Chain Stores & Hotels – Bulwarks of Stability in the Chaos

I’m currently in a hotel in the Middle of Nowhere, TX.

I looked out the window this morning to espy a giant, empty parking lot, under a grey sky. Tree skeletons adorned the frame with a splash of crow here and there. I thought, “Awesome.”

The air is humid and a little cool. I took my breakfast outside, just because in my home near Chicago, I won’t be able to eat al fresco until we’ve finally chosen a good president.

As I was returning up the stairs to my room, it struck me how, as depressing as a chain hotel like this one can be, they are sort of comforting when you’re in the middle of nowhere.

I may not know anyone out here, or know where anything is, but I know this hotel. I know they have a gym, and a pool and free breakfast until 10. I know every room has its own bathroom. I know the staff will be nice enough and, if I squint, I can actually find a vending machine.

Not too different from this is Walmart or Aldi – say what you will about them, I know their layout. No matter where I wind up in this unending country, the eggs are usually where I left them in these stores. I can have the exact same breakfast every day of my life thanks to Starbucks, if I want it.

And sometimes, I do want that.

I used to think that maintaining boundaries with other humans was mostly just a fun little exercise that you did if you wanted other people to be impressed. Now I know that we maintain our boundaries because humans are chaos. Just when I think I’ve got settled into my little nook in this big wide world, bam! A human whirls around and topples everything over.

I’ve realized I have to manage the expectations of, not only the odd coworker, but also people I’m closer to. A seemingly simple request on one end can result in hours and hours of work out of the blue for me.

I’ve been learning that I can feel just as in the middle of nowhere socially, as well as geographically. The rules I thought existed are just broken, in an instant. One wrong word from the right person and there goes my afternoon. And here come the crows.

So now I embrace what used to appear to me to be mediocre. I like to know that there’s at least a little bit of control for me out here, in the middle of nowhere. That no matter where I’m driving, I know my car.



T-Mobile and Me : A Dramatic Re-Telling

* Just a disclaimer – the end of the story is that T-Mobile did (finally) do what was promised. My husband and I both have our phones sorted out, and everybody we talked to sounded like they were smiling. *

  “For better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; through hard times and good times, through switching phone plans and other various kinds of chronic illness…”

We got married two months ago today (yay!) and had I known what trying to switch phones would be like, I would have included the above statement in our vows.

It all began fairly innocently. We go into our local T-Mobile store, we get our new accounts set up, my husband bought a new phone and I kept mine. Nice. We were in there long enough to become part of the furniture. The sales people on the floor were discussing whether it was a good idea for the first one to meet up with a third employee for margaritas and tacos later, with the subtext of talking about music business for afters. Beyond the fact that both parties were apparently in committed relationships, this seemed like an obvious ploy of the margarita-providing employee. It did to me anyways. Since it seemed that my husband and I were somehow part of this conversation, I joined in and pointed out that no music would probably be discussed. She decided to decline the margaritas.

The one loose end was that I wanted to keep my old number. My old number belonged to an account that had been cancelled a week prior, so it was going to take about twenty four hours to get my number back.

The next day, the plot thickened. My number still wasn’t back to normal. I called that fateful number: 611 (or the Customer Care Hotline).

Phone Ambassador #1 was way on top of it. She understood what I needed and assured me my number would be back to normal in no time. Weirdly, the request put in by the store associate the day before hadn’t stuck. Or hadn’t been properly filed. So I was going to wait another 24 hours.

Alright. Sounded like progress to me. So it was much to my surprise when, a couple hours later, I got a text from…ME! My old number! Except it was clear from the content that I was not in fact texting myself. No, that would have been too simple. What had instead happened was that my husband’s number had been replaced with my old number.

So I called T-Mobile back and explained our situation again in its growing entirety. This phone ambassador was nice, too, and also helpful. She admitted that the problem was on their end, because the notes were very clear.  They said it was high time we pulled the old SIM switch (still not quite sure what that is) and everything would be hunky dory by morning. Or 24 hours. Whichever came first.

By this time, I was done talking to customer care. Between the continued re-explaining of our situation to that annoyingly long wait period, I felt that I had done enough for the furthering of my situation and was glad that it was all gonna be okay. I decided it was time to go back to bed and re-start the day from a better, less phone-less place.

