Feel My Wrath

March 31, 2010 at 11:35 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

I am not a happy camper.  I had big plans for today’s post, as I’ve found another writing job that I’m more than a bit excited about.  It’s a non-paying gig but it should be fun anyway.  I also found out something incredibly interesting (to me) about a famous ancestor of mine.  I was looking forward to getting on here and talking all about it, but it’s going to have to wait.

Because I’m pissed.

I’ve been dealing with ignorant, incompetent people all morning.  This is no different from many other mornings, however today all of these people worked for the same company – Sallie Mae.  Last Friday, I made my regular monthly student loan payment to this institution.  I made the payment online, like I’ve been doing for years.  However, I accidentally wrote an incorrect account number for the online check.  As soon as I hit ‘submit’ I realized my error, and I immediately called customer service.  After waiting for a while and being redirected numerous times (shocker), I was finally placed on the line with some guy.  I foolishly didn’t get his name (though I doubt it would’ve helped things even if I had) but you can bet that I’ll be getting the names of everyone I talk to within that company from here on out.

Anyway, Customer Service Guy said that it was an easy fix.  He told me that he would cancel the payment and all I would need to do would be to resubmit it later that day.  So I placed my trust in this anonymous guy in India and went ahead and made another payment.

Bet you can see where this is going.

Yup, they charged me twice.  I found this out this morning, when I happened to overdraw my account.  Can I tell you how happy that made me?  I’m fairly responsible financially and I can’t even remember the last time I’ve come close to overdrawing.  In addition to the money that was automatically transferred from my savings account to cover my ass, I was also charged a $10 overdraft protection fee.  Awesome.  So I called customer service back again this morning, and this is where my rage comes in.

First off, I’d like to say how utterly annoying it is to have to sit and listen to a recording ask for my social security number, name, account number, date of birth and reason for calling.  I wouldn’t mind giving that all out if it meant I wouldn’t have to do it when an actual person finally picked up, but that’s not the case.  In the 30 minutes I sat on hold, the recording also mentioned that my records showed another recent call I’d made to customer service.  The recording wanted to know if this call was in relation to the first one, and I said it was.  Eventually, I was placed on the line with a human being, who, after listening to my 30 second summary of my problem, put me right back on hold.  After another 10 minutes, I was finally speaking to someone in the billing department.

This woman (Amy – I started with the name writing though it’s pretty much pointless) made it sound like I could try to contest the charges by sending in a bank statement and waiting about a week.  Once she realized that this whole thing was a result of a coworker giving me wrong information and me following it, she changed her story.  She then said that I would have to go through my debit card company to get the charge removed and even then it wouldn’t likely happen.  I asked for her supervisor, and was redirected to Ash (who was probably another cubicle rat that just plays the role of supervisor for shits and giggles).  Ash told me that there was absolutely no record of any conversation between myself and a Sallie Mae employee on March 26th, and that since I had submitted the payments it was my fault and I would have to deal with it.  Enter anger.

A couple of things about this entire situation that don’t make any sense: 1) How did that first payment go through, when the account number was invalid?  I guess that’s a mystery of the universe.  2) How did the damned recording know I had spoken to someone recently if no records exist?  3) Who did I actually speak to on Friday – was it a ghost of some representative who died a slow death while trying to get through the red tape of Sallie Mae policies?

The world may never know.  I do know, however, that everyone I spoke to was unable to help me.  It’s especially frustrating because I’ve never missed a loan payment and frequently pay more than the minimum amount.  I’m a good customer and have never given them any problems, until today.  I had a few choice words for the woman named Ash (if that is her real name) before I finally gave up.  Sometimes you rule the world, and other times the world rules you.

