Queso Palooza

One kabillion years from now, when I look back on my career, the work accomplishment I think I’ll be most proud of will be the time that I somehow convinced multiple coworkers to bring me different types of cheese.

Let me set the scene for you. Almost every month, my agency has a potluck lunch to celebrate any employees’ birthdays that occurred during that month. Knowing how much my cheese wife and I adore queso, someone made a harmless-but-genius joke back in June that the next potluck should be queso-themed.

Amanda and I immediately latched on to this idea as though it were a life preserve and we were drowning in the ocean. Our eyes got big. We clapped our hands. We bounced up and down. The joke-maker tried to take her suggestion back, but at this point, it was too late. The toothpaste was already out of the tube.

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The Queso Palooza potluck finally rolled around last Wednesday. Five generous coworkers brought their own beloved queso creations and set up camp in the kitchen. Crockpots occupied every available electrical outlet. Bags of chips were poured into bowls. Some clever human even brought cheesecake for dessert.

It was a lot like how the Mayans used to please their gods by making animal sacrifices. Only, instead of gods, my coworkers were trying to impress two cheese-crazed humans. And instead of animal sacrifices, there were just cheese offerings.

So, to sum it up, it was nothing like the Mayans.

Amanda and I gathered samples of each cheese and sequestered ourselves in the conference room to conduct our official judging business. Regretfully, I was too hypnotized by all the quesos to remember to take pictures of them. But I did take diligent notes!

Queso #1 got us off to an excellent start with a smooth, creamy consistency that didn’t harden even as it cooled. Queso #2 contained white cheese (which we tend to prefer) and poblano peppers.

Appearance-wise, Queso #3 looked more like a chili than a queso, with its liquidy consistency and big chunks of onion and peppers. But it was very flavorful. Like the mad scientists we are, we mixed Quesos #3 and #1 together and found success.

Quesos #4 and #5 were the unique ones of the bunch, as #4 was the only one to be broiled in a skillet (and involve Gouda), and #5 was the only one to contain meat.

All of the quesos had their strengths and weaknesses, but the two we couldn’t stop snacking on were #1 and #4. We ended up awarding the grand prize trophy to Queso #4, which turned out to have been cooked by our supervisor. She triumphantly celebrated her victory.

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Awarded to “The Big Cheese”

Also, I feel like I should mention that all participants were given scratch-off tickets as a thank-you for humoring us, so at least we’re somewhat appreciative gods  cheese-crazed humans.

If you were having a potluck meal and could pick the theme, what would you go with? Breakfast foods? Desserts? Various quesos?

The Reason for the Cheesin’

 

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Karate Belts of Adulthood

I’ve never taken classes in karate, or tae kwon do, or… jujube, but one thing I know about these courses is that the participants grunt a lot, and are generally quite noisy.

Another, and possibly more relevant, thing I know is that these classes have a ranking/award system in the way of colorful belts. The newest of newbies wear white belts with their uniforms, and when they accomplish a specific task or test, they move on to a yellow belt, then orange, and so on. Moving on to the next color is something to work toward, a real point of pride.

And by golly, I think adulthood should have a similar system.

If you think about it, karate is sort of a metaphor for adulthood. Like karate, adulthood requires great discipline. Like karate, adulthood is made easier with some flexibility. And like karate, adulthood sometimes involves getting kicked in the face.

With all these similarities, I think we can agree that there should be colorful accessories to award grown-ups when we complete small tasks. When we learn how to get chocolate stains out of white rayon, this effort should be acknowledged. When we figure out how to make a meal out of leftover chicken and day-old orange juice, because it’s all we have left in the fridge and we can’t afford more groceries until Thursday – we should move up a level.

Now, I could spend time trying to come up with an original award system of my own, but the colorful belts are a tried-and-true method, and like the late, great Socrates said – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

I picture the Adulthood Belt System looking a little something like this:

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How I earned my orange belt

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How I earned my blue belt
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Note: not having access to a baby’s or animal’s feces doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from getting a brown belt – as long as you’re theoretically willing to clean it up.

