Friday, December 18, 2009

Elder Abused

I was at work this week, quietly filling up the shelves with Jello and syrup when a customer approached me. “There’s an old woman in aisle 13 who asked me to find someone to help her.”

It’s not uncommon for elderly customers to need some extra help shopping, and I was ready to help. I found the old woman standing in front of the paper towels. She was about four and a half feet tall, short white hair permed up, and looking angry.

“I want the Bounty with NO colors but NOT the extra strength. The extra strength is STICKY. And Kroger’s has let me down again.” Since there was nothing to say to this statement except agree and apologize, that’s what I did. Then I offered to help her find something else. And she proceeded to go on a tirade about how great Kroger’s used to be and how it now is terrible (and she growled her ‘r’s). She also used the phrase “spittin mad.”

So far, I was with her. It’s frustrating to go to a store that used to carry a particular product you want only to find it’s no longer there. It’s even harder when you’re older and need to rely on a bus service to get you there and home. You can’t even shop on your own schedule, and generally having to ask for help all the time makes you feel powerless. I was inclined to be sympathetic, so I used my social work skills to respond to her in a respectful and sympathetic manner. Eventually my offers to help her find other items brought her out of her anger about the paper towels.

“I need Tropicana orange juice. In the SMALL bottles. WITH PULP!” I told her where we could find it and offered to help her locate it. We started walking (at her slower, older pace), and she eventually just stopped, clearly assuming I would find the juice and bring it to her. I wasn’t adverse to this situation, and besides, she was probably tired. So I went to the juice aisle, found the smallest bottle of Tropicana and headed back.

She must’ve had a bionic eye because I was still half way across the store when she spotted me and bellowed “I DON”T WANT THAT ONE!” I apologized and offered to bring her a different option. “NO PULP!” was her response.

On the way back to the orange juice, I spotted one of the store managers. I informed him that I was working with an older woman who had some complaints about the store for a manager to hear. “I think I’ve heard her enough,” was his response. Then a woman interrupted us to congratulate me on being so nice to the “woman who is being so awful to you.”

At this point, I was feeling like a saint among sinners. I was unimpressed by a manager who was hiding from customers, and still felt sympathy for a frustrated woman. Sure, she had yelled at me quite a bit at this point, but it was no worse than Grandma yelling at Grandpa during a game of bridge. It was a bit more malicious feeling, but I figured I felt that way because I had never been on the receiving end of old lady anger before.

We located the right orange juice, and she decided to buy the bad kind of paper towels. She asked me to help her make it up to the front of the store for check out. As we were walking slowly along, she asked me to check her out personally, so that she wouldn’t make her bus late in picking up the other seniors. I’m not trained to work a cash register, but I promised to find someone who was.

As we were walking, one of my coworkers finished loading two very full carts (not shopping carts, these carts have a bottom that’s about 5 inches off the ground and are open on 3 sides) of cardboard and decided to pull out infront of the old lady and I rather than wait until we had passed to make her trip to the backroom. I’ve always found this coworker to be a bit inconsiderate of others, but I could understand her reasoning that since the old woman was moving so slowly.

We did not realize that the old woman was The Hulk in disguise. Suddenly we weren’t walking so slowly anymore. We were walking FAST. And I mean FAST. She rammed her shopping cart in to the carts of cardboard four times, until the cardboard slid off the cart and on to the floor. After we passed my coworker picking things up, the old woman said to me “I’m sorry. She pulled out right in front of me and I just couldn’t help it,” in a very helpless old lady way. It was then that I realized I had spent the last half hour being verbally abused by Satan’s nana.

I delivered her to the cashiers who all cringed to see her, but were willing to open a special check out lane just for her. One of the nicer team leads asked me to come to the back of the store with her for a “special project.” The special project was the two of us escaping from the old woman, who apparently comes in once a week to yell at the staff, demand special treatment and vows never to shop at Kroger’s again.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fame! I wanna live forever!

A few years ago, my mom handed me a Minnesota Magazine. It was opened to a picture of some people having a picnic by Lake Calhoun. I thought it was a nice picture. And then I thought that one of the people in the photograph looked like my friend Jo. And another like my friend John…and then I realized I was on the photograph.

My friends and I remembered the picnic, but not being photographed.

Yesterday, I went in to the domestic violence center where I’ve been volunteering. One of the staff, Kim, and I have been planning their volunteer training. Kim told me she has started to research various educational films to show to their interns.

“There’s a video of you on the website promoting one of the films,” she told me.
I responded with a very articulate “Hunh?”

We looked at the site, and sure enough, there I am.

I remember going to the screening of the film, but didn’t remember the interview.

I wonder where else I can be found…

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Insane Troll Logic

Lots of my job is answering customers’ questions and helping them to find various items hidden through out the store. Sometimes it’s because items are hard to find, and other times people just have a hard time finding them.

Hard to find:
-Soy milk (located in a special section of the store)
-Car windshield scrapers (located by the recycling center)

Hard time finding:
-Peanut butter (despite the fact that the aisle is labeled “peanut butter”)
-Canned vegetables (I was asked where they were as I was putting them on the shelves)
-Aluminum foil (3 people have asked me while standing in front of the aluminum foil)

I admit that it’s hard to find stuff in the store. And I’ve figured out what the problem is. Things are perfectly logical, as long as you start at the same logic jumping off point as the store does.

For example, say you are looking for sandwich bags. You may think—plastic bags, those would be with the garbage bags, or perhaps with the Tupperware. You would be wrong. You started in the wrong place. Instead, you should look in Aisle 4: the baking goods aisle. There you’ll find cake mixes, flour, sugar, one use baking pans, plastic wrap (for keeping those goodies fresh) and sandwich bags (since they should be by the plastic wrap). Since that aisle has flour and baking mixes, it also has the pancake mixes. And where you have pancake mixes, you have syrup (did you think the syrup would be in the aisle with the breakfast foods? You were wrong). Aisle 4 also has vegetable oil for cooking. And since it has one kind of oil, of course it also has canola oil, peanut oil and olive oil. You might not use all of that for baking, but you can’t split up the oils. That would be illogical.

