Sunday, January 24, 2010

Give a Day, Get a Free Disney Day

My sister decided to take advantage of Disney's "Give a Day, Get a Free Disney Day" promotion, and after much talk about how much fun we would have if we went to Disney World together, managed to convince me to sign up to volunteer. Laura got a gig doling out soup at a homeless shelter in Tallahassee; my activity was a lot less exciting.

I think I was one of the last people in the U.S. to sign up for this promotion, because as I scrolled through the list of volunteer opportunities, all the slots had been filled. There was nothing in Tampa or even in Hillsborough County, and the few opportunities that were still left that were even remotely close to where I live were snatched up in the amount of time it took for me to click on the "More Information" button. So, knowing that time was running out, I decided to just sign up for the next available opportunity, regardless of what it was. It turned out to be in Sarasota with a rescue dog group called Canine Castaways, so I signed up for it, thinking I would be playing with puppies all day. When I got my confirmation email, disappointment came a creepin' in--the activity I signed up for was to hold a sign outside of Petsmart notifying passersby that dogs were up for adoption. For three whole hours. On a Saturday. How incredibly mind-numbing. We also had to make our own signs.

Now, I'm not an arteest. I'm a fairly decent writer, and my photography skills are passable, but my ability to draw and paint never progressed past the second grade. So when I got home Friday night and got out all my sign-making supplies, I stood there for a minute or two wondering what the hell I should do.

Tools of the trade: Off-brand crayons, a white poster, and Dora the Explorer markers. Que bueno!

The Dora the Explorer markers even did double duty! Not only could you indulge in your creativity, you learned a little Spanish while doing it! Purple=morado!

Green=verde! Comprende? I sure did! My Spanish grew by leaps and bounds! Thanks, Dora!

I knew the first order of business was to come up with some sort of snazzy tagline, one that would maybe make people actually read my sign. Since I was pretty sure my first choice, Don't be a bitch! Adopt one instead! wouldn't go over well with Canine Castaways or Petsmart personnel, I ended up going with, Make a new best friend. Adopt a dog 2-day! (I ran out of room to spell out today and decided to use some of that IM short-hand the kids are so crazy about these days. LOL!) After about an hour of coloring, I ended up with the finished product:

Yes, sad to say, that took me an hour. Of course, I did stop periodically to send my sister silly picture messages documenting my progress. And, true to form, it looked like a second-grader created it. Actually, if you'll notice in the block lettering, I did use a technique employed by artistically-savvy second-graders everywhere: marker on the outside, crayon on the inside. Creative and classy!

Saturday was my volunteer day. Other than a little disorganization with the check-in process at the beginning, and a sunburn I ended up taking home with me, my sign-holding duties went off without a hitch. I'm glad I had the foresight to bring my iPod with me, though; holding a sign for three hours with nothing to keep me company but my thoughts and the sounds of cars and people going by would have driven me insane. But as boring a volunteer task as it was, it was for a good cause--sending rescue dogs to good homes--and I ended up with a free day at Disney World. Not bad for a three-hour stint.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Nicholas Sparks and the "Oh, Snap!" Factor

Earlier today, my friend Ali and I somehow started talking about Nicholas Sparks stories. Oh, wait, now I remember why we started talking about them--I was making fun of her for reading Dear John. Before I go any further, I should clarify: I hate Nicholas Sparks. I. Hate. Him. Well, I don't hate him--I just hate his stories. They're so over the top, ridiculously sappy that I would rather take a knife, stick it in my side and dig it around until I disembowel myself than sit through one more stupid movie based on one of his novels. To date, I've only seen two movie adaptations and read zero novels--and I'm embarrassed to say I saw the movies. Ali normally shares this sentiment, but she saw the preview for Dear John, wanted to see it, and figured she would read the novel beforehand. Guess what? She hated it.

Which brings us around to the topic of our conversation. Is there a story Nicholas Sparks has written that isn't depressing? We started comparing notes on the books we've read or the movies we've seen and out of the handful we discussed--five--not a one has a happy ending. Oh, sure, some of them have happier endings, but we weren't able to call them truly happy endings. Someone either dies or the two people in love can't be together because of some other factor. Which brings us to the "Oh, Snap!" factor and makes Nicholas Sparks kind of a douche.

What is the "Oh, Snap!" factor, you ask? Well, it's something we made up. Have you ever verbally dissed someone and then triumphantly exclaimed, "Oh, snap!" afterwards? This is exactly what Nicholas Sparks is doing to his characters and, indirectly, his audience. Cases in point (spoiler alerts):

1. A Walk to Remember

In a nutshell: The unlikely love story of a Christian girl and a rebel boy in which the Christian girl shows said rebel boy the true meaning of unconditional love and he discovers that what's inside the book isn't always reflected in its cover. However, the couple's love is tested and they are eventually ripped apart when the Christian girl reveals that she is terminally ill and ends up dying.

What Nicholas Sparks is really saying: "The homely Christian girl turned out to be pretty nice, eh? So now you're in love? Can't live without her? Want to marry her? Okay, we can arrange that. But she'll have to die eventually. Oh, SNAP!"

2. The Notebook

In a nutshell: A couple's love survives all odds including family expectations, physical separation and Alzheimer's Disease.

What Nicholas Sparks is really saying: "You love this girl, right? So after a tumultuous relationship and break-up, you'll marry her. But then she's going to come down with Alzheimer's Disease and won't remember you anyway! Oh, SNAP!"

