Thursday, June 30, 2011

Learning a lesson from Apple

I went to the Apple store near by last night for a One on One class. I am still delighted with my iMac gift from JMac last month but I need to get educated on how to maximize its use. I love that with my gift came unlimited one on one iMac classes. While waiting for my instructor, I also liked to be entertained by fools in the following scenario:

Apple guy: (from the Genius Bar as he calls the next customer) Josh H?
Josh H: Right here (sitting at the computer across from me.)
Apple guy goes over and sits down with him.

Apple guy #2 and #3 call names and join those customers. Apple guy #4: Josh O? No answer. He repeats very loudly: Josh O?

Josh H: I am Josh.
AG #4: Are you Josh O?
Josh H: No, I am Josh Hess.
AG #4: I am looking for Josh O.
Josh H: Maybe there are 2 people named Josh?
Me: WOW.
AG #4: Must be! And thanks Josh but I am looking for Josh O. (He says this with a friendly tone + smile and not a bless your heart smile either. And by the way, how in the world those Apple employees handle working in that store that has on average about 250 people in it at all times is a wonder.)

Oh, Josh Hess. WOW. While Apple products seem to be sensible enough my 4 year old can use them, however you Josh are perhaps not bright enough to be operating an Apple product because you clearly just failed one of life's rather simple tests called ROLL CALL.

I then leave Apple and go to Best Buy to compare prices on a product I want.  I am now enamored with the iRig handheld mic you plug directly into your iPod. Why? Because who doesn't want a portable karaoke machine? Likely no one but me and MiniMac. I arrive at Best Buy and trek to the iPod section. No employees in sight, I search for one. I find a young lady clad in a blue Best Buy shirt, not interested in helping me, but I roll the dice anyway.

I tell her I am looking for a portable mic that plugs directly into the iPod to use with all vocal applications specifically singing. She strolls to the iPod section. And I do mean stroll. I could have done 10 laps around the store in the time it took. No she was not physically impaired. She was not interested. At one point I wanted to say, "Come ON Seabiscuit!"  We get to the section, she looks around and claims, "Yeah, I don't think we have anything like that." I give her the product name which we then walk back to a computer and she she looks it up. She then walks me back to the actual microphones and mic stands. "Here you go." I clearly know these products because we already have one for MiniMac at home. I ask if these mics can plug into an iPod.  Her answer: No.

I reiterate my exact need. She then says, "Oh, let's look over here." We walk to another section and she shows me the headsets with built in microphones. Not the Janet "Ms. Jackson if your Nasty" style but the kind you use for your phone. I ask her what I am looking at. She said, "These all have microphones in them." For plugging in to my iPod for karaoke-jam time? Her answer: Well, you can plug them in and sing but no one will hear you. REALLY? That sounds like a perfect microphone to use for karaoke. Or the opposite.

I then ask if we can do a product search at other Best Buys in Atlanta. Her response: Or you can just order it from Right. 

I literally turn to her because I am baffled at how in the ______ we are having a disconnect on this issue. And instead, a bright apple goes off over my head. And instead of making snarky face like I want to, I smile like Apple Guy #4.  I say to her, "That is hilarious." And it is a bit odd to use one of my favorite phrases in such a wrong way. In fact, until now, 99% of the time I have uttered that phrase it was because something was hilarious. And not in this context which was more like someone putting a plate of sushi down in front of you and you looking it over before exclaiming " I LOVE CORN CHIPS AND BUTTERMILK!" No one would say that because it is crazy.

But perplexed and utterly helpless girl at Best Buy simply says, "I don't know what else to tell you." I said with my giant Apple-ish smile, "No worries. I will look it up on Amazon." Her response: OK.

Really? Don't try so hard to be sales person of the quarter, after all, the quarter is over today and it is completely unnecessary for you to get yourself worked up.

So I smile and waltz myself out the door. It is a great reminder how much I LOVE good customer service. But it is also a great reminder that how we react is a choice.

Oh Josh H. and Best Buy girl, you are proof that laughter is the best medicine.  And that an Apple a day may keep the doctor AND a bad attitude away but certainly does not keep fools and not so bright people away. Rats.

