god's mailing list.

If you haven't figured out yet that I've picked a church, let me spell it out for you: I-V-E F-O-U-N...you get the idea. I guess I decided one Sunday morning when I overslept and hadn't planned on a specific church the night before, so I found myself back at Harmony Grove, the only church I'd really liked. And I was tired of looking. When I went back, the people recognized me, and they were glad I came back. So I kept going.

The real deciding factor for Harmony Grove was the mail. Churches always want you to sign the register with your name, address, phone number, etc. so they can send out the church hounds, I mean, postcards. We can probably all agree that churches want you to come back, though why it is they want you back may be open for discussion. I always wrote down my name and simply "Lewisville, NC" as my address. There are over 8000 people who could put "Lewisville, NC," so I didn't figure I was giving anything away. The truth is, being sent a postcard or getting a phone call from the pastor probably wasn't going to change my mind about a church.

Or so I thought.

Two days after my first visit to Harmony Grove, I received an inspirational postcard - generic pastoral-type picture with a Bible verse with a generic y'all-come-back-now-ya-hear message on the back. It was mailed to me at simply "Lewisville, NC." Written off to the side was my building and apartment number in a different ink - the mail carrier. How was it possible that the postcard made it to me? True, my last name isn't that common, but I just moved here. Does the church have an agent at the post office? Is the Lewisville branch of the United States Post Service just that good? "Through wind, rain, sleet, snow and incomplete addresses..."

I told my mother, a rural mail carrier, about it, and she was equally amazed. I've seen letters with the wrong house number on the right street get delivered, but a letter sans the street entirely? Even in a small town, it is not the post office's job to fill in the blanks of addresses. You know, I've been hearing that God works in mysterious ways for a long time now, but never have I seen Him use a stamp.

Now here I am, proved wrong by thinking that a church's outreach committee wasn't going to change my mind. And if I hadn't been so very Sandra about the whole thing and just put my address, I wouldn't have given it a second thought. I would've chucked the postcard after a cursory glance, and I surely wouldn't have stuck it on my fridge.

So now I go to the church that sent me mail. You could say I took it as a sign. I'm not saying that God made sure I got the postcard because my life will be drastically changed by my regular attendance at Harmony Grove. Could be. I make no promises on knowing God's plans, though I am apparently somehow on His mailing list. More than likely, He's just having a good laugh about it. He knows I think I'm pretty smart, and yet here I am, totally thrown by a generic religious postcard. Mysterious ways, indeed.


that's a lot of batteries.

Thing 1: I told you so.
I went shopping with Rob again last week, and I specifically remember saying as we were getting out of his car, "C'mon, so we can go into popular, mainstream stores where we can listen to remixes of cool indie music and get pissed off about it." He shook his head at me, because he apparently thought that was a silly thing to be pissed off about. It's not. Stores where you pay mostly for the brand name are the antithesis of independent music, and people who solely shop at those places should not get to hear it. Also, he probably thought that mine was a ridiculous prediction to make. Of course, I wouldn't bother mentioning the statement had it not come true. We were in the Gap (or is it The Gap?) when I found that I knew the lyrics of a song I'd never heard before. Then I realized, to my absolute and sheer horror, that it was a mellow, techno remake of The Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night." Blasphemy. I remarked something about the audacity of it to Rob, who characteristically responded with something about the shirts he was looking at. He tunes me out so well. Ah, but then, we were in American Eagle, and the Postal Service was playing. I don't care much for the Postal Service (the band, not the mail service), but they are one of Rob's favorite bands. I went up to him and said, "Listen." He said, "Yeah, I know. And it's really pissing me off."

Thing 2: I am one step closer to grown-up-hood.
Because I joined Costco. I'd been toying with the idea, but wasn't sure if the savings would pay for the membership fee. Everyone I knew was in favor of it, mostly because they all wanted me to take them to Costco. Casey made the valid point of asking what percentage of my annual salary did a membership cost. Apparently, the boy knows the way my mind works. One of my coworkers practically lives there. He says he pays for his membership in milk savings alone, as he goes through 2 gallons of milk a week (at $2.15 a gallon at Costco). I figured I would probably join, especially after I found out that they have a Costco gas station. But then there was a booth in the mall that giving away $10 gift cards with new memberships. Okay, fine, sign me up. I went for the first time Sunday and bought 48 batteries. I bought other stuff, too, but I just think it's funny to say that I bought 48 batteries.

