Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Scene In Which We Proudly Brew Starbucks

Today I was working from the cafe of a bookstore that shall remain unnamed. I was there to meet with a bride and then was planning to enjoy some coffee and get a little bit of work done before I head off on vacation tomorrow. (Yep, that's right. And yes, there will probably be some fun "scenes" to report back on afterwards!)

The cafe wasn't a true Starbucks, but rather one that attempts to create Starbucksian like products and charge the same prices for them. If it were up to me, I'd change the tagline to We Kind of, Sort of, Without any kind of Training, Attempt to Proudly Brew Starbucks - but that just wouldn't look great on the cupholders.

At any rate, my bride wasn't there yet, so I decided to get coffee before the meeting. As I rooted through my bag for my wallet, another customer walked up and started ordering. Within about four seconds, I had abandoned my search and started rapidly scratching notes on a folder, best-journalism-major-style. The writers of the Central Perk scenes from Friends could not have captured this customer as well. The conversation below is based on a true occurrence but has been shortened and occasionally paraphrased for your enjoyment (and/or vicarious frustration).

Customer: My drink doesn't have a name, but I get it all the time. The girl that's not here right now knows what it is.

Barista: Ok.....well, what's in it?

C: Mmmm, I'm not entirely sure. Espresso. Skim milk?

B: So is it a type of latte?

C: No.

B: Is it a coffee base?

C: No.

B: But it has espresso.

C: Yes

B: And you're sure it's not a latte?!?

- this continued for about 3 minutes with a minor tangent about protien powder-

B: So it's a drink with some amount of protein powder in it. Is it a cold drink?

C: No

B: So, it's one of our hot drinks.

C: It's a latte.

B: It's a LATTE?!?!

C: Yeah. It's a tall sugarfree vanilla latte with three shots of protein and an extra shot of espresso.

- moment of stunned silence-

B: .........ok then.

C: With protein.

B: Uh huh.

C: And without lumpy protein. Like, I want it mixed in.

B: Yep.

C: I mean, it's ok if it's a little bit lumpy. But not like, lumpy.

B: Got it.

C: It USED to be on the menu.

B: Right.

C: I guess I can see why you were confused. That's ok, I forgive you.

B: Thanks.

- latte creation ensues-

B: Here's your drink.

C: Thanks, and hey, again, don't worry about the confusion.

B: Yeah.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Scene In Which The Fishies Go To The Big Pond

It's been a sad, and frankly rather smelly, weekend as the final two of the Unflushable Fishies took their leave from our household.

Since the Unflushables had an interesting start in life and continued being intriguing fish right up until the end, I felt like they deserved a post of their own as they swam their way up to the Big Guy. Thus, the Unflushable Fishy Eulogy:

In October of 2005, I received a phone call from my younger brother while I was at work. He wanted to know if I still had my old betta fish tank (that fish, regrettably, committed suicide-by-leap some time before this point, so the tank was fishless).

This is the point in which a smart person would have replied yes, directed said sibling to the empty tank, hung up the phone, and moved on with her life uneventfully.

Naturally, this isn't what occurred.

"Why?" I asked (my first mistake).

"So that Turd Ferguson and Chesty LaRue can live in it." said Younger Brother.

"What are they living in now?" I asked (second mistake).


"Why?" (Third mistake).

"Because I rescued them last night after the party."

".................................ok. I'll come by and get them after work, and take them home and put them in the tank." (Fourth mistake.).

Later that evening, I picked up Turd and Chesty and was thiiiiiiiiisclose to being out the front door when the inevitable happened.

"Dude!" said Fraternity Dude. "Is she taking some of the fish?"

"Yeah," said Younger Brother, "she's taking my two home with her."

"Awesome!" said Fraternity Dude. "Can she take any of the rest of them?"

Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say that when I walked into my apartment that night, I had not only Turd and Chesty in tow, but an Entire. Black. Plastic. Witches. Cauldron full of approximately 47 feeder goldfish and covered in Saran Wrap for the journey home. Animal lovers, lest you despair, I berated the boys mightily for their purchase of these fish as part of their party decor as I went about strapping them into the backseat, and they haven't repeated the mistake to date.

As you can imagine, the body count began, and by the time I moved into my condo a few weeks later we had sent all but 8 fish to the Big Pond in the sky via flush.

The 8 quickly settled into a comfortable life in the condo, enjoying a massive, 20-gallon tank decorated with several coral hideaways, purplypink rocks, and the first five of approximately 35,981 fake aquarium plants that I would purchase over the next several years. We even named them, although with 8 identical-but-for-size orange fish, we went for ease, not creativity. Thus, Turd, Chesty, Baby, Little Guy, and Small, Medium and Large and one whose name I can't recall went about life, and soon we were 6, as Nameless and Turd went sky-bound.

The remaining 6 set about overcoming their early struggles by living the laziest, happiest, most guilt-free lives I have ever seen fish lead and brought great joy to my life -not to mention the subtle odor of fish flakes in the bathroom, the everpresent sounds of the water tank gurgling, and about $450 worth of various rocks, corals, plants, and other assorted crap to ensure they'd continue to live in the lap of luxury. By the time the first of the 6 passed on, they were the size of small carp.

This brought about the Amazing Unflushable Fish debate of 2007. As we'd done multiple times over the years, Finnigan standing nearby, I pulled the tank top off, swished the deceased into a net, and ceremoniously deposited him in the Swirling Burial Receptacle. I reached for the handle to send Large to meet the Big Guy.....

.....and paused. Man, that fish was really, really large.

I reached.....

......and paused. C'mon, I reasoned with myself. It's a toilet. Younger Brother has stayed here. Paper toweling has gone down this thing. Bigger stuff than Large here has successfully flushed.

I reached.....

........and paused. Shit. Shit shit shit. Motherbleepingshit. I'm going to have to plunge this sucker back up later.

Large wound up buried in more of a "give back to the Earth" style, and thereafter, the fish became known as the Unflushables. Whilst they continued to live in relative peace, harmony and ever-expanding girth, they also began to swim towards the light with increasing frequency, and it seemed that every time one of them began floating sideways for a couple days, inevitably another would start doing the same, and we'd have a few funerals.

This weekend, the last two of the Unflushables were no exception, with Little Guy passing on Saturday and Baby taking his leave sometime in the wee hours of Monday morning- in a plastic bin, no less, as in a final act of curiousness he'd managed to somehow crack their tank, causing a stir of activity at 11 PM last night when I discovered that about 6" worth of tank water was covering my bathroom floor.

So now they are gone, and the tank is gone as well, leaving me (probably thankfully) without the option of bringing home another set of fishies to smell up my bathroom, demand garish decor, and cause plumbing problems.

But I really will miss those guys.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Scene In Which I Survive My First Week In Business

In my first week on the job I've learned many things, so I thought I'd share a few for you:

1) DO realize that the minute you quit your job, everything in your life becomes three times as expensive. It doesn't matter what it cost before, it Costs. More. Now.

2) DO become "the girl who gets things done," immediately- and go the extra mile to earn that title. Getting things done over email is great. A phone call is better. Driving up to their office is the best. I learned that Monday when a project that had taken 4 weeks over email and 3 phone calls that day was wrapped in 5 minutes during a visit.

3) DO realize that you have to spend money to make money.....

4).....but DON'T think that it applies towards things that aren't for your business. Which means that if you want to succeed, you've got to pass up that new awesome CD, that adorable shirt, that delicious Starbucks drink. The moment you're out running errands and need food and realize you can get a turkey sandwich that doubles as lunch AND a snack later for half the cost of your tallwhitetripleberryextrashotmochafrap is harsh, but necessary.

