Friday, March 28, 2008

Doing Your Civic Duty... Sucks.

I spent the majority of this week doing my civic duty as a randomly selected juror for the Municipal Court of Seattle. According to the paperwork I was sent in the mail, "serving as a juror is a right, a privilege and a responsibility of citizenship." In addition, I was informed that as a reward for being such a good citizen, I would be compensated... in the form of $10 a day for my generous services. Whoop-tee-doo. Lucky for me, my company is one of those rare employers who is still willing to pay me my normal paycheck for up to five days of jury duty.

Unfortunately, I couldn't figure out a reason why the summons would cause me "undue hardship" so I reported at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday. At first I was a little bit excited. I thought the whole experience might be somewhat interesting - trials always seem so intense on television. I got checked in, along with about 60 other people, and we were shown a video about what would happen once we were selected as jurors for the specific cases that may go to trial that week. Then, they informed us, began the "hurry up and wait" experience.

All 60 of us were told to wait in the large room full of chairs and tables until we were called. Due to a compatibility issue, my Mac iBook was not able to connect to the building's WiFi, so for a while I sat and read my book. Four public access PCs were available for use, but since there were so many other people waiting I was only able to jump on for a few minutes at a time to check my email. Other people worked on their laptops, read newspapers and magazines, and worked puzzles from the shelves of games available. Every few hours, a group of 16 names would be called, and those people would disappear down a hallway. I was not summoned.

At noon we were dismissed for our 1.5 hour lunch break. I grabbed a quick bite across the street at Columbia Center and then with nothing else to do (it was really too cold to walk down to Pioneer Square) I went back to play the waiting game. I read my book... I napped for a while... I checked my email... I read my book... I napped for a while... I called Stewart... I read my book... I checked my email. Finally, at about 2:30 p.m. my name was called. My group was taken down a locked elevator to another floor, where we were crowded into a small room and told to wait. Finally, one hour later, the bailiff lead us into the courtroom.

At this point, the judge informed us that the case was one in which a man had been accused of driving without a license. Six jurors would need to be selected for the case, but it was too late in the day to begin the process, so the judge dismissed us until the next morning. I had effectively wasted 8 hours of my life.

The next morning we returned and waited for about an hour before the bailiff brought us back down to the courtroom. At this point I was starting to get somewhat interested. The judge told us more about the case, and then for about an hour the judge, the prosecutor and the defendant asked us all kinds of questions before selecting six jurors for the case. I was not chosen. I had hoped that at this point I would be dismissed and allowed to return to work. Nope. Back to the pit. Apparently you have to be chosen to serve on a trial before you are dismissed. Great.

The remainder of my day was pretty much the same as the previous. I read my book... I napped for a while... I checked my email... I read my book... I had lunch... I napped for a while... I called my office... I read my book... I checked my email. At about 4 p.m. it was announced that we could go home for the day, and were expected to return the next morning. At this point I was going absolutely insane. I explained that I had an important client meeting the next day and it would really create an "undue hardship" to miss it, and so, thank the Lord, I was excused from a third day of service. I feel incredibly sorry for those who were not so lucky.

To me, it really seems like an inefficient system to force so many people away from their jobs to do virtually nothing for days on end. But that's just my opinion. For me, jury duty was a huge disappointment and waste of time, but I can imagine that the whole experience would have been much more entertaining if I had been assigned to a case trial. Ah well, I suppose it was nice to have a couple days of just sitting around doing nothing. But if I were you, I wouldn't jump for joy when you see the bold words "JURY SUMMONS" appear in your mailbox...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Do the bunny hop... hop... hop...

I definitely wouldn't categorize it as my favorite holiday, but I do have lots of fun memories of celebrating Easter throughout the years. Most of them involve egg hunts and baskets full of candy, and definitely lots and lots of yummy food.

For my mom (a devout Catholic), Easter is one of the most cherished holidays of all time, and she never fails to go full out. That is, if you can consider four days of church (Easter vigil mass being four hours long!) a celebration. Although I do have some additional entertaining memories of sitting through that service while giggling hysterically with my siblings and cousins (and simultaneously getting the death glare from my mother).

