Press 3 to Go Straight to Hell

Yesterday while I was driving home, I got a call from a phone number I didn’t recognize. Caller ID told me that the number, 425-448-5215, was from Kirkland WA, so there was a chance it was a call I wanted and I answered. I was greeted by this recording:

Hello, this is the Hope and Prayer Center Ministry, calling today to see if you need urgent prayer. If you would like to have someone from our center pray for you please press one. If you would like to no longer hear from this place, press 3. 

Hmmm, I thought to myself. Do I need urgent prayer? A quick glance around the car made me doubt that I did. I had apple slices and a half-full venti iced tea from Starbucks, so my nutritional needs were met. It was a sunny beautiful evening so I was able to have the window down as I poked along in traffic, and my car has heated seats so my back felt nice. I mean, I certainly wouldn’t have minded being able to part the traffic the way Moses parted the Red Sea (totally had to check Google to make sure I was right about it being Moses who did that) so that I could drive straight home instead of being tailgated by some angry soccer mom in a Toyota Sienna. That would’ve been cool. But, is that a misuse of an offer of urgent prayers? I suspected that indeed it was.

I am far from a religious person. I don’t care if other people want to pray or believe in that kind of stuff, but it’s just not for me. Over the years,expressing this view has led to people I don’t particularly like anyway informing me that they will pray for me to have a change of heart so that I will think like them, even though I’m perfectly fine with thinking the way I already do. I supposed that maybe the Hope and Prayer Center Ministry would think I need urgent prayers to soften my cold godless heart so that I can accept their lord and savior before I meet an untimely death, especially since there was every possibility that the car in front of me could check up and I could then be run over by the soccer mom in the Sienna when she didn’t have time to stop due to being about six millimeters from my rear bumper. But, because it was an automated call instead of a live person, I could not ask them if they sensed that I was both a heathen and in mortal danger and if that was what prompted them to call me for a last-ditch effort to save my soul.

Then I began to wonder if the call was even really from the Hope and Prayer Center Ministry, because if it truly was, why would their opt-out message say “If you no longer want to hear from this place, press 3” instead of something like “To decline this offer of urgent prayers and instead go straight to hell, press 3”? Like, at least drive home what the consequences will be if I don’t press 1!

Admittedly, I forgot about the call pretty quickly once it ended and I resumed listening to podcasts for the remainder of my drive, but I remembered today when I checked my phone’s call log after noticing that I had a missed call (it was not from anyone else who wanted to pray for me). I googled 425-448-5215 and found that the Hope and Prayer Center Ministry is actually a big ol’ scam (gasp!! God, how could you allow this??) and if you press 1, you then start getting subsequent calls asking for donations to the prayer center. There are even pending lawsuits against the leader of the organization, a dude named Prophet Manasseh Jordan. I looked him up on Facebook and found that he has a nice little flock of sheep that seems to be comprised of Trump supporters who love Jesus and can’t spell. The comments on his posts are a mix of people who love his messages and people who are pissed off that they keep getting phone calls and emails hitting them up for money, and I actually think those people are the dumbest of all for actually thinking to themselves, Yes sirree, I do need me some urgent prayers! and pressing 1 and then being shocked when the whole thing is just a way to then hit them up for money. I would really love to know if they are the same people who stuff that collection basket full of crisp bills every Sunday, or tithe 10% of their income to their churches, because I’m betting they are and I find it hilarious that they see no difference between hitting people up for money in a building and hitting them up for it on the phone. It all buys you into heaven the same, doesn’t it?

I did press 3 so I wouldn’t hear from “this place” again, and I blocked the phone number for good measure to ward off any subsequent offers for the finest prayers money can buy. And if my views on organized religion have pissed you off just know that you can call the Hope and Prayer Center Ministry and they’ll pray for me for the low introductory price of $147.

 

 

The 411 on 411

Lots of people who don’t go straight to college after high school, or who drop out of college like I did, end up working some sort of soul-sucking job. There are plenty of horror stories out there from those who cut their teeth professionally by waiting tables, or delivering pizzas, or manning fast food drive-thrus. I personally never had any of those kinds of jobs, but my first “real” job was its own kind of crazy – I worked in a call center.

Side note: my first job ever was working as a cashier at a Grocery Outlet when I was in high school and I only have good things to say about that job, it was actually a lot of fun.

Unless you were born after the mid-nineties, you probably remember when calling 411 was a thing. In the transition period between phone books and the Internet, 411 was a service offered by the local phone company that allowed callers to obtain the addresses and phone numbers of people in the phone directory. You could call and ask for the same sort of information that was in the phone book, and the operator would look it up for you and transfer you to an automated service that would read out what you had requested and give you the option to be directly connected to the phone number you’d just gotten. You could ask for up to three phone numbers per call, so if you were just looking for a general service like taxis in your area, they’d give you three different choices. If you had a cell phone, you could ask the operator for additional services like movie showtimes or horoscopes.

