Friday, December 19, 2014

12 Days of Adulthood

I got a Cuisinart for Christmas, and I am pumped because I can finally make my own tasty paleo balls*. Excited to pop its cherry, I assembled it last Saturday, only to find I could not turn it on. After some yelling and slapping, I returned the machine to the shelf for the safety of us both. Last night, a friend helped me position all pieces appropriately to engage the engine. I put the ingredients into the container, only to find the blade was too high and pulverized but a quarter of my cashews. Feeling helpless, I resorted to the Cuisinart DVD to instruct me. As I watched, I could not decide what saddened me more: that I prioritized a domestic machine over clothes and frivolous accessories for Christmas, that said machine came with an instructional DVD, or that I needed to watch the instructional DVD. I did know this: eighteen year old Anna did not predict this scenario.

Of course, being self sufficient and independent is rewarding in its own rite, but there are times, such as when I peruse my credit card statement or scan my mental list of errands, that I covet the days when the fridge was always full, the household heat did not depend on me and my parents handled gifting obligations.

In the spirit of Christmas and my current annoyance with adulthood, I offer the below summary of my time post-college graduation. Feel free to sing it to the tune of the jingle; I think it works.

12 oil changes. Bearable if they did not inevitably lead to a discovered issue that must be fixed immediately: worn brakes, worn tread, flat tire, a unicorn poking holes in my exhaust pipe.

11 coupled cousins.* I have twelve cousins. I could swap single stories with the sixteen year old, but I fear he actually has a girlfriend that has yet to make an appearance at holiday dinners.

10 wasted milk jugs.* More generally, pounds of wasted produce, meat and treats. Entering the grocery store with healthy intentions and decadent cravings is a dangerous combination. I purchase vegetables which shrivel from neglect, a box of cookies that eventually go stale because I ate one and then remembered my healthy intentions, and a carton of whole milk from which I drank only a cup.

9 weddings of friends. And associated costs. The gifts, travel, classy outfit in case the groomsmen are worth a second look.* I realize this is actually not an absurd number, and that is somewhat intentional. I like to skate the peripheral of intimate relationships so people do not feel obligated to invite me. Some may be offended if they are cut from the invitee list, but I consider it money in my pocket. Just kidding. Kind of.

8 bills a month. At a minimum. When did running water, Internet and heat become commodities?

7 cop encounters. This is not much different from pre-adulthood, though I no longer can use my father's legal prowess as a crutch.

6 travel mishaps. Whether it is losing a passport, missing a flight, or dealing with inclement weather, rarely does a vacation proceed without hiccups. I look around for someone to handle logistics but see only my twenty pounds of carry-on luggage I must now haul about the airport because I refuse to check bags.

5 full-time jobs. Or more appropriately, full time job transitions. Do the math. It can be tiring.

4 living quarters. With each move comes the necessary steps: purge your belongings only to buy new belongings, pack and transport, change your address, organize billing, tell yourself you are never moving again. Repeat.

3 purchased beds. In college, I used my hard earned waitressing money to buy a white oak bed and perfectly balanced mattress. They were left in Cleveland as it was a hassle to rent a UHaul. Bitter toward the lost investment, I bought a sorry excuse for a mattress assuming I would leave Charlottesville soon enough. Four years later, I was still here and desperate for a restful night's sleep. I am planning for the third mattress to last longer than the other two.

2 GMAT tests. Scheduled but not taken. Yes, that is money flushed, but it seems when I schedule the test, I immediately get a new job (see number 5) and do not have the time to focus on studying. I am currently studying but am not scheduling the test until a week prior.

1 Day until I see mom.

And just for funsies -

0 - times I have gone to the dentist.

Anna's sidenotes...

*Google them if you have not heard of them. Also, Blogger marks paleo as spelled incorrectly. It's time Blogger brushed up on its yuppie health trends.

*This is on my dad's side only for the sake of the song. I begin to get overwhelmed factoring in my mother's side.

*Approximation. The only approximation in the song.

*They aren't.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Stay Very Classy, CVS

Disclaimer: CVS is a fine establishment catering to many needs for many people. Sometimes, though, it is really easy to hate.

For the most part, I consider myself even-tempered. We all have sins which ail us most, but anger is not the worst of mine. I rarely become indignant over small issues*, and my disposition does not sway often from its laid back standard... And then I enter CVS.

