Thursday, January 29, 2009

So long, Mr. Mouse.

On Sunday, when my roommates and I cleaned out the kitchen closet, we discovered an unwanted little visitor was keeping house among our canned goods and cereals. A mouse. Lovely.

On Monday, I set two no-kill traps with crackers and peanut butter.

On Tuesday morning, the cracker was gone, but there was no mouse. I reloaded the trap.

On Tuesday evening, the cracker was gone again, but once more, no mouse. I realized the trap door wasn't shutting correctly, so I swapped it out with the other trap. I also told Piper I was going to swap her for a cat.

On Wednesday morning, the trap was shut, moved more than a foot across the floor, on its side, chewed and ... no mouse. At this point I'm wondering if it could be a super mouse, or maybe a rat. I set the trap again.

On Wednesday afternoon, trap was shut, chewed, with no mouse. I set it once more, resigning myself to the fact that my roommate was going to get to set killing traps since this, obviously, wasn't working, and the mouse was still eating our food and pooping everywhere. I reminded Piper that she was being rather useless with the mouse-catching.

On Wednesday night, around midnight, while John and I were watching "Top Chef" and Piper was sleeping on the couch beside me, she suddenly jumped up and ran into the kitchen. She whined at the closet door and looking at me alarmingly. Suddenly, I realized, the mouse! I ran over, opened the door, and - tah dah! - before he could escape, we caught him. The sneaky thing.

John cleaned out the bucket we had been using for our leaking shower (our house isn't falling apart, I swear), and we plopped the mouse inside with a few crackers. (He was huge for a mouse.) I closed the lid, but was going to open it so John could take a photo. He said the mouse would jump. I said no way. For the next 10 minutes we watched him slam his head into the lid of the bucket trying to escape.

Piper was quite displeased with this little creature, so we couldn't watch the rest of "Top Chef" and instead drove the mouse to the beach and let it out near the pavilion, so it would have a little shelter in the cold. I barely saw him scamper away when I tilted the bucket. A police officer drove by very slowly (of course), but surprisingly didn't stop. I guess a girl in snowflake pajamas, pink slippers and a big blue bucket isn't very suspicious.

When we got home, we finished watching "Top Chef" and I, of course, gave Piper a lot of treats and a lot of praise. She did a great job. I didn't need a cat after all.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's melting! It's melting!

The snow is melting.

Right now it's turning into a sad, slushy mess. Some very cold, fat raindrops are falling from the sky and ruining the pristine white that covered the ground just a few short hours ago. I bet we had over an inch of snow last night. An inch!

Can't it stay around just a little longer? Maybe next time.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Charity for charity's sake

In the newspaper business - or any media outlet, I imagine - you come across a lot of attention hogs.

There's quite a variety. There's the "pusher" parents of star athletes or students, letting you know of every little teeny tiny accomplishment of their kid. Then there are the town know-it-alls, who, as you might have guessed, think they know everything and should therefore be included in every article ever written. You've also got the ones who had their five minutes of fame for whatever reason (maybe was an extra in a movie or wrote a book) and are still trying to stretch that out 10 years later.

The attention hogs I hate the most, though, are the charity ones.

I think the things that really gets me is the slight irony of it all - the selfless goodwill of volunteering or running a non-profit venture, mirrored with the insatiable need to have your actions broadcasted for all the community to see every step of the way. Is it still selfless? Not really. Is it still helpful volunteerism? Well, sure. But it doesn't hold the same weight for me, personally, if someone volunteering so desperately needs credit for doing so.

I volunteer with the local animal shelter. I wish I could do more - I want to do more - but my schedule really keeps me from it. But from volunteering for different venues since middle school, it never occurred to me to get media attention for it. I volunteer because I want to help make a difference in my community. I want to help people (and animals) who need it. If people know I do it, that's great. If they don't, still fine.

This is not to say there shouldn't be coverage of non-profits or volunteer efforts - that's far from what I'm saying. Non-profits definitely need coverage. It spreads awareness for their cause and, hopefully, will spur others to donate time, money or items. I love covering non-profits, whether it's the cookie drive for troops by the local American Legion or the programming at the local cancer support network, Gilda's Club. These are awesome things that deserve attention.

So are people who volunteer. If a local brownie troop cleans up Kennedy Park, they should get the perk of seeing their smiling faces in the newspaper or on television. If the high schoolers bake dog treats during their study halls to hand out to local animal organizations, it's right to highlight their efforts. This is good news. It's happy news. It's news that will get others thinking they can do something like this, too.

