Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Jocelyn Project [Prologue]

                In the tallest tower in the city, on the highest floor, in the most private room, a high council simply called the Table met. It consisted of 12 women and 12 men, all of whom were very powerful witches and warlocks. They had risen to power through not a bureaucratic but a totalitarian system. The oppressed people and creatures to which the council ruled worked for them day and night, in ordinary jobs, but for no money. They worked plainly to live. The more hours they put in, the more access they had to medical and longevity activities. Mortals worked the hardest, but even those born as immortals had to work because the Table suppressed their natural born powers in order to prevent an uprising. 

                In the deepest basement of the tallest building, there were witch and warlock soldiers, like me, who trained day and night to become strong and cunning. Their life goal was to protect and defend the Table who in turn would allow them access to their own private apartments and necessities. They trained plainly to do the Table’s bidding and were told nothing otherwise. Unbeknownst to these elite few hundred that trained, an all out inter-world war was on the horizon…

                For the fate of the council and their position of power was in crisis. The meeting was focused quite intensely on a plan that was foolproof. An intricately designed plan to secure a future for the Table which proved most beneficial to them was set into action. A rather strange time frame was given to the plan, aptly a project which would be the only of its kind. All attention and resources went into this project and most assuredly all eyes…if that’s what they could be called. 

And so began the Jocelyn Project.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Common Courtesy

    Sometimes I feel like I've become rather cynical in my years, much to my own dismay. It's not that I try to be mean or rude, sometimes it just feels pointless to return a courtesy to a world that seems only to take and never give a courtesy back. So I gathered a short list on the common courtesies I love to see, even if they don't directly affect me. 

1. Drivers who block line cutters in traffic. It almost brings a tear to my eye to see people try to block others who are trying to cut in line during rush hour. Being that person who rides in the shoulder until you can't anymore so you can cut in front of fifty people and then get mad when no one lets you in ...yeah not cool. So when there is a merge lane, usually the on ramp and the slow lane, and there is barely any room to merge (living in D.C. means space is a premium everywhere), a car that moves over usually signifies that they're holding their place in line and they don't appreciate you cutting in front. Should be common knowledge, right? I guess it's not really a COMMON courtesy, because usually it's such a prevalent issue, that to see people standing up to line cutters brings warm fuzzies to my heart. :)
2. People who put the item divider in place at the grocery store. Is that weird? I actually appreciate when people put that little plastic divider on the grocery belt. Perhaps it's because I feel like it's an acknowledgement or maybe a way to say hello. 
3. Holding the door for elderly people.  Well, I guess if it's an automatic door like most places, the door usually does the courtesy, but I love to see people actually holding a door open, even if they're a few paces ahead, such as on the elevator. I've heard that Americans are the least respectful to their elderly. At least for the people I've seen, it looks like we may have a chance in proving it's not all Americans. 
4. Give a penny, take a penny.  I love getting even change back. It's not the fact that I love to look like a big roller with my fives I have in my purse, but getting rid of change makes me feel productive. Do I generally have a few pennies and nickels in my purse or car? Sure. Sometimes, I'm short a penny. This is where the give a penny, take a penny thing comes in. You know that little cup or jar by the cash register? It actually can make or break someone's day if they're short a few cents. What happens if that jar is empty? Working in retail, I've seen it happen. Money is money down to the penny and if a kid is short 5 cents on that candy bar he's dying to have, how awesome is it to see someone behind him in line hand over that 5 cents with no expectation of seeing that nickel again. Small change? Well, not to the kid anyways. 
5. Highway besties.  Have you ever taken a road trip and had to drive like 200 miles on the same stretch of road? During said road trip, have you ever had what I affectionately call a highway bestie? Those are the one or two cars who trail along with you during the trip, usually because they're heading somewhere in the same direction as you. It's a kinship you develop after driving with them for mere hours. You switch lanes to let them pass because you're going a little slower and then maybe they let you into the lane during bottleneck traffic. Where they come from, who they are, what they drive, how much money they have, what language they speak means nothing. It's purely a human connection. As they move on toward their exit, they wave. I feel like it's a unique friendship between two strangers who never need to speak a word. The courtesy? The wave. Definitely the wave. 

Food for thought.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Couponer Part I.

Part I.

Couponer (noun): A person who obsessively spends an inordinate amount of time using sale items in conjunction with coupons in order to gain the largest return on every dollar. Similar to a stock broker, but works in monetary units of less than a dollar at a time.

