Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Master of the Toast – No Bread Required

It’s rare for me to miss my afternoon nap.  It’s even rarer for me to intentionally miss it to do something that fills me with fear and dread.  But it’s a new year and I’m trying new things and having new adventures.  That’s why I found myself at a meeting of the local Toastmasters Club this evening.  Toastmasters – the club that’s been helping people “find their voice” since 1924.  I guess even back then people were terrified of public speaking!
It’s no secret – I love to talk.  But the idea of being in front of people when they’re staring at me, listening to what I’m saying, and wondering just how large the sweat rings under my armpits will get before the speech is over…well, that all petrifies me.  Only the idea of dying in a fiery inferno, doing my own taxes, and ending up in a federal penitentiary scares me more. 
I’ve always been afraid of speaking in front of people.  When I was in elementary school, I was in my church’s Christmas Pageant.  All the Catholic school kids got the good parts; the CCD kids were relegated to the secondary parts – the choir of angels and the farm animals - I was the donkey (yeah, I was a badass CCD kid).  I had one line to say – “I’m the donkey and I carried Mary to the manger.”  I got up to the microphone and timidly began – “I’m the donk – donk – donk –“  I’m pretty sure everyone in the audience was wondering the same thing – what’s wrong with the jackass?
Sure, I’ve made lots of speeches since then.  But I don’t feel like I’ve really improved since I was that jack donkey on the stage way back when.  I’m always in such a rush to get through the speech so everyone can just stop paying attention to me that I talk supersuperfastandnoonereallyunderstandswhati’msaying.  BREATHE.  Oh God, now I have to answer questions?!
I really want to become more comfortable speaking in front of large medium groups of people.  For three main reasons:  1) In my new job, I'll be doing some training in a classroom setting and I think it would be beneficial to all concerned if they understood me; 2) I’ve been going to more and more meetings and well sometimes I have things to say and I don't want to be so nervous about taking the floor, so to speak; 3) I want to be prepared just in case Oprah calls and wants me to go on a public speaking tour.  What?  It could happen.   
That’s why I decided to join Toastmasters.  I will admit that I asked the Head Toastmaster prior to my arrival if I was going to have to speak tonight.  Luckily, I didn’t.  But I had on my clinical strength antiperspirant, just in case.  Anyway, the whole thing was very chill and relaxed (well, for me at least – I wasn’t getting up in front of everyone to talk for 5-7 minutes!)  The people were super-nice and supportive because guess what – they were in my Crocs once upon a time. 
Here’s the best part.  Each speech gets evaluated and the best speakers of the night get a trophy.  Now, as much as I hate public speaking, I love a good competition and kitschy knick-knacks that can clutter up my house/car/cubicle.
So, game on Toastmasters.  That trophy’s coming home with me one day.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The First Time

The first time is so nerve-wracking.  There are a lot of unknowns – what if I don’t know what to do?  How long does it take?  Does weight matter?  Is it going to be dirty and smelly?  Well, okay, the smelly part doesn’t matter much to me.
On Saturday, I went to the landfill for the first time.  It was pretty awesome.  I haven’t had that much fun in a long time!  My dad and I loaded up our cars with all of the construction debris that’s been piled in my backyard since November when my brother installed my (beautiful) hardwood floors and made the journey to my county’s landfill. 
As we drove into the park-like facility, I nervously checked all the signs – do I go to the Convenience Center where they take household trash?  Do I go to the section where they take wood? (No!  Wood in this case is like, actual trees and stuff!)  I figured out that we had to go to the section where they take construction and demolition material (C&D waste).  Then came the next nerve-wracking moment - waiting to drive onto the scales so they could weigh my C&D waste-filled car.  There was a sign that instructed me to wait until the car in front of me proceeded off the scale.  That made me really nervous.  Like, what if I go too soon?  Will I screw up the guy in front of me?  Will the scale people yell at me?  It was the same nervousness that I sometimes experience going through the EZ Pass lanes at the toll plazas…that split second where you don’t know if you should go or not because the machine doesn’t say:  Thank You.  EZ Pass Paid.
I managed to get on the scale without incident.  The Silver Bullet weighed 2,960 pounds.  Impressive, I know.  I was directed to the C&D waste area and, yes, I panicked again because I didn’t know where to go.  I really need clear instructions.  There were four bays, numbered 4-7.  The scale lady handed me a ticket that had a big “1” on it.  What the heck did that mean?!  Was I supposed to go to Bay 1?  But there wasn’t a Bay 1.  Luckily, one of the friendly landfill men came up and explained what I already figured out – the scale people don’t explain things very well.  (The ticket had nothing to do with where you go…it was for something else entirely!)
Once I got it all figured out, the fun started.  You literally just throw all your trash or wood or whatever into a big garage-like building!  It took about an hour for my dad and I to load up our cars…it took about ten minutes for us to empty them!  The cars get weighed again on the way out – after unloading all the trash, the Silver Bullet weighed 2,740 pounds.  She lost 220 pounds in just ten minutes!  I wish I could lose weight in ten minutes…it’d definitely help the muffin top!  The best part – I only had to pay $7 for my entire load!  How can you beat that?    
Going to the landfill was a new, fun experience.  I can’t wait to go again!  I bet the second time will be even better!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Making History Stylish