Thing 3: Six extra batteries.
Actually, I bought 54 batteries, but six of them were fancy-schmancy rechargeable ones for my pretty new camera, which arrived last Friday, despite Dell.com's estimated ship date of May 4. I cannot describe to you my love affair with this camera. I had it delivered to me at work, and directly after work, you could have found me lying down in the parking lot adjacent to my office building, taking pictures of dogwood blooms. I came up with flowers in my pants and a big smile (though the two were unrelated). I also spent an afternoon at Old Salem taking pictures after I found myself there for a rummage sale. My camera can do a lot of things that I do not yet understand, but I aim to conquer every button on there. I am very glad that I splurged and got the quality camera with the tilty LCD screen, as I find that I can twist it so as to avoid lying down all over the ground (though I sometimes like to do that just for fun).



So what does a girl like me do when she's suddenly thrust into this new life where she has weekends off from work and disposable income? She goes to yard sales. Regular readers (as well as some of the irregular ones) should know by now that I love yard sales. Call it low-class, call it backwards, call it distasteful, but my stuff is cooler than yours and it cost less, too.

The Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools put on a yard sale last weekend, and they advertised it in the paper. I see the advertisement, and I am intrigued: "Desks, Chairs, other Furniture, Musical Instruments." The idea of a school system putting on a yard sale was probably enough to convince me to go, but if Casey had found out that I passed on going to a sale with instruments, he would consider that grounds for relationship termination. So I Googled the location, because I still don't know my way around this town, and I set out.

The sale was in a big warehouse on a sketchy side of town. I walked in, and it was like I was in some sort of store house of my grade school memories. Desks, tables, magazine racks, cubbies, everything I ever remember from school exactly the way I remember it, down to the old colored gum stuck to the bottoms. There were kid-sized desks, desks with the chairs attached, teacher-sided desks, principal-sized desks, all with accompanying chairs. There were file cabinets, classroom cabinets, and one green metal cabinet marked "FLUIDS" that had unfortunately already been sold before I got there (It would have made a fabulous liquor cabinet). There were wooden chairs, plastic chairs (a quarter apiece), blue metal cafeteria chairs, and I remembered sitting in them all at some point in my public school career. They had those old plastic couches that gave away their age by being orange or green, the kind that were in the teachers' lounge. I saw the office chairs that visitors sat in, the simple swivel jobs that the secretary used, and even the imposing high-backed dark blue kind of chair that the principal sat in. All the furniture was just lined up in sections, like little armies of school furniture.

There were pianos and kilns for $25 apiece. Sewing machines for ten bucks. Everything was in working order; the schools were just upgrading to new items. It's probably best that the kilns had all sold by the time of my arrival, because I would've wanted one, even given the arguments that I had no room for one, no idea how to use one, and no way of getting it to the home where there was no room for it in the first place. I did buy a sewing machine. Not that I know how to sew, but it was more practical than a kiln.

It was awesome. There are no words to describe how great this yard sale was, despite all the ones you just read. I've been to a lot of yard sales, but never one like this. And the best part? The school system is going to start having these sales every couple of months. There's still hope to get me a "FLUIDS" cabinet yet.


this morning's emergency.

I have a candy dish for my keys. I have to always put my keys in the candy dish sitting on the table in my living room or I will lose them. Yes, I am one of those people. The key/candy dish was Casey's idea, because he got tired of waiting for me to find my keys every time we went someplace. So he suggested the candy dish plan so that he would not have to be subjected to my frantic tearing around the house, and I would not have to be subjected to his loud sighing.

This morning, the keys were not in the candy dish. I checked a couple of other places that seemed likely. I thought hard about what I did when I came in yesterday. I unlocked the door. Then I unlocked the dead bolt, which was unusual, because I don't usually lock the deadbolt when I leave the house. It threw me off my routine, perhaps. Had I left the keys in the deadbolt?

That thought was concerning. I opened the door to check if there were keys dangling outside. There were not. That was even more concerning. What if I had left my keys hanging in the deadbolt overnight, and someone had taken the opportunity to take them? Oh, no, no, no, this was bad. I thought about the keys on the set in question: various keys to cars and apartments far away (no real worries there), my car key, my house key, my mailbox key.

I had a spare set; that wasn't the problem. The problem was that there might be someone out there who now had access to all those things and knew where to find them. I tried to calm down and not freak out. After all, it was more than possible that I had just mislaid the keys somewhere in the apartment. No need to start calling my landlord or the nearest Toyota dealership. So I decided to just take my spare set and go to work and not worry about it. And what could I do now anyway, when there was no real guarantee that the keys had been stolen? Just go to work.