I will keep this in mind as we are off to the beach tomorrow for a long, long weekend. Enjoy yours and Happy Independence Day America! We will be celebrating in style in Amelia Island with an enthusiastic 4 year old, live music, beach, sand, pool, bubbles, a road race and maybe a cocktail or two. Cheers!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

To be loved....

Ask yourself the first time you felt love. Maybe you remember an age. Or a time. For me, I remember scenarios as clearly as if they were last night.

One afternoon in 3rd grade, a classmate of mine since kindergarten, was the subject of conversation for several boys in my class. She was having a sports-themed birthday party the following weekend and they were quite excited. You know it had to have a sports theme to get 8 year old boys interested in attending ANY girls birthday party. And one more reason for me to say Hallelujah for being born in 1971 long before Dora the Explorer and Polly Pocket were on the scene.

I was friends with this group and wondered if my invite was perhaps delayed. Surely, she would mention it to me before the weekend and expected party day arrived? The days ticked by and I was increasingly awash with those forlorn and mixed-up feelings typical to little girls. The day of the party, I recall standing in my parents kitchen with giant sad tears pouring out of my face over this potential exclusion.

Rather than brushing me aside, my Father, the man least comfortable with histrionics, assured me my invitation was likely just lost. With a hand on my head, he told me he would see if he could solve the problem. He pulled out our phone book (remember those?) and flipped through until locating the data he needed. He then phoned her Mom and explained the situation (as if she couldn’t hear the commotion and cobble all the clues together herself.) Her Mom insisted my invite was in fact lost and asked him to bring me over immediately. I went to the party with my angst assuaged where I played and played, never the wiser at the time.  

Oh, what a delightful woman you were, Mrs. B, to take one for the team when you didn’t have the heart to tell my Father that it wasn’t a technicality. The party was a for a girl, a serious tomboy, who opted for a tomboy party with basketball and only boys who could play Horse with the best of them. And rather than brushing off my abundance of tears, my Father made the call, made the drive and swept away the evidence of my despair. And likely, he told me to get on that court and sink them in since he was, after all, my basketball coach at the time. But no man wants to see their  daughter cry over something as intangible as hurt feelings. So he set about to fix it, and he did. And in this small transaction, I was capable of feeling the very real protective blanket of Fatherhood, and also what it meant to be loved.

7 years later, this same girl was on the way to school one morning. Her sister behind the wheel and her brother in the front passenger seat. Yet, this day, unlike every other day they traversed this exact same path, something happened that was a life-changing moment for everyone in the car and in the family. The loss of a child or a sibling is something no one should have to experience but because it isn’t planned, it can not be avoided as if it simply something you never put on your to do list.

And that day was full of impact for me too, but for clear and distinctly different reasons. A day I still remember vividly from the room and exact chair I was sitting in when they made the announcement, to the collection of angst that spiraled around us.  I was ill-equipped to handle death not because I was immature but because I was not experienced. Yes, I had lost grandparents but most of them when I was very young so the emotional reverberation in those scenarios really stems from  being privy to your parents anguish, not because you thoroughly understood loss. 

But to see a friend, a girl your age, wearing the same Nike shoes and Members Only jacket you also wore, taken out of her own life like a edited movie clip was overwhelming.  My own Mom, having heard the news, called my SD (Step-Dad) and told him what happened. Intuitively, the knew that I would struggle with something close enough to touch but far too foreign to navigate.

As I sat in our high school gymnasium with throngs of other teens under a heavy layer of sadness and bewilderment, no one had the technology at the time to simply ring your Mom on a cell phone. Or send a text reading “ I need you.” And at that time, you rarely if ever phoned  a parent at work. After all, this was a period of time in the work force where work - life balance was not yet a firmly established phrase.  The primary focus of work was to work.