In my many years in retail, I think perhaps the most profound lesson that I have learned is that people are ridiculous. I have many unanswered questions that keep piling up. Why do you need 10 Dove body washes? What would recipe calls for 49 cans of stuffed olives? How much hair gel do you use on a daily basis? Are you preparing for the zombie apocalypse? Does a bug out bag need Venus razors that have 2 extra moisture bars? 

Now, in all honesty, I have used coupons before and I am aware of the show that only highlights the madness of coupons. Actually, there are probably several at this point, but I don't care to watch them. My acute awareness of the phenomenon is enough. It has come to my immediate attention that people are crazy. I have tried to possibly keep myself in denial, for I technically fall into the evolutionary category of homosapien, which includes the social category of 'people'. Due to this stage one denial, I have not realized how insane the whole BUSINESS of coupons has become. In short, it's intense. Let's do a brief review of the coupon storm.

The economy was ok, now it's not. Coupons have always invaded our mailbox and were regularly disposed of, unless you were the 5% of the population who actually skimmed through them and the 1% that redeemed them. These once annoying pieces of papers cluttering our mailboxes are now in sealed plastic in retail stores. Why? Because people STEAL coupons. Can you picture it? Two people outside a retail store, huddled together by the Red Box machine, hatching a plan to boost not product (although I have many funny stories about those who have tried and failed) but coupons. Bad economy means less value to your dollar, yen, euro, pick one, and thus an attempt to stretch that dollar, yen, euro, etc. This leads to what we call a code 75, a customer meltdown. I have done refunds for 25 cents. Was your time and gas money to come back into the store worth it? Well, ok, here's your quarter. Off you go. Thank you, come again.

They come in book form, newspaper form, single form, as well as now electronic form, like your phone and email. They also come in fraudulent form, but that's another discussion. They can be combined with other sales as well as in store coupons. Ideally, it saves you money and time. Realistically, it saves YOU time, but the poor cashier who is scanning these damn things are spending five minutes to a transaction when it should only be less than a minute per transaction. I say less than a minute if you are in a drug store, which is where my experience derives from. I won't even calculate the time that is spent on the bookkeeping of these coupons.

 My job is retail, their job is couponing. I have learned that there are coupon groups that teach couponing best practices. There are people who spend 40 hous a week plus, clipping, sorting, researching, shopping, and stocking up on these sale items. What happened to scrapbooking and knitting?

Tell me, how much money do you save if you spend $100 when you only need $5 worth of the product. Sure, you have it stockpiled, but unless your family is as large as the Duggar family, you don't honestly need 50 bars of deodorant. Do you? I'm asking. I'm truly curious. 

Dear Extreme Couponers, you are on the wrong show. You should be on Hoarders. The attempt to obsessively save money is apparently addictive. Similarly, the attempt to never spend money created the category of people known as moochers. 

Anyways, in case you were interested, there is a book that mentions the idea of spending thrift and the misconception of that idea. The book is entitled Against Thrift by James Livingston, Basic Books 2011. 


Sunday, July 1, 2012

Things I wish I knew when...I Had a Hard Cast

     I had no idea kitchen stools could be so damn scary. In my defense, I do have a valid reason, and it all began one innocent day at work. I'll spare you the details of much of the day, so skipping ahead to THE INCIDENT, I fell off of a kitchen stool. You know, those foot high, two step kitchen stools that people usually use for that upper cabinet in the kitchen that anyone who is not a giant cannot reach? Ah, those. Sitting on the ground, stunned that I fell off of something so non threatening, I sat for a minute realizing that as the embarrassment faded, pain began to replace it. Oh #@%!, I think I twisted something. Now skipping ahead two and half weeks later when I got my hard cast on (after a fracture finally showed up on the x-ray) I sat on my bed thinking many things, but not how many creative ideas I should've been thinking so I could manage around the house. Ok, with that said, I have created a list of things that I wish I would've known when I was in a hard cast in order to make life easier and a little bit more comfortable. May your temporary life in a hard cast be somewhat more pleasant than mine!

1. Get a cast protector. These are fabulous beyond fabulous. When you need to take a shower, this is the upgraded version of the trash bag and duct tape that is not only reusable but also portable enough should you need to leave the house during wet weather. They run about $10-15 dollars at Walgreens and if they don't have it in store, you can always order it online from their website. I say Walgreens because they're actually a medical warehouse as well and whether it's a broken foot or hand they have a cast protector that will work. They do carry adult and child sizes. This is ultimately the cheaper version of the trash bag and duct tape and is easily able to be sanitized for future uses (whatever they may be).