In any case, my mom really outdid herself this year. In addition to a fantastic meal and Easter baskets all around, she chose to make... yes, a Bunny Cake. Sheesh. Actually, the whole thing was pretty clever.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Today, the first day of spring, the folks in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood back in Pittsburgh are celebrating what would have been Fred Rogers’ 80th birthday. And they’ve asked that “everyone, everywhere – from Pittsburgh to Paris” wear their favorite sweater that day. Although mine isn’t a red zip up and I didn’t kick off my heels for some worn in tennis shoes, I did wear a sweater to work today. I liked this little reminder of my childhood, which were filled with educational programming that always included a very personal visit with Mister Rogers, and usually a journey to the Neighborhood of Make Believe, my favorite part. I think this plain and simple goodness is something that I often lose sight of in my day to day life, so it’s a nice little reminder today.

When I was growing up my sister and I were not allowed to watch commercial television. However, we were allowed to watch a fair share of “educational programming” – which mostly included shows on PBS channel 9. And ironically, tonight – the day of Fred Rogers’ birth – I will be a volunteer at the evening’s KCTS Telethon! Remember watching those when you were growing up? My personal favorite was Anne of Green Gables. And I remember that as I watched there would be periodic breaks where announcers would come on begging for pledges to help continue to support educational broadcasting, with tons of people on phones sitting in the background. As a child, this meant “snacktime!” But for tonight, I will be one of those “people on phones sitting in the background.” Oh how my life has changed since age 7.

So even if you’re not interested in watching the Osmonds 50th Anniversary Reunion or Andre Rieu: In Wonderland, flip to channel 9 this evening if for nothing else than to point and laugh at little ol’ me. At some point during my shift, a spokesperson for Relay For Life will be interviewed on-air to give viewers an opportunity to learn more about our efforts (the main reason why I am volunteering). And hey, give your support to public television, especially if it was a huge part of your life growing up, like it was for me.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Happy Birthday, Kelly!

Today is my good friend Kelly's birthday, and I am so glad that she was born! You know her as that Badass Chick From Iowa, but to me she is just one of the most completely fabulous girls I know.

To celebrate being fabulous, Kelly hosted a crazy birthday party last weekend at Merchants Cafe, which is supposedly the oldest restaurant in Seattle. We had the entire bottom floor to ourselves and basically drank ourselves silly while playing pool and cards all evening. It was fairly low key and super fun, exactly how I prefer to spend my Friday nights.


Monday, March 17, 2008

I Don't Want To Come Back Down From This Cloud

After a hectic Monday morning full of meetings I arrived back at work… to find, to my absolute delight and astonishment, a box with a ribbon around it containing a dozen absolutely gorgeous long stemmed red roses. Even better, they were accompanied by an adorably cute note from my amazing boyfriend, who had remembered that a year ago today, he and I met. Basically I am on Cloud 9.

We had already gone out the day before to celebrate and I figured that was it, but leave it to Stewart to come up with an extra surprise. I am spoiled.

I can’t believe it’s already been a year since I spent that ridiculously fun, drunken Saint Patrick’s day with Stewart. Jeanna, Amanda and I had purchased tickets and planned on an all-day extravaganza at Kells Irish Restaurant & Pub in celebration of one of our favorite drinking holidays. Decked out in green apparel we started drinking at 11 a.m. and paced ourselves to ride it out until 2 a.m.
Jeanna went home in the afternoon to sleep it off for a while, but Amanda and I hung around the bar with some new friends we had made. To keep ourselves motivated, we played games. I think we played quarters for at least two hours, and I spent a lot of that time getting to know Stewart, who I already found super sexy and incredibly entertaining. Eventually, we roused the group into a ridiculously exciting flip cup tournament – one of my favorite memories of St. Paddy’s day ever.

I spent the rest of the day and night flirting shamelessly, and Stew and I decided that we definitely wanted to become “friends.” We even took our first picture together, even though I didn’t realize it until almost six months later, when my friend Crystal sent me this picture. Yep – that’s me in the background!
Since then it’s been the best roller coaster ride I’ve ever been on. I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store, because the past 365 days have been some of the very best of my life. I feel so very lucky to have such an amazing person in my life.


Friday, March 14, 2008

It's About That Time...

