Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I'm not going to lie. I was a smart kid. Okay, so that may be venturing into a little blatant bragging, but it's soon to be accompanied by some not-so-proud confessions, so the unashamed and the shameful balance each other out. It's probably no surprise to anyone that I was an exceptionally shy, quiet child. My preschool teacher never even heard my voice until the last month of school, when I responded to her "good morning Trisha" with a quiet "hi". It earned me a sticker and a proud note to my parents (which I still have . . . framed . . . . just kidding. Well, about the framed part). In the world of children, shy and quiet usually goes along with the assumption that they're little angels (or seriously disturbed . . . but typically it's the former). Let's face it, it's rarely the quiet ones who are the bullies or the type who make Jenny cry on the playground by pulling her pigtails or not allowing her into their exclusive club. And if there's an obnoxious/troublemaker type kid you can bet it's not the one who softly whispers "hi" in the morning (on a talkative day). In conclusion of this introductory paragraph, it's not too surprising that quiet kids are often thought of as being sweet, simply because they don't actively cause trouble. I could only wish that the same assumption held true for shy adults. . . too bad that after your childhood years are up being quiet is often taken as stuck up or rude. But that's another blog for another day.

I forgot where I was going with this. . . shy kids are supposedly wonderful little citizens. . . I was painfully shy. . .  and fairly smart. Got it. Back on track. So I was thought of as this "perfect" little kid . . . quiet, never mean, did her schoolwork without being asked, did what she was supposed to, got A's in everything but gym. As such, if I ever DID do something wrong, I was very rarely held accountable for it, because adults always thought "Trisha's so sweet, she would never intentionally do something bad. . . she must not have realized that taking the goldfish out of the bowl in the classroom would kill it". Don't worry, I never did that to a fish. If adults were REALLY smart they would have realized in this hypothetical example that I was intelligent enough to know fish die when taken out of water. The problem was, (well really it was not a problem), they always assumed my sweet nature and moral sensibility outweighed my intelligence . . . because even if I was a smart kid, I was still just a kid. So if I did something wrong they assumed I was just confused or didn't know it was wrong. Totally underestimated my intelligence. Or, totally overestimated my propensity to do the right thing. I remember quite a few times I was proud of myself for outsmarting adults whenever I was in a sticky situation that was completely my fault. And a couple of times I'm not so proud of. Let the storytelling begin. . .

It was 4th grade. We had to present our example of a "simple machine" that we made at home. It was a big project that I put off long enough that I completely forgot it was due that day. Most kids brought in things made with little wooden spokes and wheels purchased at the local craft store or made out of k-nex toys. Some of the less impressive ones were made out of cut up cereal boxes, popsicle sticks, coat hangers and yarn. And, because I lived in semi-rich, middle-upper class Orange, aka town of spoiled children pushed to be overachievers, many were clearly made with the assistance of a parent or a very helpful teenage brother who aced shop class and included welded metal and miniature motors. Seriously, here's the type of thing I had to compete with. . .

NO WAY a 9 year old would have built this
pop-a-balloon machine completely on their own,
unless you let your 9 year old work screw guns
I'm going to be stereotypical...
the only sign that this was made by a
little girl is the choice of pink wheels

I don't buy this one either
Okay, this I'll buy. It's made with a toy
and kids are handy with toys. Still, it's too
impressive when I had literally nothing to show.
This kid is certainly proud of it.

This "make your breakfast" machine could have been thought of by a kid and is visually less appealing than some of the other examples. But it has a number of components and is therefore still impressive. My guess? It was a smart parent making it seem more believable...
This was seriously like the
least ambitious one shown...
though it's impressive that
thread could hold such a heavy
book without much support.
That alone would amaze me.

