Tuesday, June 20, 2017

My Week As An Uber Driver

A couple months ago when I was trying to decide where to work for the summer, I came up with the brilliant plan of driving for Uber. I hate driving, I have no patience for traffic, and I'm directionally impaired so naturally it's a perfect fit for me. When I told my family and friends, they all said the same thing.

"Dawn! You can't find your way out of a paper bag! You get lost backing down the driveway!"

To which I replied, "I have my GPS."

"You get lost going around the block WITH your GPS! Mom, you think the roads change like the staircases in Harry Potter!"

"I'm still pretty certain that happens. How else can you explain roads suddenly disappearing and reappearing nowhere near where they should be, hmmm? It's witchcraft."

And then there were the people (Mom) who were concerned for my safety because of course, you only hear about the bad stuff on the news. It's true that only about 14% of Uber drivers are women, and I have to think that's in large part because husbands and boyfriends don't want their wives and girlfriends driving for this very reason. I, on the other hand, have no one to tell me what to do. I also have an ex-husband who isn't so great with the child support. Sooo . . .

Aside from my directional "issues", I thought this might be a good fit simply because I can work when I want to; I'm not at the mercy of someone else's schedule. I can take an afternoon off to take my kids to the pool or a doctor's appointment, or I can take a whole day off to do something fun with them. I mean, as a single mom, you do what you gotta do, but I cringed at the idea of leaving them home alone every day this summer. Not they're not old enough to stay by themselves and entertain themselves, and help out around the apartment, but you know what I mean. It's the mom guilt thing, and the fact that I really like spending time with my kiddos. Plus, I'd heard from some people who drive and they'd asserted that they made some decent money doing it.

So I signed up. And started driving. And this is what my first week looked like:

TUESDAY:  I was crazy nervous about starting so I put it off for a couple weeks. Then, one day, I realized I wasn't going to make any money by having the app on my phone and never turning it on so I sucked it up and slid the little switch from offline to online. I wasn't sure how it worked. Would there be a bunch of blinking lights representing people needing rides? Could I choose who I wanted to drive and to where I was willing to drive them? Maybe I should've read up a little beforehand, I thought while admonishing myself for automatically deleting all the emails Uber had sent me since I'd signed up. Within a few minutes, my phone pinged. Someone was waiting for a ride. Their location was 6 minutes away from me. All I could see was a name. It didn't give me any information about where this passenger was going. I took a deep breath and tapped my phone to confirm the pickup and followed the directions to the location.

When I arrived, I realized the location was in a gated community. I didn't have the gate code. Crap. I searched the Uber app, found a little telephone icon, and clicked it. Yes! It connected with the passenger who provided me with the gate code. Unfortunately, the code didn't work. I tried several times, but the gates wouldn't open. Great, the passenger will think I'm an idiot. She may be right. Over the phone, she said it was no big deal and she'd walk to the front of the neighborhood. (In my defense, there was a guy working on the gates. I think that's why they weren't cooperating.) (Another side note - Uber uses technology that hides your phone number when you need to call passengers so you don't have to worry about your phone number being out there if that concerns you.)

A young girl covered in tattoos hopped in the back of my van. She was nice, smelled like Victoria's Secret perfume, and we chatted as I drove her to a local restaurant where she's a waitress. I dropped her off, told her to have a good night and make lots of tips, and pulled out of the parking lot. I started driving home when my phone pinged again. I tapped to confirm the pick-up, then made a u-turn and headed toward the location where I picked up a man from his place of employment and drove him home. Feeling successful that I'd managed two trips, I turned off the app and headed home. That was all I could handle my first day - these 2 short trips.

WEDNESDAY:  I had plans with my kids so I didn't Uber at all. (Yes, I'm using Uber as a verb. I've declared it a word. Go with it.)

THURSDAY:  I turned on the Uber app, got pinged right away to pick up a passenger down the street from me. When I pulled up to the house, a teacher I recognized from Brooklyn's school hopped in the car with a suitcase. That was kind of fun - driving someone I knew. We chatted and she left me a tip. I don't mind airport runs at all. I freaked out a little about picking someone up near the airport because I don't know the area so I turned off the app as I headed back toward home. When I got closer to my apartment, I flipped it back on and got pinged to pick up a woman in the next town over. She had been in a hit-and-run accident earlier that week and her car was undriveable. She was taking Ubers to her job and to a local college where she was also taking classes. It took me an hour to get her to school which was in the Winter Park area because of the rain and rush hour traffic, but we had a nice conversation during the ride. After I dropped her off, I was afraid of getting another request that would take me an hour further away from home, so I configured the settings on the app, asking for rides in the direction of home. I got one for a very big girl wearing a crop top and tight short-shorts. She just let it all hang out. She spent the whole time on her phone and I only had to drop her about 10 minutes away. After that, I didn't get any more requests between there and my home.

FRIDAY:  I turned on the app and was immediately notified of someone down the street wanting a ride. I picked up a young Brazilian girl who is here on vacation visiting her brother, and took her to a shopping center. After I dropped her off, I got pinged to pick up a woman in a nice, gated neighborhood down the street a little ways from me. She hadn't texted me the gate code, but as I pulled up, I was able to sneak in behind the car in front of me. I pulled up to a gorgeous house and waited. A minute passed with no sight of the passenger so I gave her a call to let her know I was there. The call didn't go through, but a woman walked out of the garage, a phone to her ear and motioned that she saw me and would be out in a second. Minutes passed. I ranted in my head. Privileged woman, rant rant, what does she care that she's making me wait, rant rant, she's probably on the phone with her manicurist demanding to be fit in this afternoon, rant rant. She continued to pace around her garage, still on the phone, seemingly oblivious to the waiting Uber in her driveway. Finally, she closed the garage door and got in my car. In tears. I mean, she was bawling. "I'm so sorry to make you wait. I have breast cancer. I was supposed to go to my first appointment to learn about chemotherapy and the port they're putting in, but my car wouldn't start this morning. I just took it to the shop and had them check over it and do some maintenance this week! I also drive for Uber so that car is my business. I'm sorry."

