Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Video Wednesday

The Imp would like to invite you to be distracted from anything productive you might attempt today.

I give you:

Monster sized lip dub of lady gagas hits

This is something I wish I could have been a part of in college. I totally would have been in the Quidditch group...

Straight No Chaser 12 Days of Christmas

The Princess Bride Meets Star Wars

This one came from my dear friend Lizzi who can be found at Firestones on Film

Monday, December 13, 2010

Steve Miller Said It Best

The wealthy are different. A very intelligent, wealthy Jewish woman we'll call "V" told me this. And she was right.

While I was still living in Michigan and going to school, I worked for V and she became the Jewish mother I never had. She looked out for me like I was her own and was never short on witty words of wisdom and advice on life. I respected her honesty and frankness, her sense of style, her sharp intellect...I loved the fact that she could make the statement "the wealthy are different" and follow it with a real-life example. We were cleaning out her closet last spring (like we did at each turn of the season), and she told me she didn't want her Burberry satchel purse anymore, and would I like it? True story. Thank you V, for making this middle-class girl's dream come true.

Now back to the present, and how the wealthy are still different.

I have taken a second job here in Texas in addition to my 40 hour a week day job. Babysitting. Now don't laugh, I know I'm almost 23 and the proud holder of a double degree from Hillsdale College, but as far as I'm concerned (and everyone who's getting a Christmas gift from me this year, you'll agree), you're never too old to babysit wealthy children.

At the moment I am a regular babysitter for 3 families and counting. My growing brood of adoptive children have become little blessings in my life. We play together, share daydreams and fantasies, laugh, read books, and they keep me highly entertained with their upper class attitudes at the tender ages of 5, 6, and 7.

Let's review some adorable examples, shall we?

Family "T" has two sons, Zach in Pre-K and Luke in K. One day, Luke told me that most luxury cars are  yellow and asked if I were familiar enough with luxury cars that I could tell the difference. Later that day, we were playing soccer in their backyard, which backs up to a golf course, when a man jogged by dressed in a white track suite carrying a golf club. Luke informed me it was a caddy (how could he tell?) and then proceeded to yell through the fence, "Hey caddy, why ya runnin'?"

When it was time for dinner, we had planned to order a pizza. I looked on the counter for the money the parents' had left to pay for dinner and discovered a $100 bill. Our order total came to $11. The lady from Pizza Hut on the other end of the phone politely told me I could not pay an $11 order with a $100. I knew that, but apparently Mr. T did not.

A few days later I was babysitting for family "W", Peyton is in K and Jonathan is in Pre-K. If I were to ever kidnap a child, it would be Peyton. She is the first little girl who has completely stolen my heart (it's usually the little boys who steal my heart). After a full night with those two, I laughed with their mother at the new concept, for me, of hiring a professional company to hang your outside Christmas lights. 

But of course! I wouldn't want my hubby risking his neck hanging those lights on our multi-million dollar mansion with tiered roofs. Psssh.

The point is not that I hold these families lives in contempt. I am blessed and thank God every day for what he has given me. And I truly enjoy these families as my friends. I don't expect to absorb their class, paycheck, or attitudes simply by being their favorite on-call babysitter, but I also will not scoff at their willingness to pay me more per hour than my day job. I think Steve Miller had the right idea.

Take the Money and Run.

Except my version might start something like this:

This here's a story about wealthy kids and Ariel T.,
Six wealthy kids with nothin' better to do
Than sit around the house, playin' Wii, and spendin' money,
And here's what happened when Ariel decided to cut loose...

Go on take the money and run
Go on take the money and run...

Merry Christmas everyone. To spread some holiday cheer: it's the second song in the list, titled You Will Behave Like Gentlemen.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Other Nicholas from Nebraska: A Day with Nicholas Sparks

For those of you who don't know, I work in the Advancement office of a private school. So, my work life is full of event planning and fundraising. One of our biggest fundraising events is our Signatures event. We invite an author to give a speech at a luncheon in a fancy ballroom and often to sign books afterwards. The money raised from this event supports the fine arts at the school. In year's past, the school has hosted Barbara Bush, Anthony Bourdain, and John Grogan (author of Marley and Me). This year, they managed to snag Nicholas Sparks, author of A Walk to Remember, The Notebook, Message in a Bottle, Dear John, The Last Song, and eleven other rather formulaic (according to my mom) sappy novels. I have never read any of his books because I never liked any of the movies. Although, he is a famous person, and he might be the first to admit it, and I can't hide the fact that I was a little excited to meet him and hear what he had to say. I think I was ready for his slightly inflated sense of self, what I wasn't prepared for was the role of bouncer/body guard to keep back the seething masses of woman. Personally, I think I should have received some compensation for putting myself in harm's way for the man, but I'm just the hired help.

His visit began on Thursday night three weeks ago. Several days earlier, he announced to us that he would be willing to give a more in-depth version of his Friday luncheon speech to faculty and students on Thursday night. This was very generous of him as many teachers and students could not skip school on Friday to attend the fundraiser. The Advancement office briefly met Sparky (our nick-name for him) before he was escorted to the stage of the Performing Arts Center. His talk was titled, "Learning the Craft." Many of us had brought pen and paper, prepared to take detailed notes from this author who has had half of his novels turned into movies (which indicates, I think, that he writes bubble-gum novels). The talk was funny and engaging, but it was all about HIM. It was a focus on how amazing he is, how lucky he was, how he does everything. If anything, we hopeful writers learned that we should capitalize on the tragic things that happen in life (all of his books are based on true family stories) so we can sell them for $1 million a pop. Great. I don't consider my life full of sappy love tragedies. Or vampires. I'm screwed.

I will say this about him, he is very good with students. He took lots of questions and answered them all. He even answered a girl's question on how to tell her mom not to make her quit sports because she has a B in science class. He also told us the answer to what is, according to him, the most frequently asked question: he wears boxers. I knew it.

Friday was the big event. I put on a short dress, black tights and tall boots. In hindsight, perhaps I should have worn steel-toed boots and a muscle tee that read "Security." Registration and set up for the event went smoothly. I even got a picture with Sparky.