So what was I going to do? One after one, these kids were presenting their genius contraptions and I had nothing. I would have never admitted I forgot about it or put it off. I also would have never lied and said I forgot it at home because it still showed too much irresponsibility for my liking. But, in my mind, I was expected to have one of the best ones of the bunch, because I was an overachieving, perfectionist, intelligent child (although prone to occasional laziness and ignoring of projects). So I did what I'm so poor at in the world of acting. . . I improvised. I grabbed a ruler in my desk, and while other kids were presenting I discreetly plucked off a couple pieces of tape, rolled them up to be double-sided and stuck them on the edge of my ruler. When it was my turn I went up to the front of the class, sprinkled some pencil shaving sawdust on a table and proceeded to clean it up with my sticky invention. Since it was so lame I had to really sell it. I may have been shy, but I was still into acting. I pretended to be really proud of my "machine", explaining how I wanted to make something practical (acting as if I had no clue such a thing as a lint-roller existed). The genius of this approach was that it also subtly implied that my classmates' balloon popping machines and mini "elevators" that could lift pencils had no real, important use, but my brilliant sticky stick could work wonders removing cat hair from your couch. When asked what kind of simple machine it was I said it was a pulley because it pulled things off of other things. I knew it was wrong, but I acted like I thought it was right and hoped that it would be interpreted as if I seriously misunderstood the concept of a pulley as a result of insufficient teaching. Some smart aleck kid asked what to do once the tape isn't sticky any more. I said you replace the tape. He gave me a look that clearly said, "Well that's not very practical, is it?". I secretly was mad at him for asking a stupid question. My grade on the project? A solid B. I knew it should have been a D or perhaps a kind "try again after I help you understand the intention of the project better". But my report page just said something generic and polite like "Let's go over how pulleys work. . . nice try! Clever of you to make something handy!" Guarantee you that if it were a slacker kid who presented a ruler with a piece of tape on it they would have just gotten an incomplete . . . the elementary school version of an F. But I was given the benefit of the doubt. I was secretly proud that I outsmarted the teacher and momentarily curious as to how often I could get away with handing in projects in this manner before she started to catch on and stopped being so kind. I'm not going to lie. This one I'm still kind of proud of.

Some of my other stories I'm more ashamed of. I recall one particular quiz where I looked at someone else's answers and we were both confronted about it. It was a really obvious case of cheating. . . a geography quiz where we both said Nebraska was Zimbabwe on a map or something equally as obscure that would be highly coincidental (read impossible) if we both gave the same wrong answer, probably spelled the same incorrect way too. I couldn't have been all that smart if I considered Zimbabwe a possible answer for a U.S. state. Anyways, we both swore we didn't cheat and I was believed because I was the "model student". I still remember the teacher telling both of us how it's wrong to steal someone else's answers, but looking only at the other kid while she said it. I don't think he was punished, because he didn't confess either (he didn't do anything wrong. . .  other than give the wrong answer), but I remember feeling so guilty for lying, and not getting punished for it, that I considered volunteering to clap the erasers. . . everyone's least favorite job. . .  but then reconsidered because I figured that would give away my guilty conscience. (Clearly, clapping the erasers would have completely reconciled my cheating and lying) I decided to trade with the kid instead: my Dunkaroos for his carrot sticks. Relieved my guilt a bit. I assumed the teacher would have figured out my "nice deed due to guilty conscience" bit but that the kid wouldn't. I clearly thought highly of my peers' intelligence. Horrible child, I know. But I did give up my Dunkaroos. Which at the time was a very big deal. And it traumatized me so much that despite temptation, I never copied from someone again. Lesson learned before I hit a double-digit age.

I was quite proud (and about the most rebellious I got as a child) to outsmart my gym teacher a couple of days each month. Although in this case it wasn't really as much outsmarting as it was simply getting my way. We were all instructed to wear sneakers and either pants or shorts twice each week on our gym days. I hated gym. Hated it. Almost as much as I hated recess. (Mandatory social interaction and the freedom to choose an activity was painful for me. I was an odd child). But, as much as I hated my mother regularly dressing me up in dresses, bows and shiny shoes for school, I hated gym more. So on gym days I would always "allow her" to pick out a dress for me. Then, I'd have to sit out of gym class and watch everyone else play. The gym teacher never yelled at me (because I was a sweet, quiet girl), but he would nicely remind me to wear appropriate gym wear. Always hating to take blame as a child, or give the impression I did something wrong, I told him my mom made me wear dresses. I really was an angel, wasn't I? A note was sent to parents to remind them of gym days. My mom started paying attention, dressing me in pants. A minor setback, to which I found a solution. I simply packed dresses in my backpack and got changed into them at school. I was never punished for repeatedly wearing dresses. Just nicely reminded. Come to think of it, this is probably a big reason why gym was the only class I got Bs in.