Okay kids, here is where we learn a lesson about judging others. You do not know another person's story just from looking at them. You do NOT know another person's story. Instead of ranting (even in your head) like an immature, judgmental fool (raising my hand sheepishly), take a breath, shake off the insignificant aggravation you're feeling, and be patient. Listen. You just never know what another person is going through. Remind yourself of this every day because sometimes we forget.

So, I listened to this woman and we talked a little bit, but she had phone calls to make and I could tell she just needed some time to pull herself together. It took a good half an hour to get to the hospital so she had time to do just that. When we got there, I asked her how she was doing, we talked a little bit, I told her that things were going to be okay, and I prayed for her. She left me a nice tip, and more importantly, reminded me to stop making snap judgments about people.

From the cancer center, I drove around the corner to the children's hospital, picked up a Brazilian family and took them home to Kissimmee. I wish I spoke Portuguese because it sounded to me like the mom spent the half hour trip berating her husband. But maybe that's just the nature of the language. After dropping them off, I got a request for a British couple who needed a ride from the shopping center to their hotel because although they had walked to the shopping area, the afternoon rains had come, making it an uncomfortable walk back to the hotel. They were from Bristol, she wanted to swim with manatees, he was very quiet, but she asked a lot of questions and said things like brilliant. After that, I headed home.

SATURDAY:  I picked up a man from my apartment complex who was wearing sagging pants and a dago tee. Yep, I did it again and made a little judgment in my head. I drove him to the shopping center and on the ride we chatted. He was pleasant and articulate and talked about an article he'd recently read on bee propolis as a cancer cure.

From there, I picked up a girl and took her to work at Best Buy, I picked up a family of 3 and took them to a grocery store, I picked up a woman from McDonald's and took her to her apartment. After that, I picked up a Spanish-speaking woman and her daughter from a store and took them home to Apopka. I picked up a woman in Apopka and took her to work at Taco Bell.

SUNDAY:  I turned on the app and was immediately notified of someone needing to be picked up from a church a little ways from my place. I got the passenger and took him to visit with some of his family friends. I had a nice conversation with the young man who shared some of his faith journey with me. Although he looked very young (I may have insulted him when I asked if he was still in high school. He was 24), he seemed mature and wise for his age.

From there, I picked up a woman from Turkey who told me her siblings had all passed on and her two sons lived out of state, and took her to a nursing home/rehab place so she could visit her husband. 

So, my verdict about driving for Uber?

*  You can make your own hours and work as much or as little as you want.
*  It's so easy a caveman can do it.
*  If you like adventure, every trip is a surprise - you don't know who you'll get or where you'll go.
*  If you like meeting people, and you're socially adept enough to know when a passenger doesn't want to talk and when they do, you have the chance to chat with different people every day. That's probably the best part.
*  You can make a little more money by referring other people to drive.

*  You don't know the final destination until you pick up your passenger. If you don't like that lack of control, you may not like this job.
*  You don't make much money. I made 18 trips and was online for a total of 12.5 hours. I made $152.77 (including tips.) (Most people around here don't tip.) Which works out to $12.22/hour. But that does not take into account the cost of gas and other maintenance/supplies. So all in all, I didn't make much. Although I admittedly wasn't online much, was just learning how it works, and didn't fully work the system with back-to-back trips. There was a lot of down time just driving back toward home for me. 
*  You need to fill up with gas, get your car washed, and have more frequent maintenance (ie oil changes) as the mileage adds up.
*  The app may use up a lot of your data which could get pricey depending on your cellular plan.

If you want to give it a try, go for it. It doesn't hurt to try, right? And if you do, let me know; I'll give you a code because for every person you refer, you get a little kick back.

Friday, June 16, 2017

How NOT to Visit Key West

I've been living in Florida for 6 years now. I feel like you can't live in a state for that long without doing a little exploring. We've checked out several beaches, we've traveled to Saint Augustine, visited a plethora of amusement parks, spent time in Tampa, and hung out in Tarpon Springs to name a few. We've never ventured further south than Clearwater Beach, however. Back in 2002, my ex husband and I took a cruise that stopped in Key West where we disembarked to go snorkeling. We were in port a very short time so we didn't get the chance to look around the island at all, but I remember thinking I'd like to come back and visit some time.

So my 3 youngest kiddos and I took a little trip to Key West last week. I booked it far in advance and got a good deal on airfare. I had this idea that if we flew there in the morning and flew home a couple days later in the evening, we'd maximize our Wally World fun without booking a hotel for several nights. I was wrong. Our flight on Silver Airways was delayed for 6 hours on the way there. And, of course, we arrived at the airport 2 hours prior to all the delays. Had we driven, we would've gotten to Key West a couple hours before we disembarked the plane. On the way home, we were delayed 5 1/2 hours, which brings me to my first point.