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What other tasks do you think should be considered in the Adulthood Belt System? Have you arrived at Black Belt status, or do you still struggle with the whole bran-muffin-over-donut thing?

Queso Critique – The Shady Grove

The Shady Grove – Austin, TX

Gather ’round, children. It’s cheese-related story time.

Once upon a time, a cheese blogger and her friend thought it’d be fun to walk a mile in the late-afternoon Texas heat. To be more specific, they’d thought it’d be fun to attend a free concert in a park, and as it turned out, the Walk of Death was part of the package.

Soon into the walk, the two out-of-shapers were red-faced and out of breath, and sweat was pooling in places that it shouldn’t pool. And running down places it shouldn’t run. The two briefly wondered if perhaps they’d gotten trapped in the gym sock of a sweaty giant. They began to see mirages made of frozen margaritas.

The delusions and hallucinations were a clearly a bad sign.

Then – behold! A restaurant appearing in the distance! With patio tables and people drinking cold things. The weary travelers clung to each other in desperation, and then quickly let go because they were sweaty and it was gross. But, they weakly encouraged each other to continue just a little longer, and soon they were seated in the cool air conditioning of The Shady Grove, sipping icy drinks.

The evil hot ball in the sky had zapped their appetites, a rare phenomenon in the journeyers’ lives. However, the two knew it’d be important to eat something in order to continue the long and sweat-filled journey to the park, so they agreed to split a snack. They opened their menus, and, pleased to see bowls of melty cheese available, ordered one with pulled pork, pico de gallo, and guacamole.

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Even in their fatigued and dehydrated states, they were able to accurately judge the queso and render a verdict. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Consistency: While other porky cheeses have been rather runny, this one was pleasantly creamy. (“Porky cheese” doesn’t sound right, but I’m sticking with it.)
  • Spice: Had a bit. Could’ve had a bit more.
  • Flavor: The pork was the best we’ve had so far – very tender and flavorful. The cheese had a “real” taste to it, not like a certain brick-shaped synthetic cheese product we all know and love. Still, it certainly could have been cheesier.
  • Extras: The guacamole was simple and clean – quite good!

Score: 3.4

Fortunately, the drinks and queso love nourished the worn-out travelers enough to get them safely to the park for a night of laughter and free music. And dog-petting. All the dogs.

The reason for the cheesin’

The Shady Grove website

 

When a Grump Talks about Happiness

Nikki over at A Kinder Way has invited me to participate in The Happiness Tag, a challenge to list things and songs that make me feel light and lovely. She actually tagged me a few days ago, but this somehow went unnoticed by me, so I only learned of it today.

It’s a little funny that I’m being challenged to do this activity today of all days, because I’m a bit of a Grumpy McGrump-Pants at this time. Some things are happening at work that are out of my control, and I guess my resolve is starting to wane. Normally, I’m able to complain about it to my coworkers (lucky them) and move on, but right now it’s bugging me a bit more than usual.

So when I saw the Happiness Tag, a part of me wanted to not participate. When you’re cranky, you don’t want to think about lovely, happy things.You want to cross your arms and make grouchy faces like a four-year-old. You want to knock things over for absolutely no reason, and stare down anyone who objects.

And then you want to set stuff on fire, because you’re a flippin grown-up, and that’s how grown-ups show their irritation.

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Unfortunately, the annoying therapist who lives inside of me decided to make an unwelcome appearance, and encouraged me to participate as a way to (hopefully) get myself out of this charming mood. Real Me started to argue, but then Therapist Me reminded me that I say this stuff to clients, and that I’m a bit of a hypocrite if I don’t do it myself. So then Real Me was like “Whatevs! Get out of here, Annoying Inner Therapist!” And then Therapist Me was like —

You know what, I’ll stop there. Let’s just say that things got ugly.

Long story short, Therapist Me, with all her rational and positive thinking, won out. I grudgingly admit that it’s good for me to remind myself of things that make me feel calm and soothed and happy on a day when I feel none of those things.