I was hired into the 411 call center in September 2003, when having a cell phone was just starting to become a normal thing and people who were out and about needed information and didn’t have access to a phone book. I went through two weeks of training to learn how to quickly search the directory database we would use to find the listings that customers asked for. There was no need for a formal greeting because that was done by an automated system before the caller was connected to me, so all I had to say was “City and state, please?” so I’d know where in the country I’d be searching. I think that question might throw a caller now, but back then people knew the drill and they’d give you the town they wanted. The next question was, “And the listing please?” to which they’d respond with what information they wanted. More than once I accidentally answered my personal phone, “City and state please?” instead of “Hello?” out of habit. Asking the same question a million times in a row will do that to you.

The work was easy and I caught on fast, except for a few things that really threw me for a loop until I learned about them. In training, they taught us the spelling of some of the stranger cities we’d get requests for (Sequim, Washington, I’m looking at you), and tried to generally prepare us for some of the things we would be encountering that we might otherwise struggle with. They couldn’t prepare us for everything though, so there were some listings I had a hard time finding initially. One example was this burger chain in Texas called Whataburger, which I could not find for the life of me until someone finally spelled it for me because everyone in freaking Texas pronounces it “Waterburger” and they would get super annoyed when I’d tell them there was no directory listing for a Waterburger because I had no damn clue what they were actually saying and when I would repeat it back to them they wouldn’t correct me and instead would just say, “Yeah, Waterburger, there’s like twenty of them in this town, y’all really have no phone number for Waterburger?”. Texas, this is one of the reasons I hate you.

The call center I worked in was a 24-hour office, so there were lots of different schedules available for employees to work, except all the good ones were taken by people who had been there longer than me and so at first I got stuck working a lot of split shifts. I’d start around 8am, work for four hours, have roughly a four-hour break in the middle of my shift, and then have to go back and work the last half. Having the long break in the middle sounds like it might be nice, but I lived about a half hour’s drive away from my office so if I decided to go home in the middle I lost an hour of that break just to drive time alone, and I was never really able to relax during the break because I knew I had to keep an eye on the time so I wasn’t late for the second half of my shift.

I eventually got tired of working splits and switched to night shifts. Nights were awesome because the shifts were six hours instead of eight, so I’d be scheduled to start at 9:30pm but I would be off at 4am. We also earned a night differential, so I got paid an extra $0.75/hour for those late nights. In the quietest part of the night, we’d only get a call every 20-30 minutes, and all people really wanted were phone numbers for pizza delivery and taxis. We weren’t supposed to do anything else at our desks, so even when it was slow we couldn’t read or play music or anything. Sometimes we’d all sit close to each other so that we could stand up and talk quietly between calls, but my favorite way to pass the time was by listening to a little MP3 player (this was before most people had iPods). Of course listening to such a device was strictly against the rules, so I would stash it in the front pocket of my jeans, making sure that I wore sweaters that were long enough that it was covered. Then I would run the cord for my headphones up the inside of my sweater, putting only one earbud in my ear while keeping the other one free so that I could hear callers who dropped in. I would wear my hair down so that it covered the little bit of cord that was visible between my shirt collar and my ear, and the earbud itself was covered by my phone headset. Tada!

Looking back, working in 411 was certainly a mindless gig but it was also probably the best customer-facing job ever, because I rarely had to speak more than a few sentences to each customer and the worst thing I ever had to deal with was people calling back because they got the wrong phone number last time, or being drunk and trying to hit on me when they called. That happened more on overnights than days and we operators had a great time with the drunk callers. When they’d slur at us, “You sound hot, what’s your phone number?” we’d reply innocently, “Why, it’s 411!” Another one we’d hear pretty frequently was, “Hey baby, where are you at right now?” to which we’d sweetly say “I’m at work!” We thought we were pretty genius and it was a lot easier to just give those sorts of replies than to demand that the drunk person stop the nonsense and just tell us which taxi service they wanted.

The night shifts were great for a few months, until most everyone else in my life started working regular day jobs and I didn’t want to be the only one on nights. By then I had enough seniority to pull a normal shift, so I changed to working 6:30am-3pm. Unlike nights, calls came in rapid-fire during the day and it was very abnormal to have any time at all between calls. The requirement was that our call handling time average around 23 seconds per call, but I usually hovered right around 18 seconds per call. I knew the system and I was efficient at finding listings; the only problem I ever had was with “clipping calls”, which was when you transferred the customer to the audio that would read them their phone number but you did it too fast and you cut yourself off as you told them to have a nice day or whatever. In the world of live directory assistance, this was something we were coached on, even though looking back now I would guess that not a single customer cared if we transferred them and all they heard was “Have a good d-“ instead of “Have a good day”. Every month when my supervisor would listen to my calls to give me feedback, he’d remind me to be careful of clipping calls.

