Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Twenty, Plenty-Nine, One Hundred!

I had such high hopes for October, I really did.  You can probably tell by the number of blog posts this month that I have not been as productive as I would like.  Thankfully, there is still a little bit of time left this month so there is still a (very small) chance that I can meet the goals I set for myself.  

My feelings about all that I have to do are perfectly summed up, as they so often are, by my darling nephew Jack.  To his great delight, he found three pennies one day.  He took great delight in counting them over and over again:  "Twenty, plenty-nine, one hundred!"  (On a side note, he was just being silly.  He can totally count.)  On one hand, I feel like the number of things I have to do are piling up faster than an rational person can count; I might as well skip 1-19 altogether, then make up some numbers, and then skip right to insurmountable.  On the other hand, I'm vaguely and stupidly optimistic that I'll actually be able to accomplish everything in an improbably fast manner.  I mean, sure, I have a lot to do, but in my mind I can get through it all in a hop, skip, and a jump.  This thought process is how I'm able to justify putting off my entire to-do list.  

Sadly, I'm not able to complete my work at the same speed at which a silly four-year-old can count.  But what if I could?  What if "Twenty, plenty-nine, one hundred" was a magic chant like "abracadabra?"  Think of all the ways that could come in handy!  For example:
  -- "Wow, do you see how many people are standing in front of me in line?  There's twenty, plenty-nine, one hundred!"  BOOM!  Front of the line!
  --"I still have so many hours left on my shift!  There are twenty, plenty-nine, one hundred hours left."  BOOM!  Time to clock out!
  --"I wish that creepy guy was twenty, plenty-nine, one hundred miles away!"  BOOM!  Creeper gone!
There are, however, some topics that should be avoided.  One ought never use the magic chant when discussing the number of days left of vacation, the number of tips received, or number of friends.

I'm going to try out this new little trick right now.  Good luck to anyone who wants to try with me!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Full Time, Half Brain

So I'm not really sure where September went.  I remember working a lot thanks to my new full-time status at my Real Job, but everything else is kind of a blur.  My life basically falls into two categories:  work and sleep.  Sure, I do some other things, but I'm pretty sure that my brain power decreases as my workload increases (a negative correlation), and I'm not able to fully process events anymore.  Here is what I can remember from the last month:
     1.  The fall TV season began.  This is one reason that fall is my favorite season.  True, it was pretty complicated getting my TiVo recording schedule set up with so many new shows to try out plus returning favorites, but I love the beginning of a tv season.  There are so many possibilities and nothing has been cancelled yet!  Thus far, I've been relatively satisfied.  Yes, the lack of Joshua Jackson on Fringe has been disappointing, but the campy noir feel of Ringer and the goofy fun of New Girl are helping me cope until Peter Bishop makes his inevitable return.

     2.  Babies.  Nearly all of my friends are pregnant.  Okay, so not really all of them, but, like, four are.  I'm really happy for them and know that they will all be fantastic mothers, but honestly, I have trouble being as sweet as the birth of a baby traditionally requires.  I'm way to self-absorbed and sarcastic fully embrace the pastels-and-baby-talk movement.  Thankfully, my friends accept me as I am.  They've even shown support for my latest idea:  Onsie-liners--onsies with a smack of snark.  My favorites so are, "See, Mommy wasn't just fat!"  and "Proof Daddy's not gay."

     3.  I see the sun rise a lot.  I actually see it rise about 5 times a week because I don't live on the Little Prince's planet where I can just move my chair and watch as many sunrises as I want during the day, and I'm not getting up early enough to see it if I don't have to.  However, 5 days a week I'm at work (which is an hour away) by 6am, and I get to watch the sunrise over the taxiway.  It's quite beautiful and makes my days a little better.

And that's about all.  I'm still trying to put together a JA Greetings website, but it's taking far longer than it should.  My goal is to have it up and running by the end of the month.  Thanks to everyone who was kind enough to miss this blog during my hiatus :)

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Congratulations on Finding a New Way to Fail!

 I have two new things to share today:
     1.  I want to make greeting cards that make it okay to fail, such as "Congratulations on finding a new way to fail!" (it points out that at least you accomplished something) or "At least you tried" (paired with the appropriate picture, it's a snarky take on the inspirational posters that hang in the hallways of middle schools).
     2.  I'm building a website.  That's right!  Soon, you'll be able to visit!

A small fact:  New thing 2 inspired new thing 1.

It turns out that building a website is hard!  I'm using a web host that includes a really nice site building program, but before I use it, I have to make sure that I'm going to be able to accept payment in my fancy new shop.  I have a Google Checkout account since I hate PayPal, but GC is not integrated with any of the eCommerce tools that are integrated with my web host.  Now I'm trying to set up a custom integration, and I have grave doubts about my ability to pull it off.  There are all of these files and programs and databases and html and sql and php4 and I don't know what any of it means.  I think I'm following the instructions perfectly, and then nothing happens.  Or a bunch of error messages start flashing across the screen.  In either case, I'm not able to use Google Checkout with my online shop.  This is the end of day 2 of my efforts and my faith in my ability to figure this out is waning.  There is a reason I majored in psychology instead of computer science.

If I can figure this piece out, I think the new website will be amazing.  It will allow us more freedom creatively and from a business standpoint, so I'm not giving up yet.  But if I do fail, at least I'll have a card to cheer me up! 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Jamie's Hero and Villain of the Week #30

I know it's sad, but two Fridays have gone by without my naming a hero and villain of the week.  I'm sorry about that, but I am bringing it back just in time to read while all of my East Coasters are preparing for Hurricane Irene. 

Hero of the Week:  Parties
Last week I went to my first slumber party in a long time.  It was so much fun!  We ate tacos and chocolate lava cake, and we played Mall Madness.  That's right--Mall Madness, the board game the late 1980s.  We all had a super fabulous time!  Tomorrow I'm going to a tea party, and I have a new hat for the occasion.  I'm having such a good time, I think there should be a party every weekend.  Sure, I might run out of occasions, but I'm pretty creative.  For example, I could throw a party for a full moon.  It would be space themed, obviously, and everyone would dress like they lived on a different planet.  I would want Mars because red it kinda my color.  Anyway, for all of the fun I've had and the vast potential for future good times, parties are my hero of the week.