Learning the logic of the store is taking some time, but it gives me something to ponder as I stack the salsa on the other side of the store from the chips….

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Today at work I made a friend. Blake and I were set to help restock the beauty and other non-food item aisles. This is not our job since we’re supposed to be only working with food items, but the non-food people got really backed up the last few weeks. Since we had so many small items, it gave us a chance to talk.

He went to a liberal arts college in Idaho and came here with his girlfriend. Majored in English and History. It seemed like things were going well. And then he said that he was planning on going to see a play in Minneapolis next week. I asked which play, and he sheepishly told me “A Christmas Carol. In Klingon.” I told him we were going to be friends.

We continued to talk all through our 8 hour shifts and even took our breaks together. I managed to lock my keys inside my locker, and my new friend helped me pry the locker open to retrieve all my belongings.

This was the best day at work yet!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I think I’ll probably be writing a lot about work for a while. The job gives my mind a lot of time to wander, and it usually wanders in what my sister called “blog thought.” I start writing blog posts in my head through out the day about the odd things that happen, and hopefully I’m not too tired to post them once I get home.

Today I had a blog thought. Working at the grocery store is a lot like being pregnant.

-My back and feet hurt.
-My hands are swollen (mostly because I run into things)
-I expect to gain weight (my current schedule has me trying to eat dinner at 9pm and go to bed at 11)
-I look at the future with a mixed sense of dread and anticipation (anticipation about what direction my career could take, dread that this is the direction its already taken)
-I have strange food cravings. It seems like a good idea to purchase marshmallows, teriyaki sauce and pickles.

Hopefully I won’t still be there in 9 months to deliver any results.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Survival Tactics

I’ve just finished my third day at the new job stocking groceries. I mostly take a cart full of items to an isle, spend 45 minutes seeing if any of those items are needed and take a cart ¾ full of times back. It’s not such a bad gig.

Except for the customers.

I had noticed on my first day that everyone I worked with walked very fast. No matter what we were doing, we walked at a brisk pace. After being stopped three times after I had clocked out for break, I understood why. We are running from the customers. If you walk fast enough and look preoccupied, they can’t catch you or think that you just didn’t notice them asking for help.

I unfortunately generally look bewildered and since I don’t know where I’m going most of the time, see no reason to hurry to get there. The customers sense my weakness, and thus often pounce on me.

I wonder if there are speed walking classes.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The care package

My family hasn’t sent me many care packages since I moved away from home. I received several after my lung collapsed a few years ago, and I know my mom and sister have each sent me a few here and there through the years, but its not a common occurrence.

Most of the things I think I would want, like fresh cooked zucchini bread, I can make on my own. And the things I don’t make—like turkey stuffing from scratch and Laotian sticky rice, are too strange to ask for

So I’m still a bit puzzled by care packages.

Brian’s family has always sent plenty of care packages. Not just his mom, but his grandmother as well. Grandma Metzger sent Brian a care package for his birthday this year. Two jars of home made jelly. Candy. Home made bars of some sort of deliciousness. Crackers. A small ham (only 2 pounds). Sliced cheese. 4 sticks of butter.

I’m thinking asking for sticky rice is not so odd after all.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A thing to be thankful for

After the insanity of my unexpected training day on Wednesday, I remembered that I was supposed to pick up some pop tarts for Brian before coming home. Grocery shopping the day before Thanksgiving isn’t the best idea, but I figured I’d be brave and provide for my starving partner.

While I was standing in line, the older gentleman behind me asked if I had already gotten my cooking done for the next day. I told him that at the rate the lane was moving, we’d end up eating the pop tarts. He laughed and asked if I was a student. I told him no, but my fiancĂ© is. He asked me, “Is he a good man?”

“Yeah. He really is.”

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

An unexpected first day

On Tuesday, I got my call back from Kroger letting me know I had passed my drug test. I was told to come in on Wednesday at 11 for my “hiring session.” Great, I thought. I’ll have a job for after Thanksgiving, and still will have plenty of time to cook today after the ‘session.’ I was wrong.

I went in and spent 15 minutes signing forms. Things were going as planned, until she set me up with a computer so I could complete the online training sessions. There were at least 15 sessions, between 25 minutes and 60 minutes long. I was told by the manager not to worry, that the sessions really only took half as much time as listed. She was wrong.

Each session was essentially like watching a glorified powerpoint presentation, except I couldn’t control the speed at which the information flowed. A bullet point would pop up, and I would read it. And read it again. And spin around in my chair. And then the next bullet point would pop up.

I learned all about in store safety, how to operate a price gun, how to operate a fork lift, how to prevent theft (which really just gave me tips on how to shoplift), more about how to promote safety, how to create a work schedule for my department and how to use work schedules to train new workers (impressive, given that I haven’t even been trained yet).

At the end of each training session, I was tested on the material. For information on safety and fork lift usage, I had to get a score of 70% per section. For information on proper dress and team spirit, I had to get a score of 100%.

At one point when I found myself listening to the in store musical stylings of Justin Timberlake and watching an hour long cartoon about a floating talking star and a guest services clerk, I thought I was loosing my mind.

Finally at 6:00 I left. I am $52.50 richer (not including taxes and union dues) and theoretically able to operate a forklift and assist a coworker in removing sulfuric acid from their eyes.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Job Hunt

So the job hunt has not gone well. I had a promising prospect with the United Way here, but it’s been over a month of decision making on their part, when originally they had planned on telling me in a week.

And while I continue applying, it’s been a very long time with no income. So this week, I broke down, swallowed my master’s degree and applied at the grocery store. I try not to be a snob about jobs, and kept telling myself that there is no shame in making a living, but it wasn’t a good day.

I knew that when I interviewed they would ask why I wanted to work there. It’s a common interview question and I always try to come up with a good answer ahead of time. For the grocery store, all I could come up with was the fact that I want money. It’s an honest answer, but I’m not sure the good folks at Kroger Co. would appreciate it.