My husband gave me a call a couple hours later, wanting to clarify that he would be able to keep his old number, not just get the number I currently had on my phone. Being his work number, this was fairly crucial. So I re-dialed and commenced what would be my last interaction with customer care for that day. But not ours. Not by a long shot.

So I was talking to one more phone ambassador. She somehow understood what I was trying to explain, even though the story was even more confusing than ever before. (It was like a soup in a crock pot, slowly accumulating body and flavor.) But the twist this time was that now she was going to conference in a third party – and this one appeared to be in Mexico.

I am still not sure who it was, but she sounded very far away and I thought I could hear herds of people rushing around. (Could’ve just been the connection, but I was imagining one of those news broadcasts that’s coming to you straight from the ground, and all the crowds are waving  and singing at the camera, much to the reporter’s consternation.)

So I explained my sad tale once again. Unfortunately for all of us, since we had decided to make my husband the primary account holder, and I had not been paying attention to any of our account’s details after the first hour of standing in the store, I didn’t have any of the right information. The far-away third party lady said she could send a temporary PIN to the primary account holder’s phone number (which, ironically, was my old one). Except I thought she said she was gonna send me a fee, as retribution for being so ill informed of my own account. I almost started crying a bit and felt like I had a new understanding of the world’s suffering.

Anyways, long story short, we had to cut the far-away lady from our call because we weren’t getting anywhere. So then the T-Mobile person said she was going to try to get a temporary PIN sent to me, and I waited a bit to the tunes of 80s muzak. When the veil of muzak lifted, I was talking to someone entirely different. Someone European. Which is great, I like Europe. Except that it seemed like I was now no longer on my way to receiving a temporary PIN to give to the far-away phone-genie in Mexico, but simply to tell my story yet again, but this time with European sympathies and cannoli.

I decided I wasn’t getting anywhere, what with being the lowly secondary account holder and all. (This position, by the way, is kind of like being the minority race in the room. You have no power and they’ll misspell your name when you cross through Ellis Island.) So I texted my husband to take over whenever he had the chance. He did. And they said they’d help him. And we decided to just go on in to the store later that day, just to find someone we could physically hunt down if all of this was for nothing.

We found the taco-margarita lady from the day before! And it appeared that the third employee they’d been talking about was second chair today. It was hard not to ask them how the margaritas and music went. (They clearly hadn’t saved us any tacos.) Anyways. We explained the situation, and their idea was to switch our SIM cards. But I pointed out that if a number switch was already in process, we might make things worse by switching SIM cards. So…that was that. We had found our strangle victims. We got what we came for.

So. We went home. About an hour later, I * finally * had my old number back. My husband *finally* had the number I just had on my phone. Wait. What?

The wrong number switch. A different wrong number switch.

Oh boy.

Suffice it to say that it took another two phone calls, one that night and one this morning, to finally get the result we were wanting. I was a bit wound up in my mind. I was thinking that maybe it was time for my inner litigious whiner to come out and see the sun and demand a brand new iPhone for both of us and all of our future children. But then I thought about how many more hours of conversation I’d have to have with friendly ambassadors on the other end of the 611 line, and how I am a secondary account holder anyway. My whole goal had become to not have to talk to anymore phone ambassadors for awhile. Maybe this is their whole protection against litigation. Just a really complicated series of customer service conversations.

That said, thank you T-Mobile for the excellent coverage, reasonable pricing and T-Mobile Tuesdays. Just next time, save us a couple tacos.








What I Learned from Wanting Bangs and then What it Taught Me About Everything

I figured it out.

Much like my 2 year old self, I still want things when I’ve seen that others have them.

The reason I could not put my fire for a new ‘do out was simply what I was seeing on TV. I was we watching a show that had blond women with bangs in it. And they look awesome!

Of course, this isn’t that revolutionary. You see that bangs look cool on one person, and you get all inspired to maybe go all choppy on your own head.

But then…you see a different person who looks cool without bangs. With completely normal hair, in fact, and you think to yourself, “Why am I doomed to a perpetuity of despair and malcontent?!”

