Dialing for Democracy

Hey, remember those innocent bygone days of the 2008 election? The candidate with the ears whom I’d barely heard of beat out Hillary and went onto win a second term? McCain sunk his own ship by joining forces with that dingbat who could see Russia from her porch?

God we were naive.

Anyhooo, the feeding frenzy of ’08 inspired me to write a humorous feature for the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor, where I worked at the time. Reading it now, in the light of the shit show our country is in the middle of, I had to laugh or else I would cry (and possibly never stop until all the votes are counted tomorrow night).

I hope you get a little chuckle too…

Dialing for Democracy

My thumb has lost all feeling so I decide to switch hands and continue calling in my vote. I know there are people out there with way more spare time, as well as multiple phones, but I’ve got to get in my two cents worth. Maybe it won’t even matter, but I hit disconnect each time with a little swell of pride.

The year is 2032 and it’s that time again. Time to choose the president of this great nation the only way we Americans know how. Phone in voting, of course. When the powers-that-be realized how much command shows like “American Idol” and “Dancing with the Stars” had over the masses, our electoral system evolved accordingly.

dialingmadness

Six months ago the latest pool of candidates was formed following auditions from Vegas to D.C. We’re still enjoying tape of the worst rejects between weekly eliminations. There was the congressman from Montana whose moving speech and rendition of “I Am, I Said” were interrupted by his longtime mistress and 12-year-old love child. Well-placed cameras later caught the heavyset woman and the politician’s wife going at it in the parking lot. Yes, he had presidential potential but now the congressman was part of the gag reel with the rest of them.

Thanks to the Buffet law of 2016, candidates could no longer spend millions in advertising in order to woo American audiences. No, they simply had to rely on their charm, singing and/or dancing talents, photogenic quality of their immediate family, and of course, the fickle taste of viewers. A quirky black sheep or closeted skeleton was hardly a detriment to a presidential hopeful; nay, it just added texture and color to the televised competition when a redneck cousin popped out of the woodwork.

Legislation now allowed billions of dollars in advertising to be diverted, not to mention the forests of trees that were saved when political junk mail was outlawed. The surplus money went mostly to education — also provided entirely by television and Internet — and making sure each citizen had enough monitors and modems per household to receive their God-given right to the information highway. With the majority of the workforce operating from home, it really was a win-win situation. In fact, as soon as time’s up for calling in our final votes I’ll be back at the computer fielding angry I-M’s from India. My mom says it used to be the other way around but I find it hard to believe I would call someone in Punjab to discuss my credit card balance.

My eyes drift back to the set as the busty emcee of “The Amazing Race: Presidential Edition” points to the clock in Times Square. Voting is almost over and with today’s technology we’ll know in mere minutes who will be running the most powerful country in the world.

I think it’s going to be close. Dakota Fanning definitely won over the hearts of America with her childhood filmography montage and proposed line of biodegradable hand-held computers. But Ashton Kutcher has age, experience and let’s face it — he blew away the competition during the last round of “I Can Name That Third World Country in Two Syllables.” Even if he didn’t win, his audition tape punking Senator Chelsea Clinton would go down in history.

The election clock ticked off the final second and Jay-Z’s classic mix of “Hail to the Chief” blasted from the speakers. I reached for the remote and fell on my face.

As shag carpet tickled my nose I sneezed and came fully awake. Ah jeez. What a nightmare. To think I fell asleep watching the last of the nasty 2008 campaign ads, and almost woke to a country run by Ashton Kutcher. Although, Bruce Willis would have made a great Secretary of Defense. Yippee kai yay…

PS: I really wrote this EIGHT YEARS AGO with tongue in cheek and didn’t change a word. Kind of chilling. Now go vote, for the love of all that’s holy!!

Is it HOT enough for ya?!

This isn't me because this wouldn't be water in that bottle. Just sayin'...

This isn’t me and if it was there wouldn’t be water in that bottle. Just sayin’…

There aren’t enough cliches for the heat in Arizona in the summer time. I know — I heard them all when I moved here at the end of July. But I guess I can stand it because I’m not getting out of the kitchen any time soon.

Unfortunately, the heat doesn’t just apply to the temperature. I’m not gonna lie, It’s been hell.

Since I arrived, I’ve learned that parenting a challenging child is the toughest job I’ll ever do, blending families isn’t easy, finding fulfilling employment with zero local contacts is impossible, renting out your house from 800 miles away is stupid, making new friends at my age is awkward, money doesn’t grow on cactus any more than it does on trees, the sun is hot, water is wet and several other profound truths I can’t recall at the moment.

Fortunately, there have been some signs of improvement with the mad middle-schooler, a job was eventually secured, I’m not homeless, November started off in the mid-80s with no foreseeable forecast of snow, and the main reason I moved here is still my main squeeze in spite of it all. Crazy man.