On Thursday, I went to my interview and of course was asked why I wanted to work there. I told them it was because I want to get married soon and I need an income right away to do that. I struck gold. The woman interviewing me is still paying off her daughter’s wedding from two years ago.

I wasn’t hired on the spot, because first they have to receive my drug test results. Ahhh the workplace.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Possible Impending Doom

I haven’t blogged lately because not much has been happening. I’m still job hunting, Brian is busy studying. Most days I spend my time knitting, watching bad TV (wifeswap!) working out, cooking and cleaning. Saturdays we spend time together, Sundays I go to church then clean up the apartment. Mondays we go out for drinks with the students from Brian’s program, Wednesdays I watch Glee with some friends, and Fridays we go to Bio Bev.

This week at Bio Bev, I suddenly noticed a lump on the underside of my calf, just above my ankle. When I looked more closely, I realized it wasn’t just a lump, it was a huge bruise! And all weekend long, the bruise continued to grow (the lump part did not, just the funny colors). Usually my bruises look terrible right away and fade quickly. This one spread from the size of a silver dollar on Friday to the size of a tea cup today, with gross colors changing all the time. It also leaves lines of color each day where my socks sit.

I have decided the bruise is
A. Ankle cancer
B. The hanta virus
C. The bubonic plague
D. A voodoo curse

I am completely serious.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Happy Birthday stinky love

Today is My Heather’s birthday. She is a person I love with all my heart and I am happy to have the privilege of us being bffs. And since I liked it so much when my sister did it, I’m going to tell you 10 reasons she is awesome:

1. She is the best smelling person I have ever met. If you know her, try smelling her sometime soon, you’ll like it.
2. She decided to go to school in Madison, which made me go to school in Madison, which was one of the best decisions of my life
3. She often starts to entertain herself when left alone. Once while I was driving with her somewhere and ignoring conversation in order to concentrate, she started putting on a little play with the items in my purse.
4. When we were in college, we invented a game called “tears or snot.” You can play by crying on your best friend’s shoulder and then deciding whether the wet parts are from tears, or snot.
5. She told me that we would not hang out the first month of my freshman year, so I would be sure to make friends outside of her, because she wanted me to grow as a person
6. My second night in college, she broke our no-contact rule to bring me to an awesome party.
7. She surprises me. For example, most people thought it was very odd when I spent a week carrying around a giant plastic Buddha and taking pictures of it every where. Heather thought it was a good idea to take him to Target. And to Victoria’s Secret (as long as he stayed in the shopping bag).
8. She calls me every year on my birthday to tell me she’s happy I was born. (She should expect a phone call today, because I’m happy she was born).
9. She has seen Dead Man on Campus and The Pest at least 10 times. Minimum.
10. She went with me as a Ninja for Halloween two years ago. It’s been my favorite costume ever since. We spent the entire evening defending each other and yelling “Ninjas Fight in Pairs”

Happy Birthday Stinks!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Scariest Day of the Year.

I had a very un-scary Halloween. Brian and I watched the gory, but not scary Sweeney Todd and then attended a party thrown by one of the third year students. The number of dogs (in and out of costume) and babies at one point exceeded the number of students. Brian and I had very awesome last minute Ninja costumes (my brother in law is right, you should always have a sword for last minute emergencies), that were fun, but not scary.

The big scares came today. The first while I was relaxing in the living room this afternoon. I had the strange feeling that I was being watched, and saw out of the corner of my eye—a face pressed against the window. It was the 10 year old neighbor boy, and he stayed there until his grandparents called him after about 5 minutes. Creepies.

Later, Brian and I were rough housing next to the stairs. I was about to put a stop to it, hearing my mom say that we would fall down the stairs and die, when I lost my grip on Brian’s hand. In slow motion, I watched him he reeled backwards, and all I could think was how far it was and how hard the stairs were. Turns out, it wasn’t just my vision in slow motion, it was really happening that way, because out of my line of sight, he had a firm grip on the railing and was never in any danger of falling at all. Boo.

Final summation: October 31, not scary. November 1, scary.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Bio Bev Rookies

I posted a few weeks ago about the Friday night tradition of drinks in the Evolutionary Biology department lounge. I said I’d update about what was discussed, but haven’t posted yet.

Last week, things were very quiet. There were only a few people, all of whom were first year students. We groused about the one girl in the program that no one gets along with and there was definitely a conversation about tiger testicles (I wasn’t listening closely enough, so I can’t give you any more details).

This week there was a conversation about what you wanted to be when you grew up (best answer: Velociraptor). Another discussion of what to name your children (best answer: Velo Ci Raptor). And someone loaded the room’s dishwasher with the wrong kind of soap, creating a nice sudsy background for the evening. When I saw the suds, I called it a “rookie mistake.” Two other people said the exact same thing about the situation later that night.

Apparently, it’s a common rookie mistake.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More Animals!

So I’ve seen more animals. Brian and I have seen a set of three deer all around Northwoods. They’ve been by the dumpster, grazing on the sidewalk by the engineering buildings, and right outside our door one day when Brian left for class. We had disagreed about the size of the fawns, but didn’t put it together that there were actually TWO families of three deer running around.

Until I was driving up to our apartment and found them all together. I got excited, I pulled out my camera, and I took pictures.

Unfortunately, all six would not pose together

On the way to photograph the deer, I also finally got a picture of one of our woodchuck friends

He’s a little camera shy

The most exciting encounter, once again, is the overly friendly squirrel

We encountered OFS on Sunday and on Tuesday this week. On Sunday, we were leaving our apartment to run some errands. Just as we got out the door, OFS peered around the corner of our building, in a very stalker-ish fashion. Once again OFS approached us, and the faster we ran away, the faster he followed.

We got to the car and locked ourselves in. But where was OFS? We’re too kind hearted to want to run him over, but we couldn’t find him. Then we rolled down the window.


He was right next to the car! And when I stuck my hand out to take a picture, he came closer. We tried throwing food in the opposite direction, but he was only interested in us. The noise of the car horn eventually frightened him off, but we felt it was a near miss.