With a trip to Vegas, Memorial Day weekend and summer looming on the horizon, I’ve really been trying to lead a healthier lifestyle. I’ve had some great workouts this week and have planned out my meals to be extra healthy (I actually made some amazing tortilla-less fajitas). Last night I read (cover to cover) my April Fitness Magazine, and one of the articles once again reiterated the obvious: breakfast is one of the most essential meals of the day. I know, I know. But I’ve never been a breakfast person, and eating my first meal of the day at 1 p.m. has always worked out fine for me. But I guess if this really is going to boost my metabolism and help whip me into shape, I can start forcing breakfast down my throat every morning. The article recommended three easy breakfasts to rotate during the week, one being yogurt with a ½ cup of fruit and sliced almonds. I didn’t have time to go to the store last night to prepare for this breakfast, so when I stopped at Starbucks this morning with some co-workers, I threw one of their yogurt parfaits down next to my grande skinny sugar free vanilla latte. Feeling very pleased with myself for beginning my new routine so quickly, I might add. Until I looked at the nutrition facts. WTF?!? One little yogurt parfait contained 37 grams of sugar! I might as well have gotten myself a stack of Krispy Kremes. Of course I ate it anyway, and it was scrumptious. But next time I really need to plan ahead.

In other health news, I recently went to the doctor for my annual exam. Even though I knew it probably wasn’t necessary, I went ahead and told him to do the full range of STD testing. (Just for good measure… Stewart and I have been together for almost a year, so…) Anyway, I got my results in the mail yesterday. “Your HIV, Hepatitis B and C, gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and herpes tests all came back negative.” And I really did expect nothing to the contrary. But for some reason I found myself breathing a ridiculously huge sigh of relief. Why are those tests always so mind numbingly scary? In any event, I’m glad it’s over with. Oh, but the doc did note that I am suffering from a vitamin D deficiency and need to start taking a supplement. Good thing in less than I month I will be soaking up rays in Vegas! (And hopefully, due to a healthy lifestyle between now and then, lookin’ damn good doing it!)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Relay For Life

When I was in high school, my granddad got lung cancer. He underwent major surgery that took him almost a year to recover from. The diagnosis – it was already too late. The cancer had spread to the rest of his body and he had developed a tumor in his brain, which was what eventually killed him. He underwent months of hospice care at his home. We had never been close, and I only visited once, toward the end. By that time he was so out of it that I got freaked out and wasn’t able to force myself to go near the huge hospital bed that had overtaken his bedroom, which I had never been in before. I still feel guilty.

A few years later, my aunt Kathe started having seizures. She was soon after diagnosed with brain cancer. My mom and her sisters drove over the mountains to Eastern Washington to visit her several times. I was busy with college and was never able to make a trip work out. I didn’t realize that in less than a year she would be gone. One weekend that summer my mom had promised to come up to Bellingham to help me move, instead of taking another trip to Eastern Washington to visit her sister. My aunt Kathe died that weekend. I wasn’t able to fly back from Hawaii for her funeral. I still feel guilty.

More than 1.3 million new cancer cases are expected to be diagnosed in the United States this year. These are staggering statistics, but there is hope. Each of us can do something to save lives and help those already fighting the disease. In an attempt to alleviate the guilt that still sometimes consumes me, this year I have formed a Relay For Life team.

Relay For Life is 24-hour event that brings communities together to help support the American Cancer Society and its lifesaving mission to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. The Society works hard every day to prevent cancer and save lives by supporting groundbreaking research, affecting public policies that protect us from cancer, and educating people on how to prevent or detect cancer early.

I’m sure many of you have already received emails from me about Relay For Life, but I had to include the info here too. I want to invite everyone to join me in this fight against cancer by either becoming a relay participant or making a donation.

Click here to be connected to the main page, where you can make an easy online donation. You can either search for me by name or search for my team: Swift Walkers For A Swift Cure. I really appreciate your support, and you will make a real difference in the lives of people facing cancer and in the lives of the people who love them.

Thank you!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Double the Pleasure, Double the Fun!

On Sunday night Jeanna and I hosted a little girly get-together at our apartment: Pure Romance, the Sequel. I invited back the woman who had given a presentation for Tara’s bachelorette party a couple weeks ago, and 20 girls crowded into our living room to smell, lick and feel the latest and greatest on the market in the sex toys department. A few hours later, more than $700 in orders had been placed, and I will admit to purchasing a few trinkets for myself.