Packed into the bleachers heads bobbing in a sea of sad faces, suddenly, I see my Mom’s face with my Dad only paces behind. The intense relief I felt served as proof teenagers still need their parents.  I wanted to back up the clock and put everyone, especially this girl's family, in a new and brighter situation. Without that ability, I wanted nothing more than to be sandwiched between the powerful and knowing arms of my Mom and Dad. Those arms could diminish the fear that knocked me at every chord.  Because we knew people died but old people. We were kids. We were invincible as our lives rolled out in front of us under the custodial eye of our community.  We were destined to spend our days studying chemistry and reading Walden or Tuck Everlasting and then to spend our nights listening to Steve Miller or  Wham! cassettes and fretting over whom to take to Sadie Hawkins. But here is a reason that anyone who ever cared about you may have told you at one time or another to 'be careful' and it is because they know unfortunately well that at any moment, life can take a very hard turn.

I recognized my parents could not alter or improve the situation, the environment or the tragedy. But while reeling from the loss of a friend couple with a very remote and jagged comprehension of the true loss her family would experience forever, I knew my Mom realized the necessity of her presence.   She got in the car, picked my Dad up from work and drove all the way to my high school parking lot with only one thought in mind: consoling my juvenile and foreign grief.

And this too, although not as simple of a transaction, served to reiterate to me in no uncertain terms I was deeply loved.

Similar scenarios are peppered throughout every year of my life. And the fundamental take away is that we are so incredibly lucky to not only be loved but to know it. It is our privilege and responsibility to pass that along to everyone that matters to us.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

If you ask the guy why you so fly, he'll say the Funky Cold Medina.

Seriously, what is Medina, where can you get it, why does it have to be cold and what makes it funky? This song for what it lacks in sensible lyrics certainly makes up for in catchiness and beats.

Yesterday at the gym, I happily listened to music and as if on auto pilot, when Baby Got Back came on, I sang every word including the classic lines "my anaconda don't want none unless you got buns hon." And as that song transitioned into Salt and Pepa's Push It, I realized upon the intro, that at the time the song came out, I really didn't know what they meant by "all you fly brothers." 

It reminded me the 80's  was a fantastic decade for music. Songs I still listen to (and sing) to this day. But apparently, when I dig deeper, I need to revisit the 80's for a little education. And no, I don't mean a refresher in Home Ec ( I would ROCK that class now) or how to avoid picking up your teacher's athletic cup and calling it a ball holder (which I openly shared) or how to discourage myself from wearing legwarmers and zipper pants. I mean, I need to revisit the 80's for some education on what some of these artists were trying to say in many of the songs we all know and love. For example:

When do doves actually cry? And how do you know?

What exactly is a sucka DJ?

How does one rock a mic like a vandal? And by the way, Robbie Van Winkle, thank you for the singular positive thing you did in your life. Ever.

Do I really just need one night in Bangkok? No. How do I know this? Because this is how you are selling it: it’s the creme de la creme of the chess world. Really? The CHESS world? WOW. You know how to seduce a girl.

Who is Eileen and can she explain how exactly you loo rye ay?

What exactly does it mean to be “Livin like a lover with a radar phone?” And incidentally, it sounds like when pouring sugar on me, you are saying “living like a lover with a red iPhone.” I thought Def Leppard was the 80's hairband version of Nostradamus.

I understand you are hungry like the wolf but how does one actually smell like they sound?

How can you technically dance on the ceiling? Or better yet, what were you ingesting when you thought you did that. Let me introduce you to another popular phrase in the 80's Lionel: Just Say No to Drugs.

How did you know there was a code word, and could you not have crafted something sexier and more James Bond sounding than “Word up”? Word up sounds like a cross between a spelling bee and a game we played in 4th grade called Heads Up, Seven Up.

Big question mark on the entire song Monkey by George Michael. You were a hot man with tight jeans that impacted the boyfriend dress code for at least a decade. But given your penchance for shenanigans, the lyrics about sharing your baby with a monkey are frankly creepy because I can picture it and not in the way you meant.

I wanted candy back then too. But does anyone really like candy when it is stuck to a sweater?

How can someone be tough, hangin’ tough or otherwise when being encouraged to “get out on the floor and do the new kids dance.” I saw that dance. And believe me, it was about as tough as butterfly wings. And less graceful.

Where is Funkytown?