Villain of the Week:  George
Hurricane Irene has pretty much taken over the news this week (except for Tuesday when the earthquake was a pretty big deal).  I don't blame Irene; she's just following the example of treacherous storms before her.  Hurricane George became the first named storm to hit the US in 1947.  Consequently, I blame George.  Not just the hurricane, mind you, but George in general.  Throughout history, Georges have been disappointing, distracting, or destructive.  Don't believe me?  Take a look these Georges:
     George Lazenby, "the forgotten Bond" starred as James Bond in one movie before Sean Connery reprised the role. (Disappointing)
     George Willig scaled the World Trade Center and was arrested for trespassing.  (Distracting)
     George Armstrong Custer was responsible for the mistreatment and death of many Native Americans during the Indian Wars.  (Destructive)
Curious George get a pass because he's adorable.

That's all for  this week.  I hope everyone has a fun and safe weekend!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

It Only Looks Like I've Given Up on Life

I'm not going to lie--the last couple of months have not been the best.  Various setbacks and business disappointments combined with the pressure of a new job have felt overwhelming at times.  I tried to take some time to rest and regroup last week, and the result was less than pretty.

I spent a large portion of my down time fast asleep, and the rest of the time looking like I just woke up.  One day, I ventured out to CVS frizzy-haired and make-up free.  I was there to buy extra-large bandages for the gaping flesh wound I received from a pair of rather fabulous platform stilettos, but I felt myself drawn to the "as seen on tv" aisle.  There, between the pain-free hair remover and the perfect pasta cooker, was a display of Pajamajeans.  In case you are unfamiliar with the product and/or are terrible at drawing logical conclusions, Pajamajeans are pants that feel like pajamas and are supposed to look like jeans.  I was first introduced to them by my friends merciless mockery of anyone that would deign to wear them.  And yet, a strange longing to wear the oft-maligned garment stirred inside me.  

An internal battle raged:  Am I really the kind of person who thinks that putting on a pair of jeans is too much effort when leaving the house?  Am I going to refuse to try something because my friends laugh at it?  Am I really going to pay $40 for glorified yoga pants?  Well, I have a coupon, so they won't be quite that much.  What should I do?!?  As I searched my soul for the answers to these questions, I surreptitiously circled the aisle.  Apparently, I was not as surreptitious as I would have liked because I started getting some odd looks from my fellow shoppers.

Finally, I made a decision.  To heck with my pride, I was buying the Pajamajeans!  I reached for a box and realized that my size was two boxes back.  As I tried to extract my target, several boxes from above started to tumble.  I tried to reach up to steady them, but my efforts were hampered by a shopping basket.  Then I tried to gently place the basket on the floor to free my hands, but I couldn't reach down without letting what amounted to the entire Pajamajeans display crumble around me.  I had to simply drop the basket, which made a rather dismal thunk! and ensured that everyone in the vicinity turned to watch my struggle.  Hurridly, I tried to wedge the box into my basket, and it nearly didn't fit.

I scurried up the checkout line with my head down, trying to cover my face with my frizzy hair.  Naturally, the line was longer than I'd ever seen it.  When it was finally my turn, the basket handles got stuck on the Pajamajeans box and it took me nearly 30 seconds to wrestle it free.  Then it was time to pay, and I thought my humiliation was nearly over.  Unfortunatley, I was wrong.  I handed the cashier a coupon for 25% off that I had printed from the in-store kiosk.  The cupon didn't have a barcode, so she had to call for a manager over the speaker.  Meanwhile, my Pajamajeans were standing proudly on the checkout counter, inviting all patrons behind me to see that not only was I buying fake jeans, but I was too cheap to pay full price.  When the manager finally arrived at the scene, she was also unable to appropriately apply the coupon.   I continued to stand there, ashamed, as the manager and her underling continued to fuss with the coupon and cash register for the next 10 minutes.  By the time they were done,  I was completely mortified.  At least I ended up with about 75% off my total!

When I finally got my Pajamajeans home, they were so comfy that I almost decided that they looked like regular jeans.  In fact, I went to the grocery store in them!  I'm sure it was probably just a delusion precipitated by extreme comfort.  My darling friend has assured me that, yes, they are ugly, and even tagged my "ugly pajamajeans" in a picture on Facebook.  However, despite all appearances, I have not totally given up on life.  I'm still trying to find a way to make my business work, and I may even wear a dress a put on make-up at some point in the future.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back to the Drawing Board

I am frustrated.  JA Greetings's recent brush with identity theft has rendered our original (albeit fairly unsuccessful) business plan unworkable, which means that we basically have to start from scratch with a plan that doesn't revolve around e-commerce.  Luckily, I have a few days off of work later this week to work on this problem.  It's still disheartening to have to start all over.  To make myself feel better, I'm going to focus on some positive beginnings.

"It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of great fortune must be in want of a wife."  --  Jane Austin, Pride and Prejudice.

"Once upon a time in a faraway land, a young prince lived in a shining castle."  -- Beauty and the Beast

"In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since."  --  F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

"Serene was a word you could put to Brooklyn, New York."  --  Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

"Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much."  --  J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

"Once when I was six I saw a magnificent picture in a book about the jungle, called True Stories.  --  Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

"Except for the Marabar Caves--and they are twenty miles off--the city of Chandrapore presents nothing extraordinary."  --  E.M. Forster, A Passage to India

"Sir Walter Elliot, of Kellynch-hall, in Somersetshire, was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage."  --  Jane Austin, Persuasion 

"When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow."  --  Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

I know that all of these beginnings, unassuming as they may seem, are an essential part to classic stories that have helped to shape my worldview.  So I am going to take encouragement from my favorite authors and assume that this new beginning for JA Greetings is the start of something very very good indeed.

