:15 p.m. I chase after a rolly-polly but quickly lose interest. Like miniature armadillos, they are. I then watch a spider meander its way into the bedroom and decide to let it be. Cassie loves spiders. I hear her yelling in excitement every time she sees one. Just another surprise.

1 p.m. She’s gone again. I head back to the bedroom to keep the bed warm while she’s gone. The things I do for that girl.

5:05 p.m. Foyer. Yawn. Belly rub. Life is still good.

From beneath the rug, I lurk…the one…the only…RoboCat!

6 p.m. Cassie’s working out. I decide to hide under the rug. Ha, she doesn’t even see me! Man, I’m shifty! For doing bar method every day, she is anything but graceful, I can’t help thinking as she nearly trips over me on her way outside to water the plants. I’m too good at hiding. I wonder how she feels being mediocre in the midst of superiority.

7 p.m.
Maybe if I get even closer to her sandwich, I can snag a bit. Closer. Closer. I haven’t eaten in five minutes. FIVE WHOLE MINUTES! I might die at any moment from starvation. Cassie shoves me off the table and I retaliate with the snap of my teeth and a half-hearted “mrooowww!” We glare at each other for a minute straight as she takes a bit of her sandwich without even blinking or looking away. Touché.

Ah, I see what’s wrong here. I’m lifting with my back, not my legs.

7:15 p.m. Turkey, turkey, turkey! She holds out a piece and I snag it from her grip and let it fall to the floor. Half an hour later, I’m still stalking it as I bat, roll and lick it into the kitchen. Mmm…nothing like carpet hair and dust to add some flava! I get so excited that I race around the apartment, turning on a dime before smashing my head against the living room wall. Yikes. I hope no one saw that. See what no front claws have reduced me to!?! I’m an animal!!!

Oh, right. I am an animal. Stop worrying; everything’s OK.

7:20 p.m. Cassie’s lying on the couch looking super relaxed, so I have to do something – I know she hates not being busy. I promptly throw up the turkey in five different locations. It’s like a scavenger hunt! I’m a good friend. And she could be a sailor with the way she’s talking right now. Halloween IS just weeks away.

7:45 p.m. I assume three standard yoga positions as I clean my legs and tail. Cassie’s trying to get me to do the “Mufasa” face (teeth bared, lips high above them), but that only happens when I lick my tush and I already did that while lying on the bathroom counter earlier. And again on the couch. And once more on that blanket she’s huddling under. We surely are the cleanest animals, aren’t we? I think supremely.

This belly isn’t going to scratch itself…

8 p.m. Cassie and I watch TV on the couch. We’re best buds! She sighs and pets me until I nip at her fingers, lovingly, of course. She says she hates me and points threatening to the door. I think that means she really loves me; what she really hates is showing her real feelings. I nudge my head further under her chin. She sighs again, shakes her head and continues to pet me. Win.

10 p.m. I sit behind the shower curtain as Cassie showers, biting holes through the clear plastic so I can lick water through it. Although clearly a genius, I keep it real. The cool cats back home would be proud! I proceed to lose my balance and almost fall into the tub on three different occasions. Balance regained, I sharply meow at Cassie because this is all clearly her fault.

10:05 p.m. to 11 p.m. I decide to take a nap in the sink. The structure of the sink is conducive to a great cat curl. Ergonomic, even.

11:15 p.m. Guarding Clayton’s shoes diligently. I lay down on them and stick my face in each for minutes on end. Everything checks out.

11:45 p.m. Time for a rousing game of tag! I end up scaring the daylights out of Cassie as she attempts to hide behind a rocking gamer chair. I go soaring right over the top, front legs batting wildly like that of a jungle cat. I know she’s just a girl, but is all the screaming necessary?

12 a.m. Cassie takes off my collar. Oh, no. How am I going to wake her up tomorrow?! New game plan. Scratch the hell out of the hamper in her bedroom. It has a nice, scraping sound. Very loud. Very “annoying” as she put it earlier. Puuurrrfect replacement!

“Hey; I was drinking tha….ugh. Never mind.” -me, regularly

12:05 a.m. Bed time. I curl up on top of the computer chair and drift to sleep, dreaming of knocking over water glasses and stuff on shelves.