If you were going to get it on, which many people like to do, at what point does it cross your mind to stop getting it on and take a big break to bang a gong? No one does this. There is a reason the Gong Show was limited to a few seasons. Even porn stars trading sex for spearmint gum aren't suggesting this accoutrement.

Did Air Supply write a single song without the word love in it?

Is it Don’t bring me down, gruuuuuuce or Don’t bring me down, Bruuuuuce?  And by the way, if you tell me once more before you get off the floor, you already are down, I can’t bring you down any further.

I understand rhythm is a dancer but what in the world is a “source companion?” And really, you are serious as cancer when you say rhythm is a dancer? WOW. Now that I know you are serious, it all makes sense. 

And finally, I would love to have fun tonight but don’t have a clue how to Wang Chung tonight. It sounds like something dirty. Or a delicious take-out dish. Or a combination of both.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Little fish, little fish, swimming in the water

Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, we were fortunate to have a boat and ample access to watery destinations to enjoy that boat. I took my first swimming lessons at a wee age. Lessons were enjoyable to me and only slightly less so for my Mom who walked in one day to see me, at age four, leap from the high dive. Ballsy? Indeed. But at age five there was a bit of an incident. I jumped off a diving board only with the promise my sister, already in the pool, would swim over to me pronto. Apparently I didn't pack my daredevil pants in my Muppet Show lunchbox that morning.  Instead of going in smoothly, I went too far out and landed on top of my sister. The impact pushed her under, and frightened me. When we both surfaced, my fear only intensified as did my grip around her neck. I also had my scrawny legs wrapped around her and while I may have weighed 30 lbs, I was prohibiting her from being able to tread water OR propel us. This skirmish was not going well and ultimately the lifeguards had to come in and intervene. But I wasn't set back a bit and still had no fear about the water.

In high school, sophomore style antics ensued between a male friend and I one summer afternoon we all played at the lake. What began with towels being thrown in the water turned into a bit of a scare with repeated dunking and my inability to catch my breath. I think it frightened all of us. When my parents found out, they calmly informed me he was never welcome in our home again. My Mom had water fear already and she was livid.

It did surprise me however I have never swam again since then. Oh, we have pool and beach time galore. I will get in the water and I can breaststroke with the best of them but I have not put my face in the water and done a freestyle swim since 1988.

Because of our proclivity towards water-based vacations, MiniMac has been in and around water since he was an infant. This past spring, he spent 12 weeks taking swimming lessons. He is agile in the water, a bit daring but not quite ready for the underwater world. When we are working with him, his favorite activity is to "race" and by "race" I mean, don't actually race him but allow him to win at all times.

Last weekend,  as we played in the water, he asked me if I liked to swim. Yes. He asked if I liked to swim under the water. I felt the conflict immediately. NO, I don't like to swim underwater but YES, I want you to swim underwater son. So I asked myself, how hard can it be when you can teach toddlers to swim freestyle? Mission: Swim. I went early Sunday morning applauding myself because isn't swimming just like riding a bike? I  tell myself I would only do 20 laps.

Really? A mere 20? Lets churn it up a bit, Shirley Babashoff. I glide into the water and start with the breaststroke. Our pool is about 50 feet long. After 2 lengths I am beat. And I mean BEAT. WTH? I work out EVERY day? How can a simple paddle through the water be fatiguing me so? I struggle to complete 6 lengths. I scoff at myself and what was apparently a lofty 20 lap goal.

My great friend Wendy, a competitive swimmer and former swim instructor, laughed with me as I explained my situation. She also informs me that breaststroke is one of the most fatiguing and it is actually easier to freestyle. Hmmm. 

The next day, I take swim goggles and attempt to freestyle. I freely admit it was an attempt because it was awful. It was like watching someone who is doing a combination of a windmill and a jumping jack. Under the influenceAnd since I neglected to tie my hair bag, every time I came up for air, I had more hair on my face than Chewbacca. Day 2: Still swimming. Still suck.

Wendy than suggested a swimming cap. Really? An ugly skintight swimming cap? But my friend AB had one to loan so I opted to take her up on it. Goggles and cap are only part of the solution. How about the part where you don't know how to swim freestyle anymore? I had to address my breathing technique. Or complete absence thereof. I did what any innately athletic person would do when faced with a competitive dilemma. I googled it. And then watched a swim instructor demonstrate on YouTube! Well played.