If you live within 6-8 hours, consider driving instead of flying. Road trips can be fun! It will give you the chance to see other parts of the state if you haven't. I hear driving over the 7 Mile Bridge is an experience you don't want to miss. Plus, you won't have to worry about stuffing all your liquids into tiny bottles, you won't have to arrange a ride to the airport or pay for parking, and you won't have to waste 2 hours of time going through security and waiting to board. Also, you'll be able to bring snacks and a cooler of food so you can eat some meals in your hotel room thus saving you money. Finally, you'll have a car to get around the island because although it's small, I wouldn't say that everything was within walking distance. Key West doesn't have Uber and its cabs are really pricey.

Key West is a very touristy place. If you like that sort of thing, you'll be in paradise! If you'd prefer to experience The Conch Republic off the beaten path, talk to the locals. From cab drivers to cashiers to waitresses, they're more than happy to share their favorite haunts and native secrets with you. If you want to avoid the Margaritavilles, Hard Rocks, and Sloppy Joe's of Key West, ask the locals where they hang out.

Key West offers tours via a train, or a bus. These are a little pricey, but they run about every 30 minutes throughout the day and you can get on and off as you please with unlimited access for the entire day. This is a great way to experience the island, hopping off when you want to explore, then getting back on to head to the next destination. The drivers also act as tour guides, narrating the ride with a little history lesson and interesting facts about Key West.

I booked everything as "nonrefundable" to bring our total cost down. My son ended up on crutches with a broken knee cap for this trip. Although you can certainly walk to many destinations in Key West, doing so on crutches is another story. Also, it hadn't rained here for months, but as Murphy's Law would have it, it poured most of the time we were there. Had my reservations been refundable, we could have rescheduled for a time when Clay was off crutches, and the weather forecast looked a little brighter. Sometimes, "nonrefundable" is not worth the little extra you save in the long run.

Maybe one day we'll head back there and I'll be able to write a comprehensive post on all the awesome things to do in Key West. Until then, take heed of my (self proclaimed) expert tips on what not to do.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

15 Reasons to Date Me

I'm thinking of rewriting my dating profile. Maybe something like this would work.
Why should you date me?

1. I drive a cool minivan. Hmmm, I guess that’s really an oxymoron.

2. I know what an oxymoron is.

3. If we ever go to Chicago, you’ll love being seen with me because I have awesome hair there. Here, in the Florida humidity, I look like a cross between Hagrid and Roseanne Roseannadanna. (Oh wait, I’m supposed to be thinking of reasons TO date me!)

4. I’ll most likely blog about you at some point. (I guess that could go either way.)

5.  I laugh at my own jokes so you don’t have to. But you probably will because I'm hilarious.

6.  I have tens of fans who think I'm hilarious too.

7.  I know the difference between there, their, and they're.

8.  I promise to never make you go clothes shopping with me as long as you don't ask me why I've been banned from Ace Hardware. (There is a perfectly good explanation for throwing that weed wacker! IF I threw a weed wacker, that is. I'm not admitting that I did.)

9.  I've never been on Jerry Springer. (See? The weed wacker incident wasn't that bad.)

10.  I smell good.

11.  I have never been arrested. Wait, let me think a minute . . . Nope, I'm almost positive, like 99% sure, I've never been arrested.

12.  I speak fluent Friends, Seinfeld, and The Office quotes.

13.  You could do worse. I'm not sure who, but there's probably someone out there who's worse.

14.  Please.

15.  Yeah, that’s about all I’ve got. Still, I don’t kick puppies, or chew with my mouth open, and I’m not a White Sox fan so there’s that.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

21 Tips For Your Online Dating Profile

Working in a middle school, I don't have the opportunity to meet people who aren't 35 years younger than me so I've used online dating as a way to discover new people. I really don't like online dating, but the alternative of trolling for men in bars is even less appealing. (Although I still hold out hope that one day I'll bump into the man of my dreams while selecting avocados in the produce section of Publix.) 

As an educator, reading profiles on dating sites makes me sad for the future of this country. As a blogger, it gives me plenty of fodder. As a single woman, it makes me want to give up and adopt cats. I don't know what makes me cringe more: the abominable grammar, or the awful photos. It's really a toss-up. I haven't had any great dates, but I wouldn't say that I haven't gotten anything out of online dating. I've gotten the idea to create a business fixing horrible dating profiles. 

Here's the deal with the online dating culture - you have a few lines of text and a couple pictures to make an impression. Are you much more than a couple lines of text and a few pictures? Of course you are! Is it fair that people will make snap judgments based solely on that? Nope. Is that the way it works anyway? You betcha! I don't think the majority of people fully understand this. Faced with an entire website full of potential dates, if you don't make a positive first impression, people will skip right over you and move on to the next profile. Period. You could be losing out on the guy/girl of your dreams simply because you're not smiling in your picture.

I'm a sucker for a happy ending and want you to be successful in your online dating endeavors so here's a little free advice for creating a dating profile that attracts attention (the good kind of attention; not the what the heck? kind.)


1.  Usernames matter!  Choose a name that stands out. Don't just go with your name and a bunch of numbers. Bill12345 is boring. The same goes for random letters and numbers - tn76Xgh4u. That's not a username; it's a password. Maybe you like to visit the shooting range, but Likesguns makes you sound like a serial killer. Think about possible negative connotations; don't be like Michael Scott and create a username like LittleKidLover.

2.  Show; don't tell!  This is the first rule of writing. Don't say, "I like to travel;" describe a trip you went on. 
Don't say, "I like to help people;" tell about the organization for which you volunteer. Don't say, "I'm funny;" tell a joke. I can't tell you how many guys have described themselves as funny yet their profiles read like a piece of dry toast.