His speech for the luncheon was an edited and shorter version of his speech the night before, which was fine with me because I was focused on my food. Man was I hungry. No sooner was I done with my dessert (cinnamon and peach cheesecake), and it was time for us, the Advancement staff, to start preparing for the book signing.

Dear Lord, the book signing.

Ladies, start your engines. The moment women spotted us setting up the table, they were up out of their seats and queuing  up. I even saw some of them reapplying makeup. That's right. When it was their turn in front of Sparks, they were gonna look so darn fine that he would be inspired to right his next book about them. Uh huh, you keep those pipe dreams alive ladies. In the meantime, better apply an extra coat of that cherry flavored lip gloss (just in case Sparky leans in close while signing your book) and I'm going to get ready to play your personal paparazzi and his personal body guard. Ready, go!

You think I'm joking? Well, I'm not. I had to walk up and down a line of several hundred women, aged 12-75 and remind them that Mr. Sparks only had time to sign two books and no, he wouldn't be able to personalized them. Now please have your books ready and opened to the title page. If you would like a picture while Mr. Sparks is signing your books (remember, only two books per person), then please hand me your camera or iphone when you reach the front of the line. You'd think that after repeating these simple instructions multiple times these adults would be ready when they reached me and the table with Sparky. Oh no, all of these instructions had to be repeated while with one arm I physically held back the rest of the line and with the other free hand tried to work the camera feature on an iphone.

I think the funniest thing about the whole ordeal was that, despite multiple reminders and me shouting "look at me! smile!" 99.9% of the women forgot to look at me while Nicholas Sparks signed their books. All you could see was a wall of brown or blonde hair...yeah, who's going to believe that's you tagged in the photo on Facebook when we can't see your face? Epic fail. Sparky, on the other hand, never failed to turn, smile and pose perfectly for every shot. Good boy, Sparky. Kinda felt bad I didn't have a treat for him.

Thanks to the hard work of us line Nazis, and Sparks' signing efficiency, we finished on time, despite the last seven ladies in line who kept rotating through to make sure all 10 of their books were signed.

At the end of the day, after seeing Sparky off to the airport in his town car, we all went for drinks in the hotel bar.

Yes, I'll have two amaretto sours please. Cheers!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sore Thighs, Soaring Heart

I found part of me last weekend, part of me that I had packed up and put in a box for almost 4 years. It pains me to admit I let part of me wither from neglect, but I know that a healthy helping of humble pie is one of the things that will help me ensure that I don't do this to myself again. My pride can take a hit and I can admit that I was wrong.

What was I so wrong about, you ask? What part of me was packed away in a box? The part of me that, for almost 12 years, jumped astride a horse for dressage lessons at least once a week during the school year and more often during the summer. When I was 7 or 8 I convinced my mom to let me try dressage lessons. She took me to her old instructor, Karen. Ironically, my mom was forced to stop her own lessons when she discovered she was pregnant with me.

Karen was, and is, a horse person through-and-through. She told my mom that I could come over for a test lesson to see if we could work together. Karen is not someone to put up with childish crap in children, or adults. It only took one afternoon out at the barn and my heart was sold. Lucky for me, I think Karen saw this and agreed to give me lessons. I continued riding and learning with her through the first year of college. She was one of the most influential and important people who helped me grow and mature as a young girl. Sadly, I don't think I fully realized this until college.

Although I never owned a horse, or competed in the arena, I took my riding very seriously. However, after my sophomore year in college, travel, internships, jobs and my blossoming life as an adult crowded out my time for Karen and for riding. After the summer between my college freshman and sophomore years, I never returned to the barn, to Karen, or to the horses. I tried several times to call her on the phone and see her at the barn, but each attempt was met with answering machines and notes left in the tack room. I know I could have tried harder to hold on to this very large part of my life, but I think I was too distracted by the promise of new adult adventures and ashamed I had let my connection to the horses and Karen slide so far already. I started to feel so ashamed about this that I stopped letting myself think about my life with horses in it.

Flash forward three years and some change to last Saturday. I had had multiple dreams with horses in them over the past few weeks. Enough was enough. I can take a hint. I've started over in many ways down here in Texas, starting again with horses should be no exception. My friend Dave had made a horse date for me out at a friend's stable. I was going back to place I never should have left. These thoughts were flying through my mind as I reached for a box in my closet. A box that hadn't been unpacked after my move.

Kneeling on the floor, I looked at the writing on the top of the box . It read "Horseback Gear" in my mom's perfect handwriting. I felt a searing pang of home sickness shoot through my chest. Of course my mom would have packed this box, she had always encouraged me in my riding and we shared a bond over our love for horses.

I grabbed a pair of scissors and jabbed violently at the masking tape which was holding such a large part of me inside a tiny, dark, cardboard prison. When the tape had given way and all four flaps of the box top were peeled open, my hands were greedily shoving my riding pants and vest into my face. Ahhh! It all still smelled of Tesoro, Madison, of Hagi and Avatar. The horses that had taught me so much. I could try and hide memories, but oh the smell! That couldn't be washed from these clothes even after 100 washes. I grabbed up my Tipperary helmet and then looked to my two pairs of boots. One I used to wear during the Michigan winters. They were well insulated and were great for mucking stalls and crunching through muddles of partially frozen mud. The second were my knee-high dressage boots. Which to wear? I was pretty sure I would be put into a Western saddle that afternoon, so better go with the winter ankle boots.

Cody was his name, and he must have thought I was out of my mind. I kept wiggling in the saddle on his back and asking Ben to adjust the stirrup lengths for me. I was told Cody had a sensitive mouth because of some prior abusive riding and care, so I rode with an extra long rein. After a half an hour of finding my seat, listening to Cody and making sure he was listening to me (how I expected him to feel my small riding signals through all that leather of the Western saddle, I don't know) I decided we could try for a nice sitting trot. Now that was an embarrassing endevour.

My dressage training was getting me squat with this horse. Ben jumped back on him and even he couldn't get Cody to move faster than a walk without some serious leg thumping. The solution: spurs. Cody only had to see Ben put them on my boots. As soon as I remounted, he had a more lively walk. That's more like it.