On day shifts, I retired the MP3 player and instead my friend K and I would pass notes all day long. Of course such a thing was not allowed, so we had to be stealthy about it.  In the mornings, we’d get ourselves each a stack of little pieces of paper that were left out for operators to write their schedules on (schedules were put out two weeks in advance and came out every Friday; you had to find the binder that held schedules for the week and look up your name, then write down your start time, end time, and what time your breaks and lunches were each day). We’d make sure to get work stations next to each other, and would use the little papers to write our notes on. We would pass them to each other through the cubicle walls. I’m on the short side but K’s tall, so she could see over the wall and if a supervisor was walking around, she’d kick the wall so I’d know to hide the notes under my keyboard. It was a perfect system and we were never caught. K became one of my best friends. We even lived in the same apartment complex for a while, and when we weren’t at work I’d walk over to her place and she’d curl my hair or we’d play the karaoke game on her husband’s Xbox. If we got bored we’d go eat pie at Coco’s or go to Walmart at 2am, cruising along in her VW Rabbit and singing along to Kelly Clarkson at the top of our lungs.

K and I are still best friends, and even though it’s been years since we’ve lived in the same apartment complex or even in the same state we still talk nearly every day.

I worked in the 411 call center for two and a half years. In May 2006, I transferred to the sales call center to make more money (the hell that was that job is a story for another time). Even though at the time I hated 411 and would moan to my supervisor frequently that I couldn’t wait to land a job in a different department, now I look back on those days very fondly. What started as a job I randomly applied for after seeing an ad in the newspaper became the start of an eleven-year career with the phone company and brought more good things into my life than I ever could have imagined.

Adultish

I am very happy to report that it appears Seattle’s 2019 Snowmaggedon is nearing its end. The snow has started to melt. By Wednesday, Bill and I were able to finally venture out and go to our offices to work instead of working from home, and I don’t think I’ve ever relished working in a cubicle quite so much as I did that day. I also took time to make my hair and outfit look nice, since I’d been living in my pajamas and forgetting to actually brush my hair most mornings since the snow began.

While we were housebound, one of the things we tackled was a thorough cleaning of our abode so that staying inside all the time would be more pleasant. In doing so, we used up a lot of our household cleaners, making a note along the way of each thing we would need to buy when we could again venture out. After our first day back in the office, we had enough daylight left to stop at Fred Meyer to restock.

Bill has a strategy for buying consumable products like toiletries and cleaning supplies: he buys multiple of each item, then typically buys more again when he opens the last new bottle/jar/tube of said thing. This way, he never finds himself in a position where he is totally out of something he needs. Maybe lots of people do this, I don’t know, but the idea of it was fairly foreign to me before I lived with him. It turns out that stocking up on things is one of my favorite adult things to do, which I think is likely because I’ve been so poor in my life that I couldn’t even afford to buy everything I need, much less to be able to buy multiples of any items so that I would have more for later. Now, being able to buy multiple sticks of deodorant at one time feels like the height of luxury, and I revel in it.

A few weeks ago comedian Bill Maher got flack for calling out people who refer to their grown-up activities as “adulting”, and for still liking the things from our childhoods like comic books and Lucky Charms (now, kids, I like Bill Maher even though I don’t always agree with everything he says, and I suppose he doesn’t do things like invent Eggos with chocolate shavings and powdered sugar on them when he has been snowed in at his house for over a week, which is something that I may have possibly done since the beginning of Snowmaggedon, so let’s not be too hard on him). The thing is, I agree with him on this but then again I don’t. I do adult things like pay my bills on time, and eat vegetables instead of Pop-Tarts for dinner, and hold down a steady job. I have a 401K and an IRA and more than the required $5 in my savings account. I can afford to buy more than one bottle of carpet cleaner at a time. So, I suppose I reasonably have my shit together.

The thing is though, that I don’t really feel like an adult, not a real one. Or, at least I don’t feel the way that I thought I would when I became an adult. When I was a kid, adults seemed so put-together and mature and confident and even though I’m in my thirties now I still feel like a kid playing house half the time. Maybe my parents’ generation wasn’t actually better at being grown-ups than mine is and maybe it’s all a big facade, but I somehow thought that when I got to this age I would have a different outlook on my own level of maturity. The truth is that all of the adulting things I do are because I have recognized that they contribute to my own comfort: I do laundry because I like having clean clothes (and clean sheets, there is not much in life that’s more wonderful than crawling into a bed that’s been freshly made up with sheets still warm from the dryer), I work because I like having money, and I buy things in bulk because the money I earn at my job allows me to and because I hate running out of shampoo and having to dig through the drawers and cabinets in my bathroom in hopes of finding a small hotel sample to hold me over until I can get to the store. I contribute to my retirement accounts because I know I want to retire before I’m a hundred years old and recognize that I need to be saving now for that.