3.  Be interesting!  Do you have any idea how many profiles I have seen that read - I like long walks on the beach? Do you know how many feature this little gem - I can dress in a tux or jeans and a t-shirt? By my calculations, there should be absolute traffic jams of people walking on every beach at any given time if this were true. And yes, although it is impressive that a grown person is capable of dressing oneself, it's not really necessary to include in your bio. Be creative! Stand out! Stop writing the same boring stuff that is in 97% of the profiles. Make a potential date want to learn more about you!

4.  Use proper grammar!  Although I believe what you have to say is more important than how you say it, I admit that I'm likely to move on to the next profile without finishing yours if you don't seem to know the difference between your and you're. Granted, not everyone is gifted with perfect grammar, but again, we're talking about first impressions here. You get one chance! One. Make it count. Ask someone to proofread and edit your profile before posting it.

5.  Use proper punctuation!  I've read many a profile that consisted of a single 300 word run-on sentence. Punctuation counts. It's important. It's the difference between I enjoy cooking my pets and my family AND I enjoy cooking, my pets, and my family. Don't be a psycho. Use punctuation.

6.  Use proper spelling!  I know, I know, we've already covered grammar and punctuation, but each topic gets its own bullet point because they are that important. Again, you get one chance to make that first impression. If you can't spell, get help. Seriously, get help. If you're old enough to date, you're old enough to know how to spell the word date. Have someone look over your bio before posting it. The winner this week for the most commonly misspelled word used on dating profiles is pique. As in - If I have piqued your interest, please send me a message. It's not peek. Or peak. Or peke (which isn't actually a word.) It's pique!

7.  Don't detail a long list of must-haves!  Sure, you're entitled to be selective about potential dates. You can have a mile-long list of must-haves and deal-breakers, but don't include all of them in your profile. It makes you look like a jerk. You might choose to only date thin girls who are Catholic, who don't have children, who are under 5'8", and who have blonde hair. That's your prerogative. But listing all of that in your profile makes you come off sounding like an egotistical donkey. People shy away from profiles that list such specifics.


8.  Smile! I think this applies to men more than women. So many men out there want to look tough in their pictures. Newsflash: you don't look tough; you look like a serial killer. If you're smiling, you appear friendly and approachable. So smile!


9.  Skip the filters! This one applies to women more than men. Yes, we all love those Snapchat filters, but save them for goofing off with your kids and friends. Guys don't want to see the airbrushed, flower headband version of you; they want to see you. The same goes for barfing rainbows, bunny noses, and any other creation Snapchat comes up with.

10.  Use good photos!  I think this is a problem for men more often than women. Guys just don't ask their buddies, "Hey, take a picture of me standing over here!" so they end  up using selfies that are dark or blurry. Use a couple good, well-lit photographs that are in focus. Use photo editing software like Picmonkey.com (It's free and awesome!) to crop or otherwise fix your pictures. But don't airbrush your wrinkles away, erase that double-chin, or obliterate 20 pounds. Be honest. After all, you're planning on meeting people one day, right? You want to look like your photos.

12/2017 with friends in Chicago (I'm in the middle)
11.  Use photos that feature you! It's fine to have a couple pictures of you with friends or family, but if every photo shows a bunch of people, it's hard to pick you out of the crowd. If you use pictures of multiple people in it, clarify which one is you in the caption.

12.  Use current photos! Yes, I'm sure you did look better 10 years ago, but guess what! When you actually meet someone in person, they will notice that you look much older than your pictures. If you really want to use an older picture to highlight your trip to Italy or the marathon you ran a few years ago, you can get away with one or two older ones, but make a note of the year in the caption so people will know that they are older photos.

13.  Feature your passions!  Include photographs of you doing things you like. If you like to cook, include a picture of you in the kitchen. If you're a runner, post a photo of you crossing the finish line. If you like traveling, incorporate pictures of you standing in front of the Acropolis, the Statue of Liberty, the Hollywood sign.

14.  Take off the sunglasses!  I'm sure women do this too, but in more than 50% of the photographs I've seen in men's profiles, the man's eyes are hidden behind shades. People want to see your eyes (windows to the soul and all that) and they wonder what you're hiding when you're skulking behind those Ray-Bans. Take off the sunglasses!

image: Morguefile
15.  Skip the photos with fish!  Yes, your cavemen instincts motivate you to show everyone what a good provider you are by holding up your "catch-of-the-day." I get it. But that would kind of be like me holding up a shopping bag to show off the amazing deals I got at the mall. You guys don't care about that. And we don't care about your fish. The exception is if you're a guy trying to attract another guy, or you're on FarmersOnly.

16.  Skip the selfies in the car!  I'm not sure why this is, but almost every man's profile includes a selfie of himself in the driver's seat of his vehicle. The unfortunate thing about this picture is that it's always taken at this low angle that shows right up the subject's nose. Unless they're holding an otoscope, no one wants to see up your nose. Trust me. It isn't flattering.

17.  Skip the bathroom selfie!  Honestly, it's probably a good rule to skip selfies altogether. Too many selfies makes you look like you have no friends and all you do is sit around all day taking pictures of your face. If you must take one, don't shoot it in your bathroom mirror. With a flash. And water spots on the mirror. And dirty towels on the sink. And clothes on the floor. And hemorrhoid cream on the counter. Don't laugh. I've seen these photos more than once.