5) DO realize that sacrifice is good, but doesn't always feel that way. I didn't say it was a yummy sandwich, did I?!? Keep your long-term goals in mind.

6) DO shower and dress in normal clothes every morning, no matter how much or how little you have to do in a given day. Working on invoices in your pajamas is a sure way to become one of those people who forgets if they've showered or not that day.

7) DON'T fall victim to the "but you're a work-from-home-girl now, shouldn't your house be spotless?!?" pressure. Note: This will be hard. Because despite the fact that you've theoretically seen your house during the daytime hours before (say, I don't know, every weekend?) around the middle of the first week you will begin to inevitably notice how the streaming 2 PM sunlight highlights the dust on the top of the bookshelves. And as you're just giving those bookshelves a quick dusting!! you will notice from your perch that the laundry bin looks about full. Upon entering the laundry room you'll be reminded by the Windex sitting out that it's really about time you cleaned off all those exterior windows. WARNING. This can, and will, lead to a vicious cycle of chaotic cleaning that ends with tears, bruises, and writing a blog post about cleaning your house while sitting next to a massive pile of laundry in a room strewn with the pulled-apart contents of your unorganized front hall closet, your unorganized and still dusty bookshelves, multiple half- empty cans of cleaning products, and several boxes of things that you've been "meaning to go through for years." When you feel the urge to clean, start a new project, or do something else that inevitably gets you off-task and with more work than before, STOP. Breathe. Back away from the Windex.

8) DO have a to-do list. If for no other reason than lesson #7.

9) DO learn to use the Mr. Coffee. And if you can't, DON'T hesitate to call a friend for help!

10) DO take the time look around you realize what you've accomplished. It's not going to be perfect right away, and it doesn't have to be. Shake things up a little bit. Walk the dog at 10 in the morning or 8 at night and meet a whole different set of neighbors than you usually see out. Have a beer (or two, or five) with your friends on the porch until 2 AM. Go see a movie in the middle of the day. Enjoy it.

And finally, the best lesson I've learned this week:

DO realize that you never would have gotten where you are without the love, support, and occasional kick in the ass from those fantastic people you call family and friends, and make sure to tell them that.

Thanks Mom. Thanks Dad. You guys pretty much rock as parents. Thanks Steve. Thanks for agreeing to move in with me and help me survive this new adventure by subsidizing half my costs. I promise to get rid of the futon and get the attic organized before you move in.

Thanks Marilyn and Meghan and Pam and Sharron and Kathy and Becki and all my other fantastic family members who support from near and, in some cases, very far.

Thanks Alisa. Your support has meant more to me than I can say. Thanks Wishard folks. Knowing I could leave everything in good hands made it so much easier to follow my dream. Thanks Kevin and Bailey. Thanks Jill. Thanks Joel. Thanks all my awesome neighbors in HMP. Thanks Union, Rebekah, Justin, Mary Beth, David, and Jon. Thanks Carolyn. Thanks Sean, who got me my very first client and has stuck with me since. Thanks to all my awesome friends.

Thanks Julie & Bill. Thanks for being one of my first clients and someone who has believed in me before I was even sure I wanted to believe in myself. Thanks Annie & Zach. Thanks Amy & Dan. Thanks Andrew & Erin. Thanks Todd & Emilie. Thanks Sandy. Thanks Lori. Thanks Kyle & Anna. Thanks Dan.

I am so incredibly lucky.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Scene In Which I Battle Inanimate Objects...Take 2

"Doop do de do de do, the best paaaart of WAKing up is Folgers IN your -- ah crap, I f-ing ruined another pot of coffee."

It's moments like these that I really wish I had a "Sweetie" around, because following the realization that I had created yet another perfect pot of unidentifiable sludge, the conversation in my head went something like this:

Me: Sweetie, I think I ruined another pot of coffee.
Sweetie: Oh, it's ok pookie. I know the coffeepot is a temperamental beast that hates you. I'll just brew a fresh pot while I wait for these delicious organic blueberry scones to come out of the oven. Why don't you sit down and put your feet up?

