Category Archives: Writing

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

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.

Song Meanings: Going off the deep end

On the Internet, anything goes, everyone is a philosopher, and comment boards are the virtual alley behind the bar in which people duke it out – waaaay past 2 a.m.

This is especially true of lyric-spouting websites containing message boards where people decipher and place misguided symbolism and connotation behind even the most one-dimensional of songs.

Clearing throat, clearing throat
, “Demi Lovato,” clearing throat….

Maybe her song IS more complex than I thought… (Photo courtesy of papermag.com)

Anyway, I found this out the hard way.

It all began upon innocently searching for lyrics to a song I had just heard on Pandora. Unbeknownst to me, I clicked on songmeanings.net as it appeared first on the search list and sufficiently contained what I was searching for. Everything was fine until I made the mistake of scrolling to the end of the lyrics, spotted an aforementioned comment board and couldn’t help myself.

To those of you who think it’s ok to take lyrics word-for-word, sentence-by-sentence and mold them into idealistic revelations completely relevant to what you’re going through at this EXACT SECOND:

NO! You come over here and let me slap your hands. Bad!

Upon reading response after response, it was easy to conclude that these comments, although their writers attempted to sound deep, soulful and unique, were actually universally the same across every lyric site, comment board and song. Suckaaaas.

Throughout my research (white papers to come), I found the eight most common types of people with corresponding themes, demonstrated below through the use of this widely popular song, “Puff the Magic Dragon.”

Did Puff always look this rough? (Photo courtesy of: discoverynews.us)

1. The hipster says, “This song’s clearly about marijuana.” Puts on a wool hat in 90-degree weather. “You IMBICILES!”

2. The Twilight fanatic says, “This song’s about how Bella can’t be with Edward because he’s not truly real and it’s. So. Un. Fair!!!” Throws herself on the couch and has a good cry.

3. The ignorant person says, “Can’t you hear the lyrics? This song is about a dragon, you &$*#(%*%&$!! Hmmm. Dragons.” Closes the Internet window and opens Dungeons and Dragons.

4. Judgey McJudgerson says, “This song is about how the media controls us all. I bet you bought that new iPhone 5, too, didn’t you?” Judgey McJudgerson’s avatar picture features him crossing his arms and looking down at you snobbishly over wire rim glasses.

5. The “intellectual” says, “This song is about how the government is brainwashing its people to do its bidding.” Pulls up an article regarding the topic on his new iPhone 5 Wall Street Journal app. “See?”

6. The drama queen says, “This song is totes about meeeee!!!!! Obvi.” Sighs while twirling hair and rolling eyes until best friend interjects, saying, “Guurl, you cray-cray. This song is about ME!” Catfight ensues.

7. The hippie says, “This song’s about finding inner peace, man. That little boy outgrew his dragon and he’s fighting to discover his self-identity, which, right on. But dude, that dragon? That’s his soul mate right there and the little boy doesn’t know it yet. Love is a friendship set to music, you know?” Takes a drag of a cigarette and stares into the bonfire as his friends look at him in awe before saying, “Heavy.”

8. The Christian says, “Come on, everyone. This song is undoubtedly about religion and the conformity that follows Catholicism.” Looks at watch and panics. “Shoot; I’m late for church and it’s my turn to do the readings!”

I’ve won an award and it’s lovely!

But first, a conundrum. I began writing this post only to end up with three completely different beginnings. Since I’m incapable of making even the easiest decision, I’ve decided (after much debate) to leave it up to you! Similar to the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books in which you flip to a certain page to read the ending you want, you may choose to begin this blog at #1, #2 or #3. Once you’ve picked, you may continue reading the remainder of the post at the “Continue reading here” mark.

Well, would you look at that. I’ve successfully turned this informal, just-for-funsies post into a reading assignment with multiple instructions. Excellent. Just like a baby shower host says when you’re forced to eat baby food and guess the flavors: “It’s fun once you get started, I swear!”

In addition, you have thirty minutes to complete the blog. At the end of thirty minutes, I will then ask you to pick up your pencils for a short quiz on comprehension. #2 pencils only. No, Jimmy – that blue pen will not work. Before anyone asks, no, bathroom breaks are not allowed. We’ve been through this before.

