It is one of those days, where you wake up and you know that right now, this moment of waking, is the high point of your day. You know the rest of the day is going to just suck, and the day will suck because you are determined that it will suck, and you will not be disappointed, least not today when you are just having the suckiest day of your life. Yes, one of those days. Remember that book the teacher read to you as a kid? Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day? Yeah, Alexander didn't know how good he had it, the big whiner. They should write a book called You and The Day That Sucked More Than Anything That Has Ever Sucked Before. Alexander woke up with gum in his hair. Yeah, well, try waking up with a feeling of impending doom crushing in on your chest.

Lethargy caused by apathy, why put an effort into this day when it's just going to suck anyway? You get up, you get ready, your morning routine dotted with periods of sitting or lying down, staring into space and thinking about what's wrong with you, what's wrong with your life, what's wrong with this day already. So then you're late, you know, for school, for work, for whatever it was that caused you to leave the setting of the high point of your day. Whatever that thing is, it sucks.

The commute only continues with the theme of "Things That Suck." Traffic is light, because you're late and you missed the rush, but that only reminds you that you're late and you missed the rush of people who aren't having sucky days. Or maybe they are having sucky days, but at least they are having them in a punctual manner. Jerks, all of them, they suck. Whatever is playing on the radio sucks, too. The radio keeps playing Van Halen's "Jump" or that ridiculous butterfly song that was so popular a few years back. You turn to your CD player, but you're not in the right mood for this CD, and the rest of your CDs are in the back and you can't reach them, because you have to drive and there's no stopping because of this unnatural, stupid, light traffic. So whatever, just another thing in this suckfest of a day.

You're late, so all the good parking spaces are taken, and everybody is going to know you were late because you're not parked in your usual space. You're parked in the space which is beneath the tree that provides no shade, only bird excrement, the space which, incidentally, is numbered 13. Unless you're one of those people whose lucky number is 13, in which case the space is number 14.

So now you're wherever it is you intended to be when you parked in space 13 or 14, thinking about how that lucky twerp Alexander was too young to drive and so he didn't have to worry about parking. Then you think how this day could probably get by without sucking quite so much if you just didn't have to put any effort into it. You could go on autopilot, left to simply sulk about this day that started off so well and then started sucking with a passion. But no. Wherever it is that you are, someone, some jerk, is going to require you to think. To formulate original and, quite possibly, complex thoughts. You let your eyes glaze over whenever you can and concentrate only on your misery and how one day it's going to come back and bite you that you were daydreaming when you were supposed to be focusing on something, you know, important. Man, that day's just gonna suck, too.

And let's face it, you're probably going to blow off early, and your drive back home with little to no traffic impeding your way will be marred with conflicting feelings of guilt for blowing off early and anger at this sucky day for making you want to blow off early and then having the gall to make you feel guilty for it. The radio station will inexplicably be playing "Jump" again, and you still will not have changed the CD because you left wherever you were in a hurried huff.

Maybe you try to take a nap in a vain effort to recreate the magic that was happening before you awoke to this miserable excuse for a day, but sleep can't break through the wall of sulking you've built around your mind. Maybe you veg out in front of the TV, doing the same thing you were doing before with that faraway dazed look in your eyes, but nothing is on except Old Yeller and The Golden Girls, and you've seen this episode twice already. Maybe you try and read a book, but you're in the middle of Little Women, and frankly, Beth's starting to look a little thin.

So you log on to your blog and write this long and overwrought entry about your sucky day. You use a form of the word "suck" nineteen twenty times. You make an excellent display of poor writing. You post your excellent display of poor writing for all the world to see, and you are vaguely amused, but you don't feel better. Sucks.