The spurring factor is usually something along the lines of, I put my laundry into the machine only to realize the detergent is bone dry. After a five minute internal argument about whether or not water alone has the same effect, I decide to make the trip. Besides, there are a couple other items I could use. I walk past a wall of smoke and wait for the person exiting through the right door, because even though they have two doors, they only choose to unlock one. The lighting is sterile, and the music uninviting. I do not grab a basket, because frankly, I judge people carrying baskets in CVS. Who does more than a quick desperation run to CVS? I begin my trip by grabbing a sparkling water to reward myself for the harrowing journey I know will ensue.

As I go through the items on my mental list, half I should not actually need. I am replacing my sunglasses for the third time this year. I left my toothbrush at home and have been relying on my index finger and heavy amounts of mouthwash the past four days. My razor head broke and I am verging on neanderthal status. I lost all but one of the 100 bobby pins I bought three months ago. How did I lose 100 bobby pins in 90 days? I don't know, but thinking about it makes me more upset.

I need a razor. They lock their razors. What do they think they are selling? Cole Haan leather jackets? I am sure there is a valid reason for this, but I think that speaks further to the quality of their clientele. I spend five minutes searching for assistance, and they spend five minutes searching for their manager, because apparently the key to the razors is like the key to that broad's chastity belt in the Steve Martin classic, The Three Musketeers.

After a couple miscellaneous, impulsive grabs, I meander by the feminine care aisle, and Godiva's finest chocolates tempt me. I see what you are doing, CVS, and I do not approve. I am having a rough week which has just worsened upon entering your store. How dare you exploit my fragile state. I continue onward, savoring the small victory.

Entering the detergent aisle, I realize my hands are quite full and I must settle for the liquid detergent rather than those neat little gel caps as it is the only one that will fit into my tetrissed* tower of goods.

Goods acquired, it is now checkout time. Though I could pay at the pharmacy, they always glare when they realize I do not have to pick up a prescription, as if they are so much better than me on their two foot pedestal. So smug. I choose to check out at the front of the store, where the line has inevitably grown from 0 to 15 since I began my journey. Three consecutive patrons insist on finding perfect change. One individual argues because the Snickers' bag had a two for one sign underneath it, and I want to tell them this could be a sign they do not need the second bag of Snickers. Instead, I contemplate the over/under on the number of days before I "accidentally" eat all 100 gummy vitamins I am about to buy. I settle on 11, and pinch two bags of $1 gummy worms between my free fingers to keep the vitamins safe.

The manager finally decides it's appropriate to open the third register, and some sneakster attempts to bypass everyone and create a new line at said register. He feigns ignorance when I call him out. I am now losing feeling in my fingers.

As the individual in front of me takes fifty seconds locating their CVS card - as if they did not know they would be asked - I glance at the magazine covers. Taylor Swift Could Be a Victoria's Secret Model. Really? We get it, T Swift, you're not seventeen anymore. You have blossomed from a cute mouse to a hot mouse.

Doh! Look what this has come to. I am projecting my disgust at this situation on a perfectly hard-working artist. My snideness is not just. As I reprimand myself, it is my turn.

My cashier is friendly, although I have to inform her that the gummy vitamins were indeed two for one, because that is $20 I am not wasting. While she is double checking, I turn to those behind me and apologize. I feel their burning gazes. Upon paying, I receive a mile long receipt with coupons that expire within three days. Do you really think I want to make this trip within three days?

Though I had resolved beforehand to turn around after my purchase and use the coupons immediately, I find myself all but sprinting for the nearest exit. Ahhh fresh air! I open my sparkling water to quench my thirst, and as the shaken beverage sprays all over me, I remember I needed toothpaste.

*NCAA football's total lack of a logical playoff system is not a small thing.
*Yes, I just created and used tetris in its adjective form.

Monday, December 1, 2014

On Caring and Failing

It would be easier not to care. Or to simply blame the harsh elements, the exhausting week, the obnoxious grunting. Your calf is a bit tight, and you can't seem to shake the headache. Besides, the empty stands certainly would not hold a quick loss against you.

Sitting on the bench after game five changeover, you know one thing is certain: this will be a grind. It will come down to who wants it more. Those hours spent training laid the foundation for these defining matches, but now, it is a battle of will. After only thirty minutes of play, you know what the next 2 - 3 hours will entail.

You must capitalize when momentum shifts your way and minimize the damage when it favors your opponent. There is no teammate to redeem your mistakes, no ref to validate your call. You must play each point individually, forgetting about the prior, not thinking about the next, because that moment is the only one you can control. You must silence the voices screaming you are not strong enough, quick enough, smooth enough. Even then, you could lose.

And failure sucks. It sucks to lay everything on the line and to fall short. To look around and know that you were the only one who could swing the outcome, and you did not.

