Superstitions

Crossed fingers

If someone were to ask, I’d say I’m not a superstitious person. I will open an umbrella inside with no qualms, and a black cat crosses my path every day (and cuddles me every night). But if I examine the facts I have to admit I might be a wee little bit superstitious. I would qualify superstition as anything you do or believe that has magical, non-scientific reasons for its effectiveness like, oh, these three things:

1) Crossing my fingers for good luck
As a web developer I frequently have to test a web site after I’ve made changes to it. When I’ve made a tricky edit that I’m not completely sure will work, I always, always, ALWAYS, cross my fingers on both hands after I press the refresh button in the browser. I keep them crossed for the 10, 20, 30 or however many seconds the page takes to load and my fate is revealed in HTML destiny. Rationally I know that all this does is make it harder for me to use my keyboard and mouse. Irrationally, I feel like it gives me good juju and will help magically fix any coding errors that previously existed on the page.

2) Knocking on wood
You’re supposed to knock on wood to prevent jinxing yourself if you say something that tempts fate. So if I were to say, “Thank goodness I’ve never been eaten by a pack of wild dogs,” I would follow that up with, “Knock on wood!” to prevent myself from meeting that fate simply by bragging about the fact that it’s never happened. If there’s wood in the room, I will actually knock on it, but if no wood is available I just say the words. Obviously, this is completely insane. If I could summon a pack of wild dogs simply by mentioning them, my enemies would be far more scared of me.

3) Burying a statue of St. Joseph in the yard to sell a house
I have never owned a house or sold one, but if I had to I would definitely bury a St. Joseph statue in the yard. According to Snopes there are several theories on how this practice started. I’ve always thought of it as a Catholic thing, but I think it could work for anyone. There is a lot of debate about whether you should bury the statue in the front yard or the back yard and if St. Joseph should be right-side up, upside down, or on his back pointing at something. I don’t know how or where I’d bury St. Joe, but I would do it. Apparently a lot of people feel the same way because there is an entire St. Joseph Home Sales Kit available online.

Of all my superstitions I realize this one is the most absurd because it’s so labor-intensive. It doesn’t take much time or effort to cross your fingers or knock on wood, but this task requires you to buy something and then go dig up your yard. Selling your house has a lot more to do with the current market conditions and whether your house smells like freshly-baked cookies than it does with whether or not you have a plastic statue hidden in the dirt outside. Yet, when a friend of mine mentioned that her house had been on the market for several months my first question was, “Have you buried a St. Joseph statue in the yard?” She hasn’t, and the rational part of my brain knows that her real estate problems have nothing to do with the lack of a plastic statue in her yard, but the other part of my brain really thinks she should try it. I will cut her some slack though because it’s harder to dig up your yard when there’s two feet of snow on the ground like there has been all winter.

So what about you? Do you have any superstitions you know are ridiculous but feel compelled to take part in anyway?

Stickk to it. (That’s not a typo.)

Stickk to it

You may have noticed I’ve been blogging more frequently. (Please tell me you’ve noticed I’ve been blogging more frequently.) I’d like to say this is because I’ve felt particularly inspired and productive lately, but mostly it’s because I don’t want to pay my friend Shauna five bucks every week.

Back in December, Shauna posted an entry that mentioned (in parenthesis) that she wanted to “get back on the writing wagon.” When I read that I thought, I want to get back on the writing wagon too though not literally because it would be hard to write on a wagon. That’s when I proposed the idea that we mutually extort blog entries from each other, though I think I phrased it as “being accountable to one another.” Accountability was an important part of my weight loss success when I was actually losing weight, so I hoped it might work as well with writing goals as it did with weight-loss goals. The best part is that once you’ve written something you can’t un-write it, unlike weight loss where you can gain back what you lost and then everyone acts like it didn’t count in the first place.

That’s why I went to Stickk.com, set up a commitment, named Shauna as my referee, and promised to pay her $5 any week I did not post at least one blog entry 200 words or longer for the first 8 weeks of the year. I had to enter my credit card information in case I failed, which made the stakes seem more real. Then Shauna did the same thing but assigned me as her referee. IT WAS ON!