I did send a not-so-friendly email to the customer service department.  In it, I mentioned that I doubted any living person would ever actually read it, but I felt it had to be written nonetheless.  I basically rehashed the situation and expressed my disgust and contempt over the fact that I got screwed financially because I followed their directions.  I’m no Rockefeller, and this double payment makes things difficult. While I don’t have to resort to turning tricks (yet) it’s not exactly roses and rainbows in my bank account.  I concluded my email by saying that I’m sure the people who answer the phones for Sallie Mae have bits and pieces of their souls sucked out of them on a constant basis, and I do empathize.  I know it’s no one persons fault (well, besides the original Customer Service Guy) but that doesn’t make it any easier to bend over and let them insert their foot up my ass.

In conclusion, all student loans suck.  They suck even more when the company you’re paying to is run by a group of people who could be stationed on Pluto, for the amount of help they can offer.  Does anyone else have similar horror stories or is this the type of thing that only happens to me?

Also – if you made it this far I’d like to thank you for taking the time to read this whole rant.  I feel better, and promise tomorrow’s post will take on a slightly perkier tone.

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A Friend Indeed

March 30, 2010 at 2:32 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

I had an old college friend over for dinner last night, and we made some more delicious homemade pita pizzas.  Some key ingredients were goat cheese and mozzarella, banana peppers, sautéed mushrooms and of course various spices.  I would’ve taken a photo or two but we were ravenous and ate everything in sight before the idea of a camera even popped into my mind.

I might have an addiction to pizza.  And Cheese-Its, but that’s a different story…

Anyway, as I mentioned, the friend I hung out with last night is a friend from college.  We’ve known each other for years and she’s one of my favorite collegiate transplants now living in Chicago.  This girl is awesome, and I love her to death (I think she also reads this here blog sometimes, so I hope I’m not making her blush too much).  I know I’ve had posts before where I’ve ranted and raved about how all of my friends are getting married, and she’s no exception.  However, she’s someone I don’t mind hearing wedding details from, mostly because I think her and her fiance are so perfect for each other.  It’s cute as hell, and I accept that.  She is the absolute furthest thing from a Bridezilla that I could ever imagine, and her relaxed and laid back approach to her pending nuptials make me realize that not everyone loses their minds as The Big Day approaches.  Hers is a wedding I am very excited about attending, even more so because I don’t have to travel far or take time off of work to get there.  So for her, I’ll put away my cynical ideas of romance and give the biggest Congratulations I possibly can!

Even if I didn’t want to do this out of the goodness of my heart, I would feel obligated.  This particular friend has saved my ass numerous times.  She often stops by and takes care of my feline companion when I’m out of town, which is a really big deal when you live in a city and don’t know/trust a ton of people.  Also, she literally kept me from having to sleep on a street corner one night last week.  Care to hear that story?  Doesn’t matter, I’m going to tell it either way.

Last Monday, this little card caused a big amount of trouble.  While at the office, I had given a coworker my keys so she could get the discount at the local grocery store using my Jewel Customer Card.  We both forgot she had said keys, and went about our merry ways home.  This was no one’s fault really; she was busy getting ready to work with a student and I was in a rush to get to my chiropractor appointment.  I didn’t even notice my lack of keys until I walked up to my front door at 7:30 that evening.  I happened to be talking to my mom on my cell at the time, and I’m sure she was thrilled when I started spewing profanities and told her I was locked out of my apartment.  I had a moment of blind panic, where I envisioned myself huddled in the door of my apartment building for the night and then wearing my work clothes back into the office, like some horrible work-week walk of shame.  My phone luckily decided to drop the call with my mom at that exact moment, which allowed me a brief bit of time to collect my thoughts.  By the time she called me back, I had remembered my great friend from college.  I had given her my one and only set of spare keys months ago, since as I mentioned she often cat sits for me while I’m away.  I was nervous calling her because she works long hours and I wasn’t even sure she would get my message that night, but she actually called me back about ten minutes later and was at my apartment in under an hour.  I owe that girl a lot.

If she hadn’t gotten back to me, my plan was to take the bus to her apartment and sit on her stoop until either she or her fiance came home.  I’m so glad it didn’t resort to that.  Seriously, she saved me in a big way and it made me ever so glad once again that I know her.

