Saturday, January 28, 2012

Karma is glorious

Daily News Column for 1/27/12

Being a dog owner has its perks: the unconditional love, comedic relief and the ability to act as foot warmers on a cold winter night.
Most days, they require nothing more than to be rubbed, held, fed and watered. But the problem comes after they've had their food and water.
"Stella, hurry up it's freezing out here," I pleaded with the nine-pound fur ball at the end of the leash.
Her snort and tail whip told me that she could care less that it was only 25 degrees outside and I was freezing. She had fur, lots of it, because I hadn't had a chance to get her to the groomer yet.
Our other dog, Ace, who is all of 90 pounds and the king of my household, had already marked his territory — twice — and done the number two. I can always count on Ace.
"Really, Stella, hurry up!"
Princess Fluff on the other hand, has always been one for doing things at her own pace.
Arriving into this world more than two hours after her five, mouse-sized siblings, her trend only continued. I should have known then.
Taking a good four months longer to potty train than Mr. Reliable Ace, she also took several hours or even days more to learn the basics: sit, shake, lay down and roll over. It was exhausting.
"Stella, I can't feel my fingers. Would you please go potty?"
Yes, I talk to my dogs and yes, they understand — too well, sometimes.
As a half frozen leaf shuttered in the wind, Stella lost what little focus she had on doing her business and went straight for the kill.
Pounce, pounce, flop.
Snapping the leaf into a dozen pieces, it was back to doing what she does best — her own thing.
Threatening to tie her leash to the No Parking sign and leave her out there, she finally found the proper spot. But her do-things-at-my-own-pace attitude didn't end there.
She may have found the spot, but it didn't mean she would soon be ready to go inside.
So Ace and I stood, waiting, waiting, waiting.
Knowing full well that my male counterpart was nestled under a blanket in his recliner, I huddled close to Ace for warmth. Never challenge a man to a game of thumb war. You'll only end up with a leash in each numb hand.
Finally, when all was said and done, the three of us took our frozen fingers and paws inside, where Stella took a flying leap into The Man's chair and onto his warm and toasty face.
Karma is glorious.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Stop this ride, I'm going to puke!

 BDN column for 1-20

Things rarely happen as planned for me, and I hear that's just life.

I awoke bit early and in an unusually cheery mood one day last week. I started my coffee, turned on the TV and was mentally preparing a great breakfast, when my good-day train made an unscheduled stop at the corner of dog doo and living room carpet.

Though that station was passed more often than not, occasionally a stinky, little train hopper named Stella would require a stop.

After a quick top-off of caffeinated fuel, the train continued as scheduled for the day. Luckily, that was just a minor bump in the road.

Speaking of bumps, yesterday was full of potholes. Just when I thought I had coasted through the very difficult journey that is putting together a newspaper, you know, reporting, photographs, web updates, page design and getting it to the printer on time, my Thursday train struck a giant pothole. I'd made a large error on the front page, the first of my career, and spelled a word wrong on the headline and failed to run a story in its entirety. The Friday train couldn't arrive soon enough.

My train of life makes stops and route changes quite often it seems and no matter which form of directional guidance I chose, it typically gets turned around — insert "make a U-turn when possible" in an electronic voice here.

Just the other day, my male counterpart and I found ourselves riding on the rental property train. Passing by the lavish, resort-style rentals (because we have dogs) we went straight to the mid-level apartments and town homes.

The train stopped for some sight seeing before making a slight route change which lead through sale properties.

After quickly stopping to pick up a realtor, lender and some very supportive parents, we found ourselves completely lost.

Winding through the language of a home loan application, down the emotional mountain and past the sea of desire, I did all I could to keep from vomiting.

How we managed to miss our stop along the route to rented bliss and wound up at the chaotic, cluttered homeowner's station I'll never know, but then again, that's life.

Now, finding ourselves with nothing but a map and two directions to choose from, I kind of wonder where the poop train went. That seems like a much simpler ride.

Armed with our map, cellphones to call home and a refill of coffee, we're off in search of the next life train.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The roller coaster from you-know-where

BDN column for 1-13-11

My car needed a good cleaning, and when it was 60 degrees on a January day, who was I to say no?

The car wash place was a full-service automatic type. I couldn't get out and wash my own car if I wanted to, which I kind of did. But I got in line with other 423,987,429 vehicles (OK, so I exaggerate) awaiting their turn.

Clueless as to how this luxury treatment worked, my blood pressure skyrocketing from the stress, I did what any clueless blonde would do. Played dumb.

Watching the car in front of me, I pulled to the same little window and waited until the girl inside couldn't take the awkward silence anymore.

"What kind of wash do you want?"

Kind? What did she mean kind? I just wanted a gun that shoots water.

Feeling like an underdressed second-cousin at a hotel wedding, I chose the most basic option in hopes of escaping quick, handed her my cash and was ready to move on.

"Do you want a towel with that," the obviously irritated teen asked between bubblegum pops.

Towel? What the heck do I need a towel for?

I saw the car in front of me take the towel option. So I took one too.

In second-grade, single-file fashion I followed the car in front of me around a curve where we stopped to await our turn near the entrance of what looked more like a cattle barn than a car wash.