18.  Skip the photos of your truck/motorcycle/boat!  Yes, I imagine there are women out there who are all about what you drive (but do you really want to be with someone so shallow?) And I guess it isn't inherently bad to show a picture of your toys. If, for example, riding a motorcycle is a big part of your life and you want to showcase that, it's fine to include a picture of your bike. But be in the picture with that motorcycle because potential dates want to see you! 

19.  Skip the photos of random stuff!  I can't count how many profiles I've seen that have pictures of food, sunsets, scenery, pools, pets, etc. Again, we want to see you! If you want everyone to see your dog, be in the picture with the dog. The Grand Canyon - lovely, but be in the picture with that beautiful scenery.

20.  Include both close-ups and full-length photos!  I've found that most people are pretty wrapped up in looks and want to know what they're getting into before initiating any communication. Include close-up (yet still in focus and flattering) pictures of your face and also full-length photos.

21.  Include more than one or two photos!  People want to get a sense of who you are and what you look like. If you've browsed profiles online then you know that the same person can look vastly different from photo to photo. Include a variety of pictures of you having fun with family and friends, doing things you enjoy, close-up and full-length photographs. 

Follow my advice and see if that doesn't help you bring more attention to your dating profile. And as always, may the odds be ever in your favor!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Why Voice-to-Text is Dangerous

I use the "voice-to-text" feature on my phone all the time. I've gotten to the point where I rarely type out messages anymore because -


The problem with using voice-to-text is

1.  My phone likes to change what I say causing aggravation and embarrassment, like the time I asked my boss about the guy she hired. I dictated, "Does the new teacher have with-it-ness." (With-it-ness might technically not be a word, but it should be. It means one who is with it.) Unfortunately my phone changed it to this, "Does the new teacher have wet hotness?" See what I mean? Embarrassing. (By-the-way, he did not have wet hotness. Or withitness, if I remember correctly.)

2. Sometimes it doesn't record at all. For some reason, oftentimes when I push the little microphone icon and start talking, my phone stops recording after a word or two. I have no idea why. After doing this two or three times in a row, I become frustrated and usually rant, "You stupid piece of poop!" This is generally when my phone decides to start recording again. I have had to explain, more than once, to someone why I just called them a stupid piece of poop.

3.  My kids make fun of me for being old. Apparently, saving time by using voice-to-text is right up there with bifocals, Depends, and the early-bird special at Denny's. According to Austin, only old people who can't see "those darn buttons" use it. Punk.

4.  After using voice-to-text for years, I've developed the habit of maybe, occasionally, sometimes, sort of talking to individuals in person as if I was dictating into my phone. I may have possibly said, "Hi exclamation point." And maybe once or twice, I asked someone, "How are you today question mark." I may have said to someone, "Hi comma Brooklyn. Did you have a good day question mark."

5.  My kids and I like to play a game entitled "Bluetooth or Crazy" wherein we guess if a person is talking to someone on their bluetooth device, or if they're just crazy, holding a conversation with an imaginary friend, a crack in the sidewalk, or their turkey sandwich. I'm afraid, while using voice-to-text, I may have been the subject of that game for someone else.

6.  Sometimes people overhear you dictating into your phone and they wonder about your sanity. I was texting Lexi, Clay, and Brooklyn as I walked out of a store. I said into my phone, "Do you guys want to help me build my poop army tonight?" I was 
referring to the "number two" pencils I was making for school. The cute guy I passed as I walked out of the store, did not know this, however. I wish I could describe the look he gave me. (Shocking I'm still single, isn't it?)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The One with all the Fire

There was a brush fire in the field across the street from my school a couple days ago. Brush fires are a pretty common problem this time of year because it's just so dry here. Our school filled with smoke, making it difficult to even see across the courtyard. Our principal was immediately in contact with the fire marshal, making sure our students were safe. She decided to keep the kids in their classrooms for the afternoon instead of having them transition from class to class, forcing them to walk outside where the smoke was thick. In between classes, I took this little video of the fire and sent it to my kids. The following peanut gallery comments are from my dear, sweet children.


Then, on the way home, I saw this truck burst into flames on the Turnpike. 

So much fire in one day! And not a single fireman in sight. 


Sunday, April 2, 2017

I'm Going to be Single Forever!

I recently joined a dating site. In related news, I recently deleted my account on that dating site because ohmygosh, this is what is out there.

I'm sorry, but I prefer to eat my frozen confections before partaking in robberies, heists, or other assorted shenanigans.

Usually I just think my snarky comments, but sometimes I can't  stop myself from writing them.

Excellent! That is the reason I'm on a dating site after all - to find a good investor.

First off - ew! Secondly, no one likes the disclaimer of "you look good FOR SOMEONE WHO HAS KIDS."

Talk like Yoda you do.

How long did it take you to come up with that one word message?

Two words! Keep going, guys. Pretty soon you'll have a whole sentence!

I'm sorry, but what language are you speaking?

I'm not familiar with yoy. I love wine.

What did you call me? Wait, what???

Oh, look at you trying to converse using only emoticons like a 4 year old, or a teenager!

Ummm, what?

Pro tip - if one doesn't respond after the first three "messages" one probably isn't interested.

Are you calling me a dork? And using random abbreviations? Am I missing something???

If only I gave points for persistence.

:::Banging my head against the wall:::

The rambling ADD, the putting syrup on Italian food . . . Buddy the elf, is that you???

 You don't sound rude; you sound stupid. Who makes a mistake on their age? Or shall I say Aged?

 Hear that, folks? I'm a good writter. And, apparently I'm a mile away from wawa.

 Um, I'm not a guy therefore I don't have any pictures of my car on my dating site, but if I did, I'd completely understand why you love my car. I mean, minivans are hot!