Do you have any friends who have recently saved your ass in a major way?  Let ’em know, it’s always nice to feel appreciated.  Even if it’s not so major as to help provide you shelter for a night, the little things can go a long way.  Thanks again to my wonderful, engaged friend!

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Whirlwind Weekend

March 29, 2010 at 2:38 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

I was busier this weekend than I’ve been in a long time.  Friday night was spent with a new friend at her place, eating a delicious dinner and drinking wine.  She lives in an incredibly nice building right on Lake Michigan (it’s the tallest one in this photo).  When she moved to the city earlier this year, she didn’t really give herself a lot of time for apartment hunting and wound up signing a lease without much research.  That’s why she’s living in a place half the size of mine but paying twice the rent (I seriously doubt she’ll be renewing her lease).  I will admit, though, that’s it’s an impressive building with an amazing view of the lake.  I actually called her when the cab dropped me off because I wasn’t sure I should be going in anyplace so fancy.

Cab, you say?  Yes, I know I usually shun that pricey mode of transportation.  However, I got myself a bit turned around downtown and figured it was easier to hail a taxi than to walk another 30 minutes.  This was after I had mentally patted myself on the back for feeling so much more comfortable getting around downtown – guess it served me right.  Hubris is a dangerous thing.

After my fun evening, I made my way back home on the train.  It was somewhere between 1 and 2am and the trains were crowded, but mine was even more so because some drunk had sicked all over one of the seats.  Of course, everyone was avoiding that particular area, making the rest of the car feel like a sardine can with a slightly less pleasant smell.  Gotta love public transportation.

I woke up Saturday and went to the library, where I downloaded a program on my laptop that will allow me to connect to the internet using the wireless on my cell phone.  You have no idea how nice it is to actually be able to get online in my living room again.  It’s been roughly two months since the connection I was pirating began using a password, so I’m pretty stoked to be able to peruse the internet in my underwear once again.  In all fairness, I could probably do that at the library, though it might be frowned upon.  You just never know with those public institutions.

After the library, I made my way back downtown to meet up with an old friend from high school.  She was in the city with a friend of hers for a mini vacation and since we hadn’t seen each other in, oh, eight odd years, a drink was in order.  Many drinks, as it turned out.  I found her at a bar quite easily and gave myself yet another pat on the back (hubris be damned).  Then the drinking began.  We stayed at bar #1 for a while (Dublin’s, seen here on the left) and enjoyed drinking overpriced beer.  After that we meandered to bar #2, which is here on the right.  We weren’t there long enough to catch any live music but we did manage to have a conversation with a group of middle-aged women about the practice of bedazzling female nether regions.  Guess I have Jennifer Love-Hewitt to thank for that one.  If you’re confused by any of this…well, it’s best not to ask.  Those ladies were having a good time though, that’s for sure.

A buddy of mine met us at the second drinking establishment and so we had a few more rounds.  He was nice enough to pick up our tab, even after my high school friend tried to get him into a controversial political discussion.  I managed to bite my tongue while she raved about the merits of Sarah Palin (it’s fine if you like her but well…I don’t) so I was quite proud of myself for that.  Religion and politics aside (yup, we hit on both subjects), it was another fun evening.  After we left bar #2, we stopped at a sushi restaurant whose name I cannot remember or else I’d insert another photo.  I had never had sushi before and ordered some vegetarian thing with cucumber and avocado – and it was awesome.  I guess I can finally understand what the big deal is about, even if I didn’t have any raw fish in mine.

Raw fish?  Really?  *Shudder*.