Well, that was a stupid idea, how could I not worry about it? I got a mile down the road before I realized that if I was going to get broken into while I was at work, I would at least be prepared. The first thing I did when I got back was to go upstairs to my computer, the only real thing of value that I own. I use a browser that saves my passwords to any sites that I log into. I erased all my passwords, so that if any criminals happened to look at my computer before they sold it, they wouldn't log into any sites like oh, say, my bank account. I hid my stack of account documents and bills. I was planning on taking a roll of tape with me out the door, so that I could tape it across the door. That way, if I came home and the robber was still there, I would know to not go in. All in all, I consider that I handled the situation quite well.

I was already late for work, but before I left, I was going to write a note to my landlord saying that I may have lost my keys. I grabbed some paper and went to get the pen I'd left on the coffee table last night. I lifted a magazine to look for the pen, and suddenly I didn't need the pen anymore.

Always, always use the candy dish.


i'll rate this one a seven, too.

Wednesday, 5:41pm. A Lewisville, NC apartment.

I'm relaxing after work, just doing a little light cleaning and listening to a mix of Soul Coughing's slower tracks. "Lazybones" is playing when the phone rings. I pause the music - it's pretty loud - and answer the phone. It's early evening, and I'm thinking it's a social call.

"Hi, yes, I'm calling on behalf of Pizza Hut, and I just want to verify that someone in this household participated in a phone survey within the last week. Are you the person who participated in the survey?"

"Uh, yeah."

"Okay, well, I just have to questions for you. On a scale of one to seven, one being disastisfied and seven being satisfied, how would you rate the survey you took?"


"And what would be your reasoning behind your answer?"

"Um. Because it was fine."

"Thank you very much for your time."



three links.

For Three Things today, we have links!

Thing 1: This just in...
Wonderful, wonderful news. I know it's just a first step and there is a lot more research and work to be done before this is a widely-available treatment option. However, the way I figure it is I have about ten or fifteen years before I start having children old enough to get diabetes and need the treatment anyway. (While I realize that our children may very well not inherit Casey's diabetes, I should go ahead and start preparing for our kids to get my nose and his health problems.) That's ten to fifteen years for this treatment to advance, and ten to fifteen years for me to take good care of my pancreas so that I can lovingly donate cells to my children just as I lovingly donated the shape of my nose.

Thing 2: Pretty, pretty.
Look what I bought! I've never had a digital camera before, but I feel like I would take pictures if I had one. When you travel around the rural South, you are likely to run into some very photo-worthy objects at any moment. So I decided I wanted a camera, set a $200 budget, and started looking around. I found this camera, I blew my budget, and I bought it. All online reviews were glowing. I had asked around, heard a couple of pretty good reviews, but the clincher was the graphic designer at work who answered "What kind of digital camera would you recommend?" with simply "Canon." I'm not too upset about the extra money I spent, as I feel I'm getting my money's worth. Be sure to notice the saucy way the LCD monitor can be moved around. The biggest reason that I bought this camera, though, is the fact that most reviews mentioned the fact that it is a camera that "grows with you." So while it's simple enough for me to take pictures right now when I don't know anything, it has features that will allow me to play and experiment as I learn more. And that's just lovely.

Thing 3: Saving money is sexy.
A coworker told me about this site. I used it to get a great deal on the aforementioned, also sexy camera (MSRP is $400, I paid $260, tax and shipping included). I'm also using it to find accessories to make my camera even sexier, if such a thing is possible. The best place to find deals is to search the forums for whatever you want. There are posts listing amazing combinations of good deals that combine to make a Great Deal. Sales! Special, little-advertised promotions! Rebates! Coupon codes! My coworker was telling me about all the deals, and I swear, it was like dirty talk to me.


not the same, but easily recognizable.

As Casey and I were leaving dinner at La Carreta, we saw two of them. As we were driving downtown to The Garage, we saw half a dozen. As we were entering Krispy Kreme, we saw another half a dozen. As we were wandering around Wal-Mart, we ran into a couple more.

Stupid high school kids in prom clothes.

Was it just me, or did we happen to run into the most annoying ones? Maybe it's just the fact that the minute I left high school, all high school kids became inherently annoying. Was I that obnoxious? Did I look that ridiculous tottering in my high heels and chewing gum? I watched and listened to these kids and I knew exactly what kind of kids they were. I could put a name on them that corresponded to another kid that I went to high school with. Different high school, different city, different time, but same exact kid. In my day, that guy was named Mitchell, and that girl was named Ashley. That dude over there was Brandon, and his date was a different girl named Ashley. I didn't like them in high school, either. Ridiculous people who think that tuxedos and sequined dresses make them adults. Sorry, kid, but your mom's borrowed Visa gave you away. And when one couple had a Krispy Kreme employee take their picture standing in front of the "Hot Doughnuts Now" sign holding up their respective half-dozen boxes, I'm surprised my eyes didn't roll right out of my head. The Krispy Kreme workers seemed to be having similar difficulties trying not to laugh out loud.