The swim instructor on YouTube indicated the freestyle stroke is just as important as the bilateral breathing. For in fact, the stroke is comprised for four parts: the reach, the hook, the pull down your side and the push away. Hmm. I thought it was more like Arm above the water. Arm below the water. No Danielsan, its not like wax on, wax off.

So my third attempt, with bright red cap and goggles, and concepts of breathing and stroke, I was ready to master it. And it started off well. Except when I would forget to breathe and my sideturn to get air was more like a whale with a blowhole. Breath out IN the water! After about 8 laps I said aloud, "WOW you SUCK at SWIMMING!" Thankfully, no one was there to witness my anti-pep talk. But I am tenacious. And I like to be good at everything so back in the water I went. And within a few more laps, it was a bit less blowhole. And a bit less ugly. But thankfully, any one who could spy me in the pool would never recognize me since I looked more like a Baywatch version of a Conehead than JennyMac. Whew. Vanity still has a role, even when one is sloppily flouncing in the water. By the 14th lap, I could tell I was improving. Day 3: Still swimming. Sucking slightly less.

BUT, it only proves we can learn or relearn anything at any age.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Two turntables and a microphone

Many years ago, a good friend of mine was in Atlanta finishing graduate school. His roommate was supplementing his meager graduate student lifestyle by DJ’ing on the weekends. As Cinco de Mayo weekend approached, the roommate found himself in a bit of DJ quandry: sit for a review of his upcoming boards or forfeit a job for several thousand dollars. Career must prevail but he couldn’t afford to lose the job.

Spying us in the living room, he dangles a carrot: Do the gig for him and collect half the money. My friend, nicknamed DJ Dr. J, already knew the drill from a few previous fill-ins. I did not but the idea seemed intriguing. The roommate, who I always found to be a bit of a tool, asks me if I “really think I can learn how to do it in one day?”

Ummm, no offense, but do you need John Digweed? The party wasn’t exactly Club MTV. And I think if someone like Tommy from Eight is Enough can do it, I am up for the challenge.

So DJ Dr. J and I go to this crazy Mexican restaurant and set up in the parking lot. Several hundred people come to this bash and it is a total blast. I mean, really, give me music and a microphone and feel free to stand back. And we got paid which was not even my motivation. I just wanted to be completely in charge of the music and dropping a little lyric or two from Prince into the middle of other songs. We met fun people, had delicious sunshine all day, and even more delicious Pacificos. I volunteered for future gigs.

Later that summer, a friend, the GM of a club, was getting ready for a private party. The full time DJ gets sick. They have no backup. They call DJ Dr. J but he is going out of town. Can I fill in that night? A quick cancel of plans, an even quicker tutorial on the hightech system and the promise that I did not have to play ANY techno, I was aglow. Sparkly tube top and he was actually paying me to play mashups of Run DMC and Salt and Pepa? This was clearly more fun than a day negotiating contractual terms.

Fast forward: several months later I am at a big fundraiser. At the bar with friends, I am chatting with someone at the bar when I notice the man standing behind him in line. We make the double-take recognition of “I know you but I don’t know how I know you.” We start with the “Are you, do you know, did you work at…” and suddenly he says, “Oh, I met you last May. You were the DJ at that Mexican restaurant.”

Hmmm. This is interesting.

The man I was chatting with gives me an odd look, “I thought you said you were an attorney?”
“I am.”
“I don’t know many attorneys working as DJs in Mexican restaurants.”
“HA. I didn’t work there. I just worked in the parking lot. And I am not a DJ, I just play one on TV.”

Alas, DJ Dr. J graduated and moved to FL as did his roommate so my days of two turntables and a microphone. But given the chance, I am sure that just like Ralph Malph, I still got it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Water, water everywhere

I have a weird hangover. And it is not from alcohol or too much consumption. It is from not drinking enough water yesterday. Seriously. I drink at least one gallon of water every day. And on the rare day I don't, I get headaches that feel similar to the headaches I get when I have enjoyed too many delicious martinis. Either way, it feels rough.