Aaaand begin!

“Are you a Christian, award? Would you help an old lady carry groceries across the street?” Inner beauty is the loveliest of all.

1. I should clarify the title of this post. The way I feel about the award is lovely. Not to say the award itself couldn’t be superficially lovely, of course. The jpg image that coincides with it seems lovely enough, although I have yet to stare deep into its eyes to assess its inner being. But let’s get to the true matter at heart.

2. Finding out I won the One Lovely Blog Award initially resulted in a daydream straight out of a rousing game of Family Feud.

Steve Harvey: “What words would you use to describe Cassie Behle’s blog?”

Contestant 1: “Ummm…riddled with ADD?”

Steve Harvey: “You’re going to go with ‘riddled with ADD?’”

Contestant 1: “Yup!”

Steve Harvey: “Is that your final answer?”

Contestant 1: “This isn’t Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”

Steve Harvey:
“I wish it was. I’d be getting paid a hell of a lot more as a host…Did I just say that on air? Anywho, show me ‘riddled with ADD!’” Gestures to the scoreboard with a flourish.

Scoreboard: “Wah, wah, waaaaaaah.”

Steve Harvey: “Contestant 2?”

Contestant 2: “Er….lovely?”

Steve Harvey (looks down at paper): “Survey says…lovely!”

3. When your full-time job, freelance job and hobbies revolve around writing, the constant requirement to spit out detailed, accurate information cleverly interwoven within punchy, enthralling copy can numb anyone’s creativity.

A rigorous weekly routine of laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, exercising, and keeping my cat alive doesn’t help matters. By the time I’ve crossed those items off my list, I usually have one more to add: closely scrutinizing my head in the mirror for any potentially new gray hairs.

FUN!

 This usually leads to a solid five minutes rocking my tabby cat in my arms, staring ahead in a daze while murmuring, “You’ve got a lot of gray and you’re still lovely…” Yes, my transition to crazy cat woman is almost complete.

Like football, Starbucks’ pumpkin spice latte should have its very own season. Unlike football, however, it should be yearlong. (Photo courtesy of thegreenstraw.wordpress.com)

On top of all that, it’s football season, not to mention my favorite season of all – fall. I’m so busy perfectly layering skinny jeans atop boots and scarves atop fitted jackets atop cardigans atop boho shirts atop tanks that by the time I head to Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte, I’m exhausted!

I blame Pinterest for all of my life’s woes and lack of time, really. Although, I suppose I would have more time if I got to the point.

Lately, I haven’t been able to give this blog or my fellow bloggers the attention they deserve. With life’s flurry of activity, the blog is unfortunately the first thing to take a hit, as it sits in the #6 spot on the priority list behind God, family, friends, wine and work.

If a post isn’t done by Friday, it’s simply not in the cards for the week, 1.) Because I hate cards (game, not greeting) and 2.) Because once the weekend hits, I technologically fall off the grid. It’s true. I tuck and roll right outta there as if my life depended on it. (Which, my social life does!)

CONTINUE READING HERE

So, imagine my surprise when I was presented with the One Lovely Blog Award last week from my dear pal, Mal, over at Maloquacious. Thank you for your support and cheerful comments, and thanks for being you! If it weren’t for you, I would never have added the words “rollicking,” “chuffed” or “smashing” to my daily vocabulary! Cheers!

Check out Mal’s page, but come back here afterward – I’m not done with you yet. And, just a reminder? The clock’s ticking.

To make myself feel better about getting things crossed off my “To-Do” list, I shall now cross off the first requirement of this award – to thank the person who nominated me and link back to them in my post.

Next, I must share seven things about me.

1. I check on my tomato and jalapeño plants more than a mother checks on her newborn baby. At least babies are round and fit easily in the crook of your arm. Try holding a planter in your arms, feeding your jalapenos water rich in nutrients while typing out the news at work when you can’t find a plant sitter. Then we’ll talk.
2. I buy my tacos from a truck on the side of the highway. By choice.