Ah, but who am I kidding? I am only four years removed from those girls in shiny dresses and matching eye shadow. Am I wrong to think that they were four important years? I have a degree now, and major kitchen appliances, and a credit rating, and a job that doesn't include an apron in the dress code. I worried then about my GPA, what I wanted to major in, and the size of my hips. Now I worry about my 401k, whether I majored in the right thing, and the size of my hips. Maybe if I'd run into the right group of kids, I would've looked at a girl and thought she would've been named Sandra at my high school. The scarier idea is if she'd be able to look at me and tell that she is me, just four years later.

I can't deny my high school self, nor would I necessarily want to. She did about the best she could given her resources. She wasn't so bad, for a kid in high school, and she remains part of me. I'm not the same, but I'm easily recognizable.

But the funniest part was watching those kids with their dates and then looking across the table at my once-upon-a-time prom date; he had doughnut glaze on his chin. Some things never change.


take it or leave it? okay.

Sunrise United Methodist Church
Another of the four UMCs in Lewisville, this one is a little unconventional. The church has two services, both contemporary. Their sanctuary is a great big room with lots of chairs lined up in rows in the middle, a stage up front, and small round cafeteria tables around the outer perimeter. Snacks and coffee are provided in the lobby, and you are encouraged to take your food into the service. This is a good idea. I like to worship God whilst I enjoy some of his fresh-brewed creation.

But I really didn't know what to make of this church. It was just so casual. I was probably overdressed, in a skirt, short-sleeved top, and sandals. Most people were in jeans, and some were in (gasp!) shorts. I'm not sure how I feel about casual dress at church. I guess I feel like it doesn't matter what you wear, but I personally feel a little weird about wearing casual stuff to Sunday services. And while I know that is completely my own issue stemming from growing up in traditional churches, knowing that doesn't make it any easier to pull on my Levi's on Sunday morning. I suppose I could get used to it.

Being dressed-down didn't keep the people from being super-ultra-mega-friendly. The church is big enough that the regulars might not be able to spot a visitor immediately, but these people seemed to feel that the fact that I was there was reason enough to come up and introduce themselves. Even if they couldn't tell I was new, they could tell I was new to them. Plus, they were regular, down-to-earth people. One of them even told me up-front that this was the kind of church that you either liked or didn't like. Even if it turned out that I was the kind that didn't like the church, I liked the "Hey, this is what we do - take it or leave it" kind of attitude. They're glad to see me if I come, but they'll understand if I don't.

Being a contemporary church, they had contemporary music. I'm not a fan. However, they did have a full band (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, drumset, and a set of bongos that did not get played), rather than using some awful recording of karaoke versions of popular Christian music. We read the words off TV screens at the front of the room. The distressing thing about not using hymnals is that you don't know what to do with your hands. I think I ended up holding my hands together in front of me, feeling very awkward and checking out what other people were doing with their hands.

I dug the sermon a lot; it wasn't very good. The minister gave some anecdotes that didn't really fit, had poor flow in his ideas, and I think he defined a couple of concepts incorrectly. But the sermon was about sloth, and I'd never heard a sermon on sloth before, and it made me think about things I'd never really thought about, and so I liked it. I write, so I'm probably just overcritical of bad sermon-writing, but I do give points for originality.

I am frankly not sure if I will ever darken the door of Sunrise UMC ever again. Part of me thinks that I could easily get used to the contemporary and casual aspects that I'm not all that comfortable with, and another part of me thinks that I shouldn't have to get used to it. Either way, I don't feel guilty. They told me I could take it or leave it, and so leave it I will.


lord, hear our prayers.

Harmony Grove United Methodist Church
I like this church. It's small, with about 70 people attending regularly. We sang one song I did know and one I didn't, and the choir was actually very good. No handbells. The preacher (who had such a lovely southern gentleman accent, I could listen to it all day) gave a slightly unconventional sermon about death that had a couple of historical references (I like informed preachers) and started out with a joke about a little girl asking about the birds and the bees, which I thought was daring.