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Conversation with Jamie: One Year Ago

Today is a very important day to me.  It was one year ago today that I said goodbye to my friends and co-workers, left my job, and moved out of Charlottesville.  The point of all the upheaval, of course, was to start JA Greetings with Ashley.  It was a difficult decision to leave, but I also had a lot of expectations about how things would turn out.  I wish I could go back in time and talk to myself about realistic expectations.  Here is how that would go:

J.Now:  So, Jamie.  It's your last day in Charlottesville.  How are you feeling?
J.Then:  I'm feeling okay.  It's sad to be leaving, but I'm really excited to get to work on my business.
J.Now:  Oh, yes.  You're "business."  (snide chuckle)  Can you tell me, on a scale of one to ten, how much paperwork that is going involve?
J.Then:  Ummmmm......some?
J.Now:  Ha!  Try, like, a LOT! 
J.Then:  Well, okay, but I can handle it.
J.Now:  Okay, sweetie.  Sure you can. 
J.Then:  Don't call me "sweetie" in that tone of voice!  It's condescending.
J.Now:  Fine.  Sorry.  I just think you're being a little naive.  I mean, sure you've got pluck or whatever, but do you really have any idea what you're doing?
J.Then:  Dude, for serious, your tone is insulting.  And, I have lots of ideas!  I'm smart and innovative and fairly organized, and I have very supportive family and friends.  I'm going to be fine.
J.Now:  I'm glad you have so much faith.  Tell me, do you have a work schedule figured out?  How are you going to stay on track.
J.Then:  I do have a schedule in mind. I'll spend the morning doing administrative work and writing, then I'll meet with Ashley, and then I'll work on embellishing cards and designing jewelry.
J.Now:  That sounds like a very reasonable and responsible plan.  How long do you think that will last?
J.Then:  I think I'll be able to manage it for a while.  Of course, I'll have to adjust it as business picks up or if I get a part-time job.
J.Now:  I'm glad you mentioned the part-time job.  What would you say if I told you that it would be at least nine months before you found a part-time job you could stand?
J.Then:  I'd say at least I have more time to devote to my growing business!
J.Now:  Yeah, you're also not to see much growth in your business.
J.Then:  What do you mean by "not much?"
J.Now:  I mean only friends and family are buying them. 
J.Then:  Oh.  Why?  Are they bad or something?
J.Now:  Nope, they're pretty awesome.  Check this out! 
J.Then:  That is awesome!  So why aren't people buying them?
J.Now:  Who knows?  Market saturation, lack of advertising, bad taste?  Beats me!
J.Then:  Huh.  So what exactly am I doing to fix that?
J.Now:  That is an excellent question!  But rather than answering it, I'm going to ask you this question:  How do you feel about airplanes?
J.Then:  Well, I like to travel, so I guess I'm a fan.
J.Now:  That's good.  Hold onto that feeling.  Just don't focus so much on the actual travel aspect.  That takes money, yo.

Yeah, that's probably how it would go.  Despite J.Now's tone, it really has been a great year.  Thank you so much to everyone who sheltered, clothed, fed, or otherwise supported me and JA Greetings.  I don't know what I would do without you're purchases, tax advise, great ideas, and unending patience.  I love you all!

Jamie's Hero and Villain of the Week #29

It's Friday again if you can believe it (and even if you can't).  For those of you who don't work in aviation and/or own your own business, this is the start of the weekend.  I don't actually get weekends, per say, but I still acknowledge Fridays by naming a hero and villain of the week.  This weeks picks feature melodrama and things you have to sign for.

Hero of the Week:  Taylor Swift
I know that Taylor is my no means universally liked or respected, but her popularity is undeniable.  I myself was not a fan when I first heard the song "Love Story" and became convinced that she had never read either Romeo and Juliet or The Scarlet Letter (Seriously, does anyone in the music/entertainment industry realize that Romeo and Juliet die at the end of the play?  It's kind of a tragedy, y'all.).  And yet, I can't help but love the catchy melodies, the Everygirl quality of the lyrics, and unapologetic wallowing in every single exaggerated emotion that her music encompasses.  There are few things that can cheer me up like bellowing a Taylor Swift song at the top of my lungs.  It's pure girly catharsis, and I've needed it this week.

Villain of the Week:  "Non-drowsy" cold medicine
I've had a little touch of late-summer cold this week, and it's made me a bit foggy headed.  Of course, I want to be at my best when I go into work.  I took some cold medicine that was supposed to be non-drowsy, but I think it just made me more out-of-it.  I barely made it through my shift at work drinking tons of coffee, but I was still drowsy when it came time to drive home.  A sense of self-preservation led me to stop at Sheetz for a cappocino and a bag of Sour Patch Kids, and the combination of sugar, caffeine and chewyness did keep me awake.  However, I am offended by the false advertising.  And how did the cold medicine people know that I worked near a Sheetz where I could stock up on supplies?  It's almost like they don't care!

Thus concludes the recitation of the zenith and nadir of my week.  I wish you all a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Online Shopping Security: Opinions of an Amateur Psychologist

As I mentioned in last week's Heroes and Villains post, my PayPal account has been hacked twice.  The whole experience has caused me to think a lot about identity theft, and it turns out I'm not a fan.  It's not like I ever thought it was a good thing, but it's existence was largely irrelevant to me except for my Dad's job (he works for a company that tries to prevent it) and the funny commercials that used to be on showing the body builder talking about the cute clothes he bought online in the voice of a high school girl.  Now, however, it's not so funny.

As incredibly annoying as it is to have someone pretend to be me and spend well over a thousand dollars that I don't have, it is even more annoying to have to show photo ID, utility bills, and a contract signing over my first-born child to get my money back.  It's apparently way easier to steal an identity than actually use the one you were born with. Yet even after I jumped through all of the hoops to get the first identity theft issue resolved, it happened again.  As you can imagine, I was outraged!  I'm sure the technologically-minded among us would offer an explanation about malicious hacking software of something, but I don't really care about that.  I'm interested in stopping it. 