And I don't really want to call someone sweetie. Or, worse, be called pookie. I don't want someone who is condescending or a better cook than I am, and I don't want to put my feet up, because I've got a lot of stuff to do. In fact, the only part of this fantasy that I really want is SOMEONE TO MAKE ME COFFEE. RIGHT. NOW.

It really wasn't all that long ago that I thought coffee was a completely disgusting drink, unless of course you were offering me a Starbucks tall white mocha or something else sufficiently syrup-fied and sweetened, preferably with about 9000 calories and a guaranteed ass-growth of 3 inches.

But then, on a rainy morning not unlike today, I arrived at work stressed out, not wanting to be there, having slept poorly, with the makings of a migraine coming- you name it. And for whatever reason, it occurred to me, "Hey, maybe a cup of that caffeinated beverage that makes me want to hurl will help the situation."

Pour. Cream. Sugar. Stir. Sip. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Since then, I've enjoyed a mild addiction that was satisfied by perhaps thrice-weekly visits to the hospital's "a la carte" cafe and the occasional breakfast meeting at Patachou or Panera.

Until now. Because now, my office is my house, and Mr. Coffee has turned into a most rebellious employee. I won't even get into his friend Captain Folgers French Blend over there, 'cause I'm about ready to fire him. It's been four days and I have yet to figure out how to make a decent cup of coffee that isn't the color of weak tea or the consistency of fudge. Something in the translation of the ounces to cups to scoops thing is lost to me forever, along with the password for my wireless internet and how to program my outdoor lights timer.

As Becky versus the inanimate objects continues, I'm giving this battle to Mr. Coffee, and fervently hoping that some kind soul will come over soon and teach me how to make a decent cup. I'll even call you Sweetie.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Scene In Which I Learn A Lesson From Leggings

Today marks the first day of being in business for myself, and like any other self-employed, confidence re-seeking woman would, I celebrated by contributing to the upswing of our national economy.

I went shopping.

Now, before you start berating my for my poor money management skills (after all, I've just ditched a steady paycheck for the unknown abyss of sporadic pay), it wasn't that exciting of a shopping trip. I needed a couple of really silly things (most of which unfortunately cost way too much), like a digital frame for my display at a luncheon on Wednesday, and AA batteries for my camera, and a pair of shorts for my upcoming trip, and I needed to look through postcards and stationary to get ideas for wedding invitations for A&E, one of my wedding-planning couples. So while "I went shopping," I didn't buy anything that wasn't work or travel related, with the exception of 1 item.




Even now, I can't even really type that without feeling a little bit incredulous again.

You see, for awhile now I've suspected that leggings might be in my future. I have a couple tunic-style tops that I wear with jeans and a couple of short sundresses that would be ridiculously cute over leggings, except that that would require me to be a woman that wears leggings, and that just seemed like a really big risk to take.

But then today, at a certain mall store catering to a largely teenage population that I shall not name, I was trying on an adorable gray dress (on sale, thank you) for Wednesday's luncheon. My wardrobe isn't exactly what you'd call trendy or hip (I prefer classy), and in my new venture as more of an artsy sort, I wanted something comfy and cute to wear to bridal shows. The dress was a little short, but as it fit perfectly everywhere else, I realized it was supposed to be that way. Along with that realization came the Moment of Clarity..... my perfect dress was meant to be worn with leggings.

I'll spare you the rest of the details (trying on leggings isn't exactly a great sharing moment), but today, a risk that I never thought I'd take became mine for $8.99.

Because sometimes life hands us risks that are too good to pass up. Like starting your own business. Like quitting your job even though it scares the crap out of you. Like not having all the answers and being OK with that. And while this particular risk only brought me $8.99 worth of elasticized black cotton, it reminded me that sometimes things you never expected to do turn out to be the best things in life.