3. Dear John

In a nutshell: Army Guy meets Girl. They fall in love. Army Guy then gets sent overseas for a few years, where he communicates with Girl via letter-writing. Girl ends up getting engaged to another guy while Army Guy is overseas, but Guy #2 has cancer and might not live as they don't have money for treatment. Girl breaks up with Army Guy via letter. Meanwhile, Army Guy's dad dies, and Army Guy comes back home. Army Guy is left with some money so he anonymously donates it to Girl for treatment for Guy #2. Guy #2 ends up living and he and Girl live happily ever after while Army Guy is left lonely and grieving.

What Nicholas Sparks is really saying, "You love this girl, right? She's what's keeping you going while you're in hell overseas? You can't live without her, want to be with her forever? Well guess what? She's going to get engaged to someone else, and your dad will die! Oh, SNAP!"

4. The Last Song

In a nutshell: A teenage girl and her younger brother are sent to their dad's house for the summer. The teenage girl hates her dad for divorcing their mom and ripping their family apart and avoids interactions with him like the plague. She ends up falling in love with some guy and re-building her relationship with her father, who eventually dies. At some point in this mess, she and the guy also break up, but he ends up surprising her by visiting her at college. You're left wondering if their love will survive.

What Nicholas Sparks is really saying: "Isn't this nice, you're experiencing love for the first time and now you and your dad are getting back on track? BOOM: break-up and death, respectively, and you'll be left alone. Oh, SNAP!"

5. Nights in Rodanthe
In a nutshell: A woman's marriage is in the shitter, so she goes to a bed-and-breakfast to clear her head and think through things. She meets a guy who has an equally fucked-up situation under his belt, and they end up falling in love. The guy ends up forsaking their love for a trip to South America to reconcile with his estranged son, where he is killed.

What Nicholas Sparks is really saying: "It's nice to have someone to talk to, right? He's cute and considerate, right? Oh, you're in love? Well guess what? He's going to South America TO DIE. Oh, SNAP!"

So there you have it. Nicholas Sparks and the "Oh, Snap!" factor. What a sappy douchebag.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My 2010 Soda-Free Failure

As part of her new year's resolution, my friend Arleen decided to give up processed sugar, her reasoning being that anything that incorporates processed sugar (i.e., junk food) can't possibly be good for the human body, so why consume it? I thought that was pretty sound logic, and decided to take a page from her book and make 2010 my soda-free year.

I should start off by saying that I was never a big soda drinker. Growing up, soda was never a constant staple of our household food and drink supply (except on special occasions such as birthdays or sleep-overs). On the occasions my family dined out, I would imbibe, but those instances were few and far between. Even after getting my driver's license and with it the independence to eat or drink anywhere I damn well pleased, I still didn't go crazy in the soda department--I was so used to not drinking it. This attitude lasted after I moved out, even after I graduated college, but recently, it's all gone to hell.

The department where I work has a staff refrigerator. Within that refrigerator, among the salads, sandwiches, yogurts and puddings that make up my coworkers' lunches and snacks, is a well-stocked supply of soda. Pepsi. Diet Pepsi. Diet Mountain Dew. And the crown jewel--Diet Dr. Pepper. The soda supply technically operates on an honor system--take a soda, and put 50 cents in the petty cash fund so we can buy more. But my growing disenchantment with my work environment coupled with the fact that now the sodas are donated--not purchased out of somebody's own pocket, but donated from Pepsi--have caused me to just help myself willy-nilly. I look at not paying the requested 50 cents as "sticking it to the man" as well as an unnecessary action--after all, if the soda is donated, why do we need to contribute money to pay for the supply? Unfortunately for me, though, it has caused me to consume more soda than I ever have before--up to a can a day on most weekdays, and sometimes a Coke or two on the weekends.

I'm loathe to use the word addiction, as I think our society tends to use it rather loosely ("I'm addicted to American Idol!" "I'm addicted to chap stick!"), but I think I might have a little bit of one. The first week of 2010 I was grumpy when my afternoon soda time came around (I usually drink in the afternoons). Whenever I would go to the fridge to get my lunch, I would look longingly at those little twelve-ounce cans, and think about all the good times we used to have--the satisfying crack! the can would make when I opened it, the anticipation I got as I put the can to my lips, the joy that would ensue when those little carbonated bubbles tickled my tongue. Then I would think about the new year's resolution I made, the one banning me from hanging out with my little carbonated friend, grudgingly close the refrigerator door and fill a Dixie cup with filtered water from our water cooler. I would be plagued with thoughts about soda for the rest of the day, namely how much I wanted one. If you took the soda out of these scenarios and replaced it with cigarettes, it could be interpreted as an addiction.

Two weeks into 2010, I've fallen off the wagon. The first drink was a Vanilla Coke. And it was the best soda drink ever. It was like being reunited with an old friend. In fact, I had to resist the urge to look at the bottle in my hand and say, "Hello, old friend." And I've imbibed on five occasions since then (two of the occasions were today, in fact; I had Coke with some sushi I ordered and I tried to make a "Coke Martini" which failed--miserably. FYI: shaking Coke and vodka in a shaker doesn't work all that well and is kind of white trash). Some (okay, most) would consider this a failure. And they would be right. But I like to find the silver lining in everything, and that silver lining is this: my soda drinking habits aren't nearly as bad as they were before I decided to give it up. In fact, I've grown to actually like water and find myself craving it when I'm thirsty instead of soda. And I've been in situations where I've turned down soda in favor of healthier drinking options. So in that respect, I think I'm making progress. And as for my friend Arleen--other than a snafu that involved a three bean salad, she is still trucking along and carefully avoiding processed sugar. Better woman than I am.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Need a Midday Laugh?

Then watch this little gem from Silent Night Deadly Night 2. I have yet to see this actual movie, but from this clip, it looks laughably bad. I'm still trying to convince my friend, Brett, to show it at one of his parties, but he's staunch in his refusal. Damn him.