So this morning I woke up with lack of water hangover. Yes, I know it is called dehydration. I am already well into the remedy. It often surprises me when people tell me they do not drink water. At all. Oh the horror. In the most general sweeping sense, water is so good for your inside and your outside.  Technically, it
  • Transports nutrients and oxygen into cells
  • Moisturizes the air in lungs
  • Helps with metabolism
  • Protects our vital organs
  • Helps our organs to absorb nutrients better
  • Regulates body temperature
  • Detoxifies
  • Protect and moisturizes our joints
A trainer gave me a metric once that I live by: Drink at least half your body weight in ounces per day. All this water also keeps me going when I desire to run in this godforsaken Georgia heat. Oh, its in the 90s already friends. And sticky. But once you start improving your water intake, it is easy to maintain. The consequence of not enough water: dehydration. Dehydration is bad news all around. Besides the negative impact on your system, it also makes your urine look like Carrot Top is swimming in your commode. Now isn't that a pretty image?

I actually carry a fabulous 24 oz BPA free plastic tumbler with lid and straw with me about 90% of the time. In fact, one day I forgot it and a friend from work, Flam (short for Flambongo) is amused when I say, "Well, &$%#, I forgot my cup!" Her response, "You can use Styrofoam cups you know."  Styrofoam. Ick. So clearly the container is nearly as relevant as the contents.  Drinking water is as critical as eating to me. So you can imagine how comical this scenario was:

Playing around our pool one afternoon with some friends, I am retrieving bottles of water from the cooler and offer one to our neighbor. He laughs and says, "No thank you, I have my water right here" as he lifts he barley and hops refreshment. Oh, I know beer is comprised primarily of water. And our neighbor asserts in a completely serious tone beer is almost identical to water. Really? I believe it. Except for all the ways in which is is not at all like water. If it were identical, drinking too much beer would not cause you to:

Get plump. And not in a sexy kittenish plump lip kind of way.
Yell hideous phrases like "FREE BIRD".
Take a picture of your junk or the junk in your trunk and keep it in your cell phone.

Have a fabulous weekend and water up.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I remember the first time a boy asked me to "spoon" with him. I was perplexed due to unfamiliarity with this term. This is how it went down.

Him: Come here, let's spoon.
Me: (Perplexed. What is this to spoon? There are only a limited number of activities I have seen two people doing with spoons and those are 1. making musical sounds. And not good ones. 2. racing back and forth in someone's backyard holding spoons balancing eggs which seemed like zero fun at the time. And would be zero fun now. 3. in a movie, they were used for cooking drugs in a shatty basement with scary people which seemed like zero fun at the time. And highly unlikely now. So I say: What is spooning?

Him: Come here and I will show you.
I oblige and am quickly schooled.
Me: Oh, you mean cuddling?
Him (all of 6'5 and muscular) No, I don't mean cuddling. I mean spooning.
Me: Aren't they the same thing?
Him: No, if it was, it would not be called two different things.
Me: Right, because no singular activity ever had various different words to describe it.

Yes, I am a gem. And WOW, I certainly like accuracy.

So we spoon. Or cuddle. Or spoon. And that is how quickly I learn.  And then spooning because something sweet you do. And something you would report back to your girlfriends.
One girl: Omg, what did you and M. do last night?
Other girl: We went to dinner and then to his room and spooned!

Spooning was also a handy trick when trying to thwart off some boy's hormonal dash.  Because when they wanted to pounce you, and you said, "let's spoon" it was as much as an aphrodisiac as you saying "hey, let's invite your grandmother over here to watch."

And spooning has stayed with me for quite a long time. But it has morphed a bit. And this morning, I realize what used to be just me and one gentleman has turned into a much bigger party. Because this morning, it was me, my son and about 6 of his friends. And those friends are all plush. And furry. And include a giant monkey (Bananas), Bruce and Squirt from Nemo, a teddy bear called B., Skippy Jon Jones and a big black Scottie dog named after my Mom's dog, Josie.

As we lay there in the early morning hours, my little son said, "I love it when we cuddle."

See. I knew it was cuddling all along.