I haven’t been shy about the love affair I have with my alma mater. In fact I adore it so much that I finagled my way onto the National Alumni Board over the summer. This from a girl who spent the first thirteen years of her education at the same school but never once thought of running for class office.

So last weekend all of us board members were flown into Chicago for Alumni Weekend. I was very excited and ready to proudly represent my school as an ambassador. I even thought that perhaps I could impart my “real world” wisdom to new alums in need of guidance and support.

Then I regressed back into college mode.

First, the living arrangements. I was going to be sharing a hotel room with one of my good friends. It was totally awesome. Just like being in a dorm again. We talked. We laughed. We watched Mr. Mom and ate Ben & Jerry’s. The only thing that had really changed this time was that someone else was making my bed each morning and I didn’t have to wear flip-flops while taking a shower.

Second, the bad eating habits. If I wasn’t in class during college, you could most likely find me at Taco Bell or McDonald’s. Sadly I’ve never had a fast metabolism and weighed a good thirty pounds more than I do now. Though I have since become smarter about my meal choices, all that went out the window the moment I was back on campus. Both fruit and pastries were offered during our first breakfast meeting; I completely ignored the berries and melon and grabbed two cheese danishes instead. At lunch I had maybe one bite of my apple but made sure my bag of potato chips was completely finished off. In fact, ninety percent of what I ate over the weekend consisted of very tasty but very bad for you carbohydrates like coffee cake, pasta, French fries, hash browns and grits. No wonder my pants have been feeling snug all week.

Third, the late nights and early mornings. For the record, I’m a champion sleeper. I can doze off at 8pm and still sleep in until noon the next day. Though given my roommate situation, most evenings were spent chatting for hours on end before finally passing out from exhaustion. And forget sleeping in until noon. We were expected on campus at 8am both Friday and Saturday. One of those early morning dates was with a 5K run around the lake. Did I mention that it was raining most of the weekend? I had forgotten that Chicagoans don’t pay much attention to inclement weather. I doubt they even consider rain in that category at all. Needless to say, the run was not cancelled. Yet the exhilaration of racing past Soldier Field as a rainbow gleamed overhead was well worth my soaked-to-the-bone attire. It also guaranteed that I would stay bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for the rest of the day despite sleep deprivation. P.S. I naively allowed myself to believe that rainbow signaled a win for my beloved Bears against the Packers the next day. Stupid rainbow.

Fourth, the awesome friendships. I must admit that I was a tad nervous to meet my fellow board members. Relatively speaking I was a newbie; many of my peers had been active alumni members for years. It was just like the first day of class all over again. My stomach was swimming with anxiety and excitement. Of course everyone was great and after just a few hours it felt like I had known them for years. Once it was time to fly back to LA, I knew I had made life-long friendships with some really amazing people. If I had more time, I would have made everyone a mixed CD.

Lastly, the excitement that you just might be doing something worthwhile with your life. At the risk of sounding like Pollyanna, I really loved this weekend because it felt like I was part of something bigger than myself. I can remember experiencing the same thrill after watching a really amazing movie in class and imagining someday I would make a film that could have the same effect on others. Though it went by much too fast, last weekend restored my faith that everyone can make a difference. We still have a long way to go, but just like that first day of school, you have to start somewhere.

There was only one thing that truly bummed me out about last weekend… Not once did I get carded. I may still feel like a college student at times, but apparently I no longer look like one.

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


I’m a sucker for weddings. I love everything about them: the flowers, the music, the dress. Tears flow freely even before the bride takes her first step down the aisle. Then there are the vows. What can be more beautiful than declaring in front of God and man your love and loyalty to another human being? Sigh… I love love.

Then the reception begins.

The more weddings I attend, the more I feel sorry for the bride and groom. From the moment they’re announced as husband and wife, there is only one thing on everyone’s mind: food. Oh, and the drinks. Never, ever forget the drinks. The guests certainly won’t.

Of course everyone goes to a wedding because they want to witness the happy couple’s blessed union. Though once the ceremony ends, the entire vibe of this joyous event shifts. What was just moments earlier a celebration of commitment turns into a desperate race to find out where the bar’s at. Is it open yet? Or more to the point, is it an open bar? Those two magic words will make even the most bitter of guests forget about their delayed cross-country flight, missing luggage or overpriced hotel room. An open bar really does makes everything better. Just open that bar fast. Super fast. Wedding guests do not like to wait for their reward.