The whole quiet & smart thing worked to my advantage up through high school. I remember one calculus exam I just didn't study for at all for whatever reason. . . busy with dance, pure laziness, new episode of 7th Heaven. . . I don't remember why. I failed it horribly. . . got like a 30. But because I typically got As my teacher asked me what was up, I said severe stress or something, and he let me re-take it. I figured I'd get a similar exam to the one we took that covered the same topics. But no. I got to re-take the exact same test, after we had already gone over all the answers as a class. I got a 100 to replace my original score. I was older at this point so I did feel some guilt for this, considering I didn't even try the first time around. But then again, it was the teacher's decision to give me the exact same exam. It was a "lucky me" moment and I was thankful for a nice, though perhaps too understanding, teacher.

No clue what made me reflect back on these stories recently. I've realized I was a manipulative little kid who clearly had an issue thinking she was smarter than everyone else and more entitled. Good thing I've grown since then. Mostly.

Monday, March 05, 2012

I've always been a cat person. There are cat stereotypes... that they're independent, unsociable, aloof, only sleep and eat, etc. etc. while dogs are "man's best friend" and infinitely more intelligent and loving. Vastly unfair to the feline population, if I say so myself. Like dogs, cats have very unique personalities, as I've come to learn. Due to the average lifespan of a cat (~ 15 years), my current, relatively short time on Earth (nearly 26 years), and the fact that I only enjoy having one cat at a time, I've had 3 cats in my life. Each completely different in personality. This here post is a little cat story time. I promise I'll try to keep it entertaining... even if you hate cats (shame shame).

First cat I had was Prudy, short for Prudence. My parents had her before I was born and she stuck around until I was 9, at which point my brother and his friend chased her into the woods from which she never returned. I don't remember her much but there are a couple of awesome, somewhat unbelievable stories of hers that certainly help give evidence to the "cats have 9 lives" theory. In fact, when I was in second grade I wrote out 2 of her stories, accompanied them with a lovely little crayon drawing of Prudy, and entered them into an "awesome pet stories" contest my local movie theater was having as a promotion for the 1994 flop "Monkey Trouble". It won me a free sundae at Baskin Robbins (1st place) and a Monkey Trouble T-Shirt (2nd place). I was pleased. I was also probably the only child who entered.

Anyways, first story... I was driving my younger brother to pre-school which was a short 5 or so minute drive from my house. Well, my dad was driving... since I was only 6 or 7 at the time I was merely along for the ride. We get out of the car and hear a cat meowing. Being an avid cat lover, and a curious individual, I proceed to look for the source of the mews. Who do I find? None other than Prudy, sitting on the exhaust pipe of the car. Our conclusion? She hopped on the exhaust pipe at home (she was the only outdoor/indoor cat of the ones I've had), and balanced like only a cat can for the 5 minute drive. Nothing else made sense. Thinking back to it now I think this may be a warped memory of some sort since I don't think there's physically enough room for even a mouse, never mind an adult cat, to fit on top of an exhaust pipe. Maybe she was on the roof or trunk and no one noticed? I'm sure it made an interesting view for any other cars that passed by us on that short drive. But she was not IN the car, unless my memory is seriously warped or my dad was playing a bizarre trick on us... regardless, it's a pretty fun story. Not sure if that one won 1st or 2nd place. haha

2nd Prudy story... she apparently liked to jump up and sit on a particular windowsill at our old old house. One hot summer day we opened the window and when she jumped up she didn't realize the glass was open and she fell right out. To add to the drama, apparently our old pool used to be right outside of said window and she landed in the water. This story took place either before I was born or when I was younger than 4, aka before my memory really kicked in. I'm fairly certain this one was at least exaggerated. She probably jumped up, was confused by the open window, and stumbled a bit, nearly falling out... nevertheless, the falling into the pool bit became cat legend in our house. One of those stories that my parents have told so many times that by now they may even believe it really happened. Children are gullible so I of course, ate it up. But who knows? Maybe she did go swimming that day.

On to 2nd cat, Missy. Missy was my baby. My uncle got her for me as a surprise (even to my mother, who wasn't too pleased),  shortly after my parents separated and I wrote a "Why I Deserve a Cat" essay for my mom. Can you tell I enjoyed writing? Can you tell I was a huge nerd? The commercial below made me laugh when it came out because if I had been born 10 years later this SO would have been me (side note: yes, though I'm "young" the entirety of my elementary school years were pre-internet. Powerpoint was a newfangled program teachers had to learn about, never mind incorporate in the classroom, when I was a child... I used a typewriter when I was young, admittedly though it was an odd childhood obsession with nostalgia thing rather than a necessity... we did have the giant gray Mac computer with the black screen and green font, but I remember the excitement of FINALLY getting dial-up internet at home when I was 14. I look younger than I am. end side note.)