The church definitely had that family feel that is so important to me. The people knew each other there. People would quip into the announcements to make a joke, and everybody laughed. They were nice to each other, they were nice to me. A woman came up to me and started telling me about the young adult Sunday School class. I was stopped by an older couple on my way out who introduced themselves. Yet another older woman stopped to talk to me and tell me how much she wanted me to come back. Rather than a chain of introductions like at the Moravian church, every individual here made it their business to meet me. I didn't have to be introduced as a visitor, because I obviously was to everyone.

This church had a prayer tradition that I've never experienced before, although I think it might be fairly common, perhaps in other denominations. In most Methodist services, there's a great big long prayer in the middle of the service, after the announcements, but before the offering. Beforehand, the preacher usually asks for prayer requests or celebrations. In this church, we all bowed our heads, and people would call out their requests one at a time, just saying the name of someone who was sick or something like "our troops overseas." Then after each one, the congregation would say in unison "Lord, hear our prayers." Admittedly, it took me a couple requests to catch on to what was going on, but once I did, I really liked it. There was a sense of togetherness in it, like your prayer is his prayer is my prayer, and we're all in this together.

Again, I like this church a lot. If there were not another Methodist church down the road that I was curious about, I would have said to myself that this was it as I walked out the door. This was the kind of church that everyone had been going to since they were born, and though they had a system and a rhythm already going strong before I came in, they were more than willing to let me, or anyone else, catch up.


something to read.

From: Rob
Sent: Tuesday, April 12, 2005 1:48 PM
To: Sandra
Subject: something to read

I have a strange theory that Krispy Kreme engineers their coffee to have a strong coffee scent. The 1/2 oz. I have left in this morning's cup can still be smelled from a couple of feet away. That just doesn't happen with the office coffee (or anything I make at home).

How's your afternoon shaping up? Anything good going on? I got some stuff to look over, at least. Baby steps.

* * *

From: Sandra
Sent: Tuesday, April 12, 2005 1:54 PM
To: Rob
Subject: RE: something to read

eh. certification stuff. sleepy sandra. i'd like to take a nap. i think it's all this energy i'm devoting to not biting on the nails that broke.

i dreamt last night that i was getting a novel published. i was pretty bummed when i woke up and realized it wasn't true.

* * *

From: Rob
Sent: Tuesday, April 12, 2005 1:57 PM
To: Sandra
Subject: RE: something to read

When was the last time you wrote something? Maybe you could write an exciting story about an investigation into coffee that somehow unnaturally maintains its coffee smell.

You should totally bite the nails. Life is short.

* * *

From: Sandra
Sent: Tuesday, April 12, 2005 2:02 PM
To: Rob
Subject: RE: something to read

dear, that's what coffee does.

life is too short to not be able to open stuff because you bit your nails off. also, it's too short to be miserable because your fingers hurt. my finger is bleeding.

* * *

From: Rob
Sent: Tuesday, April 12, 2005 2:04 PM
To: Sandra
Subject: RE: something to read

ouch, really? sorry about that.

I found your coffee story too brief. Elaborate a little, get the reader involved. Maybe add a character or two. Some dialog. Whatnot.

What movie did you mention on the way to lunch?

* * *

From: Sandra
Sent: Tuesday, April 12, 2005 2:10 PM
To: Rob
Subject: mulholland drive

"i'm bored," said rob, raking his right hand across his hairline to sweep his hair to the left. sometimes he worried that the gesture was causing his hairline to recede. sometimes he worried that not sweeping his hair to the left would make his hairline recede. sometimes he thought about sweeping his hair to the right, but found the motion too difficult with his non-dominant hand.

"write a story about an unnatural event that is completely and totally natural. i will read it and judge you and thereby be amused for a few minutes," he demanded, thinking that an unnatural event that was completely and totally natural would distract him from the all too natural event of hairline migration.

"no," replied sandra. she had lots of hair.


that stupid girl who never wrote me back.

Thing 1: Seth got a job!
My friend, Seth from the illustrious computer science program at Appalachian State University, is graduating this May, and has landed a job. Normally, I would not share this news for you, for though I would be excited for him anyway, my selfless excitement would not be enough for a Thing. No, I'm having some selfish excitement, too. When I found out I was moving here, I pretty much tried to talk all of my friends into moving here, too. Apparently, Seth listened. He got a job in Winston, so now I will have a(nother) friend. Better yet, I will likely be the only person he knows here, so he will have to put up with me if he wants any friends.