There were lots of athletic clubs at my middle school. This fact was in direct contrast to my high school, where as far as I can remember, there was only one athletic club, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I'm not sure exactly what went on in FCA, other than maybe scrimmaging with prayer beforehand. But in middle school, the athletic clubs had no sort of theological requirements. In fact, only a couple of them had requirements at all. There was the P.E. Club, which was sort of like the honor society for jocks. You had to do well on your presidential fitness exams to be in the P.E. Club. There was also the Sports Club, which was only open to those who played on school sports teams. Clubs in middle school didn't do much, mostly because all meetings had to take place outside of school, usually right after classes let out. Maybe that's why there were so many athletic clubs - the jocks were already used to staying late for practices and such, and their parents were already used to having to rework schedules. However, the meetings couldn't interfere with any of the sports they were promoting. That amounted to about four meetings a year in between seasons.

Then there were the clubs that had no real requirements for joining other than interest. I remember there being three such clubs. The first, and most socially acceptable, was the Jumprope Club. Jumping rope was deemed Okay because pretty much everybody could do it. Also, it's what the boys' basketball team did in the off-season to get in shape. (In high school, the club of off-season basketball players became known as the cross-country team.) So if the jocks did it, then it must be cool. Jumprope club meetings would consist of us watching a video full of very impressive jumprope professionals. There were whole teams of them, and they would work these intricate formations with their ropes, changing positions all over the place but never missing a beat, like marching band, only bouncier. These videos would inspire us to become impressive jumprope professionals, but to be honest, I don't even remember anyone being able to double-dutch. I was one of the few that could even criss-cross, a skill I randomly picked up during one night of intense practicing in my living room when I was about seven years old.

The other non-elitist two clubs could be called college prep clubs - provided you were interested in attending Clown University. Those would be the Juggling Club and the Unicycle Club. I suspect only our first-time readers will be so foolish as to ask if I was a member of these clubs. Granted, there were some popular kids in these clubs, but they were the kind of popular kids that were popular in spite of their idiosyncrasies. Please note that I do not, nor will I ever, include myself in any sort of popular kids group. I was pretty good friends with a couple of the popular kids, mostly the kind that would participate in ridiculous extra-curricular activities.

The Juggling Club was similar to the Jumprope Club in meeting format. We watched a juggling video, then tried to imitate. No one came into the club with actual juggling know-how. We started with scarves, as they are the easiest due to their slow and meandering reaction to gravity. I honestly don't remember anyone ever graduating beyond scarves. Frankly, I'm not certain that anyone ever really got the grasp of scarves at all.

There was no need for an instructional video in the Unicycle Club. We knew what it was supposed to look like. Step 1: Get on the unicycle. Step 2: Stay there. That was pretty much it. Whereas with juggling we had started with scarves, with unicycling, we started with falling down. And we pretty much continued and ended with that as well. Again, no one entered the gym on the first meeting with any experience. And no one left the gym after the last meeting any better off. I couldn't even ride a bicycle at that point in time, so I really had no business there.

A similarity you may have noticed with all of these clubs is that no one ever managed to accomplish anything in them. Honestly, I only remember having at most two or three meetings with each of them. The teachers who sponsored the clubs were essentially off-season sports coaches. So when it came down to softball practice vs. juggling practice, the Future Outcasts of America lost out. I'm not sure why these clubs even existed or more importantly, where all the equipment came from. I can see a junior high physical education department having fifty jumpropes, but a box full of juggling apparatus and two dozen shiny unicycles? I can't decide if maybe one of the P.E. teachers was just really gung-ho about the circus or if perhaps some quirky philanthropist made a charitable donation of clown equipment and my school was just making the best of it.

For the record, I can now juggle. I made myself some little fabric juggling cubes out of yard sale scrap material and Uncle Ben's rice. I found an instructional website, sat myself down, and I learned how to juggle. It was reminiscent of the Sandra who taught herself to jumprope criss-cross and then (much) later to ride a bike. Of course, I'm not any good at juggling, but I can do it long enough to get out the words, "See? I can do it" before screwing up. I learned about six months ago when I realized that I knew a lot of people that I respected and thought were cool who could do it. Now it's just one of those things you might find out about a person and be mildly surprised and vaguely interested, like learning that someone built his own ukelele (Rob), is adopted (Ashley), or didn't learn to ride a bike until she was eighteen (no one I know).