Is this an existential question?

Oh yes, yes, I completely agree. Wait, what are we talking about?

I just threw up a little.

Although you show the utmost class, I'm going to ignore you anyway.

It's not exactly a smile. No, I'd say it's more of a grimace.

Yeah, I'm gonna pass on you texting me pictures. Thanks, but pass. Hard pass.

Shoot me now.

Sure, you can play the part of a freak, and I'll play the part of someone who is going to be single for the rest of her life.

(If you're wondering, this was just a very small sampling of the kinds of messages I got on POF. Supposedly POF stands for Plenty of Fish. I think Plenty of Freaks is a better fit, however. I'm on Match now which is much better, but still . . . I'm thankful my membership expires soon!)

The Reason There's a Sparkly Frog on the Loose

I was curled up on the couch with my book when, out of the corner of my eye, I sensed something brown and buglike. Great, there’s a creature in my apartment. Before I could turn my head to look at it and/or scream for my kids to get it, I sensed, from the corner of my eye, that it kind of hopped in a very unbuglike way. Great, it’s a mutant bug with hopping powers. Naturally, I jumped up on the couch and yelled for the kids. “There’s a hopping bug! It’s brown! It hopped! It’s under the couch, I think. IT HOPPED! Get it! Get it! GET IT!!!”

Clay came to my rescue and started looking under the couch. “There’s nothing there, Mom.”

“Yes, there is!” I squealed, only slightly maniacal.

“Oh wait, I see it! It’s a frog It’s a tiny, tiny frog!” Clay announced, his head stuck under the couch.

“Ohmygosh! A frog?! Get it! Get it before he hops into my bedroom and kills me in my sleep!”

I jumped off the couch and ran. Of course, I didn’t actually run. Run is just an expression that means scream and trip over your kids while trying to get away and save yourself.

Clay shone his phone's flashlight under the couch. I gathered my courage and pulled the couch away from the wall so Clay could find it more easily.

“I can’t find it. He disappeared,” Clay said, giving up.

“No, you HAVE to find it! He didn’t disappear! He’s just waiting to come out and scare us! Find him! Keep looking!”

I pulled out the other couch under which Brooklyn has a poster she made of the solar system. There’s enough glitter on that poster to light up Hollywood. I thought the frog had hopped between the folds of the poster. I waited for him to emerge and spread glittery fairy dust throughout the apartment. At least we'll be able to find him if we follow the trail of sparkles. I wondered what his frog friends would think of his fabulous new look when he returned to the pond.

While I was standing a safe distance from the poster, Brooklyn suddenly yelled, “Ohmygosh!” This prompted Lexi to look up and scream, “Oh jeez!” which, of course, completely freaked me so I started screaming bloody murder, convinced the mutant frog was killing my children one by one. I heard laughing at the open front door where Savannah was standing. She decided to stop by the apartment because, in her words, “I need help, Mom. I can’t adult.” Apparently, when Savannah walked in the apartment it scared Brooklyn, causing her to scream, which scared Lexi, causing her to scream, which scared me, causing me to scream. Meanwhile, Savannah fell to the floor laughing, not even knowing what was going on. Clay continued searching for the mutant glitter frog while the girls and I laughed uncontrollably which is the only way you can laugh when your adrenaline-to-blood ratio is off the charts.

We (and when I say “we”, I mean “my kids and NOT me” decided to run to the store.) I wanted to stay and stand guard to make sure the frog didn’t invite his friends over and stage a coup. As I was beginning to get hysterical, Lexi suddenly exclaimed, “I found it!” She scooped it up and relocated it outside.

I, as usual, required proof because I’m convinced my kids say they’ve gotten rid of creatures when they actually haven't just to appease me. I got a picture of the frog next to her hand for proof. Don’t let the size fool you though. What did Shakespeare say? Though she be but little, she is fierce.

When I related the story to a friend, he suggested I kiss it. Now, I enjoy making out with amphibians as much as the next person, but I've kissed enough frogs from Match.com to last a lifetime thankyouverymuch. I am not that interested in finding a prince. Just no.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Dawn's Valentine's Day Survival Guide

I have always hated Valentine's Day. I hated it when I was married. Of course, now that I’m a bitter old hag cynical, single, soon-to-be cat owner, I hate it even more. But never fear, my single friends. I've got your back! I've created a little survival guide for today. You're welcome.

1. One word: Wine! 

2. Make a bonfire with everything any of your stupid exes have ever given you. 

3. Let the bonfire get out of control because – firemen! 

4. Watch Better Off Dead and realize that even Ricky Smith got a girlfriend in the end.

5. Throw out your copy of Better Off Dead. 

6. Get some exercise. Walk from your car to the store and buy some Ben & Jerry’s. 

7. Scroll through Facebook until you want to throat-punch all the happy couples celebrating the happy day with flowers and chocolate and happy teddy bears. 

8. Download Match.com. 

9. Give yourself a make-over and take 2803 selfies until you find one that doesn't make you cringe. Post it on Match.com.

10. Scroll through Match.com and realize you’re going to be alone forever. 

11. Cry until you have rivers of mascara striping your face. 

12. Photoshop your face next to Heath Ledger's Joker face. Decide you would've made a really cute couple. You know, if you'd ever met him. And he hadn't died.

13. Go to the pet rescue place and adopt 27 cats. 

14. Buy yourself a 10 pound heart-shaped box of chocolate. Don’t even wait for it to go on sale tomorrow. You’re worth it. 