So you savor a sweet gulp of water, walk deliberately to the line, and you compete. Because failure sucks. But it is so much better than not caring.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Anna Inc., Since 2014

As you know, the current stage of my illustrious career involves a position at a tech start-up. I have learned a lot, and there are both aspects I really enjoy as well as challenges I would rather not encounter. Being so close to the founding of a company prompted me to consider what the focus of my hypothetical business would be. I recorded the results of my brainstorming, obviously trusting that if you hijack one of these gems, you will pay me royalties.

Restaurant, obviously. I hesitate to share them on a public forum, though, because every time I speak of filling holes in the Charlottesville food spectrum, they get filled. Sports bar on the downtown mall - Citizens*. Bakery serving beer with ESPN - Paradox Pastry. Mediterranean overpriced, medium plates style - Parallel 38. What's left? I have a couple ideas: Everything but Dinner, serving bread, appetizers and desserts, Anna's Abbey, because America needs more abbeys and it is alliteration, or All My Favorite Things, where I have baked goods, ice cream, chocolate, beer, wine, burgers, sports, pizza.

Pimp my religious head garb (originally pimp my yamaka)
I have to credit a Bar mitzvah I attended when I was fifteen for this idea. Indeed, the entrepreneurial wheels were turning at a young age. As I listened to the Rabbi* welcome the boy into manhood in a language I could not understand, I decided the ceremony needed a bit more flare, starting with the yamaka. There lies an untapped fashion market. There is obviously the solemn yamaka to be worn on the holiest of occasions, but then there are the athletic, extravagant, casual yamakas. Support your city's sports team with a logo on your yamaka. Show your chic sense of fashion with a houndstooth or burberry yamaka. Keep your head a little warmer with a flannel yamaka. It does not end there. I will also pimp turbans and berqas. Eventually, this will lead to peace in the Middle East because all will realize that while there are religious differences, everyone wants a banging headpiece. Then I win the Nobel piece prize. You're welcome world.

I have no foundation here; I just want to stop losing my socks to the laundry cycle. Someone solve this problem.

Because finding friends as an adult is hard. Arguably more difficult - and annoying - than finding a date.* And this is coming from a highly extroverted, involved person. You have to set expectations, avoid coming on too strong, contain your outrageous sense of humor until you know they can handle it. When do you exchange numbers? What is the natural follow up if you do hang out? Do you text them that you had a good time, plan for the next hang sesh, or play it cool? Though this would not answer all these questions, it would ease the pain of meeting like-minded people also seeking friendship.

The Ultimate Fantasy League
Why limit the fun to one season? Challenge your friends year round. Imagine it: Your roster could include Marshawn Lynch, Miguel Cabrera, Sidney Crosby and Lebron James*. It gets real in December when you have hockey, football and basketball in full force. Kiss productivity goodbye. Scoring system to be determined.

CEO strategy #37. Take someone's successful idea and copy it. 1800flowers. Why should females be the only people receiving mail-order gifts en masse? Further, what if the woman would prefer a six pack of IPAs and some tasty spiced almonds to flowers and chocolate? Enter... 1800brewski. The service that delivers everything from the ultimate microbrew package to the Nascar package containing Bud Light, PBR and Miller High Life. Send to your loved one for Father's Day, Valentine's Day, or just because you know they are in desperate need of hoppy comfort. Pair the beer with a fine cut of meat, savory nuts or indulgent chocolate - because some people still want the chocolate. I'm sure there are logistical differences between shipping alcohol and flowers, but if they can have a beer of the month club, this sort of service has to be feasible. Not a beer connoisseur? 1800wineluv* and 1800coktail are on the horizon.

Boom. Make it rain.

* I realize this was a no-brainer.
* This is different then apps like Friendster because it matches you with some cool mathematical formula.
* In my case, finding a date is harder.
* Of course my rosters going to include Lebron.
* I wanted to make 1800redwine, but I could not think of a seven letter phrasing for white wine. Ugh.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Dear Grandma, You Are a Great Namesake

Foreword: Like many in my family, my grandma is strong-willed and does not suffer from a lack of confidence. This may inflate her ego a bit, but I am willing to do that, because heck, it's the truth.

I have been grasping fruitlessly at inspiration lately. A lot of ideas are bopping around, but nothing has structural significance. Today, as I was reading old blog posts, indulging in my own wit and rhetoric, it struck. Years ago, I wrote a tribute to my grandfather and alluded to a future post portraying my grandmother. I have yet to write that. After all, how do I package twenty six years experiencing her greatness into one post and hope to do her any justice? As I reminisced about my Grandpa's death, though, I think I got some valuable material. So here goes.