Thing 2: I googled for about four hours today.
Surfing the net at work is fun. Surfing for work-related stuff at work is not so much fun. I was doing the latter. I was trying to figure out how to do something with a piece of software I've never used before. After four hours, I asked someone for help. He gave up half an hour later with the advice that if we couldn't find some way to do it on the web, it couldn't be done. I like this advice, and I took it as permission to give up and have a cup of tea. I only wished I could've had a Long Island Iced Tea, but as that sort of thing is very discouraged at work, I settled for some Earl Grey.

Thing 3: I mailed a card to Yuliya.
Yuliya is a girl I used to work with at Vintner's. She's originally from Belarus, but now she's settled down in the eastern part of NC with her husband. I hadn't spoken to her since she moved, but we always got along very well. Of all the people I worked with at Vintner's, she's one of the ones I miss the most. Anyway, I happened to look her up on the internet and found her mailing address. I'm bad to let friendships fizzle, and I've decided recently that I've known too many wonderful people to lose them out of neglect. She may or may not ever respond, and that's fine really. I feel better knowing that I gave it a shot. That way, she won't become "that sweet girl that I lost touch with," but "that stupid girl who never wrote me back."


free opinions!

I don't have any sneakers. No, that's not right, I have lots of sneakers. I have red ones with blue stripes and blue ones with white stripes and black ones with bleach spots. What I mean is that while I have several pairs of sneakers, I don't really have anything I can go running in or play basketball in or any other kind of sporting thing that I don't do regularly but might if I had some shoes in which to do them.

I don't have any athletic shoes. Well, that's not true either. I have a pair of Adidas, white with some purplish-blueish design on them that I got when I was in high school and I played volleyball. But they're kinda old, and maybe my tastes have changed a bit. What I mean is that I don't really have any athletic shoes that I like to wear.

I wanted some new athletic shoes. That is true.

Last night, Rob and I went athletic shoe shopping. Last night was not to be confused with last week, which was when Rob and I went dress shoe shopping. Rob likes to take girls shopping because girls can tell him what looks good and what does not. He has a gay man friend who supposedly has great taste, but since Rob's target audience is girls and not gay men, he brings a girl. He often even promises to buy the girl something in exchange for her opinions.

I told Rob it would be silly for him to buy me something in exchange for my opinion, when I am so happy to give it freely and usually without being asked. Plus, I like to shop, and I have no other friends in Winston-Salem. Maybe I should've been buying him something. But no. I also went because I was toying with the idea of buying some shoes myself for reasons covered earlier.

We started at Sears', and really, we should've just stayed there. Every shoe store we perused had essentially the same stock at essentially the same price. We both agreed that there were lots of pairs of shoes that were fine, but nothing that made either one of us say, "Wow, my feet would look sexy in those." There was a pair of lovely suede green New Balances that Rob liked, and of course I enthusiastically approve of all suede shoes; alas, they were women's. I tried hard to convince him that no one would ever be able to tell, but he was convinced the day would come when he would hit on a girl and look down to realize she had the same shoes. There was another pair of some funny-shaped track shoes that Rob liked, but when he tried them on, I looked at him sadly and said, "Sweetie, I just don't think you can pull those off. Frankly, I don't know anyone who can. I'm sorry." He sighed, and said, "It's okay. That's why you're here."

Finally, it was back to Sears'. He tried on a pair of men's Nikes, and I tried on a pair of men's Nikes. Then we switched; Rob and I wear the same shoe size. I decided to buy my pair after much walking with one of them on and checking myself out in the feet mirror with my pants rolled up to see if they had a slimming effect on my calf. Rob decided to buy his, took them off, tried mine on, decided to buy mine, then tried his on again and decided to buy them so we wouldn't have the same pair of shoes. I suggested both of us each wearing one of each shoe, but Rob has an amazing ability to completely tune me out when I make suggestions.

We walked out of Sears' with matching bags containing matching boxes containing non-matching shoes in matching sizes. And that's the truth.


loaded with protein!

For the uninformed, a Cricket Lick-It is a novelty lollipop with a cricket inside. A friend of mine brought one to class when I was in middle school. We all crowded around to examine the rectangular prism of yellow candy with the bug inside, which was vaguely reminiscent of the mosquito in Jurassic Park. I examined it closely and remarked that it was amusing, but that it was not a real cricket. My friend retorted that of course it was a real cricket, that they wouldn't be able to claim it was a cricket on the packaging if it was fake.