Today, I got home from the grocery store and had both hands full of groceries. As I approached my door, I realized that OFS was between me and the apartment, and he wanted love. He wanted contact. I dumped half my groceries on the picnic table, skirted the squirrel and bolted for the apartment. I barely missed contact with the squirrel and had to wait until he went away to get the rest of my groceries.

And my neighbors who we don’t like (who I just gave a candle to), were watching and laughing the whole time. Dang.

Would you light my candle?

On Friday, we came home from a quiet Bio Bev to find that all of North Campus (including our apartment) was without power.

Luckily, I am always prepared.

There’s a rechargeable flashlight plugged in right next to the front door, as well as a slew of matches and candles tucked away in the closet. We were ready to sit out the night.

But, we had noticed on the way in that our neighbors (the awkward ones who stare at us and have a loud child) did not appear to have any sort of illumination. I decided to extend the neighborly olive branch and went next door to offer a spare candle. Mom and son were delighted to have some sort of light in the house and accepted it gleefully.

Hopefully this is the start of a more pleasant neighbor relationship.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

When Animals Attack

I saw a movie once where a character kept getting attacked by animals (like chipmunks and other non aggressive animals) because he was out of balance with nature, or something like that.

My subconscious must be out of balance because I often have dreams of animals attacking me. Opossums, rats, dogs, giraffes, elephants and most recently a goat.

When I write it, it sounds hilarious. But I’ve woken up screaming, shivering and freaked out!

I gotta get back in balance.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Table for Four

I recently watched an episode of the fantastic How I Met Your Mother that posited the theory that couples need other couples to spend time with. In the way that sitcoms do, it compared a couple on their own to a pair of couples double dating to a single person envying people in relationships.

This was one I could relate to. Ever since Brian and I have been dating, I have the need for the Couples Night. Four people going out to dinner, watching a movie or playing board games sounds like the best evening ever to me. Spending time with other people is fun, but you know it would be more fun if it was couples (even when it sometimes isn’t).

I’m sure there’s some sort of anthropological explanation—that group living benefited all, and that groups of couples provided no competition for mates etc. But I know that I have been craving a couple to spend time with since we moved to Michigan.

I’ve been hoping to make friends with a couple from Brian’s program. They’ve been dating as long as we have, they’re just as serious and they’re both students, so we understand their schedule. The hard part has been broaching the prospect of the four of us doing things on our own, without other people there.

This weekend, we invited over ½ the couple (she was out of town, but he didn’t have any plans). I suddenly reverted to the teenage girl who almost exploded when calling a boy from her parents’ basement. I had to rehearse what I was going to say first, and then run it all past my best friend (in this case, Brian). When I got the nerve to make the call, I told Brian that I hoped it would go to voice mail, saving me the need for direct interaction. And so it did. When he called back, I made Brian answer the phone. And I did a happy dance.

Hopefully this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Biology, beer, and ?

Every Friday, Brian’s department holds “Bio Bev.” One of the first year students (Brian this semester) brings in a case or two of beer and members of the department “donate” to the funds for future beer, and everyone sits around the department lounge sharing drinks and ideas. The original intent was to have conversations about biology or ecology or genetics. Last week topics included: bombing the moon, Obama’s Nobel prize and the historical subjugation of women. This week, there were two dogs and two babies present among the scientists. Topics included Roller Derby and YouTube. I’m excited for next week.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Everybody's workin' for the...

It’s been quite the weekend. I set up a phone conversation with a possible employer, had a friend over for dinner (friend!), went to church and went apple picking. I was hoping to have great stories about the apple picking, but it turned out to be a big bust.

Luckily, church can provide blog fodder. I’ve been going to the local Unitarian Church, and they like to have a few minutes at the beginning of the service for the congregation to “greet each other.” This mostly consists of exchanging names and a handshake, and then moving on to the next person. Little conversation, but I’m not sure what I’d talk to folks about anyway. The last two weeks, the minister has been encouraging the congregation to find other ways of greeting, given the fact that it’s cold and flu season. Some members ignore this and continue to shake hands or hug, but others take the message to heart. There’s an older woman who I usually sit behind who has my particular interest. She’s in her 70s and appears to have had a stroke that paralyzed the right side of her face at some point. She likes to greet those around her (and around meaning the nearest 20 people) by bumping fists.

Today, she and I exchanged our first fist bump. It was a thrill.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

When you’re up, you’re up; and when you’re down, you’re down….

Here’s a low and a high for the last two days

The low:
On Wednesday I fell down 5 stairs in the apartment while Brian was on campus. When I got up, both my knees and my wrist hurt, and my butt was one big bruise. At first, I couldn’t put any weight on my leg, so I was really nervous. I tried calling Brian, my mom, my sister and a friend from Madison for some knee-care advice. No one answered. I told a friend that I was concerned that I could die in the apartment and be eaten by cats. She said it was unlikely, given that I did not have a cat.

The high:
I have a good lead on a job. My potential boss is hoping to be able to hire me right off with out having to post the job to the general public. It sounds like exciting work, and although the commute might be long, it will be worth the drive!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Say that again?

Since we made the decision to move to Michigan, I’ve applied for 30-35 jobs. And even for the jobs that I’ve kept careful track of, its hard to remember everything.

The other day I received a call from “The Ginsberg Center” asking me to set up an interview. I was excited for the interview, but had no idea whatsoever the job could possibly be. After hanging up the phone, I frantically searched for the job description. Finally, I figured out that it was one of the top four jobs that I would like the most.

Fingers crossed!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Our interesting apartment

Our apartment has gotten interesting again.

We had received a message from the main office that our cable was changing over to HD, and that if we didn’t have an HDTV we should pick up our free digital converter. So I walked over to the main office and instead of being given a converter, I was put on a list and upon arriving home, found that the cable had been canceled.

We had also received a message that our apartment building would not have water Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday from 7am to 7pm. We assumed that when the water was on, we’d be able to shower, so it seemed a minor inconvenience. Except we didn’t have hot water or enough water pressure once the water was back on.