My buddy and I walked the out of towners back to their hotel after our meal, as they had an early flight the next morning.  Not he and I, though.  We made our way to yet another place whose name I’m blanking on, and imbibed in just a few more beers (is it any wonder I’m spacing on specifics?).  We also found our way to the pool table, where we surprisingly dominated.  We played against a team that had been sweeping the table all night and we promptly knocked them off of their throne with a pretty sweet win.  I even made the winning shot, which pretty much never happens.  They weren’t going down without a fight, though, so there was the rematch to end all rematches.  We were neck and neck for a while but alas,  it wasn’t meant to be.  My partner was pretty hard on himself (he accidentally knocked in the blasted eight ball a bit too soon) but I was honestly pretty impressed with of our pool playing abilities, especially given the fact that it had been eons since either of us had played.  Perhaps this guy and I should create a formidable hustling team and start taking people down left and right?  It could be a nice way to supplement our incomes.  Thoughts from my fellow pool shark?

Saturday night ended on a high note, not in the least because we didn’t encounter any puke on the commute home.  I woke up bright and early (for me) on Sunday and, after finding a spectacular deal on two pair of shoes (I’m not much of a shopper but I do appreciate a great price) I topped off my eventful weekend with an afternoon at my all-time favorite place in the city.  That’s right, the Field Museum.

I won’t get into a huge description of my trip there, mostly because I already did that in a post back in November or December.  I will say that I was able to catch the Diamond Exhibit once last time before it closes tomorrow and of course, I managed to hit all of my favorite spots in the museum.  That includes the mummies, who for some reason will always have a special place in my heart.  I could literally stare at their disintegrating wrappings for hours on end (and I almost did on Sunday, until the workers started closing up the museum and kicked me out).  The shrunken young boy you see to the right is there and he’s one of the mummies I always pay a visit to.

As I made my way home from the museum, I was able to help a few families who were obviously tourists find the correct bus route to get them back to their hotel.  I will admit, I administered another self-pat on the back for that.  Hopefully by the end of the summer I’ll be an old pro at getting around downtown.  It won’t be for lack of trying, that’s for sure.  I’ll master this city yet!

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BusyBusyBusy

March 26, 2010 at 2:34 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Today is incredibly busy which means I have an incredibly short amount of time for a blog post.  Just to keep you entertained, here’s a sad yet inspirational article I came across on the New York Times website today.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/04/opinion/04kristof.html

I know, I know, I really should be able to insert a link here.  Trust me, I’ve been trying.  If someone can explain it to me, I am all ears – I know it’s an easy thing to do but every time I try, I’m thwarted.  Stupid internet.  Anyway, just copy and paste that link, I promise it’s worth it.

If you’re too lazy for that, at least read this.  The article is about a little girl named Nujood who lives in Yemin.  At the tender age of 10, she was forced to marry a man in his 20’s.  This is not an unusual practice in many parts of the world but that doesn’t make it right.  This girl decided to go to a judge and ask for a divorce, which is relatively unheard of in this type of situation.  The divorce was granted and she has written a book about her experience.  I know I’ve just summed up the article here but it’s a really interesting read and I suggest you check it out.  Her book is going on my to-read list for sure.

I know things in America aren’t always peachy keen, but seeing something like this really drives home how lucky we are.  I don’t really like the idea of marriage even when it’s a contract entered into by two free, like-minded individuals.  I absolutely detest the idea of someone being forced into such a situation and it makes me extremely glad that it’s not something I have to worry about.  However, there are little girls everywhere for whom this is a reality, and it shouldn’t go unnoticed.  Good for this young woman for standing up for herself and I only hope it encourages others to try to do the same.

Count your blessings and enjoy your weekend!

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Restaurant Review

March 25, 2010 at 2:34 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I tried out a new eatery this week and figured I would share.  This place is called Sultan’s Market and is located in Wicker Park, conveniently off the Blue Line.

This is a cozy little dining establishment sells many pantry items and household products (because I’m sure you couldn’t read that on the sign).  They also have a food bar where the guys behind the counter dish out all sorts of falafel, hummus, baba gahnooj, tabbouli, salad and rice.  There are also many meat items, such as lamb and chicken, but I declined to try any of that.  I chose the falafel dinner for my meal and was served a huge portion of food that provided enough to fill two massive pitas.  I did not take a picture (though if I’m going to be blogging about food, I suppose I should) but it looked something like this here.