So, with that, 5 things that make me happy:

  1. Games – board games, card games, made up games – I like them all! Well, most of them, anyway. Monopoly and Risk can go to hell.
  2. Books – I have a rather large collection that has filled up my bookshelf and is now overflowing onto the floor. The cranky four-year-old in me wants to build a cave out of them and live inside of it.
  3. Food – I have a blog that is 39% about cheese.* You should’ve seen this one coming.
  4. When my friends and family acknowledge my eccentricities in a loving way – when someone calls my car by her formal name (Ellie), when someone buys me earrings depicting my favorite beloved animal, or when someone asks me to recommend a good queso establishment – these are things that put a warm little ball of happiness in my heart. Is that a weird thing to say?
  5.  Stationery and journals with different colors and patterns and designs

* = made-up statistic

…and 5 songs that make me happy, or at least less grumpy:

  1. I Love It (Icona Pop) – The peppiness give me more energy on a happy day, and adds fuel to the fire (in a good way) when I’m angry. It’s like the most positive negative song you’ve ever heard. It’s magic.
  2. Where is The Love (Black-Eyed Peas)- I know the whole thing by heart and like to whip this out as a party trick
  3. Hold Back the River (James Bay) – just ’cause.
  4. Anything by Maroon 5 – I was in 8th grade when they came out, and I’ve loved them ever since. Any song by them puts a little smile on my face
  5. Better Together (Jack Johnson) – my best friend and I long ago proclaimed this to be “our song” and it works like a charm.

As it turns out, Therapist Me was irritatingly correct. Making myself think of these things really did make me feel a little better. Shh, don’t tell her. She’ll never let me live it down.

What sorts of things make you happy, or make you feel a little lighter on a down day? What people or items or places put a smile on your face? Let me know in the comments, or feel free to make your own post about it using The Happiness Tag. I think we could all use a little happiness floating around the blogosphere – and that’s coming from a Grouchy McGroucherson.

Striking Back Against Errant Electronics

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Sometimes, inanimate objects act out, and we don’t know why. Here are some theories, listed in order from least to most likely.

    • Malfunction in the object
    • For attention
    • To drive their owners insane for their own amusement because their lives are boring and consist of a lot of sitting.

Whatever the reason, whenever these objects start misbehaving, we have no choice but to put them in their place by writing them personalized, strongly-worded letters. In the past, it’s been a laptop.

Today, it’s an Internet router.

Dear Router,

This new noise you’re making is super fun. It’s sort of a cross between a whistle and a screech. Or maybe you’d call it a shriek. Whatever word you want to use, it’s really high-pitched and grimace-worthy.

I also appreciate that you like to keep me on my toes by varying your volume and pitch now and then. Apparently, your noise can’t be heard by the senior citizen crowd, so while I’ve been twitching with irritation for days, my visiting mother, who couldn’t hear a thing, looked at me with concern and suspicion that perhaps I was hallucinating.

Then, she compared your noise to that special whistle that “only dogs can hear,” thereby subtly calling me a hairy animal.

I blame you for that, Router.

What do you want from me? I’ve given you a good life. You have a pretty comfy spot next to the TV, with a lovely view of that decorative bowl thing. The modem is totally jealous of you, and yet, he’s still behaving himself.

I’ve tried a lot of things to help you. I unplugged you (experiencing a moment of sweet relief), and then plugged you back in (only to be greeted with more shrieking). I thought maybe you were overheating, so I moved you to a different spot, and when that failed, I blew on you repeatedly. I even asked you very nicely to stop being such a freaking asshole.

Then, thinking I could punish you out of your disobedience, I gave you a few hard “taps” against the table. And made mean faces at you. And called you names.

Still, you sound on.

You know what? You win, Router. Despite your problem only starting a few days ago, you’ve already skyrocketed to the top of my technological hit list. You’re the most evil of my errant electronics. Way ahead of my picky, high-maintenance laptop!