This time around, we decided that fondue would be the most appropriate food to pair with wine and sex toys. Jeanna’s friend Jana used to work at The Melting Pot and was kind enough to not only hook us up with fondue pots and chocolate, but also to stand in our teeny tiny kitchen and whip up pots o’ cheese and chocolate for the whole party. And I must say, it was beyond scrumptious.

I’ve come to the conclusion that hosting parties in one’s home is fantastically entertaining. Except for that whole process of cleaning your entire house from top to bottom, only to have it be trashed again a few hours later. Ah well… and least we’ve got lots of fondue leftovers so I won’t go hungry this week!

And I can’t wait for my package that’s going to arrive in the mail soon…

Friday, March 07, 2008

Dear Seattle

Dear Seattle,

This weekend will mark our three-year anniversary.

For years I admired you from afar, catching glimpses of you here and there. When we officially met a few years ago when I moved to the city, my childhood infatuation immediately turned into true, undying love. It was meant to be.

But, dear Seattle, I can no longer endure our relationship or the direction it is headed. Things need to change. In the beginning you embraced me with open arms. You introduced me to new friends, provided me with new experiences and expanded my horizons with an overwhelming abundance of opportunities. I was enchanted, and felt that I could really make a serious commitment to you.

Even when your rising cost of living caused an alarming increase in my rent last year, I didn’t complain – I’m used to your lavish lifestyle expectations. I adjusted my living situation to accommodate you. You forced me to pay more than $300 for my car registration – and then went back on your promise to build an extended Monorail. I tried to understand that sometimes these things happen. From my office, I witnessed a shooting right outside on your streets. I just gritted my teeth and thought, “Hey, no one’s perfect.”

But I cannot continue to make excuses for you, Seattle. You have gone from simply not caring about my feelings or how things affect me to being completely abusive. Frankly, you’ve started to disgust me. Your filthy streets leak revolting, foul-smelling steam from its drains. Homeless panhandlers shove signs and repellent tattered cups in my face as I attempt to avoid them on the sidewalk. Then they screech obscenities at me as I walk away. What did I do to deserve this type of treatment?

As I walk down the street, I often have to sidestep or risk getting hit with spit, a snot rocket or a carelessly tossed cigarette butt. I would say you don’t even bother to pay the slightest bit of attention to me, but in fact as I often innocently make my way to work or the bus stop, I am literally harassed with degrading cat calls: “Hey girl, how you doin’?” and “Has anyone stopped to tell you you’re beautiful today?” and “Hey honey, can I buy you a cheeseburger?” and “Damn girl, you so fine!” How can you speak to me in such a derogatory manner?

Even the Mounties you’ve provided to try and keep things clean and safe downtown have literally started to shit all over it. You don’t even bother to pick up after them. Your police officers lean against buildings chatting while across the street I can clearly see the buying and selling of drugs. You don’t seem to care, not even realizing how upset it makes me to see my hard-earned tax dollars pay for this so-called “protection” you claim to provide.

Honestly, what have you done for me lately? If you think teasing me with a bit of sunshine for a few days is going to make things better, you’re wrong. Right now I just don’t see a future for us. My salary has not increased significantly in over a year, and with the rising costs of homes I will never be able to afford to stay here permanently.

Seattle, I love you with all my heart and soul. But I don’t have to like you right now. There are so many amazing attributes about you that I know I will never find anywhere else. But I can only take so much. Please, Seattle, let’s try to make this work.



Tuesday, March 04, 2008

My Naïvety Continues

I will readily admit to being far, far too gullible. I mean come on – infomercials are one of my favorite things on television, and you can pretty much convince me of anything. But today was really a letdown.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has started taking Airborne every few hours at the slightest hint of a sniffle in order to avoid a full blown cold or the flu. In fact, when I run out at work I never have to worry – there are at least three or four other co-workers with a trusty tablet to lend me. And up until today I was totally convinced of this miracle cure.