And it worked rather well. There were some close calls, but we both got our entries online by the deadline for eight weeks straight. Even though there was money at stake, I found myself more motivated to post because I didn’t want to fail in front of Shauna. The shame of not meeting my goal would have been worse than losing five dollars, particularly on those weeks when Shauna got a post up before I did. And vice versa, I would much rather read a blog entry from Shauna each week than to receive her five dollars.

I also liked that we had a third-party service keeping us accountable. If Shauna and I had simply made a verbal agreement to each other (is email considered verbal?), it would have been easy to throw the whole thing out if we failed on the first week. For some reason when I got an email from Stickk.com on Monday morning asking me to report whether I had met my goal, it feel more real and non-negotiable than if I’d just told Shauna I was going to do it and asked her to check up on me.

That’s not to say Stickk.com is perfect. Their interface could be more intuitive than it is. It was also a bit confusing to figure out what power I had as a referee. I had to wait for Shauna to file a self-report before I could confirm that report as true or not. If Shauna had forgotten to file a report even though she’d posted a blog entry, she could have been fined $5 anyway and there would have been no way for me to report her as successful before that happened. I’m also fairly certain that the account user can override a referee’s report if they want to. So if Shauna had gotten sick of our bet she could have said “Screw this!” and reported herself as successful despite what I said as her referee. (I doubt Shauna would do anything like that though since she’s one of the most honest people I know.) Having that power kind of defeats the purpose of the site, though it probably prevents the site owners from getting nasty emails asking for refunds.

That said, the experience has been quite fulfilling….and stressful and nerve-wracking particularly on weeks when I didn’t know what to write about. I felt lucky that I happened to jet off to Punta Cana during this bet and was able to get three entries out of that experience alone. I also know that I wouldn’t have written those entries so quickly (if at all) if not for the bet because they are so time-consuming to put together. I’m glad I had that deadline hanging over me. If I don’t have deadlines it’s much harder for me to get things done. And they have to be REAL deadlines, deadlines I know I can’t negotiate or push back, because those aren’t really deadlines are they?

I also wondered if anyone would notice what was going on during those eight weeks. Shauna used to blog at The Amazing Adventures of DietGirl and I used to be PastaQueen, so we have a lot of shared readers. I imagined someone reading our blogs and thinking, “Hmmm, this is so odd. Shauna and Jennette have both started posting entries on Sundays or Mondays even though they haven’t been blogging regularly before that. Something’s going on here!” Alas, no one figured it out, or if they did they didn’t say anything.

Hopefully I will Stickk with things and continue to write blog entries regularly. It’s good for my spirit and it helps sharpen my writing skills. I don’t know if I can use Stickk.com for this forever, but it’s working well for now. Turns out it’s not as hard to write on the writing wagon as I thought!

The perks of nostalgia

When The Perks of Being a Wallflower came up in my Netflix queue recently I expected to like it because I liked the book, but I liked it even more than I expected for one big reason:

Early 90′s Nostalgia!!

Part of me dislikes that the early 90′s took place long enough ago that they are now nostalgic. (1990 was ten years ago tops, right?) The other part of me thinks it’s cool that I’ve lived long enough to see the world change in such significant ways. When I was a kid, I’d watch Nick-at-Night shows from the 50′s and 60′s that seemed so far away and untouchable because everything happened before I existed. Now I’m old enough that I can look back on older times and remember being a part of them. And yes, that means I’m aging, but it also means I’ve seen some cool shit go down. Experience: It’s a good thing.

According to the IMDB the kids in The Perks of Being a Wallflower are attending high school in 1992. I was in high school from 1994-1998, so the film is set just a smidge before my time, but close enough that it doesn’t really matter. If you too attended high school during the 90′s you might appreciate the nostalgia too.

Mixed tapes

Handwritten cassette label
Dual tape deck

I come from a time when a mixed tape was actually a tape and not a playlist you shared with someone on iTunes. Not only that, I had the same exact cassette tapes that are in the screenshot above! I remember the brightly colored Memorex one in particular because it was a 90-minute tape instead of the 60-minute tapes I usually bought. Not only that, I still have it in my car in case my MP3 player dies, the CD player breaks, and the radio ceases to work, yet somehow the tape player still manages to function. I also loved seeing the playlist handwritten on the cassette label. I still have a Tori Amos rarities mix a friend made for me and seeing the tracks written in his handwriting makes it feel more personal and precious than an iTunes playlist ever would.