I won't say my sitting trot was elegant. I was still unsure of his pace, gate, and the saddle, but I could sit it and keep him at it steadily, which was all I needed to know. I had my mind set on one goal, one of my favorite things in this life: riding the canter. I think God made my heart for the canter and the canter for my heart. Again, I won't say they were the best circles of canter in the arena, but they were smooth and fast. My legs wrapped and formed around the saddle and Cody. I let my hips find his rhythm. And then I let my heart sing a song of praise as it soared at the pace of the canter.

It was all very poetical. The feeling of my inner thighs the next three days were not. But they were a bitter-sweet reminder of what I had rediscovered by swallowing my pride. Those aches and pains were also a confirmation in my mind that the English saddle is superior in many ways to the Western. But that is a post for another day.

This post is dedicated to Tesoro, my first horse love, Hagi, a mare who matched me in attitude, Madison, the fastest ride of my life, and Karen. I would not be the person I am today without her. God bless them all.

Madison and Me almost four years ago.

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's Wanting What You've Got

Thank you, Sheryl Crow, for giving me those perfect words. And yes, I think I will soak up the sun :)

On Halloween weekend I was given a most wonderful surprise. That Thursday night, just before 11 pm, I got a call from my boyfriend. He told me that he had decided he would drive 12 hours on Friday to be with me that weekend (everybody say, "awww"). I was ecstatic to say the least! We had both had a rough week and the thought that we still had 25 of the 42 days apart still to go was just too much. I could barely sleep that night. First of all, I kept running through a list in my head of the things I needed to do and clean before Nic arrived. But more importantly, I was caught up in the realization that what I had been waiting for, what was being denied me, was going to show up on my doorstep in less than 24 hours. It was like suddenly being told a week into advent that Christmas was actually going to come tomorrow, several weeks early.

The entire time that Nic was with me that weekend, I couldn't help but look over and see him and think that I wanted so much what I had right next to me. You would think this should always be the case, that we we deeply desire what God has already given us, but more often than not, we stop desiring something after we acquire it.  This is a very sad thing. But, this post is not about sad things, it's about a very blissful weekend of wanting what I've been blessed with, a loving boyfriend.

One of the highlights of the weekend was a lunch date to a little mom-and-pop restaurant called The Country Bumpkin's Cafe. I discovered this little treasure on the 30 minute drive from my apartment to the nearest outlet mall. I'm sure 9 out of 10 people speed past this little cafe without noticing its existence. It's on a road bordering country pastures and it looks like someone's house with only a small sign out front. Once I saw it, with it's wrap around porch complete with porch swing, I knew I had to stop and eat there the next time Nic was visiting.

When I was younger and my family would go on road trips, my dad loved to stop at the mom-and-pop restaurants to make sure his family got a slice of Americana in each town. I remember really abhorring having to stop and eat at these places, places like Paul Bunyan's Cook Shanty in the Wisconsin Dells. Of course, we then discovered that the Shanty served fresh, right-out-of-the-oven cinnamon and sugar dough nuts at every table and the biggest stacks of pancakes we'd ever seen (pancakes are a personal addiction). I think this experience might have cured me of my aversion to mom-and-pop establishments. I now thank my dad for taking us to these places, he planted a seed of curiosity and appreciation in me. Now that curiosity was piqued by this Bumpkin's Cafe. Luckily enough, Nic has a wonderful sense of adventure when it comes to food and was more than willing to indulge me by taking me on a lunch date to the cafe.

I had done a little research prior to our date. I wanted to see if the Cafe had a website (I was very doubtful). They did not, but they did have a very popular Facebook page (go figure!). As I scrolled down the list of comments on their wall, I discovered that this place was a favorite in many locals' hearts. They raved about the Bumpkin Burger and their homemade desserts. Perfect. From the Facebook comments I planned out what we should order before Nic ever arrived in Texas.  I know, I'm kind of a planning freak.

When Nic and I pulled into the small,  gravel parking lot of the cafe, there was only one other car parked in front of the large porch. An older couple sat at a wooden picnic table on the porch. Both of them stopped and said hello as Nic and I made our way inside the tiny restaurant. It was kind of like walking into someone's covered porch at their home. It was full of mismatched tables and chairs and the walls were decorated with Texas country memorabilia (ahem, remember the decor of the Big Texas Saloon?). A lady, who could have been our grandmother, leaned out to us over the ledge of a half opened door. She asked us how we were and pointed us to menus that were paper print outs stapled together. I already had in mind what we should order, but we looked anyway. We ordered the Bumpkin Burger, the peach cobbler and of course I got sweet tea, then we headed outside to the porch to wait for our lunch.

When our burger arrived, it screamed Texas. It's a big burger, with the works of lettuce, tomato, onion, but it's also topped with barbecued beef.  Cow and more cow. Mmm, baby, but was it tasty! I'm not a huge meat person, but this made me a believer from the first bite. Nic and I were glad we split it because it was rather big (but it's Texas, so we shouldn't have been surprised) and we wanted to leave room for our cobbler. It came out shortly after we finished the burger. It had literally just come from the over and was too hot to eat. When we could eat it though, we agreed we had never eaten so much sugar, butter, and biscuit soaked in sticky sweet peach syrup. We joked that Nic would need a shot of insulin as well after this dessert. It wasn't the best cobbler, but the burger and sweet owners who severed us were worth it.

I can't wait to take my mom, dad and brother to the Country Bumpkin's Cafe. Just knowing it exists and having eaten it's signature burger makes me feel more like a local.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

An Imp Walked in to a Texas Saloon...

...thinking she was ready to get her yee-haw on, but shut my mouth and slap my grandma, I had another thing coming!

Everyday I enjoy learning from and observing Texans. They truly are a different breed down here, and two weekends ago I learned that maybe, just maybe, I'll have a harder time assimilating than was originally thought. Luckily, I have made some very kind and fun-loving Texan friends who are bound and determined to make me see the light of the Texas way of life. Two Fridays ago is a shinning example.

Dave, Chelsi and Jessica, friends I made at the church I've now joined, invited me to a country music concert featuring The Josh Abbott Band. The week before, Dave had lent me their CD and LP so I would be able to sing along at least a little during the concert. Growing up near Detroit, I am still suspicious and highly selective about my country music. That being sad, I found myself enjoying All of a Sudden, On My Mind and even I Just Wanna Love You and Good Night for Dancing. Yes, although I usually prefer my county songs to be about revenge on the ex, these last two prove that I do have a sentimental side. Awwww. Moving on!