I think there should be a system in place that acknowledges identity is more than a password and a handful of meaningless security questions.  I propose this:  that anytime someone makes a purchase online, he or she must take a personality test.  It doesn't have to be a full Myers-Briggs Type Indicator every time, but at least 7 questions which change with every transaction.  As long as the personality type matches the main profile with at least 98% accuracy and a correct password is entered, then the transaction will be approved.  I think this would drastically cut down on the number of fraudulent charges.  And even if someone did manage to hack into my account, at least I could feel like he understands me.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Nerd Bucket List

Geeks and nerds everywhere rejoiced this week because of a single amazing event.  I am, of course, referring to Comic-Con.  I can't tell you how much I wanted to be in San Diego to join in all of the crazy dorky fun.  It made me realize that there are a lot of geeky things I really want to do before I die or start caring what people think of me.  My Nerd Bucket List is a work in progress, but here is what I have so far:

1.  Attend Comic-Con San Diego
2.  Eat pad thai with Joss Whedon (I know it's weird, but I can just picture myself talking to him while eating noodles with chopsticks)
3.  Star in (or at least be an extra in) a Dr. Horrible sequel
4.  Befriend a supernatural creature with a secret identity. Specifically, I want to help keep the secret identity secret while making snarky comments laden with dramatic irony
5.  Hunt vampires or werewolves.  I don't really care which one--it kind of depends on which one would be nicer to me.

That's all I have for now.  I'm sure it will grow as I get nerdier.  What's on your bucket list?

Jamie's Hero and Villain of the Week #28

It is finnnnallllly Friday, and I have a Saturday off for the first time in a while.  I'm super excited!  This has been the kind of week when everything that can go wrong will, but I've nevertheless managed to identify a hero and narrow down the field to a single villain.

Hero of the Week:  Movie Theater
It's still ridiculously hot outside, which makes summer picnics and other outdoor activities very unappealing.  Thankfully, there is a magical place where I can go where it's dark, cool, entertaining, and full of delicious snacks.  My favorite theater is the Alamo Drafthouse because it has stadium seating, shows interesting (and sometimes bizarre) videos before the movie begins, and I can have fantastic (and very overpriced) food and beverages brought to me while I enjoy my film.  I went there this week to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II this week, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable.  I cried of course, but in a good way.  My second favorite theater is the Delco Cinema.  It's actually a pretty run-down tiny place, but it's only $3.00 to get in.  Plus, it's always playing movies that have already left other theaters, so I get a second chance to see X-Men: First Class.  Anyplace that gives me another chance to see James McAvoy is definitely a hero!

Villain of the Week:  Technology
As I mentioned, everything has gone wrong this week.  The washing machine broke, the TV died, my car guzzled even more gas than normal, and someone hacked into my PayPal account for the second time in a month.  I'm starting to think the Terminator and/or Transformer movies are starting to come true.  I realize that some unsympathetic smart alack might want to point out that if technology is a villain I shouldn't choose movie theaters as a hero.  To that person I just want to say, watch yourself, or you'll be my villain next week!

I hope you all have a wonderful and technology-mishap-free weekend!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Jamie's Hero and Villain of the Week #27

It's hot and steamy here in norther Virginia; the heat index was 126 degrees at one point yesterday!  It's the perfect kind of day to stay inside with the shades drawn and read a good blog.  And as luck would have it, it's Friday, which means that I am here to entertain you with new hero and villain picks.

Hero of the Week:
I've spent a lot of time in the car recently.  Between the road trip to Florida and back and my hour-long commute to work, I put in some serious time behind the wheel.  As I've mentioned on this blog before, I absolutely love singing in the car and have very little shame about my tone-deafness.  However, a terrible thing has started happening recently: I've gotten sick of all of the music on the radio!  I tried to mix things up with play lists from my iPhone, and then even hearkening back to the days of CDs, but nothing has been entertaining me as much as I'd like.  Enter  Audible is an Amazon company that specializes in audiobooks.  I am a huge fan of (well-performed) audiobooks.  An interesting story and lively narration makes the time go ever so much faster.  Plus, you get two free books when you sign up for a trial, and they have several that are $5 and under.  I got Water for Elephants and The Book Thief for free, and picked up a "summer book" on sale for my work commute.  For adding hours of enjoyment to an otherwise dreary stretch of time, is my hero of the week. 

Villain of the Week:  Distance 
As much as I love audiobooks, I love even more not to have to drive an hour to get to work.  I would absolutely adore not having to drive 15 hours to see my family in Florida.  All of the pesky miles in between me and where I want to go desperately annoy me.  I want to be able to blink my eyes, wiggle my nose, snap my fingers, or click my heels and be somewhere else.  If I could do that, not only would I get to see my family more often and significantly reduce my commute, but I'd be able to travel more.  There are some pretty great vacation deals out there in my price range, but the airfare is the killer.  So for standing relentlessly in my way, Distance is my villain of the week.

Come back next Friday to find out what makes my day and what makes me mad.  Until then, have a nice cool weekend!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Like Cinderella Before the Whole Shoe Thing

Once upon a time, there lived a little girl who loved fairy tales.  She loved the beautiful princesses, the handsome princes, the fancy weddings, and the fact that everyone always lived happily ever after.  That little girl grew up to be perpetually single and design snarky greeting cards.

While in Florida visiting our grandparents, Kristen and I spent a lot of time washing dishes.  She would wash and I would dry, and we both sang Disney songs as we worked.  During one such dish-washing extravaganza, Kristen said, "I love watching the soap bubbles.  It reminds me of the scene in Cinderella when she's washing the floor and singing.  The iridescent bubbles were so pretty!"  I replied, "You're the only person I know who wants to be Cinderella before the whole shoe thing."

Then it hit me:  Would it really be so bad to be the fairy tale princess before the deus ex machina du jour arrives to whisk her into the lap of trophy-wifedom?  I'm not so sure.  Let's break it down.  Our heroines usually come from loving families, although sometimes said family is no longer in the picture.  They typically have some sort of occupation, usually cooking, cleaning, or weaving.  They have dreams and ambitions, and they find joy through the arts.  They are actually pretty normal.  Really, they aren't so different from me  or the women I know.