Suitcases without wheels

Look, no wheels!

That’s right, kiddos. We used to buy suitcases without wheels! We had to carry them around and they were heavy and we are all much better off now.

Flannel

Flannel. Lots of flannel.

I wore a lot of flannel in high school. I wasn’t into grunge and I didn’t live in Seattle, so I’m not sure why I was always wearing flannel other than it was comfortable and easy to layer. There is definitely a lot of flannel going on in this party scene.

SAT Scores

SAT form

I didn’t remember what my SAT report looked like until I saw this prop in the movie and was like, “That’s exactly what our SAT results looked like!” The blue border, the red type, the maximum total score of 1600. Spot on. Well played, prop department. This is also a great time to brag about my SAT score. 1530 total! 750 verbal, 780 math. I was so proud of this score, yet it serves absolutely no purpose after you’ve gotten into college. It’s funny that I spent so much time studying for and stressing over a test that has such a short period of usefulness.

Trapper Keeper

Trapper Keeper

I think of the Trapper Keeper as an 80′s artifact, but I suppose they were still popular enough in the 90′s. I loved mine so much, even after the plastic cracked.

Ani DiFranco

The real Ani mix

I had a friend who worked at a big-box electronics store and managed to get a copy of Ani DiFranco’s Little Plastic Castle album a week before its release. She snuck it home, made a tape copy for herself and then made a copy for me. This made me feel like the coolest kid in school. Nowadays you can just find a torrent file and illegally download an album before it’s released if your morals are flexible enough, but back in the 90′s getting a pre-release copy of an album was a rarity.

Simply identifying music was more difficult too. In the movie the kids hear a song on the radio that they love, but they don’t know who sings it or what the song is called. These days you can search for the lyrics online or use the Shazaam app to identify a song. Back in the 90′s if the DJ didn’t tell you what the song was, you were kind of screwed. It was particularly hard if it was an older song that wasn’t in heavy rotation. It took me months to find the names of certain songs and when I did I felt like I’d achieved a massive victory. All of this made mixed tapes more precious since it could be really difficult to get a hold of music without the iTunes store or Spotify around. I much prefer how things are today, but part of me misses how those difficulties made the music more precious.

Other stuff

The movie contains various other things that reminded me of the 90′s. They attend a showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show which I did once or twice with friends. The cafeteria chairs at their school are like the cafeteria chairs from my school, the kind that would lose the foot topper and cause the chairs to make a horrible screeching sound as they scraped against the tile floor. There’s a copy of A Separate Peace on someone’s bookshelf which was part of our required reading. No one has cell phones or the Internet or Facebook. One kid even has to get off the phone when his father wants to make a call because they have only one phone line.

The only thing that was anti-nostalgic was how it was for gay kids at that time. One of the main characters is gay and in a secret relationship with a football player who is not out. Things don’t go so well for them. I went to a magnet high school, so it was a pretty good environment for geeks and people who wouldn’t have fit in at other schools, but I still only remember 1 or 2 people being out. Many years later I learned that several of my friends and acquaintances were gay, some of them rather close friends whom I had no clue about. I think if we were all in high school today a lot more of them would be out. I know it’s still not safe for gay kids in lots of parts of the country, but in our particular school I think it would be ok.

We did have a Spanish teacher who was a lesbian and it was a secret people whispered about like it was sooooo illicit. “Did you know Senora Schaeffer is gay?” It was as if none of us had ever encountered an actual lesbian in the flesh before. Nowadays I doubt that would be a big deal either.

I enjoyed the 90′s nostalgia in this film because it wasn’t overdone. It had such a natural feeling. I suppose as I get older there will be more and more films that do this for me. I’m ok with that because it triggered memories I hadn’t accessed in a long time and made me remember things I didn’t realize I’d forgotten. Those are the perks of nostalgia.

The Fuldamobil

Why didn’t anyone tell me about the Fuldamobil?!

Fuldamobil

Actually, someone did tell me about the Fuldamobil about a year ago and sent me a link to an auction site selling one, but I cannot remember who it was. Sorry, helpful stranger! I appreciate the tip more than my long-term memory might imply.