And you know what? They look damn good with that dress.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Scene In Which I Quit My Job

"Well it's been building up inside of me
For I don't know how long...."
-Beach Boys

As many of you know, for the past several years I've worked in the development offices of two Indianpolis nonprofits and volunteered for several others. And for quite some time now, I've been questioning whether or not fundraising is the right career for me.

Don't get me wrong- there are many, many aspects of it that I love. For starters, nothing is better than going to work everyday knowing that you are making a difference- whatever it may be- in the world. Over the past several years, through work, financial contributions and volunteerism, I've been able to contribute in some small way to conservation efforts locally and globally, animal rescue and advocacy, AIDS research and education efforts, providing indigent health care, restoring historic homes, providing for paralyzed and disabled veterans, feeding the homeless and caring for our nation's kids.

And I don't do it so that I can sit in the comforts of my living room and type that list on my laptop and pat myself on the back for a job well done, because to be honest, the best reward isn't any kind of accolades or praise- it's knowing that I'm contributing to something I believe in.

But as of Friday, it isn't my job anymore, and while I am confident it was the right decision for me, it's still a little scary. In truth, I've known for awhile that I wasn't going to be pursuing fundraising- at least not direct asks- as my career. I LOVED planning the events, LOVED meeting the donors and getting to know them and engaging them in the awesome stuff my nonprofits were doing. But in the end, asking them for money really really really wasn't what I wanted to do. I took every "no" personally and saw every cancelled or turned down meeting as a rejection. Unfortunately that's, um, a rather crucial part of the job.

Then, last year, I started my own company out of my home creating flower works for special events like weddings, nonprofit fundraisers, and for holidays. What never felt like work quickly grew enough to be a full-time job, and before I ever expected it to happen, I was faced with the choice of staying in fundraising or of jumping off the cliff into the unknown abyss of self-employment, taking the big risk of going out in my own in a shaky economy.

And I leapt.


So, as of tomorrow morning, I'm "on the job" for myself- and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a bit scary!! At the same time, I'm so grateful to the friends and family who have supported me in this. I'm not sure what the future will bring, but I know I'm making the right move!

"Don't worry baby (don't worry baby)
Everything will turn out alright...."

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Scene In Which I Battle Inanimate Objects

Frequently, I do battle with common household items. These battles can take many forms, but they most often occur when I'm 1) trying to use said item, or 2) trying to move on/around/through said item without injuring myself in some way (more on that later) or 3) trying to do something that really should just be easy.

Today was kind of a 3, with a little bit of 2 mixed in.

Today I battled....da dum....da dum....da dum da dum da dum....THE YARD.

More specifically, the dastardly, gorgeous, purple salvia plants.

Back story. Last year, tired of the tiny yard's tiny flower beds and tiny plants that I took care of with a tiny watering can and moved around with a tiny shovel when I got bored, I WENT BIG. Off to Lowe's with a Visa and a plan, my neighbor and I combined our shared front yard, eliminated about half the grass, made beds, planted a ton of plants including purple salvia, and called it a day.

And it's been just lovely. The plants are blooming, the birds are chirping, the butterflies are visiting. In fact, about all I've done so far this year is pull weeds and put in a couple hostas.

Lulled by a false sense of security, I picked up some container plants today (tomatos, peppers, trailing pansy and dahlia) for the front porch. I prepped, transferred, potted, watered and staked without so much as a second thought. Almost as an afterthought, it occured to me: "Hmmm. I ought to stake up those salvia plants. They're falling too far forward and they're going to kill the phlox underneath them. Plus, they're totally ruining the asthetic. Yep, I'll just stake 'em up. Reeeeeal quick."

You can see where this was going. Those damned plants were not going to be staked and they were going to fight me every inch of the way.

To be fair, they'd kind of had it with me. Some of them were planted years ago and had endured a root-rocking move to a different spot in the garden each summer, jostling for the best positioning in the sun. Others were favorites of Finnigan's, and by favorites, I mean his favorites to "mark"- thus making them the favorites of other dogs that passed by.