There’s little more humiliating than bowling with the pink ball AND with a girl who’s smaller than you, but using a heavier ball. (Photo courtesy of indulgy.com)

3. The feminist in me is infuriated that bowling alleys always make the lightweight bowling balls pink.
4.  I do my best thinking at night, which is unfortunate because that’s also when I do my best sleeping.
5. I take the shortest baths. Once in, the questions in the back of my mind are inevitably, Now what? or How long do I have to do this for? Then, I get stressed out because I’m trying to relax but all I can think about is the water getting colder by the second and how I’m wasting the hot water on my neuroticism. Other things I can’t help but think about are: who owned the apartment before me, if they liked to take baths, too, and if they were 60 years old and/or hairy.
6. I teasingly chase my cat around the apartment only to end up fearfully and very seriously running for my life and squealing like a little girl when she turns the tables.
7. I’m the girl who will jam out to Britney Spears in the car with the windows down only to turn the radio down and change it to a Minus the Bear CD at a stop light so other drivers think I’m cool. Yes, I am aware that I am, in fact, not cool.

I’m now required to nominate 15 other bloggers. Instead, I am going to nominate only five so they don’t get lost in a mix of names and to show my true appreciation for their wit, humour (using the “o” and “u” was just for you, Mal!) and insight. Visit their pages – each boasts their own unique style of ingenious writing.

1. The Byronic Man
2. Bridgesburning
3. Silva Gang
4. Dan4Kent
5. Miriam Joy Writes

Lastly, I’m supposed to leave a comment on their blogs letting them know that they have been nominated. On it.

Oh, and there’s no quiz. Thought I’d try scare tactics on my readers to see if I could get you to the end of this ridiculously long post. Did it work?

Ghost says “enough is enough”

After more than 100 years spent roaming one of the most haunted locations in the nation, one ghost at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colo. is calling it quits. When inquired as to what turned the ghost off from the career of his non-lifetime, he quite calmly replied, “My soul’s just not into it anymore.”

Of course, it took the reporter on location about ten minutes to decipher the sentence, as the EVP sounded like he had ominously and barely audibly whispered, “Srhhrwiowrrhshosorur.”

Reporter: “But…you don’t technically have a soul anymore.”

“Neither will you if you keep this banter up,” the ghost retorted.

I bet he could get a better gig as Frosty’s back-up, anyway. (Photo credit: graphicsfactory.com)

Thousands of people visit the hotel each year hoping to experience a gripping paranormal event and become part of its evolving history. The Stanley Hotel gained major recognition in 1977 when Stephen King based his book, The Shining, off a night’s stay in room 217 – said to be haunted by housekeeper Elizabeth Wilson, who was nearly killed by a gas leak explosion.

“She makes sure each guest’s stay is pleasant by being super helpful,” scoffed the ghost. “Never did grasp the idea she was supposed to pick on everyone. Then again, most ghosts are pretty horrible at grabbing things in general.”

Reporter: “Still have some residual resentment against her after all these years, huh?”

“I personally never understood how she could be an intelligent apparition, that’s all,” the ghost replied defensively. “But with her bright personality, she’d probably make a pretty good orb.”

Whether ivories are tickled mysteriously on the grand piano in the empty Music Hall, tourists are grabbed by invisible hands while walking down a hallway, or a full-fledged apparition appears, one thing’s for sure – this ghost has had enough.

“You all come here to vacation; well, what about me? It’s a 24-hour job thrilling you – without the benefits,” the ghost said.

Reporter: “But…you’re dead.”

“Equal opportunity,” the ghost answered. “Plus, I work overtime.”

Reporter: “But…you chose this line of work. Coulda had eternal life.”

“Oh, PLEASE show myself so you can pee your pants? Your wish is my command!” – the ghost

“People always told me when I was alive to get a life. I was big into stamp collecting, you see. So, I figure, why start now?” the ghost responded.

“And, sure, an “Oooooh” here, an innocent picked pocket there,” he added. “But then you people started visiting at all hours of the day and night. I’m not an animal. I’m not going to haunt you on call. And these hours are ridiculous! I kind of feel like that genie from Aladdin, except I grant people a reason to change their pants, not wishes.”

Reporter: “Would you haunt on call for a Klondike bar?”

“Well, that’s not a fair question. Who wouldn’t?” the ghost countered, shrugging.

Reporter: “That’s the spirit!”