The venue for this concert was a place called Big Texas Dance Hall and Saloon. Ya don't get much more Texas than this ya'll. Pool tables, 4 bar stations (where ya better order a beer son, non o' those fancy mixed drinks!), loud loud loud country music, and country decor complete with deer heads hangin' on the wall. In the center of this saloon is the "dance floor." I've never seen anything like this. Let me try and describe it to you. It's an oval shaped wooden floor, slightly elevated, with a bar in the middle, and counters with bar stools lining the outer perimeter. Apparently, this is what you call a two-step dance floor. It's great for, well, the two-step, a sort of waltz, polka, some country versions of swing, and of course, they manage to squeeze line dancing out there when Cotton Eyed Joe plays at the end of the night. This is the stage for my evening.

I spent a good 20 minutes deciding what to wear that evening. What does a northerner wear to a Texas dance hall? Can you Google that question? Maybe I should have tried, because I knew the moment I stepped in those swinging doors at Big Texas, I stood out like a sore thumb. I had my tight, dark, skinny jeans on, some wedge heels, a gray evening blouse with my big silver cross necklace (the closest I come to bling) and my cute new wristlet. Here's what everyone else was wearing: fadded and/or torn blue jeans/blue jean skirts, boots, cowboy hats, and all of their bling was worn from the waist down, i.e. big belt buckles and rhinestones on their jean pockets. I guess club/bar/evening attire doesn't directly translate from the metro Detroit area to south of the Mason-Dixon line. In the words of my friend Geoff, "maybe I should have Googled that sh*t."

So, while my Texan friends enjoyed their beers and sang along to the country music being DJed before the show, I took in the sights. We must have been an attractive group because a Big Texas employee came and asked if she could take our picture for their Facebook site. We agreed and grouped together for the picture. As I was smiling away I could just image one of those captions in children's activities books being posted beneath this picture, "Which one doesn't belong?" Note to self, wear more plaid next time.

In true Texas style, just as I was beginning to feel the lonely outsider to this Big Texas crowd, they brought me back in again and started to make me feel like family. The DJ did a musical 180, and guess who could be seen bouncing in her seat and head bobbing to Sir Mixalot's Baby Got Back and Usher's Yeah! ? That's right, this Imp. But I gotta hand it to those country girls, they know how to get their Usher on!

Once the concert started we moved to the front of the venue and closerto the stage. The band was a fun group humble enough to interact with the crowd and make jokes. I enjoyed myself. Maybe country music concerts aren't so bad after all.

We left close to 1 am and carpooled back in Dave's truck (what else would a Texan friend drive??) to our neck of the woods. Dave lives in my apartment complex so he drove us both home after dropping the others off. This is when possibly my favorite part of the night happened. And it's probably not what you think.

A few miles from the apartment we saw a group of deer crossing the road. They were the first deer I'd seen since moving to the Houston area, and I didn't realize how much I missed them until then. In Michigan, we affectionately call them Michigan speed bumps. Upon seeing them, I became so overcome with homesickness for Michigan and Michigan deer that I almost opened the truck door to chase after them...and probably hug one of the smaller ones if I could catch one. But I refrained, and not five minutes later I saw my first LIVE armadillo. Armadillos are Texan speed bumps. Dave must have read my mind about the deer because he told me armadillos are a lot of fun to chase. Probably easier too, I thought to myself. So there they were, deer and armadillos in the same night. Perhaps they were trying to tell me that I can still be a Michigander at heart while embracing Texas. But I thank God my bumper has never embraced either animal.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Diamonds on the Soles of My Shoes

Have you ever heard a lyric and loved the way it sounded, or the picture it painted, yet didn't quite know what it meant? Like the beautiful words should have depth, but you can't see that far into them? Well, this is the case, for me, with Paul Simon's lyric "she's got diamonds on the soles of her shoes." For whatever reason, I have wanted to be that girl. My confession: I don't know exactly what Paul meant. Did he mean this girl didn't put much stock in worldly treasures or measures of success? Did he mean she valued travel? Or the power of her choices for the direction of her life? If Mr. Simon can't give me an answer in his song, he leaves me no choice but to make up my own definition of a girl with diamond on the soles of her shoes. So, here was my week walking on diamonds.

On Wednesday afternoon, one of my best friends, Emily, and her cousin Katelin, arrived in Texas after a 21 hour drive from Michigan. Usually, I am the one itching to travel to visit friends, but when Emily and Katelin arrived I discovered the joy that is being a hostess. I had spent the previous weekend deep cleaning my apartment, laying out extra towels, making up extra sleeping spaces, and buying extra cereal. I wanted my home to become their home in Texas. When the girls finally did meet me at work to get a key to my apartment, they were in desperate need of showers and a place to relax (no worries, even they admitted they needed to freshen up after such a long drive!). I was so excited to hand over my key and say, "The place is yours. There are clean towels and extra soap in the linen closet. All food is fair game and the guest pool passes are in the drawer to the right of the kitchen sink." I was finally able to offer and share what I had in life with friends who I love! I had diamonds on the soles of my shoes.

When I was done with work and the girls were done with their time in the sun by the pool, I took them to a local restaurant/bar. It was 1/2 off burger night and there was supposed to be live music. We were out of luck with the live music, but the burgers were delicious and the company superb. We enjoyed the beautiful Texan evening outside catching up and reminiscing for over two hours. For us, there were no clocks or places to rush off to, only the pleasure of each others' laughter and conversation. All of us had diamonds on the soles of our shoes.

Thursday evening, after being wonderfully surprised with a prepared dinner by Em and Kate, we went to pick up my boyfriend, Nic, from the airport. It was an exciting time, let me tell you! It had been 32 days since we'd seen each other and this was the first time Nic would meet a friend of mine from Michigan (excluding our mutual friends from college in Michigan). Our first stop after picking him up from the airport was McDonalds. I had been craving an M&M McFlurry for almost two weeks. Nic and I had decided it would be a perfect way to celebrate his arrival and our time with Emily and Katelin if I held off on my craving and we all went out that first night. Once again, I was with people that I love, eating food that I love out in the Texas autumn night. We might have been eating at a McDonalds, but there were diamonds on the soles of my shoes.