And it certainly doesn’t stop there. You can be discontent with every aspect of your life if you want to. Should you choose to accept this mission, you can be occupied, every moment of your life, with how cool everybody else’s … whatever is and how you can get yourself to a similar place in life.

According to the Psychology Today link I have generously included for you below, this is called ‘upward comparison’. (The other kind of comparison is called ‘downward comparison’, where you look at those less fortunate to give yourself a boost. Let’s go to Hooters and practice this sometime.)

There’s a certain extent to which the upward kind of comparison can be a boost to whatever it is you’re trying to get done. But it can grow, if unchecked, into a mental state that is toxic and destructive, for others and yourself.

Of course, it’s easy to wave the magic blog wand and say, “Stop it, ya’ll”. But what about Facebook? Instagram? Twitter?!! And all the other ones those young bucks invented yesterday?!!!

There has arguably never been more fodder for our tendency to toxically compare ourselves than there is right now. Like back in the day when T-Rexes roamed the Earth, and there were cool T-Rexes and uncool T-Rexes, at least the uncool ones could leave the cool ones at school and not think about them for awhile.

But now. NOW. You can be in the same room as ALL the cool T-Rexes ALL THE TIME. There’s no going home, or even going to the toilet by yourself, because we all super glued our phones to our eyeballs. And so you can see how much cooler everybody else’s bathroom is, even.

Sigh. There’s no escape.

Unless, of course, you get your best friend to remove your phone from your eyeballs once in awhile. Or, like the article below says, try to remember that everyone, even the cool T-Rexes that get to play more gigs than you, has it hard sometimes. Or that maybe they genuinely worked for their success.

Maybe you’re procrastinating on doing whatever that thing is you know would make you cooler. Because you can see that there’s already so many people doing the same thing. (Which is probably true.)

But nobody is gonna do that thing the way you do the thing. So…if you don’t do the thing, then everyone is missing out. Especially you, because you secretly know it.

Anyways. This is me trying to do the thing. Now read the article and then go do whatever you want.

The Article:

Wanting Bangs

I cycle through two stages in my life over and over. And only two. They are :

1. I am so sick of these bangs.

2. Maybe I should get bangs again.

There are caveats, of course. For example, currently item 2a is ‘Perhaps I should also be blond. These ladies on TV look really nice in blond.’

Item 2b dictates that I should also get a side-shave. And a purple streak on the other side.

As you can imagine, the caveats vary over time. But what doesn’t change is the fact that there are always caveats. And there is always something else I could be doing with my hair, despite the fact that it’s probably fine. Probably. (See Item 2.)

So what am I to conclude about myself? Have I discovered a new mental illness, the absurd alternate love and hate of bangs? Or is it just a physical representation of the human inability to truly find contentment? And should I do all those things to my hair?

Stay tuned for more arguably unanswerable questions and a dubious sprinkling of conclusions.

Until next time, this has been me. Over and out.

if the heart is a house, then your absence is making the floorboards creak

so i was thinking about how the heart is like a house and how when you invite someone into your heart on a longterm sort of basis, the house gets a tad bigger. the house gets a tad bigger every time you forgive each other, or share a good bowl of popcorn, or explore conflict together. (this is what you call ‘positively reframing’ a fight)

and then when that person takes their leave and is no longer in your life, its weird in the same way that a recently emptied house is. its weird when my roommate comes home late, even. it just upsets the balance, somehow, to have that place be empty where that person normally is.

because you can’t go back the other way through your experiences. you can’t un-eat the popcorn, take back the forgiveness or unfight the fight. maybe if you could, maybe if there was a way to reverse your days, without overstretching the fabric of your life socks, the gone-ness of someone wouldn’t be quite as prickly.

so on the outside, maybe it looks like you’re rebound dating, or stress eating, or compulsive blind cat buying, when really what you’re doing is running around your too-big-too-empty house, yelling to hear your house echo back your own hello. but all you hear your house say is, “they’re not here anymore”. (or more concisely, “nice try”)

but then i guess the upswing is that all that time you spent on that person has left you with a bigger heart-home. and in an economy like this one, who doesn’t want more real estate?