The people I'm talking about - the charity attention hogs - are the ones who seem to be conducting the charity work just as much for the publicity as they're doing it for the charity, or perhaps even more so. They must have their names/company's name tied prominently with the organization. They must get credit for what they're doing first and foremost, as opposed to wanting to spread the word of how the charity venture works and how others can help. It's all about them-them-them - and oh yeah, the charity, too.

It's sort of hard to explain, and unless you've come across these types of people, you might not understand what I'm saying. But while I've only been in the business full time for a few years, I've seen this happen countless times. As a huge advocate of volunteerism, it boggles my mind. It's such a skewed motive.

This is definitely the minority, but it goes along with that idea of just a few spoiling it for the whole bunch. When I get five pleasant phone calls in a day, it's that one screamer that leaves the biggest impression. So when you have a ton of amazing people working with non-profits, it's the couple doing it for the wrong reasons that stick out, unfortunately.

Wrong reasons or not, if they're volunteering and helping out others, I guess they can do what they need to do. Of course, I'm going to do what I need to do, too.

And that's not write about them - at least not until they get their priorities in order.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

For my convenience.

I stopped at the grocery store yesterday to find that Acme was rearranging the store "for my convenience," which made me laugh, because really, do you know a single person who appreciates it when the grocery store moves the bread from aisle three to one and the granola bars are no where to be found?

My trip should have been quick, but i ended up taking about 15 or 20 minutes longer than it should have. The best part is while I had no idea where to look for things, the store was not totally rearranged yet - it was in the process of - so some items were not even in their new home. Therefore, asking employees for help was sometimes futile.

There is an entertaining part about the grocery store reorg - watching everyone meander about and become more and more disgruntled every time you pass them (because you're bound to pass everyone at least three times during the course of your trip, unless you're one of the lucky ones who just has to pick up milk or eggs, because those things can never be moved far due to the refrigeration). I was slightly annoyed last night, but not enough to really care all that much because it was 7 p.m. and I was a little tired, but there were plenty of funny characters cruising through the aisles.

I heard one woman's adult son ask her several times, "Ya find it yet?!" She huffed in response each time and loudly declared how she didn't have time to wander the grocery store. (Where she needed to get to after 7 on a Saturday, I don't know. Then again, I don't have a social life and maybe she does?)

Another woman kept excitedly calling her teenaged daughter over every time she saw a section of sale items (that's another thing with the reorg - tons of random stuff goes on sale because they need to clear it out). The daughter would stare indifferently twirling her hair as her mom enthusiastically pointed out nacho cheese dips and fiber bars.

Then there's the sad-smile-and-eye-rollers. These are the people you've passed so many times that they feel a reorg-hate intimacy with you, and start to add a little smile, eye roll or quick comment to your passing. It's like this: Pass in new bread aisle... fives minutes later pass in new soda aisle... three minutes later pass in new paper goods aisle... four minutes later pass in bread aisle again, where passing is accompanied with, "Hello again!" and an eye roll. Once the first eye roll is initiated, any more passings with this person will be accompanied by some type of exchange.

There are also the very, very angry shoppers - these are the ones who are cursing and talking to themselves under their breath when you pass. Often their words don't match the aisle. They may be staring blankly at a wall of canned soups cursing under their breath about fruit snacks. (These people, I imagine, abort the shopping trip before long.)

I know why the grocery stores do the reorg. I get the whole concept of making your customers walk the aisles in search of what they need so, hopefully, they'll end up tossing a bunch of items they don't need but happened to come across into their carts. It's probably a good tactic. I guess it must be, since the reorgs continue to happen and I imagine they're just as annoying to the employees who have to first carry them out and then listen to the customers complain to them about it for a solid three weeks.

Anything to stimulate the economy, right?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

4 photo folder tag

For the first time, I was tagged for something on my blog! Kim, of LadyGypsy fame, tagged my for the 4 photo folder tag.

This is what you do:

1. Go to the the 4th folder where you keep your pictures on your computer.
2. Post the 4th picture in the folder.
3. Explain the photo.
4. Tag 4 fellow bloggers to join in the fun!

Fourth and fourth is this for me:

This photo is from a story I wrote a couple of years ago at work. There was this old Italian man who lived in my town and had the typical Ocean City yard - meaning none. He had a bit of space along the perimeter of the house, and then some random tiny plots of ground around the parking area and alleyway out back.