I manged to get a half day off work on Friday so that I could have lunch with Emily and Katelin before they left for Mexico for the weekend. I introduced them to Whataburger (only in Texas!) and then spent the afternoon tiding up the apartment and waiting for Nic to get back from an errand in town. We had a wonderfully relaxed start to the weekend. Nic was sweet enough to accompany me on some errands on Saturday. We went grocery shopping and packed an incredible picnic we had been slowly building in our minds for several weeks. It started out as a daydream of mine at work, but once I shared it we realized we could really pack a picnic and spend an evening in a park when he visited this month! We had guacamole and chips, fresh watermelon, brie cheese and crackers, deli sandwiches and wine. After dinner, I told Nic I had to take him to Coldstone Creamery. I couldn't believe he'd never been to one! If you hadn't caught on, ice cream is a big deal for me (and my mom). I had to show Nic the wonders that are Coldstone creations. Mmmmm. To finish the evening off, Nic took me to a movie. Even though I kicked of my shoes during the picnic, the diamonds were still there.

On Sunday, I treated Nic to his first ever Renaissance Festival. Going to the Ren Fest in Holland, MI was a favorite summer event for my family and few of my nerdiest friends. Emily and I even made our own dresses three years in a row. Our crowning achievements were Eowyn replica dresses our senior year. That's right, I have no idea how to sew on a button or darn a sock, but with Emily's help I made a multi-piece replica Renaissance/fantasy costume. Boo. Yah.

I really wanted to share this epic dorkdom with Nic, and what better way than to take him to the Texas Ren Fest, the biggest in the nation. We got there a little after twelve and the place was already full of people dressed as everything from Anne Boleyn, to William Walace, to Sauron, to faeries, to Jack Sparrow, and everything in between. As two dedicated people watchers, Nic and I were in our element. It must be said that the Ren Fest, for many people, is simply an excuse to dress as their inner fantasy selves. This usually means lots of skin showing and costumes that have nothing to do with the historical Renaissances of the Medici family and Shakespeare. But hey! Don't burst their bubbles. If this is their only time of year (outside of Las Vegas conventions) to wear a leather corset, Celtic makeup and a raccoon tail (this describes both men and women at the Ren Fest), then let them have their fun! And play along too!

Nic and I watched the jousting tournament, cheering first for the German knight - got to pay respects to our shared heritage - and then the Spanish knight. We watched other shows as well, some comedic, some musical, and even a guy who flailed a flaming whip around. He was almost as cool as the guy with wooden balls on strings at the MI Ren Fest....almost.

The shops and their vendors are just as fun as the shows' characters. They call you "lord" and "lady" and try to lure you into their shops. We looked at leather works, swords, natural perfumes, and jewelry. Nic was told first by one woman that if he loved me, he would buy me jewelry. Then a second woman told him he should buy me shoes if he loved me. I told him I preferred a third option and that was food! I introduced Nic to scotch eggs and giant pickles. I am proud to say that the MI Ren Fest pickle vendors have wittier pickle jokes :) By the end of the day, we were sweaty, dusty, and tired from five hours of walking amongst the characters of World of Warcraft and Hamlet come to life. The diamonds may have been dusty, but they stayed on the soles of my shoes.

Monday was another relaxed day with Nic. Emily and Katelin returned from Mexico late that night. We all stayed up just long enough to hear stories of their time with Noelle and then it was bedtime. Although it was hard to see everyone leave on Tuesday morning and go back to work, some of the best things were waiting for me back at the apartment. When I came home from work, I expected emptiness to be the only thing to greet me. But Nic, Emily, and Katelin were too wonderful to let that happen. Nic had cleaned up my apartment, moved furniture back into place, bought me flowers, and left notes for me to find. The icing on the cake came when I opened my fridge that evening. My fridge was still full of the food the girls had brought, made and shared, and the things Nic and I had purchased for our picnic. Suddenly, my fridge, which is usually sparse (practically empty), was full of the love and memories of time shared with my friends. Here was an unexpected treasure of our time together in the form of leftover Mexican lasagna, half a watermelon, some brie cheese, frozen pizza, and a half bottle of red wine. I have never been so emotional about leftovers. I had diamonds on the soles of my shoes and in plastic Tupperware containers. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Comfortable in My Skin(ny Jeans)

Age has been a very popular theme in my life, and apparently in the lives of many of my recently-graduated friends (I feel ya' Wendy). I've always felt very comfortable about my age, very comfortable in my own skin. Sure I went through a gangly stage or two, but I don't think I ever went through a stage where my personality was gangly. You know, when someone is uncomfortable enough with themselves that they make others around them feel awkward or self-conscious. Yeah, don't think that was ever me. However, the universe has been trying its best lately to make me very aware of my youth, and how it doesn't fit in easily with my professional surroundings. Well, this weekend, the Imp took a shot at the universe and landed one square on its jaw.

Throughout the end of August and the whole month of September, the families at my school host grade level parent socials. Sometimes there are as many as three in one night. This weekend, I was required to attend three of these parent-only socials, the 9th grade social, the 10th/11th grade social, and the 12th grade social. Now, what business do I have socializing with parents who could be my own parents in age and who live in multi-million dollar mansions?

... ... ...

I couldn't come up with many either. It's not like we could compare parenting tips, or the size of our houses, our diamond rings, our husband's....salaries. But! The boss said, "Go!" so I went.

The first of these was the 10th/11th grade social on Saturday night at 7:30pm. I was tired and in a cloudy mood when I dragged myself to my closet at 6:30 to decide what the heck you wear to one of these socials. The Imp saw only two choices. I could dress in something very conservative and quiet, something to not be noticed in. Or, I could follow my Dr. Seuss sense of style and pick out two things I craved to wear and then make it work. Tonight, I was gonna work it.

I put on my favorite feather earrings and an orange coral necklace my mom got for me in Jamaica. I slipped on a blue sweater-vest like top with a low, V-neck back. Before slipping on and zipping up my brown, faux suede ankle boots from Spain, I reached into the dryer and pulled out my still-damp pair of favorite, dark blue, skinny jeans. With all of the slipping on and zipping up I did with the rest of my outfit, this was more of a wiggling into. But, oh baby, ain't nothin' fit like a pair of skin-tight jeans that you know make you look fine.