The Fuldamobil was part of a now extinct line of micro cars that originated in Fulda, Germany. They were built in the 1940′s and 1950′s, but I somehow never heard about until the 2010′s. I knew there was a city called Fulda in Germany. I even knew there was a Fulda tire company that snatched up the domain Fulda.com before I thought to do so. (Which is a shame because I probably could have sold it to them for big bucks since I would have had a legitimate claim to the domain unlike a typical cybersquatter.) I’ve even collected some Fulda tire memorabilia, like a patch that fell off my suitcase last year that I’m still mourning the loss of. Yet somehow I never heard about the Fuldamobil.

One might say that whatever car I’m riding in automatically becomes a Fuldamobil because Jennette Fulda is on board, just like any plane the president is on is called Air Force One. But it’s nice to see one that has the Fulda coat of arms on it as well.

Fulda coat of arms

By the way, every time I type “Fuldamobil” I want to start singing the theme to The Gnome-Mobile, that old Disney movie that stars the two kids from Mary Poppins. Am I the only one who remembers that? If not, sing along on YouTube around the 2:00 mark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=og57zp8HJoc

If I had an extra $34,500 lying around I might buy a cute little Fuldamobil for myself, though I doubt I’d drive it in actual traffic. It doesn’t look all that safe. Three wheels, really? Actually, who I am kidding? If I had an extra $34,500 lying around I’d buy myself a new car and just call it a Fuldamobil because I was in it.

Punta Cana, Dominican Republic: Part 3 – I’m out of halves, but I still have fun left!

Room with a view

Read my first and second posts about Punta Cana if you missed them.

Although the resort is a lovely place to spend time, you could also book a short trip off the grounds to go zip lining, snorkeling, deep sea fishing, and other fun, tropical, things. There were travel agency reps in the business center who would book an excursion for you. When reading the brochures I saw an ad for a trip to the Chocolate Museum and you know they had me at the word “Chocolate.” Ultimately the trip ended up being a reminder as to why you should check Trip Advisor before booking excursions.

The Excursion

After missing my ride because of confusion as where to meet, I was able to rebook a ride on another shuttle which took me to a courtyard with several different buildings all guarded by a man at the gate with a shotgun.

Shotgun

I would guess the armed guard was there to protect the cigar factory, not the chocolate store or the gift shop, or perhaps all that was a front for some illegal business going on in the back. Who knows? Needless to say, it made me feel a bit uneasy, particularly because the shuttle wouldn’t come back for another hour, stranding me at this location. The Choco Museo was basically a store. There were some exhibits about how chocolate is made, and there was a glass window where you could watch them working with the chocolate, but the tour was mostly a way to get you to sample chocolate and listen to them pitch products. Sorry, but I have no desire to buy chocolate shampoo! That said, my tour guide was sort of adorable. He spoke English very well, but he was still a smidge away from being totally fluent. During the “tour” he couldn’t remember the word for candy sprinkles, so I told him and then he asked me to write down the word for him. I admired that because it showed that he wanted to do his job well, even if that job was hocking chocolate to tourists.

Chocolate Museum

Surprisingly, I found the cigar factory to be more interesting than the chocolate store. (I will give you a minute to recover from the shock. Actually, take two minutes.) I got to watch two guys rolling cigars as another tour guide talked about the process. One guy was so hardcore that he was smoking a cigar while he was rolling cigars. My guide told me that the other guy had been rolling cigars since he was 12, which I think was meant to impress me but just made me sad about poverty and the lack of child labor laws in the Dominican Republic.

Cigar rolling

Thankfully I was able to find the right shuttle to take me back to the resort before darkness fell. On the way back the driver was listening to “One of Us” by Joan Osborne which made me feel strangely comforted. Not because the song is about God or about God riding a bus like I was, but because it was a song I recognized and because Joan Osborne went to the high school I would have attended if I hadn’t applied to the magnet school downtown. All of which made the world seem a bit smaller and more manageable. They listen to Joan Osborne here. I will be ok.

Class Tension

As you can gather from my posts, the vacation was really lovely. The only thing that left me a little uneasy was the unspoken class tension at the resort. Most of the visitors are white people who can afford to spend several thousand dollars on a vacation. Most of the hotel staff have darker skin and working class jobs that probably don’t pay enough for them to spend several thousand dollars on a vacation. Everyone seems to be aware of this without every saying anything about it. I felt guilty that I had been sorted into the group with the better privileges not because of anything I’d done, but because of where I’d been born and what my brother did. I almost wanted to whisper to the staff, “I can’t actually afford this vacation! I’m not like those other gringos!”