I have, on occasion, been fortunate to see some pretty cool historical “stuff” during the course of my career – and the coolest stuff by far usually has to do with the Kennedys because I am, as I’ve already established, a bit of a Kennedy freak.  I’m very lucky to have friends who were kind enough to call me or give me a heads up whenever they’ve worked on interesting Kennedy records…they know I’ll usually come running over to squeal with delight.   
That’s what happened last spring when Trix called me over to check out the final existing logbook of PT-109, the motor torpedo boat that JFK commanded during World War II.  PT-109 sank after a collision with a Japanese destroyer.  The logbook is cool because, starting on April 26, 1943 each page is signed by Lieutenant, junior grade John F. Kennedy.  Even cooler – digital images of the pages are now available in the National Archives’ Archival Research Catalog so everyone can see them! 
But wait.  Its gets even cooler.  I was going to wait until August 2nd (check out the font of all knowledge to find out why that date is significant) to share this particular artifact with you but it seems appropriate to share it tonight.  While the National Archives holds the PT-109 logbook, the Archives of Denise is the proud custodian of….

Yeah.  I know - you’re totally jealous.   And I’m so totally stylin’. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Daddy's Girl

Even when I preferred to throw myself off a pier rather than have him hold me, I’ve always been a Daddy’s girl. 

I’m pretty lucky to have a pretty great dad, especially one who mows my lawn for free! 
Wishing all the dads out there, most especially mine, a Happy Father’s Day! 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Whisper Down the…wait, what’d you say?

ABC Family premiered a new show last week called Switched at Birth.  It’s about two teenage girls who were, wait for it…switched at birth.  But here’s where it gets interesting – the girl who was supposed to go home with the family who lives in a big house and made their fortune from a chain of car washes but who instead ended up with the single mom who raised her in the not so nice part of Kansas City (I’ve been in Kansas City, I know where those not so nice parts are) – that girl, she got meningitis when she was three and now she’s deaf and wears a hearing aid.  So, now the rich family has to grapple with the fact that 1) the daughter who they thought was theirs…isn’t and 2) their biological daughter is deaf.  Interesting wrinkle, don’t you think?
It got me thinking.   Mainly because I haven’t really seen many deaf/hearing impaired people in central roles on television and movies.  Sure, there was Children of a Lesser God but that was like a gabillion years ago although Marlee Matlin did do quite well in this season of Celebrity Apprentice.  Now, there’s this show and there’s this character who wears a hearing aid and who signs and who goes to a school for the deaf (until this week’s episode when she transfers to the “mainstream” school) and everything’s out in the open and she’s a-okay with it all.  It got me thinking some more. 
Digital D...the 2009 model
What’s this?  A hearing aid.  You might’ve seen one before – maybe your coworker wears one, or your grandma, or the crazy cat lady on the corner.  What makes this one special?  Well, it’s mine.  And why’s that special?  Because it’s something that I very rarely share.  You might get a glimpse of it if I tuck my hair behind my ear.  If you’re curious, you might even ask me about it – that question always begins with “Can I ask you a personal question?”  I always panic a little when that happens because those questions can go quite a few different ways, if you know what I’m sayin’. 
I’m gonna go off on a quick tangent.  I don’t know what the difference is between being deaf, being hearing impaired, or being hard of hearing.  There might be a legal or medical definition but as I said before, I never pay attention to those things.  My family and I have always referred to my brother and me as “hearing impaired.”  Whatever term you wanna call it, at the end of the day, when we turn off our hearing aids – we can’t hear.
My first hearing aid.  My mom used to 
sew fabric pouches to hold the battery
case that I wore under my shirt. 
Clearly, this was my Valentine's Day pouch.
Wearing a hearing aid requires some adjustments to one’s life.  A girl always has to be prepared – so I carry a pack of batteries with me wherever I go.  Except when I forget.  Then there are the cascading waterfalls that I have to avoid…hearing aids and water don’t mix.  (I’ve actually run this scenario through my head…what if I am somewhere where there is a cascading waterfall and I want to dive in…do I holler, wait, I just have to take my hearing aid out?  It’s a bit of a mood killer, I think.)  When I ride roller coasters, I always take it out because when you’re going on the Double Loop O’Terror, you definitely don’t want to worry about your hearing aid falling out and hitting someone in the head…oh yeah, then you have to try to find it!  And I really, really stink at the game “Whisper Down the Lane.”  Trust me, I will screw it up.  There are some benefits though.  I can turn myself off whenever I want…but generally I limit that to when I run the vacuum or when I’m trying to ignore my mom.  So, not that often.  Because it’s not really fair to all of you hearing folks   
I have an interesting relationship with my hearing aid.  I need it to function and operate in the world.  But it’s also something that I’ve always been embarrassed about…it’s something that I felt like I needed to keep secret.  It wasn’t always like that.  I have a vivid memory of being at my cubby in kindergarten with my friends changing my hearing aid battery – it was the neat thing to do.  But as I got older, and all the voices inside of me screamed “you’re different!” over and over, I hid the one visible thing that I had the power to hide – my hearing aid.  I never wore my hair up (to this day, my hair dresser has a standing order – don’t show the ears).  I figured - if no one saw it, they wouldn’t know my big secret. 
Here’s the thing with secrets.  Everyone usually figures it out sooner or later.  Without fail, the few friends whom I felt safe enough to tell that I wear a hearing aid, have looked at me and said “yeah, I know….and so does she and so does he.  And I think the guy down the hall knows too.  Where are we going for lunch?” 
Everyone knows.  They’re a-okay with it.  You know what?  So am I.    
But I am bummed about all those French braids that I missed out on all those years when I apparently wasn’t hiding anything!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.