Always the person to bring me back to reality, Stewart has been skeptical about Airborne since the day I started making him take it. So I wasn’t surprised that he was the one to call me today and alert me of a breaking news story:

Supplement company Airborne to settle $23.3M suit

Apparently there is no credible evidence that what’s in Airborne can prevent colds or protect from a germ infested environment. It’s basically an overpriced vitamin pill that’s been deceptively marketed. And even though the company doesn’t admit to having done anything wrong, they have agreed to settle the litigation and are even refunding money to consumes who bought the product. I hope you kept your receipts.

Bummer. All this time I could have just been taking a multi-vitamin instead of spending $8 on tubes of this crap. But I really did think it cured me! In any case, at least it forced me to drink a ton of fluid, which isn’t all bad.

Why am I so naïve?!?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Jumping Through Hoops

In November, my friend Tara and I attended the Seattle Ski & Snowboard Expo down at Qwest Field. On our way in and throughout the expo we signed up for lots of free stuff and entered lots of drawings. By the next day, we had forgotten all about it.

About six weeks later I received a call… Apparently, I had won a free, all expense paid trip to Las Vegas for two – SCORE! I immediately called Stewart with the good news.

Catch #1: In order to receive our “free gift” we were required to attend a timeshare presentation on the Eastside within the next 24 hours. Ah ha. I could feel a scam coming on, but we decided to check it out anyway.

The next evening we attended the timeshare presentation, which took about two hours but was relatively painless. Frankly, I probably could have gotten out of it in the first five minutes by showing them that the combined totals of my checking and savings accounts had less than $14 in them. In any case, we got passed around to various people who continued to hard sell us on the timeshare idea. We adamantly insisted to each person that we “just wanted our free trip,” until they finally handed it over and shooed us out the door.

Catch #2: Upon looking at the paperwork, we found out what the restrictions of our trip would be. We could only fly out on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Bummer. We would have to pay upfront $95 to cover all the taxes and fees. We would have to stay at an “economy-class” hotel a.k.a. “off the strip.” Ah well. I suppose that’s what you get for free.

When sending in our paperwork we had to choose three departure days that might work for us. We chose three days in April and hoped for a Wednesday departure date. When the confirmation arrived a few weeks later, we discovered we would be leaving Tuesday, April 8. Ah well, it could be worse.

Catch #3: At this point I was starting to realize the company was going to make it as difficult as possible for us to cash in on our “free trip.” Along with our confirmation letter were some other restrictions and hoops to jump through. It did not come with any return envelopes (postage paid or otherwise), carbon copy documents, or receipts. I had to make photo copies of all the documents after filling them out and had to search high and low for the address to mail the $95 fee to. In addition, the $95 could only be paid by cashier’s check or money order – no personal checks. I also had a very hard time figuring out who to make the money order out to.

At this point I realized that they really wanted us to make a mistake that would allow them to decline our trip. So I was careful to read all the fine print and not make a mistake. It seemed that I was doing ok so far, until… enter biggest scam of all.

Catch #4: Last week I received a phone call from the company confirming our trip. This is where it really gets good. Apparently, our “free trip” consisted of the following: Flying out very late Tuesday night, spending Wednesday in Vegas and then potentially flying out as early as 6 a.m. on Thursday morning. So of course, I was then offered the “Upgrade Option for only $278!” For this extra money, we would receive preferred flights leaving early Tuesday morning and returning late Thursday night, for a full three days and two nights in Vegas. We would be upgraded to the strip (low end strip = Stratosphere / Sahara / Riviera / Circus, Circus). We would receive complimentary shuttles to and from the airport. We would be given $100 to gamble with and comedy show tickets.

Well that all sounds great. But how did our trip end up going from FREE to $373? For that much money I could have planned my own damn trip to Vegas and stayed in the hotel that I wanted and booked the flights that I wanted. But at this point we were in pretty deep. Once we did the math and realized it was only $186.50 per person we decided to suck it up and do it. As compensation to ourselves, we bought some pricey Cirque du Soleil tickets.

In all honesty, if I knew my free trip was going to be so much work I would never have gone through with it. And to top it all off, Tara ended up winning a “free trip” as well, which makes it pretty clear that they were given out to everyone in an attempt to sell timeshares.

But at this point Stewart and I are going to have a good attitude about the whole thing, and bottom line – WE ARE GOING TO VEGAS, BABY!