But yes, Missy was my love, and she with me from age 11 to 24... through the divorce, emotions surrounding leaving my father, the ups and downs of relationships & love, depression, college, first "real" job and all those crazy adolescent years of growing up. Pets are lovely companions, and this is especially true for introverted individuals such as myself. She was my confidant and friend. End of sappy cheesy comments. Not many people liked Missy, to be honest, and she didn't care for many people besides me. She hated to be picked up, preferred to be alone (though appreciative of company when it was her who initiated the contact), and regularly took swings at people (and dogs) who invaded her space. Perhaps what's most disturbing about all this is that people often said she was just like me, or that I trained her to be evil. Lovely compliment. However, her overall temperament and typical behavior with others made her affectionate nature with me all the more special. Losing her was the hardest loss I've had to go through yet in my life, which I am somewhat ashamed to admit, but I suppose it makes me very lucky. I still think about her every day and wish she were here.

Cat #3, Luna cat, could not be more different in personality than Missy. Missy rarely exhibited "kitten behavior" while Luna is the most playful, curious cat I've encountered. Missy's favorite word was "hiss" while one of Luna's nicknames is "purrball" because she purrs the minute she sees you. Luna loves to be held and petted, and her curious nature earned her the additional nickname of "disaster cat"... bathroom doors must remain shut if we don't want toilet paper all over the house, bags must be closed tightly if we don't want their contents strewn across the room, and glasses of water must be carefully attended if we don't wish to share our beverage. She manages to find pieces of paper and plastic around our (relatively) clean home and is often spotted trotting around the house with them in her mouth. I've seen her attempt to climb into the trash can multiple times to find something to play with. The other day the kitchen floor became a pond because she decided to go into her water dish, splash around to the extent that, like I said, the entire floor was like a pond and required three bath towels to mop up. Just to top it off she left a trail of wet paw prints around the rest of the house. The other week she jumped onto a counter, knocked over a dish of lollipops and batted them around the house. After cleaning it all up she jumped back up, picked up one in her mouth, jumped down and batted the one around the house as if to say "okay, if I can't have them all I will settle for one". Her other favorite activities include sticking out her tongue and sitting in bags and boxes. The pictures below are only a sample... if I was more crafty and had more time on my hands I could totally turn this into a themed "cat in a bag" scrapbook.

Since Luna is so curious by nature I'm constantly keeping tabs on where she is and what she's doing. The other week I couldn't find her after checking all of her usual hiding places. I resorted to getting ice from the fridge (she loves the sound of the ice machine and usually comes running, hopeful that a piece of ice will fall for her to bat around the floor). When this didn't work either I got nervous. Instinctively, I opened the front door. There she was, sitting on the porch, like she had just rung the doorbell and was waiting for me to let her in. She meowed at the sight of my face and instantly walked right inside when I opened the door. She is an indoor cat. I had definitely seen her since I had gotten home and no one else entered or left the house since so I had no idea how she got outside. After weighing out several impossible scenarios and some investigation I realized she went out the doggie door, onto the back deck. Missy was never strong enough to do this, but Luna has so much energy it wouldn't surprise me if she took a running charge at the thing to get outside. Anyways, she went out the doggie door, onto the back deck, jumped up onto the railing (2 stories up, so if she fell off good luck to her), walked along the railing to where the baby gate was to keep our dog on the deck, jumped over the baby gate onto the stairs below it and thus effectively made her way outside into the real world. Once we discovered her tactics we had to MacGyver this creation out of lattice fence material that made our deck look like a DIY project gone wrong to prevent her from escaping again. Thus far there have been no additional attempted escapes. Thank goodness I had the instinct to open the front door, and that she happened to be right there, and eager to come back inside. Though Luna has only been with us for 5 months she already has created more stories for herself than I have time or desire to share. Thus, this cat inspired blog is ending awkwardly now... well, after this video of the attack cat Luna with our dog Hercules.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

I've written many a blog post about my obsessive need to use every coupon I see and my excessive enjoyment of finding good deals. While I'm a far cry from those coupon hunter crazies on TLC or whatever channel it is, it's still an unhealthy habit for my wallet. My latest finds that feed my addiction are Groupon and LivingSocial. Big savings at local places. Well, big mistake. Heed my warning if you are a coupon fiend such as myself.... I avoided joining for many, many weeks, as I feared the inevitable decline of my bank account and increase of purchases. But I am weak. And I gave in.