I cannot ride a unicycle. I own one, a rusty little number with a bad tire that I bought at a yard sale. I remember walking around at this yard sale with Casey, and all of a sudden, he grabs my arm and says, "Sandra, look down." I looked down and there was a unicycle with a two dollar price tag. My immediate thought was not, Hmm, a unicycle, but rather Hey, I have a unicycle now. Ashley and I used to try to ride it in the halls of our apartment, but if you can't ride a unicycle with a good tire, one with a bad tire isn't going to offer you much hope. I even have little unicycle earrings. I feel kind of foolish when people notice them and ask me if I can ride one. I'm not sure how to explain that I'm not so much as a unicycle enthusiast as a novelty earring enthusiast.

I should save myself the embarrassment and just learn to ride it, if for no other reason than to save myself from owning yet one more thing that I bought at a yard sale and cannot use. Then I can wax romantic about my old Unicycling Club days or perhaps finally send in my application to Clown U, listing the fact that I can ride a unicycle, juggle, and jump rope criss-cross style (not all at once). I will not mention that I'm still not very good on a bicycle.


company email.

Anytime a company-wide email goes out with someone's name in the subject line, it's a bad sign. It means that one of certain phrases is going to pop up in the body of the email in conjuction with the name in the subject, phrases like "pursue another opportunity," "position has been eliminated," or "dragged out in the street and run down by one of those big rigs we keep in the back." I've seen a couple of these emails, and luckily my name has never popped up in the subject line, though I can only hope that I would know about it before the email went out.

There was an email last week about Dave. There are several Daves in this office, and I like all of them. But the departure of this Dave would have a huge impact on the company, moreso than the other Daves. Yes, this Dave is competant, yes, he's been here a long time, but more importantly, he is the social center of this office. Screw Raymond, everybody loves Dave. Jovial and laid-back, he'll even set you up to make short jokes at his expense. His office is where you go to talk about your problems, shoot the breeze, and hear the latest word on the hallway. Dave is where it's at.

Dave's last day was to be Friday, and we were all going out to Corbin's for a farewell lunch. I went by Dave's office yesterday to ask him just where Corbin's was located, but also because I had heard a rumor about a counter-offer. He told me how to get to Corbin's, and then mumbled, "But that might not matter." A-ha! The counter-offer rumor was true! Dave had last night to settle the old clash of should-I-stay-or-should-I-go.

This morning, I went by Dave's office shortly after he came in, bursting with curiosity. I knocked softly with one knuckle and then stood in the doorway to his office and asked, "So what's for lunch on Friday?"

A pause.


Hands down, best answer ever.


the hallway of youth.

Josh and Zach have moved in together. Isn't it sweet?

No, no, it's nothing like that. Josh and Zach are two of my coworkers. Their offices are directly across and diagonally from mine. Together, we make up the hallway of youth. We are the three youngest members of the office family, with Josh at 28, Zach at 26, and me at 22. More important than our age is the fact that we're all single with no children. Incidentally, we are all on the same project. Our tech lead (who is a mature family man in his thirties) calls working with us a special name: baby-sitting.

We are seen as a different kind of people entirely by our more settled coworkers. Whenever one of us has a birthday, people ask if we're old enough to buy alcohol or rent a car yet. (By the way, I will not be old enough to rent a car for another three birthdays.) When we come in on Monday mornings, it's generally assumed that we spent the weekend hours under the influence (whether or not we're old enough to buy the drinks for ourselves).