However, I would not have been able to tell them that if I’d tried because my Spanish is crap. It is so crap that I don’t even know how to say “crap” in Spanish. Before the trip I thought I would do rather well at understanding and speaking basic Spanish, because it’s the foreign language I know the most of. WRONG! I understood almost nothing. Technically I took five years of Spanish throughout middle school and high school, but they made us start over every year so I didn’t learn crap, literally. But I can really conjugate those -ar verbs!

Which is too bad because of the weird incident I had with the maid. Earlier in the day she’d tried locking me out on the balcony where I was reading. She’d come out to sweep and when she closed the doors I heard that *click* sound and became terrified I’d be trapped on a third floor balcony for God knows how long before my brother returned. I knocked on the glass and she opened the door. Then when I sat down again she closed and locked the door AGAIN. I got her to open it again, but I don’t think she ever figured out why I was so worried about the door.

Porch

Then, later that day she came back to the room and started pointing at the bed and showing my brother and me some numbers written on a sheet of paper and I still to this day have NO IDEA what she wanted. I don’t think it had to do with the balcony. I also felt like a total jackass for not knowing enough Spanish to have a basic conversation with her. If I’d thought of it at the time I would have opened up my laptop and tried to use Google Translate to have a conversation. There was a meme going around Facebook awhile ago asking what two words of advice you’d give to your younger self. Mine would definitely be, “LEARN SPANISH.”

Seriously though, the next time I visit a foreign country remind me to learn some of the language first. I remember feeling like a jackass when I visited France too, but did not seem to learn from that experience.

Airport Cat

Eventually all vacations must end, otherwise they would become our real lives and we’d eventually need to take vacations from them. Our shuttle got us to the airport over two hours early, which a paranoid traveler like me loved though everyone else seemed annoyed that they had so much time to kill. I was listening to music when I noticed there was a cat in a courtyard area of the open-air airport about 30 yards to the right of me. After oohing and awwing at the adorable little kitty I went back to listening to my music. A few minutes later I looked down beside me and saw this:

Airport cat

I would like to think Airport Cat chose to take a nap beside me because he sensed that I was a friend to kitties. However, it’s more likely that the position of my luggage next to the bench provided enough cover that he felt safe enough to catch a few Z’s. Airport Cat attracted the attention of several different children who came by to pet him. Several people asked if he was my cat which sort of offended me. You think I would let my cat run around an airport without so much as a collar on?! What kind of kitty mama do you think I am?!?! If I’d been more enterprising I would have simply said yes and charged them a dollar to pet him.

Airport Cat moved on after about 30 minutes. I hope he’s doing well. God knows an American airport would never let a cat run around like that so easily. I hear they use cats to sneak drugs into prisons, so who knows what a terrorist could do with one. The Punta Cana airport didn’t care much about boarding zones either. Americans get really worked up about what zone they get to board the plane on, but for our flight they called everybody at once, zones be damned! The most awesome part was that they let passengers board through both the front and back doors, which really sped up the process.

The airport

My flight back to the states was much quieter and more chill than my ride on the party plane to Punta Canta. I listened to music most of the way, but skipped any tracks that had anything remotely to do with death. “The Funeral” by Band of Horses? Skip! “‘Til the Casket Drops” by ZZ Ward? Not today! I realize that airplanes are one of the safest ways to travel, but every time I fly I briefly consider the fact that I could die in a horrible crash before reaching my destination. No need for my MP3 player to remind me!

I got through customs surprisingly fast and made my connection without any problem. I had to sit in the very back row which meant I didn’t have a window. That sucked, but I was also in the only row with an empty seat, which was awesome. Still, it was disorienting when we were preparing to land because I had absolutely no idea how high in the air we were. We could have been five thousand feet up or five feet above the runway. I had no clue.

Given the choice between a seat with extra space and a seat next to the window, I would have chosen the window. I do love the view.

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Want second helpings? Devour more entries in the archives.

 
 
Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn't Go Away Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir

Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, chronic headache sufferer, (former?) weight-loss inspiration, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She was formerly known as PastaQueen. You can contact her if you promise to be nice.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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