I also asked the main office about our heat. So far, we have been unable to find a thermostat in our apartment, and last night the temperature was supposed to get down to freezing. I was informed that our building has a central heating system, so once the maintenance department turns on the heat, it’s just on. I asked when “on” would happen, since its getting a bit chilly in the apartment. I was told that it usually would have been turned on, but since there are “problems with the water,” we would have no heat until the “problem” was resolved.

And our on going problem of having no internet or 3-prong outlets on the second floor means that we still have internet and extension cords running up the stairs.

As Brian summed it up: “No heat, no water, no cable and messed up electricity.”

Michigan is an interesting place.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

So fragile

Today I was cooking and realized, right in the middle of things, that I needed eggs. Really just an egg, but its not something that you buy individually. I quick ran over to the grocery store, found the eggs and hurried to the check out counter.

Usually when I’m buying a single item, I skip getting a bag. It seems like a waste for a single item, and I always picture forests devoid of trees or a landfill full of plastic bags in a million years.

I told the bagger to skip the bag, and he looked at me and said, “Really? Without a bag, the eggs could break.”

I took the eggs without the bag, and walked out of the store wondering how much protection a plastic bag really does offer.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I recently went to a job interview where at the end, I was asked what my hobbies are. What did I do with my free time. I froze.

So I’ve been thinking, what would I want to say? I had been thinking of ways to meet other people here, and so far I had decided that I wanted to get involved in a church, maybe join a knitting group and look into a community garden project. But how would these play out in a job interview?

Job interview question: What do you do for fun?

Answer 1: I’m very involved in my church. It’s a Unitarian church
Possible response A: Interviewers don’t know what a Unitarian is and assume I’m just a crazy religious person.
Possible response B: Interviewers know what a Unitarian is and assume I’m just a crazy person.

Answer 2: I knit
Possible response A: You might just be a young version of an old crazy lady with cats.
Possible response B: You must be very industrious, and considerably older than you appear. Also, will you make me a sweater?

Answer 3: I garden.
Possible response A: You are someone who spends their time at work wanting to leave to go outside
Possible response B: You are cool and sporty
(I made the mistake once of telling my coworkers about my upcoming backpacking trip and my beautiful garden. Everyone assumed I was sporty and outdoorsey. They never learned the truth, but it explained many of my strange interactions with them.)

I ended up saying I liked to knit.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


I’ve been watching the TV show Supernanny lately. I like it because I like to watch other people’s problems, and be flabbergasted at how bad the kids can be. Plus, I like to think I’m preparing for having my own kids and getting some good tips on how to work with children.

But as a social worker, I am freaked out for these families! Moms who make their kids eat soap, dad’s who are using physical punishment WAY too often, children wandering unsupervised and into unsafe situations. This week there was an episode of a mom who is already at her rope with 7 kids and a dad who is about to leave for 18 months. This sounds like a tragedy about to happen.

The shows always end on a high note with the families discussing all the ways that Supernanny has improved their relationships and their skills for interacting together; but there are definitely times when Supernanny makes a recommendation (like, don’t make your kid eat chemicals as punishment) that the parents refuse to listen to. I sit on my couch and wonder how I can contact protective services on Supernanny’s behalf (I don’t think it will work, but I fantasize about what I would say in such a call. Hello, I was watching TV and you should follow up with this family….).

Why can’t Supernanny just teach all the parents a little song that makes them perfect, safe parents who raise lovely little British children? Julie Andrews could do it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Concert

A friend of mine drove up (or over, or down, or whatever) from Madison to visit me for a few days. Part of the visit was going to see her favorite band, a “hillbilly rock” group called “Lucero.” I haven’t been to a concert or anything of the sort since high school, so I was a bit nervous, and excited to see a good band. They were playing at the first night of an outdoor street fair, called the DIY festival—a big craft fair with a lot beer.

The night did not start off on the best note. We got a late start from the house, and the unfamiliar roads eventually led me to run a red light (although Callie and I agreed, it was a confusing intersection). But we were determined to have a good time. We watched the last songs of the opening band, and snuck into the front as their fans filed out, but before Lucero’s fans made the journey from the Beer Garden to the stage. We had an amazing spot. We were touching the stage—front and center. We made plans to take the lead singer’s beer glass at the end of the night.

Then, the first sign of trouble. The ringleaders of a drunk group of 19 year olds who drove “all the way from Ohio” started screaming their love for the various members of the band. This love quickly turned to angry impatience as the band took “too long” to set up. While we were standing next to the ringleader’s dreamily intoxicated girlfriend, he kept yelling “are you tuning a harp?” at the bass player. Apparently, this is a hilarious heckle in Ohio.

But the show began. We were excited to dance and sing along to the music. After the first song, the audience got excited too. The crowd began to surge into us in waves, pushing us against the stage. The band made several announcements that if the crowd surfing did not stop, the cops would shut down the show. The drunk Ohio fans started a mini mosh pit (which Callie and I strongly resented being involved in). The ringleader shoved us, and Callie shoved him back, which apparently affronted his honor. He cursed Callie out, and proceeded to attempt to dump his drinks on us. We stuck it out, as the mosh pit grew behind us, a throbbing mass of elbows and knees that had the remarkable ability to always hit you in the kidneys. The final decision to move came as I looked up as a pair of feet were coming towards my head.

We ended up enjoying the rest of the concert hiding behind the speakers, still occasionally being hit by the crowd and dodging the beer being thrown at the stage.

Afterwards, Callie informed me that it was the craziest show she had ever been to. She felt bad that this was my first concert in such a long time and we spent more time avoiding certain death than listening to the music. I said it was okay, it’d give me something to blog about.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Techno Guilt

When I was a kid, I thought that in the future, we’d have all sorts of talking gadgets. “Hello, Refrigerator.” “Good morning Jenny, would you like some milk.” “Yes, please. Tell Microwave I said hi.”

Brian got me a GPS for my birthday. Every time I turn it on, I imaging these same conversations. “Please take me to the grocery store.” My GPS’ voice is not as friendly, and the conversation is sparse, but its still a fun little fantasy.

Unless you don’t follow the directions properly. Every time I miss a turn or overshoot an exit, my GPS says “Recalculating.”