We checked the side of the plastic wrapper for the ingredients.
Ingredients: HSH (Maltitol syrup), Cricket, Natural and Artifical flavoring, Artificial Color (Yellow 5, Blue 1)

Huh. Well, still, there's no way that it could be a real cricket, right? I was still not convinced. They'd have to have a warning or something that stated, "Hey! Stubborn girl! That's a real cricket in there!" Crickets can't be good for you.* Surely that was just a fake cricket made of candy or maybe even a toy. We argued for a good few minutes over it, and I was not to be convinced. And then came the challenge that I should've seen coming.

"Well, then you eat it and find out."

Fine, I will, I said. I was confident that it was candy, so I unwrapped the sucker and started working on it. The cricket was in the middle, and since this was not a Tootsie Pop, it took more than three licks to get to the center. ("Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the insectival center of a Cricket Lick-It?") Some time went by while I sucked on the lollipop. Regardless of the genuineness of the bug inside the sucker, obviously the HotLix Candy Company did not put a lot of money into their sucker recipe - the candy itself tasted like crap. I guess when you've got an obvious gimmick, there's no point in making a quality product.

Finally I started getting to some cricket parts. Before long, there was a leg sticking out into open air where the candy had been diminished by my tongue. It was at about this point that I begin to have doubts in my fake cricket theory. Then I bit the leg and switched sides of the argument altogether. Yup. That is one real cricket I am eating, I thought. Worse than that was the knowledge that I still had five legs, an abdomen, antennae, and a head to go. No one else had noticed me eat the leg, so as far as they knew, the question was still in the air.

The good thing about my stubbornness is the fact that I am consistent with it. So I refused to give up in eating the cricket that I had refused to believe was real. I sucked some more until I could get the cricket in all one bite, my misery and dread building up with each successive lick. By this time, people noticed that it was cricket-eating time, and it was with an audience watching that I took a big bite out of that very real cricket. I chewed and nodded confidently, "It's candy." I had just eaten a cricket. There was no way I was about to make myself feel worse by admitting to being wrong. "Adding insult to injury" doesn't even begin to cover what I was feeling.

Oh, I learned my lesson that day. I think the moral of this story is pretty clear: never be wrong about anything. Also, don't eat crickets.

*As according to the FAQs on cricketscience.com:
ARE ANY CRICKETS POISONOUS? No, not to our knowledge. Undoubtedly, however, there are crickets somewhere in the world that produce a noxious chemical that wards off one or more kinds of predators that might otherwise have the crickets for food. This kind of thing is very common among insects. The crickets in "Cricket-Lick-It" lollipops certainly aren't poisonous, however; they're loaded with protein!


heel yeah!

My NCAA bracket got shot all to heck after the first round, and my $5 contribution to the office pool should've been spent buying groceries. But I don't care. We won!

Admittedly, UNC is not my team. I've always been a NC State girl, I guess starting from when I was little and wanted to go to veterinary school there. I haven't wanted to be a vet for a good fifteen years now, but I still pull for the Wolfpack over anybody. But when you live in North Carolina, you have to love college basketball and you have to pull for the Atlantic Coast Conference. It's a rule.

Okay, I know a lot of exceptions to that rule. I know lots of ACC team fans who won't pull for one of their supposed rivals during tournament time. I don't understand those people. I especially can't understand the people who can watch a game and not root for someone, anyone. I start watching a game and within five minutes, I'm emotionally involved. I want someone to win for some reason, even if the reason has something to do with the mascot or the way the point guard does his hair. I don't get any enjoyment out of a game where I don't have a dog in the fight. Even if I don't think I have a side, when the game's over and I notice I'm feeling disappointment or happiness over the outcome, it's clear the way I wanted things to turn out.

But I don't understand how you can root against a fellow ACC team when your team isn't involved. There are some huge rivalries around here, and it's not uncommon to hear some blush-inducing obscenities hurled at the opposing team during the regular season or the ACC tournament. But when that's all over, a conference team is a conference team. It's not a matter of disloyalty. It's a matter of something bigger than the rivalry between two teams. You want what's best for the conference.

Because, let's face it, the ACC rocks. It was pure luck that I was born smack dab in the middle of all this, and I can't help but feel sorry for those who weren't. Those people should think about moving so that their children don't have the same misfortune. I live within two hours of four big ACC schools (all of which were in the tourney, 3 of which made Sweet Sixteen). I live within fifteen minutes of Wake Forest, and it was like a day of mourning around here when they lost. How could anyone not get caught up in this kind of excitement?

So last night, even the most hard-core of Wake Forest fans in this town pulled for the Tarheels. We cursed them all when Wake played them, but now it's the Big Dance, and it's a different set of rules. We learned the players' names and yelled for them without including curse words as their middle names. We felt relieved when we pulled away and got nervous again when it got close again. We jumped from our seats when Felton made that last steal. We cheered when it was all over, though maybe not as loudly as we would have had it been our favorite team. We live here, and it's our team, too.