So they fought. Fat bumblebees lazily circled my head as I gathered back the purple blooms. Ants, crawling on the stems lying on the ground, bit my arms. One plant in particular adamantly refused to be discreetly staked and had to be divided into triplet stakes, which had to be tied to each other for support. In another section of the garden, the ground LITERALLY rejected the stakes- breaking them in half as I tried to push them in.

If you're a visual person, picture me crouched on the ground, hair flying about my face, dripping with sweat as a I try to push a bamboo rod into the ground, baggy gardening shorts getting more and more indecent by the minute, holding a clump of purple salvia back with my elbow, twine clenched in my teeth, muttering: "F--k You Salvia, I OWN you, B---h!!"

In the end, the salvia was staked. It isn't pretty, and woe to any dog who jumps onto the plant in front to wee because they're going to get splinters from the broken stakes, but still, victory is victory, and today it was MINE.

Inanimate Objects 0, Becky 1!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Scene In Which I Realize The New Bike Lanes Suck

So as anyone who lives in Indianapolis knows, we are not exaaaaaaaactly the most pedestrian-friendly, bike-friendly, public transport-friendly, city on the planet.

I'm not saying this to bash city officials (believe me, I've got enough there for a whole seperate post, and you'll be getting one pretty soon if the a-holes who spray-painted my lawn blue the other day to mark my water meter and hacked half my bushes apart in the process return and think they're EVEN going to dig up my landscaping- that, or, I'll be in jail).

I'm not even saying it to bash the cell phone-chatting, latte-drinking, checkbook-balancing, Hummer-driving idiots I frequently see around the city running 4-way stops, ignoring pedestrian right-of-ways, and generally causing issues. Because let's be honest, everyone's guilty of those things at times (well, unless you own a Hummer in what's generally accepted to be THE FLATTEST CITY IN THE ENTIRE MIDWEST, and then you're just guilty all the time).

It's just kind of a fact. And recently, to give credit where credit is due, Indy did put in dedicated bike lanes downtown on Michigan and New York streets.

Here's what they didn't do, as I discovered today on my jaunt from Michigan @ Alabama to Michigan @ IUPUI....during which I got honked at a record number of times, was nearly sideswiped twice, and have never hoped so hard that I wouldn't die on my way to work.

First of all, they didn't educate people on how to make right hand turns while still respecting the bike lanes. Which means that the a-hole Honda who drove half in the bike lane and half in my lane, honking at me, for a half a block, actually thought he was supposed to be there. Several weeks ago, a good friend of mine was biking to work downtown and was in an accident with a car that didn't know how to use the new lanes turned right in front of him. He hit the side of the car on his bike and was pitched to the ground, breaking off the mirror with his arm. He was lucky. Give the bikers a break, people. If the line is solid, DON'T CROSS IT. If it's dotted, cross with caution. You don't have the right of way.

Secondly, they didn't do a great job making sure the OLD lane lines were erased. And by "didn't do a great job" I mean, "people are still following the old ones cause they can't tell." At one point on Michigan, there is literally a lane line every half-lane. Explain that to the sedan who drove behind two of us, half in each lane, honking angrily. Yep, that's two times on one street that I got honked at today because the other person thought I was being an ass and driving in two lanes.

Thirdly, they didn't mark the new lanes well, or make an effort to keep the lines, I don't know, STRAIGHT. So as you drive, theoretically in something that is actually a lane, be aware that your lane may shift several feet every time you cross an intersection. Just listen for the honks of other drivers ahead- the screeching brakes and crunching metal will notify you where the problem areas are.

The new bike lanes are a step in the right direction, but because of the total failure in teaching drivers how to respect them, they'll ultimately cause accidents and injuries. Hopefully, the bikers won't bear the burden of the blame when this happens.