On Being Fans of Things

so awhile ago i heard a TED talk by Tavi Gevinson on being a fangirl. i’d never really thought about being a fan of things as anything with enough content to have a whole TED talk about, but she definitely changed my perspective on it.

since then, i have begun to notice people who are really awesome at being fans of things. Like a couple friends of mine who always show up to shows and support their favorite bands, relentlessly and with abandon. (This does not mean they go nuts and dance and shout, but they are always there, they spend the gas and admission money, and when there’s new merch, they buy that, too.)

or this one older lady i know who shows up to every. single. show/concert/science fair/craft sale/speech on bubbles that is on offer. genre is no barrier. she is there, and she is bobbing.

a festival i was at recently was full of people who were really good at being fans of other people’s art. they not only turned up to the billion and one sets being played, but crowded around the artist and sang along. they were amoebas of enjoyment, and it was glorious and inspiring. 

i think the reason this whole concept charms me as much as it does is because, technically, the fans are not the ones you’re supposed to be. you’re supposed to be the worshipped, not the worshipee. not to mention how it’s socially unacceptable to be excited. you’re supposed to keep your head down and stay quiet, maybe lean on the cynical side for good measure. your smile shall not surpass a stretch radius of one half-inch, thus saith the taskmaster. 

and yet, the more i think about it, the better and better i like it. after all, the world is not simply a stage – it’s a revolving, open mic style stage! sooner or later, it will be my turn again, and then it’ll be yours again. shouldn’t we cheer for each other the way we each want to be cheered on? shouldn’t we show up for each other the way we want to be showed up for?

as a friend of mine’s grandfather told him once, “the main thing is to show up and do something.” yes. i heartily agree. be fans of things. love the things/people/bubbles you love. don’t be square – be there. be there. or be somewhere else.





Tiny House in a Big City

One feature of living communally that I’ve always found interesting is our rooms. I’ll attempt to get some pictures loaded at some point, but suffice it to say : we have tiny rooms.

I’m not sure how they compare in size to actual tiny houses (or whether there’s even really a standard tiny house square footage to compare to), but I do know that there is a shared principle: the Principle of Multiple Uses. This is comparable to why I love smartphones and permaculture, as far as I understand both those things – one space, one item, one surface can be repurposed to be many other spaces, items and surfaces as needed. Something that is functional should also be beautiful.

Everything has a place, and it should stay there because there’s not much space for it be otherwise. For every new item you acquire, an old one probably has to go.

I love how every room in my house is different; everybody has roughly the same parameters and constraints (emphasis on roughly), which fascinatingly leads to a plethora of different creative solutions. I never thought I’d get to see a real Murphy bed, but my friend’s got one and it is sweet. Another friend of mine has a giant mirror on the back of her door, which doubles as a cabinet that displays her jewelry when you open the mirror up. (Her husband built it. Nice.)  My room has lofts, which I used to hate the idea of, but they are now my absolute favorites. For one thing, they leave lots of space for whatever you want – if you’re my boyfriend, a drum kit. If you’re me and my roomie, a rather wonderful sofa that doubles as a guest bed for lucky so and sos. (It’s not hard to be one of those – just ask. We have tea.)  For another, they are cozy! When I climb in my loft at night, I feel like a princess in a tower.You also do not have to make your bed for the room to look tidy. Which is fine by me.

And speaking of permaculture, tiny houses and other trendy hippy things, let’s not forget that everybody has a windowsill. In my case, we have a rather awesome south-facing window which gets sun pretty much all day. Last summer, we grew basil – all summer. It was amazing. Basil is amazing. I love basil. Basil loves me. (I started trying to grow a sensitive plant, but it turned out I couldn’t be bothered enough.)

And finally (for now), I think the best thing about living in a tiny space (could be tinier, I agree) is that it keeps you owning less. When I have space, I fill it, every time. With whatever. Items just come to me. They walk right up to my door, knock on it and wait for the yes that inevitably comes. I can’t think of a good reason to say no, most of the time – unless there’s nowhere to put them. This also means I don’t spend as much as I would otherwise on buying stuff – because all my stuff places are currently occupied. So I don’t get more stuff. (Unless it’s for science, which is basically a deep well of “I could probably use this some day” – watch this space for a blog post on using space economically in my new, smaller science lab this year.)