Because that’s what the reception really is: a reward for being the dutiful friend or family member who put in a lot of time or money for the ceremony. Perhaps no one will ever admit to it, but you know I’m right. Though if my friends are any indication – love you guys! – you best not have a full open bar. If you do, you will be paying back that bill years after your student loan balance has reached zero.

The food, though… The food is something else entirely. Wedding guests don’t take too kindly when shortchanged on their meal whether that’s in terms of selection or quantity. Usually I know right away if the reception will live up to my expectations depending on the presence or absence of appetizers. Given that typical hour lull between the ceremony and reception, I’ve come to expect a hors d’oeuvres table in the same way that most everyone else expects a sunrise every morning. There’d better be one.

Some people are satisfied with just a bar before dinner is served. Not me. Regardless of what time of day the wedding is scheduled, you can bet that I’ve devoted at least the last five hours to this thing – getting ready, commuting, waiting for the ceremony to begin, the event itself (which can be upwards of an hour) and now waiting for dinner. Though to be honest, it’s in everyone’s best interest that I eat sooner than later. My meal schedule hasn’t changed much since infancy; if I don’t eat every couple of hours, I will wail. Loudly.

But appetizers will hold me over only for so long. I can be momentarily distracted by the reception speeches (again the tears), but then it’s back to what’s on my plate. Most weddings have your standard salad and bread offerings. Usually I’ve inhaled both before the entire room has even been served. That’s when the true test begins… What is the entrée? Is there a choice? Sometimes no. I once attended a reception where everyone – everyone – was served the same chicken and vegetables. When I woefully told my server that I don’t eat chicken, I received very little sympathy in return. His suggestion? “Eat around it.” I compensated by consuming four pieces of wedding cake later that evening.

While seeing a loved one tie the knot always puts me in a good mood, I am outright giddy when told that dinner is buffet style. Hells yeah! So not only do I get to choose what I want to eat, but also I get to take as much of it as I want? I wish you many, many years of wedded bliss.

In any other scenario, I hate buffets. With much respect to my father who loves a deal, I cannot bring myself to eat at Old Country Buffet. Whenever I walk into that place, all I can think about is that granny across the hall who probably coughed her dirty germs onto the pudding cup I’ll be eating in twenty minutes. It’s not conducive to good digestion.

But wedding buffets are awesome. Just recently I attended a reception with endless servings of shrimp, sushi and traditional Indian fare. I was in buffet heaven and quite literally went into pig mode. From what I’ve heard, as long as you keep putting food in front of them, pigs will keep eating. I don’t know if that’s actually true, but I can see how it might be. I couldn’t stop. Well past the point of mild discomfort, I still had three sushi rolls on my plate. How could I let them go to waste? It was only the gentle scolding of a dear friend who convinced me I would live to eat sushi another day – though maybe not as good and definitely not as free – that I finally threw in the napkin.

It pains me to say that I also skipped the cake that night. As previously mentioned, I am a big fan of cake. Any cake. Actually any sweet at all; I don’t discriminate. No cake? Only cookies? Fine by me. No cookies? Only brownies? Bring it. As long as there’s something to cleanse my palate, I’m good. Yet by the time dessert is served, most guests are either dozing into food coma or dancing in a drunken haze and don’t care much about the sweet stuff. However, I did make sure to try the ice cream. Yes, this wedding had cake and ice cream. If the reception was any indication of what’s to come, consider this my official RSVP to the 50th anniversary party. I’m already hungry.

Image: Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Sunday night. Laundry night.

Anyone who has ever lived in a complex with shared washers and dryers knows that it’s all about strategery. Nothing is more frustrating than dragging that basket of dirty clothing to the laundry room only to find that every single machine has been taken… and you have exactly zero pairs of clean underwear left. What’s worse is that I happen to live in a complex with only two washers and one dryer. One working dryer. Hence, I do my laundry super late at night even though the landlord declared no washing after ten o’clock. I have a system, too. Sure, I always make sure to separate my whites from darks, but I also line up my cleaning products on the table in the order in which they’ll be used. I also group my quarters together so that I can grab exactly how many I need each time I make that trip downstairs.

I might have OCD but it works for me.

Anyway. On this particular Sunday night I finished washing my first load but had purposely grouped those items together because they needed to be air-dried. I then removed said items and put in my second load. I then checked the clock to make sure I would be back in twenty-five minutes to throw everything into the dryer.