I did not cry when Grandpa died. Maybe a tear or two, but nothing substantial. Of course I was sad, but I was young, and his death had been expected for some time. He was no longer in pain, and I was able to miss a couple days of school. Plus, besides the usual Thanksgiving feast that year, family friends baked some very yummy condolence treats. I vividly remember eating approximately half a Texas sheet cake, acknowledging that at the very least, Texas had made one valuable contribution to society.

The night of his calling hours, I dressed in black, stood in line, kissed him, and returned to my seat next to Lydia. Even then, the sadness seemed distant. Then Grandma said her last goodbye. She bent over the casket, shakily hugged him and wept as she kissed him one last time. Seeing her raw emotion evoked my own. She had just lost the person she loved most in the world, her teenage sweetheart. They had grown up together, experienced war, the birth of children and the loss of a child together. They had moved homes and jobs, built a strong family and laughed with them. Now he was gone. Even at the age of twelve, I had a small sense of the incredible pain and loneliness she must have felt, and I cried for her.

What most exemplifies Grandma's character, though, is the months following Grandpa's death. Nothing changed. We still had dinner every Sunday and the occasional grandchildren sleepover. She laughed, danced, and made absolutely ridiculous jokes at the expense of those who were not as witty as she*. She still gave the same feisty response to a politician she did not approve of or a ref who made a bad call. She still tightly embraced each of us when we left and told us to be safe and how much she loved us. I know she hurt, and once in a while, you could hear it in her fading voice or see it in a glimmering gaze, but that never affected how she selflessly cared for everyone around her. She was a rock.

And she still is. My aunts continue to call her multiple times a week, and my dad continues to visit her almost daily. She claims it is because he needs his afternoon nap, but I know it is because of his love and respect for her.

Gram's is always one of my first stops on a visit home. I'm sure to have a hungry stomach, because I know she will offer me some sort of goodie. We will talk about my job, and she will tell me I should move back home. I will defend myself by saying I am able to have so many different experiences and do good, but a part of me wants nothing more than to stay within the safety of her couch forever. She will tell me how my generation doesn't appreciate anything, doesn't know what it is like to come from nothing, to have to scrounge to support your family and find unity in destitution. I will staunchly defend my generation, saying that we are not all lazy, entitled souls who expect everything handed to us. Yet, I know she speaks some truth*.

They don't make them like you anymore, Grandma. My life and the lives of your four children, seventeen grandchildren, and eighteen* great grandchildren, would be so much less beautiful without you as their foundation. You have done the name Anna proud.

*Sometimes this was because they were merely children, but they were not exempt.
*Even in saying this, I will still staunchly defend my generation the next time I see her.
*Maybe, who knows? Is Annie pregnant again?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

26 Thoughts and One to Grow On

First, some things you may not know about me

1) I am seriously weary of people who do not appreciate Seinfeld's humor.

2) I know six programming languages. I don't know how to use them, but I know they exist.

3) I am extremely possessive of my desserts.

4) I use only my index finger when typing with my left hand. This was news to me when I discovered it three months ago. I do not know if this has always been the case, but I can't seem to change it.

5) Ice cream burps are my fave, followed closely by doughnut and guacamole burps. If you have never had a delicious burp, I pity you. It's a non-caloric treat.

6) I had no front tooth for four years. And rocked that look every minute.

Things I ponder

7) Is the speed limit really being enforced by aircraft?

8) How much money do grocery stores lose from people mislabeling their produce during self checkout? Is it worth the money they save in staffing?

9) At what level of static does the average American change the radio station?

10) Why does every oil change turn into a $300 excursion?

11) Is it socially acceptable to pluck one's eyebrows at an ATM? Those mirrors have the most incredible lighting.

12) How many malicious workers shake carbonated beverages before stocking them and get silent satisfaction knowing they exploded all over someone?

Pet Peeves

13) Excessive hash-tagging. If you can't make your point in six hash-tags, it's not worth making.

14) Anyone who says they know what it is like to be a Cleveland fan because they have one mediocre team. O, I'm sorry, Detroit, the Lions are terrible? I seem to remember the Pistons and Tigers winning championships in the past ten years. Your sports history is not as tragic. Don't take that from us.

15) People who say they love summer then complain about the heat.

16) Business emails beginning with, "I just wanted to reach out." Obviously. That is implied by you sending me an email. Tell me something I don't know like, "I had no desire to reach out, but my boss is going to throw a fit if I do not."