I think we all have to find the things that make us feel fulfilled, and do them. Maybe for Bill Maher that’s putting on snappy suits and smoking lots of weed (not necessarily in that order). That’s the kind of adult he wants to be. I, on the other hand, want to be the kind of adult who can get shit done but who also still wears Vans as my go-to shoes and binge-listens to a podcast about the hit 90’s cartoon Gargoyles on my commute (it’s called Grotesques and it’s amazing).

But seriously, buy three bottles of Windex the next time you’re low on it. Trust me, it feels sooooo good.

 

50 Shades of Suburbia

Western Washington has been hit with crazy amounts of snow over the last week. There’s currently about nine inches of the white fluffy stuff on my back deck with more coming down, and due to hills and lack of road-clearing machine things we are pretty much just told to stay off the roads as much as possible until Snowmageddon has passed. People are taking it very seriously and the grocery stores look like people were stocking up to be housebound for months instead of for a week or so. It was so busy when Bill and I went out on Thursday to grocery shop that we waited in line for over half an hour to pay for our stuff.

I snapped this photo while we waited in line, in the produce section, because the line was so long it snaked along the front of the store and into the produce. See all the empty spaces where bread should be? I’m thinking a lot of people fell off the Keto/Whole 30 wagon and stocked up on some nice comforting carbs.

Since we’ve been housebound for days now, I’ve spent a lot of time watching tv and reading things on the Internet to amuse myself. If it doesn’t stop fucking snowing I may make a list of my favorite shows and movies watched during Snowmaggedon, but I’m not quite bored enough yet for list-posting. Emphasis on the word yet.

On Friday, it had just started snowing in earnest when I came across a randomly-shared listing of a house in Maple Glen PA. I clicked on it because it vaguely looked like Kevin McAllister’s house and I thought the price tag of $750k seemed more than reasonable for this sprawling 5,029-square-foot abode, and because I am a real estate junkie and love looking at house listings. I’ve mentioned before that I follow multiple old-house accounts on Instagram, and many times in my life I have visited open houses when I was definitely not in the market for a house. I thought I had seen it all, until I opened the listing on my Redfin app and read the property description.

“50 Shades of Maple Glen: a suburban home with a sexy twist”

Uh, what now??

I began scrolling through the listing’s 48 photos, trying frantically to see what the hell that meant. My thoughts went something like this: oooh, lovely giant kitchen, nice brick fireplace, big bedrooms, cool in-home gym, OHMYGAWDISTHATASEXSWING??

Spoiler alert: yeah, it totally fucking was.

I am not a prude by any means. I had just never seen a house with a full sexy-time basement (dungeon) on a Redfin listing before.

I did what anyone would do and immediately texted the link to a few of my friends, the ones who would be as amused as I was. Redfin must have reconsidered its stance on sex basements, because it quickly removed the racy photos and naughty listing description, but Zillow still had the photos so I took screen shots of them, and it’s a good thing I did because Zillow has since taken them down too.

I read a particularly hilarious comment on one post about the house from someone who initially thought that the cage under the bed was a dog kennel, which made me laugh quite a lot.

I’m actually really happy that whoever owns this house seems to have had a lot of fun there. Good on you, people of Maple Glen. I did have questions when I discovered that the house was posted on AirBNB with the sex dungeon or basement or whatever on prominent display as the main selling point, mainly around how one goes about sanitizing that room after guests rent it out.

My only concern now is that my top-floor condo has zero sex basements and I hope this doesn’t hurt my property values.

The Dirt Box

Back when I first moved to Washington, I landed a really cool temporary assignment on a special project at work. Up until then I had always worked in call centers, and this was the first job in seven years with that company that I actually enjoyed. Within the project, there were five of us from the call center, selected because we had worked with the order and billing systems and were pretty savvy with them. The rest of our project team sat on the third floor of the office building, while we were sequestered on the fifth floor with the rest of the call center, so we didn’t have ultimate freedom but we still had a lot more than we did when we were tethered to our desks with headsets. The work itself was fast-paced and interesting, and I learned to do a lot of cool things that no one would ever have taught me when I was on the phone with customers all day long.

We five all got along pretty well, but one of the guys was training for a body-building competition and was really moody most of the time (I like to think that the lack of carbs was just getting to him and that hopefully he’s since eaten some bread and mellowed out), plus his insane diet consisted of a fair amount of dishes that smelled absolutely terrible, which I know because he took his meals at his desk and we were all subjected to the stench of microwaved fish and the like. His name was Patrick, and the rest of us took to calling him Patrick the Starfish (from the show Spongebob Squarepants, in case you live under a rock as opposed to in a pineapple under the sea and do not recognize the reference).

I would like to pause for a moment to note that the Starfish now lives in Hawaii with his extremely hot wife, so he is doing just fine and the story I’m about to tell neither significantly scarred him or ruined his life.

The Starfish had a rather intense personality, which made him a good person to talk to if something wasn’t going right but also made him difficult to joke around with. Any sort of good-natured teasing was out: he was easily offended and each of the other four of us had a row with him at some point during the months we were on the project. The nice thing was that no matter how heated we got, usually by the next day he’d be back in good enough spirits and all would be calm again, and over time we learned what things would make him mad and (for the most part) tried not to do those things.