In general, this has produced a mindset in me in which I generally feel pretty content with my stuff situation. Mostly, I want more coffee and musical equipment. Maybe some roller skate wheels. I feel kind of like Steve Martin in that famous scene in the Jerk, where all he needs is that lamp.





Ambush: An Every Day Interaction

I think I cause other people confusion at least once a day. (That’s per person.) I’m not sure why it is, but I don’t seem to do things in the same way that somebody else would. I unintentionally ambush the general population.

The thing is, I am in turn ambushed. Especially by younger people, might I add, but who isn’t? I can never predict what somebody else will choose to do or how they will choose to do it.

 We are all constantly ambushing each other.

I guess it’s a sign of how intrinsically creative everybody is. That word ‘creative’ tends to freak people out if they’re not professional painters, or something, but the fact is that we are all intrinsically creative. We come up with new ways to stir oats, or crack eggs, or add numbers together to get to the sum total of 27.5. Not to get paid. Just because this is what our brains do. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it also gave it 7 more ways to jump off that building differently next time.

And in those times when I remember that failure or success are by-products, if not made up ideas, I’m okay with the ambush.


Over and out.









Rivendell vs Bilbo’s Place – Battle of the Plant Shops

I went on a bit of a science field trip this morning – I was scouting out some places for plant pots (for a science experiment) and intel on some experiments and demonstrations I’m thinking about doing.

The first place we (my crew of friendly friends and I) stopped at was Gethsemane Gardens, which is in Andersonville. This place is absolutely gorgeous and huge! There was a whole tree section. With trees. Oh yeah. It was magical. Everywhere you looked, there were succulents, or orchids (on sale this week, by the way, for $25), or ferns, or whatever.

They even had sensitive plants, which is something I’ve been trying to find. The used-to-be-surfer plant man I asked about them said that when he was in Hawaii, they grew as ground cover,  which means that there were plants bowing to him every morning on his healthful run.

They did not have 9-cm green plastic plant pots. They had 7.99 ceramic pots. They had 15.00 ceramic pots that were far larger than 9cm. But they did not have any plastic plant pots. By the time I found this out, however, I was not surprised that they didn’t have any ordinary supplies for ordinary persons like myself. I had been picking up on some sort of…platitudinous attitude, which suggested to me that I was not the kind of customer they wanted to bring home to their mothers. I could have simply not drunk my entire teacup of coffee yet, but it just seemed as though my friends and I were ever so slightly…in the way of their invisible, plush, red carpets, sewn together by fairy hands exclusively for employees of their awesome store.

The Hawaiian un-surfer seemed to be in a rush to be done with me. The lady who told me they had no plant pots for the slummy likes of me was not interested in why I wanted them. She seemed fairly P.O’d (planted off) that my friends and I were looking at the Venus fly traps while she was clipping the plants in the bird cage. The assistant in one area blatantly greeted a different customer over the top of my head (which, to be fair, could have been a literal oversight, considering our height differences). The guy in the parking lot seemed miffed that our car was parked so close to the water spigot, with which he wanted to water his Awesome Plants for his Awesome Store. (I didn’t create a parking spot near the spigot. That was all him.)

I could be totally off. Or I could be totally right. And if I am, I’d like to tell Gethsemane Gardens, that yes, it is true. Your store is Awesome. It’s gorgeous. Elves probably did design its every inch. But I was also custom designed by elves, which is why my hair is blue. And if I need to look at the Venus fly trap while you are treating your finches with a fair bit more respect than me and my ladies, then I hope that you get eaten by said plant.

On the contrary, when we pulled up to Destinations of Life (which is in a nearby neighborhood, somewhere on Balmoral Ave), it was also lovely. It was much smaller, but the one guy in there was rad! He not only had the plant pots I was looking for, he looked through his used ones so I could have a couple freebies. And still gave me a discount. And then he asked me what else was on my list, and shared what he knew about water,and intertidal zones, and fruit flies. And Gatorade. (Adam Sandler was wrong. Gatorade is better.)

So…Destinations of Life (a.k.a Bilbo’s House) wins. Go there. But if you’re going to go to Gethsemane Gardens, bring coffee, because there’s beautiful metal chairs to sit on.





Blog at

Up ↑