There was so much food I had a lot left over, and the entire meal was a whopping $6.  There were also various sandwiches to choose from, which were under $4 a pop.  Gotta love a cheap eat.

The atmosphere was also decent, even though things were a bit crowded, what with a buffet in the center of the place and people lined up waiting to get to the counter.  They had hookahs, though I never figured out if they were just for sale or if you could indulge in them somewhere on the property.  Sultan’s Market is another BYOB restaurant, which I didn’t realize when I walked in.  Also, they only accept cash, which I also did not realize.  Luckily the guy I was with didn’t mind footing the bill, but it’s an important lesson that I’ll remember next time around.

All in all, it was an enjoyable meal and I’m sure I’ll go back, as I have quite a bit of love for falafel.  Never had it?  You should change that, immediately.

So now that I’ve finished another restaurant review, I have to wonder (cue Carrie Bradshaw voiceover here) – do you, my loyal readers, enjoy these reviews?  I know some of you don’t live in the Chicago area and so I’m not sure if it’s interesting for you to read about a new place or you would just rather skip that altogether.  Speaking of getting a little imput from my readers, I’d like to hear more in general from all of you out there.  Perhaps I’ll try to incorporate questions at the end of posts to promote feedback.  That being said, what do you all think about restaurant reviews?  Are they just okay, or would you like to see more or less of them?  Not have an opinon either way?  That’s fine too, though if you do have an opinion I would love to hear it!

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Adventures in Chiropracting

March 24, 2010 at 2:31 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

It looks as though my visits to the chiropractor are going to become a regular thing.

This is not my neck but it’s a decent representation of what my x-rays looked like.  Apparently, the shot on the left is where my neck is now, while the one on the right shows what it should look like.  I guess the improper curvature of my neck has caused the muscles and tendons to work double time, which is why I’ve had some pinched nerves lately.  According to the Doc, it’s been going on for a while but is just now getting to the point where it’s causing enough pain to limit my movements.

I’ve actually hand neck and shoulder pain for years, but I figured that everyone had a sore back at times and that I should just suck it up.  I can remember when it started – over 10 years ago, when I was working at the local Dairy Queen.  As dumb as this sounds, I always attributed it to the blizzard machine at the DQ.  It was this incredibly high-powered steel blender and I spent about four years during high school using my right hand to mix up those blasted blizzards.  I’ve had back pain ever since.  I’ve had professional massages and many people have expressed surprise at the tension they find.  I honestly thought that it was just something I was going to have to deal with but it seems chiropractic adjustments can help my neck look more like that x-ray on the right, i.e. normal.  If it can help with my pain in my neck (haha) then I am ALL for it.

At the beginning of this last chiropractor visit, the doctor had me lay down on this rolling massaging table, designed to loosen up muscles before the big adjustment.  I wish I had one of these at my apartment.  In the beginning, I almost fell asleep – then the massaging moved up.  My recovering Catholic mentality was slightly surprised and I wondered how one could lay on the table, with the massaging ball moving their hips, and not have impure thoughts.  That’s when I decided I wish I had one to take home with me.

But I digress.

The machine did loosen me up, that’s for sure.  I was a little nervous about the adjusting part, as it becomes more intense with each visit, but it didn’t hurt a bit.  It did feel like my back was able to breathe a bit better, if that makes any sense.  The good doctor told me she could have my spine back in its correct curvature in a mere few months.  I’m sure those months won’t feel so meager to my wallet but I sincerely hope they make a big difference to my back.  I can’t imagine what the world will be like with less shoulder/back pain.  Perhaps I’ll find a new hobby, such as power-lifting or discus.  Maybe even curling.

Or I might just buy one of those massaging tables and decide to never leave my apartment.

The possibilities are endless.

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My Mom Kicked Cancer’s Ass!