“ANYwaaay, I’m talking about those guys from TAPS,” the ghost said, fuming. “If Jason asks me about my life and who wronged me one more time, I will lose it. If I wanted to talk about my father, I’d go to a therapist.”

Reporter: “What about your father?”

“It all started when I was a child and he told me I couldn’t play with my invisible friend…” began the ghost needily.

Fast forward one hour as the ghost lies down and makes itself comfortable on the hotel couch in the entryway, painstakingly outlining his entire life. Meanwhile, the reporter crosses her legs and sits with a hand propped against her forehead, looking downward and trying not to ask questions until the ghost looks at her pointedly for additional probing into his life.

“And then, when I was seven, I stepped on a beehive…” continued the ghost.

Reporter (looking at watch): “Oh, I’m so sorry, but your time’s up for the day. Good session; you’re really making some progress.”

“Ten more minutes!” cried the ghost.

Reporter: “OK, but I get to ask the last questions. What do you feel you contributed to the history of the Stanley Hotel?”

“Sheer awesomeness,” said the ghost without a moment’s hesitation. “Now when people visit this hotel, the coolest paranormal thing they’ll see is Paranorman.”

Reporter: “…”

“Because the Stanley has it on for free 24-7 up until Halloween for all guests right now,” the ghost finished.

Reporter (pauses): “That’s a good movie.”

“Isn’t it?” the ghost commented back thoughtfully.

Chef Bobby Flay for Hellman’s mayonnaise. Flay: “Because all ghosts are helpless against Hellman’s mayo!” (Photo credit: newyorkchica.com)

The reporter then challenged  the ghost by noting it seemed to be somewhat of an unmemorable character among the hotel’s more active, popular apparitions, to which the ghost replied, “Yeah, I suppose so. But that’s just because I choose to solely haunt the head chef so he makes me sandwiches.”

Reporter (shaking head in disproval): “So, are you thinking about starting anew somewhere?”

“I don’t know; he cuts the crusts off for me. Hard to get that kind of service these days. Besides, that ghost girl who haunts the fourth floor is pretty cute…” he said. “Horrible at rolling balls straight down the hallway though. Probably all the candy she eats that guests leave lying on the hallway benches. Can ghosts get diabetes? No, what’s more – can ghosts sue humans?”

Choosing to leave the two questions unanswered, the reporter asked one final question.

Reporter: “What are you planning to do with all your newly acquired spare time ?”

“I won’t be boohooing into a corner, that’s for sure!” the ghost said. “I’ll definitely be scare-fing down more sandwiches than normal.  Maybe do some wail watching. I’ll definitely pay a visit to my haunt and uncle. Of course, I’m just lucky my blood hasn’t curdled yet with old age at this point.”

Reporter: “This interview is as over as your puns.”

“Of corpse it is!” the ghost cheerfully responded. “I’m afraid I’m not ghoul, after all.”

Can you pick up my dry cleaning? It’s for Jesus!

Most people aren’t immediately aware that becoming a member of the church automatically enlists them to freely give of their time or money throughout the year to help with various church organizations and events. Upon registering with my local church to become the godmother of a friend’s child, I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t see that first philanthropic phone call coming.

I’ve paid so many late fees renting this movie, I may as well own it. Except that would be way more embarrassing, obviously. (Photo credit: en.wikipedia.org)

Church committees are sly about it, initially calling on a weekend night when inhibitions and guards are down. As I looked at the caller ID and picked up the phone, I remember thinking, this must just be the movie store calling to remind me my movies are overdue.

That happens a lot.

Five minutes later, the guilt  from saying no to cleaning the church that next Sunday set in, even though I was legitimately out of town and unable to help anyway.

I’ll give it to those committees – they are as steadfast in their phone calls as they are in their faith…faith that they will eventually convert me into a minion to do their bidding, that is. Newbies are predictable, I guess. It wasn’t two months later when I received my second phone call, this time requesting watermelon for a salad luncheon.

It wasn’t a request though, as much as it was an order, sent from God Himself through the  soft-spoken mouth of a Catholic Mother.

Oh, He’s good.

How do you say “no” to that? Ya can’t. And you certainly can’t say you’re busy or “accidentally” forget about it, because they ask you well ahead of time, before you have a chance to make weekend plans.