You’ve also driven me to the edge of sanity. I’m usually a nonviolent person, but now I’m starting to fantasize about beating you to death with a hammer. Or setting you on fire and dancing around the flames.

It won’t be long before my fellow townspeople start to hear screeching in their own homes. But it won’t be the squeal of a thrill-seeking router. It’ll be the scream of a crazy-eyed woman as she runs down the street, trying to rip off her own ears.

She’ll probably be arrested for scaring small children. She’ll lose her job. And then she’ll be unemployed again, and the whole universe as we know it will collapse.

And that’ll be on you, Router.

Hatefully yours,

Me.

Research + Cheese = Cheesearch

A bored Amanda is a slightly dangerous thing. Not dangerous in a “let’s go rob a bank!” way, or even a “let’s get into a rumble with a gang of knife-wielding possum!” way. It’s really more of a “that thing you’re doing? It’s strange.” way.

When I found myself bored and plan-less on a recent Friday night, I did what all red-blooded twenty-something Americans do: I decided to engage in some formal scientific research. Naturally, I didn’t want the research to be dull, so I chose a topic that greatly interests me.

Cheese.

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Right away, I realized that cheese can be smushed into the word “research” in order to create “cheesearch.” You’re welcome. I thought it was a pretty good scientific finding all on its own, so I  considered calling it quits on the rest of the research, because it clearly wasn’t going to get any better than that. Nevertheless, I persevered.

I elected to conduct my research via a certain educational and evidence-based website known as “Urban Dictionary.” Well-meaning and science-appreciating people can submit their definitions of the slang words that you can’t typically find in a normal dictionary.

Urban Dictionary started out as a way to help less-hip folk keep up with the grooviest of young people. Of course, with time, the definitions have gotten grosser and more perverse because it’s the Internet, and the Internet ruins everything.

Willing to take on the wickedness, I bravely ventured to the site in order to research the various meanings of the word “queso.” If you’re confused as to why I’d do this, please re-read the first paragraph of this post.

Things started out innocently enough…

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Points for simplicity and accuracy. And for the word “gringo.”

I soon learned that there is a name for people like me.

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I’d really like to meet that John fellow.

I even gathered some healthy dinner ideas!

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Save the baby tortilla chips!

Then I started to worry, because I was drawing some mental connections to the definition of alcoholism. Get out of here, knowledge of addictions! We have no use for you here.

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And this is when the definitions started to get a little unusual, though not entirely inaccurate…

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Just find someone whose breath smells like chips, and you’re good.

Okay, now we’re definitely headed down a weird path.

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Oh. Oh.

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This one scores points for the geography lesson.

Honestly, these last few weren’t even the strangest of the bunch, but I don’t think I should contribute to the corruption of all of your minds. That’s a lot of mind-damage, and I really don’t want to get another call from the FBI wondering why I continue to disturb people. If you’re still up for a little corruptin,’ feel free to mosey your way over to Urban Dictionary and see for yourself.

I think we all learned some important vocabulary here today! Who are my fellow “quesophiles” out there? Have any of you tried a delicious (and apparently economic-friendly) queso salad, or endured a terrible quesover? What other Urban Dictionary searches have you done?

Birthday Gifts for Unusual People

My dad is a strange man. And I have no fear of hurting his feelings in saying that, because he’s the type of guy who takes pride in being strange. I have full confidence that he’ll grin and nod his head in agreement when he reads this.

And he’ll probably be wearing my mother’s sparkly pink reading glasses, because he can never find his own. 

There’s nothing wrong with being different, except for when it comes to those of us who have to buy gifts for Said Strange Person. My dad’s birthday is today, and if you didn’t notice, this day falls quite close to Father’s Day, meaning that each year, I have to figure out two gifts close together in time.

Like many others, I often turn to Google for ideas.

My dad is not the archetypal father that you see in all of the books, movies, and TV shows, and that many of you may have yourselves. He’s not into sports, he’s not a wine aficionado, and I can’t remember the last time I saw him wearing a suit. Therefore, stereotypical gifts of ties, golf equipment, and football memorabilia are just not welcome here.