I didn't need a second look in the mirror. This was an evening I wasn't going to pretend to be anything but young, spunky, and spry (well, as spry as one can be in uber tight, damp jeans and 3 inch heels).

After I parked my car, I imagined a theme song following me as I walked down the quite suburb street toward the parent social (I imagine daily theme songs, FYI). And what did I imagine fit the mood of that Saturday night? A mash-up of Miley Cyrus' "Party in the USA" and Genesis' "I Can't Dance." Somewhere between the lyrics "...I can't dance, I can't talk, the only thing about me is the way I walk..." and "...And the J-Z song was on, So I put my hands up, they're playing my song...Movin' my hips like 'yeah'..." I walked into the (large) host house for the parent social.

I awkwardly stood in line behind a group of parents to get a name tag. I couldn't help but notice that everyone else looked like they had stepped out of the Chico's, Land's End, or Banana Republic catalog. But oooo, maybe I could get a plate of those scrumptious looking hors d'oeuvres. If my mouth is full of yummy cheeses and chocolate treats, no one can reasonably expect me to contribute to a conversation. Perfect.

As luck would have it, I was herded away from food table...but hallelujah! the tide of moms and dads took me straight to the largest bowl of sangria that I have ever seen. It was a beautiful thing. It was made with champagne and had watermelon as well frozen mango slices. My mongoose-like reflexes took action and I had a glass in my hand before any of the moms could shoot me the "are you old enough to be drinking that?" look I knew was coming.

So where does a 22 year-old, who's dressed for a swanky Dr. Seuss night club (if such things exits, and they should), bobbing her head to a song no one else can hear, and greedily digging out sangria soaked fruit pieces from the bottom of her glass? Right in between the world's biggest, loudest, 40 year-old Adam Lambert fan and an eccentric art teacher. No joke, this mom had seen Adam Lambert 3 times in the span of two weeks, made signs for him at every concert, and had gotten on TV and into the papers for them. She even admitted to signing her daughter out of school to go see him in Dallas. Before that night I had never seen a middle-aged woman who had the hots for a possibly gay pop singer. It was a first.

The art teacher, who completed our little eclectic circle of parent-social misfits (all the other parents gave Lambert-mom a wide berth), is one of my favorite teachers at school - if only for the reason that I see her most often in torn and paint stained clothes toting a large Coach purse and a Mar Jacobs bag and pulling the look off effortlessly. She also owns a pair of bright yellow shoes I think would look good in my closet and even better on my feet.

Shortly before the evening's remarks were made by the headmaster, another teacher joined my little circle. She is another sweet teacher I enjoy talking with very much. You should know that I like her and did not take offense at her following comment, I just happened to have my epiphany in regards to my youthful appearance after she made her remark.

Joining our circle she turns to me and says, "Ah! You look just like a student." And it hit me. My answer to every remark made against my age:

"If by that you mean my @ss looks killer in these jeans and you wish you still had the figure and perky curves of an 18 year-old, then thank you." Of course I didn't say this to the nice teacher. I was too busy with the frozen piece of mango in my mouth. However, it was with this thought that I exited the party with a chocolate dessert in both hands...because I can, because my metabolism can. And then I ran several miles a few days later to make sure I hadn't jinxed myself ;)

"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."
Dr. Seuss

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Blot of Mustard

My family could tell you that not all of the fruits of my adventures in the kitchen have been tasty, or even edible. Usually this was because I misread the directions, mis-measured ingredients, or simply did not have all of the necessary ingredients and was forced to make unorthodox substitutions. I offer up as an example the time in high school when I ran out of flour and substituted in Bisquick while baking six loaves of zucchini bread. Logically it makes sense, right? I mean, you can bake anything from Bisquick, so it must be mostly flour. Wrong. Whatever it mostly is, does not make edible zucchini bread.

So imagine my father's surprise when I call him up Saturday night for his famous chili recipe and declare that I am going to enter in a chili cook-off at my apartment complex. My dad told me the basic ingredients of his chili and I diligently wrote them all down, but the true beauty of his chili is that it is never the same twice. We call it "refrigerator chili" because he manages to combine a month's worth of left overs with just the right spices to create the world's best chili. The trick is that the "special ingredient" for each batch is different. Despite my previous track record in the kitchen and this daunting lack of my own personal "special ingredient," I decided to enter the cook-off. They were, after all, offering up $100 and $50 first and second place prizes.

Sunday, after church, I sauteed the onions,  browned the meat,  sprinkled the spices and let the concoction marinate with regular tastings (of course). Ten minutes before the cook-off event I did a last tasting. It wasn't a disaster! But, it wasn't first place worthy in my mind either and I was determined to do my dad, my King of Chili, proud. I stood in my Sunday dress pondering my pot of chili. Pondering. Pondering...

"Well," the Imp in me said, "nothing risked, nothing gained." Of course, in this case I was risking the digestive well-being of total strangers for possible monetary gain. The Imp had no problem with this. I reached into the fridge, grabbed my "special ingredient" and squirted a healthy dose into the chili. Gave it a stir and taste. My toes didn't curl and my eyes didn't bug. It was now a winning pot of chili.

Three hours and five chili tastings later and I was awarded second place. I risked, I gained, and I hope I did my dad proud.

I made a second pot (the first batch being completely consumed at the cook-off) tonight with some small tweaking. The adventure this time was realizing that I don't own any serving spoons or ladles. I improvised a large coffee mug to ladle out my chili. I also ate it with two pieces of freezer burned wheat bread. They were actually more like trenchers. I feel Hrothgar would be proud. It reminded me of the time I was late for work and out of clean spoons so ate my morning cereal with an ice cream scoop...

I dedicate this to my dad, who has always encouraged the Imp in me. And to my mom, who still watches movies with me which have such delectable quotes..."an underdone potato..."

Thank you Bess (It's The World, Dear) for the encouraging blogging award!