He took advantage of every inch and grew the most amazing, flourishing garden. He leaned lattice against his house over the sidewalk and grew grapes. He had fig trees tucked into corners. And in this old bathtub out back, he had all of this lush, wonderful basil.

That's what the photo is. I'm not sure if he is still living at this house, but he was a pretty amazing guy and it was a great story to write.

I'm tagging Ryan, Eric, Felicia and Ian. Have fun, guys!

Thanks, Kim. :)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A dusting of snow

It (finally) snowed a little bit on Sunday into Monday, and the flurries fell pretty steadily through Monday afternoon.

Piper was in her element when we went for a walk, in complete and total play mode the whole time trying to jump around and convince me to let her off her leash. Because of the traffic I couldn't, of course, and I felt pretty bad about it. She loves snow. I think we're going to need to live somewhere with more of it.

I miss having snowstorms, too. We actually used to get our fair share when I was a little kid, but now (global warming?) we barely get a decent snowfall.

I hope it snows again before winter's through, although I've also been looking forward to spring and summer. (I think that's only because it's been SO insanely cold lately, which I don't mind as much if there's snow with it, but otherwise it gets tiring.) I love going to the local farmer's market to pick up produce every week and being able to take Piper on longer walks. I'm not looking forward to the busy tourist season, though... I guess everything has its ups and downs.

I've been thinking more and more about getting out of this area lately. I don't know if it's just because it's winter and things are so dead and slow, or if I really do need to leave Jersey behind for a little while. I know it's not something that would happen real soon - not for a year or two, probably - but it's a thought. Maybe I just need a vacation.

Speaking of, John and I are taking a weekend away soon! We're thinking the first weekend in April will be best. He gave me a weekend getaway of my choosing for Christmas, and while I'm anxious to take a trip, I have no idea where to go. I want something relaxing, so that counts out NYC. It's great, of course, but a weekend trip there is always so fast-paced. I think going north would be nice, maybe some New England-ish location. I'm thinking some cool, artsy little town with a theater and downtown and nice restaurants, and staying maybe in a bed and breakfast.

Any suggestions? Because really that's a made up town in my head - I have no idea how to find something like that.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Happy Birthday to some four-legged, furry friends...

Last Saturday I helped out with a birthday party for all of the shelter animals (residents and adoptables) at the Humane Society of Ocean City. We don't know any of their real birthdays, so it seemed appropriate to celebrate everyone's right at the beginning of the new year. This was an inaugural event and thought up pretty much all by Nancy.

I made cupcakes (107 of them), made pawprints to hang on the wall with all of the animals' names, made a bunch of dog treats and helped with arranging and decorating the room. The public was invited and it really turned into a smashing success. There were guests of all ages, and most everyone brought presents for the animals (which we hoped would happen, but hadn't asked - we wanted it to stay a free event).

Although, to give credit where credit is due, it wouldn't have been nearly as successful without the efforts of Elwood, the 2007 World's Ugliest Dog winner and teeny ambassador for homeless animals.

Elwood's owner, Karen Quigley, brings the pampered pooch around to schools and events to promote pet adoption (Elwood was set to be put down because of his looks before he was rescued), promote spay and neutering your pets and to be kind to all animals. He's a funny looking thing, for certain, but when you meet him he's just so adorable. (That might be hard to believe... but trust me on this one.) Everyone loved him, and for $4 tons of people were getting their photos taken with Elwood. Karen then donated the money to the HSOC.

This was a lot of fun, plus a great promotion for the shelter. Plenty of people who stopped by the party visited the shelter residents before they left. (For obvious reasons, the shelter residents couldn't attend the party, but don't worry - they'll reap the benefits with all those donated treats and toys!)

The best part? Three cats found new homes the day of the party.

That made it all worth it. One hundred percent.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Triathlon, here I come!

I never thought I'd be the type to attempt a triathlon, but a local non-profit here hosts a month-long triathlon challenge every January/February to raise money for its programs. From Jan. 19 to Feb. 19, participants have to swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles and run 26 miles.

That's totally doable.

It's even more manageable once you factor in substituting exercises, like walking counts for running, rowing for biking and such. The goal is for it to be an attainable triathlon for the average person. I'd say I'm pretty well average, especially when it comes to working out (seeing as I barely do it), so I think this is a good challenge for me.

In order to not have my butt totally kicked come kick-off, I joined the gym last week and have been trying to exercise a bit to prepare. I've biked a bit, used the elliptical a bit (that counts for running) and started taking swimming classes with Stef. I've got to say, even though I'm not a swimmer, I kinda love these classes. It's no lie that being surrounded by water has a very calming effect. And as long as you work at it, it's a great work out with low impact (perfect for me and my pathetic knees).