I think there is an important lesson to be learned in all of this.  I am a fairy tale character, just one mythical creature away from my happy ending.  And so, dear reader, are you.  If you ever forget that or get tired of waiting, please stay away from spinning wheel needles and apples from strangers.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Jamie's Hero and Villain of the Week #26

As you might have noticed, today is not Friday.  It is, in fact, Tuesday, and last week passed without an issue of Hero and Villain of the Week.  I got up at 4 am on Friday morning, went to work, came home, then got in the minivan and drove through the night to Florida with the family to see my grandparents.  So I've been a little bit busy.  Thankfully, my grandparents had wi-fi installed since my last visit, so I have time to catch up on my blog now.

Hero of (Last) Week:  Firework Spectaculars 
Although my dog despises them, I adore fireworks.  I love the colors and the sparkle and loud bangs and the oohing and aahhing of the crowd.  In general, I much prefer watching local fireworks displays to televised broadcasts.  The lights are brighter, the boom is louder, and there is a delightful smell of sulfur in the air.  Of course, there is the occasional unfortunate mishap when the fireworks are shot into the crowd instead of the air (I'm talking about you, Apple Blossom Festival), but it's a delightful experience in general.  However, this year the threat of thunderstorms and severe allergies kept me inside during the festivities. I had to console myself with the Firework Spectacular specials on TV, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed them.  First of all, the silly/drunk people in the crowd are highly entertaining while making me glad that I don't have to be near them.  Plus there is a fantastic mix of pop music and patriotic standards which cause me to ask all kinds of soul-searching questions.  Why do all major networks feel the need to play Katy Perry's "Firework" even though it has nothing to do with America?  Why do all Katy Perry Songs get stuck in my head for weeks?  How did Katy Perry go from a contemporary Christian artist to someone who has been described as having "the desperation of a much older burlesque singer?"  Why do we celebrate our country by singing a song about a man with a silly name (Yankee Doodle Dandy?  For serious?  What was his mother thinking?) who is "handy" with all the girls?  All in all, a very thought-provoking and enjoyable holiday thanks to these flashy network specials.

Villain of (Last) Week: Somnoliving 
Yes, somnoliving is a word that I made up.  Got an issue with that?  Take it up with William Shakespeare!  Anyway, "somnolive" means to drive while incredibly drowsy or asleep.  As you can see, somnoliving can be very hazardous to one's health!  Unfortunately, I sometimes find myself participating in this rather unpleasant pastime.  On my nice long drive between Stephens City and Leesburg, there are ample opportunities to drift off to sleep and consequently off the road.  I'm not opposed to sleeping or driving on principle, but the combination can result in damage person and/or property.  Since I feel guilty for ages if I hit a squirrel with my car, you can imagine how bad I would feel if I hurt something bigger!  Plus, I can't really afford to fix my car if something were to happen to it.  Therefore, I stand firmly, and somewhat hypocritically, against somnoliving.

That's all for this edition.  Better late than never, I suppose.  I'll be back before you know it with another round of heros and villains, and hopefully some zany Florida antics too!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Is My Face Red?

I pride myself on being pretty shameless when it comes to my love of all things cheesy.  However, I recently found myself inexplicably embarrassed to admit to my mother and sister that I had TiVod a certain teen drama. (I will not reveal the show here, but I will write a poem about anyone who can guess it's title.)  I've been asking myself why I am only now developing some sense of shame about this kind of thing, and I just don't know.  Naturally, this has led me to study the nature of embarrassment.  Below are my preliminary findings:

When an acquaintance goes by I often step back from my window, not so much to spare him the effort of acknowledging me as to spare myself the embarrassment of seeing that he has not done so.
Georg C. Lichtenberg
 The rate at which a person can mature is directly proportional to the embarrassment he can tolerate.
Douglas Engelbart

But I learned that there's a certain character that can be built from embarrassing yourself endlessly. If you can sit happy with embarrassment, there's not much else that can really get to ya.
Christian Bale

I mean, I haven't been around very long. I can't expect everyone to have seen 'The House Bunny'. Oh God. I am having such waves of internal embarrassment, which now I'm admitting on a tape recorder. This is so one of the things I should keep in my head.
Emma Stone

I won't say there aren't any Harvard graduates who have never asserted a superior attitude. But they have done so to our great embarrassment and in no way represent the Harvard I know.
Derek Bok
One of the most frightening things about your true nerd, for may people, is not that he's socially inept - because everybody's been there - but rather his complete lack of embarrassment about it.
Neal Stephenson
I must say, so far I haven't really learned much, except perhaps that I spend too much time watching cheesy teen dramas.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Occasional Glutton

I love food.  I also really love my family which happens to be full of food lovers.  We have a tradition, which has become somewhat of a joke, that anytime one of us goes out for a meal, one of the first questions asked upon arrival home is "What did you eat?"  Some of my favorite memories come from family dinners together and "helping" my mom in the kitchen.  I am not a fan of cooking, but I love standing in the kitchen and talking to my mom while she cooks.  

As a big fan of food and family, I totally love holiday weekends.  I have my whole family together and tons of delicious food!  So naturally, while celebrating Independence Day, the subject of gluttony came up.  Kristen contends that a sign of gluttony is eating so much that one becomes physically ill.  I, however, believe that gluttony is eating so much that one becomes physically ill on a regular basis.  You're not a full-fledged glutton because you overeat on a holiday; you're just an occasional glutton.  Personally, I think The Occasional Glutton would be an excellent show for the Food Network.  It would be perfect for people like me who love to eat but hate to cook.  

Come to think of it, the show wouldn't have to be on the Food Network.  It could be more Intervention-style with each week devoted to someone who over-indulges in a particular vice.  Of course there would be episodes dedicated to food, but I can also see episodes revolving around Lifetime movie marathons, ABC Family teen dramas, chick lit, vampires, and whining.  If the show is a big enough success, there could even be an episode about someone who watches The Occasional Glutton for hours at a time!

Then again, I may just keep the title for my memoirs.  I think it's sadly fitting.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Jamie's Hero and Villain of the Week # 25

It is finally Friday of the longest week ever!  It hasn't been a particularly bad week for me (and I hope not you either), but the beginning of the week seems like 100 years ago.  I'm looking forward to moving forward in time, but first, as always, I must recap this interminable week by revealing the top hero and villain.