15. Buy a value-size bottle of Tums. 

16. Two words: More Wine! 

17. Go to Walmart and realize that things could be worse. Being single isn’t all that bad. At least you aren’t wearing a tube top in public. 

18. Go up to the least creepy looking guy at Walmart and hug him. When he looks at you like you're a freak, apologize and tell him you mistook him for your boyfriend. Ask him if he wants the position.

19. Open the windows and sing Eric Carmen’s All By Myself as loudly as you can. 

20. Let the neighbors call the cops because – men in uniform again! 

21. Watch cute puppy videos on YouTube. 

22. Order pizza. Tell everyone that your valentine brought you dinner. No need to mention that your valentine is the pizza delivery guy.

23. Ask pizza delivery guy if he wants to watch some Netflix with you. What? It could work!

24. Think about lowering your standards so you'll have a date for next year. I mean, really, all you need is someone who breathes. And maybe bathes now and then.

25. Maybe breathing is overshooting things a bit. A zombie could work out. Zombies are people too.

26. Take a loaf of bread, head to the lake, and feed the ducks. Feel all popular-like when you're surrounded by hungry adoring waterfowl.

27. Go into every store you pass on the way home from work and put sticky notes in random places that say, "You are loved!"

28. Three words - Still More Wine!

29. Send your ex wine-induced texts. Change your phone number when you realize what you've done.

30. Remember - Valentine's Day is stupid. Its mascot is a man-baby wearing a diaper and carrying a bow and arrows. If you saw Cupid around your neighborhood, you wouldn't wish to be shot. No, you'd be dialing 911 faster than you can say "registered offender."

Friday, January 27, 2017

When Push Comes to Shove

My ex-husband moved out in November 2009. I was officially divorced in August, 2010. Since then, I have dipped my foot in the dating pool a few times. Most of the guys I've met have been nice, but we simply didn't hit it off. And by "we didn't hit it off", I mean, they ran screaming from our dates because basically I'm just a nervous idiot who blurts out phrases like "explosive diarrhea" as if I have tourette's when meeting people for the first time. Or maybe they thought I looked too much like a wildebeest. I'm certain that several of them just thought my butt was too big. Perhaps a couple of them realized I have issues that simply cannot be solved without thousands of dollars of therapy. A few of them didn't even make it to that first date, deciding I was definitely not what they were looking for and canceling before ever seeing me in person. (Hmmm, maybe I should be writing under a pseudonym so potential dates can't read about all the crazy that goes on in my head before I've had the chance to convince them that I'm pretty awesome despite the crazy . . .) Whatever the reason, most of my dates have not moved beyond the initial meeting. Shocking, I know.

But a couple of them have progressed beyond that first awkward meeting. I have dated two men since my divorce who not only loved me, but loved my kids like their own as well. They treated us like royalty. They were faithful and devoted. They went above and beyond what I have ever hoped for in a partner. They were generous and gentlemanly. They knew how to communicate. They put up with my moods which says a LOT about how much they loved me because, let me tell ya, I can be a crazy, irrational psychopath at times

I pushed both of them away. And I convinced myself I had good reasons for doing so.

As I look back at these relationships, I don't know if I'm viewing them through rose colored glasses and conveniently forgetting all the negative aspects, or if I'm far enough removed now that I'm remembering them clearly. It's probably somewhere in the middle, but even if I'm forgetting some of the bad parts, it still leaves the fact that I pushed two good men away, and there's really only one reason, one real reason, why. Because I'm a gutless coward. 

It's easier to push someone away than to take a chance, knowing full-well that if I give away my heart, there's a chance it'll be broken. 

My kids like to push the shopping cart when we go to the store. Whenever I let them, I cringe inwardly as I walk along, anticipating the pain I know I'll feel when they crash the cart into my ankles. I'm positive it's going to happen, it's just a question of when. I try to avoid walking too closely to them. I try to avoid stopping and looking around, fearing that they'll keep going and steamroll into my unsuspecting legs. But most of the time, I won't let them touch the cart at all in an effort to avoid bruised and bloody ankles entirely.

I like to avoid pain.

Unfortunately, when I find a good man who loves me, my heart and mind engage in a never-ending battle that inevitably leaves me heartbroken and alone. And by doing this, I don't even avoid the pain. I only avoid the not knowing when it's going to happen by preemptively ending it. Now I'm sitting here wondering how this self-inflicted pain is any better than pain that may or may not come at the hands of someone who holds my heart. The answer is - it isn't any better. In fact, it sucks. Especially when those men move on with their lives and find loving partners and I'm left thinking, That could've been me. I could've been the one.

Then I say, "Look! See? They left! I told you they would." I justify my actions with the fact that they didn't stay and fight for me, so "clearly I wasn't all that important to them and they were probably going to leave on their own anyway" easily forgetting that they wouldn't have left had I not shoved them away. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy that causes nothing but heartache for everyone involved. I perpetuate the cycle even though I know damn well that someone would have to be more crazy than I am to stick around when I was so determined to run away.

So, what have we learned here, class? 

1.  The first step is admitting you're a lunatic. (The second step should probably be trying to repair that lunacy instead of blogging about it for the world to know about said lunacy.)

2.  I know there are good guys out there. My past two relationships have set the bar so high that all but the most amazing of men will fall short of being good enough for me, and I think that's a good thing.

3.  Pushing away people who care is crazy. It doesn't eliminate pain, and being left alone while they move on sucks.

4.  I'm probably a good candidate for shock therapy. Maybe a lobotomy. Do they still do those?

5.  If I'm ever so lucky as to get a third chance, I will not push a good man away. I will hang on like a barnacle. Or maybe not. Doing that is probably a guarantee that they'll leave. I'll hang on just as much as isn't creepy.