Seven Things About Me:
1. I didn't have a first word, I had a first sentence: "What's that?"
2. I read all of the Little House on the Prairie books once a year from 3rd to 9th grade.
3. One of my favorite song lyrics comes from Steve Miller "Really love your peaches, wanna shake your tree."
4. I have never broken a bone.
5. I had 8 wisdom teeth. That's right, I said 8.
6. I used to take Mandarin Chinese lessons.
7. I will dance to any music anywhere. Anywhere.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Adventuresome, imaginative, spirited, driven
Relative of feisty Scotsmen, hard-working Germans, and the Bond sisters, who gave me their side of the family's dance moves
Lover of the glory of sunrises, the rush of a faster canter, and good food that makes me dance in my seat
Who feels the heat of passion, the awe of God's mercy, and the depth of my family's love
Who needs eight hours of sleep, good books, and regular moments of wonder
Who fears most people's feet, a broken jaw, and having kids that won't love Harry Potter
Who gives smiles freely
Who would like to see every continent and my kids be proud of me
Resident of The Hoodlands

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Raiders of the Faculty Fridge

The latest outbreak of my impish nature occurred today around 9 am. But it was for a worthy cause! Food was involved. Part of a fresh bagel, to be exact. It was the promise of this morning treat, topped with strawberry cream cheese, that prompted me to break a social rule...

Like all schools, the one I work at has a faculty break/work room. I would say ours is, in general, above average...except in the case of the community refrigerator. Fellow Hillsdalians, I ask you to recall what we all learned in Economics 101: if something is everyone's, it's no one's. This rule is universal. It applies the same with the Lower School recess toys as it does with the faculty fridge. I was forewarned early on that staff (these are adults, remember) were known to partake of others' food stored in the fridge without asking permission, and that no one claimed responsibility for cleaning out the fridge. Everyone just claimed a communal right to nibble on your sandwich. Disgraceful. I shudder as one who holds her food sacred as her own (although if you ask, I'm happy to share). But! Today was the day I slunk over to the dark side, and nibbled without asking. Here's how it went down.

Upon entering the faculty work room, my eyes made their usual sprint to the counter surface where food gifts are known to miraculously appear. And what do my sleepy morning eyes see? A quarter of a fresh, whole wheat bagel. The last of it's kind. I don't have to be the AP Calculus teacher to calculate the speed at which another staff member could swoop in and claim the last treat for their own! There was no time for thought, only action.

I scanned the counter space around the bagel platter. What? No cream cheese? This can't be, perhaps they put it in the fridge...I make an ungainly dash in my heals for the once white-colored fridge. After opening the door, my eyes are back to their searching. If the bagels were brought in as a catered treat, then there would be clearly marked containers with cream cheese...but there aren't. There are only four normal looking tubs of various flavored Philadelphia Cream Cheese. What can this mean? Is one person hording an unhealthy stock of cream cheese in the faculty fridge? Do they belong to separate people? Or did someone buy the tubs separately to bring with the bagels? I can't very well close the fridge door, turn my back on the lone bagel piece, and ask the secretary...that's just ridiculous and I would feel about 9 years old, not to mention I would probably return to find the bagel gone.

Ok, Ariel, here's the plan to get you some of that cream cheese for your bagel, not get caught awkwardly raiding another person's cream cheese stash, and have a mostly clean conscious: spread your keys, mail, and dirty coffee mug along the counter between the bagel and fridge, that way if anyone enters during the raid you can abort the raid and nonchalantly stop by anyone of these items and pretend that it was what you were walking toward. Now, grab the bagel, napkin and a plastic knife. It must be plastic so you can dispose of it quickly should the need arise for a quick getaway. At the fridge; door is open; grab the tub that looks like it belongs in the horde so what you take won't be missed as much. Now, make sure to make your knife strokes in the same direction and even depth as the existing ones. Check. Check. Check. Knife is licked clean and placed next to the sink, along with the other unclaimed, communal dishes. If there was a little extra swagger to my walk as I passed the next staff member entering the room, well, we'll blame it on the Imp.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Indentity Crisis!

...about my blog's identity, that is. I'm changing up the rules a bit here (and anyone who's ever played a game with me (or edited my spelling and punctuation), you know how much I love to do this). This blog shall, from this point forward, have a new purpose: to simply keep those I love laughing with me as I enjoy with wild abandon life in Texas. Previously, I thought to make this an outlet for uncensored personal musings, but I have since changed my mind. I would much rather use this blog to share the the moments that make my mother hold her breath, my brother roll his eyes, my dad  high-five me, and my friends laugh with me. Entonces, vamos.

My first task is to catch ya'll upon life since my last post.

Let's start with work: it's getting better and busier. I think I'm really starting to own my role as Alumni Relations Coordinator and College Counseling Administrative Assistant. The seniors are starting to know my name, and distinguish me from their fellow classmates (score!), my coworkers are beginning to trust and rely on me, and everyday I grin like a fool when I think how perfectly God planned this all. Bien hecho, Dios.

Next week, I will be giving a presentation to the seniors on leadership and college during our Leadership Conference. This month, my first alumni magazine will be published (although, in all fairness it was started by my predecessor). In November, I will help host my first alumni event - the Class of 2000 Ten Year Reunion. These are all wonderful and exciting things, but it's not to say that the job is without its frustrations. I am still struggling with being handed tasks and then supplied with incomplete information on how to complete those tasks, and I am struggling with less-than-committed volunteers. So it goes.

I am still reading The Three Musketeers...and Ben I could use your knowledge of the French language! All of these names I can't even pronounce in my head! But for all of that, I am still enjoying it and when I am finished I will be sure to report my thoughts.

Last week I started and finished a mini photo album of my trip with my mom to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. And it reminded me how much I want to go back...and how much I want to take my kids there. I hope it's still around at that point...and that my kids let me drag them there.

Last weekend, Nic came to visit me for the long weekend. I think it's best to say simply that it was heaven on earth - any more detail and I might start to drool on my keyboard :)

My last consideration for you, and for myself,  is about a poem I came across while cleaning out some old folders in my office. They were stacks of poems written by seniors from the past three or four years. They were given the following format and asked to supply their own, personal answers. I'm working on my own and I would love to see what ya'll would write for yourselves. I challenge you to try it and share!