One day in early fall, the Starfish brought in a tiny box filled with sand and placed it on his desk. Intrigued, I said something along the lines of “What’s up with the dirt box?” to which he rolled his eyes at my clearly uncivilized self and explained to me that it was a Zen garden. He showed me that it came with a little rake, and he could rake the sand just so and apparently when all those grains were perfectly organized then his mind also felt decluttered.

Several of us on the project team were intrigued by the Zen garden. For the most part we’d just ask him questions and have him indulge us by raking it while we watched, but one day my friend Maggie came upstairs from her desk and, upon seeing the sand, was curious about the texture and poked her finger into it. This action unhinged the Starfish, who had such an epic tantrum that the rest of our project team downstairs heard about it and asked me later on what had caused his meltdown. “Oh, Maggie touched his dirt box,” I replied with a dismissive shrug. My explanation amused the others, not just because of the ridiculousness of freaking out at work because someone poked your Zen Garden, but also because I kept calling it a dirt box and apparently that made them think of a cat’s litter box.

Not long after the poking incident, the Starfish came to work in a worse funk than usual (even for him) and in his mood he got on the bad side of a couple of the IT guys on our team. They decided to take their revenge on him and waited until one Saturday afternoon to carry out their plan. Only a few of us from each group in the project team worked Saturdays, including the Starfish and me. The IT guys popped up under the guise of visiting me while the Starfish at lunch, and then, inspired by my referring to the Zen Garden as a dirt box, placed a mini Tootsie roll into the middle of it to make it look like a dirty litter box.

I knew the Starfish was going to lose his mind when he saw what had been done so I made sure that I was in the bathroom before he came back from his lunch break. When I returned, he glowered in my direction and demanded I tell him what I knew about the defiling of his dirt box (I will give him some credit for never accusing me of being the one who messed with it). I walked over, took a look at it, burst out laughing, and told him between giggles that I had been in the bathroom and had no idea who was responsible. He flounced off to go downstairs and tattle to the boss about what had happened, and since there were only a handful of us around the suspect list was rather short. My boss totally could’ve pushed us to fess up to who had played the prank, but he was a super laid-back guy and just told the Starfish to take his Zen Garden home if having it on his desk was causing problems.

And so, that was the end of the Zen Garden at work and the Starfish was a lot more Zen himself with his dirt box safely at home in its raked perfection.

 

 

Celery Juice Will Probably Not Make You a Wizard

One of my favorite things about the Internet is that it is the place where many pictures of cute cats and puppies are, and also funny memes with lots of sarcasm and just the right amount of swear words to give me a good chuckle when I’m feeling like I might actually say out loud “NOT bless you!” to the guy over the cubicle wall from me who scream-sneezes on the regular (I’m sorry, but at a certain point the volume of a sneeze becomes a choice and it is not one I support). One of my least favorite things about the Internet is that it gives a platform for stupid people and their nonsense and while being stupid is probably not a choice like scream-sneezing is, it can be very harmful when allowed to run rampant.

Today’s case in point is my newest enemy who doesn’t know me, Anthony William, and all of his stupid celery-juicing. I was blissfully ignorant of all things celery, juices and otherwise, until I started seeing stuff on Instagram about how life-changing this stuff apparently was and learned that ol’ Tony over here is the one that is spearheading this new “wellness” trend. According to this dude, if you juice celery and drink it on an empty stomach you will get magical powers and be the wizardiest wizard that Hogwarts has ever seen, or something like that. I looked him up on Amazon and found out that he refers to himself as the Medical Medium, because I guess why the hell not, so he’s over here talking to the ancient spirits and apparently they’re super into the celery juice and want him to tell us mere mortals all about it. His ‘About’ section on Amazon informed me that he “was born with the unique ability to converse with a high-level spirit who provides him with extraordinarily accurate health information that’s often far ahead of its time”, which loosely translated means “figured out that he can capitalize on his conversations with his imaginary friend by telling people to put celery in their KitchenAid Blenders and then drink the sludge because healthy!”, if I’m reading my crazy-to-English dictionary right.

On the most basic level, I guess celery juicing isn’t the very stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of, because intake of vegetables isn’t a bad thing. Sure, by juicing the celery you’re pulverizing out all the parts of it that make it the healthiest and best for you, but people who don’t eat any vegetables at all who start drinking celery juice are still going to experience a net positive. It’s not the encouraging people to drink celery pulp that I have an issue with. What bothers me is that Anthony William, who has no medical expertise whatsoever, is parading around as someone who can give advice on curing things from strep throat to cancer, when in fact he’s just a dude with an Internet connection and possibly schizophrenia. And if people actually believe they’re going to get well by following his advice, potentially choosing his methods over traditional medical treatments from actual professionals, then he is causing real harm.