March 23, 2010 at 2:48 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Yesterday I had another chiropractic experience but you’ll have to wait til tomorrow to read all about it.  Today’s post is dedicated to the wonderful woman who gave me life – my Mom – and one of her truly amazing accomplishments!

I wonder what she would say if I told her I had this tattoo done in honor of her achievement…

Anyway, today, March 23, 2010, marks the 20th Anniversary of my mom being breast cancer free!  She was diagnosed when I was but a wee gal and underwent chemotherapy treatments to get rid of her cancer.  And get rid of it she did!  My mom is my hero.

I don’t remember much about the time she was fighting the big C.  I do remember my dad letting my little sister and I stay up late, sleep on the living room pull out couch and eat pizza for dinner.  I don’t think anyone ever explicitly told us that she was sick or in the hospital (I can’t imagine that kind of thing is easy to explain to a five and six-year-old) but I do remember making one trip there to visit her.  I made her follow me up and down the hallways so we could look out the windows (sorry if that wore you out, Mom).  I was a bit older when I realized what all of it meant, and since then I’ve been thankful every day that things turned out as well as they did.

My mom had a mastectomy and has worn a prosthesis in her bra ever since.  The prosthesis has provided a few comedic instances, which of course I’m going to recount here.  Take no offense, Mommy Dearest – this is what happens when you have a writer for a child and/or when you read her blog!

My earliest recollection of the hilarity my mom’s prosthesis occasionally provided came from a camping trip while I was in junior high.  I remember hanging out with a friend of mine while our parents sat around the campfire, drinking and telling stories.  After a while, we realized that there were more hoots and hollering going on than typical, so we stuck our heads out to see what was going on.  That was when I witnessed my mom and her friends playing a grown up version of hot potato with her fake boob.  Oh man, was I embarrassed.  Looking back though, I can see the humor in it and would like to think I would pull the same stunt if I had my own prosthesis to work with.

Around the same time (those junior high years were ripe with potential embarrassment for yours truly), our entire family took a trip to King’s Island.  When I say entire family, I mean aunts, uncles, cousins and everyone else that doesn’t fit into those neat little categories.  We all sat down and buckled into the Racer roller coaster and off we went.  That’s when, from a few rows behind me, I her my mom shouting that she’s going to lose her boob.  I wasn’t actually that embarrassed since it was so damn funny, and also because it elicited some startled looks from the other passengers on the ride.

One more story, because this one involves my sister as well.  Two summers ago, my mom, sister and I took a vacation to Puerto Vallerta, Mexico.  We had one of those all-inclusive deals that included hotel stays, food and drinks.  Lots and lots of drinks.  However, since the hotel knew the drinks were free they had no problem watering down the beverages until there was barely a trace of liquor to them.  This was made up for by the fact that our hotel room had a bar set up, complete with full bottles of vodka, whisky, rum and tequila, which would be replaced for free when empty.  My sister and I had the great idea of filling a bottle with vodka and spiking the drinks we got at the pool-side bar.  I should clarify – this was a great idea in theory.  In reality, it caused my sister to get falling-down drunk in the middle of the afternoon (I knew she was drunk when she began repeating herself and telling everyone she would move to Canada if McCain won the election.  I heard this perhaps 15 times in a half hour).  Anyway, Mom and I helped my sister back to the room, where she promptly passed out.  Of course, that caused me to take the extra prosthesis Mom had sitting around and place it gently on my sisters cheek while she slept.  Then I took pictures.  I thought it was just about the funniest thing I’d ever seen but after she woke up (grouchy and hung over), my sister failed to see the humor.  She even deleted the pictures when I wasn’t looking.  Too bad I have this forum on which to retell that awesome story.

Sorry, sis.

As you can see, my mom has kept a great sense of humor about the whole breast cancer thing.  I really do think she’s amazing.  She is the best mom anyone could ever ask for, in my humble opinion.  Growing up, she had no problem making sure my sister and I got to our various sporting practices and games and she always found time to make a great dinner too.  I’ve entertained theories that she had a twin captive in the basement, only to be released when she need superpower help, but now I actually think she did all of that on her own.  Consider my mind blown.