Hero of the Week:  Independence Day
Monday, of course, is the 4th of July.  Erma Bombeck said, "You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and flies die from happiness.  You may think you have overeaten, but it's patriotism."  This statement perfectly sums up what I love about the holiday.  It's a day when we participate in activities that we could be done any weekend, but there is so much more joy because we remember that we have the freedom to do them.  I'm all for a holiday that helps me remember to be appreciative.  Plus, I love fireworks.  They are so pretty!

Villain of the Week:  Past Me
If you read my blog yesterday, you know that I fell short of my blogging goal for the month.  Now that's it's July, I'm obviously much wiser than I was in June.  For serious, I was only 25 for most of June and now I'm 26!  It seems unfair to me that now I'm starting off a new month playing catch-up because that idiot that I used to be made excuses instead of working.  What's that, Past Me?  You didn't get all of the writing done because you were busy at the job where they actually pay you?  Boo hoo!  Tell it to someone who cares!

That's all for now.  I hope everyone has a happy and safe holiday weekend!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

I'll Think About That Tomorrow

I have a habit of setting perfectly reasonable goals for myself and then promptly putting it off.  For example, I wanted to have at least 90 blog posts by the end of June.  Here we are on the last day of June and I only have 87!  On days like today, I have to ask myself what happened to all my good intentions?  

The answer, I think, is simple: I'll do better work tomorrow.  You see, tomorrow I shall be great.  I will be brilliant and witty and successful.  How can I possibly accomplish today everything of which I will be capable tomorrow?  If I can't do a super-fantastic job today, why even think about it?  Sadly, I'm rarely any more brilliant when the new day dawns and I just have a longer to-do list.  I'm then more intimidated by everything I want to accomplish and realize that I need more awesomeness than I currently have to be successful.  So, naturally I comfort myself with the belief that I'll be able to tackle it all later.  Besides, there is something fun I could be doing now which will inspire me to be better!

Why do I continually get myself caught in this vicious cycle?  It's the same reason I continue to wear shoes that blister my feet.  Okay, I continue to wear the shoes because they're pretty, but that's not the only reason.  I'm not so entirely vain that I'd choose limping for days over a pair of slightly less attractive shoes.  I don't choose beauty over comfort.  When I wear a particularly impractical pair of shoes and end up blisters that make it difficult to walk, I vow that I will never wear the shoes again.  But when the blisters heal, I find myself wearing the shoes all over again.  I choose beauty over the memory of pain.  It's easy to look back and think that it wasn't that bad.  The shoes are soo pretty, of course it's worth it!  It's the same thing with procrastination.  No matter how much trouble I get myself into by waiting until the last minute, it doesn't seem that bad looking back.  What's a little stress in the future when I could be having fun now?  Sure, it was a mistake last time, but past me was an idiot!  Future me will be able to handle it.  

Future me will have to read this tomorrow.  Hopefully she'll approve; but if not, that's her problem!   

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I Love to Shoot the Blue Ones, but They Gave Me the Stupid Yellow Ones

Sometimes in life, you just have to make do.  Jack just reminded me of this fact while he was playing Angry Birds Rio on my iPhone.  He plays fairly often and isn't too bad, but he tends to get distracted by the music (he likes to bust a move).  And though he takes my phone so often, I had no idea that he had a favorite bird.  Apparently, he does.  He told me today, "I love to shoot the blue ones, but they gave me the stupid yellow ones!"  He was quite disappointed in me that I was not able set up a game in which he could shoot only the blue ones.  

I suppose it's a good thing that he's learning now that things in life that aren't ideal.  For serious, sometimes the shoes you want aren't available in your size, Sephora is just too expensive, and the chocolate cake has too many calories.  Work isn't always fun.  Dreams don't always come true.  Not everyone is cut out to be a trophy wife.  I'm just saying, it's good to be realistic about these things.  Still, it's sad that a four-year-old should have to face this harsh reality.

Luckily, he's also learned that life is easier for the charming.  When I start to get upset with him for doing something untoward, he reaches out, takes my hand and smiles with all of his might.  When he was frustrated with the Angry Birds today, he said, "Aunt Jamie, could you please shoot the birds at the monkey because you're sooo smart?"  Yes, Jack, flattery will get you everywhere!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Jamie's Hero and Villain of the Week #24

It's finally Friday, which means that this super crazy week is almost OVER!  And that, of course, means it's time to announce the hero and villain of the last seven days.

Hero of the Week:  Ginger Citrus Sugar Scrub
As I mentioned in my last post, I've spent a good deal of time this week painting.  Since I'm super klutzy, I end up covered in paint; for serious, it's all over my clothes, my arms, my feet, my hair, and even my eyelashes!  When I get home, it takes forever to wash it all off.  Luckily, my good friend Jessica is an Arbonne Consultant, and she gave me some Arbonne Ginger Citrus Sugar Scrub for Christmas.  It is truly amazing--in one deliciously decadent step, my skin is not only paint-fee but exfoliated, moisturized, and lightly scented.  I feel completely renewed after using it!

Villain of the Week:  Fiscal Responsibility
This weekend is my 26th birthday.  I remember when I didn't think about money; my biggest worry was getting a part in the school play.  My parents were very supportive of my school work and extra-curricular activities (they never missed a performance or an awards dinner).  They never encouraged me to have a job during the school year because school was my job.  Even in college, my only jobs were internships for academic credit.  Because of my parents' support, I was able to focus on my academics, acting, debating, etc. and was pretty successful.  Now that I am an "adult," it's not nearly fun.  Instead of being able to focus solely on creating cards, I have to ask myself questions like, "Does the increased traffic on this website make up for its higher listing fees?" "When factoring in the cost of gas and an hour-long commute, how much does my part-time job actually pay?" "Should I pay for my car insurance in installments or pay the lower lump sum using my credit card even though I may end up paying interest on it?" and so forth.  These are not fun questions, especially on my birthday, so I'm labeling the whole being-responsible-with-money thing a villain for the week.

That's all for now.  I hope everyone has a wonderful and relaxing weekend!