At best, Anthony William is insane, and at worst he’s a calculating con-man who is preying on the naïve, the desperate, and the sick. Although the end result is no less harmful, I so want him to be the former, because the latter is just so sinister and horrible. Either way, his nonsense is driving me to consult with MY spirit of choice….tequila.

 

The Ten-Year Challenge

On the social medias this month, the ten-year challenge is all the rage. The challenge consists of posting photos of oneself in 2009 alongside pictures taken more recently, and I think that the only people who are doing it are the ones who really don’t look any different or the ones who finally figured out the right haircut for their face shape and have stopped wearing eyeliner around their entire eyes and looking like the guys in Good Charlotte and as a result they actually look much better now than they did ten years ago. I have not taken part in this challenge for a few reasons, such as I don’t really have many photos of myself from 2009, and because 2009 was not a good year for me hairstyle-wise, and because I do not think I have any photos of myself from 2019 whatsoever. I don’t really like pictures of myself because my eyes always look tired and squinty like I either just smoked a bowl or haven’t slept for weeks, and because when I smile my left eye forgets how to eye and it will be half-closed and weird-looking and appears much smaller than my right one and then all I can see when I look at photos is my right eye which appears freakishly big but it isn’t, the left one is just being stupid and making the right one look bad. All I can really do to mitigate this is to not smile and hope for the best (and also later be subjected to “you need to smile more” comments from people who do not know the struggle of having an eye that does not know how to eye), or better yet, just not take pictures of myself.

My eye that cannot eye.

To me, the ten-year challenge is a reminder of just how quickly time passes, because in my mind 2009 doesn’t actually feel all that terribly long ago. For the first time in my life, this year I have found myself particularly preoccupied with my age. I think this is because I’m turning thirty-five in July, putting me much closer to mid-thirties than early-thirties, which means that all too soon I’m going to be in my LATE thirties and that shit is a little scary.

This whole worrying-about-being-old thing is new to me, because in my twenties I had an annoying coworker who would constantly remind me of how I looked so young and would exclaim not-helpful things like “How on earth did you convince them to let you work here when you’re only 12?!?” Other people in my life were more subtle about it, but enough people would tell me that I looked so much younger than I was that I felt pretty confident that by the time I was in my forties I would just look like what other people looked like in their twenties. Now though, I rarely see myself in a mirror when I don’t look sleep-deprived and squishy in places that used to be firm, and I would be lying if I said that part of my desire to lose weight this year has nothing to do with a faint hope of recapturing some of my youthful look. I had never thought that I would be using the word “haggard” to describe my appearance, and yet here we are. And this is in spite of the fact that I now a drink a ton of water every day and try to get enough sleep and wear moisturizer and sunscreen and actually take off my makeup every night before I go to bed.

Instead of posting photos of myself ten years ago and now, I would like to instead think about how much more awesome my life is now than it was in 2009. Back then, I still lived in California, I had the afore-mentioned not-great hairstyle, I was working a job I hated, I was in a relationship that didn’t make me feel safe or fulfilled, and I felt rather stuck in life. I threw myself into activities like volunteering so that I could do something to make me feel good and also to fill up my time so I did not have any free moments to contemplate the stuck feelings. If I had actually paused to think about it, I would have had to admit to myself that overall I was pretty unhappy. And so when I finally did pause, I began making major changes. I moved to Washington, got jobs at work that I liked much better, and surrounded myself with people who loved me and cheered me on and helped me feel comfortable just being me. I learned to end relationships that didn’t make me feel good, paving the way to the incredible marriage I now enjoy with my husband. My late twenties and early thirties have been all about figuring out what works for me. I may not look better than I did in 2009, but my life most certainly does.

 

 

Farewell, 2018

With just under two hours to go, 2018 is drawing to a close. I’m honestly a little shocked that New Year’s Eve is here already; this year flew by so fast!

This year was a year of milestones for us. Goals were achieved and dreams came true.  In so many aspects of my life, I am in a completely different place than I was a year ago, in all the best ways. Here are a few of the highlights:

Bill and I bought a house. To be more specific, we bought the home of our dreams – a beautiful condo in Edmonds. We love our home and our town, and are so excited to have found the place we intend to call home for the rest of our lives. We feel so lucky – it literally has everything that was on our wish list for a home.

I earned my Bachelor’s degree. This was a dream of mine for SO long! I am still in awe that I actually did it.  It was a ton of work, but I am so happy that I never gave up and that I saw it through. I didn’t just do the minimum, either – my final project earned a Capstone Excellence Award! My official graduation ceremony is in September 2019 and I am very much looking forward to celebrating this huge achievement.