Yesterday I went for a job interview on a road with several detours. Every time I left the directed route, my GPS chided me with a “recalculating.” Now, I know the voice tone doesn’t change, but I swear, the voice became more scornful, more annoyed and louder every time. I became anxious, I contemplated driving on the road with the construction just to avoid the voice! Every thing I did it was watching, and judging me, and criticizing me! I started apologizing to the GPS, begging it to stay calm and that I’d get back on track as soon as I could, if it would just give me a moment!

Then I remembered; there’s a mute feature.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Safety First

I have watched two movies in the last three days about trying to go on after your spouse dies. I am considering asking Brian to wear a helmet on the bus from now on.

They say our love won’t pay the cable bill

When I moved to Michigan with no job and no prospects, I knew paying the bills would be hard. I didn’t know it would be literally difficult.

We got our first cable bill this week. It was for roughly twice the amount we signed up for with the cable company.

Step one: Call cable company. Speak to representative who changes bill back to original amount.

Step two: Set up account to pay bill online through cable company’s website.

Step three: Attempt unsuccessfully to view or pay bill online. Give up and go watch TV.

Step four: Try again next day to view or pay bill online. Bill is still in previous amount.

Step five: Call cable company and speak to representative to pay bill

Step six: Convince representative that even though the cable bill not in my name, I should be allowed to pay. Her response: “yeah, most people wouldn’t pay someone else’s bill.”

Step seven: Hurriedly abort paying bill over the phone to avoid a service fee of $4 for using the phone to pay.

Step eight: Drive out to cable company, spend an hour in line, speak directly to representative. Representative informs me that the phone bill pay went through, but I was not charged the $4.

I’m actually quite proud of my accomplishments.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another Domestic Partner Update

So I’ve already posted about the University threatening to evict us and finally granting us an exception that allows us to happily live together in sin. At the end, I said I’d be filing a complaint with the woman who screamed at Brian on the phone, rudely asked personal questions, sent us a rude email that essentially called us liars but finally granted our exception.

I called the housing main office to ask who the woman’s supervisor was. I was truly shocked to hear that she has no supervisor. She is the head of all of the Northwoods and graduate apartments.

“She’s in charge. Whoa. Serious?”
I ended up talking to someone who was her superior. So let’s hope it makes a change.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A bath for two

When Brian and I first moved into our new place, we weren’t happy, but we quickly decided that we could deal. I even started to like the place. It didn’t seem too different from Eagle Heights, and its still has more space than some apartments we’ve lived in before.

So the current excitement isn’t from the space or the apartment staff, it’s our new neighbors.

The neighbors are a family with two grandparents, two parents and one developmentally disabled son. The grandparents often take their grandson out to play infront of our apartments, sitting on the benches outside and look directly into our living room. They don’t seem to think its awkward when they make eye contact with us while we’re trying to watch TV or eat dinner.

The son is non verbal and makes moaning noises both to communicate and otherwise. With our thin walls, we’ve been able to hear the son’s noises, but yesterday was a whole new level of communal living.

I decided to take a bath, relax and read a book. The only room that actually shares a wall between our two apartments is the bathroom, and this was the first time that I spent a lot of time in there since the new neighbors move in.

I’ll be honest, I was in the tub for several hours during the middle of the day. Sure it’s a bit self indulgent, but I’m unemployed, I need some pampering. Anyway, this was apparently also the same time that the family was giving their son a bath, someone else was taking a shower, several people used the bathroom (while talking on the phone, or to another person in the apartment) and the linen closest was being cleaned.

Every thing they did, sounded as if it was coming from our apartment. I was fine with the talking, I tuned it out. I dealt with the linen closet opening and closing, and the shower running. When the kid started screaming and crying about getting a bath, I gave up.

Call me weird, but it just seems wrong to take a bath with someone else’s kid.

A walk with the Scientists

On Saturday, Brian and I went to the annual Ecology and Evolutionary Biology department getaway. We drove out to somewhere in the woods for a day of hiking, games, food and meeting other students and their families from the department.

The un-funny part of the story is that we met several students who were a lot of fun and are looking forward to becoming friends with.

The more interesting part of the day was the activities. We started the day with a nature walk to a local bog and fen. I was excited to go for a nice hike in nature with people who were so knowledgeable about the surroundings. I thought it might be like when I was a kid and we’d go for walks with our dad who would point out animal tracks and the different kinds of trees as we hiked. “There’s a maple. There’s a really big maple. I think that’s a walnut.”

We started out walking through the woods. Five minutes into the walk our guide pointed out “most of the ground cover we are walking through is toxicodendron radicans, poison ivy.” The members of our group with sandals and shorts looked uncomfortable and I was happy that I had decided to leave on my jeans for the walk.

We stopped a bit further in to learn about a certain type of bush. Both its Latin and colloquial names, as well as which butterflies (both their Latin and colloquial names) are most likely to be found on the bushes.

We continued walking, only to stop again to learn more Latin.

This set the pace for the hike. Three or four minutes of hiking punctuated by five minutes of learning. Our group also had a fungi expert, so we got to learn all about that as well as plants and the general ecosystem of bogs and wetlands.

So the morning was nerdy, but the afternoon was even more so.

We had a photo scavenger hunt, which I usually get very competitive about. I imagined being given a list of things like: funny looking pant formations, a robin, a deer track, a seed, a leaf. I should have known better.

The list included: decomposition, mutualism, neutral theory, microhabitat, two species of the same genus, carbon cycle, interspecific competition, phenotypic plasticity, niche theory, and polyploidy, among others. The ecologists all thought this was the best game ever.

Apparently having an old guy hold a card that says “senescence” is hilarious to ecologists.

I’m sure over time I’ll pick up the concepts and jokes. For now, I’m happy to be the photographer.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Love Actually Moment

Hugh Grant Voice over:

I had a great plan for today’s blog. There were going to be two, one about things that happened to me yesterday and another about things that happened to me this morning. Those will be posted tomorrow. Today’s blog is a bit of a different post than other days, but it’s important.