The hallway of youth is a fun place to work. Both Josh and Zach are witty, and we banter back and forth all day. Zach has his faux braggart act, and Josh can talk like a pirate. Sometimes we get on a roll and start laughing so loud that others come down the hall to see if they can't get in on the fun that the kids are having. There's a certain spot in the hall where a person can stand and see into all of our offices and talk to us all at once. You can have a good time in the spot, with youth coming at you from all directions like some sort of rejuvenating triad. It's a different kind of atmosphere over here. In no other offices can you find a pick-up game of Nerf basketball with a goal that has a cheering sound effect for every made shot. In no other part of the building can you hear trash talk being called out from different offices. In fact, I've never heard people yelling from office to office in any other hallway.

While I am part of the hallway of youth, Zach and Josh make up their own little group. They're buddies, and they hang out a lot outside of work. I suppose it was just a matter of time before they became roomies. They were both living alone, and now they've rented a house a couple of minutes away. I'm amused by what this house stands for to every other male working here. I get the feeling the older men sit at the dinner table surrounded by their screaming children and nagging wives and dream about the kind of debauchery that must go on at the bachelor pad inhabited by Josh and Zach.

I'm not seen in the same way that Josh and Zach are. I think if I say that I had a couple of drinks last night, my older coworkers assume that I had a glass of wine and got a little giggly before I fell asleep with a pair of pigtails. If Josh or Zach say they had a couple of drinks, it's assumed that they had a fifth of Jack each and got a little crazy before they fell asleep with a pair of twins. The older guys rag Josh and Zach about strip clubs, and then they turn around and give me advice about how all men are after only one thing.

Josh and Zach stand for the men ten or twenty years ago; I stand for daughters and little sisters. Josh and Zach are members of the bachelor brotherhood, and I'm a simple, single girl looking for love. Josh and Zach have the glorious position of being without the old ball and chain, and I'm a old ball and chain in training. Nevermind that Josh is getting pretty serious about that girl of his or that Zach thinks more about golf than chicks, to the committed and settled family men, they are living the dream in the hallway of youth.


personal enrichment.

There's a phenomena known as the "Boonerang," that is, that graduates of Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, once finding themselves in the real, working world outside of Boone, will decide that they preferred Academia and return to school at ASU. I scoff at the Boonerang. Boone was good for me, for maybe three years, but I was there for three and a half. I do not anticipate ever going back to take up residence in Boone. I don't even anticipate going back to see the leaves change in the fall.

That being said, I've gone back to school. That's right, I am free to use my student discount whenever I please, and I don't even have to feel guilty about it. My car's bumper is graced with a parking permit that allows me to park in any of the white-lined spaces on either campus of Surry Community College. In my application for admission (which I filled out about two minutes before I filled out my registration for classes form), I checked that I was taking classes for "Personal Enrichment." I also checked that I was pursuing an Associate's Degree in Viticulture and Enology. Sandra's taking wine classes!

I'm signed up for two classes: 6 credit hours, $266.00, including student insurance, technology fee, and parking. On Tuesday and Wednesday nights, I make the forty-five minute drive to Dobson, NC to attend my Introduction to Viticulture and Wines of the World classes, respectively. $266.00, gas not included. Viticulture and Enology programs are few and far between at even major universities. But several years ago, the Shelton Brothers (of Shelton Vineyards fame) threw some money at SCC to start a program. According to the Shelton website, SCC is one of three east coast institutions offering "accredited academic study in the grape sciences." That's me, studying grape science for personal enrichment.

It's funny to be back in school. And it's not really like being back at ole ASU, it's more like being back at ole West Caldwell High School. I don't mean any disrespect to community colleges. But I'm on my third and fourth such classes, and I gotta tell ya, I'm not struggling. I know there are hard community college classes out there. I know that just from the fact that my dad used to teach at a community college. I never had my dad as a teacher, but it's been fifteen years or more since he stopped teaching high school, and I still have his old students (usually parents of my classmates) coming up to me and saying, "Man, his class was hard." So the fact that I've not really run up against difficult courses in my community college career may have more to do with the fact that I've basically been taking intro classes.