The hardest part (I'm predicting) is going to be the biking. That is a lot of miles. I don't have an actual bike, so I'm only going to be able to bike at the gym. I'm going to finish, though. I'm determined, especially since I have the swimming part down. (That's the only reason I didn't do it last year - didn't feel the whole swimming leg of it.)

It's funny. I started exercising last Saturday. I started eating healthier Sunday. I've been taking vitamins every day since Monday. And man, do I feel 110% better all around than I did last week. I even donated blood yesterday and it didn't drain me of all energy like when I donated a few months ago - I stayed up really late with John last night and buzzed through today no problem, finishing up tonight with a swimming class. I don't even get why I fall back into bad-eating, no-exercising, forgetting-vitamin funks. I just feel so much better. I'm sleeping better, too.

Anyway, back to the triathlon. It starts a week from Monday. I'm sending in my registration tomorrow (kept forgetting to do that all week) and should have my chart and everything by mid-week next week, I'm hoping.

My tentative plan is to knock out the running with Piper (that will be a cinch) and to take swimming twice a week with Stef. That kills 2 miles of the swimming (one class equals a quarter mile swim), so I'll just have to go one or two other times to finish the laps. The days I don't swim, I'll stop by the gym to knock off at least 10 miles a pop. That means I should be able to finish the biking in 12 days over the course of the month, which isn't so bad as long as I can commit an hour of exercise for those portions. (I'm guessing it will take me about an hour to bike 10 miles, but I could be wrong.)

We'll see how it all goes.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Survey time!

Kim posted this meme on her blog last week, and I've been wanting to do it since.

Things you’ve already done: bold
Things you want to do: italicize
Things you haven’t done and don’t want to - leave in plain font

1. started your own blog
2. slept under the stars
3. played in a band
4. visited hawaii
5. watched a meteor shower Well, "shower" being the operative word, right Ryan?
6. given more than you can afford to charity
7. been to disneyland/world
8. climbed a mountain
9. held a praying mantis Many times. They get in the house.
10. sang a solo
11. bungee jumped
12. visited paris
13. watched a lightning storm at sea
14. taught yourself an art from scratch
15. adopted a child
16. had food poisoning
17. walked to the top of the statue of liberty
18. grown your own vegetables My garden this year was hearty!
19. seen the mona lisa in france
20. slept on an overnight train
21. had a pillow fight
22. hitch hiked
23. taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. built a snow fort
25. held a lamb
26. gone skinny dipping
27. run a marathon
28. ridden a gondola in venice
29. seen a total eclipse
30. watched a sunrise or sunset
31. hit a home run
32. been on a cruise Ohhh, I miss my cruises.
33. seen niagara falls in person
34. visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. seen an amish community
36. taught yourself a new language
37. had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. seen the leaning tower of pisa in person I hate Pisa.
39. gone rock climbing
40. seen michelangelo’s david in person
41. sung karaoke
42. seen old faithful geyser erupt
43. bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant
44. visited africa
45. walked on a beach by moonlight Well, I live at the beach.
46. been transported in an ambulance
47. had your portrait painted
48. gone deep sea fishing
49. seen the sistene chapel in person
50. been to the top of the eiffel tower in paris
51. gone scuba diving or snorkelling At the Great Barrier Reef, nonetheless.
52. kissed in the rain
53. played in the mud
54. gone to a drive-in theatre
55. been in a movie
56. visited the great wall of china
57. started a business
58. taken a martial arts class
59. visited russia
60. served at a soup kitchen
61. sold girl scout cookies
62. gone whale watching
63. gotten flowers for no reason I love tulips... (hint, hint)
64. donated blood
65. gone sky diving
66. visited a nazi concentration camp
67. bounced a cheque
68. flown in a helicopter
69. saved a favorite childhood toy
70. visited the lincoln memorial
71. eaten caviar Quite by accident.
72. pieced a quilt
73. stood in times square
74. toured the everglades
75. been fired from a job
76. seen the changing of the guard in london
77. broken a bone A couple.
78. been on a speeding motorcycle
79. seen the grand canyon in person
80. published a book
81. visited the vatican
82. bought a brand new car
83. walked in jerusalem
84. had your picture in the newspaper More than needed, bleh.
85. read the entire bible
86. visited the white house
87. killed and prepared an animal for eating I used to go fishing.
88. had chickenpox
89. saved someone’s life
90. sat on a jury
91. met someone famous
92. joined a book club
93. lost a loved one
94. had a baby
95. seen the alamo in person. I was born in San Antonio.
96. swum in the great salt lake.
97. been involved in a law suit Haha... right now, actually.
98. owned a cell phone
99. been stung by a bee I thought it was a fly and smacked it.