Biography of an Artist

First Name
Four traits that describe character (3 items)
Relative of_________________ (3 items or people(s))
Lover of __________________ (3 items)
Who feels _________________ (3 items)
Who needs ________________ (3 items)
Who fears _________________ (3 items)
Who gives _________________
Who would like to see_________
Resident of _________________
Last Name

Note: your answers can be in simple list format, or sentences with semicolons/commas

Saturday, August 21, 2010

New Each Morning

Morning, dawn in particular, is my favorite part of the day. Yesterday at about 6:50 am, as I pulled out of my apartment complex to drive to work, I was getting excited for the new day and what uplifting moment I could write about. I didn't know God would reveal it to me so early, but, wow. I turned the bend in the road and there was this beautiful rainbow surrounded by the bright pink clouds of the sunrise. Beauty enfolded in beauty.

The sight reminded me of the Bible verse(s) that say God's mercies are new each morning. Well, amen! That moment I really wished I would never miss one sunrise for the rest of my life. Those moments could be my uplifting moments for each day...but I get the feeling my boss would consider that cheating on my Positive Psychology Homework. Darn. Then again, I think I should get extra credit on this one because it concerns the soul and the psyche. Teacher's pet habits - I guess they die hard.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ay! Tia!

I know, this post is technically a day late according to my "Happiness Homework Schedule." But I promise I have not been derelict in my journaling duties; I simply value my sleep more. I have had a busy after-work schedule for the first time in 3 months and I cannot lie to you reader (Bess), 10:30 pm is now considered far past my bedtime.

So! What does my aunt have to do with my happy experience yesterday? Nothing. It has everything to do with my best friend from my semester abroad in Sevilla, Spain, Britt. [Note: "tia" in Spain can be used to refer to an intimate friend]. This girl rocks my TX world! She decided to up and move from Philly to Houston (another reason I love her so much, we share the same adventuresome spirit....and we're both Glee addicts). She just arrived two days ago and has been apartment hunting with her dad in downtown Houston proper. They found a place for her yesterday and was able to start moving in. To celebrate the room/apartment hunt success, and finally getting to see each other, we met up at a great restaurant near my apartment.

I have to say, it was one of my favorite dinners out, so far. We had good food, great drinks, and the company was fabulous. We swapped the 'short and bitter/sweet' summaries of our lives since Spain. We decided that we are most blessed to have stayed friends after Spain and that God knew what he was doing when he brought us back together in Houston.

After dinner, we had a lovely night stroll by the riverwalk and made plans for all of the adventures to come after she's settled in: dancing, finding great restuarants, decorating her place, shopping together, dancing, working out together, taking advantage of the pool and sun, dancing, watching Glee, going to Spanish church services, and in general making Houston our own.

So, I'd like to propose a digital "salud" (cheers) to my tia, Britt (my good friend/dude/partner in crime). Here's to making many more "remeber that time when...." moments! Salud!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Little Dopamine in My Zucchini Bread, Please

Yes the title of this post is random, yes it does make sense. Let me, it is too long - let me sum up:

On Tuesday, the school had a speaker present to the faculty and staff on Positive Psychology and Happiness. A fun two hours, I'll say that much. What came out of it, for me, was a homework assignment from my boss: I have to journal, for 21 consecutive business days (not including federal holidays?), about a positive experience in my day. The hope is that after 21 days a new (healthy) habit is formed...but seeing as I am one of the most positive people I know, I might just create a black hole in time and space here in Houston, TX. So here's to happy thoughts and black holes!

Wednesday 18th's Positive Moment

My positive moment came today at 7:30 am when I opened my work e-mail. I found that at 6:14 am a man, who had the previous night made me cry in a public shop and then hug a complete stranger, had sent me an apology e-mail. Now, there are really only three ure-fire ways to make me cry: play the song "Amazing Grace," convince me that I am inept and a failure at my job, or present me with a task that frustrates my perfectionist tendencies. This man had chosen option number two. And despite everyone agreeing I was in the right and that he was unstable, I was still having trouble facing my job that morning knowing that a man out there was convinced I was a rotten excuse for a human being who didn't deserve my job...and he was going to tell my boss that too. So, to have that apology waiting for me as I sipped my teacher-lounge coffee from my Harry Potter mug, was positive...practically inspiring and uplifting. It was the bright spot at the end of yesterday's gloomy evening.

In other news: I baked two loaves of zucchini bread this weekend and they are very tasty despite Texas' lame zucchinis (not everything is bigger here), I encountered my first cockroach in bed with me at 4 am this morning, I am having a friend move into Houston (and possibly stay with me for a while), I spent this evening at a gathering called Wednesday Women and Wine, and I heard about one of the best dreams ever from my boyfriend. Oh, and school starts tomorrow at JCS. Sigh. And I am going questing.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

To You, d'Artagnan

Here we are, my young d'Artagnan: the beginning of new adventures. I'm starting my life in Texas with my first job and my first apartment; you are traveling to the city of Paris for your first taste of court intrigue, dueling, chivalry, and manhood. But, like your father said, we've got good strong legs and we don't fight shy of adventures - I think we'll do just fine.

A comparison between myself and young d'Artagnan may seem a stretch, but if you should know anything about me it's that I stretch the imagination. And I think it's quite fitting that I should begin reading The Three Musketeers by the brilliant Alexander Dumas as I leap joyfully into the next part of the adventure that is my life. I hope to keep good literature a large part of my life and perhaps, with the help of this blog, make writing a bigger part of it, as well.

I think some fundamental facts and observations about myself and my start thus far in the greeeeeaaaaat state of Texas are in order. I find my self here after 22 years of a wonderful life in Michigan with my family. At the end of college, I proudly walked across the graduation platform with a double major in Spanish and English. Loves of my life: languages, books, writing, reading, and imaging.

Through God's blessing, and large dose of determination on my part, I landed a job here in Texas. While my official title is Alumni Relations Coordinator/ College Counseling Assistant, I like to think of myself as a love-to-stay-in-touch-and-reunite-at-awesome-parties facilitator and future-dream-college granter. But that's just how I look at things.

I have many things planned. Things planned to accomplish. Things planned to try. Things planned to perfect. And things planned to make mine. I have a feeling d'Artagnan felt the same. And so, bonne chance et bon courage.