My grandpa’s best friend died on Friday. Grandpa and Carl met in elementary school. They were both from the same SMALL town, and as far as I know, they’ve been close that whole time. Somewhere around 75 years of friendship. Most people can’t even conceive of that. It doesn’t process for us, not only because we haven’t lived for 75 years, but because we often have friends that come and go from our lives. We don’t think that sitting next to someone in class will mean that you’re walking side by side in walkers 75 years later. Sometimes we think about romantic love like that, but not friendship love.

Grandpa and Carl, with his wife, having a dinner together this summer

I hope that when I’m 80, I have friends who can remember what I was like when I was 30, or 20, or 10. Well, I can’t think of many people that I’m still friends that knew me when I was 10, so let’s go with 15.

Today is also my best friend’s one year wedding anniversary. H and J—major congrats. I am excited to dance the funky chicken with you two in exactly 74 years.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Walk with the Animals

Back in our last apartment, we had our share of animals. A hawk out by the garden who would regularly get his butt kicked by sparrows, three wild turkeys who did not get along with the crows, raccoons with attitude. So we’re accustomed to the wildlife.

Since moving to our new place, we’ve seen

3 deer (only one pictured here), by playground equipment, garbage dumpsters and the major road leading to our complex

A flock of geese outside our kitchen window

2 woodchucks (not pictured)

And the overly-friendly squirrel

As exciting as it was to see the deer just feet away from our apartment, the overly-friendly squirrel has been the most heart stopping encounter.

We met overly-friendly squirrel (OFS) on our way to the grocery store. We were about to walk out the door when we noticed OFS inches away from the screen. Instead of being afraid of us, OFS just stared. That wasn’t too unexpected, lots of animals in the area understand doors and windows as barriers between humans and them, so aren’t concerned that you try to scare them through the window.

We waited a moment for OFS to scamper off. He ran part way to a tree, and we walked outside. As soon as our feet touched the pavement, OFS stopped. He turned to look at us and sat up on his hind feet. I said “shoo!”

OFS did not shoo.

OFS came closer to us. OFS wanted to love us.

I did not want to love OFS and booked it to the car instead.

We haven’t seen OFS since, but every time I see a squirrel that does not immediately run away from me, I get ready to run away from OFS.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Drive

I went on an interview in Detroit today. The 45 minute drive gave me some time to think, and to observe my fellow drivers. Every time you move to a new place, you notice the drivers. It takes some driving to get used to the new rules of the road.

I came up with some guidelines to help me.
-If the driver ahead of you is going too slow, simply tailgate them. Its not rude, its driving.
-The speed limit on most highways is 70 for cars and 60 for trucks. For all drivers, this means you can drive between 55 and 85.
-Passing on the right is also perfectly acceptable
-U Turns are acceptable, anytime.
-The Michigan left: its not uncommon to come to a two way road, that does not allow you to turn left on to the road. Most drivers take a right, make a U turn and go straight. My GPS also recommends this action as well.
-Left turn lights will be clearly marked, not only with arrows, but also with signs.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ring tones say so much

While I was at the post office yesterday, someone’s cell phone started to ring. The ring tone was something familiar. I couldn’t tell what the song was, but I remembered it was moving and emotional. And that it was a song I really enjoyed.

The ring tone continued and I realized, it was the theme to Titanic. Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.”


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Domestic Parner Update

I blogged last week about our problems with the University’s requirement that puts Brian and I between a rock and a marriage hard place. To recap—the university requires all non student residents to be married or have a domestic partnership with their student roommate. Upon arriving, we were threatened with eviction or a legal domestic partnership.

We wrote an email to the Housing Powers That Be asking them to grant us an exception on the grounds that 1) I’d lose my insurance and 2) we could not find any mention of the requirement in the lease and 3) we were told verbally on the phone that a 2012 wedding was not a problem.

A few days ago we received the much-waited for email letting us know that we had been granted our exception. And since the woman is particularly nasty, she reiterated that the exception was given because of the insurance situation, and that we had not read the lease nor given our wedding date to the university.

We’ve decided to contact her superior.

It’s like a grocery store with nothing but deodorant

Brian and I have always been avid readers. Now that I’m done with school and Brian has spent five years mocking the fact that I always read the same sad set of books over and over, I have finally gotten myself a library card.

Brian and I made our first two trips to the library while we were running errands. They were nice libraries, but they weren’t going to be our library. Today, we went to our local branch location to pick up some movies and books for the next few weeks.

The library was modern. Sleek. Pristine. And utterly devoid of books. We were able to locate a few short rows of children’s books, but no novels. Finally, we had to ask an employee, “where are the books?” she directed us to eight rows of “adult” reading selection, two rows of which were travel books.

Luckily, the library has a great online request system.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Define "not friendly"

When Brian first decided on moving to Ann Arbor, I was nervous. I had only been in Michigan once, and it was a very unsanitary experience. What would the weather be like? Would the people be Midwest-nice? Did they have even crazier words for ATM and drinking fountain? I began to ask everyone who had lived in Michigan or Ann Arbor what the city was like. I was told several times that it was “very nice” and “not as bike friendly as Madison”. “Very nice” was good, and Brian and I weren’t bike crazy, we just took ours to and from campus mostly, with occasional side trips.

Today Brian learned what “not as bike friendly” means. Apparently, it involves every road on campus lacking a bike lane, so bikes interact freely with traffic. It also includes speed bumps while going up hill. It means that the bike ride to campus really is up hill both ways. And it means that drivers hate you.

Brian had the thrilling experience of being cut off and narrowly avoiding being hit by a car. While we know plenty of people who have had near misses or actually collisions while biking, it usually was because cars don’t notice bikes. This one definitely noticed him, because before almost hitting him the driver was yelling “Get back on the sidewalk.”

So if someone asks me what Ann Arbor is like, I’ll say “very nice” and “bike hostile.”

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Its the Final Countdown

When Brian and I got engaged, my family was quite happy for us and very supportive. It was an exciting, but not unexpected event. Since it happened a mere three weeks before my sister’s wedding, my dad’s first response was that we should have a double wedding.