Twenty-five minutes later… I entered the laundry room only to find that during that short interlude, somebody else had swiped the dryer. What the what? It was almost midnight. Who does that? They must have heard my washer in progress. Plus, who uses the dryer without first using the washer? Plus plus, they definitely knew that they were taking the good dryer.

I was furious.

Stomping back to my apartment, I assumed they would also be leaving their stuff in the dryer all night since it was so late. Jerks. I then jumped in the shower and tried to calm down; maybe their stuff would be gone by the time I was done. Though as I was sudsing my hair, it suddenly occurred to me that I had already loaded that dryer with quarters for my own laundry.

OMG! They had stolen my quarters!

Okay, perhaps it was a bit nearsighted of me to have loaded those quarters before actually needing the dryer, but it was late and I had done it numerous times before with no problem. So now not only was I irate that my neighbors had taken the good dryer, but also I was enraged that they had misappropriated my quarters for their laundry. In fact I was so angry that I was thisclose to jumping out of the shower, shampoo still in hair, just to run downstairs and throw their stuff out of my dryer. Instead I proceeded to rinse while determining a more rational course of action.

Here it was: I would return to the laundry room and one of two things was going to happen. Either their stuff would be gone and I would have to come to terms with the injustice of this situation, or their stuff would still be there and I could attempt to shame them into giving back those quarters. I wrote them a note:

“Hello! Four quarters were on this dryer before you used them for your own load. If you would like to reimburse me those quarters, you can drop them off at Apt. 7. Thanks!”

I didn’t really expect them to pay me back the money, but at the very least I wanted them to think about what they had done and hopefully feel bad about it. Throwing on my pjs, I then made a beeline for the laundry room. The dryer was silent. I opened it to see if their items were still in there. Empty. And that’s when it happened… You know those flashback moments when someone suddenly recalls a traumatic childhood memory or war experience? Now I get it because I had one, too. Nothing traumatic, though, just pathetic. As I stood there, staring into that black hole, it all of a sudden dawned on me… I had started that dryer.

After years of honing my laundry routine into a science, I now go through the motions without even thinking about it. So rarely do I not use the dryer for freshly washed clothing that I automatically loaded it with quarters anyway and pushed the start button; I only had forgotten that I did until that very moment. So basically I wasted a dollar on nothing. And I got angry with some thoughtless neighbor who didn’t exist. And I raised my blood pressure for a good hour. And I felt like a total idiot.

The end.

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Usually when I write it’s about antagonistic parking garage gates or annoying lemonade stand proprietors because that’s my jet-setting kind of life. My goal in relaying these trivial tales is to make you the reader hysterically laugh, or at least begrudgingly smile. (Like you just did, right? Don’t tell me you’re not smiling right now because I know you are!)

However, this is a different kind of blog post.

A woman died in my apartment complex last week. I can’t claim close ties with her just to milk the drama out of the circumstance, but we did exchange hellos whenever I would pass this woman in our courtyard. Her exact age I don’t know, but I would safely bet that she was probably pushing eighty. The two things I can recall about her are 1) a loss of hearing that caused her to talk a few decibels too loudly even when I was standing just inches away and 2) her fondness for baby blue eye shadow. I was fond of it myself. She was one of those ladies who refused to leave the house not looking like a lady. Every time I saw her she had her hair did and makeup on.

Suffice it to say that I was truly upset by the news of her death. She lived by herself, had no next of kin and it wasn’t immediately known that she had passed. I live next door to her church, and it was only her absence from services last Sunday that suggested perhaps something was wrong. It was.

And it got me to thinking…

I’ve had loved ones pass away, but this was very much a different scenario for me; her death while sad wasn’t nearly as distressing as the circumstances of her life. No family? No close friends? How can you be on this earth for so long and seemingly have so little to show for it? Yet I know this can’t be true. I have no details about this woman’s life or who was a part of it, but at the very least she had affected my life because here I was thinking about it. Initially her passing made me pray that I wouldn’t end up like that in another fifty years. Terrible, but true. After some time, it then made me think about how the dead always seem to have such a strong effect on the living. Kind of ironic.

Though in truth, we affect each other all the time while being very much still alive. We just don’t think about it as often. I don’t mean the big moments like a wedding proposal or pregnancy announcement; of course those occasions have a resounding ripple effect on multiple lives. I’m talking about the little things. Those instances that we may never consciously note in our minds. Allow me the following example.

A few weeks ago I was hanging out with a friend in Starbucks. We hadn’t chatted in a while and were getting each other up to date with what had been going on in our lives for the last several months. It was nice. After about a half-hour, I felt a tap on my shoulder.