2. Get a bath bench. So this is basically a bench for your bathtub. They have tons of different ones out there with backs, with rails, with swivel seats, etc. For all intensive purposes, a cheap bath bench helps with quick showers vs taking baths (if you're not a bath person). At first, I was excited to have the luxury to take a bath everyday and relax but then I realized I lost that interest and wanted to return to uber quick showers, hence the bath bench. They allow you to easily get into your tub as well as comfortably elevate your foot if necessary. When done, you can also towel off on the bench before getting out. Broken arm? These benches are great so that you don't have to maintain your balance the entire time and allow for a way to catch yourself if you do. They are slightly pricey around $35-50 but you can request a script from your doctor to see if your insurance covers all or part of maybe just the tax.

3. Get a wet/dry razor.  Whether you need to shave your legs or arms, the wet/dry razor allows you to do that sans water. The great thing about cast protectors is they prevent your cast from getting that mildewy smell if you use the protector correctly, but they cover an extra 4-6 inches extended from your cast from the water. If you pull the protector down to shave, you risk getting water in your cast and having some major odor issues. So, try a battery operated wet/dry razor. When you don't have the cast anymore you can use the razor on the go for when you travel or need to fix a missed spot or as a regular razor. EOS shaving cream allows for wet/dry shaving if you wanted to know about any good shaving creams. The brand has a whole line of cosmetic sorts of items, but their shaving cream is truly awesome for the price. I found a decent wet/dry razor for $10. EOS shaving cream is usually under $3 wherever you shop.

4. Get moleskin. These are little skin protector patches usually found in foot care or first aid and help with cast-skin chafing. The moleskin sticks to your skin rather well (even through sweat) and prevents the rubbing from your cast when you began to be more mobile. The patches are usually in packs of 4 so you only need to spend a few dollars, around $3-6, to last you for a few weeks. Or you could use a bandage, but the moleskin is thicker and won't roll or twist up.

5. Use your hairdryer's cold setting to blow cool air into your cast. It sucks to be in a hard cast in the summer, which funny enough, always tend to happen to people. However, unless you have money to blow on the expensive cast coolers that you can connect to your vacuum (I saw some around $80-100 and I'm not sure how often you have to replace the attachment) you can do it the cheap way and use your hairdryer's cool setting. It's not fantastically cold air, but hey, when you're in a cast, you'll take it.

6. Get peppermint wet wipes. These are little wipes that can be found in the cosmetic section or foot section of your local store. I got these wipes from Ulta, but if you don't know what Ulta is, just look for wipes that have peppermint as an ingredient. The cool thing about these wipes is that not only can they be used to give your hard to clean digits that are halfway in the cast a freshening up, but they have a natural cooling effect that leaves your skin moisturized, smelling fresh, and tingly. I got a pack for around $5 and they have about 40 wipes in there, so it should last you a while, depending on how much you sweat.

7. Get ice from your freezer, put it in a bag, and wrap it with a thick paper towel. So, I was lucky enough to have a broken foot during the change of the seasons into summer and I didn't have to suffer too long from the heat. Although I loved the hairdryer cool setting inside, I needed an easy fix outside that would not require me looking like a lunatic as I ran an extension cord outside just for my hair dryer. Instead, get a homemade ice bag, and put it in thick paper towels so the moisture is absorbed to prevent your cast from getting wet and then put that at the end part of your cast. For example, I put the bag right under my toes so that I could cool my foot down externally as well as internally. If it's a broken arm, I would put it on the crook of your elbow so that the cold is more easily absorbed into your body through the thin skin. I'm clearly not a doctor, but I would think it's the same principle like putting ice on the back of your neck or on your wrist to cool you down. I love to tan, but with a cast, it can become really hot really fast. Get a cooler, fill it with ice, put on your cast protector, and put your arm or leg in the cooler to keep your leg cool while tanning.

8. Use foam athletic tape to wrap your cast at night to prevent scratching. One thing I never imagined would be an issue would be sleeping at night. Ok, I know it sounds obvious, but I honestly didn't think about the scratches or bruises I would get from my leg cast when I switching positions when I moved at night. Easy enough fix, I found this thick foam tape-wrap stuff at Claire's, they come in all sorts of sizes and colors, and one roll should be sufficient enough to cover your cast. It may or may not be slightly adhesive at the end but get the roll, wrap it around the cast, not covering the openings so you have air flow, and then pin it, velcro it, or tuck it to make it stay. It sold for about $3 and made it a little bit more bearable to sleep. Orrrrr, if you have a leg cast, you could use a pillow between your legs, but I always woke up with the pillow on the floor. Orrrrr, you could get a pillow case or two and wrap it that way and secure it with a rubber band or something.