Day 1 after signing up for their tempting emails I made a purchase. Day 2, I made a purchase. Day 3, I made a purchase. Thankfully, at least, it was only one purchase each day. Thankfully, at least, it was only one purchase from Groupon OR LivingSocial and not both. So anyways, only three days after joining I forced myself to stop opening the emails. It's like a 10-step program. Hopefully... eventually... I will be able to open the emails, look at the plethora of good deals and just say no. But I have to take it in baby steps. Right now the subject line headings with their "deal of the day" mentions are hard enough to handle. I'm proud with each delete I manage. But it's a struggle.... it's difficult to talk about.

This here blog post is a story of one of my Groupon purchases. I bought a facial at over 60% off as a little treat to self. I had never had one before and again, it was a good deal, so I thought why not? Well, I show up yesterday at this "spa" which is really a one-woman show in a tiny space where the lobby-slash-store and one "treatment room" combined are about the size of large closet. The business owner is the only beauty technician, or whatever they're called, and she's also the receptionist, and the seller of beauty items at 20% off. I mean... good for her, owning her own business and running it all. No complaints. Just describing the setting for you here. Recreating. Business must not be doing too poorly, since when I walked in at 6:25 for my 6:30 appointment she asked if I'd mind waiting 5 minutes since she had back-to-back appointments all day and didn't have her lunch yet. Then again, maybe she's so busy from all of her Groupon sales, from which she may actually be losing money (despite the benefit of potentially gaining new clients). When I made this Groupon purchase I was the 250th person to do so... I remember because I was happy that it was a nice, clean number. That's a lot of facials for one woman who works out of a closet.

Anyway, once I'm in the room she's chit-chatting, small talking, asking questions away... way too much energy for a woman who had been working all day through her lunch (maybe her 5 minute lunch was a redbull). I respond with my usual short but polite answers which clearly give off a vibe that says "I'm shy and quiet and prefer not to talk". Vibe is either not recognized or ignored. I feel as though a big part of the job of any beauty technician (still don't know their title), or hairdresser or whatever, should be feeling out how social your clients are and acting accordingly. Nothing's worse than a stylist who relentlessly tries to small talk with someone who's clearly not having it. It's awkward. I generally prefer the awkward silence. But I was perfectly polite and after about 15 minutes fully gave in and catered to her need to talk... asking her questions about the business, appropriate skin care routines and her life. Despite the small space and forced conversation it wasn't completely unrelaxing. There was one of those natural sounds CDs playing in the background so whenever she paused to breathe I got to hear some waves crashing or rainforest bugs chirping. And the chair was heated, which was nice. After a "hot steam rinse" I got about 8 different peels or masks put on my face, all of which she supposedly customized to my skin's needs, accompanied with 8 heated towels and one mediocre arm/hand massage. I had the choice of an extraction or a mini back massage. I chose the extraction since it's more facial-esque. Little did I know choosing between an extraction and a massage is basically choosing between extreme pain or relaxing comfort and of course, I went for the pain. She covered my eyes to protect them from this crazy bright light and then proceeded to injure my face. I have a high pain tolerance but I'm girl enough to admit it hurt. The worst part though, was the bright light. The curse of my blue eyes is how sensitive they are to light. Despite being clenched shut and covered, my eyes were tearing to the point where it looked like I was full-on crying. My self-conscious, prideful self wanted her to know that these were not tears of pain but mentioning that would have been even more lame than if they were tears of pain, so per usual, I kept silent. For the final "calming mask" she left the room for 10 minutes so I could relax. Twas peaceful. At the end she said I may breakout from the facial. Great side effect to a supposed skin cleaning, no?

All in all, worth the full price? Not at all. Worth the Groupon price? Maybeeee. Will I do it again? Probably not. Well, unless I find a coupon.

Tune in soon for my zipline adventure story... yet another Groupon purchase. Luckily I've managed to steer clear of the Escape Getaways. My wallet thanks me.

I was expecting something like this...
candles... quiet... relaxation....

But this more accurately depicts how I felt