Go Heels.


all right, you win, it's great to be alive.

I've got a New Yorker cartoon day-by-day calendar. I save the really good ones. I have one from Thursday, February 24 that shows a couple walking down a beach at sunset beneath a sky dotted with fluffy marshmallow clouds. The man is saying, "All right, Stephanie, you win -- it's great to be alive!"

Days like these are what Henry Ford had in mind when he made automobiles available for the Everyman. Just because those old cars couldn't go 74 miles per hour in a 65 mph zone down the yet-uninvented interstate doesn't mean that wasn't what he was shooting for. I don't know what the American Dream really is anymore, but it's gotta include driving fast on a pretty day. Driving fast with the windows down and the music loud, all right, you win, it's great to be alive.

There's a song I've been listening to lately, "Pacific Theme" by Broken Social Scene. Laid-back and cool, it's a good song. But when you play it loud while driving with the windows down, it's a great song. It's an instrumental number and starts out quiet, slowly building up and adding more instruments to the same basic theme each iteration of the tune. First there's some soft percussion, then a surf guitar, then a bass, another guitar. At about the two and a half minute mark, the song breaks into a soft bridge with just the drums and a lone trumpet. You think maybe the song's over, it's getting so quiet. But then, after fouty-five seconds, the original tune comes back again in a fantastic aural climax, this time with all the other instruments plus the trumpet, loud, strong, but still mellow and cool. It has to be the song built of a jam session in somebody's open garage in the summertime. Sun's shining, hanging with your buddies, playing music, all right, you win, it's great to be alive.

I could put this song on repeat during a long trip on a day like today and just relax behind the wheel of my Japanese part of the American Dream. Windows down, my hair pulled back to keep it from getting all nappy in the wind (not that it helps, but who cares?), my left arm out the window catching the breeze in the very model of a driving position I did not learn in Driver's Ed. "Pacific Theme" is playing loudly, because otherwise you can't hear it over the breeze and the engine pushing my car to the limit of the velocity range that I can drive without being pulled over. I feel happy and young. I am young, but now I feel it. All right, you win, it's great to be alive.


traditionally, well, traditional.

Lewisville United Methodist Church
By my count, there are four United Methodist churches in Lewisville. That's a lot for a town of 8000 people. I also think it's a good sign. But anyway, Lewisville United Methodist is the biggest. It has two Sunday morning services, and I attended the later service, which is why there were Cadillacs and Buicks in the parking lot instead of minivans and coupes.

Late services are traditionally, well, traditional, while the contemporary services are generally held at some ungodly hour like 8:30 AM. The main difference in these services (besides the time) tends to be the music. Contemporary christian music, in my experience, tends to kinda suck. Critiquing the quality of praise music is probably missing the point, and I'm sure the songwriters had their hearts in the right place. It just seems that the writers (mainly the lyricists) are trying to glorify the Lord through talents that He didn't give them. Give me Tennessee Ernie Ford and Johnny Cash over Michael W. Smith any day.

Unfortunately, the type of people who seem to agree with me on this point are, ahem, chronologically advanced. And while I don't seem to find a lot in common with what counts as "young adults" in most churches (30s, married with children), I can relate more easily to them than I can to the traditional service set (60s, widowed with grandchildren). This really is a total side issue, but honestly, I took the fact that Lewisville UMC has two services as a sign that I may not like the church. Whichever service I chose, I was going to have to give up something I was looking for. I suppose the joint Sunday School between services is supposed to rectify that situation, but I would still feel like a stranger in the late service. Plus, most multiple-service churches are bigger than what I like.

The service itself was fine. Standard stuff, nothing special. We sang songs I already knew, which I found comforting. However, exactly one person said "Good morning" to me, and that was it. I had people stepping all over me to see the new baby sitting in front of me, but they managed to do it without saying even hello to me. It's possible they figured I was just an early service regular who overslept, and so they didn't realize that I was a visitor, in which case, they still should've realized that they personally didn't know me and made an attempt to correct that. In the case that people didn't realize I was new, the church may just be too big for my tastes anyway, if the folks there don't know a visitor when they see one. I even got lost looking for the sanctuary, so they really should've figured it out. Maybe they're just rude. In any case, I didn't feel welcome at all, and I'm not going back, even though their handbell choir was very good. Maybe if they had performed a song called "We're So Happy You Are Here, Sandra!" Ah, well.