Tuesday, June 26, 2012


My heart is heavy tonight.

[Saturday afternoon. My photo.]
While I was home this weekend, a wildfire started near Colorado Springs, about 30 miles from my home. The place is practically a tinderbox after a year of almost no precipitation, and a decade of below average precipitation.

By the time I left on Sunday, the air was acrid with smoke, and the mountains were hardly visible.

Today, the first homes went down. The fire has scorched tens of thousands of acres. Hundreds of firefighters have been working around the clock, trying to contain the flames, but to no avail. National news programs are lamenting the loss of tourism; my community is mourning its very destruction.
[Today. My sister took this from her office window.]

Hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, blizzards-- all are predictable, measurable, definite. But a wildfire-- how can you know when it will start? When it will end? How you can fight it? What lives and livelihoods it will claim? Its power and boundaries are infinite, able to inspire both awe and fear.

I can't remember a time I've felt so helpless. My newsfeed is inundated with photos and prayers and fragments of facts. My throat is tight, my brain is buzzing with anxiety, and my lips can only form one-word prayers.

Rain. Help. Stop. Please.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Four Ways to Get People at the Gym to Hate You

1. Choose your workout clothes wisely. What do you want people to know about you and your gym habits as soon as they look at you? If you're supremely confident in your physique, wear spandex. And if you're self-conscious about your extra rolls, wear spandex anyways. The confidence will follow once your outfit convinces everyone else how serious you are about your workouts. Alternatively, if you want people to know for sure that you're sweating more (and therefore working harder) than them, wear a wool hat, fleece sweatshirt, and cotton sweatpants. Preferably all in gray. Other options include boxer shorts with an undone fly; saggy, unlaced combat boots; and t-shirts with sleeve holes down to your hips. Keep in mind: your main goal is to bring as much attention to yourself as possible.

A special note for the ladies: If you have breast implants, don't bother with a bra. Also, it is recommended that women working out before 7am wear makeup similar to what they would apply before hitting the clubs on a Saturday night.

2. Grunt. With each motion of exertion, let out either a YA, EHH, or SSSSS. After each grunt, pant heavily two times, and then repeat. Remember, the more enthusiastic your grunts, the more people who will look in your direction and admire your strength and endurance.

If you're not quite comfortable with the world of grunting, you are welcome to narrate your workout to someone on your cell phone, giggle maniacally when you fall over mid-lunge, or wail miserably in the face of your personal trainer.

3. Since you've been working so much harder than everyone else, feel free to take a rest on the machine you've just been using. No one else needs to use it as badly as you need to bring your heart rate back to its resting level. And what better place to do that than on the thing you're already sitting on?

On a related note, never reset the machine to its original state. If other people really want to use it, they won't mind putting away your weights and dragging your weight bench across the gym to its proper location. If you can't teach them to really want it, then who can?

4. Men: look at every woman's butt as she walks by. Throw in an eyebrow raise, appreciate frown, or brief nod to maximize the flattering effect. Women want to know their time at the gym is paying off. If you're not ready to deliver this overt compliment, practice by looking at her butt in the mirrors. She'll never know.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I caved.

After years of railing against them, I got both Twitter AND Instagram (handle = melodious47).

Within seven minutes of each other.

I don't know what to do with them.

Someone please teach me how to be un-lame.

Slash how to use them to get famous and stuff.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Most Genius Marketing Strategy

One of my co-workers had a little glass bowl of Dove chocolates on her desk. As I'm sure you know, the inside of the foil wrapper of a Dove chocolate has a little inspirational message printed on it-- not quite a fortune, but a little pick-me-up.

I ate two (unashamedly) while filing the other day, and the secret of Dove's success smacked me right in the mouth.

Here it is:

Dove chocolate is delicious in its own right. But Mars went so far as to put these pampering messages on the inside, which subliminally point the consumer right back to the product.

My train of thought was something like this: "Filing is boring. I'm going to stretch my legs. Oo, Jamie has chocolate on her desk. I'm going to eat one while I walk back to the filing shelf. What does the wrapper say? Think of something that makes you smile. Uh, that delicious piece of chocolate made me smile. Once I finish filing, I'll reward myself with another smile. By eating another piece of chocolate. What does this one say? Make time for yourself. I could certainly make time for myself with another piece of CHOCOLATE." Fortunately, the bowl was now empty, cutting off my cycle of self-indulgence.

Dove's slogan is even "Savor Your Moment." You don't have enough you-moments, they say. You spend all your days doing things for everyone else. You deserve time for yourself. You deserve to smile. You deserve chocolate, you selfless humanitarian, you. 