Despite my coolness quotient (on a good day), there is one area in which I am perennially unhip. I have never been that into music (just for the record, you totally don’t need music to dance).  Anyway, while my peers were listening to Tiffany and New Kids on the Block, I was listening to the oldies station – the hits of the fifties and sixties, the music of my parents’ generation.  Sure, in the ‘90s, I wore my flannel shirts just like every other grunge rocker wannabe and I even had my own tape cassette of Nirvana’s Nevermind but honestly, my musical tastes were geared more towards doo wop and blue-eyed soul.  In my early 20s, I dragged my mom to a couple of Righteous Brothers concerts (you know…Unchained Melody and You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’).  I was the youngest fan there.  So, music’s never been a big deal to me.
Why am I telling you all of this?  Because I have to admit that I totally didn’t get why SuperJ kept on saying “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.” whenever I mentioned that I was going to Asbury Park to see some of the Deadliest Catch Captains.  I thought he was trying to sound like an old time-y postcard.  So, um, yeah, this totally unhip, musical know-nothing finally gets it.  “Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J.” – that was the title of Bruce Springsteen’s first studio album.  And Asbury Park is to Springsteen what Seattle is to Nirvana.   Got it.  And now I will prepare myself to be mocked.   
But I wasn’t in Asbury Park to celebrate its musical history.  Nope, my mom and I blew past The Stone Pony and headed for the Paramount Theater to spend an evening with three of our favorite captains from Deadliest Catch - Captain Sig and the Hillstrand Brothers.  Even more exciting, we caught up with one of our CatchCon partners in crime, Jersey.  We were on our very best behavior, of course.  We’re classy, respectable fans after all.   
O' Captains, My Captains!
After the show, there was a meet and greet for all of us who paid for the privilege of face-time with the captains.  It was a little rushed but I did get (another) picture with the captains, (another) autograph (this time for a friend at work), and (another) hug from Captain Jonathan.  All in all, it was a great night!   
By the way, I didn’t see the Boss anywhere in Asbury Park while I was there…but maybe he’s walking the Streets of Philadelphia.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Baby Got Back and a Cob Too