One of my resolutions this year is to have a little Etsy shop up and running by Sept. 1. Until then, I'll be crafting up a storm to get ready. I think this will help give my crafting some focus, and it would be nice to make a little extra cash because people like my stuff. It's a win-win.

Right now, I'm trying to come up with what I should be crafting and, later, selling. It's going to be a mishmash of crafts, not like the shops that focus on one type of things, like plushies or jewelry. I know I'll be making Sculpey charms and simple jewelry, like my post here. Ryan's given me some cool new ideas, too. Other than that... I'm really not sure yet.

I make all sorts of things, but I don't know what's very marketable. Since I'm launching it Sept. 1, I think I'll be focusing on fall and winter items. Then again, I could craft any type of thing that could be a nice gift for the holidays. It's all a little overwhelming.

I also need to study up on packaging, postage, insurance... I guess I'll need to get a scale so I know how much to charge for these things. I know I'll be "going green" with my packaging, i.e. reusing boxes and stuffing. It's better for the environment and also better for my wallet.

So, any thoughts on all of this? It's already the second week of January, and I've yet to do a thing except think on it. I better get moving!

Edited to add: I do have a name for my shop already, but I think I'm going to keep it under wraps for a little while. Well... except for those people who I already told.

Monday, January 5, 2009

1,200 miles

My brother is coming home for a couple of days next month.

Five months ago Friday, I took him to a concert in Camden. It was his birthday. I bought him a T-shirt and a beer, and I watched as he grinned while I bopped around to the Counting Crows, Maroon 5 and Sara Bareilles. He was so unsure of himself, so uncomfortable in his own skin... He's never been an outgoing person and he's always been so cautious in public, around strangers.

I wonder if that's different now.

I imagine he's changed in a lot of ways, but part of me knows he's just the same, too. I like to think he's overcome, grown, moved forward. I worry, though, from how he sounds when I talk to him. Sometimes, it sounds exactly like before. Other times, it sounds just like after.

You don't realize how much you can miss a person until they're gone. I've drifted from him in the past few years - maybe since I've gone to college - and although I tried, we haven't gotten along terribly well in the recent past. Maybe I should have tried harder. In any case, I hardly spoke to him and saw him even less.

Now that he's more than 1,200 miles away, there's an emptiness that just hangs there, this little void that was full of a vibrant person not so long ago. It doesn't matter that we've drifted now. He's done stupid, stupid things. He's had a rough go of it. For better or worse, though, he's my little brother.

He's the same kid who waited for my bus in middle school, and then early high school, so we could watch the Disney Channel together every afternoon. The same little guy I'd have footsie wars on the couch with. He's the one I'd build extravagant blanket forts with. The one I'd teach crafts to.

When he was very small - probably about three years old - he loved the ladybug ride at Wonderland Pier. I remember the last time I rode with him. I was just too tall, and I had to cram myself in, folding my knees up to my chin to get into that little red polka-dotted cart. I had a hell of a time getting out, too, and I refused after that to ride it again.

If I could do it over, I'd keep shoving myself in that little car until I was asked to stop.

Even before that, maybe when he was about two, Mema and Poppy had this radio they'd play in the kitchen. At Christmas time, Mema took to playing "Up on the Housetop" for him. He would hop up and down through that entire song with this huge smile on his face singing along. When it would get to the line, "Up on the housetop, click, click, click," right at the end, I can still see him hop - one, two, three - with those clicks, his diaper rustling and his feet smacking the linoleum floor.

When he was in the third or fourth grade, he had to make a diorama for history class, and he wanted to do his on Eskimos. We sat and went over his textbook and he told me about how they lived, and I sculpted little figures for him out of clay - eskimos and sled dogs and bears. He wanted to try, and I showed him how to make simple little birds, which he proudly pinned to the sky of his project.

He played sports since he could walk, and he was a standout in baseball in particular. I used to go to his games sometimes and watch him pitch. I went to some of his soccer, basketball and hockey games, too.

Now, though, I wish I had gone to more of them.

He's coming to visit for a couple of days next month, but he's not coming home. I worry how he's going to make it on his own.