I landed a dream job at work and I love it. Since leaving telecom almost four years ago, I had been trying out different roles and departments, but none of them really made me as happy as working in complaints at my last company did (I am aware of how strange that sounds, but I really did love that job!). Once I got tired of working in complaints, I worried that I would never find anything else that I would be that good at. Even though I had briefly considered pursuing a career change to Human Resources, my heart belongs in Regulatory. Ultimately I decided that was the place for me, and started looking in earnest for opportunities. The same week I finished school, I was offered a position with my company’s Regulatory team. I couldn’t be happier. Everything about this job feels right. 

Overall I look back on 2018 and feel that it was a pretty amazing year. Cheers to an equally amazing 2019!

 

Lists

Every December, I have to complete a self-assessment that will be part of my annual performance review and this year I meant to write “I consistently deliver results” but mistakenly typed “I consistently deliver resluts” and spellcheck didn’t catch it so it’s a good thing I proofread everything before I hit Submit because otherwise my boss may have thought I am involved in some sort of strange human trafficking effort instead of completing my tasks.

The end of the year is somehow full of lists to make. On my self-review I list out everything noteworthy that I did at work all year, summarizing twelve months of eight- to ten-hour days in a few paragraphs of highlights. Not mentioned are the day-to-day things that probably did make a difference but don’t warrant a shout-out from myself to myself, like making coffee in the break room when I go in there and the pot is sitting empty, or cleaning up that same break room because whoever took the last of the coffee and didn’t bother to brew a new pot also spilled some of that coffee on the counters and didn’t wipe up the mess, or not murdering the girl who sat a few desks away from me with my mind when she dissolved into yet another fit of tears because someone had the audacity to slight her by only thanking her once in writing but not verbally in a staff meeting for some task she half-completed and then abandoned to her colleagues when she lost interest.

Just as popular as the things-I-did lists are the lists of New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve written some of these lists myself over the years, but more often than not I choose to skip over the whole resolution thing. I am especially not a fan of weight-loss resolutions. It’s an epidemic: people feel especially bad after a gluttonous holiday season, and resolve to get back on track in January with healthy eating and fitness.

Here’s the thing: I like the idea of resolving to take better care of myself. What I hate with a passion are all the people and businesses out there preying on people who want to use the New Year as a starting point to make lifestyle changes. Already, my social media feeds are clogged with “New Year New Me” pledges and those damn MLM’ers (side note: I found out that they’re referred to as “Huns”, because the stupid messages they send usually start out with “Hi Hun!”) are out in droves, peddling their wares to anyone who professes a desire to drop weight in the new year. Guys, diets don’t work. They just don’t. Those pills and wraps and teas will not work. The only thing they’re guaranteed to reduce is your bank balance. Diets like Keto aren’t going to work unless you literally eat that way for the rest of your life, which most people cannot realistically do but even if you can realistically restrict carbs forever you’re probably going to damage your kidneys in the long-run. The best way to lose weight and keep it off is to only make changes you’re willing to make forever. End of story. If you really do need help figuring out what to eat, enlist the help of a registered dietician. Unlike the “health coaches” on social media, RDs have actual training in nutrition and can help you get on track to eating healthy in a sustainable way. And, for the record, every RD I know hates Keto too.

A lot of gyms are no better: this time of year, there are all these great introductory prices for new members who sign up for long-term contracts. In the past, when I’ve belonged to Gold’s Gym or 24 Hour Fitness, I could count on the gym being a ghost town in December and filled to the brim with new members come January 2. The issue I have with all this is that by March, only a fraction of these new members will still be going to the gym. I get it: working out at the gym is not for everyone. I myself only have a membership because I like to take dance classes. But people who sign up for these gym memberships at the beginning of the year are often stuck with them even after deciding that they aren’t a good fit, so they stop going but still pay the monthly fee because it’s expensive to buy out of the contracts they had to sign to get the lower prices. I highly recommend that anyone looking for a gym to join find a reputable one that has a month-to-month option, even if that place is more expensive. 

As an alternative to vowing to lose weight in 2019, could we maybe change our approaches and vow to take good care of ourselves instead? Yes, part of that is eating well and moving our bodies, but it also means doing things that make us feel good and banishing harmful things (like diets!) from our lives. It means making meaningful and longterm changes that help us to feel better.

Surely this is better than throwing money at the diet industry. And who knows – maybe at the end of 2019 we can add “did substantial financial harm to diet-product companies by not buying their crap products anymore” to our lists of accomplishments.

 

 

The Exorcism of MLMs

The following is a cautionary tale. It doesn’t matter whether I behaved stupidly and brought these events on myself, or if there was no way I could have known that my seemingly harmless actions would lead to this. Either way, I share this story to protect others from a fate similar to mine. 

This morning I saw a post on Facebook that was shared to a podcast group I’m in by one of the other members. I won’t re-share it here, as I don’t know the original creator, but it was a health and fitness-themed motivational quote and it resonated with me. Huh, yes, perhaps this little saying could be motivation for me when I’m telling myself I’m too tired or it’s too late or I have other things to do and I should NOT throw on a quick video and do a workout in my living room. Okay, yes, I decided, that could actually work to motivate me. Cool idea.