6.  And finally, I'm still not letting my kids push the shopping cart. If you've ever been hit in the ankles, you know, you know.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Why I Can't Date

Now and then I get this urge to join an online dating site. After listening to friends' success stories, I take the plunge and sign up. After a couple days I remember why I hate online dating. After a month, I lose all faith in humanity and I close my account for a year. When my short-term memory fails me, I sign up again and the cycle repeats.

I signed up last week. I'll spare you the details of the messages I've received. For now. But I will tell you about my first time agreeing to meet someone for coffee.

We met at a coffee shop near me. As we ordered our drinks, I struck up a conversation with a random girl sitting at the counter instead of talking to him because I was ridiculously nervous for some reason and instead of acting like a normal adult and just talking to him, I suddenly got really interested in the Flat Stanley this girl was holding. I ordered coconut coffee, but the woman at the coffee shop made me some sort of frozen, blended drink. I just took it because that's what I do. I don't complain. I didn't want to make her feel bad that she made a mistake so I drank what was basically a milkshake. Although, come to think of it, maybe that's a good thing because I was able to drink out of a straw instead of a cup since we all know that I would have ended up spilling down my front. Because I'm classy like that.

So we sat and talked and laughed. He's smart and well-educated and funny, and he's from Chicago so there was no problem finding things to talk about. Or at least there shouldn't have been a shortage of things to talk about. There should have been plenty of appropriate topics to discuss. But when he mentioned my blog, for some unknown reason I felt the need to admit that I had blogged about my colonoscopy. The phrase "explosive diarrhea" left my lips. Do you ever have a moment when you think to yourself, What the crap did I just say??? Oh dear Lord, what is wrong with me??? This was one of those moments. And when I say something stupid, I never, ever stop talking. No, I continue blabbering just to a make the whole situation a little worse. I'm pretty sure the filter between my brain and my mouth is broken. It's the only feasible explanation I can come up with.

I purposely averted my eyes from the horrified expression on his face and concentrated on the positives. He didn't want to make a suit of my skin so there's that.

The coffee shop is located in our cute downtown area and after a while he suggested we walk around which would have been great except that I was wearing these stupid shoes with stupid heels that I haven't worn in probably 8 years. Note to self: when you haven't worn shoes in nearly a decade there's a reason for it. It's because the shoes suck. Throw them away! And to answer your inevitable question - I have NO idea why I was wearing them! I have 15 other pairs of black shoes I could've worn. These aren't even cute so it's not like I was enduring pain for fashion! I really wonder about myself sometimes.

So anyway, although I wanted to walk, I didn't want to walk in these shoes. In the end, I hobbled along beside the guy who is like a foot taller than me. I'm not sure if he noticed I was walking like I had a leg injury, or not. Since he doesn't know me, he probably just thinks I'm a very slow walker.

After a short walk, I suggested we sit by these fountains where I immediately pulled my shoes off because that's what crazy people do on a first date - they take off their shoes. Remember the part where I said I hadn't worn these shoes in many years? Yeah, well, apparently the interior of said shoes had disintegrated, so when I slipped them off, my feet were covered in all this weird, black crap. Excellent. Did I put my shoes back on like a sane person? Oh no. No, I did not. I walked over to the fountains, thinking I would wash off the black crap in the water. When I stepped in the fountain I got sprayed with water because, duh, that's what fountains do! And the weird, black crap didn't even wash off! So, my next brilliant thought was - I'll rub my feet along the grass! Yeah, that'll do the trick! So I walked in a patch of grass, dragging the tops of my feet along the surface, trying to wipe off the errant shoe lining that I was beginning to fear had become permanently fused to my toes. Only the black stuff didn't get wiped off, and now my feet are covered in weird, black crap, water, sand, dirt, and a stray blade of grass or two. 

Let's recap, shall we? I have proven that I don't know how to walk. I'm covered in weird, black crap, sand, and dirt, and my pants are dripping wet. And then it got even better.

So this man shows me a picture on his phone to go along with a story he was telling. I decide to show him a picture that lives on my Facebook page, only instead of searching my albums on Facebook, I accidentally brought up the camera roll on my phone. The camera roll where there are 3-4 pictures of this guy that I stole from his Facebook page when I stalked him. I had sent them to my friend with the instructions, "This is the guy I'm meeting. If I don't show up for work tomorrow, have the police start here." Unfortunately, I forgot to delete them after showing my friend. So now I not only look like a complete spaz because of the shoe incident, but also a creeper. And then it got even better.

I saw a kid ride by on a longboard. Wait what? That's MY kid riding by on his longboard! My kids were at cheer practice a couple blocks away and I guess the girls ran out of water so Clay, being the little gentleman he is, rode to the gas station in town to buy them a couple bottles of water. I didn't want Clay to see me. I mean, my kids knew I was meeting someone for coffee, and they're cool with me dating, but I don't need to be introducing them to anyone when I'm meeting them for the first time! So, I sort of did this turn away and duck like you're being shot at maneuver. I think this is the point that the guy started yawning and looking at his watch.

When we parted ways, he said he wanted to see me again which can only mean that:
A. Clearly, he's deranged.
B. He thought I was mentally unstable and was afraid I might lose it and do something even more stupid if he said he didn't want to see me again.

Today, I'm looking at adopting cats. I'm not cut out for dating. Or apparently leaving my house and/or spending any sort of time in public.

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