The driver ahead began using their towel to wipe down every hard surface in her tiny coupe.

Oh, so that's what the towel's for.

After my dash got a good wipe down, it was my turn to enter. My excitement mounted as the two high-school aged boys began waving me in their direction.

Giving the universal signs for pull forward, keep coming, and a little to the left, I got my car situated right where he wanted it.

Using the only car washing tool I recognized in the place, a gun that shoots water, to give my car a good prewash, he then directed me to pull forward a bit more, a little to the right and STOP!

Unfortunately, I was so excited by the royal treatment I was receiving, I got distracted and forgot to watch the car in front of me as they entered "the barn."

So I sat and sat and sat, trying not to make that awkward eye contact with the kid with the hose outside.

Ka-thump, ka-thump. My car rocked a bit and in complete fear, I sprawled my arms out as if Godzilla was about to rise from below and eat my Jeep, with me inside.

I looked to the "hose guy" outside for help. After giggling a bit, he mouthed something I couldn't comprehend.

"Brake," another teen yelled from behind me.

Oh, shoot! While I had put my car in park, I forgot to take my foot off the brake. Was that what he wanted?

Apparently not. The "hose guy" gave another universal symbol — roll your window down — and hollered, "put it in neutral and keep your hands and feet free!"

Double shoot. This place needed instruction manuals, not towels.

I shifted into neutral as the Godzilla teeth below once again began to chop.

Buzz, buzz, wooohooo, buzz, buzz, wooohooo!

Alarms of all kinds started ringing, and the whole system stopped.

This one called for a bit more than "shoot," as I had apparently put the whole order of things out of sync with my little mess-up.

After a quick reset by the "hose guy," my car lunged into action like a roller coaster from you-know-where. Resisting the urge to steer and completely against my will at this point, I entered the black, soapy abyss.

I began to wonder if this was how it would all end for me. Girl found dead in fetal position on floor board. Cause of death, car wash related stress.

But then I saw it. Out of the deep, dark, soapy bowels of the beast, there was a light — and a roaring blowdryer.

With a new outlook on life and a shiny Jeep, I made my way to the free vacuum station, which is a tale for another time.

Friday, January 6, 2012

If politicians were like Apple

Daily News Column for Jan. 6

I heard a news blip on the radio a few mornings back that has stuck with me ever since.

It mentioned something about how artistic T-shirts of Barack Obama were the number-one selling item from shirt stands in larger cities in recent years.

Now I can't seem to find the actual news story those radio personalities were speaking of, but the idea itself has me thinking.

With politicians being at the forefront of most conversations these days, and the Iowa Caucus in my home state, I've decided it's more than time I get interested. Now before any stones are thrown, I'll publicly admit to being a political pinhead.

As a reporter, I realize I should be on the up and up when it comes to politics, but I am not, and I generally leave the political writing to others.

But when a state senator made a stop just a few doors down this week, I took it as an opportunity to become more involved. And it's not that I haven't wanted to be involved, I just can't get into it.

Sitting at the local carpet barn with a majority of folks old enough to be my great-grandparents, I knew from the beginning that this political event would probably not help me out.

Speaking of his dislike toward the operations of the federal government, his views of foreign oil dependency and a laundry list of things that didn't really pertain to me, I wondered when and how I would ever begin to like and understand politics.

And then came the radio.

Apparently, Obama's face is more popular with the "younger generations" than that of any other celebrity. Hence his shirt sales.

The radio hosts compared sales to that of T-shirts with Bob Marley and Marilyn Monroe's faces.

Now, Bob and Marilyn are two people I can understand. But I wondered how many of those shirt buyers really understood Obama and what he stood for when making their purchase. Did they vote for him because he was their favorite shirt? Or was it because they supported his fight for the American Jobs Act or his disproval of No Child Left Behind mandates?

I wonder now, how much of it was a combination of both.

For me, wearing a shirt with an algebra equation would be a major fashion faux pas. I don't know the first thing about algebra and in order for me to wear it, I'd have to be able to solve it.

And maybe that's the problem with politicians.

If politicians started marketing themselves to younger generations in a way we could understand — like the iPhone or Dr. Pepper  — I'd become more involved and want to know more.

Apple does a fantastic job of making sure I know who they are, what products they have and what those products can do for me.

When I saw that the iPhone would allow me to access all of my important information from a big giant iCloud of safe keeping, I was iHooked!

To heck with my old, clunky CD player. When I saw that an iPod would allow me to access all of my music, not just 12-20 songs at a time, I voted pro-iPod and tossed aside what had become useless.

And that's where Obama supporters got it right.

Not only did he follow the tradition methods of campaigning, but he was marketed.

With shirts, mugs, hats and what-have-yous, there isn't the awkward, dull meetings at a carpet shop or hardware store. It's quick, clear and to the point and that's essential in keeping this girl's attention. I'm too busy trying to keep both of my jobs.

So if even a small handful of those individuals who purchased Obama's shirts for looks, began to finally research the man on their chest, that's a few more interested individuals within the system. And maybe that's the way to go.