Barista: “Could you please keep it down?”

Me: “Oh, I’m sorry! Was someone complaining?”

Barista: “No, but you’re getting a little loud.”

He got his wish. I was stunned silent.

Now for the record, I know my voice carries. I call it exuberance; others call it loud. (Especially my laugh.) The topic is already a sensitive one for me, and Barista Bully had just thrown a big ole spotlight on it. I couldn’t believe it; no one had said anything, yet he still felt compelled to publicly scold me? Obviously I haven’t gotten over the incident and have not since returned to that Starbucks. (It’s the closest one to me, too!)

I doubt that Barista Bully knew his remark would cut so deeply, but that’s my point. Day in and day out, we do and say things that mean nothing to us. Yet to the person on the receiving end of that look or remark, it can mean quite a bit.

Rewind to my junior high graduation. I was selected to give a speech that night but was deathly afraid of doing so. This wasn’t just an extreme case of glossophobia, though. A year earlier, I had fainted while attempting to explain my seventh grade science fair project to my teacher and two-dozen classmates… So yeah, I was nervous for good reason. I waited for my cue like a death row inmate waits for the injection needle; it was agony. My sweaty palms had warped my note cards, and I was certain that within moments I would be humiliating myself in front of my entire school.

Next to me sat D. A schoolmate since grade school, she was one of those exuberant types herself, always happy and smiling. Apparently she was also the observant type. Without saying a word, D reached over and grabbed my hand. She squeezed it. Hard. She didn’t let go. Words can’t express the wave of relief and gratitude that washed over me in that moment, and while her gesture didn’t completely erase my anxiety, it was enough. More than enough. I got through the speech without losing consciousness, so that’s at least something. And guess what? Twenty years later I’m still thinking about D and her act of kindness.

So that’s about it. I hope my neighbor is somewhere nice; perhaps heaven has a beauty salon or at least a makeup counter with free samples. I think that would make her happy. And even though you and I are still battling the daily grind we call life, let’s try to make each other happy, too.

Image: Idea go / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


It all went downhill when at age eight I convinced my father that I should have a television in my room. Why he agreed I’ll never know, but it probably had something to do with my insistent nagging. Big mistake, though. I was completely hooked and would watch my TV every chance I got. That meant long past my bedtime. Typically I didn’t find anything worth the depleted REM cycles, but I took satisfaction in the knowledge that somehow I was working the system. Nobody’s gonna tell me I need eight hours of sleep! However, it’s not quite as satisfying anymore to think that I’m duping my poor dad, especially when he’s two thousand miles away. In fact, now I actually want to sleep. Yet there are just those nights when my brain won’t turn off and hence I can’t doze off. When that happens, off to the living room I go to watch whatever mindless crap I can find. It’s painful at times. The commercials, though… The commercials fascinate me. I’ve noticed that the ones I love best show themselves only in the middle of the night, like some rare nocturnal species too timid to come out during the day. I in turn feel like I’m witnessing something rare and wondrous in having caught sight of these spectacular creatures. Seriously, though, they’re awful; I must really be sleep-deprived. Sigh… Here are my favorite five:

5. The Rosetta Stone commercial. I don’t understand what balloons have to do with learning a foreign language, but they’re probably assuming most people watching are too out-of-their-mind tired to care. Also, why do they think people awake in the middle of the night would be their target audience? We have that extra time on our hands, so why not learn Mandarin?


4. The Colonial Penn commercial. Does anyone remember when Ed McMahon was their spokesperson? Now it’s Alex Trebek. Serious downgrade if you ask me.

3. The 1-800-9-INVENT commercial. Yeah, that’s right. I can’t sleep because I have this great idea for… zzzzz… Sorry, what was I saying? Tuned out there for a second. (By the way, couldn’t find the commercial online, which makes me think they must be a scam. Beware, folks! They want to steal your billion-dollar idea!)

2. The Consumer Cellular commercial with the McCann twins. “Hey, ugly!” Wow, it’s amazing how easily I can hate someone in sixty seconds. Consumer Cellular, recast that spot pronto.

1. The Scooter Store commercial. This was the best commercial I could find for them, but my absolute favorite one includes trips to the Statue of Liberty and Grand Canyon, all possible courtesy of the Scooter Store. Old age is gonna rock.

Honorable Mention: World News Now. Technically it’s not a commercial, but I had to give this awesome show a shout-out. Rob Nelson is so dreamy…

Image: tungphoto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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