Aside from Personal Enrichment, I'm not sure what I want out of all this. My tech lead at work heard that I was taking classes and worried that it might be an indication that I was already disatisfied with my job. It's only been 8 months; if I'd had to sleep with someone to get this job, I might not have even had the baby yet. But no, I'm not unhappy with my "real" job, though he's not the only one who doesn't seem to understand why I'm taking these classes. My classmates, when they find out that I am a software engineer (which sounds so much better than computer programmer, don't you think?), seem confused as to why I seem to be pursuing a new career path when I've made such a healthy start in a rather lucrative one already.

It's a hobby. I'm interested in wine. True, I could see myself maybe someday working in the wine business, perhaps owning a vineyard or being a winemaker somewhere. But that is way in the future, and since I know nothing about the business, I don't even know if that's something I'd want. Wine is a fascinating and broad subject, and I like learning about it. I feel personally enriched already.

I'm doing this because I can. I've spent all my life doing one thing so I can get to the next stage. There has always been a goal, whether it was a college acceptance letter, a scholarship, or a job with benefits. And now I've reached the end of the list, and I've spent the last few months floundering in a big fog of "What's next?" Oh wait, this is when I start to define my own life. I probably should've started that years ago, and I know people who do, but I am too practical to do anything that strays too far from the accepted path of arrival. So have I arrived? I've arrived at something, a time in my life where I'm self-sufficient, have no dependents, and have resources to take wine classes and eat name-brand ice cream. So pass the pencils, the paper, and the Häagen-Dazs, I'm going back to school.



Thing 1: I learn about Pfafftown.
A year or two back, Scott and I made a random evening trip to Wilkesboro and ate at Ted's Kickin' Chicken. It was a good time, just kind of this spontaneous and surreal evening. Out of nostalgia and fascination for Ted's, we decided to visit all three of Ted's scattered about North Carolina. Besides the one in Wilkesboro, there was one in Shelby and one in Pfafftown. We were particularly fascinated with the latter. Where was Pfafftown? What kind of place was it? Were there a lot of sewing machines there?

Thing 2: I learn more about Pfafftown.
I moved to Lewisville and suddenly found myself less than five miles from the Pfafftown branch of Ted's Kickin' Chicken. I told Scott, we were excited, we were one step closer to fulfilling our Kickin' Chicken destiny. I excitedly told Josh about it, explaining the whole back story back when I first moved to town.

"So we're going to go to Pfafftown!"

Josh looked at me curiously, then smiled as if belatedly getting a joke. "Oh, okay. You know how to really say it."

"Say what?"

"You know it's not FAFF-TOWN. You're just making a joke."

"It's not FAFF-TOWN? What is it then?"




"That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard."

It's true that I'd often made jokes about the name of the town, but when I did, I said PEE-FAFF-TOWN. I never would have come up with POFF-TOWN. And yet it is true. Despite the fact that Josh does tend to make up things to see if I'll believe them, Pfafftown really is POFF-TOWN. I asked other people who have not the imagination to make up the pronunciations of town names. It still may be the dumbest thing I have ever heard.

Thing 3: The world learns about Pfafftown.
I went to see a movie last week and saw this preview. In case you do not wish to view the preview, I will tell the important part. A man and a woman, very sophisticated, meet in that classic way, begin dating. It flashes to the scene where the woman, swept completely off her feet, asks this man in her lilting British accent where he possibly could have come from to be this wonderful and amazing. His answer?

"Pfafftown, North Carolina."

Then you see all these shots from the film (wait - was that Pilot Mountain?), which was made in this very area where I now sit. Apparently both the director and the writer hail from Winston-Salem. At least that's what the blurb that I read about the movie said. It's likely that they more specifically came from places like Pfafftown, little suburbs with ridiculous names. This movie was shown at Sundance and Cannes. People the world over have seen Pfafftown. It is all terribly exciting.