A Fresh Coat of Paint

I've been doing a lot of painting recently.  I am certainly not an expert house painter  or even very domestically-inclined, but apparently my experience (I painted my room in college and my room when I moved back to Stephens City) make me a valuable commodity to someone who has never painted before.  I have such a friend, and she suggested that I post a how-to article to help others who find themselves unprepared for the treacherous journey that is home beautification.  So here it is:

Jamie's Foolish-Proof Guide to Painting Your Room
The other three walls were Spring Green
Step 1.  Pick out a super-pretty color!  My personal favorite is Key Lime Pie Green, but I realize people have different tastes.  You can, however, choose multiple colors.  I have painted a single room with as many as five different colors.  It was awesome!  

Step 2.  Get supplies.  You need paint (of course), drop cloths, rollers, brushes, paint trays, tape, a paint edger (recommended), and a step-stool or ladder unless your a million feet tall.  Oh, and those wooden sticks they give you when you buy your paint are used to stir the paint. 

Step 3.  Move all the furniture either out of the room or well away from the walls.  This isn't like when you're dusting and you just kinda swish the duster around all the little knick-knacks on your dresser without moving them.  It's way more obvious and you'll probably get paint on your furniture.

Step 4.  Take the pretty blue painter's tape and tape the edges of all baseboards, doors, windows, and ceilings.  I know not everyone tapes the ceiling, but if you have the klutzy factor (like me) it's super helpful.

Step 5.  Lay down the drop cloths to cover every single inch of the floor.  For serious, if you leave a tiny little space exposed, it will get paint on it.  I think it's a law of physics or something.

Step 6.  Find some awesome tunes and rock out!  This is a really important step, so don't skip it.  It's way more fun to paint when you're dancing around and singing into a paint brush.  

Step 7.  Open the paint, stir it with those fancy wooden sticks, and pour it into the paint tray.  Really complicated, right?

Step 8.  Get a nice coat of paint on your roller and start throwin' that stuff up on the wall!!!

Step 9.  Keep singing and dancing.  I told you it was important!

Step 10.  Use smaller paint brushes to get the hard-to-reach areas like corners and around doors and windows.

Step 11.  Use the paint edger to get the top of the wall by the ceiling and the bottom by the baseboards.

Step 12.  Add a second coat if necessary.

Step 13.  Remove the painters tape.  Hopefully, you'll see nice crisp lines!  If not, proceed to step 14.

Step 14.  Touch-ups.  If the paint bled through the painter's tape or peeled off with tape removal, use a small brush to touch up these problem areas.  Of course, the amount of touching up you do depends on what you can live with.  Personally, I see the imperfections as proof that I didn't hire someone, and I can live with a LOT of imperfections.

Step 15.  Finish up.  Clean your equipments, remove the drop cloths, and move the furniture back.

That's it!  All that's left now is to completely pamper yourself as a reward for a job well done.

This may not be the most helpful or accurate guide to painting, but it works(ish) for me.  If you actually are good at painting and think I'm an idiot, please keep it to yourself.  I prefer people to blindly agree with me. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Child's Tale

I spent some time earlier this week helping to babysit a group of kids earlier this week, and they taught me some things about storytelling.  Many of the children, mostly the little boys, were so excited to tell all of their friends stories during snack time.  Their tales were so insightful that I felt I must share their storytelling genius with you, dear readers.

Tip 1:  Good stories are rooted in truth.
    Example:  One night, my dog was barking really loud.  And do you know what he was barking at?  It was a possum!!!

Tip 2:  If you frame your story well, nothing really has to happen.
    Example:  Once upon a time, my dog barked at 6:42. 

Tip 3:  If you're being upstaged, the truth is less important.
    Example:  One night, my dog was barking really loud.  And do you know what he was barking at?  It was a bear!!!!  And when I went outside, he had eaten the bear's head!  And arms!  And body!

Tip 4:  When in doubt, just make something up.
    Example:  This one time, I saw a crocodile and I killed it with a sword.

In honor of these children, I'd like to share a story about my week thus far:
    Once upon a time, at 8:30 am June 20th, 2011, my alarm clock went off.  I hit the snooze button lots of times!  When I got out of bed, I found out that a spell had been put on my kitchen that made everyone in it speak French, even if though there was no French toast.  It turns out that an evil dragon had cast the spell because it hates America, so I killed it with throwing stars.  The End.

I hope you enjoyed my story!  As you can see, I learned a lot from these kids.  I hope you find their lessons as helpful as I did!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Jamie's Hero and Villain of the Week #23

June is already half way over, and this week is OVER!  As we do every week, let's celebrate the close of this Friday by looking back at the hero and the villain that made this stretch of time so memorable (?).

Hero of the Week:  Dunkin Donuts  
No, I didn't go on a donut binge this week, although that would have been yummy.  Instead, I ordered an iced coffee since America supposedly runs on Dunkin.  The coffee was decent, but what makes it amazing is that I got a free travel cup.  True, I didn't need another travel cup, but this cup has magic powers that enable me to get a $.99 refill for the rest of the year!  I do realize that it's a little bit ridiculous that I'm this excited to be paying a dollar for a cup of coffee that's mainly ice, but with the price of my beloved coffee skyrocketing, I'll take what I can get.  And if it comes in a cute reusable cup, so much the better!

Villain of the Week:  Insomnia
Ohmigoodness, I'm so tired!  I have not slept well this week, mostly I think because I'm bad at timing the taking of my allergy medication.  Whatever the reason, I'm tired and grumpy and unproductive.  I'm so groggy during the day that I can't focus on my work; then at night, I can't sleep more than a few hours.  One might think that I could get work done during the wee small hours , but no, my thoughts are not nearly coherent enough to accomplish anything.  I feel like Insomnia is a person who sits in the corner mocking me, all like, "Oh, you think you need to sleep every night?  What's that aboot?"  Insomnia happens to be fuzzy, blue, and Canadian.  It's also most definitely a villain.

I'm going to try to sleep before too long, so that's all from me for now.  I hope you all have a lovely and restful weekend!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Summer Fever

I am so proud of Kristen for finishing her first year as a third-grade teacher.  She worked so and had to put up with truly atrocious little children who whined and yelled and couldn't sit still.  I am so glad that she finally has a chance to rest and take some time for herself.  