So maybe I can stand the heat after all, stay in the kitchen a little longer, while resisting temptation to stick my head in the oven. (Because it’s electric and I need to ration the power for the air conditioning.) Obviously.

Matrimony: The Musical?

For someone who has never been married I seemingly have a lot to say about the Big Day, thanks in part to the Surveyor‘s annual bridal section. If you like this musing on music, you may enjoy my thoughts on ugly bridesmaid dresses.

WEDDINGSINGER

…but not necessarily the feelings I would want on my special day.

No wedding reception is complete without romantic music and cheesy ballads to accompany the newly wedded couple and their guests as they sway in time — or possibly in direct proportion to their alcohol consumption. Song lists for the festivities can be just as important as finding the ugliest bridesmaid dresses on the market for your “besties.”
Depending on your budget or your love of Adam Sandler movies, you can choose from an mp3 player containing your playlist and blasted from a speaker system, to a professional DJ, to a tuxedoed crooner who may offer his own interesting renditions of the classics. Whichever way, if there’s a party following the nuptials you’ve gotta have tunes.
The most important song is probably the first dance for the newlyweds. It should be special to both parties, romantic, and not too long. You don’t want to have to gaze into each other’s eyes eternally while the guests are raiding the open bar.
Some timeless favorites are “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,” by Elvis, “Just the Way You Are,” by Billy Joel, or if you’re a late bloomer, “At Last,” by Etta James. “Nothing Compares 2 You,” by Sinead O’Connor topped one list of popular wedding songs, but if you’ve actually listened to the lyrics it’s more of an eat-a-gallon-of-ice-cream-he-left-me song than let’s-spend-the-rest-of-our-days-together.
An informal poll of couples of all ages revealed that people have very personal connections to certain songs, not to mention a marvelous sense of humor. Choices included Boney M’s “Rasputin,” “So Rot” by Subway to Sally, the medal ceremony music from “Star Wars,” and one song from Slayer that gave me nightmares. One woman I know *cough*my sister*cough* included Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” at her second wedding, which turned out to be a little too prophetic … six months later. Ah, crazy kids in love. (Google these songs at your own risk.)
In recent years there’s a trend of contemporary songs recorded specifically targeting marrieds-to-be, in case you don’t have the imagination to pull off “#1 Crush” by Garbage. These heart-melters include “Marry You,” by Bruno Mars, “Marry Me,” by Train or “Just Say Yes,” by Snow Patrol, all with explicit instructions imbedded in the lyrics and titles. How long do you want to be with your betrothed? “1.000 Years,” according to Christina Perri.
If you need a little more direction, Amazon and iTunes conveniently provide themed collections and song lists as long as the bride’s train.

Drink enough champagne and you don't even need the groom. Do the bridesmaid boogie...

Drink enough champagne and you don’t even need the groom. Do the bridesmaid boogie…

Sure, instrumentals or classics like “Here Comes the Bride” are great for the processional music to set the hushed tone of awe for the ceremony, but what a couple dances to — and chooses for their guests to dance to — is what makes memories. Have fun choosing the music for the daughter-father dance, the dance that is guaranteed to spark something between bridesmaid #3 and the best man, or the final song before calling it a night. And maybe for inspiration, kick things off with Pink’s anthem, “Get the Party Started.”

Wow, what a ride

Last November marked the end of a wild, fun, poignant, indescribable, unmatchable ride for me. But with many more adjectives. In the wee hours of the 16th (also my birthday – thank you, Summit) I sat in a dark theater and watched the final cinematic moments of the Twilight Saga. Tomorrow that movie comes out on DVD and then I guess it’s official.
SUITCASE::SOB::
Going back to the beginning of this journey will echo others I’ve heard since that time, but it’s my story and my blog so bear with me. My friend gave me that book with the hands holding the apple for Christmas of 2008. She was a little apologetic but she knows my taste so I got around to reading it about a month later. Then the next one (during which I cried while reading because it hit too many nerves), and the next one (which I threw across the room because really, how could she kiss that woof?) and the last one (which I actually liked for the clever plot resolution).
All were read in less than two weeks time and then I lucked out catching the blue-tinted, low budget flick at a bargain theater before it went to DVD. The movie was underwhelming at first, but the lead actor — um — had potential.
Then I found the websites. Many people who were oddly obsessed with the books and movies spilled their passion into cyber space and I read them all. Eventually I found “my people” at Twitarded — a bunch of crazy, smart, funny women of all ages who accepted their inexplicable interest in the series, while tossing around profanity like so much confetti. I loved them and that led me to interact with them. And tweet and email and talk with them. (And maybe stalk a few of the more clever ones.)
While following blogs, I kept hearing about the phenomenon called Fan Fiction. I refused to sully the books by reading take-offs and re-imaginings of Stephenie’s world but I finally caved when someone posted an excerpt of Wide Awake. Holy shit, these people could write!*
Long story short (funny, I know), I came up with an idea and eventually wrote a novel-length fan fiction with my own little twist. The process was eye-opening and educational and a total blast. The Family Business led to even more friendships with people from around the world that I’ll cherish forever.
Those friendships led to the logical decision to travel to Forks, Washington (Cullen territory) in September of 2011 so I could meet many of the Twitarded Tribe in person. That was a weekend that should have been blogged about (and maybe will be if I can remember all the details).
Fast forward to now. (“For the love of Edward, Suz, please do move on”). I went to see “Breaking Dawn Part 2” at that same bargain theater a couple of weeks ago, which was probably my last large-screen-time with the Cullens.
::SOB::