The movie is showing at the theatre here, which is surprising, since that particular theatre is not known for showing independent-type flicks. It's that hometown advantage. I will be seeing it, even if I must pay full price. My only quibble so far is that they named the movie "Junebug." I think they should have called it "Pfafftown," just because there would be all this confusion as to how to pronounce it, which would generate great publicity. But no one asked me.


james and the giant fudge round.

When I was in high school, our floundering theatre department took on the task of putting on a production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." Our drama teacher chose it because it had few parts, and we had a small and pathetic department. She should've taken notice of the fact that it was also a musical, and few of us sang all that well. In any case, I was Peppermint Patty. I can only assume that I was given this part because there were only two female roles, and ole Patty only had to sing one line solo. Lucy did a lot of singing, including an adaptation of "Moonlight Sonata," so it was just as well that all I had to manage was the line "Happiness is playing the drum in your own school band." The notes were awfully high, though.

Rehearsals were held at 4pm in the afternoons after school. Since school let out at about 3, that gave me some time to goof off and get a snack before play practice. So I'd drive down to the Gamewell Superette (or Buck Herman's store if the Superette was packed) and buy one 20 ounce bottle of Mountain Dew and a Little Debbie Fudge Round. You can get Fudge Rounds in those boxes of eight or ten at the grocery store, but those are usually the little ones. The ones that sell in individual packets are easily twice the size of the bulk-sold ones and they only cost a quarter. In my extensive research, I've found that the quarter Fudge Rounds are just the perfect size for enjoyment before you are overloaded with fudginess and get sick of them. My Mountain Dew and Fudge Round habit were widely known among my castmates, since I would bring my snack back and munch while we chatted in those first few minutes of rehearsal.

There was this kid, James, who was playing Linus' understudy. I say he was a kid, even though in truth he was only a year younger than I. But he was baby-faced and very shy, and I suspect that even if he had been three years older than I am, I would've still called him a kid. He was a sweet guy, though none too bright, and I had a good time with the fact that he could never get the line "assume the throne" right. He kept talking about amusing the throne. Even now, I've got this great image of him telling jokes to a fancy high-backed gold chair. It's very assuming.

James loved the theatre. He came to the show through our director, who also taught english. He was in one of her classes and expressed interest in being in a play. She was surprised, because he was such an introvert, whereas most theatre people are extroverted to the point of being obnoxious. But she gave him that small role of understudy and put him in the laid-back and welcome environment of backstage, and personality just started shooting out of that boy. He talked, he joked, he sang a song to a blue blanket. The real James decided to show himself after all. That's one thing about theatre people: being freaks themselves, they tend to be pretty forgiving of quirks.

James, ah poor James, he had a crush on me. His affections were revealed one day that I had to miss rehearsal, and he made some flattering comment about me to another cast member, a girl that was actually one of my very good friends. Perhaps James didn't realize that, oh, guess what - girls talk, or perhaps he wanted me to know. Either way, I found out quick, and then proceded to pretend that I had not found out. I was not interested and I probably was not supposed to know that he was interested, so it was better to leave well enough alone. He was welcome to pine in silence all he wanted.

But James could not resist a small opportunity to win my affections. On opening night, James brought in a big box of Fudge Rounds for consumption by the cast. The girls all giggled at his choice of pre-show snack, and I just blushed and pretended I didn't know why he hadn't chosen Moon Pies or Oatmeal Creme Pies.

James fell off the face of the earth sometime during my senior year of high school, meaning I lost track of what happened to him. I suspect he dropped out. I doubt he had much success with classes or his social life, and I think his home life might have been a little rough. He struck me as a fragile kid, and the theatre couldn't have been enough to save him. I hate that he couldn't be himself outside the theatre, and I hate to think that the sweet kid might've been turned bitter by the fact that the rest of the world wasn't so welcoming as the people backstage. Hopefully he found some community theatre troup to join and a nice little girl to settle down and buy fudge rounds for, the big ones.