How often, though, do those you-moments become our sole focus, pursuit, and reward? How often do we begrudge our time to others because it interrupts all the time we want to spend on ourselves? How often do we fool ourselves into thinking that we're annoyingly busy because everyone else demands all our time, when really, we just don't want to give it?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Overheard: Liberty Chick-fil-a

Okay, guys, like, I think I'm going to stop talking in Sunday School from now on. Because, like, the past couple weeks I've asked, like, really dumb questions, and like, I don't even realize it until everyone is, like, staring at me.

Like, we were learning about Moses? And how, like, God was going to kill the sons in that town? So I raised my hand and was like, If they kill the sun in that town, does that mean they kill the sun, like, everywhere? Do they have, like, extra suns?

No, I really thought they were talking about, like, the sun-sun. Not like, first-born sons or whatever.

So, like, I'm just not going to say anything any more.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Had I The Art to Stun Myself

Things look a little different, huh? Well, here's the new beginning. If you've ever wondered, the URL (and now title) of this blog come from an Emily Dickinson poem that you can read here.

I stunned myself today. But it wasn't very artful.

It was a long Friday. A last-minute phone call at the office meant I didn't get out of there until almost 5:30, and time had stopped at around 3. As I drove home, all I could think about was how much I was looking forward to crawling in bed and indulging in a lazy Friday night.

But on the way there, I decided to run into Wal-mart to pick up a few things. I hate the Wal-mart by my house. Hate. It's cramped, dim, noisy, and everyone there-- employee or customer-- is cantankerous. It more closely resembles a bazaar in a third-world country than a convenient shopping location in Johnson County, Kansas. And today was no exception. The already-narrow aisles were teeming with rogue shopping carts and rambunctious children, and there wasn't an employee in sight to ask wheretheheckthelightbulbswere.

Finally, I had acquired my seven items and forged my way to the registers. The express line was five people deep, naturally, and all of them had interpreted the ten-item limit in a most creative way. After fifteen minutes of listening to the mother and children behind me bicker about the merits of Reese's cups vs. Kit-Kats, and a rousing, one-woman game of How Much of Demi Lovato's Picture on the Cover of Cosmopolitan Has Been Photoshopped, I was next.

The cashier scanned my items and read me the total in a tone that was as flat as her faded-dyed-red hair. I opened my wallet and instinctively grabbed the card behind my driver's license. But it was a Starbucks card, not my debit card. My face flushed and moisture sprang to my underarms as a rapidly shuffled through the rest of my cards. Nada. My panic drew the attention of the quibbling candy-buyers behind me, and their stares joined that of the cashier's. I raked my fingers through my bag-- nothing. "I can't find, I, I can't find--" I kept muttering-- "I can't find my debit card." I looked up at the cashier, who looked back at me with the same level of interest as one of those eyeless cave newts looks at the Mona Lisa. For a split second, the back of my brain prayed that someone would take pity on me and pay for my stuff. It didn't happen. "I have to leave," I said. "I'm sorry." The cashier said "'kay", rolled her eyes, and turned to scan the piles of candy on the belt.

As I rushed out of the store, shaky, sweaty, and panicky, I relived the past few hours in my head. I definitely used my card at the post office around 4:30. It wasn't in my pockets, bag, car, planner, or gym bag. It could only be in one of three places: the office, the mail slot at the post office, or alone and shivering in the gutters of Westport. A glance a the clock revealed that the bank would be closing in half an hour-- not enough time for me to go back to work, look, report the card missing, and visit the bank for a new one before the weekend hit.

The panic continued on the drive to the bank. I saw visions of bank statements replete with online gambling, subscriptions to Playboy, Affliction t-shirts, and the Cheesecake Factory.

But luckily, canceling the runaway card and obtaining a new one all happened without incident-- other than standing in miles-long lines again. While we waited for the new card to print, the bank lady and I made small talk. I told her about my saga in the tenth circle of Wal-mart, and she asked if I had a back-up card of any sort, for emergencies. "Yeah," I said. "I have a debit card linked to my account in Colorado."
I paused. "I think it's on my nightstand in my room."
She tilted her head a little farther.
"I don't know what kind of financial emergency I thought I'd have in my bedroom."

With a smile and the humiliating suggestion that I put my emergency card somewhere I could access it in an emergency, bank lady shook my hand and sent me all away.

To teach myself a lesson, I went to Wal-mart again, hunted down my items again, dodged toddlers again, stood in line again, and paid.

And that's why you never lose your debit card.