Neither is a taxidermied deer head, nor one of those “manly” jewelry boxes that holds 10 different watches.

What the hell, Google? Do any dads actually want these things?

When I was a kid, gift-giving was a bit easier. For several years, my present to my dad was a collection of illustrated stories about rogue rats that get into a pot of chili and basically destroy all of our lives – until Dad saves the day.

Don’t be jealous. You too can be the hero of a rat infestation story, if you work hard enough. Dare to dream.

Anyway, since the typical gifts don’t work for my dad, and I’ve outgrown writing rodent stories, I’ve thought long and hard, and come up with some other ideas that may work in the future:

  1. Beard Accessories
    My dad sports a long, Duck Dynasty-esque beard and ponytail. He’s very proud of his Mountain Man persona. Maybe he’d enjoy adding some extra pizzazz to his facial hair now and then? Unlikely, but you never know.
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To clarify, this is not my father. Not to my knowledge, anyway.
  1. Dictionary
    My dad likes to take certain….shall we call them, “creative liberties” with the English language.  This is my gentle way of saying that he mispronounces words, and then passionately insists that his pronunciation is correct. It rarely never is. A pocket dictionary might be able to clear up future disagreements.

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  1. A Visor Hat that Doesn’t Bear the Name of a Fast Food Restaurant on it, because it Clearly Used to Belong to an Employee of Said Restaurant
    This one’s pretty self-explanatory.

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  1. Broken Pile of Garbage
    I’m not trying to be mean – my dad just really likes to fix stuff! I’m thinking I could take a chainsaw to one of my pieces of furniture, and ask him – no, no, allow him to put it back together. Happy Birthday, Dad!
  1. Taxidermied Moose Head
    I know what I said before about a deer head not being appropriate, but this is different because it’s a moose.
    Why? My dad is a member of a motorcycle gang. And by “gang,” I mean a quartet of bearded, middle-aged men who call themselves “The Wild Moose.”

    Or maybe it’s “The Mooseketeers.”

    Either way, I think something like this would be perfect for him:

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Again, not my father. Probably. (Macklemore’s “Downtown” music video)

 

  1. A New Jacket. Or just a Jacket that isn’t Older than His Adult Children
    Again, somewhat self-explanatory.
  1. Book of Campfire Songs
    On their unruly gang trips, The Wild Moose go camping, and sometimes sing songs around the campfire. It’s adorable. (Dad would probably be offended by my use of “adorable” here, though, so I’ll amend that to say that his band of rebel farmers is super tough and masculine. Nothing says “hard” like campfire songs.)
     

     

    Anyway, Happy Birthday, Dad! (And also Happy Birthday to mah cheese wife, who happens to share her birthday with my strange parent.)

 

 

What I Have

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A few months ago, I wrote a post about my need to maintain hope and positivity when things are really bad. But, admittedly, I’m not Polyanna. I sometimes start to lose sight of the pretty rainbows when there are so many dark clouds and storms and tornadoes in front of me.

We’re all feeling a lot of things right now, aren’t we?

If you’re like me, you don’t want to feel hurt and confused and scared.  You’d rather feel angry, because it’s an easier feeling to cope with. A safer feeling. Anger gives us energy, even if it’s the “wrong” kind of energy, while sadness takes the energy away.

If you’re like me, you don’t want to feel hopeless and helpless. It’s scary feeling, isn’t it? You don’t want to feel cynical and pessimistic.  But you also don’t want to feel like everything will be back to normal next week, because how can it be “normal” when everything around us seems to be falling apart?

If you’re like me, you don’t even want to make funny, lighthearted blog posts because it doesn’t seem right to laugh about anything today.

I want to crawl into a cave and make it all go away. I want to watch obnoxiously cheerful television and pretend that it’s reality. I want to avoid social media sites, where half of my friends are denouncing the entire Black Lives Matter movement, because they don’t truly understand its purpose.