I hit ‘like’ on the post.

*quick pause for ominous “oh no don’t do that why did you do that you should have turned away but you just HAD to go forward and now you’ve kicked off a chain of events that you won’t be able to control” music*

The action of ‘liking’ the post was innocent enough. I’m pretty liberal with my liking of things on social media, especially when it comes to either cool old houses or cute puppies and kitties. Likewise, I enjoy posts that contain sarcasm, snarkiness, or absurdity. I’m not usually a big ‘motivational sayings’ girl, but every now and then something will genuinely land with me and I’ll hit ‘like’.

I wasn’t prepared for the consequences. 

Almost immediately, my morning social media scroll was interrupted by a notification that I had a new message waiting for me on Facebook Messenger. Assuming that the incoming message was from either my husband or one of my friends, I clicked over to check it. Instead, I found a waiting message from some girl I’ve never heard of, and all it said was “Thank you for liking my post.”

Huh? What post? I’d ‘liked’ quite a few things this morning, since as I already mentioned, I’m not stingy with the Facebook reactions. What the heck did she post that I reacted to, and what about it was so poignant that it warranted a follow-up thanking me for doing it? Since I wasn’t going to reply to her just to say “You’re welcome” or anything, I deleted her message and moved back to Facebook to continue my mindless scrolling.

She’d sent me a friend request!

The only thing I loathe more than being sent a friend request by someone I don’t like in real life who follows up to mention to me that they sent me said friend request, making it all awkward as I try to come up with some excuse for why I’ll never be approving that request while mentally kicking myself for not blocking this person before all this had to happen, is being sent a random friend request from someone I’ve never met. Who the hell IS this girl? I thought, as I went to stalk her profile.

A quick profile review told me everything I needed to know: she was in the same podcast group as I was, which helped me narrow down which post of hers I’d interacted with. She’s got “stay at home parent” as her job, “Mom and Certified Health Coach” in her bio, and all of her posts are public and are sharing before-and-after photos of girls that have lost weight using whatever MLM* crap she sells online, with some diet quotes mixed in with for flavor (no pun intended….okay, okay, yes, absolutely pun intended).  I couldn’t make out which company she’s peddling wares for, which is undoubtedly part of the idea: if you want to know, you have to reach out and ask her and then you get the sales pitch.

I do not want sales pitches before 8am. Or ever, really. 

Now I knew what this girl was all about. She would message those of us that were foolish enough to hit that dumb like button her post, add us as friends, and proceed to tell us how her products would help us lose weight forever and change our lives! Yay! She would use lots of smiley and heart emoji’s, call us “girlie” or “gal” or some other moniker that would make me want to strangle her with my shoelaces, and enthusiastically and with LOTS of exclamation points tell us all about her life-changing crap that would make us look like Barbie for the absolutely reasonable price of a million dollars a month. Or something like that – you get the idea.

This is not my first rodeo – I fell for these sorts of tactics back in the earlier days of Instagram, before I learned to pay close attention to profiles before I’d like a post or follow someone. These days, if someone manages to make it into my DM’s trying to sell me shit, I simply block them rather than deal with them. I haven’t really had this experience with strangers on Facebook though – usually the MLM’ers there are people I know who either auto-add me to their virtual parties or inundate my news feed with their products. I believe it is absolutely justified to unfriend those people, like exorcising my Facebook feed of MLM garbage.

I really can’t decide which I hate more – random strangers trying to sell me pseudoscience, or the pseudoscience itself. Full disclosure: I have very stupidly tried many different diets, some of them of the MLM variety, which all promise to make you lose weight faster than you ever could with diet and exercise, and the only thing I can promise you about all of this stuff is that it does not work. As I’ve said before on this blog, the only time I was able to reach and maintain a weight I was happy with was when I threw all diet mentality out the window and got myself into the habit of eating reasonably healthy and exercising regularly. Once I put myself on that first diet, it all went to hell and I’ve struggled ever since. Furthermore, people who parade around with titles like “Certified Health Coach” are not doctors or dieticians and they don’t actually have the qualifications to tell you what you should be putting in your body. Actual registered dieticians warn against all of these supposed miracle diets, because they’re not going to do anything but make desperate people shell out money they don’t have for products that don’t work. And I can absolutely promise you that none of that MLM stuff these “health coaches” are trying to sell you is going to lead to any long-term weight loss success, because if it did, everyone would be doing it! If some company out there had finally cracked the code and knew the magical answer to the question of how to lose weight, don’t you think that everybody and their mom would be all over it? 

The conclusion to this story is rather unremarkable – I deleted the friend request and unliked the post that started this whole mess so that hopefully that girl doesn’t find me again. If she does, I can definitely block her, but for now we’ll see if she takes the hint. 

I do still really like her original post though.

 *MLM stands for Multi-Level Marketing and it is a nicer way of saying “pyramid scheme”.