Catholic Mother: “I’m calling to verify you’ll be bringing 12 cases of root beer to the root beer float box social on Aug. 13, 2014?
Me: “But that’s almost two years away…”
Catholic Mother: “Make it Barq’s. ‘Preciate it!”

And, they send out reminder postcards now. Like dentist offices. Like save the dates. Except this time, you’re saving the date for your (God willing) eventual entry into heaven – one gallon of cubed watermelon and dusted pew at a time. In the constant battle between laziness and guilt, guilt wins every time. Then again, I suppose that’s what being a good Catholic is all about.

You’d think with their commanding presence, they could take the time to make it look authentic by at least Photoshopping out the watermark… (Photo credit: shutterstock.com)

A week later, I’m teetering in my high heels across the church parking lot before work, a gallon of watermelon in a plastic bag (They’re also very specific about what they want. The reminder postcard is basically like a ransom note: “We’ve got your soul. Bring a gallon baggie of  watermelon cut into cubes no larger than one inch if you want to save it.”) weighing me down, but lightening my conscience.  As I smiled brightly to the two elderly women accepting food, I noticed there wasn’t even a checklist from which to cross out my name in pen, permanently acknowledging my gracious contribution.

I reminded myself that God is omniscient.

Let’s fast forward to two months later.  As my family and I sat in church a few Sundays ago, a reminder of the upcoming annual bazaar boomed in my ear. My brother, mom and dad all smiled at me knowingly, beaming with pride that their daughter has finally taken on a responsible role within the church.

…it was coming.

The phone rang last night. Running on the treadmill, I wondered again who was on the other end of the line, thinking it was my friend calling from his landline since he had just gotten back into town to visit for a few days.

I’m like one of those kids who answers the door even though they see Stranger Danger and a white, unmarked van on the other side. I just don’t learn.

This time, the ante was sufficiently upped.

I had a choice (that’s what SHE called it, anyway). I could help the Catholic Mothers (yet, couldn’t help dwelling on the fact I was NOT actually a mother) cook pounds upon pounds of roast beef on Thursday and Friday or I could monitor the roast beef for hours on Sunday. Because I work Thursday and Friday and knew I wouldn’t even be able to monitor my own heart rate if forced to watch over roast beef for hours on end, I was given one last choice:

I could donate $10 to the bazaar fund and make two desserts.

Two desserts? That’s putting a lot of faith in the cooking capabilities of a person you’ve never even met… Ah, I see the connection now… (Photo credit: kevinneeld.com)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am so willing to help out, especially for the church and for any good cause. I want you to know that this blog and my stubborn will associated with it is all in good humor. That being said, the request seemed a little much for how frequently they contact me. If there are 400 people in this church and this organization calls all of them to contribute, couldn’t we just all bring one dessert and $10? Can’t I just sit the bench on this one event?

It seemed I couldn’t, because I was getting played.

As she got off the phone, she reminded me that they strongly prefer the desserts to be homemade. I guess Fiber One Chewy Bars “fresh from the oven” are out of the question. 

As I write out my check and look to Pinterest for some good dessert recipes, I can’t help but wonder what the next few years of phone calls may bring. One day in the future, will I be asked to:

1. Write the homily?
“Father decided to go scuba diving this weekend. You don’t mind, do you? Make it about sheep straying from the herd.”

2. Teach bible school for the day?
“You don’t have a record, do you? Fantastic, be there at 8 a.m. Oh, yes – the kids will be terribly cranky from just waking up. You’ll be fiiiiiine.”

3. Be a better Samaritan?
“What you’re doing right now is good, but it could be better. Now if you gave me that Starbucks iced vanilla latte you ordered, that would be a step in the right direction…”

4. Fast for the month?
“So go ahead and don’t eat hardly anything this month. We’re all taking turns. For Jesus. By the way, can you take my turn? I’m up for next month. Thaaanks.”

5. Make the wine?
“It’s easy, all you have to do is grow some grapes, harvest them and make the wine. It’s not like I’m asking you to turn it into Jesus’ blood…”

7. Repaint the parking lot lines?
“But you said you were an artist…”

8. Come up with a few new hymns?
“The standard Alleluia is getting a little worn. Maybe try some gentle, G-rated rap – the parishioners will LOVE that.”