I don’t want to feel sad, nor do I want to feel angry.

If you’re like me, you feel tired right now. Maybe numb.

But…I can take a breath, and dig a little deeper.

I can remember that I’m lucky, because I haven’t personally lost a loved one to any acts of violence in the past few months. I can feel sad, but I don’t have the right to feel completely hopeless. I need to remain positive for the people who truly no longer can.

After all, I can’t help change a world that I have no hope for. If I think that my words and actions make no difference, then I’m part of the problem, aren’t I? I need to come out of my cave and into the light. I need to try harder to see the rainbows, even if I need to borrow someone’s binoculars in order to do so.

This is still a good world. This is still a beautiful life. I have a family who loves me, and friends to laugh with. I have music and singing and Youtube videos of puppies. I have a roof over my head. I have a job that I not only enjoy, but draw meaning from, and I have hobbies like crocheting and writing. I have chocolate. I have queso.

What do you have?

 

My American Week

I had a bunch of little stories (or storylettes, if you will) from this week, but none of them were interesting enough or detailed enough to deserve their own individual posts, so I decided to combine them all into one big one.

It’s a smorgasbord of hilarity.

By happy accident, my storylettes started to develop an oddly “American Way” theme to them. In honor of Independence Day (not the Will Smith movie, but the holiday), I decided to continue that theme with pride.

Love of Television

This past week, I had a case of the “blahs.” You know what I’m talking about. The “blahs” are when you feel bored and unmotivated to do much else other than sitting at home, pantsless. Rather than fighting or denying that blah feeling, I fully embraced it by watching A LOT of television every day after work.

Now, I’m going to let you in on a little secret about TV-watching. But you can’t tell anyone, because the FBI will probably show up and revoke my U.S. citizenship for criticizing this great American pastime.

The secret is that I re-remembered for the zillionth time that it doesn’t make me feel better to come home from work and stare at the TV for 5 hours until I go to bed.

Hold on, I just heard a noise. Gonna go check to see if any agents are hiding in my bushes.

I’m back. It was just a squirrel.

I don’t think TV is evil, but for me, it needs to be balanced with other activities, such as reading, a little exercise, some more reading, and maybe even some sunset-appreciating.

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Taken just outside Austin, TX

Adding a little balance just makes me feel better about my world.

Manners

I ate a dinner of biscuits the other night. Not biscuits with eggs, nor biscuits with fried chicken. Just biscuits.

This one was surprisingly upbeat after being forced from its tin home and baked in a 400-degree oven:

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Look at that smirk. Bastard knows he’s good looking.

I’m not sure what this section has to do with America, aside from the fact that I just wanted to share it. I guess this biscuit, like Americans, is pretty friendly. There. I justified it!

Hot Dogs

Over the weekend, I went on a little road trip with Cheese Friend to drop her children off at their grandfather’s. Supportive of our inspirational queso project, Cheese Friend’s dad (hereby known as Cheese Dad) offered to make us a pot of the cheesy, spicy substance.  We tried to turn him down, but Cheese Dad insisted, so we gave in. Also, we didn’t really turn him down in the first place.

Cheese Dad kindly dictated his recipe to me so that I could share it with my fellow dairy lovers. Fair warning: simply reading this recipe might cause your arteries to instantly harden.

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Somehow, a few hot dogs accidentally fell into a pot of boiling water, and then made their way onto bun-shaped life preserves, where they were soothed with a smattering of chili. And then this happened:

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Hot dogs with chili and queso. If you’re keeping count, this meal contained 3 different kinds of meat. ‘Merica

“Patriotism”

I encouraged my best friend to act like a nationalistic fool while she’s visiting Ireland. This is how I show my loyalty and love to my country.

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Dehydrated animals = Heaven

On our trip back from Cheese Dad’s, Amanda and I stopped at a store called Venison World, where we stocked up on treats like deer jerky and chocolate-covered almonds. If that isn’t already USA enough, this store exists in a town called Eden.