Excuse me but I want to be alone now with my books. And DVDs. And magazines. And full-size Edward pillow...

Excuse me but I want to be alone now with my books. And DVDs. And magazines. And full-size Edward pillow. And, and… ::SOB::

What a crazy, unexpected, wonderful journey it’s been. I’ve referred to Twilight (and my imaginary love affair with the lead actor) as my mid-life crisis, but as it winds down I find very little to be embarrassed about, much less regret.
Thank you, Stephenie, Robert, Roseanne, Twitardia and all the rest of my lovely enablers. I wouldn’t change a thing.

*Fan fiction became common knowledge in the past six months or so, thanks to a certain series of color-coded books. My thoughts are ironically not black and white so I’ll be posting them in the near future.

Concerning cup holders

Reprinted with permission of the Berthoud Surveyor

My 14-year-old car is perfect in many ways. I’ve had to do minimal maintenance on it beyond the usual and it’s only stranded me once. It’s not very pretty anymore but I do my best thinking in the dinged up Honda sedan and I dread the day I have to retire Snowbell. (Yes, Snowbell.)
The one notable problem with my car is that the interior has been bathed in so many beverages – mainly coffee and soda – that I’m sure I’ll never get it perfectly clean. The poor excuse for cup holders molded into the console is the glaring flaw in the car.
to go cupI hate them. They’re two different sizes and neither is the right size for any can of soda or average thermal coffee mug, which means the first corner I take results in tipped containers and flying liquid. If I’m lucky, it spills into the passenger side, but usually it’s on my leg. I’ve trained myself over the years to turn with one hand and hold the precarious coffee with the other, a technique that would surely be frowned upon by the state patrol.
I’m not sure when my next vehicle purchase will become necessary but I’ve vowed for years that the decision will center on the all-important cup holders. Of course mileage, reliability and horsepower will be taken into consideration, but no more caramel-macchiato-soaked pants for me. And I don’t think I’m alone in this automotive quest.
“It can make or break the deal,” agreed Lewie Puckett, the new car manager at Valley Nissan in Longmont. He explained that some car shoppers will research the car thoroughly online but decide against the vehicle once they see the cup holder situation in person. He added that the manufacturers definitely talk about the importance of the beverage storage.
Chris Gebhardt of Subaru of Loveland said it’s usually quantity over quality, with his buyers making sure there are enough in the back seat to accommodate passengers. As for the evolution of the cup holder, Gebhardt said, “They’ve definitely improved.”
Remember the flimsy plastic ones we used to hang on the door that never fit right or stayed put? Only slightly worse than mine.
The quantity and quality have not only improved, but exceeded my imagination. Many vehicles now offer beverage containers that keep your coffee warm, your water cool, and your drinks illuminated for easy night-time access. And if you have a big, thirsty brood, you may want to check out the Toyota Land Cruiser which has a full dozen holders.
We’re a mobile species, and many people in Northern Colorado commute substantial distances to their jobs or even use their vehicles as offices-on-the-go. The importance of the cup holder cannot be exaggerated. In fact, I suggest you bring your favorite souvenir insulated coffee cup to your next test drive.salesman
And while the law against texting-while-driving is a no-brainer, I urge legislators to look at the size and shape of vehicle cup holders for the next line of defense against careless driving. Or I could stop taking my coffee with me in the mornings, but that’s just crazy talk.

I’m dreaming of a Skype Christmas

Reprinted with permission by the Berthoud Weekly Surveyor

Home for the holidays is a popular wish for many, though not always possible due to circumstances such as distance, work, weather and even war. Years ago the only way to bridge those distances was letter writing or expensive long-distance phone calls. Sentimental carols like “White Christmas” or my personal favorite, “Please Come Home for Christmas,” made the longing that much more poignant.

I always knew the holidays had arrived when I saw the commercial where the college boy arrives home to make coffee and surprise his family. Tears were guaranteed.

Let’s pretend I cry this pretty.

Now I’m assured an emotional meltdown by the recent commercial of ongoing conversations between a college girl and her widower father, via computer. What can I say — I’m an easy consumer target as soon as the first hall is decked.