On Thursday night, my mom and I found ourselves in Asbury Park, New Jersey.  Why?  Well, that comes tomorrow.  Anyway, we needed to eat dinner and the guy working at our hotel recommended that we try Langosta Lounge, a restaurant on the boardwalk.  The menu urges diners to “experience the world via creative cuisine and inventive libations” and each menu item is inspired from vacations around the world, from India to Nicaragua to Avon by the Sea.  Perfect place for a Food Friday, don’t you think?  Even if it was a Thursday!
My choices were rather tame but, for me, the experience was more about choosing dishes that had bigger and bolder flavors than I would normally eat.   
Before my main course, I ordered Pop’s Cuban Grilled Corn.  It was grilled corn on the cob that was rolled in lime mayonnaise and cotija cheese.  There was a little kick to it but it was absolutely scrumptious. 
For my main course, I ordered Labrador Asian Barbecue Baby Back Ribs.  I’ve had baby-back ribs before but I’ve never had them smothered in a delicious Asian hoisin barbeque sauce.  They were delightfully tasty and yummy!  But I was sure glad that they gave me one of those little handi-wipes to clean my hands with!  The entrĂ©e also came with sweet potato fries and since I’ve been on a sweet potato fry kick lately, I thought they were the perfect side dish because, quite frankly, you can never go wrong with sweet potato fries!
While it wasn’t one of the most “out there” Food Fridays; it was definitely one of the more spicy and tangy ones! 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Handwriting on the Wall

Another gem from my personal archives…
When I was 16, I apparently had my handwriting analyzed at a mall kiosk.  This is what the “televac” said that my handwriting indicated about me:

So, either…
The televac wasn’t properly calibrated
my handwriting was/is more confident than I was/am 
that’s who I still might grow up to be. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Becoming a Regular

You’ve probably figured out by now that I have a love-hate relationship with food.  I love to eat out and I hate to cook.  I’m really, really trying to cook more at home – to prove it, just come take a look at my freezer stocked with all sorts of meat stuffs!  But sometimes the kitchen is just too hot to cook in!
Not counting lunch – which would really throw this equation out of whack – I have been known to eat dinner out four five four times a week.  I know it’s ridiculous.  Think of how much money I could save!  Think of all that unhealthy food that I’m eating!  But that’s a topic for another day.
There are two places in my little slice of Maryland suburbia where I eat pretty frequently – so frequently that I have earned the proud distinction of being “a regular.”  Who doesn’t love being a regular?  You waltz in after a hard day at work and they greet you like they’ve known you your whole life or like they just saw you yesterday…which they probably have but that’s neither here nor there.
Each place is really different from one another but I like them both because they have great atmospheres, oh, and good food! 
Jersey Mike’s is a chain sandwich shop where they sell subs (hoagies).  They also have the most delicious Philly cheesesteaks in the area – that’s my regular sandwich.  Nine times out of a ten, I go in and the guys welcome me back and say – #17, no onions, no peppers, light ketchup.  For here.  And I giggle (okay, the guys behind the counter may be cute) and say – yep!  Sometimes I throw them off and I order a #7 - a turkey and cheese sandwich with mayo.  Because sometimes you just need a little variety in your life.  I was just there (again) tonight because there was no way I was cooking in 98 degree heat!  So that makes two nights this week already.  Thank goodness I’m going away for the weekend!
The other place is the Tastee Diner which has been in the area since 1935.  The Tastee is about the shabbiest looking place you can imagine; if you want to do some interesting people watching – hit that place up around 1 AM on a Saturday night.  Oh my.  But the food…the food is really good.  The Tastee is my weekend spot.  I usually hit it for grilled cheese sandwiches or the Saturday night dinner special – baked turkey with dressing.  Oh my.  I love it because the tables have old table juke boxes…but not the shiny fake ones that you find in shiny fake diners.  Plus, you can play keno there.  I’m not sure but I think keno is like the Maryland state lotto game or something.  I never heard of it until I moved here.  So, all in one place you can get dinner, listen to some tunes, and gamble.  It’s kinda like a casino on the Vegas strip except without all those annoying bright lights and showgirls.  Okay, you might see a showgirl every now and again.  But she’s probably just doing it to earn money for school.        
Last Saturday, when I took my mom to the Tastee for breakfast, she told the lady at the cash register that she heard I was becoming a regular.  The lady replied – yes she is.  I’ve never been so proud. 
I made it.  I’m a regular!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Off the Usual

Last week, we had Memorial Day off.  It was a four day week that seemed to stretch on forever.  Tuesday was Monday and Wednesday was Tuesday and by the time Friday rolled around, my time-card was completely off and who knew what day it really was.  All I knew was that I wanted that unusually long four day week to end.   
It didn’t help that I was feeling pretty off myself.   I felt uneasy, unsure, and unconfident about everything; okay, even more than is usual for me.  At home, at work…I second-guessed and criticized everything I did.  Then I obsessed about it even more. 
It was just one of those weeks. 
It was an off week.
Tomorrow starts a new week.  It’s back to the usual five days.  Monday will be Monday and Tuesday will be Tuesday and my time-card should stay straight. 
I’m back on and not feeling so off anymore. 
I’m back to the usual.