9. Avoid flat shoes like flip flops to keep your back aligned. (If you have a leg cast) When I finally got my walking boot I was soo excited to be walking again. I found out however, that I had lower back pain and knee pain with shoes that made a larger discrepancy in leg length. When you wear flip flops and you have a cast boot, the boot is maybe an inch or so off the ground, making you walk with a funny limp. That limp is because your legs are different lengths so you're kind of rocking side to side when you walk. If you wear higher and more supportive shoes like running shoes, you'll have less pain later, even if you don't notice it right away.

10. Ask for a wheelchair. Depending on which stores you frequent, you'll find that most of them offer free wheelchairs or scooters if you ask. Some places, like Walmart or the mall have them by the main entrance and are self serve. Other places, like the movie theatre you may have to ask. It's a little embarrassing at first, but you get over it when you realize the small things require so much more effort than before and you're uber tired. If you are in an airport, the wheelchairs are free, however they require an escort to get you through security and the escort in most cases does work off of tips. Tips are at your discretion but depending on the airport, it could be upwards of $20.

11. Casts have perks. Depending on the activity you're doing, places like the movie theatre allow disabled and/or assistance-required customers have priority. During my stint in a leg cast, my boyfriend and I decided to see an opening night premiere and found the line to the door of the screening room was forming an hour and a half early. Out of sheer curiosity, and partially my fear of being trampled on crutches, we asked management if they had a way to secure him and I a seat before the mad rush. Sure enough, we were taken into the back entrance of the screening room and got first pick seats. Perks? Not many, but hey, you find the silver lining if you think creatively enough.

12. Use Netflix. I'm aware of the many people who left Netflix for greener pastures, but I like the fact that Netflix has a great ad-free setup with quite an extensive selection of older and foreign movies and tv shows. During your immobile times, you may find yourself bored from tv or your DVD collection that seems to have grown smaller all of the sudden. Netflix was a great way to pass the time if I felt like watching tv. It costs $8 a month for unlimited viewing and it's the best way to catch up on your favorite seasons you missed or movies that you wanted to see in theatres but weren't sure if it was worth it to pay $15 to see it. If you don't like the show, move on to another. You can watch it with a Wii, PS3, computer, phone (use your Wi-Fi to avoid massive bandwidth issues), or many other devices.

13. Go to the library.  If you're broke like I am and can't afford fancy e-readers, use your free resources like the library. Hitch a ride, grab a ton of books or DVDs using your library card, and then kick back and relax. Similar to my theory on Netflix, if you don't like the book, whatever, return it, and get another one for free. My library has a ton of DVDs and CDs to check out as well as audio books if you like audio versions. Can't hitch a ride? Many libraries have a e-library where you can check out books or movies online through your library card number and use your computer or tv to view them. You won't get any late fees because they take the materials off your computer when they're due. Ah, tax dollars to good use.

14. Gold Bond Anti-Itch Powder.** After my cast was taken off, I was made aware of Gold Bond Anti-Itch powder that you can sprinkle into your cast to help with the dry skin that is itchy. It is naturally absorbed and shouldn't cause any issues with chafing. However, I haven't used the powder myself, but I thought I'd add it on to here as another option.

15. Baking soda helps with cast odors.   I had a cast for a little over 6 weeks, but I never used baking soda on my cast during this time. However, with my first hard cast, many years ago, I used baking soda to help keep the cast fresh as possible because it was the peak of summer in the southern U.S. and I was  a kid who wanted to be outside. Sprinkle some baking soda on the cast, you can get a box for about a $1 or less, and then either get a hairdryer to clear it off or a clean duster to brush off the powder after a few minutes.

Any other tips? I may have missed a few, but I wanted to put this out there for anyone who may be stuck in a hard cast and adjusting to the unpleasantries of it. All of these tips are things I have found through creative thinking or from others, but should not be considered medical advice. Always follow the directions of your doctor. Know your allergies and your limits and you'll be able to better gauge things that will make your cast life a little bit easier. 

LOL cats, FAIL blog, Damn You Auto Correct, Cracked, G+, Post Secret, Stumble Upon, Yahoo Games, and other sites kept my interest. Stumble Upon is cool and free app for your browser that brings you to a random website based on your interests that you selected, like psychology or humor or parenting. You can even add new sites you love that may not be in the database. 

Send me your ideas. I would love to hear them.