Times they are a-changing.

The last two decades have seen a growth in technology that has changed the world and made the simple desire to be “home for the holidays” possible in spite of the miles. Cell phones, Internet service and social media have connected us on a global level. In 2003, three Estonian software developers released Skype, an application allowing proprietary voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP). Not only does the software allow instant messaging and voice calls, but with Web camera hardware on the computer or phone, callers can see their loved one on the other end in beautiful — sometimes blurry and possibly behind a second or two — living color.

Skype eventually garnered more than 600 million users and was bought by Microsoft in 2011 for 8.5 billion dollars. Several competitive applications have been developed since then, including Apple’s version, FaceTime. The customer need only download the free software and create an account, then add contacts to their list. If both parties use the video chat, they can talk face-to-face on computers or even smart phones. The bigger and better the screen, the closer the other person feels.

Besides enhancing long distance relationships everywhere, Skype has become an invaluable business and educational tool. Employers have used it to interview prospective hires without the expense of flying them in from elsewhere and, with multiple connections allowed, audio conferencing with far-flung participants is possible. It’s even been used to assist in language exchange for students around the world.

For those of us who dream of going to the cyber office in pajamas and bunny slippers, Skype meetings make that possible. Just put on a nice shirt, wipe the oatmeal from your chin and no one’s the wiser.

They’re not hanging on every word of your presentation…
they’re wondering if you have pants on.

Professional tip: don’t stand up unless you’re positively disconnected.

Being far from those we love at the holidays can definitely be made easier with video calling. Imagine the joy of seeing your niece open her gift while you watch her reaction, or sharing a New Year’s kiss with your boyfriend while on separate coasts. Enjoy a little sibling competition by comparing the golden hues of your Thanksgiving turkey with your sister in Buffalo.

Personal tip: if you’re Skyping with grandma while wearing the hideous snowman sweater she sent that you have no intention of keeping, be sure to hide the price tag and horrified expression.

Yes, technology is a wonderful thing at the holidays, but it’s still not perfect.

Change is good…

… and other annoying cliches I take issue with.

To say that my fiftieth year has brought about changes in my life would be an under-statement of laughable proportions. About a year ago I formulated a wild list of goals to complete before the big 5-0 date. I’m still making progress on it, but I didn’t factor in some of the variables. Some of the items don’t really mean the same to me now. Some things happened that made a few goals much more important. So I’m being flexible and open-minded.

Which all sounds reasonable except the dichotomy of being flexible and fifty is adorably NOT reasonable.

I suppose most of us have complained about change being decidedly unwelcome at times in our lives. Books like “Who Moved My Cheese?” deal specifically with our innate aversion to change.

I once had a friend who told me I wasn’t satisfied with changing one thing, but that I had to “blow up the whole damn picture.” (I’m sure it was a compliment, but I won’t over-think that.) I admit that when I embark on a new adventure — a move, a new business, a family — I tend to go big. Whole damn picture big.

Case in point: When I moved back to Colorado, I chose a town where I knew no one but the woman who sold me my house. (Of course, her husband happened to be the mayor so that helped.) Although I had no job or contacts or experience, when I saw a small, empty space available I decided to open an art gallery within 6 weeks. When my biological clock went off, I didn’t get another cat, I adopted a real live baby. Solo.

I hit the mid-century landmark with a bright eye to the future, but maybe less willingness to move my cheese — mainly out of fear I’ll forget where I put it, but that’s another post. My post-gallery job has expanded and evolved in the last year, allowing me to become a stronger writer and a more creative designer. It’s fun and it’s also relaxing. There is stress, but it was rewarded with several press awards earlier this year.

Change brings opportunity. – Nido Qubein

Then I was given a new computer. It’s a PC and I’m a Mac person. Let’s just say the muttered profanity coming out of my office lately is some of my best work.

Change is such hard work. – Billy Crystal

I’m in the first relationship I’ve been in for a dozen years, and it’s awesome! Well, except for the part where he folds towels differently than I do and I have to shave my legs more than three times a year, but I’ll get used to that, right?

In the past year my ‘baby girl’ — who is still in elementary school — shot up four inches, 20 pounds, and has decided to try on the sullen, moody, irrational teenager persona for size. I may be adding ‘collect military school brochures’ to next year’s list of goals.

If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. – Maya Angelou

There are numerous other little – and big – changes going on in my life right now and I’d like to know how to pace them, slow them down a little so I can better plan my tantrums in between each one. Maybe there’s a 12-step program for those of us unable (or unwilling) to cope with change. If so, there’s already a perfect quote on hand…

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

What about you? Do you go-with-the-flow when life throws you curves, or cross your arms and pout until it sinks in there’s not a damn thing you can do about it?

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