My sister and I sent flowers to her office today, which is the absolute least we could do.  It occurred to me late last night that I could earn my daughter of the year award if I were to show up in Louisville to personally hand deliver said flowers, but sadly I had that thought much too late to actually carry it out.  Maybe for her 25th Anniversary.

I absolutely cannot imagine the last 20 years of my life without my Mom.  I know that there are millions of people out there who did not have the luck that she did and my heart goes out to their friends and families.  My Mom has influenced so many aspects of my personality it would be impossible to count, and I only hope she continues that influence for years to come.  Congratulations, Mom, you did it!

And if this post doesn’t make me your favorite daughter for at least the next few days, I don’t know what will.

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Sense and the Census

March 22, 2010 at 2:11 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

There are a great many things going on with our government today, including the passing of the health care reform bill.  I know there are a plethora of differing opinions on said bill and (surprise) I have my own thoughts on the subject.  However, I’m sure people are feeling inundated with comments on health care today so I’m not going to even begin to write about it.  Instead, I’ll comment on something else government-related that affects us all.  The census!

Like a dutiful citizen, I just filled out my census form.  I guess the last time the census was conducted was in 2000, which meant I was still living at home and had no need to fill anything out myself.  I must admit, in a dorky sort of was I was pretty excited to count my person.  I know some people become super wary of having the government know too much about them but the way I see it, the government already knows just about everything anyway.  My age, birth date, gender and ethnicity aren’t going to surprise Big Brother.  Besides, the census is sort of cool.  It provides a wide ethnographic survey of the entire country and helps to show how the populations of certain places and areas change over time.  It shows migration trends and provides economic statistics that will (hopefully) be used to help determine the basis of some of the country’s economic policies.  The census also helps with the allocation of educational funding for programs in states and communities.  So if you don’t fill it out you could be denying the children in your neighborhood music classes and kickballs.  Can you handle that?

So, I answered my short 10 question survey to the best of my ability.  I sort of wish I could claim my cat, as she definitely resides with me and uses many of my resources.  As I don’t have any jail-birds or elderly relatives stuck in retirement homes to take into consideration, my whole census experience was pretty straightforward.  It did cause one particular revelation, though…

Being white is boring.  Other ethnicities have a multitude of more specific choices to designate their origin, but white is just white.  What’s the fun there?  Perhaps there could be an off-white option, or maybe beige.  No?  Creme?  Okay, maybe not.  It did make me wish I had a bit more mixed up in my heritage than my own pastiness, but oh well.  I suppose in the grand scheme of things I have some French, Acadian and other things in there too, but…white is still white.

Holding to popular stereotype, I can barely jump and my dancing ability is limited, at best.  Such is the life and times of a boring white girl.  But at least I had fun filling out my survey – and you should too!

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Recipe Time

March 19, 2010 at 2:17 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Sorry folks, there will be no WTFs of the week today because I don’t have the time or energy to put into that.  It’s been a long week.  Instead, enjoy this very easy pizza recipe from the very easy dinner I made last night!

One of my train buddies gave me the link to his blog and I was checking it out yesterday.  He had some funny posts and among them were a few recipes (his tutorial on how to make a bowl of cereal was especially entertaining).  It reminded me that I’ve posted perhaps one recipe in my blogging history and I figured I’d remedy that today.

I know the picture isn’t the greatest, but I promise it was a good-looking (and more importantly, a great-tasting) pie.