A meat-themed store in a town named after paradise? Why, it just don’t get any more ‘Merica than that.

…Unless a bald eagle had swooped down and stolen the jerky right out of my hands. And then carried it off to a nest of baby eagles being guarded by a camo-wearing eagle holding a shotgun.

 

So! How were your 4th of July celebrations? Are you going to give me up to the FBI for mildly criticizing America’s favorite technological pastime? Perhaps most importantly, how do you feel about smiling biscuits?

A Kidney and Free HBO

I accomplished a huge victory today that I need you all to know about. I cancelled my subscription to Directv.

No applause necessary. Feel free to send congratulatory gifts, however.

About three weeks ago, my receiver went out, and a technician was supposed to come last night in order to fix it. Long story short, he didn’t show, and my attempt to schedule another appointment was much more complicated and dramatic than it should’ve been. I spent close to an hour on the phone, just being transferred from department to department, and having to repeat the problem to each new person.

I got really frustrated, and ended up texting a friend a message that contained no words – just emojis of knives and bombs.

It’s the contemporary way to express your anger.

Anyway, you’d think I would’ve been eager to channel all those negative feelings into a cancellation phone call. Alas, that is not how Amanda’s brain works

There’s an episode of Friends where Chandler is tired of paying fees for a gym membership that he never uses – however, he knows that there’s no way he’ll be strong enough to cancel on his own, so he enlists Ross’s help for some assertiveness training. They even role-play the interaction for practice:

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Unfortunately for Chandler, the gym employees don’t let him off that easily. They remind the poor guy that he’ll lose out on Swedish spa services, call him a quitter, throw in a little body-shaming, and then convince Ross to join the gym.

Most people probably see that scene and think that Chandler is pathetic, or hilarious, or maybe hilariously pathetic. But I see it and think, “This is it. I’m Chandler.” I can feel the man trying to be confident, but losing his resolve. I can feel his sheer discomfort.

The problem is, I for some reason equate being firm and assertive with being rigid and mean.  I can talk myself into making a difficult phone call to a company, but then the customer service reps are nice and apologetic, and it suddenly feels as though I’m personally offending them by complaining about their product or service. I’m used to being kind and helpful, and standing up for myself doesn’t feel kind or helpful.

Did you hear that? I think Freud just rolled over in his grave.

Today, I was genuinely fed up with Directv, and I was determined to not be a Chandler. (Only with me, the problem is not a flabby gut, but a flabby resolve.) In order to push past that overwhelming urge to be nice, I had to purposely keep myself in a frustrated and impatient state, or else I’d give in.

And just like in that episode of Friends, they pulled out all the stops.

The following is a summary of a conversation with Directv that may or may not have happened:

Employee: “I’m so sorry to hear that you’ve experienced these inconveniences. Instead of cancelling, would you be interested in six months of free HBO?”

Me: “Erm…um. No.”

Employee: “Okay. How about $20 off your bill for six months, AND you still get the free HBO?”

Me: “Nah, home slice.”

Employee: “I can see that you’re quite serious about this. I’m now prepared to offer you one of my kidneys, as well as the promise that I will name my firstborn child after you.”

Me: pauses to consider… “No, that’s okay.”

Employee: “The kidney and firstborn child are of course in addition to the HBO and reduced bill.”

Me: “I still just want to cancel.”

Employee: “Of course, ma’am. But before I transfer you to that department, you do need to understand that  if you cancel, we will be forced to rain down a plague of cockroaches on your home.”

Me: shudders.  “I’ll just… stay inside forever, then. That’s fine. But I still don’t want Directv anymore.”

I did it. I stuck with it until the rep was done offering a variety of bribes and vague threats. While my memory of that interaction might be slightly exaggerated, I’m still childishly proud of myself for sticking to the plan to cancel services.

Again, feel free to send gifts. I like chocolate, cheese, wine, and the color purple.

Does anyone else have trouble being assertive about certain things? What do you do to maintain your resolve? How do you balance politeness with firmness?