Random thoughts:

17) This is post number 69. Well, kind of. There are a couple drafts included in the count, but I am not deleting them so this can be 69.

18) I am getting my car inspected today. It expired last September.

19) Chipotle. I just think about Chipotle a lot.

20) Occasionally I remember it is not a dream; Lebron has returned and, realistically, Cleveland could win a championship in my lifetime. Then I smile. Then the Browns lose.

21) I think my neck is generally sore from balancing and supporting my big head.

22) One should always buy hoodies two sizes too large. They are not meant to be flattering. They are meant to be comfortable.

Things I spend too much time pondering

23) Cider vs IPA: Crisp, light, refreshing vs hoppy, heavy, and rich. Both so good once they hit your lips. Bahhh. Give me both.

24) How much money does the Smoked BBQ truck man make? And why did Zocalo stop having dance parties?

25) Hypothetical hubby - professional country star vs tennis player: Rugged, strong, American vs suave, smooth, sensational. And both so good once they hit your lips*. Bahhh. Give me both. And Mark Wahlberg.

26) Could I make a living being a socialite?

Finally, one to grow on.

*In my head

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Boys of Fall

Tonight is the first evening with Internet in my new apartment. Yes, I moved over a month ago, but apparently a modem requires a router to receive WiFi, and apparently an extender is not the same as a router. Ahh, technicalities. It seemed appropriate I stop by since I have been absent the past few weeks. I missed you, and returning feels like a nice, big hug. The fall air is creeping through my window, country music is playing softly, and I am feeling nostalgic. Perhaps it is because I heard Kenny Chesney's Boys of Fall this afternoon, but I cannot help but be whisked back to Friday nights in a small town.

For as long as I can remember, high school football was as much a part of life as church or Sunday dinners. My father was a coach, and fall evenings were spent calculating computer points*, dissecting the classic wing-t offense or bemoaning the fact that Catholic schools did not have to pull talent from within their district. We went to every game, and when my grandpa became too sick to make it inside the stadium, I sat with him and my grandma to watch from their car. They had priority seating because my father led the effort to build a new stadium.

The Hilltoppers were good. We won state in '94. My sisters' boyfriend, now husband and Chardon's head coach, led us to a state berth in '98, where we were beat with a hook and ladder. My heart still sinks slightly envisioning the play. I watched the cute football players and pretty girls who seemed so mature and imagined what it was like to be that old.

In my head, each season began the same way. The sky was a billowing gray with hints of sun, and the invigorating fall air penetrated your core with hopes of victory. The stands filled with fans in jerseys; the infamous superfans carried the ever-classy blow horns. The student section assembled, led by mascots in ridiculous attire. Some were there to watch and some were there to socialize, but all of Topper land was there.

Every team was undefeated, and last year meant nothing. The players lined up behind the fence and clapped their ritualistic beat, one that is engrained in my memory. Excitement and anticipation mounted as they rushed the field and tore through the tarp for the first time. This was when the Hilltoppers collected on months of hard work. From kickoff until the clock struck zero, the only play that mattered was the next.

The season was always an emotional roller coaster. The eight minute drives, the quarterback on the keeper, the missed block and subsequent sack. The interceptions, fumble recoveries and touchdowns. You were lost in the moment, but in a different way than collegiate or pro, because these were your childhood play dates, the sons of your closest friend or your grandson. They were your study hall buddies, the class clowns or fellow nerds, your boyfriend. And you wanted them to win.

But why? Why did people travel hours to see a game and weather rain, sleet and snow? Why did people come long after their children had graduated? Why did you get butterflies when it was 3rd and long and we were down by 6?

High school football represents something. It is pure. It can be a sign of strength and normalcy after tragedy. There is a comfort in knowing that amidst outside turmoil, the game is constant. A touchdown is always six points, a false start is always a five yard loss, and despite possibly questionable refs, the scoreboard never lies. The boys play with an innocent and unadulterated passion. They are not yet tainted by the world around them, but, rather, are maturing before your eyes. Most of all, it represents a community and family that is able to put their differences aside for a season and stand behind one group of young men.

I was very close with many on the football team. Time has increased the distance between us, but with a simple song, I hear the stadium chants, feel the nervous excitement and smell the musty post-game locker room. Though I cannot say for certain, I believe with each new autumn, they smell the crisp air and are taken back, if only momentarily, to a time when they were the boys of fall.

*The mathematical basis of making the playoffs determined by the caliber of team you played, but also the caliber of teams they played.