I’m not one to follow detailed cooking instructions and when it comes to recipes, I usually just throw together a bunch of stuff that I have sitting around.  The meal last night was no different.  I had a hankering for some pizza but no real desire to spend any money so I peeked in the fridge to see what I could come up with.  Here are the ingredients of my dish, in order of what went on first:

marinara sauce

goat cheese (love this stuff – it made the pizza)

spinach

sliced bella mushrooms

mozzarella cheese

So yeah, nothing fancy.  One of my many jobs was working in a pizza place and I learned long ago that the best way to sauce a pie is to ladle a bunch in the middle and smooth it out in a circular movement with a spoon.  I did that, loaded up the toppings and sprinkled some oregano, basil, garlic and crushed red pepper on top.  Then I stuck it in my handy toaster oven for about 15 minutes and it was good to go!

I should probably mention that I used a piece of pita bread as the base of the pizza.  I’ve found that pita works well for such a dish, as do english muffins.  I like the pita and muffin idea mostly because it makes a nice, personal sized pizza and it’s super easy to cook.

Bon Appetit!

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The Tax Man Cometh

March 18, 2010 at 2:29 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

I love tax season.  There, I said it.  I know that many people out there don’t share in my sentiments but as of yet, I’ve never owed a cent and my tax refunds just keep getting bigger and bigger (yes, I know this is because I’m ultimately giving more to Uncle Sam, but it still feels like a bonus check that comes once a year).

As of today, I’m pretty much this girl.  I did my federal taxes for free on the Turbo Tax website last Wednesday and I had my refund in my bank account yesterday morning.  Words cannot describe how happy this made me.  It was also surprisingly easy to do my taxes online, but then again I don’t have pesky things like a husband, mortgage or kids to take into consideration.  I have yet to do my state taxes but I’m pretty sure there’s another free website out there that will help me with that.

Two years ago, I temped for a Certified Personal Accountant during tax season.  It was boring as hell, yes, but in some ways it was kind of neat.  Yes, I used the word neat to describe tax work.  I’m somewhat of a nosy person (though I prefer the term cultural observationist) and I enjoyed checking out the salaries and refunds of various individuals and certain prosperous business owners in and around Bloomington.  In utter confidentiality, of course.  I also became familiar with some of the deductions out there and well, how to file taxes in general.  I learned a lot and it made me appreciate what actually goes into filing a tax return.  Also, the CPA did my taxes for free that year so that was a nice little perk.

So now that I have my tax refund, that oh so fabulous question pops to mind – whatever will I do with this extra money?  I know lots of people put their refunds towards their homes or their children, but as I mentioned I am gloriously free of either of those things and I can spend it how I want.  Not to toot my own horn, but I think I’m rather fiscally savvy and since I manage to pay all of my bills on time each month (while also managing to save a smidgen) I feel I deserve a bit of play money.  And play I shall.

It’s not like I have such a large refund that I can start wasting it, but I will probably do what I’ve done the last few years, which is to invest it in a trip.  Last year’s refund bought me a plane ticket to New Zealand and while I don’t think I’m going to be able to swing such a big excursion this year, the majority of my refund has already been transferred to my travel account.  I know my mom, sister and I are planning something for later in the year, to celebrate my mom’s 20th year of being breast cancer free (WAY TO GO MOM!)  We’re thinking someplace tropical.  I’m also considering taking a shorter, solo trip to someplace in Canada, as I’ve never been before and it seems like fun.  I’m also open to suggestions, if you’ve got ’em!

The rest of the refund has been evenly divided among my other various savings accounts (told you I was fiscally responsible.  It borders on anal, at times).  It’s nice to have a bit of a cushion in case I need it, and it’ll be nicer still when I get another tax-refund sized check next month.  How did I manage that?  Well, next month is one of the two fantastically wonderful months in the year that I get paid three times instead of just twice.  Don’t you just love when that happens?

If you’re still freaking out about your filing and your refund seems eons away – well, I’m sorry.  Try to breathe and take it one step at a time.  I would offer my assistance but unless your taxes are as ridiculously easy as mine are, I don’t know if I’d do you much good.  I will say that Turbo Tax was super user-friendly (they didn’t pay me to promote them but perhaps they should…hear that, Turbo Tax guys?) so if you’re looking for a free online service then I’d recommend them.  Good luck no matter which filing route you take!

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