That idea was rejected by all parties involved.

Dad relented, but wanted to know when we thought we would actually get married. I told him we were thinking September 1st 2012 might be an option, depending on how things play out. He responded with something about reeling in the fish before it gets off the hook. I glared at him and refilled our beers.

I’m told by momma, that on Tuesday, dad woke up and said “Well, we’ve had a month of recovery [from sister’s wedding], and its exactly three years until September 1st, 2012.”

Apparently my dad is excited to have another wedding.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Another landmark

Having been in a relationship for a while, Brian and I figured we knew all there was to know about each other. I know when Brian hasn’t had enough water to drink just by watching him; he knows when my stomach hurts just by talking to me.

But even five years later, we can still surprise each other. Like on Sunday when we went to the grocery store. I happily gorged myself on samples of veggie dip and salsas. Brian just stared at me and remarked “unsanitary.” I don’t know how long we’ve lasted, me a jolly free loader and him a neat freak, but I think we’ve got many good years to come.

Monday, August 31, 2009

To be a fly on the wall

If you lived in my house, you would have overheard this conversation:

“I love you. Even your farts and poops.”
“You are so weird.”

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A shotgun partnership

We moved to Ann Arbor two weeks ago. It was Tuesday. On Thursday, we were asked to send in a copy of our marriage certificate.

“We are not married. We are engaged.”
“Congrats. When is the wedding?”
“That is too far away, you will have to get a Domestic Partnership.”

Apparently, although we had called ahead to confirm that we needed no legal contract between the two of us in order to live in our apartment together, we had been given incorrect information. To live as a student and non-student under the same roof, we needed a state sanctioned union of some sort.

We spoke to a rather nasty woman about the situation on the phone, explaining that I would loose my insurance (provided by momma and papa’s insurance provider) if we got married/partnershiped. Her response was to threaten us with eviction.

Eventually she backed down and asked us to write up our situation, so that her superior might review it and decide if we warrant an exception.

So now we sit and wait to see if we will be forced into a Domestic Partnership. By our landlord.

Occupational Hazzard

As everyone who has had a conversation with me in the last four years knows, I’ve done a lot of work on issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. I wrote most of my papers for school on the issue, read books in my leisure time on the topic, and obviously have focused my career on stopping it. When you spend your time thinking about how small acts cause a violent society, you see the small acts as major problems (for more information on this—just get me started, anytime, anywhere).

Our last apartment complex, dear old Eagle Heights, had a very high rate of domestic violence. Part of that is just the world we live in, and part of that was the composition of the community. As a result, the university had taken some positive steps towards assisting residents and minimizing opportunities to exert power and control over another. It wasn’t perfect, but I knew they were trying.

Upon arriving at our new University Apartment in Ann Arbor, we were given two keys to the apartment—and a single mailbox key. Most would have quietly accepted their keys without question. I am rarely quiet. I asked why only one key. The undergraduate student checking us in seemed startled by the question, but informed us that a second key was available with a $5 cash deposit.

In domestic violence situations, abusers try to cut their victims off from the world. They unplug the phones, password protect the internet, keep the car keys, even take cables with them when they leave the house to prevent their partner from making contact with others. The mail could be a safe way for victims to communicate with friends and family—if they could reliably be sure they would be the first to check the mail. Having only one key to the mailbox gives one person power. I understand the University might not want to go through the hassle of making extra keys some residents wont need, but at the very least, they should automatically inform all residents that a second key could be obtained.

I explained the domestic violence/mailbox key issue to my sister, who told her husband. His opinion of the situation: “It must be really hard to live with your sister.”

And given that I’m still mad about this two weeks later, I bet it is.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Anyone having a Tupperware party?

For the last two years in Madison, most of our Tupperware actually belonged to our parents. They’d send us back to school with all kinds of delicious things, and the Tupperware would stay with us. And we all lived happily. Until we decided to return the Tupperware before we fled the state.

For those of you who have been blessed with large Tupperware collections, an easy Tupperware substitute is the quart yogurt container. Make a dish too big for the container? Its fine, just use two of them! The food goes moldy in the fridge? Just throw the whole thing out, and pick up more yogurt at the store as a replacement. They are a fantastic and versatile kitchen implement. I recommend having twenty or thirty of them.

Meanwhile, I’ve been feeling the need to be productive around the house, and since Brian and I have a lot of extra time on our hands, we’ve both been cooking. Curried chicken, curried sweet potatoes, pasta dishes, lentil dishes, vegetable dishes, all sorts of delicious things. And all stored in Dannon plain non-fat yogurt containers.

I just hope I don’t accidentally put Penne Rosa on my granola tomorrow morning…

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Moving Lessons

You learn a lot of funny things while you’re moving out. You find items of jewelry you thought were long lost, clothing that was packed away and never unpacked, cleaning supplies that were probably purchased the day you moved in. You even learn a thing or two about the people around you. Amazing friends that are willing to help you pack, help you clean, take care of you while everything you own is in a truck (thanks for that Callie, Damon, Matt, Kelly, and Kathy). Or all those who go far out of their way to squeeze in that one last goodbye. Sometimes you learn something about your neighbors—that they’re kind and friendly or maybe a bit grouchy. Or they’re drug dealers.

In Eagle Heights, it’s common to leave items that you are discarding but are still useful next to the dumpsters. Old tool boxes, furniture, books, and other miscellaneous items. While packing up, I took a trip out to the dumpster to get rid of some of our things. Already lying there were three car air filters and about thirty bottles of Robitussin DM. For those of you who don’t know already, these are items that are VERY useful in the production of meth. So our sweet little neighborhood filled with people who don’t lock their doors and children playing, also hosted a meth lab. Perhaps the move to Ann Arbor will be a step up.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A new city, a new blog

"The time has come," the Walrus said, "To talk of many things: Of odd things--and awkward things--and outrageous things-- Of Michigan--and job huntings-- And what its like to move to a new city-- And try to start a new thing."

Mom has demanded that i start a new blog, similar to sister's blog. So here it begins!