Unfortunately, I don't have the summer off and all I want to do is hang out with her. Although I haven't worked nearly as hard as her all year, I still feel like it's time for me to have a break.  I think that I have a case of severe summer fever.  Summer fever is a very serious condition characterized by restlessness, increased daydreaming, lowered productivity, and intense craving for iced coffee.  Spring fever gets all the press, but I assure you that summer fever is just as real and very dangerous.  There should be a celebrity telethon to raise money for those suffering from this condition.  I'd plan it myself, but it sounds like a lot of work.

Monday, June 13, 2011


I really hate those little plastic bead containers.  Every time I try to open it, the tiny glass beads go shooting everywhere.  They get all mixed together and discombobulated which makes it much more difficult to find what I'm looking for when embellishing cards.  Consequently, I spent over an hour today sorting teeny tiny little beads into their individual compartments.

This experience brought to mind the Harry Potter books, because I wish I had a singing hat to do all of my sorting for me.  I could just set it on the desk, and it would sing a fantastic little song, then all of the beads would be back in the appropriate place.  Instead, I just have a pair of long skinny tweezers.  It doesn't even have a British accent!  Just a lame Canadian accent which does nothing to help my mood.

I hope you all have had a less frustrating and more productive Monday than I have!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Jamie's Hero and Villain of the Week #22

Happy Friday everyone! Today's blog is a bit of an experiment since I'm trying to post it via email through my iPhone. We'll see how it goes, but please forgive any formatting and/or auto-correct issues until I can get to an actual computer.

Hero of the Week: Kittens
I mentioned last week that we have feral cats living under our front porch. While this is a source of endless frustration for my father, I'm delighted. Yes, Mamma Cat has the crazy eyes and is a little bit creepy. But the four little kittens are the cutest things ever! I go outside three or four times a day to look for them. I don't try to feed them or anything (I promise, Daddy); I just watch them run around and play. There are two black kittens with bright blue eyes that always play together; I call them Thing 1 and Thing 2. The little gray kitten stays very close to Mamma Cat, so I call it Rory. The forth kitten, which is gray with black stripes, is the bravest. He is most likely to wander into the open on his own. I feel like I might actually have a shot at getting to know this one, so I call him Fox (for serious, you need to read The Little Prince). It's my plan to spend more and more time outside every day so that they will get used to me and not spaz out and hiss like crazy Mamma Cat. Sure, it's highly possible that they'll remain afraid of me and either and leave for good or gang up on me like the hyenas in The Lion King. But for now there is hope, and while there is hope they will remain my fuzzy little heroes.

Villain of the Week: Writer's Block 
As you can tell, I haven't written much this week. And by much, I mean anything. I have, however, spent many hours staring at a blank computer screen. I wrote and erased many opening sentences and even stories, but for some reason, my thoughts would not gel. Then I couldn't even come up with a topic. My brain turned into a mushy boring pile of goo. Since I'm trying to make a living as a creative type, writer's block is one of the scariest villains I've faced in a while. Here's hoping that my brain comes back to life over the weekend!

That's all for now. I hope you all have a weekend that feels like school just got out for the summer!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Jamie's Hero and Villain of the Week #21

Happy Friday!  It's the first Friday of the unofficial summer, and it's beautiful outside!  This week's picks feature heaping helping of whimsicality and an oppressive weather pattern.

Hero of the Week:  The Little Prince
The Little Prince has been one of my favorite books since I first read it in high school French class.  I've read it in both French and English multiple times, and it always makes me feel better when I'm sad.  I was thrilled to find a gorgeous deluxe pop-up edition of this classic in Anthropology.  I love Anthropology anyway, but now I adore it.  I had the best time rediscovering my favorite story with the characters literally jumping off the page.  So this week, the Little Prince is my hero for his musical laugh, hair the color of wheat, and ability to love a selfish flower.  

Villain of the Week:  Heat 
The weather may be nice now, but the week started off ridiculously hot!  I'm not opposed to heat altogether, but it was simply way too hot for the last days of May.  When I was out on the ramp at the airport waiting for a plane to arrive, I thought I was going to melt.  Really, the weather should have the decency to wait until late July or August to that abominably hot so I have a chance to mentally prepare myself.

That is all for this week.  However, please check out my updated version of Asia in the City.  It has been updated per Audra's request and I added some photos!  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Asia in the City

June is my birthday month.  As such, it is awesome.  In order to celebrate the beginning of this spectacular month, my friend Audra (also born in June!) and I took a mini road-trip today.  Our aim was to eat delicious food and celebrate all things Asian.

First, we went to the Peking Gourmet Inn where we ate the most delicious Peking Duck!  It was a really fun restaurant with gorgeous painted lanterns hanging from the ceiling and pictures of famous people posing with the chef covering virtually every inch of wall space.

Then we went next door to the super-classy 88 Oriental Market where we purchased such delicacies as Hello Panda cookies, aloe juice drinks, and jasmine tea.  The aloe juice looks pretty disgusting because it has chunks of aloe pulp floating in it, but it tastes really good and is incredibly refreshing.  I discovered it while in Singapore last year and was super psyched to find it today!  Audra also got some tamarind candy, which is pretty weird.  Tamarind is a really sour fruit, and the candy is chewy pieces of fruit coated in sugar, salt, and chili powder.  It wasn't bad, but I've never tasted anything like it before.

The last stop for our "Asia in the City" day was the Super H Mart, which is a truly magical place.  There are tons of fruits I've never heard of and an entire aisle of nothing but noodles!  Audra was horrified that I'd never tasted lychee (aside from an icky lychee soda at the Coke Museum in Atlanta, so she bought a bag.  We went out to the parking lot to enjoy the sunshine and the fruit.  I was surprised both at how crazy good it was and at the vast amounts of juice that baptized me once I tore the skin.  I was ridiculously sticky for the rest of the day!

We finished off the day at Reston Town Center with a visit to Sephora and Anthropology.  They might not be Asian stores, but they are awesome and not located in Winchester.  All in all, it was a lovely beginning to my birthday month.  

My next outing will be "Greece in the City."  Any suggestions for awesome Greek restaurants and Greek-themed activities in the NoVa area would be greatly appreciated.